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In a Great Victory for Public School Supporters, a Wake County Judge Issues Temporary Injunction Against the North Carolina Voucher Program

Written by Featured Organization on 25 February 2014.

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RALEIGH - Judge Robert H. Hobgood issued a temporary injunction Friday stopping efforts by extremists to undermine North Carolina's public schools by diverting $11.7 million from the general school fund into a voucher program that would send taxpayer money to any of the state's 700 private schools. In a full courtroom at the old Wake County courthouse, plaintiff attorneys emphasized that the NC Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and religion and mandates that taxpayer funds be used "exclusively" for the public school system. After hearing a few hours of arguments, the judge read a short order granting our request for a temporary injunction that stops any further activity on the so-called opportunity scholarships -- a program devised by a national ideological coalition to undermine public school systems.

"At first glance, this voucher program may look like it will give poor and minority children a hand up, but the evidence says otherwise," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the NC NAACP. "Studies show that voucher programs do not improve children's learning, and historically, they have been used to keep our schools segregated. This voucher program in North Carolina will not help the great majority of blacks and other children of color, but will strand them in increasingly under-funded public schools. This minority-rights rhetoric is only a tactic wielded by those extremists who want to erode our public education system."

Two architects of the national school-choice movement have written candidly about their rhetorical strategy.

"The leadership must visibly include racial minorities of both sexes and prominent Democrats," John Coons and Stephan Sugarman advised in an 1999 article. "The conservative commitment to the project is necessary, but should remain mute until the coalition has secured leadership whose party affiliation, social class or race--preferably all three--displays what the media will interpret as concern for the disadvantaged." (To see more, read the NC NAACP's amicus brief here.)

The temporary injunction issued today indicates that the Forward Together Moral Movement's fight to prevent a voucher program in North Carolina has turned a corner.

"We are thrilled by this historic decision to preserve and protect North Carolina's public schools from this disastrous voucher proposal while we convince the courts that this unconstitutional law cannot go forward," Dr. Barber said. "This is a wonderful victory for all schoolchildren in North Carolina, and the NAACP is grateful to our partners -- the North Carolina Association of Educators, the NC Justice Center, the many school boards and the legal team -- that worked so diligently to stop this bad law. We should put all our efforts into providing high-quality, diverse well-funded public schools for our children."

The NC NAACP will host a press conference on Monday morning to discuss the temporary injunction and the next steps for its litigation efforts. More details to follow later this afternoon.

On Feb. 17, Judge Hobgood denied the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority's motion to dismiss the case altogether after hearing three hours of oral arguments that largely focused on the redirection of public education money into the voucher program.

This legal challenge over the voucher program demonstrates yet again that the courts can and will hold the North Carolina legislators accountable if they continue to pass unconstitutional laws.

"The drafted laws that we protested last summer, when they have faced judges who are bound to enforce the state constitution and the US constitution, are not doing very well," Dr. Barber said. "Once again the taxpayers and citizens of North Carolina are reminded that when the race-based programs or anti-women programs from these extremists have faced the constitutional test, they are found wanting." 

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.