Legislative leaders say they will fight for vouchers

Posted by Lynn Bonner on April 11, 2014 

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NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, left, and NC Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, shown in a file photo, announced a budget deal Tuesday afternoon.

FILE PHOTO BY HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger say they will ask the state Supreme Court to remove a freeze on the state voucher program so parents can use the $10 million the legislature set aside for private school tuition this fall.

A Superior Court judge froze the program in February while lawsuits seeking to stop the plan proceed. The N.C. Appeals Court denied an appeal from parents to lift the injunction.

Anna Roberts, a spokeswoman for Tillis, said the legislative leaders are still reviewing their legal options. “The goal is to do everything we can to make sure the program is going to be able to move forward in the fall,” she said.

The vouchers, called “opportunity scholarships,” will provide up to $4,200 a year in taxpayer money to cover private school tuition for about 2,400 students.

The N.C. School Boards Association and residents backed by the N.C. Justice Center and the N.C. Association of Educators are suing to stop the vouchers, claiming that they violate the state constitution.

Tillis and Berger said in their statement that a ruling that vouchers are unconstitutional would call into question state funding for N.C. Pre-K, Smart Start, and state scholarships for college students who attend private universities, among other education programs.

“We are taking action to make sure these unintended and far-reaching consequences don't become reality,” Tillis said in a statement.

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