Rev. Suzanne Parker Miller: The legislature’s plan to expand school vouchers must be rejected
The Reverend Miller is Executive Director of Pastors for NC Children. In this piece for NC Policy Watch, she explains why the proposal to expand vouchers in North Carolina should be rejected.
Public tax money going to private schools, most of which are religious, is a violation of the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state and an affront to religious liberty. This past July, the state was sued in the case of Kelly, et. al vs NC because in violation of the state constitution the Opportunity Scholarship program allows discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual identity. At a bare minimum, no expansion of the program should even be considered until this case is decided.
The proposed legislation is rendered even more objectionable by the fact that the Opportunity Scholarship program has not used all the money already allotted by the General Assembly under current law. Despite this, legislators now want to expand program eligibility instead of keeping it limited to the low-income families it was supposedly created to serve. It’s been estimated that the proposed changes will cost the state $159 million over the next nine years.
This expanded and unconstitutional diversion of education dollars would come at the same time that our state courts have already made clear in the landmark Leandro school funding case that the General Assembly has dramatically underfunded public education over the last 27-plus years. Indeed, just last month the state agreed with plaintiffs on a plan that would add hundreds of millions of additional dollars to state education appropriations this year, and billions more over the next eight years to bring our schools further into constitutional compliance.