Last year, North Carolina lawmakers earmarked $10,000,000 for vouchers, offering up to $4,200 of taxpayer money per-student-who-qualified to private schools.
Because many of those schools have discriminatory admission standards (70% of the voucher-accepting schools are religious), take money away from public schools, and don’t abide by state educational standards, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood put a stop to the program earlier this year. After some legal back-and-forth, though, he just gave a green light for the first million dollars to be distributed:
About $1.1 million was distributed last Friday to 109 private schools that accepted students under the Opportunity Scholarships program, State Educational Assistance Authority grants director Elizabeth McDuffie said Monday. That distribution was to cover part of the tuition for 568 students, according to the state agency administering the program.
The schools were primarily Christian, Baptist, Catholic or Islamic. The Greensboro Islamic Academy received the most money, $90,300 for 43 enrolled students. Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh received $54,600 for 26 students.
Because the vouchers are going to poor students, they’re the ones caught in the middle of this legal battle. If the courts ultimately rule that the vouchers are unconstitutional — as I believe they are — it means the schools will have to give the voucher money back to the state, and those kids’ families will have to either pay the difference or move their kids back to a public school.
That said, considering that it’s often Christian groups that push for voucher programs, it’s very interesting that an Islamic school is the largest recipient of the funding so far. I haven’t heard any complaints about that yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Malinda for the link)