By John Peters
December 12, 2013
A group of public school teachers and parents filed suit Wednesday against North Carolina in an effort to block a new state law which allows parents of low-income students wishing to attend private schools to receive annual state grants to help them pay for the cost of that private education.
The lawsuit, filed in Wake County, is a regrettable action. Public educators and their supporters like to portray this as an effort to preserve much-needed funding for the education of the state’s young. In reality, it’s a turf war that will make money for attorneys (as is the case with most court action) while doing nothing to advance the cause of education in North Carolina.
At issue is a word in the North Carolina constitution which states the government will establish and maintain a school fund that will be “used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.”
It would seem that is pretty cut-and-dried. The state is required to establish such a fund and use the money for nothing but public schools.
It would also seem state officials can circumvent this fairly easily by continuing to maintain such a fund, even if the size of that fund continues to dwindle, while starting a separate, second fund from which these grants flow.
And if the government does, we’re sure someone will sue to stop it.
Again, that’s regrettable.
What folks ought to be doing — teachers, public school administrators, and parents — is figuring out a way for public school systems to work with private schools and charter schools — and with home schoolers as well — to better educate the state’s youth.
In Mount Airy and Surry County students and parents are spoiled a bit — and in a decidedly good way. The area has enjoyed public school systems that are among the best in the state, with committed, professional teachers who are guided by equally committed administrators who want their students to succeed.
Unfortunately, that is not the case across all of North Carolina. Many school systems are little more than warehouses to park kids and teens for the day before sending them on their way every afternoon, places were teachers and administrators are more concerned with a paycheck than making a difference in the lives of those who pass through their classrooms, or use the school systems to find jobs for their relatives and friends.
Again, not all school systems are like this, and those in this county are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Still, this is the reality of public schools in many localities across the state and nation.
Rather than engage in expensive legal fights to maintain the status quo, progressive, forward-thinking educators should be attempting to find the best way to reach students, whether that be through private, charter, public schools or some combination thereof.
In the end, it shouldn’t matter who gets credit for offering a solid education to the state’s youth, only that they do get a top-quality education.