Public money for public schools
Summary of recent North Carolina newspaper editorials
Saturday, January 13, 2018
As a funding crunch looms for local school systems that must adhere to class-size standards, the legislature continues to transfer funds from public schools to private schools through its “opportunity scholarship,” or voucher, program. In fact, public funding directed to private education is rapidly accelerating.
The voucher program sent $4.6 million to private schools in 2014-15; $13.1 million in 2015-16; $21.8 million in 2016-17; and $13.7 million in the first half of the current 2017-18 school year. The three-and-a-half-year total is $53.2 million, according to the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority.
The Greensboro Islamic Academy is one of the leading recipients of this funding, having gotten nearly $1.4 million to date. The number of students receiving state assistance to attend the school has risen each year, from 67 in 2014-15 to 131 this past fall. The state has paid an average of about $4,000 for each student. The school serves students through eighth grade.
Children from low-income families are eligible to receive assistance of up to $4,200 per year. On its website, the Greensboro Islamic Academy encourages parents to apply for the state scholarships: “Please do not miss out on the great opportunity.”
While there’s no doubt that attending private school at public expense presents a great opportunity for students, and a windfall for the schools, the program was controversial from the beginning — deservedly so.
It was challenged in court by plaintiffs who complained that the state constitution directs the legislature to spend public money for public purposes. In a 4-3 decision in 2015, the N.C. Supreme Court upheld the program’s constitutionality, ruling that private education achieves a public purpose.
The ruling did not address the question of allocating taxpayer funds for religious education. Further litigation on that issue could arise in the future, especially if a plaintiff brings a religious discrimination case. For example, one local private school states in the admission requirements published on its website that “high school students must be born-again Christians.” So public money designated for that school is available only to students who meet a religious test.
For now, private school vouchers remain a political matter. Do taxpayers want to pay for children’s private education, and particularly private religious education?
With so many public school financial needs unmet, more funding for private schools remains a poor policy. Private education should be paid for privately.
The News & Record of Greensboro
TRAFFIC STOP TRAINING
One nice change in 2018 is that the North Carolina driver’s handbook will soon contain a section on what drivers should do when they’re pulled over by law enforcement,.
This should provide sorely needed answers to questions many have been asking, especially young and inexperienced drivers. It would make good review material for everyone, though, especially drivers who may be startled by unexpected stops.
In recent times, some encounters between drivers and police officers have turned contentious and even deadly. Knowing what to expect and how to behave during a traffic stop should alleviate some pressure.
Young drivers should understand that being pulled over is not the worst thing that could happen, and might actually benefit them, especially if there’s a safety issue at hand. And they should be aware that nervous behavior or refusing to cooperate just doesn’t help.
And officers should be aware — and most likely are — that teenagers aren’t always going to act the way they should and be prepared.
Along with these changes, a voluntary designation system for drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing will be put in place. The law also requires law enforcement officers to receive more training on how to recognize and interact with deaf or hearing-impaired drivers. This inclusion came about after a deaf motorist was shot in Charlotte by an officer during a 2016 stop.
More training has been needed for police officers and motorists in general for some time. We’re glad to see the legislature lend some guidance to the task.
The Winston-Salem Journal