More than 50 years ago, economist Milton Friedman revolutionized the world of education reform with his call for publicly-funded school choice. Since that time, choice has continued to generate controversy, igniting debate in courthouses, state legislatures, and dining rooms across the country. Ultimately, what hangs in the balance (and what defines “school choice” in its simplest terms) is the right to decide this basic question: who gets to choose where children go to school?
Choice supporters believe that parents – not bureaucrats – should be free to select a school for their child. Acknowledging that parents know best when it comes to the needs of children makes good sense. In addition, research continues to mount affirming the many benefits of choice. Add to this dismal education data revealing a graduation rate in North Carolina of just 63 percent, and you have a compelling case for change. So why don’t more North Carolinians embrace choice? Many remain confused about its legality.
Choice opponents have gone to great lengths to cast doubt on the constitutionality of choice. But the fact is that choice is constitutional, and has been declared so by the highest court in the land. In the landmark 2002 case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court established the constitutionality of choice programs under the Federal First Amendment, since parents (not the state) choose the school receiving public funds.
North Carolina’s constitution also permits government-funded choice. While almost every state in the country has one or more constitutional religion clauses limiting government support of religious schools, North Carolina has no religious constitutional impediments to choice. In fact, North Carolina is the only state in the country without any common religion clauses in its constitution.
Clearly, the time has come to promote choice in our state and to clarify lingering misconceptions about its constitutionality. For these reasons, the North Carolina Education Alliance will partner with the nation’s only libertarian public interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, on a week-long, statewide spring tour, “School Choice and the North Carolina Constitution.”
Beginning Monday, April 24th, IJ attorney Dave Roland and I will cross the state, speaking on the constitutionality of choice and highlighting our new report, School Choice and the North Carolina Constitution. If you are interested in attending one of our tour events, please contact me as soon as possible via e-mail or 704.231.9767 to reserve a spot. Limited seating is still available.
Our tour schedule is as follows:
Monday, April 24th, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Charlotte, North Carolina
Monday, April 24th, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Asheville, North Carolina
Tuesday, April 25th, 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Greensboro, North Carolina
Wednesday, April 26th, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Durham, North Carolina
Thursday, April 27th, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Wilmington, North Carolina
Please consider joining us on our tour to learn more about school choice. The report School Choice and the North Carolina Constitution, along with a “Fast Facts” primer on the constitutionality of
choice will be available online at www.nceducationalliance.org beginning Monday, April 24th. See you on the tour!
To learn more about school choice and the latest education news, visit the Alliance online at www.nceducationalliance.org.
Lindalyn Kakadelis is the Director of the North Carolina Education Alliance.