Yesterday,, August 21, 2014, Judge Robert Hobgood suspended the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program at a Wake County Superior Court hearing in Raleigh. Judge Hobgood ruled against the program by granting the plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment in the two cases challenging the program’s constitutionality. By refusing to stay his ruling pending appeal, the program is on hold.
In response to the ruling, the Institute for Justice will immediately appeal the decision and ask the North Carolina Court of Appeals to allow the program to operate while the case works its way through the courts.
North Carolina students are already using the program to attend private schools across the state, since the North Carolina Supreme Court originally lifted Judge Hobgood’s preliminary injunction in May and allowed the program to proceed and award scholarships to students. But Judge Hobgood’s ruling today again brings the future of the program into doubt.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure that today’s decision is merely another speed bump on the way to victory at the North Carolina Supreme Court,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dick Komer. “We view the North Carolina Supreme Court’s initial stay as a good indicator of how they will regard Judge Hobgood’s latest action. The plaintiffs’ claims in both cases are meritless and nothing that has transpired since then has strengthened their case.”
IJ Attorney Renée Flaherty added, “While some scholarships have already been awarded, the teachers’ association’s and school boards’ lawsuits have accomplished little besides denying many families an opportunity to seek better schools for their children. Their claims are based on a mistaken reading of the North Carolina Constitution and will ultimately be struck down.”
Judge Hobgood’s order is forthcoming.
IJ President Chip Mellor said, “The Institute for Justice will keep fighting for the future of the Opportunity Scholarship Program and the students whose lives it has already changed.”