North Carolina School Choice

Hart v. North Carolina, Richardson v. North Carolina
North Carolina School Choice



IJ client and parent Cynthia Perry and her daughter Faith. Cynthia has applied for an Opportunity Scholarship so that she can send Faith to a private school.


Video: Opportunity and Choice in North Carolina

With the 2013 passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Program by the North Carolina General Assembly, North Carolina joined the growing list of states providing low-income families with greater school choice.  The program will provide up to 2,400 scholarships worth up to $4,200 each to low-income families to send their children to private schools.  To be eligible, families must also be eligible for the federal free and reduced-price school lunch program, which means there is an income cap of about $44,000 for a family of four.  The program started accepting applications on February 1, 2014, and will begin awarding scholarships on March 1, 2014.  More than 3,000 applications have already been received, and more keep rolling in.  In short, North Carolina is about to offer low-income families the same opportunity for school choice that wealthier families already enjoy.

The teachers’ association and the school boards, however, are threatened by the opportunity for long-ignored parents to now select the best schools for their children.  The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), and their allies are trying desperately to get rid of the program before scholarships can be awarded.  The NCAE and the NCSBA, along with North Carolina citizens and local school boards, have filed two lawsuits alleging that the program violates the North Carolina Constitution.  The teachers’ association and school boards fear that if low-income families begin to follow their wealthier peers to private schools that offer an education that parents prefer to that of the public schools, the low-performing public schools will no longer have a captive clientele with no alternative but to accept the inadequate education offered there.  Jobs could be lost and the teachers association could lose income from dues.

Because the direct and intended beneficiaries of the program are the families it empowers to make educational choices, the Institute for Justice (IJ) has teamed with two parents who have applied for scholarships.


Essential Background


Background: North Carolina Parents Join Legal Battle To Defend School Choice Program

Client photos for media use

Client video

Latest Release: VICTORY: School Choice Wins at North Carolina Supreme Court (July 23, 2015)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Complaint (January 13, 2014)

Launch Release: Parents & IJ Defend New N.C. School Choice Program (February 17, 2014) 

Complaint (January 15, 2014)
Order Granting Parents’ Petition to Stay Superior Court’s Injunction (September 19, 2014) 
Hart Opinion (July 23 2015)
Richardson Opinion (July 23, 2015)

Case Timeline

Lawsuit Filed:


January 30, 2014

Court Filed:


Wake County Superior Court

Current Court:

North Carolina Supreme Court



Awaiting decision

Next hearing date: N/A

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: North Carolina School Choice program goes to state Supreme Court (October 10, 2014)

none available 

Release: North Carolina Students Win! North Carolina Court of Appeals Clears Way for School Choice Program (September 19, 2014)

Release: North Carolina Parents Vow to Continue Fight for School Choice (August 21, 2014)


Release: Moving Forward: North Carolina Supreme Court Clears Way for School Choice Program (May 14, 2014)


Release: North Carolina Parents & IJ Vow to Continue Fight for School Choice (February 21, 2014)



Op-eds, News Articles & Links

Article: Supreme Court weighs NC school voucher program WRAL-TV (February 25, 2015)
Article: NC Supreme Court will take up school voucher appeal (October 10, 2014)
Article: More than $1M in private school vouchers released amid legal battle Port City Daily (September 30, 2014)
Article: Voucher Supporters Call Court Ruling ‘Temporary Roadblock’ Carolina Journal (August 22, 2014)
Article: North Carolina judge: State's school voucher program unfairly benefits religious schools Reuters (August 21, 2014)
Article: NC Supreme Court lets voucher program proceed News & Observer (May 14, 2014) 

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