Kelly v. North Carolia: Protecting NC's Opportunity Scholarship Program

Kelly v. North Carolina

In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly created the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships of approximately $4,000 to children from lower-income families in the state. Families use these scholarships to attend a private school that fits their child’s unique learning needs. The program was challenged in court and then upheld by the state’s Supreme Court in 2015.

Since 2015, this state has successfully operated the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has helped over ten thousand low-income students a year receive the funds they need to attend a private school that fits their needs.

A new lawsuit was filed in 2020 by parent activists to end the program. This time the challenge is funded and supported by teachers unions. These opponents of the program want to see the scholarships ended — which would force thousands of students to leave their current schools and would close the door to education opportunity for countless others.

Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center represent the state legislature in defense of the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

This suit is especially pernicious because it challenges the program “as implemented.” They charge that, as applied, the program is discriminatory and does not further the public purpose because many of the schools where parents direct their scholarship funds to be used are religious. In other words, even though the law was fully upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court when it was enacted, the union-supported challengers argue that the way it has been administered renders the entire program unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the tried and tested program has already been upheld by the state’s Supreme Court and even recently expanded by the General Assembly.

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