Court of Appeals unanimously vacates suit challenging municipal charter school law

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RALEIGH — A North Carolina Court of Appeals three-judge panel has ruled that plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a municipal charter school law had no standing to bring the case and has vacated a previous ruling blocking its dismissal. 

The opinion, authored by Judge Jeffrey Carpenter, vacated a ruling by Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier who last year ruled against dismissing the case. The Court of Appeals ruling was unanimous, with Judges Valerie Zachary and Allegra Collins concurring.  

“We grant Defendants’ petition for writ of certiorari because they have shown merit and that error was probably committed in the superior court,” the ruling states. “We hold Plaintiffs have failed to include allegations in their complaint demonstrating they were directly injured, or are likely to suffer a direct injury, as a result of HB 514’s enforcement. Accordingly, we vacate the Order because the trial court was without jurisdiction to enter it.” 

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, an organization aiding the plaintiffs, “emphasized that Tuesday’s ruling focused on the legal standing to sue, rather than the challenge of the actual law,” according to the Associated Press. 

“This lawsuit is part of the NAACP’s shameful assault on parental choice programs that offer enormous benefits to black children in Mecklenburg County and beyond,” John Locke Foundation Director of the Center for Effective Education Dr. Terry Stoops told North State Journal. 

“Last year, seven out of 10 black students enrolled in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools failed to reach proficiency on state reading, science and math tests,” said Stoops. “It is maddening that an organization founded to expand opportunities for black Americans invests its resources into limiting charter schools in communities desperate for options.” 

The case, N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. the State of North Carolina, challenged a 2018 law that allowed for the creation of municipal charter schools in certain townships within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district (CMS).  

Plaintiffs had alleged the law was unconstitutional, would spur racial segregation in the district public schools, and that new school options would “siphon” money from CMS. The district is the second largest in the state with around 140,000 students.  

House Bill 514 was passed during the 2017 legislative session and became law in 2018.  The bill did not require Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature to become law since it was designated as a local bill. The law granted the townships of Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews and Mint Hill the ability to apply to the state Board of Education to open charter schools and granted priority enrollment to students in those towns. 

None of the four towns officially applied to the state to open a charter school, which was noted by Carpenter as one of the reasons the panel concluded “there can be no direct injury or immediate threat of injury.”   

The townships may have been waiting for a resolution of the lawsuit before pursuing the path to opening a charter school. 

About A.P. Dillon 656 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_