The North Carolina Court of Appeals has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a state law that allows towns in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District to operate their own charter schools.
The law, approved by lawmakers in 2018 as House Bill 514, allows the Mecklenburg County towns of Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, and Mint Hill to request state approval for municipal charter schools.
The law is the first to allow municipalities to run charter schools in North Carolina, though none have applied to do so. Currently, all of the state’s charter schools are run by nonprofits.
The North Carolina NAACP in 2020 filed a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional, alleging the legislation interfered with plans by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) to address racial and economic disparities between schools.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Vinston M. Rozier, Jr. denied a motion to dismiss the case in March 2021 and referred it to a three-judge panel to consider the constitutional arguments.
The state, represented by House Speaker Timothy Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate President Pro Tempore Philip Berger, R-Rockingham, appealed to the Court of Appeals, which issued a unanimous decision on Monday.
Legislative leaders argued that because none of the towns have attempted to start a charter school, there is no actual controversy or direct injury that provides a standing to sue.
The appeals court panel agreed.
“Plaintiffs … alleged in their complaint ‘that the threats to pass and the subsequent adoption of HB 514 caused the CMS Board to substantially scale back the scope of its student reassignment plans, thereby undermining its transparent efforts to address the established negative effect of racial segregation and concentrated poverty on educational outcomes,’” Judge Jeff Carpenter wrote in the order. “This allegation tends to demonstrate an indirect injury to plaintiffs because any harm they sustained was not directly caused by the enactment of HB 514; rather, the alleged injury would have been the result of CMS’s response to the passing of the Act.
“Additionally, our review of the record reveals no town has submitted an application to create a municipal charter school; thus, we conclude there can be no direct injury or immediate threat of injury.”
The appeals panel cited the North Carolina Supreme Court case of Committee to Elect Dan Forest v. Employees Political Action Committee, in which the court found “when standing is questioned, the proper inquiry is whether an actual controversy existed at the time the pleading requesting declaratory relief is filed.”
The panel concluded Rozier “probably committed” an error by denying the motion to dismiss the case due to the lack of an actual controversy, since none of the towns have applied to start a charter school.
“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,” Carpenter wrote. “Accordingly, we vacate the order because the trial court was without jurisdiction to enter it.”
Because the appeals court opinion was unanimous, the state Supreme Court is not obligated to review the case, the Carolina Journal reports.
This article was originally posted on Appeals court dismisses lawsuit challenging a North Carolina law that allows towns to create charter schools