The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP (“SC NAACP”) filed a motion on Wednesday to intervene in Bishop of Charleston v. Adams, a case before the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina that involves the validity of Article XI, Section 4 of South Carolina’s Constitution. Article XI, Section 4—also known as South Carolina’s “no-aid provision”—prohibits public funds from being diverted to private schools. The SC NAACP seeks to intervene in the case alongside the Orangeburg County School District to defend the provision and prevent the further erosion of public-school funding in South Carolina.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that South Carolina’s no-aid provision discriminates against religious schools by denying them funds that are available to public schools. But South Carolina’s no-aid provision, unlike some similar provisions in other states, does not target religious schools. Instead, it protects public schools’ budgets by prohibiting all private schools—whether religious or secular—from receiving public funds.
“This lawsuit is a direct attack on our public schools and an attempt to divert funds from those already underserved schools toward private schools,” said Brenda C. Murphy, President of the SC NAACP. “Any diversion of taxpayer dollars away from public schools toward private schools would inevitably exacerbate existing educational disparities for Black students in South Carolina. We will fight to protect public schools and the diverse student population that they serve.”
This lawsuit is related to Governor Henry McMaster’s efforts to create a new voucher program using COVID-19 relief funds that South Carolina received from Congress. Last December, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the program Governor McMaster intended to create would violate the no-aid provision. By intervening in this case, the SC NAACP will defend that victory and prevent future efforts to raid public coffers to fund private schools.
The SC NAACP is represented in the lawsuit by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, Richard A. Harpootlian P.A., and Williams & Williams.