Under the Dome

Group plans march for private school scholarships

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina has planned a Tuesday afternoon rally and march to push for a program that would use corporate tax breaks to get more low-income students in to private schools.

Parents for Educational Freedom paid for a trip for 11 legislators, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, to learn about the tax credit program, N.C. Policy Watch reported last week.

Tillis general counsel Jason Kay and Educational Freedom lobbyists also went on the Florida trip with the bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Under the program, corporations receive tax credits equal to 100 percent of their donations to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations. Those organizations give scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.

Policy Watch, an arm of the N.C. Justice Center,  raised the question whether the trip violated the state's lobbying laws.

Parents for Educational Freedom's president Darrell Allison said it was an educational trip.

Bob Phillips of Common Cause told Policy Watch that the trip met the definition of lobbying and violated state statutes.


Parents for Educational Freedom sought an opinion from the Ethics Commission for a 2008 trip for legislators to Florida where they talked about individual tax-credits for children with disabilities to attend private school.  The commission's lobbying director said it was an educational meeting. 

Allison also sent a written rebuttal to the Policy Watch article, saying that Parents for Education Freedom NC had its lawyer review this year's Florida trip, and the lawyer advised that it met the "educational meeting" exemption in the ethics law.

Bob Phillips of Common Cause said Parents for Educational Freedom probably made a good-faith effort to do the right thing.

It's not always clear, though, what's educational and what's lobbying, Phillips said.

"It's always good, when there's any kind of question, to get the advice from the state Ethics Commission," he said.

Attachment-2008 State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion-PEFNC.PDF

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