North Carolina Government & Politics

By Jack D. Fleer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Continuity and Change in the
State's Constitutions

Beth Bright attends a Jacksonville high school in Onslow County on the southeastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean. She aspires to be a lawyer and seeks college preparatory courses to qualify for admission to the state university. Her choice of courses is limited in part because her county ranks last among the state's local education units in per pupil expenditures. In 1989-90, Onslow County spent $3,303 for each student enrolled in its public schools. Across the state in an Asheville high school set in the mountains of western North Carolina, Chad Black has similar ambitions and plans. He selects his senior program from a wider range and greater number of courses made possible by his hometown's significantly larger investment in public education, a per pupil expenditure of $5,450 in 1989-90, more than $2,000 higher than in Bright's district. Asheville's schools rank first on this measure of expenditure.

Since both students live in North Carolina, they share the state constitutional guarantee set forth in Article IX, Section 2, which states, "The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, . . . wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students." To date, the North Carolina Supreme Court has not held that Beth and Chad have been denied their rights, despite the spending disparities. In May 1994 a challenge to the state education system was filed on these provisions. In the absence of a ruling by the state's highest tribunal on their meaning, these citizens' access to widely varying educational opportunities continues. 1

The Onslow County commissioners enacted an ordinance to regulate businesses that provide "male or female companionship," so-called movie mates. The officials were motivated by a concern for the standards of morality in their community. The law regulating companionship services was challenged in the state courts. The supreme court held that the term "companion

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