U.S. Sues N.C. District in Impact-Aid Dispute
Washington--The Justice Department announced last week that it has filed suit challenging a North Carolina school board's proposal to charge tuition for educating the children of servicemen stationed primarily at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on Sept. 20, seeks to overturn a July 6 decision by the Onslow County Board of Education to impose a tuition charge of $245 per year for all non-county residents who attend county public schools.
The board decided to institute the tuition policy after it learned that the Congress had voted to reduce substantially the funding for federal impact-aid, which helps school districts offset the cost of educating the children of federal employees who live or work at large government installations within school-district boundaries.
School board officials have said that on Oct. 1 they will begin dismissing all students whose parents have failed to make the tuition payments.
The board estimates that 2,000 students from the Camp Lejeune base will seek to enroll in the county's schools this fall.
The government's lawsuit also names the state of North Carolina and Governor James B. Hunt Jr. as co-defendants because of a state law enacted in July 1981 that allows school districts to charge tuition of military dependents if federal impact aid falls below 50 percent of the cost of educating a student in those districts.
The government's lawsuit contends that the Onslow County school board's tuition plan is illegal because it conflicts with federal laws protecting servicemen from taxation in states other than their home state.
The complaint also says that the plan unconstitutionally discriminates against servicemen. The complaint also notes that school board is violating an agreement it made when it accepted federal grants for construction, that it would operate its schools for the benefit of the children of federal employees.