RALEIGH, WAKE COUNTY -

A North Carolina judge is deciding whether a new law allowing taxpayer money to be used for tuition at private or religious schools should be put on hold.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood scheduled a hearing Friday on whether to block plans to begin awarding annual grants of up to $4,200 next month.

Taxpayers and groups representing teachers and many of the state's 115 school boards say the program challenged in two lawsuits should be delayed while the judge considers whether it is constitutional.

The grants are called "vouchers" by opponents and "opportunity scholarships" by the law.

They're scheduled to start in the next academic year for families meeting income requirements capped slightly above the level set for the federal free or reduced-price school lunch program.