RALEIGH -

A North Carolina judge is ordering a stop to the use of taxpayer money to pay for tuition at private or religious schools.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Thursday that the program is unconstitutional on several levels. Voucher advocates say they will appeal the decision.

Hobgood says the program pays for students to attend schools that are not obliged to meet state curriculum requirements, violating the state constitution's guarantee for students to have an opportunity to a sound basic education.

The voucher program served 2400 students every year.

Students at Bethel Christian Academy in Kinston say the loss of the voucher program is devastating.

"You try and you pray so hard and one person just crushes your dreams for your school opportunities," said 14-year-old Wil Ham. "I don't feel that's right."

Bethel Christian Academy Principal Doug Phillips says the eight children at his school affected will not be turned a way.

"Bethel Christian Academy was not going to dismiss them," said Phillips. "
"We kept our promise, the promise to the state made was broke to them."

Hobgood said it's also unconstitutional for public funds to go to privately run and managed schools.

The judge said money cannot go to private schools. The state agency managing the funds says money that was planned for distribution earlier this week was stopped.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office says it will appeal the decision.