RALEIGH (May 24, 2021) — During a press conference on Monday, May 24, members of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Rep Julie von Haefen (HD 36), Rep. Ricky Hurtado (HD 63), Rep. Rachel Hunt (HD 103), and Rep. Raymond Smith (HD 21) discussed the introduction of HB 946, entitled, “Sound Basic Education for Every Child.” Legislators were joined by speakers from Every Child NC, a community-led coalition advocating for equitable school funding.
“Fully funding our education system is not a choice,” said Rep. von Haefen. “Our state has a constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education for the children who live and learn in North Carolina.”
On January 21, 2020, North Carolina Superior Court Judge David Lee entered an order in the Leandro case. That order directs the state to develop an eight-year plan of action that the state will undertake to meet its constitutional obligations.
On March 15, 2021, the parties submitted to the court the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan, which outlines actions the state must take to meet its constitutional obligation of ensuring every student has access to a sound basic education. The plan is centered around the seven key areas outlined in Judge Lee’s January 2020 order. HB 946 implements actions in the first two years of the plan submitted to the court.
“The Leandro decision requires North Carolina to implement a plan that will ensure all children, including those from rural and underserved communities, have access to a sound, basic education,” said Rep. Hurtado. “Our bill would put the state on track to meet the requirements agreed upon by the Court.”
Addressing local funding inequities, Rep. R. Smith said, “Counties are often expected to fill in funding gaps when our schools have unmet financial needs. Not only is that expectation inequitable, but it is also unconstitutional. HB 946 would spur our state to take action and begin to resolve the statewide funding inequities that predominantly harm rural, low-income, and high-risk students.”
Kellie Easton, Executive Director of Action 4 Equity, expressed support for the strategic funding increases included in the bill. “If our students’ unique gifts are going to flourish and if they’re going to have the chance to embrace their brilliance, our schools need the resources, staffing, and support from the institutions that are most responsible for their success,” she said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequities that are the focus of the Leandro case, particularly for students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English language learners,” said Rep. Hunt, calling attention to the urgency of this moment. “If we truly want to serve our most marginalized students and prepare them for a more prosperous future, we don’t have any time to waste.”
“We should ask ourselves, does leaving behind yet another generation of children from rural communities or families with low-incomes align with our values?” said Patricia Beier, CEO of WAGES NC.
Legislators filed HB 946 on May 11, 2021. On May 12, the bill was referred directly to the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House. Many legislators often describe a bill’s direct referral to the Rules Committee as being sent to the “bill graveyard.”
“I was disappointed to see our bill sent directly to the Rules Committee instead of to an Appropriations Committee for review,” said Rep. von Haefen. “I sincerely hope that House leadership will take the Court’s order seriously by considering our proposal during budget negotiations.”