RALEIGH (February 22, 2024) – The North Carolina Justice Center is alarmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision to rehear its own landmark decision in Leandro IV by considering arguments that were clearly decided by the same Court in November, 2022. Nothing about this case has changed factually or procedurally in this short period of time to justify such a hearing, and children’s needs have only grown. The decision to rehear this case is procedurally inappropriate and could cause irreparable harm to the integrity of our state’s judicial system as well as our public schools and early childhood education system.

As Justice Earls stated in her dissent to the decision to rehear this case, “This Court resolved the question of subject-matter jurisdiction in Leandro IV… In that case —just 11 months old—the Legislative-Intervenors raised the same arguments they do in their bypass petition: That the trial court lacked jurisdiction to remedy constitutional deficiencies in public education. We examined that claim and ‘unequivocally rejected’ it.”

Even more important, this rehearing constitutes part of a pattern of obstruction and denial of the resources needed to uphold the constitutional right to educational opportunities for our state’s children that stretches from the statehouse, to the courthouse, to the classroom. This pattern has persisted for almost three decades and has been accelerated by the state’s most recent, woefully inadequate education budget that diverts scarce resources to wealthy families whose children already attended private schools that remain inaccessible to working class families.

The only thing that has happened in the intervening year is that the challenges facing our schools, communities, and children have remained unmet. The investments and policies outlined in the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan released in January of 2020 are desperately needed given the extraordinary challenges our schools face. Following decades of underinvestment, the impact of the pandemic on learning loss and burgeoning mental health needs, teacher and staffing shortages in all districts across the state, and a mounting crisis in our early childhood systems, our education system is truly in jeopardy. North Carolina’s public schools desperately need the constitutionally required resources owed to them.

We respectfully urge the Court to follow its own precedent and provide relief to North Carolina’s children immediately.