RALEIGH (September 25, 2021) – During a hearing earlier this month, Superior Court Judge David Lee made clear the state of North Carolina must immediately implement the comprehensive remedial plan in the Leandro case. The plan would remedy the state’s decades-long failure to ensure each child receives their constitutionally guaranteed educational opportunity.
The hearing also made clear that the impediment to implementing the Leandro Plan is lack of funding, a responsibility that falls squarely on the General Assembly and must be remedied in the current budget cycle now being finalized. Lawmakers have until October 18 to demonstrate compliance with this order by fully funding the Leandro Plan.
The North Carolina Justice Center applauds the work of Judge Lee and the parties in finally illustrating, after decades of underfunding by both political parties, the state’s children can wait no longer to have their constitutional rights upheld. The Leandro Plan recognizes the need to make additional investments to ensure that all children, especially children from historically marginalized communities, have access to a sound, basic education.
Almost all the elements of the Leandro plan are noncontroversial. It focuses on the need to staff classrooms with competent, well-trained teachers and principals; establish a funding system that provides adequate resources to ensure all children’s educational needs are met; provide supports for low-performing schools; expand access to early childhood education; provide safe and healthy learning environments; fund adequate access to nurses and counselors, and prepare students for postsecondary opportunities.
Legislators have paid all of these ideas lip service, but districts and schools have repeatedly been hamstrung in their efforts to provide all children with the opportunity to receive a constitutionally adequate sound, basic education by the General Assembly’s unwillingness to invest adequately in the public education system. As the Governor’s proposed budget shows, this plan is immediately affordable without raising taxes or cutting other programs. In fact, the entire plan can be fully funded from the unappropriated balance in each of the most recent House and Senate budget proposals.
North Carolina has a constitutional and moral duty to improve its support for public education and provide all children with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education without further delay. As Judge Lee stated: “The State’s continuing violation of that duty is equally long-established and amplified every day. The State’s plan to remedy that violation was approved by this Court, and there are more than enough resources available to fully implement it. North Carolina’s children have waited long enough.”