North Carolina’s efforts to provide a sound basic education for every child date back to the 1868 State Constitution requiring the General Assembly to provide “a general and uniform system of public schools, wherein tuition shall be free of charge to all of the children of the State.”

While several reforms have been made over the ensuing years, the state has struggled to fulfill its educational commitment for all its children, leading to the Leandro v. State case in 1994. The 1997 Supreme Court decision unanimously affirmed that the North Carolina constitution guarantees every child of the state “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education” that provides students with sufficient:

  • Mastery of English, mathematics, and physical science “to enable the student to function in a complex and rapidly changing society”;
  • Knowledge of geography, history, economics, and political systems to make informed choices within the democratic system; and
  • Academic and vocational skills to engage in and succeed in postsecondary education or vocational training.

Over subsequent years, court orders have required the state to:

  • Set a high bar for the achievement level that would demonstrate a sound basic education
  • Fund preschool programs for at-risk 4-year-olds
  • Support low-performing schools

WestEd Action Plan for North Carolina: Summarizing the Report


A new era in the long-running Leandro litigation

In January, Superior Court Judge David Lee entered a consent order requiring the state of North Carolina to develop a comprehensive plan to remedy the state’s failure to ensure each child receives their constitutionally guaranteed educational opportunity.

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Education Without Barriers

Addressing the Needs of NC’s English Learning Students

For nearly a decade, North Carolina has seen a steep decline in its public education funding commitments resulting in declining student academic performance. The state is ranked 42nd for per-pupil spending, over $3,000 less than the national average. North Carolina’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores reveal that student achievement has stagnated across all subjects after decades of improvement. Additionally, the state continues to see growing achievement gaps between white students and students of color. The harm of inadequate funding is disproportionately severe for English Learning students who face additional barriers to opportunity.

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Court-ordered Leandro report charts bold, long-awaited course for NC to fulfill obligation to provide constitutionally-adequate education to all children who attend public schools

The release of the court-ordered report by WestEd, the independent research organization appointed in the landmark Leandro v. State case, gives North Carolina lawmakers, educators, parents and students a clear and comprehensive roadmap for finally providing our children the education they deserve and to which they are constitutionally entitled.

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