RALEIGH (January 24, 2020) – Earlier this week, 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.

This order marks the beginning of a new era in the long-running Leandro litigation that constitutionally guarantees all North Carolina children the right to the opportunity to receive a sound basic education, following decades of neglect after the state’s retreat from fulfilling its obligation to educate its children. Drawing upon the expert report submitted to the court by WestEd in December, the order recognizes an ongoing constitutional harm, including severe inequities experienced by at-risk children, economically disadvantaged students, and children of color, and requires that the state report back to the court within 60 days on its progress.

The state’s plan must address 1) teacher recruitment and development, 2) principal development and recruitment, 3) an adequate, equitable, and predictable funding system, 4) an accountability system that measures progress on the Leandro standard, 5) meaningful support to low-performing schools, 6) access to early education for all at-risk children, 7) and alignment of high school to postsecondary and career expectations to assure student readiness.

The parties must now to set out the specific actions that state defendants will implement in 2020 to address the identified constitutional deficiencies, mid-range actions to be implemented to ensure continued action, and a date by which the state will submit a comprehensive remedial plan to provide all public school children with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.

The Justice Center applauds the work of Judge Lee and the parties in breathing new life into the Leandro standard after years of the state failing to meet its constitutional obligations to children. The recommendations in the WestEd report and the requirements of this consent agreement are clear: it is up to state policymakers to meet their obligation and implement meaningful reforms in the 2020 legislative session. As this week’s order recognizes, North Carolina’s children cannot wait any longer to have their fundamental constitutional rights realized.