RALEIGH (August 31, 2022) – The North Carolina Justice Center applauds the North Carolina Supreme Court for agreeing to hear the long-running Leandro case again for the first time in almost two decades.
The state legislature has not developed a plan to remedy the ongoing constitutional violation first identified by the Court in 1997 and has neither adequately nor equitably funded schools for decades. This long-running neglect by the state has led to the situation where our children are presently returning to schools with unprecedented vacancies in teaching positions, school support personnel like nurses and counselors, and bus drivers. Overall student performance has stagnated and opportunity gaps have grown. The state is currently further from meeting the standard set forth in our Constitution than it was when this case was first decided 25 years ago by the Supreme Court in 1997.
Today, as extensive oral arguments before the Court concluded, North Carolina is closer than ever to addressing these shortfalls and finally upholding every child’s right to receive a sound basic education as explicitly laid out in the state constitution. For the first time in this case’s long history, the state has developed a truly comprehensive plan to uphold students’ educational rights from early childhood through the K-12 system and the transition to college and careers. The plan is responsive to community needs from the perspective of those who work most closely with children in historically marginalized communities—and ample state funds exist to fully fund the plan without a tax increase.
For these reasons, we respectfully urge the Court to order the funding of the comprehensive remedial plan as set out by the trial court and consented to by the State in this case. To hold otherwise would render the Constitution a nullity, a result never envisioned by its drafters, nor by the citizens of North Carolina. The legislature has no right to fund an explicit fundamental constitutional right, guaranteed to our children, in an unconstitutional manner.
The NC Justice Center is proud to play a role in this work as a partner in the Every Child NC coalition, a leader in writing and filing a widely-supported amicus brief in July 2022, and presenting oral arguments in front of the N.C. Supreme Court.