School supporters want North Carolina Supreme Court to fund Leandro plan

Members of the Triangle Chapter of 'Raging Grannies' sing a song calling on North Carolina leaders to fully fund the Leadnro education plan during a rally on August 27, 2022 at the Halifax Mall in Raleigh, North Carolina .

Members of the Triangle Chapter of ‘Raging Grannies’ sing a song calling on North Carolina leaders to fully fund the Leadnro education plan during a rally on August 27, 2022 at the Halifax Mall in Raleigh, North Carolina .

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Public education advocates on Saturday urged the North Carolina Supreme Court to order the transfer of $785 million from the state treasury to fund Leandro’s education plan.

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments on whether to order the money transfer over objections from Republican legislative leaders. About 150 people who gathered at the Halifax Mall outside the Legislative Building on Saturday said the High Court must intervene after nearly 30 years of litigation.

Several speakers at Saturday’s rally pointed to the state’s $6 billion rainy day fund as one way to fund the plan. GOP leaders say they want to conserve reserves to weather a possible recession.

“It’s time to release the funds,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “Our children need action now. We must waste no more time – another generation of students – doing what is right for them.

Chants of “cut the check” and “let the money go” echoed through the crowd.

Long-term legal battle

The long-running lawsuit over Leandro school funding was originally filed in 1994 by low-income school districts seeking more state funding.

Over the years, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the state Constitution guarantees every child “the opportunity to receive a sound basic education” and that the state is failing to meet this obligation.

In November, Superior Court Judge David Lee ordered the state to transfer $1.75 billion to fund the next two years of a plan developed by a consultant and designed to provide every student with a high quality principal and teachers. A panel of the State Court of Appeals blocked the order to be applied.

Superior Court Justice Michael Robinson replaced Lee as trial judge and decided in April that last year’s state budget left the Leandro plan $785 million short of being fully funded. But Robinson removed Lee’s language requiring the state treasurer, comptroller and budget director to transfer funds.

Lawyers for the State Board of Education, the school district and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration want the Supreme Court to demand that the $785 million be transferred.

Lawyers for Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore say it would violate the state Constitution’s separation of powers if the courts ordered the money transfer. They say that only the General Assembly has the power to appropriate state funds.

“Fourth grade is when you learn about the history of North Carolina and North Carolina, and I hope my daughter when she reaches fourth grade, she gets to learn about this great state and what point this month was pivotal in Leandro finally being fully funded,” Brittany said. Gregory, director of programs at Durham’s Partnership for Children. “It’s my dream for her.”

“You will pay”

The 4-3 Democratic majority in the North Carolina Supreme Court handed down several rulings that went against GOP lawmakers.

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled that the General Assembly had been unconstitutionally manipulated as lawmakers may not have had the power to claim to represent the people when passing new constitutional amendments. in 2018, The News & Observer previously reported.

The decision could prevent the implementation of amendments backed by the GOP, such as requiring voters to show photo ID and barring future politicians from raising the income tax rate. of the state above 7%.

Same 4-3 majority will hear Leandro case after Republican Phil Berger Jr. and Democrat Anita Earls reject demands recuse himself from the case.

Angus Thompson, who was an early plaintiff in the case, said courts had found for years that students had been wronged. He compared the upcoming court hearing to what happens when people don’t pay their fines after being given multiple chances by a judge.

“Sooner or later you’re going to pay the fine and you’re going to pay,” said Thompson, who was a public defender.

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T. Keung Hui has been covering K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. Its primary focus is Wake County, but it also covers statewide education issues.

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