Schools this year are really feeling the budget squeeze. With lack of school supplies parents and teachers are spending hundreds out of their pockets to provide essentials. Who is to blame? A state Court Of Appeals said it’s not the county, it’s the North Carolina General Assembly.
Students and parents still fighting for sufficient school funding decades after they were guaranteed the right to a sound, basic education should make demands of state legislators, not county officials, a divided state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Schoolchildren can’t sue Halifax County commissioners for unequally funding the county’s segregated public school districts, a majority of the three-judge panel ruled. Students inside substandard Halifax County Schools’ buildings are sometimes forced to walk through sewage to reach their lockers, yet they get less local tax dollars than the majority white Roanoke Rapids schools, lawyers for five students said.
But the majority in the 2-1 court decision said local families should take their problems to Raleigh since the General Assembly has total control over what counties can do.
The case is the first to address whether local governments have a duty alongside the state to provide every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education,” as the state Supreme Court determined in a landmark 1997 case named after one of the suing students, Leandro.
‘Plaintiffs’ complaint describes serious problems in the schools in Halifax County, but because this defendant — the Halifax County Board of Commissioners — does not bear the constitutional duty to provide a sound basic education, we affirm the trial court’s order dismissing this action,” Judge Donna Stroud wrote for herself and Judge Lucy Inman.
Instead, it is state officials who have the constitutional obligation to provide basic educational opportunity for every North Carolina child, Inman wrote.