STATEMENT: Leandro report puts a price tag on lawmakers’ long-term neglect of public schools
General Assembly to blame for the strain which $8 billion in “deferred maintenance costs” has put on North Carolina teachers and students
RALEIGH — Progress NC Action released the following statement on Wednesday in response to the Leandro report which shows that North Carolina’s current education system fails to meet the needs of many children, and recommends that the state significantly increase its commitment and efforts to provide for the education of every student:
“This report proves what North Carolina educators have been saying for years,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action. “State lawmakers have utterly failed over the past decade to deliver the resources our public schools need. Republicans who control the state legislature are demanding a pat on the back for giving public schools the bare minimum, and sometimes not even that. They’re like a negligent car owner who spends years deferring critical maintenance costs, while saying the car is fine because they wash it regularly. Sooner or later, that car is going to stop working no matter what you do. This report does not lay blame on one party or the other. But Republicans have been cutting corporate taxes and writing North Carolina’s state budget for the last nine years. To quote the Leandro report, ‘Our children deserve better.’”
Two decades have passed since the state Supreme Court’s Leandro decision guaranteed the constitutional right of all North Carolina students to a sound basic education. According to yesterday’s report, the situation in the state’s most disadvantaged schools first improved following the Leandro decision thanks to increased funding under governors such as Jim Hunt, then worsened once again as the recession and years of Republican leadership caused education funding to dwindle. When adjusted for inflation, North Carolina currently spends 6% less per student on public education compared to a decade ago.
“North Carolina was recognized during the 1980s and 1990s as an example of how state policymakers could turn a state around by making strong investments in teachers’ knowledge and skills and in early childhood support and education and by establishing standards for students and teachers,” the report states. “However, cutbacks that began during the recession after 2008, along with much deeper legislative cuts over the last few years, have eliminated or greatly reduced many of the programs that were put in place and have begun to undermine the quality and equity gains that were previously made.”
The report goes on to state that the decline in funding under GOP rule has caused achievement gaps to widen in in mathematics and reading. The report recommends $8 billion in targeted education spending over the next eight years to get North Carolina schools back up to par.