28 years and counting: NC’s Leandro school funding plan in court again this week

28 years and counting: NC’s Leandro school funding plan in court again this week

The history of the Leandro school funding lawsuit dates back to 1994 when students, parents, and school districts in five low-income rural counties filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that North Carolina was not providing a good public school education for all its students, as required by the state constitution.

Since the lawsuit was first heard in court, the state Supreme Court has ruled – multiple times – that the North Carolina Constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound, basic education” and that the state was failing to provide that.

Despite the rulings, nothing has changed, and nearly three decades have passed without every child in the state being afforded the opportunity to receive a good education. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of state Republican lawmakers.

  • North Carolina has billions of dollars – $6 billion, to be exact – in unused revenue just sitting in a “rainy day fund” that Republicans in the legislature have so far refused to touch in order to fund the Leandro plan, despite being ordered to do so.
  • The NCGOP has repeatedly pushed for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy instead of passing legislation that would actually benefit a majority of North Carolinians, like funding public schools, increasing pay for teachers and staff, and fixing schools across the state.
  • The most offensive thing might be that the NCGOP proudly supports more funding for some schools – charter and private schools – under the guise of so-called “school choice” and at the expense of public school funding.

The state Supreme Court listened to arguments in the Leandro case on Wednesday, and the decision of the court in regard to the next steps in this decades-long saga is unknown at this time and might not be known for months.

The court is currently made up of four Democrats and three Republicans, but with two Democrat-held seats on the ballot this fall, Republicans could end up with a majority. While the current court will determine precedent in this case, a Republican-majority court could certainly rule differently if the case ends up back in the Supreme Court when Republicans likely refuse to fund the plan again.

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Patrick Zarcone

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