Recently, Governor Roy Cooper and the North Carolina State Board of Education, defendants in the long-pending Leandro litigation, submitted a detailed eight-part action plan aimed at effectuated full compliance with court requirements. In 1997, the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental right of every child to have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education. Despite significant State efforts to improve educational opportunities since that decision, and the state Supreme Court’ follow-up decision in 2004 in Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina, the State has not fully complied with the courts repeated sound basic education orders.
On January 21, 2020, based on the findings, research, and recommendations of an extensive report by WestEd, an independent court-ordered consultant, and the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education, the Court entered a consent order negotiated by the parties that required the State defendants, in consultation with each other and the plaintiff-parties, to develop and present to the Court a comprehensive remedial plan that would include specific actions to be completed by 2028 that would provide all students the opportunity for a sound basic education by 3030. The Covid crisis interrupted the parties’ negotiations regarding the plan and at the parties’ request, last September the Court approved a further consent order that outlined one-year immediate action steps the State would take in Fiscal Year 2021 (2020-21) to begin to adequately address the constitutional violations.
The State’s recently-issued eight year Compliance Remedial Plan outlines the full scope of the actions that the State plans to take between now and 2028 to ensure compliance. These actions include:
The Plan details the actions the State and State Board of Education are committed to taking and the corresponding goals that they intend to achieve by 2028, with the full educational benefits of these measures realized by 2030. Included in the plan is an Leandro-Implementation Plan Cost estimate Appendix that details the implementation timeline for each action step, as well as the estimated additional State investment necessary for each of the actions described in the Plan.
The plan estimates that $5.6 billion will be necessary to fund these actions. This includes $1.2 billion dollars of funding to help economically disadvantaged students as well as increasing funding for specialized support personnel – such as school psychologists, nurses, counselors, and social workers – by $743 million. The actual cost of the eight-year plan would likely be much higher because some recommended items — like raising pay for teachers, principals and assistant principals — don’t have a total cost estimate. The Governor’s current proposed budget would also include large raises for existing public-school teachers — 10 percent on average over two years.
The plan is now before Superior Court Judge David Lee, who will decide whether it meets the requirements of the consent order. Much of the new funding, however, would have to come from the Republican-led General Assembly, which has been critical of both the State’s and Lee’s handling of the case.