The relationship between Judge Howard Manning and North Carolina’s public education system is complicated. For years the veteran Wake County Superior Court judge has presided over the implementation of the the Leandro court ruling that requires that every student in the state be given the opportunity to obtain a “sound basic education.”
At times and to his great credit, Manning has railed at state leaders for not funding education programs adequately and just generally not doing what the state state constitution requires. At other times, however, he seems to buy in to the cockamamie notion so frequently espoused by the current leadership of the General Assembly that North Carolina can get where it needs to go simply by demanding better methods, higher standards and harder work from teachers and school administrators.
Both of these aspects of Manning’s oversight of the case are on display in this article in today’s Raleigh News & Observer  which details a new report he has released on the subject. Though Manning rightfully blasts the state for not doing nearly enough to lift student learning and achievement, his conclusion (later echoed by a spokesperson for state Senate leader Phil Berger) that teachers and principals already have all the tools they need is just absurd.
Indeed, if Manning or Berger really believes this, both of them (and their staffers too) would do well to take the time to spend a month in one of the state’s less-well-off public schools trying to deal with the amazing challenges our teachers are presented with every day. Just spend a month, Judge Manning and Senator Berger, trying to deal with children who come to school hungry from a dysfunctional home environment, the parents who are alternately hostile and/or AWOL, the mountains of paper work, the lack of alternative schools and mental health services, the pressure to teach to endless standardized tests, the lack of textbooks, the growing class sizes, the long hours and the rapidly shrinking pay checks and then see if you still feel that the folks working in our public schools “have all the tools they need.”
The guess here is that all of you might be singing a different tune if you ever had the courage to really experience the reality up close and personal.