Education

STATEMENT: Court-ordered Leandro report charts bold, long-awaited course for NC to fulfill obligation to provide constitutionally-adequate education to all children who attend public schools

Statement from NC Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier and Matt Ellinwood, Director of the Education & Law Project

RALEIGH (December 10, 2019) – No doubt exists that over the last decade, North Carolina has been in wholesale retreat from fulfilling its fundamental obligation under our State Constitution ensuring every child has a meaningful opportunity to receive a sound basic education, backed by adequate funding and resources in every public school.

Today marks the beginning of the end of that neglect. The release of the court-ordered report by WestEd, the independent research organization appointed in the landmark Leandro v. State case, gives North Carolina lawmakers, educators, parents and students a clear and comprehensive roadmap for finally providing our children the education they deserve and to which they are constitutionally entitled.

The WestEd report – a collaborative, exhaustive study by some of the nation’s leading experts – affirms what students, parents, teachers and advocates have said for years: North Carolina has consistently failed to give every child in this state access to the education they need and deserve. While the report notes the important progress achieved through the early 2000s, it also documents the devastating impact of the State’s myriad of misguided decisions over the past decade to severely cut crucial investments in our public schools and to then stigmatize those schools as “failing.”

As a result of these actions, our state is farther away from meeting its constitutional obligation to provide every child with the opportunity for a sound basic education than it was when the Supreme Court of North Carolina in Leandro declared our public school system unconstitutional more than 20 years ago. 

North Carolinians understand our state benefits immeasurably when our schools are well-resourced, thriving, and capable of preparing all students for globally-competitive careers and higher education, and that the whole state suffers when children are left behind. They also understand the urgent need for a public school system that unlocks the potential of all children to become flourishing adults, ready to contribute to a healthier, happier, and more prosperous North Carolina.

For this reason, the importance of today’s filing for our children and the vitality of our state’s civic and economic future cannot be overstated. The report offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a fundamental course correction in the delivery of public education in our state. It spells out the concrete steps the state must take to ensure every school is led by a strong principal; provides a well-rounded curriculum delivered by trained teachers in every classroom; and has sufficient support staff and interventions to meet the  academic, social and health needs of all children, especially those who come to school every day at risk from poverty, disability, homelessness or other disadvantages.

We know that some will resist this long-overdue call to invest in the critical resources and supports our children desperately need. Over the next weeks and months, it is vital that North Carolinians across our state study and learn about the report’s findings and recommendations. We are confident when they do our fellow residents will join the North Carolina Justice Center in demanding lawmakers perform their constitutional duty and act quickly to remedy the harm documented and to provide all children with the education to which they are constitutionally-entitled.

The time for change has come. The recommendations in the Leandro WestEd report are clear, evidence-based, and readily achievable, and it is crucial that our state elected officials prioritize these reforms in the upcoming 2020 legislative session. Our children deserve no less.

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