A candidate in Wake County’s District 2 school board race admitted he couldn’t answer a question about the state’s landmark Leandro school funding case because he’d never heard of the landmark court decision until asked to discuss it during a recent candidate’s forum.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the Leandro case is, so I don’t know how to answer that question.” Greg Hahn said during the forum this week co-sponsored by the District 2 PTA and the Wake County PTA Council.
His response surprised Bonnie Duncan, a Willow Springs parent and PTA member, who asked candidates how they thought the outcome of the case will impact them if elected to the school board.
“I think any candidate who is running for a role related to education in any way in our state or in our county should be aware of that case and the outcome of that case and how it will impact their role,” Duncan said.
Hahn is one of three candidates in the race, including incumbent Monika Johnson-Hostler. Dorian Fayette Hamilton didn’t participate in the forum.
Johnson-Hostler also found Hahn’s response surprising.
“Leandro is a landmark case in North Carolina and is responsive to what we all want for all students- access to a quality education,” Johnson-Hostler said. “While no one has all the answers, Leandro is central to our decision making as a school board member.”
She said it’s up to voters to decide whether to withhold their vote because Hahn didn’t know about the case.
The Leandro case began more than 25 years ago after five rural school districts in low-wealth counties sued the state, arguing they couldn’t raise the tax revenue needed to provide students with a quality education. In 1997, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling, later reconfirmed in 2004, in which it held that every child has a right to a “sound basic education” that includes competent and well-trained teachers and principals and equitable access to resources.
The case became a topic of much discussion this year after an independent consultant released the West Ed report detailing the steps North Carolina must take to meet Leandro mandates.
And last month, the judge overseeing the case signed a consent order calling for $427 million in additional education spending to help the state meet its constitutional obligation to provide all children with the opportunity to obtain a sound basic education.
Hahn changed his answer slightly Wednesday when asked about the case. He told Policy Watch that he’d heard about the lawsuit “in passing.”
“I’m not going to hide from the fact that I did know more about the specifics,” Hahn said. “I did take that as an opportunity to research more about it and as I researched more about it something it’s something more for [someone] running for a judge or state position.”
Hahn didn’t expect such a question during a PTA forum for local school board candidates.
“I’m not saying it’s not important but right now, in 2020, it’s not on the forefront of what people are concerned about,” Hahn said.