While the right wing’s manufactured moral panic over critical race theory continues to generate headlines, there’s a real crisis in North Carolina’s public schools that continues to go under-reported: a General Assembly that chooses to ignore the state constitution in order to keep our schools underfunded. The crisis continues to harm North Carolina’s children by denying them the education they deserve while asking deeper questions about the health of our democracy.
The issue couldn’t be more clear. In June, the courts ordered the state to implement the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan immediately and in full. Half-measures and temporary funding won’t deliver the education students have been waiting on since the Leandro court case was filed in 1994. Thanks to the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan, a comprehensive set of spending and policy reforms necessary to provide our students the education they are owed by the 27-28 school year, legislative leaders know how to create a public school system that provides every student with access to a “sound basic education.” The Governor’s budget showed leaders that the Plan can easily be funded. The only remaining hurdle is for legislative leaders to fulfill their constitutional oaths and implement the Plan.
Yet on Thursday, House budget writers showed that they – like their counterparts in the Senate – have no interest in fulfilling their constitutional obligations to North Carolina students. The Education and Health & Human Services budgets fail to implement the Leandro Plan (early education programs fall under the HHS budget). The budgets fall well short of what the courts have ordered. The House budget proposal funds less than half of the Plan in FY 21-22, falling to less than a third in FY 22-23.*
A full break-down of the Leandro Plan items funded in each budget proposal can be found here.
It is unclear why legislative leaders are continuing to deny students with the education they’re owed. Nor is it clear why they would spark a constitutional crisis just to deny students the resources necessary to succeed. But that is the path legislative leaders have taken. And that – not any legal theory – is the real crisis facing North Carolina’s schools.
*Post updated August 18 to include information on the House’s teacher and principal salary plans that were not available at the original date of publication.