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In response to a recent order stemming from a 20+ year old court case that requires all North Carolinian children to have access to a sound basic education, the State Board of Education submitted a plan with the court last week to address how it will ensure all students succeed academically — and that proposal includes the establishment of an interagency advisory committee tasked with seeking solutions to educating at-risk students.

From the News & Observer:

In its court filing, the State Board of Education proposed establishing an Interagency Advisory Committee on Public Education to discuss the challenges at-risk students face. A hearing on the Board’s plan, part of the lawsuit called Leandro, is scheduled for July 21-23 before Superior Court Judge Howard Manning.

For years, Manning has criticized persistently low-performing schools and districts. Much of the Board’s response is a catalog of existing teacher preparation and evaluation efforts and classroom practices.

According to the State Board’s filing with the court, the committee would comprise “representatives from key child-focused entities, such as: state agencies (DPI, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Public Safety – Juvenile Justice, etc.); local boards of education; local mental health organizations; private non-profits, including representatives from the charter school community; community colleges, universities and others.”

Those stakeholders would come together to review the challenges at-risk youth face that relate to poverty, health and safety and develop recommendations for the State Board of Education as well as other agencies in an effort to improve educational access.

In their 54-page plan, the State Board highlights the successes they’ve had in supporting low performing schools since the original 1997 Leandro ruling, emphasizing existing teacher preparation and evaluation programs as well as other classroom supports as a way forward in meeting their constitutional duty to provide a sound basic education to all students.

But, according to the News & Observer, many of those school improvement efforts have largely been funded with federal Race to the Top funds, which are scheduled to dry up this year. While the House has included some funds to fill in the gap in its 2015-17 budget proposal, the Senate puts the onus on local school districts in its budget to fund those programs going forward.

With the establishment of an interagency advisory committee, the State Board emphasizes that the academic success of all students cannot be accomplished by public schools alone, and that the obligation rests with every state agency as well as the public at large.

Judge Manning will review the State Board’s plan at a hearing scheduled for July 21-23.

Read the State Board’s plan here: The Mandate To Provide An Opportunity For A Sound Basic Education, An Update and Recommendation.

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Judge Howard Manning

Judge Howard Manning

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

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. Read More

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In case you missed them. here are two responses worth checking out this morning to last week’s state Supreme Court’s decision on pre-K and the General Assembly’s typically thickheaded response. First, there is this excellent editorial from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“North Carolina’s legislative leaders, having stepped out of the path of an oncoming train, now wish to be hailed for their splendid judgment. Read More

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The state Supreme Court issued its ruling today (see below) on a case centering around the state’s pre-kindergarten services, and whether the state legislature had improperly imposed restrictions to the program.

The court found the legislature had passed changes in 2012 legislation that undid many of the legal issues that had been before the court. The court then remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals to vacate the July 2011 trial court decision by Judge Howard Manning that expanded the pre-K program from what was called for in 2011 legislation.

Today’s ruling won’t have any immediate effect on the pre-K offerings in the state, with funding and slots staying the same.

A “per curiam” decision was made, meaning that all of the N.C. Supreme Court justices were in agreement with today’s ruling vacating Manning’s decision.

Today’s ruling also appears to leave open how the justices felt about the 2012 changes made by the legislature, and reaffirmed the court’s prior rulings in the decades-old Leandro case about how the state delivers on its constitutional promise guaranteeing “every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound basic education in our public schools.”

“We express no opinion on the legislation now in effect because questions of its constitutionality are not before us,” the justice’s wrote in today’s opinion. “Our mandates in Leandro and Hoke remain in full force and effect.”

For more background on the case click here for this excellent rundown by N.C. Policy Watch’s Sharon McCloskey.

 

preKleandro.pdf by NC Policy Watch

 

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A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling this morning upholding Superior Court Judge Howard Manning’s ruling from the summer of last year that:

“The State of North Carolina shall not deny any eligible at-risk four year old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program (NCPK) and shall provide the quality services of the NCPK to any eligible at-risk four year old that applies.”

The court also upheld Manning’s decision to invalidate state budget provisions that interfere with such a result.

It’s clearly time for the General Assembly to stop stonewalling on this constitutional mandate and appropriate the money necessary to do this critical job NOW.