Today, the much-anticipated Leandro report was made public, giving North Carolina parents, educators, students, and education advocates have an important new roadmap for ensuring that our public schools provide every child with the education they deserve.
The report – a collaborative effort from some of the nation’s leading education experts – is a comprehensive examination of North Carolina’s public school system. The report’s recommendations have the potential to fundamentally change the direction of our state by unleashing the potential of all children to become flourishing adults, ready to contribute to a healthier, happier, and more prosperous North Carolina.
What is Leandro?
Leandro is a 25-year long court case. Throughout the case, the courts have consistently found that North Carolina has been failing to meet its most fundamental obligation under our State Constitution: providing every child a meaningful opportunity to receive a sound basic education, backed by adequate funding and resources in every public school. Additional background on the case can be found here.
Where did this report come from?
In 2017, parties to the case (the state defendants and the Leandro plaintiffs) agreed that North Carolina had been failing its children for far too long, and that the state needed a clear, comprehensive roadmap to providing a sound basic education that benefits all children. The court-appointed consultants (WestEd, in collaboration with the Learning Policy Institute and NC State’s Friday Institute) initially submitted the report to the court in June of 2019. The report was confidential until its release today.
What does the report say?
The report confirms what North Carolinians have been saying for years: The state has consistently failed to give every child in this state access to the education they deserve. Specifically:
- A new approach is needed: While North Carolina was once making progress towards meeting its constitutional responsibilities, the past decade’s actions have left our state “further 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 issued the Leandro decision more than 20 years ago.”
- Providing children with what they are owed requires significant new investment: Current levels of school funding (North Carolina ranks 48th in terms of school funding effort) are inadequate to ensure all students are achieving at grade level.
- We must direct resources where they’re needed most: Our funding formulas need to do a better job of prioritizing higher-need students and under-resourced communities.
- More needs to be done to put qualified, well-prepared and diverse teachers and principals in every school: Educators need competitive pay, early-career support programs, professional development, and opportunities to collaborate and lead.
- Scarcity of early-learning opportunities is leaving too many students unprepared to start school: Both Smart Start and NC Pre-K are effective programs, but funding must be restored and expanded to ensure all students enter kindergarten ready to learn.
- High-poverty schools lack the resources to help students overcome out-of-school conditions that create barriers to learning: High-poverty schools should be provided the resources necessary to expand learning opportunities and implement community school models providing health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement. Struggling schools need state-level support similar to the District and School Support teams eliminated by the General Assembly in recent years.
- Our testing and accountability system needlessly stigmatizes high-poverty schools, rather than providing useful information about educational effectiveness: Our accountability system should instead measure schools’ progress in providing each child a sound basic education by rewarding growth in student performance and highlighting school climate and equality of resources and learning opportunities.
The report contains significantly more detail. While the report’s recommendations may appear ambitious, it’s important to remember that these steps represent the bare minimum of what it takes to for the state to provide students with the education they deserve.
What happens now?
It is now incumbent upon state leaders to implement the report’s requirements and finally fulfill their constitutional responsibility to provide a quality education to every child. Judge Lee will likely follow up with a court order, requiring the General Assembly to take certain steps.
Based on similar cases from other states, a court order alone is likely to be insufficient to compel the lawmakers to meet their constitutional responsibilities. 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. The Justice Center will continue to analyze the report to ensure citizens across the state are equipped with the knowledge and context to push our lawmakers to prioritize these reforms in the upcoming 2020 legislative session.