Editorial: NC could be on the precipice of historic moment for public education

For decades now, North Carolina has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide every child in the state with the sound basic education to which they are constitutionally entitled. There are a lot of things that have contributed to this failure, but first and foremost of course, is the General Assembly’s chronic refusal to appropriate adequate funding.

The situation has grown so dire, notes yesterday’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com, that GOP leaders on Jones Street could be on the verge of having other state actors make the decision to do what’s necessary and right for them.

Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are at a crossroads concerning the most significant issue that confronts the state – fulfilling the state Constitution’s pledge, the right, that every child must have access to a quality education.

If they don’t act, the governor will. It has happened before. In his latest order Judge David Lee is sending a clear and unequivocal message. It will happen again.

The legislature should, in the budget it sends to Gov. Roy Cooper, clearly commit to implementing the non-partisan, independent and professionally developed Comprehensive Remedial Plan that will bring quality education to all school children. It should fully-fund the first two years of the plan.

But here’s what else legislators should know. If they don’t act, the governor will. Not only does the governor have the authority to direct funding to implement the order – but should for some reason Gov. Roy Cooper be reluctant, Superior Court Judge David Lee has the power to order Cooper to use his authority to get it done.

The editorial then goes on to explain how there is precedent for such an action by the executive on school funding. In 2005, then-Gov. Mike Easley took action to fund items (low-wealth schools, at-risk students, teacher recruitment, high school reform and pre-kindergarten programs) listed in a report from Judge Howard Manning.

The bottom line, according to the editorial:

The budget the legislature sends to the governor should include both funding for the next two years of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan for providing every child access to a quality education and a commitment to fully implement the plan over the next eight years.

Do that — include Medicaid expansion and Cooper’s plan for spending federal COVID-19 relief funds – and they’d have a deal he couldn’t refuse no matter what else – tax cuts, pork barrel spending for favored legislators — they might stuff into the spending plan.

Or, as the headline to the editorial puts it more succinctly, legislative leaders need to decide whether they’re going to be part of the solution or the problem.

Click here to read the entire essay.

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