North Carolina legislators face a Monday deadline to tell Superior Court Judge David Lee how they will fully fund the Leandro plan for improving public education.
On Wednesday, House Democrats and education advocates urged leaders of the Republican-controlled General Assembly to find the funding in their final budget negotiations with Gov. Roy Cooper.
Rep. Julie von Haefen said every North Carolina child deserves a high-quality education regardless of their zip code.
“Investing in the Leandro plan would mean investing in North Carolina children from birth to career, which is in turn an investment in our state’s future and in our economy,” said von Haefen.
“We all want to see North Carolina’s children be cared for, be educated, and be provided a sound foundation for their futures.”
The Leandro plan calls for $427 million in new state education funding this year, which would be just the first phase of an eight-year plan.
The comprehensive plan would fully fund early childhood education, help lower childcare cost, provide a high-quality teacher in every classroom as well as a supportive principal in every school, according to Rep. von Haefen.
Jenice Ramirez, executive director of ISLA NC, believes the prospect of legislators dismissing the remedial plan and Lee’s court order would seriously shortchange the state’s low-income and Latino students.
“North Carolina is a state with a growing English-language learner population, however we’re also a state that puts a cap on the amount of funding schools can get for these students. That means that some districts regardless of student need do not receive the adequate funding to provide English learner students with the appropriate resources.”
Ramirez said the state’s public schools need better funding for ESL services, more bilingual staff and trained interpreters.
Rev. Paul Ford of Action4Equity in Winston-Salem said equitable funding of the pubic schools should be a divine imperative for elected officials.
“We need a biblical flood of resources in order to make things right for all of our children, so many of whom have been robbed of this basic sound education,” Ford told reporters.
House Minority Leader Robert Reives would not venture whether a failure to fully funding Leandro would prompt some Democrats to reject a final state budget deal this fall.
Instead he said legislative leaders negotiating the budget with the governor should look back over the past 30 years, and understand how important this investment could be to the state’s future.
“We got RTP, UNC, State, Duke, Wake, all these places because we did it correctly,” explained Reives. “What they invested in then, made it possible for us to be here today, and to to have the amount of growth and wealth we have in North Carolina.”
For more on what’s included in the comprehensive court-ordered Leandro plan, read this piece by Policy Watch education reporter Greg Childress.