Attorneys: State still failing in educating some students

Posted May 15, 2014

Attorneys for some low-income school districts say the state is failing on its commitment to provide all students with a sound, basic education.

The lawyers are asking for a hearing in August and a written plan from the state as to how it intends to meet the basic education mandate outlined in the decades-old landmark lawsuit, known as the Leandro case.

In 1994, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state responsible for ensuring low-income students have the same access as wealthier students to a "sound, basic education" under the state constitution.

In a motion filed last month, lawyers say that almost 800,000 children – 56 percent of all public school children – are at risk of academic failure as evidenced by low test scores. They go on to say that many of the strategies to help low-income students have been weakened or cut over the years. The motion cites examples like stagnant teacher pay, the elimination of Teaching Fellows scholarships and cuts to staff development.

“The state has depleted the educational resources available to teachers and principals ... and the result is reflected in the end-of-grade test scores,” says Melanie Debus, an attorney for the low-income districts.

The court filing says 483,000 students are not proficient in reading and math and, therefore, are not receiving a sound, basic education.

Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger says four of the five school districts in the Leandro case receive more than the statewide per student average in funding.

“If more money was the only factor in these children’s education, their academic performance would be above the state average and not below it,” she said in an email.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning Jr., who’s overseeing the case, issued a report this week entitled, “The Reading Problem.” He points to the state’s low test scores on exams such as the EOG, ACT and EOC as evidence that “too many thousands of school children from kindergarten through high school have not obtained the sound basic education mandate.”

Manning outlines test results before and after the state implemented new Common Core English and Math standards. Only 32 percent of students in grades 3-8 were proficient in reading and math in 2012-13, compared to 58.9 percent in the prior year

Manning says the court will await the 2013-14 EOG, EOC and ACT test results before making any assessment.

This report first appeared on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio as part of their education coverage.

Reema Khrais is the 2014 Fletcher Fellow focused on Education Policy Reporting. The Fletcher Fellowship is a partnership between WUNC
and UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication funded in part by the Fletcher Foundation.


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  • sunshine1040 May 15, 2014

    Are the schools failing or are the parents failing. Sorry but children also need parental involvement to learn someone to see they do homework,eat and get enough sleep and most important the word respect for yourself and others

  • Bryan Ayers May 15, 2014
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    Throwing more money at the issue is not the solution.

  • Bryan Ayers May 15, 2014
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    Try again - you'll never reach all of the students. Don't hold up the rest of the class by catering to the slow learners.

  • Bryan Ayers May 15, 2014
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    Single-parent homes don't help matters. Education doesn't STOP at 3:30 when school lets out...

  • randall0123a May 15, 2014

    The parents and the students themselves are failing more than anyone else. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

  • LetsBeFair May 15, 2014

    ... how can the state be failing ... when it is the parenting that is the problem ... or, lack there of.

  • Chris Chappell May 15, 2014
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    good ole commie core. get rid of it !!!
    Plus some kids just don't do well in these "schools". I was one of them. It just wasn't interesting to me. there needs to be a better way of learning. there needs to be a way to find out the best way each kid learns. I'm more of a hands on kind of person. We also need to get the government out of the schools. They have no business there.

  • Danny22 May 15, 2014

    You know, it's not always the state's fault.

  • Alexia Proper May 15, 2014
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    People keep saying this and it's true to some extent, but it's not entirely the problem. The kid is also responsible. I have two kids, one boy and one girl. The girl does great and worries about doing well. The boy couldn't care less. I tried year after year to get him to change his attitude toward school and he just does not like school. It's that simple. However, he has a great work ethic, is honest, and straight-forward about things. School aside, he's a great kid.

    Perhaps to your (and others' points) is that my son does take responsibility for himself and blames nobody for his bad grades. On the other hand, what I often hear is people blaming the system. That's just wrong.

    I said before and it's true: you get out of the education system what you are willing to put into it. Parents who instill the wrong attitude in kids is definitely a problem. A parent who blames others for where they are probably teaches their kids to do the same.

  • Tom Haywood May 15, 2014
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    I have taught low-income students; some want to learn ... many don't. At what point do we stop blaming the teachers and the state for people who have no interest in doing the work required to learn?