Editorial: Heed the judge and really make public education the priority

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 -- Now is the time to heed Superior Court Judge David Lee's order in the Leandro public education equity case. "Work expeditiously and without delay to take all necessary actions" to meet the state's constitutional right to a quality basic education for every child.

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DRAUGHON DRAWS: Sound basic education for all. Can you hear me now?
CBC Editorial: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020; Editorial #8512
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

What to do about public education in North Carolina?

The Public School Forum of North Carolina got it right Tuesday, announcing it was abandoning its customary annual laundry list of top education priorities and focusing on just one: Implementation of Superior Court Judge David Lee’s order in the 25-year-old Leandro public education equity case to “work expeditiously and without delay to take all necessary actions” to meet the state’s constitutional right to a quality basic education for every child.
“We have an unprecedented, once-in-a-generation opportunity to begin charting a new future for our state’s public schools,” the forum said in the opening of its 2020 annual issues report. “The comprehensive roadmap put forth … has the potential to transform every topic we’ve covered in our recommendations over the last five years. This year our Top Education Issues list has been distilled into one driving issue, which is for our state to take immediate and intentional actions to meet our constitutional obligation to provide each child with a sound basic education.”

What is needed is action, not debate. There is nothing political about the report. Facts are not partisan. Anyone arguing the state now provides adequate resources for public education, or that the state does not have the money needed for schools, is wrong on both points. Your time is up.

Judge Lee has noted that North Carolina is “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.”

It is time for citizens across the state, regardless of political affiliation, to come together in a dedicated and collaborative effort to demand that resources are brought to bear to meet the challenges defined by Leandro.

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s singular focus on pushing for corporate tax cuts has ignored public education. It is time to put that in the past. These times demand change.

Michael Priddy, the Forum’s interim president, astutely pointed the way to get moving in the proper direction. “Let’s each of us resolve right now to take all appropriate steps to inform our citizens of this crisis and necessary solutions, and strongly encourage them to speak to those with the power and responsibility to act now rather than allow the lawsuit to linger for more decades.”

Those in power at the General Assembly remain, at best, reticent saying they are “very appreciative of all proposals to improve education.”

The parties in the lawsuit and the judge will be providing just that in the coming weeks.

Judge Lee has asked the parties to prepare plans to implement the first phase of the action program he had drafted to implement the Leandro reforms. It will be ready for presentation to the legislature in the coming short session.

Legislators’ response will be evaluated by the public. For those who fail to invest in our public schools now, voters will hold them to account in November.

Here comes the judge.

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