Editorial: Leandro plan should be a top legislative school funding priority

Posted February 10, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 10, 2021 8:58 a.m. EST

Teachers, students like talking, sharing in 'circles'

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021; Editorial #8634
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Want to know the hottest legislative priorities?

Look at the legislation that’s introduced early in the session on key issues.

Want to know the blazing statewide education issue?

It’s expansion of the private school voucher program – an initiative that funneled $154 million of state taxpayer dollars into private schools while failing to provide accountability for how those tax dollars are being spent. Taxpayers have no assurance that the money, in fact, is being spent on the students. Nor is there any reasonable way to determine if these taxpayer-supported students are learning anything. Why don’t state tax-paid voucher students take the same assessment tests as required of students in charter schools?

What is missing from the list of 121 bills introduced through Feb. 8, is any effort to address the FACT – determined 24 years ago by the state Supreme Court -- that North Carolina is still failing to meet its State Constitutional duty to provide every child in North Carolina access to a quality education.

Legislators have a detailed roadmap, worked out a year ago and signed by Superior Court Judge David Lee (a Republican by the way) as part of ongoing negotiations to impose a settlement on the case.

Legislators have had the report. They have had the details on its implementation. It is a clear roadmap to a quality education for every North Carolina student.

If legislators don’t agree, they must come up with their own plan to provide every child with access to a quality education. Opposing the court’s plan or ignoring it isn’t adequate. It is not doing the job. What is their plan for quality schools?

The court has even given legislators an idea of the cost of its order -- about $427 million to pay for the first year of the eight-year plan.

It is a thoughtful, workable plan to assure every child has access to a quality and qualified teacher and the resources necessary to learn. The initial down payment includes:

  • $237.7 million for qualified and well-prepared teachers in every classroom.
  • $144.9 million for educational resources.
  • $35.7 million so every child has access to a high-quality pre-kindergarten early childhood learning opportunity.
  • $4.4 million to align career expectations with the education of high school students.

Lest there be any question about whether the state can afford it, know first that this is a Constitutional mandate. It is the job of the legislature to do this.

Second, there’s plenty of money – state reserves exceeding $5 billion.

North Carolina’s Constitution doesn’t make a quality education an aspirational goal. Quality is not a hope and a dream. It is a mandate.

The General Assembly’s leadership needs to clear the way and provide the resources to implement Judge Lee’s order. If not, they need to provide to the judge and the people of North Carolina their own plan to deliver a quality education to every child in every corner of the state.

Over the last 24 years, hundreds of thousands of children have been denied their Constitutional rights. There must be no more.

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