Local News

Judge: All Children Should Get A Sound, Basic Education

Posted April 5, 2002 12:04 p.m. EST

— A Superior Court judge has ruled that it is the state's job, not that of local school districts, to make sure at-risk children get a sound, basic education.

On Thursday, Judge Howard Manning said that the state clearly has not been doing its job.

The state must now make sure all students -- in rich towns and poor countrysides, students who race through classes and those who typically do not do well -- must all get an adequate education.

"[The ruling] gives us a better, equal field to educate our children on an equal ground," said Craig Ennis, a Johnston County parent.

Manning focused the suit on children who are at risk of failing. He said it is now the state's responsibility to make sure curriculum and resources are directed at at-risk children.

"They cannot pass the buck to school systems or counties to take it on. They have to decide what needs to be done and they have to fund whatever it takes to do that," said Dr. Jim Causby, Johnston County school superintendent.

In a previous ruling, the judge said it would not take more money to get the job done. However, shifting money to the neediest kids is a point of contention.

"As a state, we already spend $1,000 less on average, per child, than what the rest of the nation does. I don't want us to be comfortable with the idea that there is already enough in the system," said Mike Ward, state school superintendent.

Some schools, including Eastway Elementary in Durham, have repeatedly failed to meet state testing goals. The judge said the state must aggressively intervene, stepping over local schools to make changes, if necessary.

"I think what he is trying to do is bring some accountability to the system and make sure that children in different parts of the state are not treated differently and now left behind," said Sen. Tony Rand, (D) Cumberland County.

Parents are encouraged that the judge laid down the law and hope eventually, all students will get the education they deserve.

The state has not yet decided whether it will appeal. The judge requires the state to give him an update on its progress toward helping the at-risk students every 90 days.