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Easley May Step In To Ensure Funding For Poor Schools

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RALEIGH, N.C. — For the first time in two years, lawyers for the state met face-to-face with a Wake County judge to talk about funding for poor schools. The issue is why state lawmakers did not put money in the budget to help boost student achievement at those schools. Now, the governor may have to step in to resolve the issue.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning recently endorsed a plan from state education leaders to provide $22 million to improve education. However, the state Legislature adjourned Sunday without approving the funding.

Manning called a hearing Thursday to find out why the state did not comply with his order.

"The opportunity for a sound basic education cannot be cut off for any student," Manning said.

The state Attorney General's Office, representing the state and the Board of Education presented a letter Thursday from Gov. Mike Easley to state School Superintendent Mike Ward. In the letter, Easley said he may override the General Assembly and use his power under the Executive Budget Act to divert money to the schools.

"Since the General Assembly did not provide this funding, we are very hopeful that the governor, exercising his budget authority, can find some money to help make this program initiative possible," Ward said.

Attorneys for the state and school leaders said they are pleased with the judge's words.

"I think Judge Manning today once again rearticulated and made it very clear that it is a constitutional mandate," attorney Robert Spearman said.

"School keeps moving on, so you have to keep focusing on what is best for young people -- use the resources you have the best you can to help young people and hope that the state and the Legislature does what's right by children," said Allen Strickland of Hoke County schools.

It is not the first time Easley has stepped in to help schools. In July 2002, the governor found money for his More at Four program.


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