Local News

Seven Local School Districts Get Ready To Spend Leandro Money

Posted August 4, 2004 8:10 a.m. EDT

— The

North Carolina State Board of Education

has $12 million to spend on low-wealth school districts.

That is $10 million less than a judge wanted the state to give to the schools this year.

In the Triangle area, seven school systems -- Hoke, Halifax, Warren, Vance, Edgecombe and Northampton counties -- and Weldon city schools will get a piece of the $12 million pie.

The dollars come in response to the Leandro lawsuit filed 10 years ago. Gov. Mike Easley gave the state school board the money after the legislature left out funding.

Though the money has been a long time coming, the 11 school systems will get to spend it right away.

Vance County students may not know it, but their school district is among the poorest in the state.

"This will provide these students with an opportunity for special attention, special education that will help them become productive tax-paying citizens," said Gerry Hancock, a lobbyist for poor schools.

The systems have options on how to spend the money.

"We have a menu of proven strategies for helping the most vulnerable kids," State Superintendent Mike Ward said.

The schools can choose strategies such as teacher signing bonuses and retention bonuses. The students, meanwhile, can benefit from after-school tutoring or Saturday academies.

Once each district chooses a spending plan, it must get the approval of the school board.

"The ultimate measurement is the performance of the students," school board chairman Howard Lee said. "The second is how long these teachers stay in these schools."

The Board of Education wanted to help 16 school systems. But the legislature did not fund the board's plan. The money Easley provided means five school districts were left out -- Robeson, Franklin, Montgomery, Hyde and Elizabeth City-Pasquotank.

"We hope the legislature will return in January," Ward said, "and as rapidly as possible find the additional resources that help not only the additional five school districts but also other school districts that are waiting in line."

The 11 school systems getting the money will see it as early as October. They were chosen because of a number of factors, including the percentage of teacher retention and the poverty level.

On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to tackle another hot subject concerning schools -- the proposed school calendar changes. Easley said he will not sign a law to make summer longer unless teachers can keep their current number of work days.

The bill that passed the General Assembly cuts five teacher work days. Wednesday, the school board will see if there are other days to eliminate from the calendar instead of just teacher work days.

Including the school calendar bill, there are almost two dozen bills waiting for Easley's signature. If the governor does not veto or sign a bill by Aug. 18, it becomes law.