Local News

Leandro Judge Praises Easley For Money For Poor School Systems

Posted October 7, 2004 6:12 a.m. EDT

— Poor schools in North Carolina recently got a big financial boost from Gov. Mike Easley. Easley ordered up to $10 million in additional state money for school districts with poverty, high teacher turnover and low achievement.

The money stems from the Leandro lawsuit. In 2002, Judge Howard Manning ruled that every child in North Carolina has the constitutional right to a sound and basic education. In July 2004, the state Supreme Court affirmed the ruling.

Judge Howard Manning made it clear Thursday that when it comes to funding low-wealth schools, he means business.

"The thing that people need to understand is that this matter is over. There is no argument, no excuses," he said.

Manning praised Easley for finding $10 million this week bringing the total funding up to $22 million. It was welcome news for five school districts that are counting on the money.

"They put me on speakerphone and were applauding when they got the news," said Gerry Hancock, attorney for the low-wealth schools.

However, Manning is not applauding the General Assembly. He said it is the group's responsibility to comply with the law.

"You can't hide. You can't sit there on Jones Street and carp about it. You can't make rude comments," he said. "The games are over. It's time to get moving."

Eleven school districts set to receive the first installment of the money -- $12 million -- are already moving. They have submitted plans to the state about how they will use the funds.

"The things included in the plan are things we need to do to improve schools in our county anyway -- teacher retention, recruiting, helping students with difficulties with reading and math -- strategies that are already working," assistant Hoke County Superintendent George McFarley said.

On Thursday, the state School Board approved using the $10 million for five more school districts. By Nov. 15, the board has to submit a plan to the state about how it is going to use the money.

Manning has scheduled another hearing for Oct. 25 to hear what the state will do to provide more funding for low-wealth schools.