NC’s schoolchildren focus of court hearing in Raleigh Tuesday

Wake County Judge Howard Manning

RALEIGH, N.C. – Is every child in North Carolina getting a sound, quality education, as required by the North Carolina Constitution?

That question was the subject of a superior court hearing Tuesday. The hearing is about the Leandro case, which dates back to the 1990s.

The Leandro lawsuit started in 1995 over school funding in poor parts of the state and has continued on for years. Wake County Judge Howard Manning’s initial ruling stated that all children have a right to a “sound, basic education”

Manning has been concerned with recent test results and his frustrations were evident Tuesday.

“Here we are 10 years later on the same subject,” Manning said Tuesday. “If you have the principal, you have the teacher, and you have the resources they need in each classroom, you are constitutionally compliant and children will learn.”

But, Manning added, “Don’t try to tell me during this hearing that this is the case in North Carolina, because it’s not.”

The attorney for the plaintiff said in court Tuesday morning that North Carolina has failed to put a competent teacher in every classroom.

Melanie Dubis, attorney for low-income counties that are the plaintiffs in the case, said that 300,000 third through eighth grade students are not reading at grade level.

“They have failed with the mandate to have a competent, certified, effective teacher in every classroom, the effective principal in every school and sufficient resources,” Dubis said.

Dubis said the defendants “have not” come forward with a plan to meet Manning’s order.

Manning called the hearing to hear the state’s plan and listen to both sides in the case. William Harrison, the superintendent of Alamance-Burlington Schools and a former superintendent in Hoke County, spoke to the court Tuesday. Hoke County is one of the original plaintiffs.

“The Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education have made great efforts and their efforts have resulted in some improvement,” Harrison said. “But not the type of improvement that the children of this state deserve.”

School officials have talked about the problem with attracting and keeping teachers in districts that have historically struggled.

The hearing is expected to last three days.

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