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RALEIGH – On April 26, 2022, a North Carolina court held that the state General Assembly’s 2021 Budget Act failed to fulfill the state’s obligations to support an education funding plan designed to ensure that all schoolchildren can access a sound basic education. The ruling, handed down by the North Carolina Business Court (NCBC) as part of a limited remand from the Supreme Court of North Carolina, found that the budget would not cover nearly half the costs of the first two years of the court-approved funding plan in the long-running Leandro v. State of North Carolina school funding equity case. The court also found that the state has substantial funds to cover the remaining costs of the funding plan. However, the court also decided to eliminate a provision of a prior court order that would have required state fiscal officers to directly transfer funds from the state treasury to fulfill those outstanding obligations, thereby leaving the community without clear relief.

Represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as plaintiff-intervenors in the Leandro case, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP (“CM-NAACP Branch”) and its student and family members hailed those parts of the NCBC’s decision finding that the state had not fulfilled its obligations, but voiced their displeasure with the part of the court’s decision voiding the key provision that would have required the transfer of funds.  Nevertheless, the CM-NAACP Branch is eager to make its case on appeal before the Supreme Court of North Carolina and will urge the Court to ensure the state carries out the obligations it owes to school children without further delay.

“It’s high time for the state to deliver on its promise and constitutional duty of providing a quality education for all schoolchildren of North Carolina,” said Rev. Corinne Mack, the CM-NAACP Branch president. “These senseless delay tactics by the General Assembly’s leadership can no longer be tolerated. Our children and state deserve better.”

“The court’s ruling is the latest proof that the state has intentionally disregarded its constitutional duty of providing a sound basic education owed to North Carolina’s school children,” said David Hinojosa of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, counsel for the NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch. “The General Assembly played a shell game with the budget surplus and, in the end, it failed to put any additional resources to programs critical for the success of the state’s most marginalized students, including those from low-wealth districts, low-income students, and English learners. Such foul play cannot and will not stand and we look forward to vigorously defending the fundamental rights of students in the Supreme Court.”

Christopher Brook of Patterson Harkavy LLP and pro bono counsel from Ballard Spahr, LLP serve as co-counsel.

View a copy of the North Carolina Business Court’s Order and the Court’s comparison of the Budget Act and the funding plan in Exhibit A here.


Background on the case

The Leandro case has a long and complex history:

  • In 1994, several North Carolina school districts in low-wealth counties along with families of schoolchildren filed Leandro v. State of North Carolina, alleging that those school districts lacked sufficient funds to provide an equal education for their children, even though they taxed their residents at a higher than average rate.


  • In 1997 the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state has a constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a sound basic education, as evidenced by having competent and well-trained teachers and principals, as well as equitable access to sufficient resources.


  • In 2004, the NC Supreme Court concluded that the state had failed to ensure a sound basic education for all schoolchildren as guaranteed under the state constitution. Over the past seventeen years, the trial court held over twenty hearings, culminating in the development of a Comprehensive Remedial Plan (CRP)—an eight-year plan proposed by the state that would support and improve teaching, school leadership, pre-K, and support services for at-risk students, among others, at schools across North Carolina.


  • In June 2021, the court approved the CRP as the remedy for addressing the state’s failure to provide a sound basic education. On November 10, 2021, after  the General Assembly failed to provide the funding needed to implement the CRP, Wake County Superior Court Judge David Lee issued an order requiring the state of North Carolina to transfer $1.75 billion from the state treasury to state agencies responsible for carrying out various, critical educational programs and services identified in the CRP. That order was appealed by North Carolina House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore and North Carolina Senate President Phil Berger.


  • The General Assembly finally passed a budget on November 18, 2021; however, that budget failed to cover approximately one-half of the costs of the CRP for the next two years. Mr. Moore and Mr. Berger intervened and appealed the November 10 order, as did the State of North Carolina. The Supreme Court accepted the appeal but remanded the case to the NCBC on a limited basis to determine the impact of the 2021 Budget Act on the CRP. Moore and Berger attempted to persuade the NCBC to expand the scope of the remand and reconsider the CRP as a remedy and the legal grounds for the November 10 order altogether, but Judge Robinson refused. Citing an order from the Court of Appeals that temporarily blocked the funding transfer provision of the November 10 order, Judge Robinson of the NCBC amended the November 10 order  to remove the transfer provision The CM-NAACP Branch asserts that the amendment was unnecessary and beyond the scope of the limited remand. The NC Supreme Court is expected to hear the appeal later this year.




The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch is part of the NC State Conference of the NAACP, which is North Carolina’s branch of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. We are the second largest state conference of the NAACP in the United States. For over 70 years, NC-NAACP has pursued its mission to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination. We have followed a variety of strategies to carry out this goal, including public education and advocacy, filing Title VI administrative claims, and pursuing litigation in order to challenge racially discriminatory policies and practices and to enforce anti- laws for the benefit of its members.