RALEIGH– Today, the North Carolina Supreme Court ordered the state to provide sufficient funding for schools to satisfy the constitutional mandate to provide all children with a sound education–a critical victory for the plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors in Leandro v. North Carolina. The historic decision comes in a longstanding school funding case that was originally filed in 1994.
“Today, the North Carolina Supreme Court, in a powerfully written opinion, halted years of senseless delay tactics by the General Assembly’s leadership that could no longer be tolerated. As was stated in the Court’s opinion, ‘For twenty-five years, the judiciary has deferred to the executive and legislative branches to implement a comprehensive solution to this ongoing constitutional violation. Today, that deference expires,'” said Rev. Corine Mack, President of the The NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch. “We will continue the work to ensure Black, Brown and children at risk receive every resource needed to gain educational equity. The NC Supreme Court signaled to all of North Carolina’s schoolchildren that they deserve better and that the Court would use its powers to “guard and maintain” their constitutional rights. In the end, our message is and always will be: our children matter!”
The order mandates the transfer of the necessary funds to complete a comprehensive remedial plan presented to the lower court last year. This plan, which was proposed by the Governor based on a series of studies conducted by educational experts, would ensure all children in North Carolina have access to an equitable public education by funding teacher and principal pipelines, the NC Pre-K program-Smart Start, providing additional funding for at-risk student programs, and more. Historically marginalized students of color will be among the most impacted by the court’s ruling.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Ballard Spahr, and Patterson Harkavay LLP represent the plaintiff-intervenors–which includes families, and schoolchildren members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.
“Investing in the education of our most precious commodity, our children, is a win for the children and a win for the State of North Carolina and our future. We are thrilled with the Court’s powerful opinion that orders the State to take the necessary–and long overdue–steps to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide a quality education to North Carolina’s kids,” said David Hinojosa, Director of the Education Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee. “This case represents more than just a funding issue. Students of color, low-income students, and English learner students deserve access to education that fosters their learning, growth, and success as much as possible.”
“It was an honor to partner with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on this matter,” said Ballard Spahr Partner Michael Robotti. “Children in North Carolina and everywhere in our country should have every opportunity to succeed and thrive, and this result is an important step in the long process of clearing the path to future success of any barriers.”
“For far too long, the State has failed to live up to its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to all public school students in North Carolina. The state Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for those students and everyone who believes that they deserve a real opportunity at success in the classroom and beyond.” Chris Brook, partner with Harkavay and local counsel.
Note: This case was originally filed in 1994 by families and low-wealth school districts. In 2005, Julius Chambers, Jack Boger and the UNC Center for Civil Rights filed suit on behalf of families and the NAACP- Charolotte Mecklenburg Branch against the State and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools arguing, in part, that the district and the State were depriving at-risk students of color a sound basic education. Attorneys with the newly formed Julius Chambers Center for Civil Rights, Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix, later joined the Lawyers’ Committee bringing the case with them.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org