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Educational Opportunity for All NC Kids Hangs in the Balance – Especially Black, Brown, Native, Lower Income and Rural Children

RALEIGHOn February 22, 2024, the North Carolina Supreme Court will unjustifiably rehear a decades-long landmark case that will determine if all kids in the state will have adequately funded education, regardless of where they live, as guaranteed by the state’s Constitution.

The fate of equitable funding of schools is also at play in some other states right now, including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maryland.

Black students and other students of color, as well as at-risk, low-income and rural students, and English learners will be among the most impacted by the court’s ruling because their education is grossly lacking essential funding.

In 2022, the state supreme court issued its powerful ruling affirming the lawfulness of a trial court’s order requiring that the state provide over $780 million in additional funding to address the school system’s failures and disparities as part of one of the nation’s most comprehensive remedial education plans. The court then remanded the case to the trial court to determine the outstanding amounts owed under the plan following the State’s 2022 Budget. In April 2023, the trial court found that over $677 million was still owed for years 2 and 3 of the remedial plan. The legislative-intervenors appealed that ruling.

David Hinojosa from the Lawyers’ Committee, who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and serves as lead counsel in the case on behalf of the NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch as plaintiff-intervenors, said: “Every child deserves a quality education, regardless of their race, income, or zip code. It’s tragic that North Carolina’s Speaker of the House and the Senate President are fighting so hard to prevent kids from getting a sound basic education. They seem to stop at nothing to block the funding that’s so desperately needed for teachers, school nurses, supplies, pre-k funding, and other essentials. But the North Carolina Constitution is on the students’ side and we will not stop fighting for what they deserve.”

In a very controversial move, the newly elected North Carolina Supreme Court granted review to rehear this case on grounds already decided in 2022, namely that the trial court had authority to issue a statewide remedial plan to address statewide deficiencies. Justice Phil Berger Jr. is among the justices hearing the education case, and his father, the state senate leader, is an intervenor in the case. A majority of the court did not recuse Justice Berger from hearing the case.

Rev. Corine Mack, president of the North Carolina NAACP’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch, whose members include families and schoolchildren, explained: “Here we go again. It’s like Groundhog Day. The case was already decided and the schools should have received the funding from the historic victory in 2022. Today, our beautiful children are still sitting in overcrowded classrooms without certified teachers because the schools can’t afford to hire enough teachers. Every day there is a delay in releasing these funds causes a wider learning disparity in the North Carolina educational system. Some of the best teachers have left because they can’t earn enough to pay their bills. Now is the time to do what is morally right and educationally sound.” 

Ballard Spahr and Patterson Harkavay LLP also represent the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, alongside the Lawyers’ Committee.

Michael P. Robotti, the partner leading the Ballard Spahr team that is providing pro bono support, said, “North Carolina schoolchildren shouldn’t have to wait anymore. They’ve already waited too long. Our focus has been and will continue to be on improving access to basic education for at-risk students in North Carolina public schools.”

Christopher Brook, a partner at Patterson Harkavy, said, “For decades North Carolina school kids, especially students of color, have waited for the state to finally live up to its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education. Our kids should not have to wait a day longer.” 

Without Leandro funding, too many of our state’s students do not currently have access to: 

  • certified teachers, 
  • safe school buildings,
  • school nurses and guidance counselors, 
  • career training opportunities,
  • AP classes, 
  • well-trained teachers and principals,
  • a safe, reliable way to get to school,
  • and more essential resources. 

There will be a Zoom press briefing after the hearing at 2:30 PM on February 22, 2024. You can register to participate at this link:


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