NC State Supreme Court revisits Leandro vs State of NC

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) – A landmark education lawsuit, Leandro vs State of NC, was back in the spotlight this morning as the State Supreme Court revisited the decades-long case yet again, prompting rallies in the state capital.

In Raleigh today, Civil Rights Activist Rev. William Barber and Every Child NC, rallied to demand lawmakers fulfill what they said is their duty to every child’s education statewide. The Leandro vs State of NC case mandated quality education and fully funded schools for all. But for 30 years, many who support the case feel politicians have turned a blind eye to fulfilling it.

“With the money Wayne County could have received, my school could have done so much. Maybe we could have gotten rid of the mice in my 7th-grade math teacher’s classroom,” Wayne County 8th grader, Madalo Bean said.

Voices rallied as the State Supreme Court held a new hearing to determine if the decision made under Leandro should apply to schools statewide or just the counties where five lawsuits in 1994 have been filed by parents, students, and school districts in low-wealth, rural counties.

-Cumberland County

-Halifax County

-Hoke County

-Robeson County

-Vance County

During the hearing, the Court heard from General Assembly Attorney, Matthew Tilley who made the argument against the funding.

“If the plaintiffs had claimed that based on the conditions in their home district they can’t represent because they are not representative of those in Asheville city schools or Chapel Hill. There might be statewide claims they could assert but they didn’t here,” Tilley said.

North Carolina Association of Educators President Tamika Walker-Kelly was at the event today and feels if the case is overturned, it undermines the premise of public schools, which is a state responsibility.

“Legislators are saying that the Judicial branch does not have the authority to tell them how to allocate money to public schools and therefore the only checks and balances we have amongst our branches will be eroded,” Walker-Kelly said.

Tilley made the argument before the justices that the case could be revisited and changes made.

“If it conflicts with the constitution, if it conflicts with prior precedent which I submit to you that Hoke County conflicts with Leandro 1 and Hoke County 1 then it should be overturned and corrected at the next possible moment, this is the next possible moment,” Tilley said.

In a statement, NC Governor Roy Cooper mentioned,

“Our strong public schools are at risk because of the legislature’s consistent and intentional underfunding and neglect.”

A decision on the case should come in the next few months.