At the beginning of September, North Carolina got its latest development in the decades’ long Leandro case. In his research update this week, JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops explains the latest advancement:

On September 1, Judge David Lee signed a consent order supporting a $427 million down payment on the $8 billion remedial plan proposed by the plaintiffs and defendants in the ongoing Leandro school funding case. The plan was based on a mediocre report published by California-based consulting firm WestEd last year.

The consent order requires the defendants to implement a series of remedial actions, to work with the plaintiffs to develop a long-term remedial plan, and to submit quarterly reports to Judge Lee. Notably, the latest consent order does not try to compel the General Assembly to appropriate the money. The North Carolina Constitution prohibits the court from doing so. 

Dr. Stoops explains that the remedial plan contains many provisions that seem to have little-to-no impact on student outcomes. He writes:

[E]ven if the legislature used federal coronavirus relief funding to cover the cost of the remedial plan (odd for a case dealing with state funding), there is little in the plan that would benefit students directly. My favorite action step (Action Step IV.A.2.) is the requirement that state officials change the name of the Kindergarten Entry Assessment to the Early Learning Inventory. This is easy to achieve but will do nothing to address the educational needs of disadvantaged students.

Of course, developing an effective action plan produced from the contents of the WestEd report is challenging. Dr. Stoops explains:

The WestEd report is little more than a hodgepodge of recommendations designed to satisfy politicians, technocrats, and other elites who want to spend billions more on North Carolina public schools.

If the courts want to ensure that all children have an opportunity to receive a sound, basic education, they ought to start by trusting the constitutionally established means of deliberation and lawmaking and challenge elected officials to meet the needs of individual children through the empowerment of families, communities, and educators.

Read Dr. Stoops’ full brief here. Read more about Judge Lee’s consent order supporting the $427 million in expenditures in Carolina Journal here.