by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
Locke’s Terry Stoops was right. Here’s why. Just two weeks ago he wrote that we should expect to hear the word “Leandro” a lot more in the months ahead. And now we have.
Judge David Lee’s new message in the decades-old lawsuit over education funding is welcome. For now, the judge is avoiding a constitutional crisis over separation of powers by announcing in a hearing that he won’t force the General Assembly to spend additional new boatloads of money on public education. Terry explains what occurred.
Leandro v. State of North Carolina was filed way back in 1994 by parents who argued that their kids weren’t receiving the opportunity for a ‘sound basic education’ as our state constitution requires. It’s gone on for years, with the first Judge — Howard Manning — eventually retiring. Judge David Lee is now in charge of the never-ending legal battle. Four years ago, there was a pivotal development.
In 2017, the plaintiffs and defendants agreed to allow an independent consultant to advise Judge Lee on how to proceed. They selected California-based consulting firm WestEd to recommend an action plan, which they delivered in December 2019. The Comprehensive Remedial Plan, delivered to the court on the Ides of March, stabs taxpayers in the front by drawing on costly recommendations in both the WestEd report and Gov. Roy Cooper’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education.
That plan is riddled with problems, as Terry explains.
It’s about money — spending lots and lots more of it. No surprise there. What is a surprise is that the group that appropriates money — the General Assembly — isn’t even part of the lawsuit. So what’s up with that?
Now we wait to see if/how the parties work together, as Judge Lee has urged them to do. For now, it’s good news for taxpayers and for the North Carolina constitution, where the separation of powers is quite clear.