On Tuesday, January 21, the parties in the decades-old Leandro lawsuit received a court order from Judge David Lee. Carolina Journal’s Lindsay Marchello explains:

Lee issued a 34-page order Tuesday, Jan. 21, during a meeting with the parties in the decades-old case. Leandro, a court battle that started in 1994, cemented the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a sound, basic education to all North Carolina students. For years, the case remained in limbo. Now, after the public release of a court-ordered report from research nonprofit WestEd, Lee is finally moving things forward. Parties in Leandro should use WestEd’s findings to make a plan that will meet short-, mid-, and long-term education goals, the order says. 

The court order did not specifically direct the General Assembly to allocate any more funding into education – an outcome many found reassuring. Marchello writes:

Constitutional experts, such as Jeanette Doran, president of N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, expressed concern over a constitutional overreach if the court mandated the General Assembly spend more on public education. 

Lee sidestepped those fears. Instead, his order gave basic instructions for how to move forward without crossing constitutional lines…

The General Assembly isn’t a party to the case, but any recommendations calling for increased spending or statutory changes would require legislative involvement. Lee’s order acknowledges as much.

The court order, however, did give the parties to the lawsuit instructions on how to move forward. Marchello explains:

Lee gives lawyers 60 days to submit plans on how to implement short-term goals. That includes revising the state’s school funding formula to ensure students with the greatest needs are getting the most resources, as well as granting districts greater flexibility in spending decisions. The phase also calls for a boost in overall investment in public education over time. 

Lee’s order outlines seven areas the defendants need to implement “expeditiously” and “without delay.” Subjects include teacher and principal development and providing a system of early education for all at-risk students. 

Read the full news story here. Read Judge Lee’s full 32-page court order here.