Democrats’ plan would fund Leandro
“This is the first time in history that we have a truly comprehensive piece of legislation that provides for specific actions that the General Assembly must take to comply with Leandro.”
– Representative Julie von Haefen, D-Wake
RALEIGH – A Democrat-sponsored bill at NC House would inject billions more into public education over the next few years to meet demands for a new reparations deal in the ongoing lawsuit against Leandro.
House Bill 946 has been assigned to the House Rules Committee, an indication that the Republican leadership has no intention of raising it. But Democrats at a press conference on Monday hoped that some or all of the bill’s elements could end up in the budget for the new biennium.
“This is the first time in the history of the event that we have a truly comprehensive piece of legislation that provides for specific actions that the General Assembly must take to comply with Leandro,” said Representative Julie von Haefen, D- Wake, one of the main sponsors of the bill.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities that are at the center of the Leandro affair, particularly for students from low-income families, students with disabilities and English language learners,” said Representative Rachel Hunt, D -Mecklenburg. “If we are serious about serving our most marginalized students and preparing them for a more prosperous future, we have no time to waste.”
“The urgency of this moment is now, and we need to have this conversation at this crossroads, right now, to think about what the next 10, 20, even 30 years are going to look like for North Carolina,” said the representative. Ricky Hurtado, D-Alamance.
Dr Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, pointed out that HB 946 does not have Republican co-sponsors, although such an important measure would need the support of the GOP majority to become law. .
“There was no indication that they were trying to appeal to the hearts and minds of their political opponents. Republicans have made their intentions known by sending the bill to the legislative underworld, the House Rules Committee, ”Stoops said.
The content of HB 946 is constructed from several sources, including Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget for 2021, the nearly 300-page report from California consultancy WestEd, the Cooper’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education, and an eight-year cure. plan agreed by plaintiffs and defendants in Leandro.
HB 946 is funding seven priority areas, including ensuring “well-prepared and high-quality” principals and teachers in schools, new mechanisms to measure student performance, and support for underperforming schools.
During their press conference on Monday, Democrats took the time to tout the bill for targeting two of the GOP’s educational priorities this year: Expanding School Choice and Keeping One-Sided Presentations of Critical Theory of race out of public school classrooms.
“Education in North Carolina is under attack,” said Rep. Raymond Smith, Jr., D-Wayne. “These bills take money away from public education. These bills basically try to dictate what is taught in public schools, even though we have no control over what is taught in private schools, but that’s where we send our money.
“Shockingly, Representative Smith criticized Republicans for advancing school choice legislation, even though disadvantaged families want more educational options and are better served by having them,” Stoops said. “The choice of school empowers families. The Leandro plan outlined by Democratic lawmakers would empower the public school.
“If the goal was to convince Republican lawmakers to support House Bill 946, trashing Republican-sponsored school choice legislation was a deeply terrible idea,” Stoops added.
The Leandro lawsuit dates back to 1994, when five rural school districts sued the state for education funding. Since then, the North Carolina Supreme Court has twice ruled – in 1997 and again in 2004 – that the state has a constitutional obligation to provide “solid basic education” to all students.
A major development came in April when North Carolina Superior Court judge David Lee – the lawyer presiding over the Leandro trial – said he would not tell lawmakers how to spend money on education public. By law, the General Assembly is the governing body with sole authority to allocate funds, but Democrats had hoped the judiciary would impose funding requirements on lawmakers.