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The Daily Tar Heel

Judge: Give To At-Risk Students

But some of the state's education policy groups are opposed to Manning's ruling, and others are not sure what the next course of action should be.

The ruling is the third in the seven- year-old lawsuit, nicknamed the "Leandro case" after one of the original plaintiffs, a student from Hoke County.

Manning ruled on the fact that the N.C. constitution states that each public school student has the right to a sound basic education.

Manning said in his ruling that a basic education for all students should come before extras, such as college prep classes and computer courses. The ruling gives N.C. education officials 12 months to develop a plan of action for reallocating funds toward at-risk students.

The state attorney general can now appeal or accept the the verdict.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper released a statement Tuesday saying he is not sure what will happen next. "We \\will continue to review this lengthy opinion and consult with the governor and legislative leaders to determine our next step," he said in the statement.

But some of the state's education experts oppose the ruling, saying it will harm the state's top students.

John Dornan, president of the N.C. Public School Forum, a Raleigh-based group that studies N.C. education, stated in the "Public School Forum's Friday Report" that he believes forcing the schools to be more equal will be harmful to those not-at-risk students.

"Manning calls for the state to turn its back on the 780,000 of its 1.3 million children who are not categorized as at-risk," he stated. "The not-at-risk students who formerly were the beneficiaries of schools providing programs that go beyond the basics would, under Manning's plan, be denied educational opportunity while the scales of justice tip in favor of at-risk students."

But officials at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction agreed with Manning's ruling. "The basic reaction of the department is that we are pleased with the decision," said Vanessa Jeter, a department spokeswoman.

She said the department already was working to rectify the educational discrepancy. "We know that there are some students who do not receive the same basic education," she said.

Programs enacted by the department to improve public education for all students include the Annual Improving Minority and At Risk Students conference, taking place in Greensboro this week.

When asked whether a specific response was in place to deal with the ruling, Jeter said none was in place at the moment. "It is still too early to tell."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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