After decades of debate over the adequacy and funding of North Carolina’s public school system, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in November that hundreds of millions of dollars must be allocated to public schools.
The decision in Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina is the latest development to an adjacent case that was decided in 1997, Leandro v. State of North Carolina, also known as "Leandro I."
Leandro I was filed in 1994 when parents argued that students in five low-wealth counties in the state did not have access to an adequate education. The ruling by the N.C. Supreme Court recognized the state constitutional right for every student to have access to a “sound basic education.”
In a decision in a subsequent case in 2004 — the first Leandro II — the N.C. Supreme Court ruled the State is responsible for staffing each classroom with a competent teacher, hiring a competent principal for every school and providing adequate resources to ensure an equitable learning environment.
Debra Dowless, the superintendent of Hoke County Schools, said the prolonged Leandro decision has impacted the availability of services provided to Hoke County students.
"Unfortunately, the students who were sitting in the classrooms when this case was first filed are now grown adults who may not have had access to all of the educational opportunities and resources they deserved," Dowless said in an email.
The five low-wealth counties, Hoke, Halifax, Robeson, Vance and Cumberland, that filed the lawsuit with parents in 1994 argued that their districts did not have the funds to support a sound basic education, even though those counties were taxing residents at higher-than-average rates.
“If you don’t have funds, there are certain things you really can’t offer your children,” Tyus S. Few, chair of the Halifax County Schools Board of Education in Halifax County, said.
The funding, which will be allocated soon, will adhere to the Comprehensive Remedial Plan, also called the Leandro Plan, which is an eight-year roadmap for education policy in North Carolina.