Aurora Fulp

by Aurora Fulp

Americorps VISTA

The Leandro Case: A Watershed Moment for Public Education in North Carolina?


What is Leandro Case?

At its heart, the case of Leandro v. State of North Carolina is about the responsibilities our state government has towards its students, namely the constitutional responsibility to provide all North Carolina students with a sound basic education, regardless of background and regardless of where those students live in the state. The case began in 1994, and the North Carolina Supreme Court found in 2002 that the State of North Carolina was failing to provide that sound basic education. Why is this case still in the news nearly 20 years after that finding? The State of North Carolina still has not taken action to meet that responsibility, and could be said to have taken steps backwards from where things stood when the case began. 

Where do we stand now?

Some efforts have been made, but without much change between 2002 and 2016, in 2017 the Plaintiff parties and the State jointly requested the appointment of an outside, non-partisan consultant agency to come up with recommendations to bring education in North Carolina in line with the 2002 decision. WestEd, a nonpartisan consulting agency, was selected in 2018 by the judge overseeing the case, and in 2019 the findings in their report were made available to the public. In June of 2021, Judge David Lee approved of a 7 year, 5.6 billion dollar plan agreed upon by Governor Roy Cooper’s administration, the State board of education, and the plaintiffs in the case. However, the State General Assembly has yet to act to appropriate the funds necessary to carry out this plan.  This brings us to November 10th, when Judge Lee ruled that North Carolina has not upheld its constitutional responsibility to its students, and furthermore that the state must transfer $1.7 billion from its reserves to start the work of advancing education. The order is operating with a stay of 30 days, after which it will come into effect. 

How is the money intended to be used? Elements of the plan set out to address seven key areas:

  1. A system of teacher development and recruitment that ensures each classroom is staffed with a high-quality teacher who is supported with early and ongoing professional learning and provided competitive pay; 
  2. A system of principal development and recruitment that ensures each school is led by a high-quality principal who is supported with early and ongoing professional learning and provided competitive pay; 
  3. A finance system that provides adequate, equitable, and predictable funding to school districts and, importantly, adequate resources to address the needs of all North Carolina schools and students, especially at-risk students as defined by the Leandro decisions; 
  4. An assessment and accountability system that reliably assesses multiple measures of student performance against the Leandro standard and provides accountability consistent with the Leandro standard; 
  5. An assistance and turnaround function that provides necessary support to low-performing schools and districts; 
  6. A system of early education that provides access to high-quality prekindergarten and other early childhood learning opportunities to ensure that all students at-risk of educational failure, regardless of where they live in the State, enter kindergarten on track for school success; and 
  7. An alignment of high school to postsecondary and career expectations, as well as the provision of early postsecondary and workforce learning opportunities, to ensure student readiness to all students in the State. 

(as taken from the Comprehensive Remedial Plan put forth to the courts by the Defendants 3/15/2021).

That will mean millions of dollars for early childhood initiatives like Smart Start, millions to give teachers raises and create or maintain programs to educate and retain the teachers and administrators that North Carolina students need to succeed. 


What’s Next?

The Forsyth Promise staff will be keeping an eye on developments in the Leandro case and what that means for Forsyth County and our students. Stay tuned in to upcoming newsletters for important updates.


Further reading on the history of Leandro v. State of North Carolina:

Links to the WestEd report and Comprehensive Remedial Plan: