After enduring years of politicians tearing down the idea of public schools by withholding funds, what have been the consequences? What has been the impact on hard working and respected, professional teachers you’ve known your entire life?

Why are public school advocates across the state singing “Unhappy Birthday, Leandro” on August 31? This day marks one year since Leandro was last heard at the NC Supreme Court. Since then, there has been no meaningful action taken to fulfill the constitutional rights of students. Our kids bear the brunt of this political maneuvering in Raleigh.  

Anyone living in North Carolina since 1994 has probably heard of Leandro vs State of NC. That year, five counties sued, charging the state didn’t provide adequate funding to provide their children an adequate education. Twice the NC Supreme Court ruled (1997; 2004) that the state has the constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a sound, basic education. In 2018 an 8-year remedial plan was developed cooperatively by all parties to identify the investments in education the state must make in order to meet that obligation. Three years later, a judge ordered the state to take action to implement the plan. His order was appealed. Nothing happened. In March 2022, the NC Supreme Court heard arguments in the case for the third time. The Judge ruled the state is responsible for funding the plan but could not be ordered to do so. That year the General Assembly underfunded the remedial plan by $785 M.

One year ago, the NC Supreme Court agreed for the fourth time to hear the case and again issued a ruling to uphold the constitutional rights of children. The majority opinion indicated the Court would no longer defer to the Governor and Legislature to address the constitutional violations and would “no longer patiently wait for the day, the year, or the decade when the State gets around to acting on its constitutional duty”. (Public School Forum of North Carolina, 2023). It was a day long awaited and public school advocates rejoiced for all schools to move forward and for students to finally realize the education that was promised to them under the NC constitution. 

It was a short-lived celebration. Elections have consequences and the Republican Party in NC obviously cares more about their Party than their constituents. It seems their glee at saying “NO” to anything that comes from the other side of the aisle has ended our grand NC tradition of bipartisan politics that made us a healthy and productive purple state, intent upon the betterment of NC.  

Rowan Senator Carl Ford, Representatives Harry Warren, Julia Howard, and Kevin Crutchfield – Why do you continue to withhold funding from public schools while steadily increasing NC taxpayer money to private schools who do not have to conform to any state standards of education? It’s long past time to adequately fund our public schools. You’ve been quiet too long.

If the legislatures had acted responsibly, and let us not forget Leandro has languished under both parties for almost 30 years, Rowan County would have received over $1,000,000 additional annually for our schools. That means more teacher assistants, more nurses, psychologists, counselors and social workers, more Pre-K slots, and more textbooks, supplies and instructional materials as well as additional support for teachers. Do we need it? Of course. Could Leandro be funded this year? Yes! There is a 3.5 BILLION budget surplus projected this year.

After enduring years of politicians tearing down the idea of public schools by withholding funds, what have been the consequences? What has been the impact on hard working and respected, professional  teachers you’ve known your entire life? If you are not sure, have some conversations with the teachers and the kids in the classrooms. If there are problems, listen and look for solutions rather than point fingers or add bandaids with your trip to buy items for the classroom. If you want a real eye opener, listen to the voices of students at the site of Every Child NC, a statewide coalition of organizations, parents, teachers and students who advocate for Leandro implementation. Listen to those who hold our future in their hands, our children. We need to pay attention to our young people’s concerns. It is their education and thus their future at stake.

It’s time for a Happy Birthday for Public Schools in North Carolina.

The Two Nanas, Pam Bloom & Nan Lund