In a recent move, Judge James F. Ammons Jr. ruled that the state still owes schools $677.8 million toward education for this school year and last school year.
According to WRAL, the newly appointed judge sided with low-income schools and state officials over state lawmakers, who have failed to fund its obligations for the long-running Leandro education lawsuit.
The $677.8 million is part of the recommendations laid out within the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan, which was developed by school funding experts and has been supported by Gov. Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education.
The plan addresses the long-term neglect public schools have undergone due to underfunding. The plan gives a blueprint for where adequate investments must be made such as improving access to educational programs and services, increasing access to early learning opportunities and special education resources, as well as supports like home visiting, child care subsidies, and salary supplement programs for early educators.
The case has had a few hiccups due to the new Republican majority state Supreme Court, which voted 5-2 to reinstate a lower court’s order blocking Superior Court David Lee’s ruling in November that ordered the state to fund the Leandro plan.
Despite efforts by state Republicans and the high court to dismiss the crucial funding, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has introduced a budget proposal that would tackle many of the recommendations made in the Leandro plan, including 16% pay increases for teachers over two years.
“It recognizes that historic investments in education and child care are needed now to make sure we have the well-trained workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” stated Gov. Roy Cooper during the budget release press conference. “The major focus of my budget is strengthening education, with historic investments from cradle to career. We can and should make good on the constitutional guarantee of a sound basic education.”