The conservative-leaning state Supreme Court has agreed to Republican legislative leaders’ request to revisit a landmark education lawsuit.
Late last month, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal filed by Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, who argue that a trial judge lacked the jurisdiction to say the state owes schools $677.8 million, according to The News & Observer.
The lawsuit, Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina, underscores the constitutional right of school children in North Carolina to have the opportunity to receive a “sound basic education”.
Last November, the state Supreme Court, which then had a Democratic majority, upheld an order for a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year plan that would address long-standing unmet needs plaguing schools across the state, and guarantee North Carolina students access to a sound, basic education as designated by the state’s constitution.
The plan, commonly known as “Leandro,” was developed by school funding experts and has been supported by Gov. Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education.
For decades, state Republicans have failed to adhere to the court order, refusing to pass measures or a state budget that incorporates the necessary investments towards educators, school support staff, resources and school infrastructure.
Instead, state Republicans have used the conservative-leaning Supreme Court to roll back steps toward adequate public school funding as recommended by Leandro.
“Beyond question, public education is an important issue that sparks strong beliefs,” Justice Anita Earls wrote in her dissent. “And when this Court rapidly reverses course on that topic, it ‘calls into question its commitment to legal principle.’ It signals to North Carolinians ‘that their constitutional protections h[a]ng by a thread” — that ‘a new majority’ can ‘by dint of numbers alone expunge their rights.’”