SYNOPSIS OF LEANDRO DECISION SECTION THREE JUDGE HOWARD MANNING
On October 12, 2000, the Court entered Section One of its decision. At the outset, the Court charted a course in which there would be at least three (3) separate Memoranda of Decision, each addressing different aspects of the case.
In the first Memorandum of Decision, the Court analyzed separate components of the North Carolina Educational Delivery System and determined that, as a system, it was sound, valid and constitutional when measured against the sound basic education standard of Leandro. The Court also found that a student who was performing at Level III or above on the ABCs EOC and EOG tests was obtaining a sound basic education under Leandro.
The second Memorandum of Decision was entered on October 26,2000. In that decision, the Court analyzed the educational needs of at-risk children, and determined for at-risk children to have an equal opportunity for a sound basic education, the State should provide quality pre-kindergarten pro-trams for at-risk children.
The third Memorandum of Decision was originally intended to focus on two issues relating to the Hoke County Schools. First, whether children in Hoke County are receiving a sound basic education? Second, if children are not receiving a sound basic education, is it because of lack of sufficient funding as the plaintiffs contend, or for some other reason(s)?
In analyzing whether or not Hoke County students were obtaining a sound basic education, the Court examined the Hoke County students' performance and compared Hoke with other school systems student performance.
This comparison showed that there were at-risk students failing to achieve a sound basic education statewide, as well as in Hoke County, and that the low performance of at-risk students was similar regardless of the wealth and resources of the school system attended.
Taking all of the evidence into account, the Court determined that the at-risk children in North Carolina are not obtaining a sound basic education and that the reason appears to be the lack of a coordinated, effective educational strategy for atrisk children statewide.
The Court is not convinced that the lack of a coordinated, effective educational strategy is based on the lack of sufficient funding by the State. Instead, the Court believes that the funds presently appropriated and otherwise available are not being effectively and strategically applied so as to meet the following principles from Leandro:
All children have an equal opportunity to receive a sound basic education and an equal opportunity is all the State is required to provide.
The sound basic education is qualitatively defined and an appropriate educational strategy to provide children with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education is required.
In the event that children are not being provided the equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education because of inadequate educational programs and strategy, the educational programs and strategy must be changed to accomplish the constitutional mandate.
In the event there is not sufficient funding to provide the educational programs, more funding must be appropriated to meet the constitutional mandate.
Funds appropriated and applied to education, from whatever source, are first to be used for the purpose of providing children with the equal opportunity to receive a sound basic education.
In the event of a deficit in the sound basic education component, funds that are being used for the purpose of providing educational programs not part of the sound basic education must be re-allocated and applied to the sound basic education until any deficit in that program is abolished.
In summary, school systems and the State must first put in place programs that provide all children with the equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education and that if the funding that is appropriated from whatever source is being used for any other educational purpose than to meet the constitutional mandate, then those funds must be reallocated to satisfy the constitution.
The State and its school systems are directed to assess the present educational programs as they are applied to the at-risk student group, and adopt a coordinated, uniform strategy for improving the educational opportunities for at-risk students and as a part of the process, re-assess and re-allocate the available funding, if needed, to meet this goal with respect to at-risk children within the parameters of the Constitution. Upon completion of this task, they are to report to the Court the results of their undertaking. Pending this undertaking, no Final Judgment will be entered.
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