Adopting the major recommendations of the 300 page report from West Ed, an independent consultant that had been appointed by the Court, North Carolina Superior Court Judge David Lee, last week signed a Consent Order in the long pending case of Hoke Co Bd of Edu. v State of North Carolina. The Court’s order requires the State Defendants “to work expeditiously and without delay to implement the following:
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;
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;
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;
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;
An assistance and turnaround function that provides necessary support to low-performing schools and districts;
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
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.
The West Ed Report found that since the 1990s, when North Carolina had posted large achievement gains and was the most successful state in the country in narrowing the minority-White achievement gap, the state legislature had substantially cut back on education funding. At the same time, the state’s number of students with higher needs increased by 88% and little progress has been made in providing every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education,” which the state Supreme Court declared in 1997 to be required by the North Carolina constitution.
The report indicated that full compliance with the outstanding court orders could cost $8 billion over eight years. The Court’s current order requires the parties to submit a progress report within 60 days that will set out the specific actions the State Defendants must take to begin to address the issues identified by West Ed. Additionally, the parties must provide a timetable for submission of mid-range actions that will be taken and for submission of a comprehensive remedial plan for completing all necessary long-range actions necessary for full compliance and an estimate of the additional resources needed to complete these actions.
Democrats, including Gov. Roy Cooper, have cited the West Ed. report as evidence that more education funding is needed. Republicans, particularly in the state Senate, have said that GOP legislators have already increased K-12 funding cumulatively by several billion dollars this decade.