Signaling a new era in a long-running public school lawsuit, attorneys for the two sides in the 20-year old Leandro v. State of North Carolina case, 488 S.E.2d 249 (N.C. 1997),jointly requested last month that the court appoint an independent consultant to suggest additional steps to the state to improve education for all children in North Carolina. The state supreme court had declared that the State Constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education,” and it upheld the trial court’s determination that the state was not providing such an education to the children in the plaintiff district.
After two decades of litigation, the plaintiff school districts and the state have now agreed to nominate an independent, “non-party” consultant to the court by Oct. 30, or, if they can’t agree on one, they’ll nominate three possibilities. At about the same time, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education. Cooper said “it is far past time for the State to implement comprehensive, inter-disciplinary measures that allocate the resources necessary to ensure that the promise of a sound basic education for children in this State is realized.” Commission members will be appointed by the governor.
The consultant and the commission would work independently of each other and develop separate reports, according to the joint proposal. The consultant wouldn’t be a member of the commission but could attend meetings and will be given access to the panel’s evidence. The consultant would also develop information and could share it with the commission.