December 12, 2021

Robb Leandro: The Leandro lawsuit is named after me. Here’s what I want to see from NC lawmakers.

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In North Carolina, it has been over 25 years since families took the state to court to force legislators to fully and fairly fund education. It still hasn’t happened. Here’s what one of the plaintiffs has to say about it.

Over 25 years ago, my family and I joined a lawsuit against the State of North Carolina involving low-wealth schools. Our motivation was simple: We cared deeply for our community of Raeford in Hoke County and we knew firsthand that my classmates and I were not receiving the educational opportunities we deserved.

That case has become known by our last name: the Leandro case.

The lawsuit was premised on two key questions: Does the N.C. Constitution guarantee all students the right to receive a sound basic education? And if so, were students in low-wealth counties receiving this opportunity?

My classmates and I did not need a court to answer the second question. We had seen the lack of opportunity with our own eyes. Each year, many of our best teachers left for wealthier school districts with better resources and higher salaries. When we traveled to other parts of the state, we saw that old metal trailers did not mark school campuses like they did ours.

We used tattered and outdated textbooks. On video feed, we watched while N.C. students from a wealthier district performed science labs because our school did not have the facilities or resources for us to complete the labs ourselves.

In 1997, when the N.C. Supreme Court held that our state constitution does guarantee every child a right to a sound basic education, we felt vindicated. I assumed the matter would be quickly resolved. Surely, North Carolina would not continue a two-tiered education system where your place of birth determined the quality of your education.

I was wrong.

Read the rest of this op-ed here.

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