Leandro Case:

 Lawsuit brought in 1994 by 5 school districts against the state of NC



1.   Judge Manning ruled that every child in the state has a constitutional right to a “sound basic education” that quality of education – not equal opportunity or funding  -- should determine whether that right has been violated.

A sound basic education will give students:

·       -Sufficient ability to read, write, and speak English, and a sufficient knowledge of fundamental mathematics and physical science to enable a student to function in a complex and rapidly changing society.

·       -Sufficient fundamental knowledge of geography, history, and basic economic and political systems to enable a student to make informed choices on issues that affect the student personally.

·       -Sufficient academic and vocational skills for a student to successfully engage in postsecondary education or vocational training.

·       -Sufficient academic and vocational skills for a student to compete in further education or work in contemporary society.


Judge Manning ruled (October 2000):


1.   The state's curriculum, testing program and overall system of funding meet the Leandro standards for constitutionality.

2.   State's system of certifying and licensing teachers is constitutionally sufficient.

3.   Students not performing at grade level on the state's ABC tests are not meeting the Leandro standard for receiving a sound basic education.

4.   System of funding schools was sound, but the question of whether there are sufficient resources available is a different matter.



Manning identified a “Cycle of At Risk”:

·                               “Of the hundreds of criminal defendants that this Court has dealt with in Superior Court who have pleaded guilty, the overwhelming majority are high school dropouts, regardless of race. 82% of the prison population is made up of high school dropouts.”


·                               “Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are nearly twice as likely to be retained in a grade as children in more affluent families.”


Education seen as a way to break Cycle of At-Risk

Manning found that the state has two constitutional obligations:


1.   To provide at risk young people with early education beginning at age four, so that they can have the opportunity to start kindergarten on a level close to, if not equal to those children who are not at-risk.

(This ruling has major implications for the state. While Smart Start has now been extended to all 100 NC counties, it is serving only a fraction of those who arguably fall into an at risk category.)


2.   To ensure that every child has access to a sound basic education  - if poor districts cannot provide their students with a sound basic education, then the state has a constitutional responsibility to help those poorer districts to do so.


Response from Mike Ward and Phil Kirk to Manning's mandate (July 2002)

(Full response included a 3 page, 35 bullet response. 3 bullets listed below)

  • An important piece of pending legislation also directly addresses the critical components of the Court's decision. Senate Bill 1275, Dropout Reduction/LEA Accountability, contains sections which address the dropout problem, the preparation of teachers to teach reading, professional development, and a major study of fiscal and instructional accountability of local school administrative units.
  • By enacting this legislation, the State irrefutably acknowledges that it is the State's educational policy to require that each failing student be offered "focused intervention," a remedial plan designed to address the child's demonstrated areas of weakness so that the child can be helped to achieve Level III or above and get on track to obtain a sound basic education.

Assistance to Hoke County and Other Plaintiff-Party LEAs

  • DPI staff have been in contact with and have provided assistance to Hoke County teachers and administrators, just as they have other districts, through a variety of programs. Some of these include the Summer Leadership Conference; the Improving Minority and At-Risk Student Achievement Conference; Standard Course of Study Workshops; and the Comprehensive School Reform Grants programs. These programs include instruction or presentations intended to help Hoke County and other plaintiff-party LEAs provide effective instruction to at-risk students.

Judge Tells State to "Fish or Cut Bait" (August 2002):

Manning said, "the State of NC is the principal and is ultimately responsible to ensure that children have the opportunity to receive the sound basic education. The State of NC cannot sit back and do nothing but carp about the ineffective use of resources by Hoke County School System(HCSS) or any other LEA when the ineffective use of those resources negatively impacts on the children's opportunity to receive a sound basic education."

"On that date [August 26], you are requested to respond in clear and plain English as to what course of conduct the State of North Carolina intends to take with respect to providing the leadership and guidance to HCSS so that HCSS can reallocate and focus its existing resources to assist the children of HCSS in being provided with the opportunity to obtain a sound basic education. You may no longer stand back and point your fingers and deny responsibility when an LEA is ineffective. As the old saying goes, 'it's time for the State of North Carolina, acting through the DPI and the State Board of Education, to fish or cut bait.'"

Other Relevant Reports

Quality of Life In NC:  NC State University Volume 2, number 1

In 1994 the top 10 counties spent $1294 more per child than bottom ten counties.

If spending in all school districts were brought up to the national average of the high spending districts, our children's educational achievement would be above the US average, at least as measured by standardized test scores.

That variation in school funding, reflecting local variations in the property tax base and rate, influences student achievement means that our current practice of funding schools primarily through property taxes at the local level prevents every school district in the state from equally providing a sound basic education to the children of NC.

SAT scores 1996:

8 counties 1013 to 2000

40 counties 962 to 1012

52 counties 700 to 961

Counties in eastern NC tended to have scores below 961, the average for Georgia, the poorest performing state in the nation.

Higher per-pupil expenditures tend to raise standardized test scores for a number of reasons. More money can lead to smaller class sizes, attract better qualified teachers, and increase the overall school environment.

The effects of spending on student achievement are evident even when researchers take into account family resources such as the parents' education, the family's income, the number of parents and the like.

The Public School Forum's Friday Report (September 2002)

School funding sources: state 70%, federal 8%, local 22%

Local funding is generated by property tax revenue: wealthy counties generated 4 times more than the poorest counties.                                                                                    

Since the 1997 ruling of the Leandro case, the gap between top and bottom spending counties has grown from $1,625 to $2,643 per child.

Poorest counties tax themselves at 1.6 times the rate of the wealthiest counties, but only generate $238,788 per child v. wealthiest counties at $939,331 per child


The Public School Forum's Friday Report. "Finance Study Results Show Growing Disparities." Volume 4, Issue 10. September 27, 2002. Retrieved from: http://ncforum.org/doclib/friday_report/collateral/2002/092702.pdf (Hyperlink)


NC State University. "School Funding and the Quality of Education in North Carolina." Quality of Life in North Carolina, vol 2, number 1. Retrieved from:



Heise, M. (2002) "Educational Jujitsu." Education Next. Retrieved from: