In December, Judge David Lee released recommendations developed by a private consultant (WestEd) to ensure the state complies with its obligation to provide all children the opportunity to a sound, basic education.
Earlier today – more than a month after release of the recommendations — Judge Lee signed a consent order which called on parties to develop plans – to remedy the state’s current failures. The order would require the defendants in the case — State of North Carolina, The State Board of Education and Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education — to follow the order.
The court specifically orders the the defendants to adopt seven key recommendations regarding teacher development and recruitment, principal development, finance system, turnaround function to support low performing schools, high quality kindergarten and early childhood learning – all mentioned in the WestEd report and the majority of them very expensive to implement
As of this writing no legislative leaders have commented on Judge Lee’s order. The responses would go a long way in discerning how legislators will treat the recommendations and the viability of any of them being implemented.
There is a lot to digest here – and questions galore. For starters why were all Republican legislators but one, excluded from the process that led to the development of the recommendations? Why wouldn’t other solutions or perspectives put forth as part of the process?
Legally speaking, the order does not apply to the state leigislature since it is not a party to the case. However, the reality is any order to implement and spend additional dollars would have to go through the legislature. Potentially confrontationsl yes,. However, Lee’s measured language in the report and desire for cooperation might be interpreted as good news for conservatives.
While things could be worse, conservatives should still be wary of court orders that tell legislators how much to spend. Lee said the state is not living up to that obligation and according to Lee, the courts have the duty to make sure it does.
The dangers of having the courts order education policy and dictate spending levels has been a hot topic on our side of the aisle of late. I write about it here and here. Other good pieces from other authors can be found here and here.
Expect the left and Progressives to use all the power they can to bring public pressure to bear on the funding issue. Yes, the report raises legitimate issues which both sides can addreess. What wasn’t legitimate was the process by which many of the recommendations were developed.
Within the last hour, Governor Cooper tweeted
The Court has ordered North Carolina to step up significantly its funding for education. It should begin now with this budget. – RC
What happens next? Who knows. There are three likely options. One, the order will be a starting point for a frank, broad discussion on the issues of education finance and student achievement in North Carolina. Two, legislators,will say “thank you” to those who developed the recommendations, use what they want in future budget proposals and ignore the rest. Third and lastly, the order will force a constitutional question over who controls the authority to appropriate funds.
Let the discussions begin.
To be continued.