Wake County Superior Court Judget Howard Manning has presided over a case about funding for low wealth schools since 1994. He has constantly pronounced economic slumps are no reason to cut funding to schools. Then Attorney General Mike Easley and the current Attorney General Roy Cooper vigorously defended Democratic administrations for cuts to education over the years as necessary because of lower revenue. A Republican led legislature found it again necessary to cut spending and that included less funding for education just as Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue proposed.
Judge Manning said the new budget could be unconstitutional because it cut funding for education so he called a hearing this week to review the spending plan. Plaintiffs in the original low wealth schools case, known as Leandro, showed up to present their argument. The Attorney General sent deputy Tom Ziko to represent the state. No one who had a hand in writing the budget was called to defend it.
Ziko, in fact, called as his key witness John Pruette who oversees early childhood education in the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Pruette testified the funding cuts for the More at Four pre-Kindergarten program would do a lot of harm. He said even more damaging would be the provision moving the program from DPI to the early childhood development office at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ziko prompted Pruette to explain his concern:
State’s attorney Ziko did not challenge any of the witnesses who argued against the budget cuts.
Manning didn’t say when he would make any ruling.