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Legislative Leaders, Leandro Plaintiffs Clash Over Court-Ordered NC Education Spending

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Less than a month after the North Carolina Supreme Court’s latest review of the long-running Leandro school-financing lawsuit, state legislative leaders and Leandro’s plaintiffs are laying out competing claims.

Those claims are set out in a new brief filed with the state’s Supreme Court on Monday.

A judge will decide whether a trial judge can order state governments to spend an additional $785 million on education-related costs. That money is tied to a comprehensive court-sanctioned remediation plan written to resolve Leandro’s dispute.

The state Supreme Court will also decide whether trial judges can force state officials to transfer money from the Treasury without input from the state legislature. Judge David Lee ordered him to be forced to remit $1.75 billion in connection with Leandro in November 2021.

Judge Michael Robinson, Lee’s successor in the Leandro case, dropped the forced remittance in April, cutting Lee’s order from $1.75 billion to $785 million.

Legislative leaders say “no” to both court-ordered spending and forced remittances. They argue that Leandro’s court proceedings have turned into a joint venture between the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the executive branch of the state government to set aside taxpayer money for education. , which lawmakers have claimed to be true since Leandro trial judge Howard Manning resigned in 2016.

“Plaintiffs want to circumvent the legislative process — executive branch cooperation and genuinely adversarial proceedings to deprive the people and their representatives of control of the state’s education system since Judge Manning’s retirement. They can dictate how North Carolina’s public school system is governed and funded through judicial orders,” said Matthew Tilley, representing the head of the legislative branch. Lawyer writes.

“Undoubtedly, the plaintiff intends to do good. Indeed, the legislative intervenor genuinely believes that the Comprehensive Remediation Plan (“CRP”) that the plaintiff has drawn up in cooperation with the executive branch is a “good plan.” “There is no doubt about that,” Tilley added. Nor does it give them the right to use public funds without appropriation as required by the Appropriations Clause in Article 5, Section 7 of the State Constitution.”

On the other side of the lawsuit, Leandro plaintiffs point to the General Assembly’s failure to comply with its constitutional obligations.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Melanie Black Duvis said, “This case is about the fundamental constitutional right of every child in North Carolina to the opportunity to receive a sound basic education in public schools. “This case also concerns the General Assembly’s now-over twenty-year disregard for its affirmative constitutional obligation to ‘defend and protect’ its fundamental rights.” . After 17 years of submission to two other branches of government, in light of the state’s continued constitutional violations, the trial court granted the sole constitutional remedy to certain state officials. was right to order the transfer of funds necessary to ”

A second set of intervening plaintiffs echoes Dubis’ concerns.

“This is no ordinary case. It is a case that demands remedies consistent with the duty of the judiciary and its power to redress constitutional violations,” wrote attorney Christopher Brooke. “The error here is a violation of a constitutional right that this court has deemed supreme and fundamental. and to ensure that every child … has the opportunity for a sound basic education.”

“This is an ongoing violation that has been in place for at least 17 years and remains without remediation. With each class passing through the halls in a miserable and inadequate learning environment, the harm is increasing and the state is at risk.” It’s even worse for the exposed students,” Brooke added. “While it is an offense identified by the judiciary, the trial court has repeatedly deferred it to executive and legislative branches to offer futile remedies until 2021.”

Attorneys for Attorney General Josh Stein’s North Carolina Department of Justice took aim at lawmakers’ claims.

“Surprisingly, the legislative intervention’s sudden desire to actively revisit this case comes after years of refusal to participate, either through litigation or through legislation.” wrote Senior Deputy Attorney General Amal Majimundal. “But their arguments and approach do not conclusively demonstrate a genuine willingness to engage constructively, but rather the state’s constitutional obligation to have legislative leaders head their respective houses to express their views. We are providing further evidence that we are unable or simply unwilling to meet our obligations: a basic education for all children.”

A final opinion in this lawsuit is expected to be filed on August 12th. The state Supreme Court will hear his oral argument on August 31.