Center files brief in Leandro appeal

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On April 25, the UNC Center for Civil Rights filed a brief in the latest appeal in the ongoing Leandro litigation, the landmark court case regarding the State’s constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to North Carolina children that began 18 years ago. Since 2005, the Center has represented parents and children in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP, with the support of the North Carolina State Conference and the national NAACP. The current appeal focuses on the State’s continuing duty to remedy the constitutional violations that were established in the previous Leandro rulings from the North Carolina Supreme Court. This summer, citing the State’s affirmative legal duty, the Wake County Superior Court issued an order blocking the implementation of a portion of the state budget that would eliminate access to the state’s pre-kindergarten program for 80% of the at-risk children currently being provided those services. The State challenged that ruling.

In 2004, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the right to a sound basic education included remedial preschool services for at-risk children, that the State was not providing those services, and that the courts had a duty to ensure the State’s compliance in addressing this constitutional violation. In response to that ruling, the State built a nationally-acclaimed Pre-K program and repeatedly represented to the court, parents, and students that the statewide program was its chosen method for complying with its constitutional obligations. Longitudinal research on the Pre-K program demonstrated that it has been an effective means to ensure a sound basic education. Specifically, the program has resulted in improved tests scores, a narrowing of the achievement gap, and reduced special education placements.

With the 2011-2012 Budget, the State abandoned this proven remedy, and eliminated access to the program for approximately 25,000 at-risk children currently being served. The State also implemented a family co-pay requirement that imposes a substantial burden to low-income families and threatens continued federal funding. These regressive actions not only strip at-risk children of a critical component of their constitutional right to a sound basic education, but are a clear retreat by the State from its legal obligation to ensure that all children in the state receive a Leandro compliant education.

In its brief, the Center asked the Court of Appeals to affirm the trial court’s order barring the enforcement of any provision that “interferes, in any manner, with the admission of all eligible at-risk for year olds that apply to the prekindergarten program.” In addition, the brief argues the court appropriately exercised its responsibility in holding the legislature and executive branches accountable to remedy the constitutional violations. The Center also urged the Court of Appeals to look for guidance in the well-developed school desegregation legal precedents, which provide a model for analyzing the judiciary’s role in monitoring and overseeing a school authority’s implementation of remedies for constitutional violations.

Read the Center's brief (PDF).

In addition to the Center’s filing, an “amici curiae” brief, also arguing to uphold the trial court’s ruling, was filed by the North Carolina Justice Center, the UNC Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity, the North Carolina Rural Education Working Group, Advocates for Children’s Services, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the ACLU of North Carolina, Disability Rights NC, the Civil Litigation Clinic at North Carolina Central University Law School, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke Law School.

Posted by Mark Dorosin on Mon. April 30, 2012 3:41 PM
Categories: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Education, Leandro
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