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Pembroke, NC 28372-1510
Date: June 2, 2003
Contact: Scott Bigelow
Email: scott.bigelow@uncp.edu
Phone: 910.521.6351
Fax: 910.521.6694
 

Leandro case 'not over' Manning tells UNCP audience

Howard ManningSuperior Court Judge Howard Manning was given a standing ovation from an audience of about 100 graduate students at UNC Pembroke following an hour-long speech on the Leandro case.

Judge Manning, who is presiding over the nine-year-old school funding equity case, promised to use all the court's powers to ensure that every child in North Carolina has the opportunity to receive a "sound basic education," as prescribed by the state constitution.

"Writing a check was the old answer (to mandating school equity), and wasteful spending was the old way," Manning said. "Leadro means that when you get out of high school, and you get a job at Dupont, you won't have to take remedial reading courses to do the work."

It was a rare public appearance for Judge Manning, who discussed the case at a daylong educational leadership conference entitled, "Equity and Closing the Achievement Gap." The conference was sponsored by UNCP's Master of School Administration Program.

Judge Manning said school fund equity is not about money.

"It's not about the buildings. It's about delivering sound basic education to kids," he said. "You, the people in this room are the most important people in the process."

Howard Manning"Íf you don't do it, the courts will lock you up," Manning warned. "We've got that authority, and I am not afraid to use it."

Parts of Manning's rulings are being appealed. The state is also studying its options in preparation for presenting their findings to the court.

Judge Manning said the state Supreme Court found that the state must provide a sound basic education to prepare students "for a complex and rapidly changing society." The state should supply students with sufficient academic and vocational skills to be successful at whatever they chose to do after high school.

"That means our students must perform at grade level at minimum," he said.

One important ruling that Judge Manning handed down in 2000 was that all children are not starting out in school on a level playing field. He ruled it is the state's responsibility to get them ready for school with pre-kindergarten programs.

"Those at-risk kids do not have a chance," he said. "They are not socialized, some are not even potty trained. Their right to a sound basic education is damaged. They've got to have pre-k."

Judge Manning said he has heard many complaints about the court's role in education in North Carolina.

Howard Manning" 'It's a political question. The courts have no business in it,'" he said. "I've heard that many times."

"They went nuts and told me I was crazy," he said following his ruling that gave the state one year to examine its programs and report back to the court. "They basically told me to go to hell. They said they are educators and politicians, and they didn't have to do what some judge from Wake County told them to do."

"I didn't get mad. I got even," he said. "I stepped on some toes, and I will do it again. This case is not over."

The Leandro case is named after a student in Hoke County, who went on to Duke University and is 24 years old today. The case still has some life in it, and it appears Judge Manning has plenty of energy left.

Judge Manning also praised the state's ABCs program for putting accountability into a system that cannot be judged without objective standards.

Robeson and Cumberland counties joined in the suit, but the court case focused on Hoke County schools because it is a small, manageable system. Judge Manning said poverty is not unique to any place in North Carolina.

While in Hoke County, the judge said he learned about UNC Pembroke.

"That's when I learned what a good school you have here," Manning said of UNC Pembroke.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Doug YongueThe leadership conference was given a legislative update from state Rep. Doug Yongue, a career educator and co-chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Education. Rep. Yongue spearheaded the move to get legislative approval for have a school leadership graduate program at UNCP.

"This has been a unique year with the 60-60 tie in the House between Republicans and Democrats," Rep. Yongue said. "We are faced with a very tight budget."

The Democrat said his party would like to solve the budget crunch by raising "sin" taxes on alcohol and cigarettes and installing a lottery. The Republicans are not budging on any new taxes, he said.

"We've had to make some drastic cuts, including a 5 percent increase in (UNC) tuition and cutting positions from the public schools," Rep. Yongue said.

Despite the deadlock, Yongue promised to "keep education on track" in North Carolina. "We are at the praying stage," he said with the beginning of a new fiscal year beginning July 1.

The conference was organized by Dr. Ottis McNeill, coordinator for the MSA program, and School of Education Professor Charles Jenkins.

LEANDRO TIMELINE

  • May 1994: School boards from Hoke, Cumberland, Robeson, Halifax and Vance counties sue the state claiming that children in their systems do not receive the same educational opportunities as students in wealthier districts. The suit takes the name of the lead plaintiff, Robb Leandro, a student at Hoke
  • April 1996: The Court of Appeals dismisses the lawsuit, saying the state constitution does not guarantee equity or quality in public schools.
  • July 1997: The state Supreme Court overturns the Court of Appeals and restores the case. The Supreme Court rules that every child has a constitutional right to a "sound, basic education."
  • September 1999: The trial begins with Superior Court with Judge Howard Manning Jr. presiding.
  • Oct. 12, 2000: Manning rules that the state system for school funding is adequate and constitutional but leaves open the question of funding to poorer districts.
  • Oct. 26, 2000: Manning rules that the state must provide pre-kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds who are at risk for academic failure.
  • March 2001: Manning orders the state to come up with a plan to better serve students at risk for academic failure. He gives the state a year to come up with a plan to better address the problem.
  • April 2002: Manning rules that the responsibility of providing equal education to all students lies with the state. He orders the state to "remedy the Constitutional deficiency for those children who are not being provided the basic educational services" of competent, well-trained teachers, good principals and sufficient funding.
  • July 2002: The state appeals Manning's ruling to the state Supreme Court, challenging all parts of Manning's decisions.
  • Aug. 15, 2002: Manning gives the state 10 days to formulate a plan to explain how it will provide children in Hoke County a sound, basic education.
  • Aug. 22, 2002: The state Board of Education sends an assistance team to Hoke County to comply with Manning's Aug. 15 order.
  • Jan. 13, 2003: State lawyers challenge a court ruling that said students who perform poorly on achievement tests are not on track to get a sound, basic education. The lawyers ask the appeals court to overturn Manning's April 2002 order.

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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Updated: Monday, June 2, 2003
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Phone: 910.521.6351
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