On June 17, North Carolina community and civil rights leaders, parents, students, educators and advocates announced a new statewide campaign to push for bold and equitable investments in the state’s public schools. The campaign – Communities for the Education of Every Child NC (Every Child NC) – will work to remove barriers to educational opportunity faced by underserved and vulnerable students and ensure every child their legal right to a quality public education.
The campaign is led by a diverse coalition of advocates who work directly with families in the most adversely impacted communities. The coalition is brought together by The North Carolina Justice Center (NCJC).
NCJC is a founding member of the Partnership for Equity and Education Rights (PEER) convened by Education Law Center. PEER is a coalition of state and local organizations in seven states fighting to provide every child access to an excellent public education. PEER supports members to lead, grow and sustain campaigns for full and fair public school funding in their states and to build a powerful movement for education equity across the country.
A key priority for Every Child NC will be to support the remedy in the Leandro v. State of North Carolina school funding lawsuit. In Leandro, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the State of North Carolina had systematically violated the state constitutional rights of public school children by failing to provide the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.
In January 2020, the trial judge in the Leandro case entered a consent order directing the State to develop and submit to the court a comprehensive plan to remedy the decades-long violation of children’s education rights.
“Every Child NC embodies PEER’s vision that all public schools must be fully, fairly and adequately funded,” said Jennifer Doeren, PEER Managing Director. “The campaign also is designed to put the most adversely impacted communities, families and students at the center of the movement to create and implement a comprehensive plan for equitable and excellent schools.”
Every Child NC will work to achieve seven foundational reforms of North Carolina’s public school system:
- Improving the quality and diversity of the state’s teaching force by expanding investments in proven teacher preparation and mentoring programs and working towards making teacher pay competitive with other North Carolina professions.
- Increasing the supply of excellent school leaders and creating incentives for the best principals to lead the schools where they are most needed.
- Expanding investments for students with disabilities, disadvantaged students, English learners, and student support personnel such as nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
- Creating a more balanced and student-centered assessment system and limiting the extent to which our school accountability system stigmatizes schools with the most students from families with low incomes.
- Rebuilding the state’s capacity to support and turn around districts and schools that are facing the greatest challenges.
- Expanding early learning opportunities and supports for the youngest children, such as NC Pre-K, Smart Start, and the NC Infant-Toddler Program, to ensure that all children begin their school years on equal footing and ready to learn.
- Strengthening ties between K-12 schools and future careers or post-secondary opportunities via expanded counseling and dual credit opportunities.
At the launch, Letha Muhammad, Director of the Education Justice Alliance, said that North Carolina is at a moment of reckoning.
“We can go down the same road that we’ve been on that’s led us to this moment that allows disinvestment in communities of color, or we can take a new path,” Ms. Muhammad said. “We’re calling our General Assembly to a new path, down a new road that will fully fund public education.”
“Now that Every Child NC is underway, we intend to push the General Assembly to fully fund the joint plan recently submitted to the court to bring the state into compliance with the constitution for the first time in the more than two decades this case has been litigated,” said Matt Ellinwood, Director of the Education and Law Project at the NCJC. “PEER has provided vital assistance in launching the coalition, and we look forward to continued support as as we work towards fulfilling the Leandro promise.”
NORTH CAROLINA COURT ORDERS SWEEPING REFORMS AFTER REPORT FINDS STATE FAILING TO PROVIDE A SOUND BASIC EDUCATION
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications