North Carolina court stops order to spend $1.7B on education

Nov 30, 2021, 6:07 PM | Updated: 6:48 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday blocked enforcement of parts of a trial judge’s recent order that demanded $1.75 billion in state taxpayer funds be spent — without express legislative approval — to address public education inequities.

The majority on a three-judge panel sided with a request by State Controller Linda Combs that it prevent Superior Court Judge David Lee’s order from being enforced. It agreed Lee crossed the line by appropriating money — a job the majority said rests solely with the General Assembly.

Combs leads one of three state offices that Lee directed to transfer funds from state coffers to education and health agencies to carry out portions of a remedial plan Lee said would address longstanding school funding litigation. The remedial plan is supported by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration, but Republican legislative leaders have said Lee lacked authority to act.

Combs’ attorney wrote that she and her staff were worried they could violate the state constitution if they carried out Lee’s Nov. 10 order.

Appeals court Judges Chris Dillon and Jefferson Griffin declared Tuesday that Lee erred by stating a portion of the constitution addressing the right to education amounted to “an ongoing constitutional appropriation of funds.”

“The trial court’s reasoning would result in a host of ongoing constitutional appropriations, enforceable through court order, that would devastate the clear separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches and threaten to wreck the carefully crafted checks and balances that are the genius of our system of government,” the order read.

Tuesday’s ruling could be appealed to the full 15-member Court of Appeals if a majority of those judges agreed to hear it, or to the state Supreme Court.

Judge John Arrowood, in a dissenting opinion, said he would have voted only for a temporary delay of the order, which Lee already had pushed back enforcing until Dec. 10. Arrowood criticized his colleagues for shortening unnecessarily the time that others in the case could respond to Combs’ motions, filed last week, until Tuesday morning.

“This is a classic case of deciding a matter on the merits using a shadow docket of the courts,” Arrowood wrote. Dillon and Griffin were elected to the state’s intermediate level appeals court in 2020 as Republicans. Arrowood is a Democrat.

The ruling puts another notch in the litigation known as “Leandro” for one of the original student plaintiffs when it was first filed in 1994. By 2004, the state Supreme Court had ruled that while North Carolina’s children have a fundamental right to the “opportunity to receive a sound basic education” under the constitution, the state had not lived up to that mandate.

Interest in the case picked up when Lee began monitoring the state’s response to the ruling, and a consultant’s report released in 2019 declared the state was still woefully behind in meeting the 2004 standard. The remedial plan, created from the report and input from Cooper and the State Board of Education, calls for at least $5.6 billion in new education funding by 2028. The $1.75 billion would address funds needed through mid-2023.

Lee said he had little choice but to act now because the other branches of state government had failed to address the inequities when given every opportunity to do so.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, praised Tuesday’s decision. “Judge Lee, education special interests and the Cooper administration hatched this unconstitutional scheme to funnel $1.7 billion in extra money to a failed education bureaucracy,” Berger said in a news release. “This court has rightly called them on it.”

Emails late Tuesday seeking comment from Cooper and Every Child NC, an organization backing full funding of the remedial plan, weren’t immediately returned.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

In this photo provided by the National Park Service, cars are stuck in mud and debris from flash fl...
Associated Press

Flood-damaged Death Valley to reopen popular sites to public

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Death Valley National Park’s most popular sites will reopen to the public on Saturday, two weeks after massive flash-flooding, but the National Park Service cautioned visitors to expect delays and continuing road closures. Locations that will reopen include the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, and […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge throws out Maine lawsuit against COVID vaccine mandate

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a complaint from a group of health care workers who said they were unfairly discriminated against by Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement. The plaintiffs sued Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and other Maine officials along with a group of health care organizations in the state. The workers argued […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Federal court rejects Mississippi student’s racial bias suit

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A lawsuit alleging a school district in a small Mississippi Delta town discriminated against a Black student and stripped her of an academic award has been dismissed by a panel of federal judges. Olecia James filed the federal lawsuit in 2019 against the Cleveland School District, claiming officials prevented her from […]
19 hours ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Friday,...
Associated Press

Pence says he didn’t leave office with classified material

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he didn’t take any classified information with him when he left office. The disclosure — which would typically be unremarkable for a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents seized classified and top secret information from his former boss’s […]
19 hours ago
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)...
Associated Press

Don’t dawdle with latest iPhone update. Here’s why and how

Apple released an upgrade Wednesday to close a security hole that could allow hackers to seize control of iPhones and several other popular Apple products.
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Construction set to begin on first US Coast Guard Museum

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Construction is set to begin on a long-awaited national museum that will honor the U.S. Coast Guard. A special keel-laying ceremony, a term that’s usually used to celebrate construction of a cutter, was held on Friday at the museum’s riverfront site in New London, Connecticut, about 40 miles south of […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
North Carolina court stops order to spend $1.7B on education