Leandro, again: the high price of low voter turnout

If we want progressive values to prevail, we have to be willing to fight hard and fight for a long time. But most of all, we have to vote.


The Republican-dominated NC Supreme Court elected in 2022 has already rewritten the previous Court’s decisions on partisan gerrymandering (they say it’s fine), photo ID required for voters (also fine), and restoring felon voting rights upon completion of sentence (no longer fine). Now it’s reconsidering the Leandro case, yet again. The 30-year-old case is about funding the state’s obligation to provide students with a quality education, but will have far-reaching implications for any constitutional rights that require state funding.

In November of 2022, the NC Supreme Court ruled that the state must fund the Comprehensive Remediation Plan, known as the Leandro Plan (from the 1994 court case, Leandro vs. State of NC) to order the legislature to fund that plan. But days later, election results shifted the balance of the court from a 4-3 Democrat majority to a 5-4 Republican majority. Sure enough, NCGA leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, Sr. filed a suit asking the court to block the order for the legislature to fund the plan.

This, despite the fact that the state had a surplus of $3.25 billion. Governor Cooper’s proposed 2023-25 budget included $677.8 million to fund years two and three of the Leandro Plan. That’s just over 2% of last year’s surplus. 

The court heard arguments late last month.

NC public school students deserve good schools

Leandro, as most call it now, started in 1994, when five school districts in low-wealth counties sued the state. They claimed that their children were not receiving the same quality of education as those in more prosperous counties.
In 1997, the NC Supreme Court ruled that every child has the right to “a sound basic education.” For more than 20 years, Republicans have fought tooth and nail not to fund it.

Republicans have shown the direction they want to take NC schools: hundreds of millions of dollars taken from public education to fund vouchers for private schools, even for wealthy families; teachers’ salaries that rank 36th in the nation; political and parental control of what’s taught in class and what’s in the library. North Carolina already ranks near the bottom in many surveys of public education funding.

Progressives must take back the NC Supreme Court, one election after another after another

NC Supreme Court seats are statewide races, not vulnerable to gerrymandering. Progressives can’t win the Court back in 2024, or even in 2026, but if we can hold the two seats we have, then in 2028 three more seats — held by Republicans — will be on the ballot.

Anti-choice Republicans have been laser-focused on filling the lower courts with conservative justices since Roe v. Wade, with the goal of chipping away at women’s rights to control their bodies on the way to achieving a Supreme Court majority that would overturn the 1973 decision. It took nearly 50 years, but Donald Trump’s three SCOTUS appointments — all three of whom said under oath that they respected Roe v. Wade as “established precedent” — threw it out.

If we want progressive values to prevail, we have to be willing to fight hard and fight for a long time. But most of all, we have to vote.

(NC Newsline, NC Governor’s Office, WRAL News, EdNC , NC Newsline. Lithub)