Budget debates in Raleigh trigger court hearing
RALEIGH, North Carolina: This week, the state senate could vote on a new budget that would cut spending on K-12 education by nearly $700 million, or 8.8 percent. This proposition has caused Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning (R) to order a court hearing on June 22 to determine whether the proposed school cuts would jeopardize children's constitutional rights to quality educations.
In his May 20 order, Manning expressed that despite the difficult economic climate, the state still has to do its part to meet the needs of all children educationally. He wrote, "The financial crisis notwithstanding, the basic educational assets guaranteed to each and every child in the North Carolina Public Schools must remain in place in every school and classroom in the State of North Carolina."
The state constitution of North Carolina guarantees every North Carolina child an opportunity to "a sound basic education" in public schools. This was re-affirmed and interpreted by two prior Supreme Court rulings to mean that all children have a right to a certified, well-trained teacher, a competent principal and appropriate educational resources. Senate President Phil Berger (R) stated that "The legislature is as serious as anyone about complying with the requirements that the constitution has on the state and state government with reference to the provision of educational opportunity," and claimed that the proposed cuts do live up to the constitutional mandate, and that despite school staff losses, teacher jobs will still be added.
Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue has also proposed a budget fix. Perdue's proposition consists of a much smaller 3.9 percent reduction in state education funding. Perdue argures that the Republican cuts, if effected, would land North Carolina nearly last in the country in money spent per student.
John Tate, member of the State Board of Education, believes that the proposed cuts to school funds are not wise and welcomes the court hearing. "The objective before us all is to work for a sound, basic education for all kids in the state. We're working as hard as we can now, and we're not doing the job we should. To strip resources is not helping things at all."
The current legislative session is set to expire on June 6. If no decision is reached by that date, a special session may be called, by request of at least three-fifths of the Senate, and declared jointly by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
North Carolina's constitution requires the state to approve balanced budgets each biennium, and that the state's budgets remain balanced throughout the biennium.
North Carolina State Senate Partisan Breakdown
|Party||As of July 2014|