State officials and legislative leaders are weighing in on the state’s assessment of how the recent budget impacts a $1.75 billion court-ordered education spending plan before the case heads to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The high court last month tasked Special Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson with reconciling a $1.75 billion remedial spending plan with appropriations in the budget to determine what, if any, spending is covered by legislative appropriations.
The move stems from a November order by Superior Court Judge David Lee that directed state officials to transfer money out of the state treasury to fulfill the plan. State Controller Linda Combs appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals because she argued the order violated state law by circumventing the Legislature.
The remedial spending plan came about a week before Gov. Roy Cooper signed the budget.
A state assessment last week found nearly $800 million of the $1.75 billion remains unfunded, and Robinson gave parties in the case until 5 p.m. on Monday to weigh in, the Carolina Journal reports.
Both the plaintiffs in the case and the North Carolina Department of Justice argued in briefs that the state budget leaves $795 million in the remedial spending plan unfunded, while legislative leaders defending the case argue the state budget completely nullifies the $1.75 billion order.
Plaintiffs argue the state budget fails to fully fund years two and three of the spending plan, providing no funding for 24 of 44 required components in year two and providing no funding for 22 of 42 components in year three.
The plaintiffs allege the budget leaves the departments of Public Instruction, Health and Human Services, and University of North Carolina underfunded by a combined $257 million for 2021-22 and $537 million for 2022-23. Senior Deputy Attorney General Amar Majmundar echoed that assessment in a separate brief.
Plaintiffs also pointed to the state’s $8 billion unappropriated cash balance.
“It is undisputed, and indeed the law of the case, that hundreds of thousands of school children are being denied their fundamental constitutional right to have an equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education,” attorney Melanie Black Dubis wrote.
“That undisputed fact is even more alarming when one considers that the state has more than enough resources to fully implement the remedy ordered by this court but simply refuses to do so.”
An intervener’s brief from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP highlighted “significant shortcomings for at-risk students: in the state budget.
“Most concerning for Penn-Intervenors, it lacks any funding or provides only partial funding for students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners,” attorney Christopher Brook wrote. “Similarly, it provides little to no funding for critical initiatives for low-property-wealth districts that are necessary to meet the needs of their at-risk students, including funding for community schools, grow-your-own teacher programs, and expansion of high-quality prekindergarten programs.”
The NAACP argues the state budget leaves $168 million due to the Department of Health and Human Services, $593 million to the Department of Public Instruction, and $32 million to the University of North Carolina System, under the remedial spending plan.
Attorney Matthew Tilley submitted a proposed order to the court on behalf of House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate President Pro Tempore Philip Berger, R-Rockingham, that claims the “budget act superseded and nullified the November order in its entirety.”
“Judge Lee made clear that he believed the extraordinary measures imposed by his order were justified only because, at the time it was entered, no budget had passed,” Tilley wrote. “The adoption of the budget act before the November order became effective eliminated that justification.”
Robinson set a hearing on the case for Wednesday. He’s scheduled to render his decision on the budget’s impact on the $1.75 billion order on April 20 before the case heads to the Supreme Court.
This article was originally posted on North Carolina state officials grapple with $1.75 billion court-ordered education spending plan