What’s in the recent Leandro consent order?

Judge David Lee has signed a consent order in the Leandro court case that requires the defendants to create a plan of action to implement recent recommendations. We summarize the 30+ page document here, sharing excerpts and linking you to the relevant pages in the consent order.

Also, check out our new Leandro webpage for more Leandro resources and links to key documents.

The long-running Leandro case – which outlines NC’s constitutional mandate to provide every child in the state with access to a sound, basic education – has been back in the news in recent years, thanks to:

  • The establishing in 2017 of a Governor’s Commission on Access to a Sound, Basic Education
  • The appointment of WestEd in 2018 as an independent consultant to assess the state’s current compliance with the Leandro rulings and make recommendations of specific actions the state should take to achieve compliance with the constitutional mandates of the rulings
  • The release of WestEd’s recommendations in December 2019
  • The release of draft Governor’s Commission recommendations in January 2020

In response to the WestEd recommendations, Judge Lee signed a consent order on January 21 that outlines the history of Leandro, summarizes the WestEd report findings, and orders the defendants (the State of NC and the State Board of Education) to create a plan of action to implement the recommendations.

January Consent Order

The January consent order states that, despite positive steps, the state has failed to provide every child with a sound, basic education, particularly students of color and economically disadvantaged students (pg 2).  

The judge highlights that, for the first time in the case’s history, all parties to the lawsuit are in agreement that it is time to take action to bring NC into compliance. He applauds the Governor’s Commission for their work and encourages the NC General Assembly and other public bodies to make the needed changes (pg 3).

The judge then orders the defendants to create an action plan to achieve compliance (pg 4).

He outlines seven key components that must be in place in that plan for the state to be in compliance (pgs 4-5). We will be seeing a lot of these seven categories going forward, as they have now entered the court record as the key areas of focus:  early education, teachers, principals, assessment and accountability, predictable and adequate financing, support to low-performing schools and districts, and alignment with postsecondary education and workforce.

The judge then outlines the history of the Leandro case, from 1994 through present day (pgs 5-10), including the Leandro II ruling which laid out the now-familiar categories of a competent teacher in every classroom, a competent principal in every school, and the necessary resources to support effective programming.

Leandro II also spoke clearly about the state’s failure to provide adequate resources for at-risk children who were not yet but would be enrolled in the public schools – i.e., resources for early education.

Finally, Leandro II made an explicit equity argument, noting that providing children who historically and currently have faced higher barriers to opportunity with a sound, basic education requires more resources and attention than providing such an education for children who have not faced such barriers.

Next, the consent order then explains how the independent consultant (WestEd) was named (pgs. 9-10), WestEd’s process for writing their report (pgs. 10-12), and a summary of the WestEd report’s findings (pgs. 13-32). The summary of findings is organized by the seven categories highlighted earlier in the report. Here are some direct links if you’d like to jump to specific sections of the document:

  • NC has substantial assets to create a PreK-12 education system that meets the Leandro tenets (pgs. 13-15)
  • Despite past efforts, children aren’t receiving a sound, basic education (p. 15)
    • Defendants face greater challenges than ever (This is a clear statement on how a larger portion of NC’s students are living with economic disadvantage than before.) (pgs. 15-17)
    • Systemic action is needed to meet the tenets of Leandro (p. 18), including:
      • Teacher quality and supply (pgs. 18-21)
      • Principal quality and supply (pgs. 21-22)
      • Resources and school funding (pgs. 22-25)
      • Assessment and accountability system (pgs. 25-26)
      • Low-performing and high-poverty schools (pgs. 26-27)
      • Early childhood learning and PreK (pgs. 28-31)
      • Alignment and preparation for post-secondary opportunities (p. 32)

Check out NCECF’s analysis of the early childhood aspects of the WestEd report.

The judge then orders the defendants to take action on the seven recommendations (pgs. 33-34), including submitting to the court within 60 days (which will be by the end of March) a plan of action for 2020.

This document, shared at a recent Governor’s Commission meeting, outlines early, “Phase 1” recommendations from both the WestEd report and the Governor’s Commission recommendations. Phase 1 WestEd recommendations noted here for the early education section include:

  • Set a target for reaching universal full-day, full-year Pre-K delivery by 2026.
  • Expand the NC Pre-K program to provide high-quality, full-day, full-year services to all at-risk 4-year-olds by increasing reimbursement rates to cover higher-quality services and to account for expanded full-day, full-year programming.
  • Establish a data collection process to identify the children and families in need of services and use data collected to determine the number of early childhood teachers and staff necessary to provide high-quality early childhood education services to all eligible 4-year-olds.
  • Fund Smart Start to enable communities to use the flexible funds to increase quality, access, and support for at-risk children and families.
  • Increase the volume and quality of the early childhood educator pipeline to meet need by linking compensation packages to public school schedules; expanding the WAGE$ Salary Supplement Program and the Infant Toddler Educator AWARDS Program to support salary schedule growth; using recruitment efforts such as scholarships, loan forgiveness, and residency programs; and implementing an accessible statewide system of professional development.

These may end up being the actions laid out for 2020. We will continue to follow Leandro and bring you updates.