The legislature’s new deadline

·3 min read

Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe to this weekly newsletter.

Happy Friday, folks. We made it.

North Carolina lawmakers are running out of time. They have a state budget to pass (as previously discussed in this newsletter, it’s already 2 1/2 months late) and political maps to draw in the coming weeks. And last week, a state judge gave the legislature another deadline. This one is education-related.

As part of an ongoing case known as Leandro, a judge has ordered lawmakers to fully fund a plan to provide every child a “sound, basic education.” That plan includes teacher pay raises, expansion of the state’s Pre-K program and more money for low-wealth school districts, my colleague T. Keung Hui has reported, and requires the state legislature to allocate at least $5.6 billion in new education funding by 2028.

That translates to $690.7 million in new education funding this year and $1.06 billion next year. The state House and Senate’s proposed budgets would allocate nowhere near that amount.

The Senate’s plan would cover just 28% of that amount this year, and 20% next year.

The House’s plan would cover slightly more: 54% the first year and 36% the second year.

Worth noting, though, that the Senate has argued that federal relief dollars spent on schools should count as funding for Leandro.

In a hearing earlier this month, State Superior Court Judge David Lee said those proposed amounts fell “woefully short,” and said if the Leandro plan isn’t fully funded by Oct. 18 — one month from now — or he would take direct action.

“I don’t want to hold anybody in contempt,” Lee said during the hearing. “I far prefer to go another route. But it wouldn’t be a stretch, even at this point, for the court to find beyond a reasonable doubt a continuing and willful and conscious refusal and neglect to follow the Constitution of this state.”

State legislative leaders have said Lee’s order is a violation of the constitution.

“The North Carolina State constitution gives the legislature, not the courts, the authority to appropriate funds,” Demi Dowdy, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Tim Moore, said in a statement Wednesday. “This is an arbitrary deadline that does not have the force of law.”



  • Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s approach to the pandemic has shifted in recent months. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan reports how.

  • We still don’t have a budget. Why? Dawn has some answers.

  • “Hang in there, and love each other, and fight the good fight”: One of the fiercest advocates for Medicaid expansion announced her retirement Thursday, Brian Murphy reports.

  • Hundreds of miles away from his district, Congressman Madison Cawthorn led a protest to end Johnston County Schools’ mask mandate, T. Keung Hui reports.

  • North Carolina Republicans aren’t rushing to crusade against Biden’s vaccine mandate, I reported.

  • A trans inmate is requesting to be moved out of a men’s prison, Danielle Battaglia reports.

Don’t forget: Listen and subscribe to our podcast wherever you usually like to listen. (Pandora, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Megaphone.)

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

— Lucille Sherman, state government reporter for The News & Observer. Email me at

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting