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Saturday, August 07, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: The Leandro case is back in the news in North Carolina, just in time for back-to-school season.

A decade ago, some of the poorer counties in North Carolina sued the state for more funding because their children were failing, and failing significantly more than students in affluent counties. Judge Howard Manning ruled in their favor, demanding that $22 million be given to the poorer school districts.

When politicians asked where the money was to come from ("Debate Begins Over How To Pay For Low-Wealth Schools"), Manning pointed (rather snarkily) in his ruling to the rich counties:

The right to the equal opportunity to a sound basic education, is only to the sound basic education, not the frills and whistles. The State Constitution does not require that children be provided the courses and experiences to enable them to go to Yale or Harvard. While there is no restriction on high-level electives, modern dance, advanced computer courses and multiple foreign language courese being taught or paid for by tax dollars in the public schools, the Constitutional guarantee of a sound basic education for each child must first be met.

As a student from an affluent county whose courses and experiences did enable her to go to Yale, I felt personally offended when I read that. Doubly so when I found out that state per pupil expenditure for Hoke County ($4663.08) is more than for Wake County ($4220.46). (In another bit of irony, Robb Leandro, the Hoke County student for whom the case was named, got a scholarship to Duke for undergrad and is now in his second year of lawschool at Vanderbilt.)

The entire lawsuit seems to me to be a case of wealth redistribution, which as Americans we're not supposed to believe in.

Some students just don't want to learn -- how much money has to be thrown at them before their failure becomes their own fault?

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