‘Politics out the door, this is about kids,’ says Leandro

| February 24, 2014 | 4 Comments

slate-board-apple-largeby Myron Pitts, Fayetteville Observer, February 23, 2014.

The battles over school funding often dissolve into partisan bickering.

But people hoping to use Robb Leandro as a political football for either side should look elsewhere.

You might know his name. Leandro vs. the State of North Carolina, decided in 1994, was a landmark case guaranteeing equal education for the state’s students.

Though Republicans in the General Assembly have been criticized for sweeping changes to public education, they weren’t in charge when Leandro’s Hoke County family and several school systems sued the state.

“All those years, we weren’t fighting against a Republican legislature and Republican governor,” Leandro says.

He says the case more concerned funding for rural districts vs. wealthier ones.

The case quietly runs in the background whenever funding comes up. Two Cumberland County school board members cited costs related to fighting for Leandro when they voted Monday against joining a lawsuit over public money paying for private school vouchers. The measure passed 5-2. (A superior court judge halted the voucher program Friday afternoon.)

The Leandro case safeguards the state’s commitment to pre-kindergarten programs.

Leandro, the person, was a high-performing student whose mother lamented he did not have access to the academic resources of other school systems. Plaintiffs, including the Hoke and Cumberland school districts, argued that the state constitution required that every child be given a sound, basic education.

Leandro says having his family’s name on the case can be “surreal.”

He says: “Sometimes I’ll give people my credit card and they’ll say, ‘I’ve heard of that name.’”

He’s now a 35-year-old lawyer at Parker Poe in Raleigh, specializing in administrative health care law. He graduated from Duke University and Vanderbilt University Law School.

People ask how he built such a solid resume, despite the inadequacies of the Hoke County school system. He cites his parents, John and Kathy. Parents make the difference, he says, “rich or poorer, middle class or lower.”

“Now that we’re holding schools accountable, I’d love to figure out ways to hold parents accountable. That would be hard to legislate, obviously.”

Leandro is a married father of two girls. They are not school-aged yet, but he says getting older has affected how he looks at education.

For instance, he understands why public schools oppose money going to vouchers. But 4,000 students applied for them. He says that shows they were dissatisfied with their schools.

“If the voucher system is not the answer, there has to be an answer,” he says.

He believes the issue of teacher tenure, the subject of another lawsuit, is important but “doesn’t have anything to do with students.”

He says broader social issues limit what politicians and school officials can do.

“We still have kids getting lost,” he says. “I really believe this case says, ‘Throw politics out the door.’ This is about kids. Individual kids.”


Category: Education, SPIN Blog

Comments (4)

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  1. Bill Worley says:

    Of course there already is competition, and private schools already exist. Even within public school systems it is possible to request to attend a school other than your geographically assigned school. The question is, who pays? If you choose to cut a private road across the property of you and a few of your friends, don’t expect local or state government to pay for or maintain it. And you are not excused from your tax dollars supporting public roads, whether you choose to use them or not. Fact is that the vast majority of students are educated in public schools. And, despite Richard Dunces broken record claims, most of them do a damned fine job with students who have an encouraging and supportive home structure.

    Teacher salaries are not “throwing money at education.” The simple truth is that more students keep coming, teachers are professionals worthy of periodic raises to keep up with increasing expenses, and there is no finer investment we can make with our tax dollars.

    Those of you who hate educators, who hate government, and who speak empty words without knowledge are actually the ones who drone on and on with the same message, over and over again. Do us all a favor, please? Back up your purported expertise in matters of education. Head down to the local park, round up a group of 25 teenagers, and sit them down and teach them how do reading, writing, and arithmetic the way you know it should be done. Show us worthless, lazy, whiny educators how to do it right.

    • Richard Bunce says:

      I see childish name calling is your standard operating state… so in fact most parents, those of modest means do not have choice and so their children are trapped in failed government school systems that no amount of money will fix… see Washington DC government school system. So you favor only the elite, the 1%, the Koch Brothers, Art Pope, and of course “greater good” advocates such as elected officials, government education bureaucrats, government school administrators/teachers having the resources to enroll their children in alternatives to the failed government school systems, just not the majority of parents trapped in your failed government school system. How enlightened of you. Paying current teachers more will not change anything… again see DC. The majority of government school students in the Country and the State are not proficient at basic skills. That is failing generation after generation of children all so the government education industrial complex keeps their death grip on education revenue. In this time we have fallen into the trap of governments good intentions, not it’s actual results are good enough for too many citizens.

  2. Norm Kelly says:

    This IS about kids. It’s not about teachers, Boards of Ed, unions, private schools or even religious schools. It’s about kids being given the OPPORTUNITY to get the best education possible, based on THE FAMILY’S preferences. Teacher tenure has NOTHING to do with students. Constant demands from Boards of Ed for increased funding have nothing/virtually nothing to do with students. If the money had a direct impact on students, then we’d be churning out the most intelligent kids in Wake County. How much is enough? Like most libs, which Board of Ed is willing to answer this question?
    If offering ‘vouchers’ which parents like doesn’t answer the question of choice, trying to do what’s best for the STUDENT, then what is the answer provided by the education establishment? Does big education have ANY plan to improve RESULTS besides MORE MONEY?!
    When Gov Bev was in office, she chose to keep the State Superintendent, as well as hire someone to do the job of superintendent taking responsibility away from the actual superintendent. So, once again, we have a lib/Demon with the plan of simply spending more money on education, with no perceivable improvement.
    Government monopolies are NOT any better than private business monopolies. That is an inarguable fact. A monopoly is a bad thing, regardless of where/how it happens. The feds/central planners attempt to prevent businesses like cell phone providers, and cable providers (theoretically) from becoming monopolies. AT&T was broken up by the government cuz they were a monopoly. IBM was forced to sell-off parts/pieces because they were a monopoly. Microsoft has been sued by government because they thought forcing Internet Explorer (yuck!) onto the OS was monopolistic. So the same people telling us that monopolies in private business are bad are telling us that monopolies in government agencies are good. Like garbage collection. And most especially schools. There should be NO competition to big education. When big education demands more money, the ONLY acceptable response is for us to bow down, apologize for holding back, request leniency, and fork over any money that we happen to have. There should be no expectation on our part of any response from big education like value for the money, careful spending of the money, or improved outcomes for the money. Our response is simply to capitulate to the education establishment, even if it’s not what’s best for our family.
    Can ANYONE in either the media or the Demon party or the education establishment explain why this is so? Of course not, that’s why they don’t even try. They’ll fall back, this time and this time only, to the Constitution. This is a document that must be ignored at all costs at every other turn, but in the case of forcing government schools upon us, this MUST be!

  3. Richard Bunce says:

    Amen, this is about the kids… the majority of students in government schools who are not proficient at basic skills. Free the parents from the grip of the government education industrial complex.

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