(The Center Square) – The court battle over an additional $1.7 billion for education continues to heat up in North Carolina.
North Carolina State Controller Linda Combs filed a petition Tuesday to counteract a motion in a case where the state was ordered to allocate the funds.
The legal tug-of-war started Nov. 10, when Superior Court Judge David Lee ordered the state to direct $1.7 billion for the first two years of a court-ordered action plan within 30 days. The Court of Appeals halted Lee’s order Nov. 30. The plaintiffs filed a petition hit Dec. 16, asking the state Supreme Court to override the lower court’s decision. Combs’ motion contends the plaintiffs’ request to the higher court should be denied.
Combs argues plaintiffs prematurely called for the Supreme Court to issue a writ of certiorari, which would initiate a review of the appellate court’s decision.
“All legal issues presented in their filings could be handled through regular appellate process whether by direct appeal or filing a direct appeal, after the Court of Appeals rules on all appellate issues and filing a Writ of Certiorari at a later time,” Combs’ attorneys wrote.
Combs is responsible for the state’s “financial integrity” and manages 14 state programs.
The order for additional education funding stems from the 24-year-old case, Leandro v. the State of North Carolina. The plaintiffs claimed poor school districts were not receiving the same educational resources as wealthy school districts. They argued the state was not doing what it took to ensure it met its constitutional obligation. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered a plan be drafted to meet the state’s requirement.
The plan called for $5.6 billion in new K-12 funding by 2028. In his Nov. 10 ruling, Lee said, “The Constitution is the direct will of the people.” However, Combs and legislative leaders, who oppose the order, argued “the power of the purse” belongs to the Legislature.
“The duties of the Legislative and Judicial Branches with regard to appropriations are clear, explicit and binding,” Comb’s petition states. “The constitution does not provide the judicial department with the authority to appropriate funds.”
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.