BERGER: Leandro Judge Shatters The Myth That More Money Means Better Outcomes

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning presides over a Leandro education hearing in a Wake County courtroom on July 23, 2015. Manning retired last year.

RALEIGH – More money for teachers, more money for schools, more money for administrators, more money for supplies, more money, more money, more money.

That is a simplification of the approach to education that Democrats have been taking for decades. So they celebrated when a ruling in the infamous ‘Leandro Case’ — a suit brought years ago arguing that the state was failing to meet the constitutional education mandate for free and uniform education because some schools and students were falling woefully short of standards — suggested the state needed to add billions in spending to close the gap.

Well, a judge weighing in on that case, and his interpretation is a bit different than what headline rulings suggest. In fact, the judge asserts that it is poor instruction and leadership in these schools that is responsible for the poor outcomes; not a lack of money. The children have trouble reading because the reading instruction is so poor, not because the budgets are.

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N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) pointed out in a post published on Medium, just how the original Leandro judge destroys the myth that more money leads to better education outcomes:

“Judge Howard Manning, who presided over the landmark Leandro education equity case for more than a decade, penned a column published in the News & Observer. In it, he calls out the myth that more money in education means better outcomes.

Judge Manning has won several awards and honors, and is considered a nonpareil in the realm of education in North Carolina. Judge Manning was known as the “education judge.” He did more than just rule from the bench in the case — he took the time to study the issues in front of him and visit school districts to get a first-hand look at public education in the state.

You can read the full column here, but here are some key excerpts:

“The primary cause of the failure to achieve grade-level performance in reading is not money, but a failure of classroom instruction and the leadership in a school.

“The overwhelming evidence shows that achieving reading proficiency by the end of the third grade is crucial. After third grade, classroom instruction shifts from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’

“By the end of third grade, a child has spent four years in the public school system. If the school can’t teach a child to read in four years, that’s an abject failure. …

“When I was the Leandro judge, I reviewed statewide school performance data annually from 2004 to 2015 and exposed the deficiencies. So did the General Assembly. In 2013, the legislature passed Read to Achieve, which remade the state’s early childhood literacy curriculum to emphasize strategies that are shown to work. This program has never fully lived up to its potential due to ineffective implementation.

“But a closer look at the numbers reveals a more heartening picture in some school districts. Reading scores in some school districts, like Madison County’s, climbed tremendously after Read to Achieve passed. That’s no surprise: Mississippi, which also embraced this new reading curriculum, had the highest reading score growth in the entire country after enacting it.

“Many school districts have not seen that growth and reading remains stagnant. That points to a failure of implementation, not policy. …

“Reduced to essentials, providing the opportunity for a sound, basic education isn’t more money. It’s competent management from principals and effective teaching from educators.”

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