Every Reporter Covering Leandro Needs to Watch this Interview with Judge Howard Manning

Judge Manning was assigned to the Leandro case for 20 years

In WRAL interview, he unloaded on the education establishment and emphasized the original focus of the Leandro case

Judge Manning: WestEd spending recommendations a “problem” because it’s “wasted money if the children cannot read”

Judge Manning: “When I got through with [the case], I realized money can’t buy you quality”

Raleigh, N.C. — Widely respected Judge Howard Manning handled the Leandro education case for 20 years. Even in retirement he commands respect from all sides, which is a rare feat in North Carolina politics.

In a sweeping interview with WRAL, Judge Manning unloaded on the education establishment and attacked the idea that Leandro is all about “give me more money, give me more money.”

In a statement about Judge Manning’s unfiltered interview, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “Judge Manning cares deeply about progress in education. We had many productive meetings about the best path forward for North Carolina’s children and I respect his work to improve outcomes for our students. I appreciate his thoughtful, kind words about ‘Read to Achieve’ and share his frustration that debates about education policy have devolved into political attacks centered around money. Student success, not who proposes to spend the most money, should be the goal.”

The current Leandro litigants have distorted the original focus of the case into a political attack on Republicans in the legislature.

But Judge Manning only brought up the legislature once, and never made the case that legislative Republicans are somehow anti-public education funding.

Judge Manning said he had “no fuss with the legislature,” and commended Republicans for their focus on early childhood literacy. He said the legislature “passed a law in 2014 about everybody reading to learn, learning to read, and that was done by the Senate leader, and he was big into it.”

Last year, Sen. Berger sponsored an update to the 2014 Read to Achieve initiative based on input from dozens of stakeholders, including Gov. Cooper’s own education appointees. The bill passed N.C. Senate unanimously. Gov. Cooper vetoed it.

Here are some more excerpts from Judge Manning’s must-see interview, which every reporter covering Leandro needs to watch:

· “I can’t fuss with them [the legislature]. The problem I’ve got is when you say you need $14 billion or whatever WestEd said, you know we don’t have the money to do that. And number two, the money spent in the upper grades is just going to be wasted money if the children cannot read.”

· “The adults really irritate me because the adults think they’re important and it’s all about them. But the children have the right — it’s not the principal’s right or the teacher’s right.”

· “After dealing with this thing since 1997, this case started out ‘Give me more money, give me more money.’ And when I got through with it initially, I realized money can’t buy you quality…You don’t just raise everybody’s salaries by $10,000 per year and expect to have all the grades go up by 20% because it’s not going to happen.”

· “There’s no question in my mind if we lose these little people…if we don’t get them reading and doing basic math by the time they’re eight years old, then the public school system simply can’t catch up. We just keep repeating the same cycle that’s been going on for years and years and years.”

· “If a child is not reading by the third grade, then the child is not receiving a sound, basic education up to that point. Therefore he’s been failed by the school system, the principal and the classroom teachers who had him for four years. Consider that — four years to learn how to read a page or four paragraphs.”

· “I think we need to go back and concentrate on grades 1–3 so they can get up to snuff and they can read going forward and have a chance.”

· “We spend more money on the sorry high schools than we do on the good ones. It goes into millions and millions of dollars every year. And guess what? Out of the millions we spend, 92% of it is spent on salaries. So the people we’re paying to educate these children and teach them how to read, write, and civics and everything else, it’s an expensive process to run a school system. If you’re going to run it, you need to have results, not just simply mediocre academic performance from the students.”

· “I had one guy from Hoke County scream at me one afternoon while I was talking to a bunch of principals from Pinehurst. He said, ‘Shut up judge, send me the money.’ I didn’t say go to hell, get back in your car, get to the classroom to start making sure your teachers are teaching. I just let him holler.”

The official Medium account for N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s press office.

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