As have many school districts across the country, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) has instituted virtual instruction in lieu of active instruction in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. CMS is the nation’s 18th largest school district, with 147,000 students and a budget for this year of 1.7 billion dollars.
Many parents of CMS students oppose virtual instruction on the grounds that it fails to provide the sound basic education guaranteed by Article I, Section 15 of the North Carolina Constitution. On behalf of a group of such parents, we filed a lawsuit against CMS.
While some may have known that the right to a public education is constitutionally guaranteed in North Carolina, I expect that only a few people would be aware that this right has a qualitative aspect. In the case of Leandro v. State (346 N.C. 336), our Supreme Court decided in 1997 that “the people's constitutional right to education” requires the state to “provide children with an education that meets some minimum standard of quality”.
In other words, in it is not enough for CMS to provide merely some education to its students, as “an education that does not serve the purpose of preparing students to participate and compete in the society in which they live and work is devoid of substance and is constitutionally inadequate”.
The question for the court this case is whether virtual instruction serves that purpose.