Yes, the legislature is still in session. And, no, there is still no agreement between the House and the Senate on the budget. Can we look forward to an agreement soon? No, because Senate leader Phil Berger has said that we should not expect a budget until the end of September or the beginning of October, see: https://www.wral.com/key-nc-lawmaker-don-t-expect-a-new-state-budget-until-the-fall/19854816/. But his prediction will need to be updated because there has been a complicating development.
Superior Court Judge David Lee has ordered that if there is not a budget by October 18 that allows the goals agreed upon by all parties to be fully funded and implemented, then the legislature and Governor Cooper will have to show cause why his order has not been implemented. See https://www.wral.com/judge-gives-cooper-general-assembly-until-oct-18-to-fund-5-6b-education-equity-plan/19863508/.
Judge Lee’s order is the culmination of a case that has been on-going for 25 years. The North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that under the North Carolina Constitution every child is guaranteed a sound, basic education and that if a local school district does not have adequate resources to provide it, then the state legislature must step up and provide the necessary funding to meet the state’s constitutional obligation to its children.
There have been various findings, disputes, and agreements along the way, until in 2018 all parties asked the court to resolve the case. The court brought in an independent consulting group (WestEd) to analyze the situation and make recommendations. WestEd’s report (also called the Leandro Report) was issued in 2020. For a short summary of the stages of the Leandro case and the findings of the Leandro Report, see: https://everychildnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Leandro-Introduction-Timeline-2-Pages.pdf. For a more detailed account, complete with citations, see this article, aptly titled “Everything you need to know about the Leandro litigation”: https://www.ednc.org/leandro-litigation/
Judge Lee is losing patience because though Governor Cooper’s budget funded most of the improvements recommended in the report, the legislature has funded only a small portion. So far, the Republican leaders’ response to Judge Lee’s order has been limited to making snarky comments, cited and condemned in this editorial: https://www.wral.com/editorial-legislators-need-to-implement-not-deflect-leandro-judge-s-order/19865548/.
If the Republican legislative leaders choose to follow Judge Lee’s order and revise their education budget to meet the court’s order, then the budget process will be delayed even longer. If the Republican leaders choose to defy the court order, we are getting into George Wallace territory. Only time will tell.
To read the whole report, with summary and list of bills of interest, go to North Carolina NOW Legislative Update – 13 September 2021.