More than 50 N.C. business, political figures back brief supporting Leandro plaintiffs

Image from N.C. Judicial Branch website

Listen to this story (9 minutes)

  • A group describing itself as "recognized leaders in the North Carolina business community" supports plaintiffs in the Leandro school funding legal dispute.
  • The group is filing a friend-of-the-court brief endorsing a court-ordered money transfer for $785 million in extra state education spending.

Self-proclaimed “recognized leaders in the North Carolina business community” are jumping into the Leandro school funding debate. They filed paperwork Wednesday in the N.C. Supreme Court to support plaintiffs seeking court-ordered education funding.

The list of more than 50 names includes: Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff and retired president of the University of North Carolina System; Thomas Bradshaw, former Raleigh mayor and N.C. transportation secretary; Ken Eudy, former top adviser to Gov. Roy Cooper; Jim Fain, former N.C. commerce secretary; Anthony Foxx, former Charlotte mayor and U.S. transportation secretary; Hannah Gage, former chair of the UNC System Board of Governors; James Goodmon, Capitol Broadcasting Company chairman and CEO; James Goodnight, co-founder and CEO of SAS Institute; Hugh McColl, former chairman and CEO of Bank of America; Orage Quarles, former president and publisher of the News and Observer; Thomas Ross, former UNC System president; Sherwood Smith, former CEO and chairman of Carolina Power and Light; Norris Tolson, former secretary of the N.C. departments of commerce, revenue, and transportation; Brad Wilson, former president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina; and Smedes York, former Raleigh mayor.

The group is submitting a friend-of-the-court, or amicus, brief supporting plaintiffs. “The amici submitting this brief are recognized leaders in the North Carolina business community, all of whom have dedicated their professional efforts to building and serving enterprises that contribute to our state’s economic progress and stability,” according to the group’s attorneys. “Amici are attentive to the impact of a sound basic education on the future of the North Carolina’s youth and our state economy.”

“In particular, amici are concerned that failure to improve public schools will negatively affect our students’ ability to thrive in the workplace — and by extension our collective economic condition,” the court filing adds. “Amici also rely on quality education so that they can draw from a skilled and talented local work force to support their business efforts. Improving education in the state is vital for amici and businesses who seek to maintain and grow their business interests in North Carolina.”

The group touts “the undeniable link between improved educational opportunities and economic prosperity.” The brief aims to “highlight the overwhelming consensus within our state government and among social scientists concerning the impact of quality education on improved economic outcomes.”

The N.C. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Aug. 31 in the latest stage of the Leandro suit, which started in 1994. The state’s highest court has issued major Leandro rulings in 1997 and 2004. The case is known officially as Hoke County Board of Education v. State.

The latest controversy in the case involves a trial judge’s order this spring to boost state education spending by $785 million. That number dropped from a $1.75 billion figure ordered last November. The money would cover portions of a court-sanctioned remedial plan designed to resolve the Leandro dispute.

In addition to the extra spending, Supreme Court justices will decide whether the judge had the authority to bypass the General Assembly. The original Nov. 10 order would have forced state officials to transfer money out of the state treasury without legislative authorization.

“In light of the history and empirical data linking quality education with improved financial conditions, amici will argue that the remedy ordered by the trial court was the practical and constitutionally appropriate means for the State to guard and maintain the fundamental right to a sound basic education as interpreted by the Court’s prior decisions and mandated by the Constitution,” according to the court filing.

Monday marks the deadline for the next set of briefs in the Leandro case. All parties must finish submitting paperwork to the state Supreme Court by Aug. 12.

After the Aug. 31 oral arguments, the court will issue its opinion “upon a date to be chosen in the Court’s discretion.”

Here’s the full list of supporters of the friend-of-the-court brief, as identified in the paperwork:

Adam Abram
Chairman, James River Group Holdings, Ltd.

Sepi Asefnia
President & CEO, Sepi Engineering, Inc.
Chair, NC Chamber

James Babb
Former President & CEO, Jefferson Pilot Communications

Rye Barcott
Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Double Time Capital

Ronald J. Bernstein
Retired CEO, Liggett Vector Brands

Crandall Bowles
Former Chair & CEO, Springs Industries

Erskine Bowles
Co-Founder, Carousel Capital
President Emeritus, University of North Carolina

Thomas W. Bradshaw, Jr.
Retired Managing Director, Citigroup
Former Chair, NC Citizens for Business & Industry (now NC Chamber)
Former Chair, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
Former Chair, Public School Forum of North Carolina

John R. Bratton
Director, Wake Stone Corporation

Samuel T. Bratton
CEO and President, Wake Stone Corporation

Theodore D. Bratton
Chairman, Wake Stone Corporation

Jack Clayton
President of Business Strategy, TowneBank

Sue W. Cole
Managing Partner, Sage Leadership & Strategy, LLC
Former Mid-Atlantic CEO, U.S. Trust Company

Sandra Wilcox Conway
Former Manager, Excellence in Education, The First Union Foundation

Peter Conway
Founder (Retired), Trinity Partners

John Cooper
Chair, Mast General Store

Don Curtis
Founder & CEO, Curtis Media Group

Richard L. “Dick” Daugherty
Former Vice President & Senior North Carolina Executive, IBM
Former Chair, NC Citizens for Business & Industry (now NC Chamber)
Emeritus Board of Directors, Research Triangle Park
Charter Board of Directors, Public School Forum of North Carolina

Bert Davis
President, 95 Impact Capital, Inc.

James M. Deal, Jr.
Former Chair, Watauga County Board of Education
Former Chair, Watauga Board of County Commissioners
Former Chair, Board of Trustees, Appalachian State University

Clay Dunnagan
Founder and Manager, Anchor Capital

John Ellison, Jr.
President, The Ellison Company

Frank E. Emory Jr.
EVP, Chief Administrative Officer, Novant Health

Ken Eudy
Founder and Former CEO, Capstrat

Jim Fain
Retired Bank Executive
Former Secretary, North Carolina Department of Commerce

Anthony Foxx
Former Mayor of Charlotte
Former US Transportation Secretary

Paul Fulton
Former President, Sara Lee Corporation
Former Dean, Kenan-Flagler Business School
Chairman Emeritus, Bassett Furniture Industries
Founder and Chair, Higher Education Works

Hannah Gage
Former Owner, Cape Fear Broadcasting Company
Former Chair, UNC Board of Governors

Alston Gardner
Managing Director, DGI Capital, LLC

Patti Gillenwater
President and CEO, Elinvar Leadership Solutions

James F. Goodmon
Chair & CEO, Capitol Broadcasting Company

James and Ann Goodnight
SAS Institute

Greg Hatem
Founder & CEO, Empire Properties and Empire Eats

Barnes Hauptfuhrer
Former CEO, Chapter IV Investors, LLC
Former Co-Head, Corporate & Investment Banking, Wachovia Corp.

Melody Riley Johnson
Director, Strategic Accounts, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices

Steven J. Levitas
Senior Vice President, Pinegate Renewables

Elizabeth Martin
Producer, Wild Violet Media, LLC

Easter A. Maynard
Board Chair, Golden Corral Corporation

James H. Maynard
Board Chair/Founder, Investors Management Corporation
Founder, Golden Corral Corporation

Hugh L. McColl, Jr.
Former Chair & CEO, Bank of America

Dr. Bill McNeal
Author (with Tom Oxholm): A School District’s Journey to Excellence:
Lessons From Business and Education
Former Superintendent, Wake County Schools
National Superintendent of the Year

Carlton Midyette
Venture Capital Investor

Thomas B. Oxholm
Executive Vice President, Wake Stone Corporation
Former member, Wake County Board of Education
Author (with Dr. Bill McNeal): A School District’s Journey to Excellence:
Lessons From Business and Education

Roger Perry
Chairman, East West Partners Club Management

Orage Quarles, III
Former President & Publisher, The News & Observer
Co-Founder, Journalism Funding Project

Thomas W. Ross
Chairman of the Board, Bausch & Lomb Company
Director, Bausch Health Companies
President Emeritus, University of North Carolina
Retired Superior Court Judge

Thomas R. Sloan
Founder, Sloan Capital Company

Gordon Smith III
Retired Investment Advisor
Founder and CEO, Wood Pile LLC

Sherwood Smith
Former Chair, NC Citizens for Business & Industry (now NC Chamber)
Former Chair, Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies, RTP
Charter Board Member, Public School Forum of North Carolina

Norris Tolson
Retired Business Executive
CEO & President, Carolinas Gateway Partnership
Former CEO, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
Former Secretary, NC Departments of Commerce, Revenue, and

Richard Urquhart
Retired Vice President, Investors Management Corporation

J. Bradley Wilson
President & CEO Emeritus, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina
Former Chair, UNC Board of Governors

David Woronoff
President, The (Southern Pines) Pilot and Business North Carolina

Smedes York
Chair, York Properties
Former Mayor, City of Raleigh