News: Quick Takes

N.C. School Boards Association, school districts filing complaint to get state to pay up

The N.C. School Boards Association, along with a few school districts, are filing a new complaint Aug. 1 in a longstanding lawsuit over who gets money from civil fines and penalties.

NCSBA claims the state has failed to comply with a 2008 court order requiring the state to pay millions to N.C. public schools.

“The courts determined that civil penalties collected by state agencies between 1996 and 2005 were diverted to other purposes in violation of the Constitution. A 2008 judgment against the defendants totaled nearly $750 million,” a NCSBA media release states.

A 1996 N.C. Supreme Court ruling in Craven County Board of Education v. Boyles determined civil fines imposed by state agencies should be viewed as the same as criminal fines and therefore should go to public schools.

In 1997, the General Assembly created the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund. State agencies were directed to deposit money from civil penalties and fines into the fund for school technology needs. But as NCSBA contends, some state agencies withheld money because they didn’t believe it qualified as civil fines.

NCSBA, with a handful of school districts, returned to court to demand the state recover the withheld money. In 2005, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled in North Carolina School Board Association v. Moore that the majority of money withheld should have been directed to school districts through the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning released an order in 2008 saying the state owed more than $747 million, but no timetable was set for the state to comply.

A decade later, NCSBA said the state still hasn’t fulfilled its constitutional obligation to pay. so the issue will go to court. More information about the new complaint and the lawsuit will be given in a news conference Aug. 1 at George Watts Elementary in Durham.