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From courtroom to classroom: Superior Court Judge Howard Manning

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He is one of the loudest champions of public education, though not a teacher, principal or superintendent. He is Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who presided over the Leandro lawsuit, a landmark case that changed public education in North Carolina.

“It started out about money, all about money, just like everybody was suing everywhere else in the US looking for equality of funding between school districts in the state,” said Judge Manning.

But it turned into more than that. Judge Manning began looking at the quality of education students were receiving and saw it was sub-par. The school system was failing, and the students who struggled often times ended up in front of him.

“I got sick and tired of seeing, taking, guilty pleas from mostly white and black males,” said Judge Manning. “It didn’t matter what color they were, you would take the plea, look down on plea transcript and see last grade they completed was nine.”

Judge Manning’s rulings set a new quality standard for every school in the state, making it clear that all children were entitled to an equal opportunity to receive a sound basic education. That includes competent, certified teachers, principals, and resources available to help at-risk children. But to this judge, it’s still not enough. “I’m not satisfied. I’m happy, I’m pleased we have come this far,” he said.

What keeps him going is knowing children will benefit from his perseverance. “North Carolina is doing extremely well in lots of schools, but I’ve got to worry about the ones on the bottom,” Judge Manning said.

All of this year’s Razor Walker Award recipients will be honored at a banquet Monday night at UNCW.

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videoOne Superior Court judge got tired of seeing a connection between felons and poor schools. That is why Howard Manning used everything within his power to effect change; and when you are a judge, that’s a lot of power.

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