N.C. Schools' windfall may be a bust

RALEIGH - Legislative leaders said Tuesday there's not enough extra cash on hand to pay $747.9 million a Wake County judge says must go to North Carolina public schools.

As a result, the legal victory that caps a decade-old court battle may result in schools getting no new money after all.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. has ordered the state to turn over civil fines that were illegally withheld from public schools for more than nine years. In the order issued Friday, Manning left it to the General Assembly to decide where to come up with the money and over what period.

It's shaping up as a pyrrhic victory. Instead of coming up with an infusion of fresh revenue, legislators say they'll comply with Manning's order by tapping money already earmarked for K-12 education.

"Everybody assumed from the beginning that it would come out of the state's education budget," State House Speaker Joe Hackney, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said Tuesday. "We really don't have $700 million in new money."

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