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North Carolina's top court says the state is responsible, not the counties, when schools are so underfunded that some children don't get the constitutionally required sound basic education.

In a decision issued Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against parents and children in Halifax County, who contended county commissioners haven't fairly distributed tax money, hurting some students.

The Supreme Court decision says only the state has "the power to create and maintain a system of public education." The case was the first to address whether local governments have a duty to provide every child an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. In a landmark 1997 case known as Leandro, the court determined the state has that duty.

The ruling upholds an earlier decision by the state Court of Appeals.


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