A North Carolina judge is checking what taxpayers are getting for almost $8 billion being spent on public schools this year.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. heard testimony Wednesday in Raleigh on whether state officials are meeting their duty to give every child a chance at a sound, basic education. Manning's is taking stock on whether officials are obeying state Supreme Court rulings requiring more help for children in the lowest-performing and poorest counties.

Manning heard about new statewide test results that show students in four of the five counties that are the focus of the case still lag far behind the statewide average.

The judge praised a state law adopted last year requiring third-grade students prove they're able to read well before being promoted to the next grade.