Board of Education to challenge law shifting power to Superintendent
Published December 29, 2016
by Laura Leslie, WRAL, December 2 8, 2016.
The State Board of Education said Wednesday that it will challenge a law passed two weeks ago that shifts some power from the board to the state superintendent of public instruction.
The board met behind closed doors for about a half-hour to discuss its legal options before deciding to file suit.
House Bill 17 gives incoming Republican Superintendent Mark Johnson more flexibility in managing the state's education budget, more authority to dismiss senior level employees, control of the Office of Charter Schools and the ability to choose the leader of the new Achievement School District, which will oversee some of the lowest-performing schools in the state. Those powers have been under the State Board of Education's control.
Johnson has said the changes "will help usher in an era of greater transparency" at the state Department of Public Instruction and will create a system of state oversight of public schools "similar to how local superintendents and their respective boards of education work together across North Carolina."
State Board Chairman Bill Cobey, a Republican, and current Democratic Superintendent June Atkinson, who lost to Johnson in the November election, have criticized the proposal as threatening the working relationship between the board and the superintendent.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement that the law simply restores powers to the superintendent that Democratic lawmakers moved to the education board in 1994.
"It is incredibly disappointing that an appointed board would divert tax dollars meant for our students and teachers into a lawsuit that re-litigates a court case they’ve already lost once before," Berger, R-Rockingham, said, referring to a 2009 lawsuit by Atkinson to confirm her role in charge of DPI. "The board should immediately drop this lawsuit, stop fighting to maintain a course that has been rejected by North Carolina voters and instead start working with the elected superintendent to improve our public schools."
House Bill 17 also stripped incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of some of his appointment powers.