During the 4th special session earlier this week, the North Carolina General Assembly made substantial changes to the Educational power structure in the state via House Bill 17 (HB 17) entitled Modify Certain Appts/Employment.
The bill shifts power from the State Board of Education to the new State Superintendent, Mark Johnson. Specifically, the Superintendent is no longer “Subject to the direction, control, and approval of the State Board of Education,”.
HB 17 gives the Superintendent the power to, “create and administer special funds within the Department of Public Instruction to manage funds received as grants from nongovernmental sources in support of public education.”
This change arguably gives Johnson further reaching budget management powers than his predecessor had by throwing the State Board of Education’s oversight role out the window.
The bill does not elaborate much on what entity will have oversight on the Department of Public Instruction’s spending.
The most recent language says only that, “The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall administer any available educational funds through the Department of Public Instruction in accordance with all needed rules and regulations adopted by the State Board of Education.”
Given Superintendent Atkinson’s past issues with improperly shifting funds around and the department failing to properly pay IRS taxes to the tune of $750,000 resulting in cutting a deal to pay around third of that amount, less oversight seems foolhardy.
The State Board of Education released the following statement, citing “Constitutional concerns” with the proposals in HB 17:
State Board of Education Chairman Opposes HB 17
The following statement is issued by State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey:
“The State Board of Education and State Superintendent have a strong and productive relationship that works well on behalf of public schools and charter schools in North Carolina. HB 17 An Act to Clarify the State Superintendent’s Role… raises Constitutional concerns and eliminates checks and balances that are important to the students of North Carolina.
“For these reasons, State Board of Education Vice-Chair A.L. “Buddy” Collins and I oppose HB 17. The bill is not in the best interest of public schools and public charter schools in North Carolina.”
Cobey’s ‘Constitutional concern’ might be referencing Sec. 5. of the North Carolina State Constitution; Powers and duties of Board. That section states:
The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support, except the funds mentioned in Section 7 of this Article, and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.
According to Article 8, Sections 2-3 of the NC State Constitution, revisions, amendments or new adoptions can be made by the people of the state, this has historically been done via a ballot vote. The Legislature can initiate the process, however it requires, “three-fifths of all the members of each house shall adopt an act submitting the proposal to the qualified voters of the State for their ratification or rejection.”
There are other major changes in HB 17 affecting the State Board of Education, the Governor and the State Superintendent.
The State Board of Education has been stripped of appointing the head of the new Achievement School District (ASD) from candidates being compiled by a committee led by the Lt. Governor. In addition, the State Board of Education has also been stripped of dictating the salary of that leader. Instead, the leader of the ASD will “serve at the pleasure of the Superintendent” and will report directly to the superintendent.
The superintendent is allotted 70 exempt policy related positions and 70 exempt manager positions with the State. Board of Education no longer being part of the process.
The Governor will no longer appoint a local school superintendent and two high school student advisors to the State Board of Education. This will now be the role of the state superintendent.
The superintendent will now be recognized as the head of the Department of Public Instruction. The North Carolina state Constitution currently lists the state superintendent as, “the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education.”
The superintendent can now hire and fire certain employees without the approval of the State Board of Education. This includes employees who serve at the State Board of education.
The State Board of Education has been stripped of deciding what items the superintendent will manage and the superintendent has been given direct control.
Updates regarding Charter Schools:
Supervision of the Office of Charter Schools will be returned to the Department of Public Instruction. The Executive Director will no longer serve jointly with the State Board of Education but, instead, will serve at the pleasure of the Superintendent.
The Governor will no long have three appointees to the Charter School Advisory Board. The two members, who have terms set to expire on June 30, 2017, will be appointed by the House and the State Board of Education. Each will have one appointee. The appointee whose term does not expire until 2019 will be appointed at that time by the Senate.