The NC General Assembly and the NC Superintendent of Schools have chalked up a win in their bid to assign more power to the Superintendent for the running of the state’s schools, however, both sides seem to be declaring victory.
The ruling states that the State Board of Education failed to make the case that HB 17 violated the NC State Constitution:
“Thus, for the reasons set forth in greater detail above, we hold that the enactment of Session Law 2016-126 does not, at least on its face, contravene Article IX, Section 5 of the Constitution of North Carolina. As a result, the three-judge panel’s decision is affirmed.”
“Today’s ruling validates the common-sense proposition that the duly-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction should lead the Department of Public Instruction,” said Supt. Johnson in a statement. “I am looking forward to putting this lawsuit behind us and working with board members to strengthen public education in North Carolina.”
“While it is unfortunate that it took more than a year and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to resolve this matter, the positive news is that we will be able to utilize the data-driven analysis to reorganize DPI to help the agency focus on its core mission of supporting educators, students, and parents across North Carolina,” said Johnson.
The statement issued by the attorneys for the State Board of Education (Robert Orr and Drew Erteschik) seems to indicated that they think they won:
“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which reaffirms that the State Board of Education — and not the Superintendent of Public Instruction — has the ultimate authority under the Constitution to supervise and administer the state’s public school system. We are also pleased that, while the Court stopped short of invalidating this particular legislation on its face, the Court unanimously declared that the Board has the final say on ‘the mechanics of the relationship between the Board and the Superintendent, as well as how their respective departments will operate internally.’ (p. 28). Beyond those initial observations, we are continuing to study the Court’s decision.”
The ruling was issued on June 8th. That same day, the State Board of Education called an emergency session.
In 2016, during the 4th special session of the North Carolina General Assembly, substantial changes were made to the educational power structure in the state via House Bill 17 (HB 17).
The bill shifted 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.”
The State Board of Education (SBE) issued a press release on HB 17 which said the bill raised “constitutional concerns” and eliminated checks and balances. The statement was issued by Chairman Bill Cobey and then-Vice Chair Buddy Collins:
“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.”
The SBE filed for a restraining order to keep the law from going into effect on January 1st of 2017. On the same day that the SBE filed their motion (December 29th, 2016) Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens granted the request.
There was to be another hearing on the matter on January 6th, however, that ended up being postponed.
In July of 2017, a North Carolina Superior Court 3-judge panel ruled in favor of Superintendent Mark Johnson in his legal battle with the State Board of Education.
The Superior Court judges said in their July 14th ruling that the board had failed to prove that any part of the law was unconstitutional.
That ruling stated that the law was not a transfer power to the Superintendent, but instead allows for Johnson to manage daily operations. Additionally, the ruling notes that the Board maintains its advisory capacity and oversight abilities.
Resources and Documentation
View the NCSBE v. The State of NC filings:
- Cover Letter to Judge Stephens
- FILED Summons and Verified Complaint (Session Law 2016-126)
- FILED Certification of Notice of Intent to Seek TRO (Session Law 2016-126)
- Temporary Restraining Order Filed
View the response filings by Supt Mark Johnson:
- Motion for Summary Judgment
- Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment
- Affidavit of NC Superintendent Mark Johnson
- Answer and Defenses of Supt. Mark Johnson