Under the Dome

Who’s in charge of education? Critics of ‘inexplicable’ ruling want NC Supreme Court to decide

The NC Board of Education said they would appeal three-judge panel ruling in 2017

Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said in July he was disappointed in the three-judge panel decision in favor of a new law that gives Superintendent Mark Johnson more power.
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Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said in July he was disappointed in the three-judge panel decision in favor of a new law that gives Superintendent Mark Johnson more power.

The contest over who controls state education will go another round, with the State Board of Education deciding to appeal a court ruling that upheld a new law and confirmed the superintendent in charge of daily operations.

The board sued over the new state law that shifted some of its responsibilities at the state Department of Public Instruction to new Superintendent Mark Johnson. The board argues the law is unconstitutional. A panel of three Superior Court judges disagreed.

The judges in a ruling last week said the law does not transfer the board’s powers, but makes the superintendent responsible for day-to-day management with oversight from the board.

Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said Wednesday he was disappointed by the court’s decision and hopes the state Supreme Court will resolve the longstanding question over who is in charge of what parts of state education.

Cobey said after the board’s vote to appeal the ruling that someone called the judges’ ruling “inexplicable.”

Disagreements over power shifts from the board to the superintendent to the board chairman go back decades.

“If we can get some clarity for the whole state and for the General Assembly and for everybody involved, I think it’d be very helpful,” Cobey said.

The relationship between Johnson and the board has been strained. Johnson said in a court affidavit that the board takes too long to hire people and board members have prevented him from hiring people he wanted for key jobs at DPI.

Cobey said Wednesday the board and Johnson have a functioning working relationship.

“We’re getting our work done,” he said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner

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