SBE Chairman Bill Cobey voices his opposition for new charter school board bill, declares it unconstitutional

As members heard a legislative update during this month’s meeting of the State Board of Education, new chairman Bill Cobey took a moment to express his concerns about SB 337, which would create a new charter school oversight board.

SBE Chairman Bill Cobey

Acknowledging that the full SBE may not want to take a formal position on the bill at this time, Cobey said that he personally could not support SB 337 and found that the legislation was unconstitutional.

SB 337 would abolish the Charter School Advisory Council, which is housed under the State Board of Education, and replace it with a new independent board comprised of members handpicked by the Governor and his colleagues. The new board would be an independent body tasked with setting policy for charter schools.

The question of constitutionality arises because of the fact that the new board would be independent of the State Board of Education. The North Carolina Constitution, in Article IX, Section 5, gives the State Board of Education the power to “supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support.” Since charter schools are public schools, the assertion is that they should be supervised by the State Board of Education. A list of other aspects to this bill that call into question its constitutionality can be found here.

The full Senate was scheduled to vote on SB 337 today—but at the last minute, the vote was pushed back to next week.

The legislative update also included discussion of the House and Senate ed reform bills, with the general consensus among those present that the House version was more promising. State Superintendent June Atkinson emphasized the importance of the House bill taking into account school growth in its grading formula.

School Superintendent Representative Dianne Frost said that she was concerned that the A-F school grading system will wind up grading the demographics of a school rather than what happens inside the school.

The school voucher bill recently introduced by Rep. Stam prompted little discussion. Board member Patricia Willoughby did raise the issue that the pre-K bill moving through the legislature sets eligibility income limitations at 100% of the federal poverty level, yet the voucher bill’s income limitations are far higher, at 300%.

Duke University graduate students presented to the SBE their solution to improve teacher compensation in North Carolina. Their report recommends raising starting teacher salary in NC to $34,000 and reducing the teacher salary schedule to 15 steps. They also advocated for increasing raises between steps, reducing the raise for master’s degrees and National Board Certification (which met some opposition by board members) and providing a raise for effective teachers in hard-to-staff schools.

The full meeting agenda with supporting materials can be found for day one here and day two here.


  1. Marilyn

    May 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Should students from an elite private university be making salary suggestions for public school teachers? Especially downgrading the worth of a Masters Degree?

  2. Baker Mitchell

    May 3, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Let’s not forget the participle in Article IX, Section 5 “…subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.”

    Participles modifying the subject may be placed at the beginning (P, S V) of a sentence, between the subject and verb (S, P, V) of a sentence, or at the end of a sentence (S V, P). It is always set off by one or two commas.
    [The intent of amending the constitution in 1971 by adding this participle phrase was to place the SBE under the GA. The phrase could have been placed in any of the three positions without changing the intent. ]


    Oh! And let’s not forget the Court of Appeals decision of August 2, 2011 that ruled there was no prohibition in the constitution to the General Assembly establishing other education systems if it chose to do so. If Chairman Cobey does not want the Charter Board under the SBE, then move it to be under the Governor’s Department of Administration, as Gov. Hunt did with home schools. http://bakeramitchell.com/2013/05/01/the-enhancing-of-charter-schools/

  3. gregflynn

    May 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    For someone who is hyper-aware of the location of a comma you seem remarkably oblivious to Cobey’s intent. Maniacally selective logic undermines your claims.

    In almost the same breath you say “Charter schools … are required by law to accept every North Carolina child who applies.” and “I have helped start two rural K-8 charter schools in North Carolina that began with 53 students in 2000 and now exceed 1,800 students with several hundreds more on waiting lists.” If you accepted every child who applies there would be no waiting lists.

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