It’s been 12 years since Democrat June Atkinson assumed the post of superintendent of public instruction in North Carolina.
Now, fresh from Atkinson’s surprising Election Day defeat to Republican Mark Johnson, GOP lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly are moving quickly to consolidate power in the office.
Among the many controversial components of House Bill 17—which broadly seeks to limit the powers of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, including the ability to name members of the Charter School Advisory Board—the legislation shuttles DPI operations, including staffing, to Johnson’s control rather than the State Board of Education (SBE).
Included in that shift, the DPI superintendent, rather than the SBE, would be able to name the leadership of the state’s Office of Charter Schools, which oversees North Carolina’s growing charter school sector.
It will also move management of various nongovernmental public school grants to Johnson’s office and limits the number of managerial and policymaking positions in the department under the control of the SBE.
Also of note, the bill makes major changes to the development of the so-called “achievement school district,” a controversial model of school reform adopted by lawmakers this year that could turn over operations of low-performing schools to for-profit charter operators.
The legislation directs the SBE to share management over the district’s operations with Johnson, and will allow Johnson to appoint a superintendent to lead the special district.
These are notable moves because, while the state board is currently stocked by Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointees, the board has been more centrist than right-leaning in its policies to date. It remains to be seen how Johnson will lead. A corporate lawyer from Winston-Salem who sits on his local Board of Education, Johnson has not responded to multiple Policy Watch requests for an interview.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in a House rules committee this morning. Check back with Policy Watch for updates.