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With lawsuit pending, legislature moves to boost staff for new GOP schools superintendent

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

With GOP leaders complaining of statutory roadblocks to staffing in the state’s new public school chief’s office, North Carolina lawmakers seem primed to act on the superintendent’s behalf.

State House Republicans introduced a bill this week that would allow Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to create at least five positions within the state schools office reporting directly to him.

Legislators would budget more than $700,000—freed up by eliminating 10 vacant positions within the Department of Public Instruction—to bankroll the move, while Johnson would have the power to set the new employees’ salaries.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 838, comes with Johnson and the State Board of Education entangled in a court dispute over the hiring and powers of the superintendent’s office.

Johnson, a Republican who unseated longtime Democratic Superintendent June Atkinson in November, currently faces the same staffing limitations imposed on Atkinson, which means he would need the backing of the state board to replace a number of top policy and communications jobs in the department.

The five positions created by the new GOP bill would need no such approval, as explicitly stated in House Bill 838, and Johnson would have broad discretion to outline their roles.

As Policy Watch has reported, Johnson has filled a number of policymaking posts already under his authority with ex-aides of former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

The legislature’s impending April 27 crossover deadline means any new bills would have to gain the approval of one full chamber to be considered further in the session, but House Bill 838 is getting a fast start. The House Education Committee is expected to mull the proposed bill next week.

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