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N.C. Legislature Aims to Slash Governor's Education Powers

As he prepares to leave office, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory—defeated in North Carolina's recent election—is set to sign a hastily passed bill that would dramatically bolster the powers of Mark Johnson, the state's recently elected Republican state schools superintendent and reduce those of the governor's office.

House Bill 17 would place most of the state education department under the state superintendent's control, rather than under the state school board, the members of which are appointed by the governor. The superintendent would be able to oversee the state's office of charter schools, appoint the superintendent of the state's turnaround district and hire and fire officials within the education department. Several other tasks historically given to the state board of education also would fall under the state superintendent.   

The state Senate approved the bill Thursday, and it still sat on McCrory's desk as of Monday. Hundreds of people have protested outside the capitol building in recent days as the legislature in a special session pushed through several bills that reduce the power of the governor's office. Democrat Roy Cooper won the governor's seat after a recount by just a few thousand votes. Protesters and Cooper describe the bills as underhanded and possibly illegal.  

Last week, I wrote about how state officials are bickering over accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act since many state constitutions don't clearly delineate who's in charge of most education policy. While that task has traditionally been left up to local and state school boards, legislatures in recent years have either overwritten school boards' policies or stripped them outright of their power.  

Elected and appointed state boards of education members in several states, including, most famously, Arizona, have fought with elected superintendents over who oversees education department tasks and who reports to who.  


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