Tell lawmakers to vote NO on HB 17: Reject unconstitutional degradation of education governance & Governor’s personnel powers

The NC Justice Center is calling on members of the North Carolina General Assembly to reject HB 17.

HB 17 goes to extraordinary lengths to strip Governor-elect Roy Cooper’s power, slashing the number exempt positions he can oversee from 1,500 to 300, and eliminating his ability to make appointments to university campus boards of trustees.

Additionally, the bill radically reorganizes governance of North Carolina’s public schools. In almost every possible way, the bill strips power from the State Board of Education to provide more authority to the newly-elected Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson. If the bill becomes law, it will certainly be challenged in court due to constitutional issues. The bill – which was unveiled under a cloud of secrecy last night – is quickly moving through the General Assembly without adequate public input or transparency.

The North Carolina State Constitution clearly gives the State Board of Education the responsibility for running our public school system. The State Board, which consists of 11 members appointed to eight-year terms by the Governor, would be stripped of its powers under HB 17. The new law would unconstitutionally place these powers with the newly-elected Superintendent of Public Schools, Mark Johnson, a lawyer with no experience running a state agency. Article IX, Sec. 9 reads: “The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support…and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.” Sections 2-6 of HB 17 strip the State Board of Education of their constitutionally-mandated powers.

TAKE ACTION NOW! Tell lawmakers to vote NO on HB17!

A summary of the bill can be found below:

  • Section 1: Shifts authority to appoint SBE student advisors from Governor and gives it to Superintendent.
  • Section 2: Changes SBE’s authority from establishing policy to establishing “all needed rules and regulations,” and further states that the Superintendent will “administer all needed rules and regulations adopted by the” SBE. It is unclear who will determine which rules and regulations are “needed.”
  • Section 3: Removes language stating that the Superintendent’s administration of the public school system is “subject to the direction, control, and approval of the State Board of Education,” seemingly providing the Superintendent the ability to ignore policies created by the SBE.
  • Section 4: Establishes that the Superintendent will get to determine organization of DPI and administer all public school funds without the current safeguard of being “subject to the direction, control, and approval of the State Board of Education.” 
  • Section 5: Further clarifies that the Superintendent, not the SBE would be in charge of administering all educational funds.
  • Section 6: Further clarifies that the Superintendent, not the SBE would be in charge of private gifts or grants.
  • Section 7:  Reduces the number of exempt positions serving at the will of the Governor from 1,500 to 300, and precludes his authority to place any exempt positions in the Office of Human Resources or his own budget office (OSBM).  This section further expands the number of exempt positions at DPI from 20 to 70.
  • Section 8:  Clarifies that the exempt positions at DPI would serve at the will of the Superintendent, rather than the SBE.
  • Sections 9 - 12:  Conforming changes to clarify that the “department head” of DPI is the Superintendent, not the SBE.
  • Section 13: Repeals language providing the SBE exemption from employees benefiting from public contracts.
  • Sections 14 - 15: Gives Superintendent sole authority in hiring the newly-created position of Achievement School District Superintendent and overseeing this controversial program. The language allows the Superintendent to select the ASD Superintendent and establish the ASD Superintendent’s salary at his sole discretion without any public input that had previously been required.
  • Section 16: Places the Superintendent in charge of North Carolina’s three residential schools for deaf or blind students.
  • Section 17: Eliminates Governor’s ability to appoint members to the Charter School Advisory Board and moves DPI’s Office of Charter Schools from the SBE to the oversight of the Superintendent.
  • Section 18 - 23: Make conforming changes to protect the Superintendent from civil liability as head of the agency.
  • Section 24: Places oversight of DPI’s School Planning Division with the Superintendent, rather than the SBE.
  • Section 25: Places oversight of DPI’s School Insurance Fund with the Superintendent, rather than the SBE.
  • Sections 26 - 27: Make conforming changes to protect the Superintendent from civil liability as head of the agency.
  • Section 28: Allows the Superintendent, not the SBE, to reorganize DPI to carry out budget cuts.
  • Sections 29 - 33: Make additional conforming changes and establish implementation and reporting dates.
  • Section 34: There is no Section 34.
  • Section 35: Eliminates the Governor’s four appointments to each UNC campus’s Board of Trustees.  These appointments would now be made by the General Assembly.
  • Section 36: Eliminates the Governor’s two appointments to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Board of Trustees.  These appointments would now be made by the General Assembly.
  • Section 37: Establishes effective date of changes to Sections 35 - 36.
  • Section 38: Would require the Governor to get “senatorial advice and consent” on all cabinet appointments.
  • Section 39: Establishes effective date of Section 38.
  • Sections 40 - 41: These sections were eliminated via Proposed Committee Substitute on 12/15/16.
  • Section 42: Severability clause, allowing remainder of bill to remain in effect if other sections are declared unconstitutional.
  • Section 43: Establishes effective date of Section 42.
  • Added via amendment in Rules Committee on 12/15/16: Language transferring the Child Safety Taskforce from the Department of Public Safety to DPI.

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