RALEIGH – The court system has become a second home for key pieces of Republican legislation over the last few years in the Old North State. The latest victim of a judicial decree is the Republican Superintendent of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction Mark Johnson and the flexibility he was granted by the General Assembly in the form of House Bill 17.
The legislation gave Johnson more leverage in managing the education budget, the ability to fire senior employees, further control of the Office of Charter Schools, and more. Republican lawmakers passed the bill during special session in December 2016 in order to give the recently elected Johnson more power to execute much needed reforms in our State’s education system.
Before the ink was dry on the legislation, the State Board of Education sued Johnson and the General Assembly out of fear that the young and ambitious education reformer would upset the comfort of the status quo. The powers granted to Johnson had traditionally been delegated to the Board, so what do you do when your establishment power is threatened? You sue, of course.
Tuesday the N.C. Supreme Court issued a stay in the case, representing a win, albeit a temporary one, for the Board. Back in July a judicial panel had sided with Johnson, but the Board appealed to the Supreme Court.
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Johnson has maintained that the Board, which is majority Republican, has consistently limited his authority and repeatedly ignored his requests to make sorely needed staffing changes.
The Board’s intransigence is typical of entrenched interests intent upon maintaining their own power. Unfortunately, the education system in North Carolina is long overdue for a shake up and voter, recognizing this fact, placed Johnson in the Superintendent role to accomplish just that.
Despite the will of the people, reflected in Johnson’s election and the Republican super-majorities in the legislature, establishment interests tirelessly defend the status quo, even at the expense of our children.
The fight is not over, however, and the Supreme Court will ultimately debate and rule on the constitutionality of House Bill 17 and hopefully remove the shackles from Johnson and allow for positive reforms that will benefit generations.