Legislators will meet next week to consider bills that would strip local school boards’ of their right to sue county commissioners for more education funding.
In North Carolina, local school boards don’t have taxing authority. So, every year, they must trek to county commissioners to request the funds needed in their budgets. Under current law, when school boards and county commissioners don’t see eye-to-eye on how much the school system should get, school boards can sue county commissioners for more money.
Republicans have filed bills in both the House and the Senate to take away school boards’ right to do sue, saying the legal battles they create are expensive. According to the UNC School of Government, since 2009, there have been four disputes between school boards and county commissioners that went beyond mediation and were decided in the courts. The most recent was a two-year battle between the school board and county commissioners in Union County.
The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Debra Conrad, a Republican from Forsyth County and a former Forsyth county commissioner. Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican, filed a companion bill in the Senate. A similar measure from Tucker passed in the Senate in 2015. When the measure came to the House, lawmakers rejected an outright change, and instead opted for a study of the mediation process.
The North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA) opposes the revived bill to strip boards’ right to sue, saying it would take away school boards’ bargaining power in funding disputes.