Yesterday, more than three-fifths of the General Assembly signed a petition to open a second special session this week after passing disaster relief legislation in order to possible look into limiting the power of incoming Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.
Supposedly, one specific area of interest to the legislature is who will control public schools moving forward.
Before yesterday’s deadlines for the House and Senate to fill bills to be taken up during today’s session, several pieces of legislation were turned in that would effectively transfer control of K-12 education from the State Board of Education to the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, allowing larger elementary-school class sizes and removing the Governor’s authority to appoint leaders of the UNC-system schools.
Obviously, Democrats are not exactly inline with the changes, considering the fact that shifting control from the state board to the superintendent would move administrative control from the Democrat controlled board to incoming Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson.
“Now that we have elected a Republican leader of the Department of Public Instruction, now we need to go back to what was done in the 1990s?” Brian Fitzsimmons, chair of the Wake County Democratic Party, said at Wednesday’s House Rules Committee meeting. “What we are doing is wrong. This is not the way.”
Of course, when Fitzsimmons says “what WE are doing.” he’s referring to the ligslature that he is, in no way, a part of, but I digress.
On Wednesday morning, prior to their new special session, the legislature passed House Bill 17, which according to the News & Observer, does the following:
▪ Strips the governor of the ability to appoint members to the UNC system schools’ boards of trustees.
▪ Transfers administration of public schools and the state Department of Public Instruction from the State Board of Education to the state schools superintendent.
▪ Transfers control of the Office of Charter Schools and appointment of the office’s executive director back to the state superintendent. The General Assembly had previously stripped Atkinson of oversight of charter schools and moved it to the education board.
▪ Transfers the power to hire and fire administrative and supervisory personnel in the Department of Public Instruction from the education board to the state superintendent.
▪ Transfers appointment of the new superintendent of the Achievement School District, who will oversee some of the lowest performing public schools, from the education board to the state superintendent.
▪ Removes the governor’s authority to appoint members to the Charter Schools Advisory Board and student advisors and a superintendent advisor to the State Board of Education.
Another piece of legislation, House Bill 13, allows local school districts to exceed the state-funded class size in K-3 by three students, while allowing individual K-3 classes to exceed the limit by six students.
As of now, the state provides funding for one teacher for every 18 kindergarten students, every 16 first-grade students and every 17 second-grade and third-grade students.
While the Democrats may not like it, the move does empower local school boards and individual schools to make more of their own choices, giving them the ability to meet the educational needs of each child, rather than being dictated to by a state board.
This is a clear sign the Republican controlled General Assembly is serious doing as much as they can to limit the power of the Governor and as many other Democrat controlled agencies and boards as possible.
And that’s a good thing.