Power Struggle Over DPI Continues, as Board Chair Vows to Defy Law

RALEIGH – With the election of Mark Johnson to be Superintendent of the North Carolina Department of Education, voters made clear their intentions to reform and improve the bloated and ineffectual bureaucracy handling one of the State’s most important tasks.

The Republican Johnson’s tenure was bound to be a departure from past administrations, and conflict with the established guard was inevitable if change was to happen. They didn’t waste any time either, suing the General Assembly over a bill that codified human resources authority over senior DPI folks and thus enabled Johnson to clean house where appropriate.

The case went to the North Carolina Supreme Court and the Board lost. Yet, they still claimed victory, are again clamoring to restrict Johnson’s reach, and are insisting they will defy the law by continuing to pass rules that limit Johnson’s ability to run the department he was elected to lead.

“In a statement released Monday night, state board chairman Bill Cobey accused Johnson of overstepping the court decision by working with legislators to pass a new law in June that strips the board of power to oversee the state’s public schools.

Despite the new law, Cobey says the board will continue to pass rules and regulations that govern Johnson’s ability to run the state Department of Public Instruction.[…]

Lindsey Wakely, chief of staff and legal counsel to Johnson, said in a statement Monday night that the state board should accept that it lost the lawsuit.

Despite losing his lawsuit, Chairman Cobey appears determined to ignore the will of both the General Assembly and the Supreme Court of North Carolina and continue to waste taxpayer dollars on his frivolous lawsuit,” Wakely said. “The state of North Carolina and Mark Johnson won. Cobey lost.

Mark Johnson will manage the N.C. Department of Public Instruction with the full authorities granted to the superintendent per House Bill 17.”

Ms. Wakely does not mince words, and that is exactly the kind of response Cobey’s cavalier defiance of voters and the law deserves.

The elected, representative branch of state government (the legislature) exercised its core duty in making law by conferring certain authorities to the elected leader of the education department and there is little the State Board can do about it legally.

That fact was made absolutely clear by the N.C. Supreme Court, and still the Establishment won’t accept the change citizens voted for.

Further confrontation is assured, as Johnson, having one the case, will hire or fire an individual, inciting the Board to actively resist it. Power is not easily pried away from those that have gotten used to it.

The fireworks are far from over.

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