Editorial: Legislature's latest power-grab is bad for schools and bad law
Posted January 4
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017; Editorial# 8105
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
"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." – N.C. Constitution, Article IX, Sec. 5
It would be easy to conclude upon reading recently enacted House Bill 17 that copies of the State Constitution might be in short supply at the Legislative Building and Executive Mansion.
The poorly conceived, hastily prepared and inadequately considered assault on the power and duties of the State Board of Education passed during the Fourth Extra Session of the General Assembly.
The law, in paragraph after paragraph, strips the constitutional authority of the State Board and puts it in the hands of the new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Republican Mark Johnson, who clearly the GOP legislative leadership believes will be their puppet enforcer.
The trouble is if anyone – even powerful legislators – want to change the duties and power of the State Board of Education, they have to change the State Constitution. As most North Carolina 4th graders learn, the State Constitution can only be changed by a vote of ALL the people – not merely 170 who happen to occupy seats in the General Assembly.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens cut through the legalistic fog and identified the legislators’ motivation. “What is it that is so important about having this law put into effect on Jan. 1, 2017? When did the ambiguity arise? Could it have been late on the evening of Nov. 8?” he asked, and answered at the same time.
Once again, ill-considered legislation rammed through the General Assembly is mired in a needless court battle. The fact that opposition to the new law is being led by state Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey – a former state GOP chairman and conservative congressman – should be evidence enough of just how off-base it is.
This is another costly distraction that takes time, money and focus away from the true duties of state government – in this case assuring all North Carolina’s school children have access to a quality education.
In reality, the ideologically-motivated leaders of the General Assembly are determined to shrink government, destroy the public schools and funnel taxpayer dollars into charter and private schools that allow discrimination.
While neglecting public schools – which are required to meet professional standards, track and disclose student achievement and be transparent on how they spend public funds – legislators favor charter schools and spend ever-increasing amounts of tax dollars on private school vouchers. But these same legislators don’t demand any significant accountability or demonstrated student performance from the private schools and charters.
As bad as this legislation is, even worse is the way it was handled – concocted in secret, debated in closed-door caucuses and passed with rote talking points that offer little about the true motivations or concerns behind the new law.
It is neither unfair nor inaccurate to conclude that the crowd in control of the state legislature has it in for public schools and will do all it can to diminish and destroy them. That is contrary to their sworn constitutional duty and the best interests of future generations of North Carolinians and will hinder future opportunities and prosperity for our state.
When the court hears this case on Friday, Judge Stephens should grant the requested injunction to stop this bad law. Further, we urge the courts to speedily dispatch it to the recycling bin to join the pile of other misguided, poorly-crafted and unconstitutional power grabs these legislative leaders churned out.