NC Supreme Court grants temporary stay in state board, superintendent lawsuit

Posted October 16, 2017 5:09 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2017 2:39 p.m. EDT

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson and State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey

— The North Carolina Supreme Court on Monday granted the State Board of Education's motion for a temporary stay in its lawsuit against State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

The stay, which is in effect until further notice from the NC Supreme Court, prevents Johnson from taking control of the state's public school system and acquiring powers granted to him by House Bill 17, passed during a special session of the General Assembly last year.

In a statement Monday, State Board Chairman Bill Cobey said he was grateful to the court "and strongly believe they have made the right decision."

Johnson also released a statement, saying he was "disappointed by the ruling and by the State Board’s continued defense of the status quo for our public schools."

The state board filed suit in December after Republican lawmakers passed legislation in a special session that provided Johnson, the newly elected state superintendent, more flexibility in managing the state's education budget, more authority to dismiss senior level employees and control of the Office of Charter Schools, among other things.

The powers in question have been under the State Board of Education's control, and board members said shifting them to the elected superintendent violated the state constitution and threatened the working relationship between the board and the superintendent.

In July, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Johnson, but the board appealed. The lawsuit has been working its way through the court system.

Johnson, a Republican, ousted longtime Democratic Superintendent June Atkinson last fall and took office in January.

The fight between Johnson and the board, which has a Republican majority, has been bitter, with Johnson saying the board "severely limited" his authority and ignored or denied his requests to make staffing changes at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Both sides have previously said they spent weeks trying to negotiate a deal to resolve the board’s stay motion, but couldn't do it.