NC Supreme Court to hear state board vs. superintendent lawsuit in February

Posted January 25, 2018 1:33 p.m. EST
Updated January 25, 2018 2:09 p.m. EST

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

— The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear two State Board of Education lawsuits on Feb. 7, including the board's high-profile battle with State Superintendent Mark Johnson over control of the state's public school system.

That case has wound its way through the court system since December 2016, when Republican lawmakers took some of the board's powers and transferred them to Johnson, including the authority to manage the state's $10 billion education budget.

The board quickly filed suit, and Johnson has been blocked from assuming that power. In November, the state Supreme Court granted the board's motion for a temporary stay, preventing the superintendent from taking control. State board attorney Bob Orr told WRAL News on Thursday that the board looks forward to the Supreme Court hearing the case.

"We’re confident in our position," Orr said.

In a statement Thursday, the superintendent said he "look(s) forward to the State Supreme Court upholding the lower court’s unanimous decision that allows for a system of great accountability at the Department of Public Instruction."

"It is time to put this issue behind us so we can concentrate completely on the education of the students here in North Carolina," Johnson said.

The state board's other lawsuit, known as the rules review case, will be heard first on Feb. 7. In it, the state board argues that it should not have to submit rules it makes to a state panel for review.

When the General Assembly passes a law, state agencies must adopt rules to carry out that law's intent. In the case of almost all state agencies, the rules they adopt must be signed off by the Rules Review Commission, an appointed panel designed to make sure state agencies don't overstep their authority.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said the board has not submitted anything to the commission since 2014, when the board filed a lawsuit against the commission and the state after lawmakers declined to give the board an exemption.

"We haven’t submitted a rule or a policy to that process since we went to court, and I haven’t heard anybody complain about any of our policies or rules. It’s not been a problem," Cobey told WRAL News in November.

The Supreme Court will hear the rules review case at 9:30 a.m. and the superintendent case at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 7, but it's unclear when the court will announce its rulings. plans to livestream both cases.