State News

Atkinson says she wants state's school system fixed

Posted February 4, 2009 6:37 p.m. EST
Updated February 5, 2009 7:32 a.m. EST

— North Carolina schools Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson says she wants to fix what she calls a cloudy, convoluted public school management system, whether she gets the power or not.

Atkinson, who was re-elected to the post in November, wrote a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight asking them to work to restore authority to her job or abolish her position and give the governor complete control over the public schools.

Last week, Gov. Bev Perdue appointed Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Bill Harrison as chairman of the State Board of Education and chief executive of the state's public school system.

The man Harrison replaced, Howard Lee, was named executive director of the Education Cabinet, a policy-making group that has been dormant for several years.

The Legislature and State Board of Education have been giving power to and taking it away from the superintendent since the 1990s. The post currently has few duties.

"It's not the most efficient use of taxpayers' dollars," Atkinson said Wednesday of her post.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand says that he's ready to act and that he thinks the governor should appoint the superintendent.

"It's a dysfunctional scenario and has been for a long time," Rand said.

It would take a constitutional amendment to change the current school management system. Abolishing a statewide elected position is difficult. Lawmakers say, however, that with the growing budget shortfall, any attempt to streamline government may be easier to pass this time.

For the Legislature to amend the constitution, the Senate and House each have to pass language by a three-fifths (60 percent) majority. The change then goes to the voters.