Updated: Oct 22
Lawmakers in Raleigh are resurrecting a measure to overhaul K-12 education policymaking.
House Bill 17 would amend the state's constitution to make the State Board of Education (SBE) an elected body headed by the Superintendent. The legislation has been throttling in the House Rules Committee since February when it was approved by the House Education Committee 16-9.
Under the current model, 11 SBE members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly for eight-year terms. Through this appointment process, the governor can influence the state's K-12 education policies.
The Lt. Governor and State Treasurer are also voting members of the SBE. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, now Catherine Truitt, serves as the SBE administrator and non-voting member.
The SBE sets K-12 school policies that follow state and federal laws. For example, the SBE will write the policies schools must follow now that the Parental Bill of Rights has been passed. The SBE also sets graduation requirements and adopts academic standards proposed by the Superintendent.
The Superintendent has direct control "over all matters relating to the direct supervision and administration of the public school system.” He/She may exercise autonomy in interpreting SBE policies and how they will be implemented in the state's schools.
Advising the SBE on critical school district issues, overseeing school social workers and psychologists, and maintaining teacher licensures are other vital roles for the superintendent.
The proposed amendment states that board members would be elected from 14 different districts every four years. The superintendent would be both chairman of the board and leader of the Department of Public Instruction.
60% of members of the House and 60% of members of the Senate would need to vote to approve putting the constitutional amendment before voters in 2024. If the amendment is approved by voters, SBE members will be elected starting in 2026.
Republican Hugh Blackwell champions the measure as a way for citizens to have a stronger voice in educational decisions. However, some argue that the bill is unnecessary. They argue that citizens already have enough say in educational policies in their districts through their representatives in the General Assembly and on local school boards.
Democrats on the House Education Committee argued that the proposal was another way of defanging the governor's power over State education.
Republican lawmakers shifted control over appointing the state's community college board from the governor to the General Assembly last month in the budget. The change also strips the governor’s ability to appoint members to local community college boards.