Members of the House K-12 Education Committee approved on Wednesday three bills, including one that proposes a constitutional amendment to change the governance structure of the State Board of Education. House Bill 1173, which was filed in the waning days of the legislative session, would allow voters in the November 2022 elections to decide whether positions on the State Board should be elected, rather than appointed by the Governor. The bill would also make the State Superintendent of Public Instruction the Chair of the Board, and require gubernatorial appointments to the Board be approved by members of the state legislature. If ultimately approved by voters, the new structure would apply to terms of office beginning January 1, 2025.
The bill was designed to give parents more input in public education and also prevent future power struggles between the Board and the State Superintendent, according to primary bill sponsor, House K-12 Education Committee Chairman Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke). “In education, there’s no more critical factor than leadership,” said Blackwell.
Democrats in Wednesday’s committee, however, raised concerns that the new structure would lead to greater partisanship in education by forcing candidates to campaign and raise money. Rep. Blackwell responded to these concerns, noting, “To suggest education is a nonpartisan issue, is maybe to deceive ourselves.” H1173 passed Wednesday’s committee 14-7 down party lines, and was similarly approved in the House Rules Committee later that day. At the time of this publication, the bill has been scheduled for a vote by all House members on Thursday, but would still need to make its way through the Senate in the final days of session to be eligible for consideration by voters in November.
In addition to approving H1173, members of the House Education Committee also approved new versions of S346, which would allow schools to provide elective course credit for certain CTE courses taking place outside of the traditional instructional day, as well as S593, which would make changes to the governance and admission processes for NC Schools for the Deaf and Blind. At the time of this publication, S346 has been scheduled for a vote by all House members on Thursday, and S593 still needs to be heard and approved in the Senate Rules Committee before moving forward.