Gov. Pat McCrory will make three immediate appointments to the State Board of Education. He will appoint a member from the northeast part of the state (First District), northwest (Seventh District), and a chairman who occupies an at-large seat.
Later this year, he will appoint another at-large member, a member from the southeast (Fourth District), and one from the Triad (Fifth District). McCrory’s six appointments will constitute a majority of the appointed members of the board. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Democratic Treasurer Janet Cowell serve as ex-officio members.
Members are appointed by the governor for eight-year staggered terms and must be confirmed by a joint meeting of the legislature. The General Assembly establishes eight educational districts, and the governor must select members of the State Board of Education from each of the eight districts, as well as three at-large members. Members receive a small per diem to attend monthly meetings, examine proposed policies, and communicate with public schools and families in their districts. Former chairmen Howard Lee and Bill Harrison received a paid position in state government, and I suspect McCrory will make a similar arrangement with his appointed chairman.
The N.C. Constitution establishes the State Board of Education and lays out specific roles for the executive and legislative branches in the composition and operation of the board. According to Section 5, Article IX:
The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free school system and the educational funds provided for its support except the funds mentioned in Section 7 of this Article, and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.
Like Lincoln, the State Board of Education is “clothed in immense power.” The board makes all needed rules and regulations for the state’s system of public schools and has a say in how the state spends billions in state, federal, and local funds every year. Its decisions ultimately affect every one of North Carolina’s 1.4 million public school students and over 175,000 full-time public school employees across the state.
Given what is at stake, I am surprised that Gov. McCrory did not announce his appointments to the board well in advance of the Jan. 30 start of the legislative session or the next meeting of the State Board of Education. That meeting takes place Feb. 6-7.
Perhaps the apparent delay in hiring education advisers has something to do with it. Perhaps there is a lack of talent in the area. I am not privy to the inner workings of the McCrory administration (which is a good thing), so I cannot provide a definitive answer.
What I can say is that the longer he waits, the greater the chance that his education agenda becomes an afterthought.
Dr. Terry Stoops (@TerryStoops) is Director of Research and Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation.