NC Superintendent and legislature win control of Department of Education

Three-judge panel rules in favor of Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson, Superintendent, N.C. Department of Public Instruction

RALEIGH — State Superintendent Mark Johnson will soon have more control over the agency that manages North Carolina public schools after a three-judge panel ruled on Friday in favor of a law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly in December.

The State Board of Education, chaired by Bill Cobey, challenged the law that transferred power over high-level hiring, daily operations and spending at the Department of Public Instruction away from the board to the newly elected Johnson, a 33-year-old Republican from Winston-Salem.

Wake County Superior Court Justices Forrest Bridges, Martin McGee and James Ammons Jr. said the board had failed to prove that any part of the law was unconstitutional.

“For too long, the lack of clarity about DPI leadership has fostered a system of nonaccountability,” said Johnson in a statement. “While this system is great for shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, nonaccountability at DPI hurts North Carolina students.

He added. “Last December, the General Assembly addressed this problem by clarifying the parameters set forth in the N.C. Constitution. Their efforts offered greater transparency to educators and parents across the state seeking to engage with DPI and greater accountability at DPI.”

Johnson also said he looks forward to working for “more and better change at DPI.”Sen. Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), who helped usher in the expansion of Johnson’s powers, felt the panel validated the General Assembly’s actions.

“Voters elected Superintendent Mark Johnson based on his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools, and I’m pleased the court recognized the constitutionality of the law and that our superintendent should be able to execute the platform voters elected him to do,” said Berger.

Anticipating an appeal, the judges placed a 60-day hold on any decisions related to the ruling.