Bill proposes making state board of education members elected positions

General Assembly - Raleigh - May 2020
N.C. General Assembly as seen from the grounds of the Capitol building. (A.P. Dillon, North State Journal)

RALEIGH — A recently filed bill proposes to change the way N.C. State Board of Education is installed by making the seats elected positions instead of appointed via a state constitutional amendment. 

House Bill 1173, titled Elect SBE Members/Super as Chair of SBE, has three primary sponsors; Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Rep. Lee Zachary (R-Forsyth). 

The bill passed its first reading in the House and was referred to the House Committee on Education – K-12.  

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt told North State Journal in a phone interview that she had not realized such a bill had been filed and that she will be interested to see what kind of conversations arise from it.  

Under the proposed amendment, State Board of Education members would be elected to 4-year terms equal to the membership of Congressional seats corresponding with their board region seat. Vacancies for seats would still be appointed by the governor. 

Currently, the State Board of Education is made up of the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer, and 11 members who are appointed by the governor. Eight of the 11 are members represent education districts across the state and three are at-large members. The at-large member appointments require confirmation by the General Assembly. 

The proposal also changes the eight-year term length of the board seats to four years. 

The amendment would also change the state superintendent’s current role on the board from the position of secretary to the board and non-voting member to a “member and Chair” of the board.  

The proposed text of the constitutional amendment is as follows: 

(1) The Superintendent of Public Instruction will serve as a member and Chair of the State Board of Education.  

(2) All non-ex officio members of the State Board of Education will be elected to four-year terms from the State Congressional Districts.  

(3) All vacancies for elected positions on the State Board will be appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the General Assembly in joint session.”   

Bills proposing amendments to the state’s constitution must be passed by a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber in order to be passed and do not go to the governor for signature.  

If the amendment is passed by the legislature, the measure is then presented to the qualified voters of North Carolina. Should voters ratify the amendment by a majority vote, the amendment change would take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. 

A similar bill, House Bill 133, was drafted during the 2017-18 legislative session but never emerged after being referred to a committee. 

About A.P. Dillon 1076 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_