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Appointed school chief? Yes, but...

This editorial board has said before that the job of state schools superintendent should be appointed, not elected. The elected post has only nominal authority. Legislators and the governor make education policy by what they choose to emphasize and fund. That’s true even when the post is held by someone in the same party as the governor and lawmakers controlling the legislature.

So, Republican state Sen. Jerry Tillman’s call last week for a vote of citizens on a constitutional amendment to make the schools superintendent an appointed job makes sense to us.

Yes, the notion gives us pause, given how this legislature has treated education by slashing funding and belittling teachers. The school superintendent’s job is still more bully pulpit than anything else – a role current superintendent June Atkinson has carried off admirably.

Of even more concern, Tillman’s bill calls for abolishing the State Board of Education. That idea needs far more study than the two weeks left in the session would allow.

Regardless, we don’t think such a bill should move forward in the short session of the legislature – a session with the specific purpose of adjusting the budget and tying up loose ends from the previous session.

Meddling in local matters

There they go again. On Thursday, the N.C. legislature meddled once more unnecessarily in local government issues, with both the House and Senate imposing a two-year moratorium on three local school boards from suing their county commissioners over funding. The targeted school boards? Union, Gaston and Nash.

You might recall that Union County schools won a huge legal judgment against its county board of commissioners, who a jury said failed to adequately fund the schools for a number of years. The $91 million verdict is being appealed. The legislation comes as the commissioners and school officials work out funding for the next fiscal year, as well as a capital funding plan to keep the school board from suing again. Gaston County commissioners are also involved in a dispute with their school board over funding.

Republican Sen. Tommy Tucker, who once was a Union County commissioner, introduced the plan as a local bill for his county. GOP Sen. Buck Newton, who represents Nash County, offered the amendment adding the other two districts.

The bill is wrongheaded and unfair. It not only singles out three counties for disparate treatment on exercising a legal right, it strait-jackets school boards in discussions with county leaders about their funding needs. “What if county commissioners now say, ‘We’re going to give you zero’ or ‘We’re going to give you 10 percent less’?” asked Cumberland County Democrat Rep. Rick Glazier.

Union school board Chairman Richard Yercheck is right. The bill is an “overreach by folks in Raleigh. These are local issues that need to be addressed at the local level.”

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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