This Is Who's In Charge of NC's Public Education

Bev Perdue must have been reading my post from Sunday. She wants us all to know that "The buck stops with me." That is, even with North Carolina's convoluted educational hierarchy, the governor is the one responsible for successfully educating our children.

What about our Constitutionally mandated and elected Superintendent of Public Instruction? Well, Perdue says "I don't believe an elected statewide official is a figurehead and I resent that on behalf of June Atkinson and the voters of North Carolina." That's not what she her actions indicated. Today she suggested creating a new position of Chief Executive Officer for the Department of Public Instruction. When there's a CEO, what's the Superintendent supposed to do? Perdue has asked her to lead a special commission on career development and workforce issues.

Sure sounds like something you ask a figurehead to do...

If the buck doesn't stop with Perdue or the Superintendent, then maybe it will stop with Bill Harrison, whom she has tapped for the new position. Harrison would take the CEO job to run day-to-day operations at DPI, and she wants him to be Chair of the State School Board too. Big job. Perdue said "This is the most important job in North Carolina at this point in time. He literally has North Carolina's future in his hands."

Meanwhile, Perdue is keeping on one of Easley's appointments: Howard Lee. She has asked him to give up his unpaid job as chair of the State School Board and his paid position on the NC Utilities Commission. He'll get a newly created paid position as Chair of the NC Education Cabinet, which convenes all of our major educational bureaucracies.

Harrison is well respected, and I like Perdue's proposal for combining the policy creation responsibilities of the board with the implementation arm of DPI. Still, I'm feeling a little snarky because she dodged the Superintendent issue. "It’s up to the General Assembly and others to deal with the Constitutional question," she said. Read: I'm not willing to call for eliminating an elected position, but I want my people doing her job.

In my previous post, I tried to show how confusing our educational management and accountability is. This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there are a host of other issues from local control to funding equity that she hasn't even touched. Not to mention "the Constitutional question"...


A little history

For a little history, Jim Hunt was the last Governor to let the Superintendent actually run things at DPI. That was Mike Ward, who was comfortably elected by the populace and highly respected by educators. For the last few years, Easley had circumvented the Superintendent's role by appointing his education advisor J.B. Buxton to the position of Deputy Superintendent and giving him management responsibilities for DPI. Buxton announced on Friday that he is leaving DPI (convenient, eh?). Buxton had lost a primary race to Atkinson before Easley gave him the DPI job. Buxton, Lee, and Tony Habit were the key members of Easley's education team.

Keep writing about this, please.

I really want to understand what's going on ... what's the likelihood of all these insider guys making things work effectively? Seems like a stretch to me.

We'll see...

Harrison's worth watching, but Perdue is still in the spotlight. We need to know what she's going to emphasize. Everything points towards reducing dropouts, but how?

Easley kept himself at arm's length from the Leandro case and major school funding decisions. Instead he emphasized more rigorous curriculum, small schools, and "Learn and Earn" programs that promote college attendance.

Harrison knows a thing or two about small, poorly funded districts. So he could help address some of the Leandro findings and funding. If he does, you'll see that in the paper. Other changes to curriculum and pedagogy won't make the front page.

yes, please keep writing.

God, this a crazy system. Bev Perdue could go down in history as a great leader for education is she just cleared up the confusion. Even if it meant turning things over to June for awhile or if it meant doing away with the position as an elected one. I mean, she just appointed two people to do things that should be in June's bailiwick!

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Easley emphasized small schools?

I didn't know that. I put a huge emphasis on small schools, but I never heard or saw anything beyond "charters" that reflected any attempt to cut down on the size of schools.

Small Schools

Easley heavily depended on the New Schools Project to drive his agenda. Small schools were one of their focuses, and they worked with the state to receive several million dollars of funding for small schools from the Gates Foundation.

On the other hand, reducing the size of schools was never a major part of funding and policy discussions with the legislature.

On charter schools, I'd say he was neutral. He didn't do anything to reduce their role in North Carolina, but he didn't do anything to increase it either. I think that when he came to office we had 100 charters in the state, and that's the same today.