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NC Supreme Court will hear case between Johnson and State Board

The North Carolina Supreme Court granted a petition to hear the lawsuit filed by the State Board of Education against State Superintendent Mark Johnson. The Court will address the claims in the year-long legal battle over whether the legislature’s transfer of power to Johnson was constitutional. 

The suit was filed in response to the General Assembly’s passage of House Bill 17 which gave Johnson control and direction over the Department of Public Instruction. Previously, the Board had the final say on many matters and delegated their authority to the superintendent where they deemed appropriate. 

In July, a three-judge panel granted summary judgment in favor of Johnson, saying the Board failed to show the transfer of power to Johnson was unconstitutional. The Board appealed the decision which State Board Chair Bill Cobey called “inexplicable.”

In an interview this fall, Johnson said the Board is hindering change. “The State Board of Education is tying my hands in court in order to protect the status quo,” he said. “Anyone that is defending the status quo, I will make sure that we move them out of the way and we bring positive transformation for this education system.”

The three-judge panel granted and then extended a stay that allowed the Board to remain in control while the case is appealed. The Supreme Court granted a stay in October, permitting the Board to retain its authority until the case is heard. The case bypassed the Court of Appeals when the Supreme Court elected to review it. 

Laura Lee

Laura Lee is the former content director and managing editor for EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Born and raised in Union County, North Carolina, Laura attended Benton Heights Elementary School, Unionville Elementary School, Charlotte Latin Middle School, and Piedmont High School. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies. After graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as an educator with a civic education organization and then as a program administrator for two Fulbright grant programs.

She received her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007. In law school, she served as president of the Student Bar Association and was a Davis Society inductee. She also holds a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Laura briefly strayed from her Tar Heel allegiance in 2011 to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland where she was an Eleanor Merrill Fellow. She then worked at NPR producing content for the Washington desk, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation

From 2013 to 2017, Laura oversaw daily production of North Carolina Public Radio WUNC’s The State of Things, first as assistant news director for talk programming and then as managing editor.