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State Board of Education meets with attorneys to discuss HB17 constitutionality

Little word on the State Board of Education’s next step in responding to House Bill 17 came from their meeting Tuesday, which was called to address the legislation that significantly weakens the Board’s authority and shifts power to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

State Board Chair Bill Cobey, who publicly opposed the legislation last week, released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the Board did not settle on any legal action but is continuing to examine the law’s constitutionality with their attorneys.

“Today, the State Board of Education directed its attorneys to continue to analyze House Bill 17 and review the constitutional implications of the legislation,” the statement reads. “We anticipate convening another meeting of the Board before Jan. 1 to decide how to proceed.”

Cobey called for a closed session after a brief statement on the meeting’s purpose.

“Friday, December 16, the General Assembly passed House Bill 17, which attempts to diminish the Board’s constitutional authority,” Cobey said. “We are here to discuss our concerns as a Board. Because House Bill 17 raises significant legal concerns, we will convene in closed session to have our attorneys answer questions that we have about this legislation.”

Cobey spoke highly of the Board’s relationship with the state Superintendent, who, under the new law, will have much more power over the State Board — a change which Cobey last week said “raises constitutional concerns and eliminates checks and balances that are important to the students of North Carolina.”

Before the closed session began, Cobey continued: “I reiterate that the Board and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction have had a strong and productive working relationship and, on behalf of all the public schools in North Carolina, we would like to see this continue in the future,” Cobey said.

Cobey told right-leaning Carolina Journal last week that the State Board would have a strong case to challenge the constitutionality of the bill.

The Board immediately adjourned after closed session without public discussion. See footage of the meeting below.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.