Atkinson sues North Carolina

April 3, 2009 3:20:54 PM PDT
Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson filed a lawsuit against the state Friday. She maintains Governor Beverly Perdue replaced her illegally.

The question of her replacement is critical to public school education, and both sides of the suit agree the question needs to be answered.

The discussion started when Gov. Perdue convinced the Legislature to give her the power to appoint a CEO of the State Department of Instruction. Then she announced educator Bill Harrison would take the job.

Atkinson, who was elected twice, looked on as she was effectively stripped of her power.

She has few inherent powers thanks to rules approved over the years by both the Legislature and the board. Perdue said in January that Atkinson would remain an "ambassador" for the schools.

"It was uncomfortable for me, but I wanted to show support for Gov. Perdue's education agenda," Atkinson said.

Earlier this year, Atkinson asked legislative leaders to either work to pass a law to restore authority to her job, give the governor complete control over the Department of Public Instruction or let voters decide in a constitutional referendum.

Atkinson said if the courts decide there should not be an elected superintendent, she's OK with that. She just wants the issue resolved.

Legislative leaders and the Governor also appears to welcome a decision by the courts on whether voters or the Governor should pick a state schools superintendent.

Legislation approved in 1995 gave the board flexibility to craft the superintendent's job. The power of the post has ebbed and flowed since then, depending on who was on the job. During Atkinson's first term, the board gave most of the day-to-day authority of the schools to a deputy superintendent.


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