Basic Education Program
In 1985, the General Assembly directed the State Board of Education to adopt a Basic Education Program. The Basic Education Program, with an eight-year implementation plan, offered a comprehensive basic education to all North Carolina students. However, the Basic Education Program was never fully funded nor was it implemented as it was originally designed. Also, in 1985, the emphasis on reform in the teaching profession continued with the approval of the Career Development Program, a four-year pilot program that was designed to improve the quality of classroom instruction.
The governance structure of the Department of Public Education was revised by the 1988 General Assembly. The Controller's Office, which had been under control of the State Board of Education, was placed under the supervision of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The state accreditation system was revised in 1988-89 and made mandatory for local school systems. Accreditation was a way of measuring the outcomes of the Basic Education Program.
The 1989 North Carolina General Assembly approved the School Improvement and Accountability Act, Senate Bill 2. This act was designed to give local school systems more flexibility in making decisions in exchange for greater accountability. Senate Bill 2 included local plans for school improvement, waivers from state laws and policies, a report card for local school systems to ensure accountability, and a differentiated pay provision. Senate Bill 2 was devised to build on the framework that the Basic Education Program put in place by giving the staff in local schools more authority in making decisions.
In 1991, the State Board raised the graduation requirements for high school students. These requirements enforced the curriculum requirements adopted in the Standard Course of Study. The Standard Course of Study established a basic program of instruction for grades K-12 and identified those subjects or courses that must be a part of each student's schedule. The Standard Course of Study elaborated on the curricular section of the Basic Education Program.
Governance In Education
The election of a new superintendent in 1989 rekindled old controversies regarding who had authority to make education policy in the state. The two-headed governance structure (the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction) creates ample opportunity for dispute. Article IX of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina gives the Governor the authority to appoint eleven State Board members with the responsibility "of supervising and administering the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support." The State Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected position, which by Constitutional mandate is also the secretary and chief administrator of the Board. To further complicate the governance issue, the General Assembly is also given the mandate in the Constitution to provide a general and uniform system of free public education for the state, and the Governor through his authority over the state budget controls the purse strings for public schools.
Throughout the years, the Board and the Superintendent have engaged in varying levels of disagreement over who was responsible for administering and supervising public education. In 1991 and 1992, after several years of contentious relationships, the Superintendent and the Board filed lawsuits against one another challenging each other's authority to run North Carolina's public education system and its $3.3 billion budget. In 1993, then Governor Hunt intervened to end the legal feud between the state's top education officials and requested that the General Assembly take the necessary steps to resolve the governance issue by making the State Superintendent an appointed position. It wasn't until 1995, in Senate Bill 1, that the General Assembly restored the Board's constitutional powers and clarified the roles of the Board and the Superintendent. The General Assembly declared that the role of the Superintendent is to manage on a day-to-day basis the administration of the public school system, but under the direction, control, and approval of the State Board of Education. The law further specifies that the appointment of all administrative and supervisory personnel in the Department of Public Instruction is subject to the approval of the State Board of Education.
Since 1985, the State Board of Education, the business community, education organizations and others have urged the Governor and the General Assembly to change the governance structure for public education so that the public would know who is accountable for their schools. Over the years, the legislature has entertained numerous proposals regarding changes in the education governance structure but has failed to muster the three-fifths vote necessary to pass a bill to amend the Constitution. To date, bills are pending in the General Assembly on this constitutional issue.