A New Era In Education
The State Board of Education began to evolve toward its present form in 1943. The Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer and State Superintendent were ex-officio members of the Board, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction served as secretary. The rest of the Board was composed of 10 members appointed by the Governor.
A committee was appointed to study the structure of the Board and it presented recommendations at the second meeting of the Board in May 1943. Recommendations were that one Board member from each congressional district should be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly and the chair and vice-chair were to be elected by the members, with an appointed Controller to be approved by the Governor. The Superintendent of Public Instruction would be ex-officio secretary and would be elected by the people. He would also be a member of the Council of State with duties to be established by law and would be charged with organizing a Department of Public Instruction.
The duties of the Board, adopted in August 1943, were to supervise and to administer the public schools, to direct the Controller in supervision of the fiscal affairs, and to assume the powers and trusts of the Literary Fund and the previous State Board. The Board established districts, regulated grades and salaries, set qualifications of teachers, apportioned funds and made all needful rules and regulations concerning public schools.
The Chairman appointed committees of the Board with three to five members each, and he designated committee chairs. Five standing committees were established: finance, textbooks, vocational education, certification of teachers and school bus transportation. The Board dealt with its first bond issue in 1949 as $50 million was designated for school construction.
The 1950s and 1960s presented great challenges to the Board. In the 1950s a $50 million bond issue for school construction was approved, and in 1957 the General Assembly established the Community College System. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education against the separation of races in public schools. The Pearsall Plan of 1956 was a constitutional amendment that transferred authority over enrollment and assignment of children in public schools and authority over buses from the State Board to local boards. The Pearsall Plan proposed the payment of education expense grants (vouchers) from state or local public funds to pay for private schooling should a student be assigned against his will to an integrated school. The General Assembly ratified the amendment by popular vote in September of 1956.
The passage of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act, which contained a provision prohibiting discrimination in public education, resulted in the Pearsall Plan's being declared unconstitutional in 1966. This action, once again, granted the State Board of Education power over the local education boards.
The 1960s were a time when research-orientated programs began in the public schools. The Governor's School, the first of its kind in the nation, was established for gifted students; an Advancement School began for students with learning disabilities; and the Learning Institute of North Carolina adopted research as its major emphasis. A $100 million bond issue for school construction continued a developing concept that the state must support local efforts to provide adequate school facilities.
Expansion and Improvement
In the 1970s, the State Board was involved in the beginning of many major educational initiatives. Principals and other administrative personnel were employed on a 12-month basis, and the teachers' terms were expanded to 10 months to allow time for planning and training. The nation's first statewide full-day kindergarten was implemented, as well as a primary reading program for grades one through three. North Carolina became the first state with a teacher and a teacher assistant in every classroom in kindergarten through third grade.
The State Board of Education's mandate of statewide testing programs was implemented due to concerns about accountability in education. An annual comprehensive standardized test was developed for grades one, two, three, six, and nine to assist in diagnosing individual learning needs. Another standardized test was developed for high school students to make sure that high school graduates possessed the skills necessary to cope with everyday living.
In 1971 the State Board itself was reorganized. The State Superintendent ceased to be a member of the State Board of Education but was designated its chief administrative officer as well as secretary. The General Assembly's state government reorganization placed the State Board of Education at the head of the Department of Public Education, which included the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Community Colleges, and the Controller's Office.
In 1979, the General Assembly removed responsibility for supervision of nonpublic schools from the State Board and moved the administration of nonpublic and home schools to the Governor's office. At that time the Attorney General ruled that the instruction of a child in the home was not a "school" within the meaning of the Compulsory Attendance Act. The State Board of Education relied upon this ruling until 1985.
Education expansion continued into the 1980s. In 1980, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a tuition-free high school for exceptionally gifted students, admitted its first class. The school was the first of its kind in the nation.
In 1981, a separate State Board was established for Community Colleges, and the State Board of Education no longer had responsibility for this function.
As North Carolina prepared for the next century, improvement of public education became a major goal. In 1983, the General Assembly raised the high school graduation requirements, and the North Carolina Scholars Program was approved by the State Board of Education. In 1984, Governor James B. Hunt established the North Carolina Commission on Education for Economic Growth. The Commission researched the status of the public education system and proposed a plan for "ensuring the future prosperity and well-being of our children and the continuing soundness of our state's economy." This placed an enormous amount of responsibility on the State Board for ensuring that these new initiatives were implemented in a comprehensive, cost-effective manner.