The Carolina Coup and the Fight for Public Education
The nation’s eyes are on my home state of North Carolina, where what many are calling a coup has shown the lengths to which Republicans will go to protect and expand their political power.
The naked power grab by Republicans has shocked the nation. But few people really understand that a struggle over public education is at the center of the fight against an authoritarian government in the era of Donald Trump.
What did Republicans do? In a nutshell, according to a review of the carnage by David Graham for The Atlantic, “Having lost the governor’s seat in November’s election, the GOP legislature opted to simply reduce the governor’s power drastically. The two most prominent bills involve the elections system and the governor’s right to make appointments.”
Specifically, on the elections front, Republicans robbed incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper of his ability to change the composition of state and county boards of elections, diluted the governor’s appointment authority, and rigged the timing of county board leadership to favor Republicans.
Republican lawmakers took away the incoming governor’s ability to make appointments to the State Board of Education and the boards of trustees of University of North Carolina system, made cabinet appointees subject to approval by the senate, and cut the number of appointments the governor can make for government jobs from 1,500 to 425.
The attack on the incoming governor’s power over education appointments is especially radical, as it transfers power from the state board to the new state superintendent of public instruction, Republican Mark Johnson, who defeated the Democratic incumbent, June Atkinson, in November.