Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt defied a State Board of Education vote and canceled a $7+ million grant to UNC-Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. The institute was training North Carolina teachers to consider students’ racial and cultural backgrounds when assessing their needs.
The contract was brought to the State Board of Education for approval in January 2022. At the meeting, board member Amy White indicated she’d received an email complaining that the training amounted to critical race theory. (You can listen to the board’s discussion here)
White did not share the source of the complaint, but the ultra right wing group Education First Alliance made some noise about this issue around that same time.
The next day the board voted 7-4 to approve the contract with board members White, Olivia Oxendine, Treasurer Dale Folwell and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson opposing. Superintendent Truitt does not have a vote on the board.
The following week, Truitt indicated on her official Twitter account that she would not carry out the board’s wishes on this matter.
In a January 25, 2022 letter to the institute’s director, Truitt complained about guidance on how teachers should discuss racial identity, saying “DPI leadership does not agree with some of the strategies the ELN [Early Learning Network] includes in its efforts to teach teachers about equity and cultural responsiveness.”
Truitt then chose to defy the state board’s authority and unilaterally cancel the contract.
When asked by the Raleigh News and Observer about this matter, State Board Chair Eric Davis said, “After we approved it, she switched gears. It did not sit well with us.” Davis indicated that the state board had passed new rules clarifying that the superintendent must act on the direction of the board.
You know, just in case the North Carolina Constitution isn’t clear enough on this point:
Sec. 4. State Board of Education.
(2) Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education.
Sec. 5. Powers and duties of Board.
The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support, except the funds mentioned in Section 7 of this Article, and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.