In the 2015-17 state appropriations bill, the NC General Assembly directed state education officials to cut 5 percent ($2.5 million) from the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) budget over each of the next two years.

According to the budget provision, “The State Board of Education may allocate this reduction at its discretion.”  Curiously, a majority of the members of the State Board of Education voted to concede their budgetary authority to State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board Chairman Bill Cobey.  They revealed their plan last week.

Alex Granados of EdNC explains,

General Assembly cuts to the Department of Public Instruction this past session will yield no lay offs and the potential for new hires, thanks to some clever reorganizing on the parts of two state leaders.

State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey were given the power by the State Board last month to implement the General Assembly-mandated 5 percent ($2.5 million) reductions at DPI. This month, they turned into the Board a document that cuts about 18 positions. But those 18 positions aren’t really going away. Three are currently vacant, and those positions will disappear, Atkinson said. But the rest will move to handle work under the General Assembly’s Excellent Public Schools Act, for which DPI received $3.8 million from legislators this past session.

Got that?  The Cobey/Atkinson plan does not reduce the DPI budget and may, in fact, increase it by tapping Excellent Public Schools Act funding.

From an operations standpoint, their “clever reorganizing” may make sense.  Politically, it will come back to haunt them.  Lawmakers will likely respond by approving deeper cuts to the DPI budget and/or cutting specific positions, departments, and functions.  It will be a short term gain but a long term loss for an already unpopular state agency.