State Journal: Frivolous or friendly?; Eyeing the arena

January 08, 1992 2 min read

Gov. James G. Martin and Superintendent of Public Instruction Bob Etheridge of North Carolina have not always seen eye to eye. That may not be surprising, considering that Mr. Martin, a Republican, appoints the state board of education, while Mr. Etheridge is an elected Democrat charged with implementing the board’s policies.

The two officials are at odds again, this time over staffing for the state board. Mr. Etheridge last month sued the Governor and the board, claiming that a plan to appoint four new employees who would report to board members instead of to the superintendent violated the state constitution.

The lawsuit prompted some harsh words from the Governor. “The time, energy, and huge amounts of money that will have to be spent by the superintendent, his staff, and the state board over this tempest in a teapot would be better spent on educating our children,” Mr. Martin said in a statement.

“I call on Superintendent Etheridge to withdraw this frivolous lawsuit and get on with the business of educating our state’s children,” he added.

But Mr. Etheridge classifies the action as a “friendly lawsuit” merely designed to resolve the staffing question.

“My relationship with the Governor has really been pretty good,” Mr. Etheridge said in an interview. “We’re doing a lot of things together, but when I feel someone’s treading on my constitutional powers, I have the responsibility to stand up and say enough’s enough.”

In Indiana, meanwhile, tensions between the governor and the state chief may soon spill over into the electoral arena.

Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans, who has frequently clashed with Gov. Evan Bayh, said last month that he was considering seeking the Republican nomination to run against the Democratic incumbent in November.

Mr. Evans, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election as state chief I said he was mulling a campaign in light of a statewide poll he had commissioned.

While Mr. Evans declined to release specific polling data, the results “came back so favorably that he’s really giving it serious consideration,” according to a spokesman, Robin Pritz.

The superintendent is expected to announce his decision by the end of this week.

If he does run, however, Mr. Evans faces an uphill fight. Mr. Bayh is the only one of six incumbent governors seeking re-election this year who was rated as “probably secure” by Congressional Quarterly. --D.G. & H.D.

A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 1992 edition of Education Week as State Journal: Frivolous or friendly?; Eyeing the arena