North Carolina schools chief running for lieutenant governor

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's Republican state schools superintendent announced on Tuesday he'll run for lieutenant governor instead of his current job, shaking up races for two statewide elections just three weeks before candidate filing begins.

Mark Johnson was narrowly elected superintendent of public instruction in 2016 in his first run for statewide office at age 33. He now says he wants to stir up broader state government like he did in the education department for the past three years. During that time, he's butted heads with the State Board of Education, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's administration and teachers aligned with Democrats.

"We need a change agent at the top of the ticket for North Carolina as well," Johnson told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I have shown that working with the General Assembly I am able to drive change to make government more accountable and more transparent."

But instead of being the likely GOP nominee for superintendent, Johnson is entering a March primary field for lieutenant governor with at least seven other announced Republican candidates, including former and current legislators and ex-U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers.

Johnson said he'll have statewide name recognition and a message that goes against the political establishment. "Watching this race unfold, I have not heard that message from other candidates," Johnson said.

Current Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is running for governor. The lieutenant governor's job historically has had few mandated responsibilities beyond presiding over the state Senate. That power could be exponentially greater should the Senate be evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans after the 2020 elections, since the lieutenant governor only votes during ties. The lieutenant governor also serves on the State Board of Education and the State Board of Community Colleges. Several Democrats also are running.

Johnson, a former high school teacher and local school board member for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, was elected the first GOP state superintendent in over a century, upsetting three-term Superintendent June Atkinson, a Democrat.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed a law weeks before he took office shifting more responsibilities from the State Board of Education to him. The education board challenged the law, which was ultimately upheld. But Johnson said he's received pushback from establishment Republicans and Democrats and bureaucrats even when he uncovered problems that began before he took office.

As one example, Johnson cited his discovery that $15 million for a legislatively-mandated early-grade reading program had been unspent by the Department of Public Instruction. So Johnson used it to purchase electronic tablets for teachers and for continuing education for reading instructors. He then received criticism because thousands of iPads sat in a warehouse. The state board, now largely composed of Cooper's appointees, also has questioned his spending.

Johnson also didn't support massive school funding rallies at the Legislative Building the past two years put on by the North Carolina Association of Educators because he said dozens of school systems were forced to cancel classes on scheduled instructional days. The teachers' group sounded pleased by his announcement.

"After years of making bad decisions for our public school students and educators, we are glad that Mr. Johnson has realized that the role of state superintendent was not a good fit for him personally or professionally," NCAE President Mark Jewell said in a written statement.

Johnson's departure from the superintendent's race opens the door for a Republican field to emerge. At least five Democrats already are running for their party's nomination.

Web Only

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >