RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – A bill passed by the North Carolina House that is designed to cure a political standoff involving the Guilford County Board of Education is scheduled for its first hearing in the Senate on Wednesday even as members of the school board are asking Republicans to offer a new candidate for consideration.
House Bill 88, introduced by state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) and passed by the House on a voice vote last week, is scheduled to be heard for the first time at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee, where it had been assigned by the Rules Committee.
This standing committee, co-chaired by Sens. Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe), Ralph Hise (R-Alleghany) and Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), also includes Triad Sens. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford County), Paul Lowe (D-Winston-Salem), Joyce Krawiec (R-Kernersville) and Amy Galey (R-Alamance).
Hardister said he met with the Senate last week, and he referred questions about the bill and its status to Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger (R-Eden), who runs the Senate but whose district includes a large chunk of Guilford County. At that time Berger had not assigned anyone to lead the bill’s walk through the Senate. It’s unclear who might handle the reading today.
Hardister introduced the local bill – meaning it affects only Guilford County and is not subject to a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper – because the school board since November has declined to seat teacher Michael Logan, who was nominated by the Republican members from District 3 to fill out the term Patrick Tillman vacated in November. Tillman was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
There have been three votes along party lines, with only the two Republicans supporting Logan, an automotive instructor at Southern Guilford High School who is an outspoken critic of the board during public comments and on social media. The board is not scheduled to meet again until March 14, when the opening in District 3 presumably would be on the agenda.
Hardister said he and state Rep. John Faircloth (R-High Point) sponsored the bill to correct “errors made by staff.” It’s a scant two paragraphs that address general statute GS 115c-37.1, which specifies how seats on partisan boards “shall” be filled. Hardister said that statute was undermined by language in the local bill that former state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-High Point) pushed through the General Assembly in 2013.
Guilford County Board of Education bill by Steven Doyle on Scribd
During the debate in the House, Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) offered an amendment – which was adopted – to ensure that the appointed individual would serve only until the next election, which is consistent with filling openings on other statewide boards.
Board requests a new candidate
Democratic board members who have opposed Logan, long an activist commentator at school board meetings, have cited the fact that he was a teacher or that he had made derogatory posts about board members on social media. He has been called “divisive” by coworkers.
The six Democrats who have voted against Logan, with Chair Deena Hayes at the point, on Sunday published a cosigned letter in the News & Record in Greensboro in which they cited a litany of issues they had with the way Logan has conducted himself and asked that Republicans submit the name of a different candidate.
“We want to convey our rationale, and the stand we are taking, for it is not against a man or political party but against bigotry and racial prejudice and their attendant violence that we believe are represented in Mr. Logan’s candidacy,” the letter stated.
“There are many other Republicans who have not engaged in racially prejudiced writing, who seek to embody the values a Board of Education member should hold, and who have expressed an interest in representing District 3. It seems to us that the perfect solution is for the Republican Party to put forward one of them. And we would welcome them.”
Logan has had the fulsome support of Guilford County GOP Chair David Gleeson, who one point threatened to sue to get Logan seated, and Logan has said he would also run for the seat when it comes up for election in 2024. He has been attending meetings since the position became vacant.
“So, while our school board is focused on partisan politics, we have parents, students and employees without district representation.,” Logan wrote in a recent email to WGHP.