Several high profile corruption scandals have served to keep relations between government officials and lobbyists at arms length. So we’re told. A new bill, HB 348, takes that notion and turns it on its head. HB 348, which passed the Senate today, modifies the education requirements for service on local school boards. The legislation requires members of local boards to receive a minimum of 12 clock hours of training each year. In addition, the legislation requires:
For a board member who has not previously served on a North Carolina board of education, these hours shall include new board member training provided by the North Carolina School Boards Association. These hours shall be completed between the date of the member’s appointment or election and the date the member completes one year of service.
The new school board training essentially guarantees North Carolina School Boards Association – a registered lobbyist organization in North Carolina – access to local government officials. Not only does the legislation require all new school board members to complete new board member training, it specifically lists NCSBA as the only provider. HB 348 gives NCSBA complete access to local school board officials. NCSBA will also stand to gain financially from the legislation. Total tuition revenue from the courses will probably amount to thousands of dollars. Is there a reason why any qualified group couldn’t provide new school board member training?
Am I against continuing education training for school board members? Certainly not. The problem is how it's done. The use of exclusive training providers provides access to government officials to favored organizations. In addition, HB 348 also includes a provision which allows the State Board of Education to asses of fine of fifty dollars ($50.00) for each hour of training that the board member fails to complete. Most other professions do not include financial penalties for failure to complete continuing education requirements. Failure to obtain licensing or certification is the normal penalty. The financial penalties for HB 348 do little but help the providers.
If you’re NCSBA you're keeping your fingers crossed HB 348 is signed and enacted. If you’re the average North Carolinian concerned about lobbyist access to government officials, you do everything you can to defeat it.