In a virtual address Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the legislature’s education proposals, which include increasing small teacher pay for experienced teachers and expanding public vouchers for private schools. He urged the people of North Carolina to inform him about the latest proposed changes and to contact legislators.
“The time has come to declare a state of emergency for public education in North Carolina,” Cooper said in a livestream on his YouTube channel. “There is no executive order like a hurricane or a pandemic, but that doesn’t matter. It is clear that the Republican legislature intends to choke the life out of public education.
The Senate budget, released last week, would expand the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program, which provides public funds for students to attend private schools. Cooper said that private schools do not have the same accountability to taxpayers as public schools, and “you can decide which students you want to exclude.”
The proposal allocates an additional $105 million to the scholarship program in 2023-24, and $163 million the following year, with continued increases. Through 2031-32, the state will spend $505 million in recurring funding for this program.
The plan also removes income eligibility requirements for the program, meaning all students can receive up to 45% of private school tuition from the fund. This program currently serves low-income students.
“It is a smart investment in educational efforts,” Cooper said, pointing to the recovery of students’ learning after federal pandemic relief funds. He urged people to approach legislators to support public schools.
“Public schools can survive this legislative session if they can limit the damage, but we must all come together to make it happen,” he said.
Cooper is traveling this week “to talk about our state’s public education crisis and to encourage North Carolina residents to reach out to legislators to protect our public schools,” Jordan Monaghan, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said in an email.