North Carolina governor says GOP teacher pay, voucher plans a public education ‘disaster'

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North Carolina Democratic Governor. Roy Cooper stamps his veto on a bill that would ban nearly all abortions following 12 weeks of pregnancy during a rally in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, May 13th, 2023. The veto is a test for the leaders of the GOP controlled General Assembly, who will attempt to override Cooper’s veto. They recently achieved veto proof majorities in both chambers.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic CEO Jenny Black talk with doctors during a forum on new abortion restrictions at Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, N.C., Wednesday, 10 May 2023.

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RALEIGH (AP) - Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper launched a campaign Monday to try to beat back education and tax legislation from the Republican-controlled General Assembly that he said if enacted would crush North Carolina's public schools and wobble the state's economic future.

Cooper stated in an audio recording released on Monday that it was clear the Republican legislators were trying to choke out the life of public education. Cooper urged voters to "take immediate action" and to tell legislators to stop the damage which will set our schools back for a whole generation.

Cooper, in his video speech, said that he was 'declaring a state emergency' to the public education system. However, he stressed that this was not a formal order. In his video address, Cooper urged residents to urge their legislators to reject the GOP-backed education legislation in the last weeks of this year's main work period. On the agenda of the legislature for the next few weeks is the passage of a budget for the state for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

In the coming days, the governor will host public events in all parts of the state to rally parents and educators as well as business leaders.

Cooper said that Republican proposals for public school teacher salaries are far too low and won't address the teacher shortage in all of California. Cooper argued that deeper income tax reductions in competing House and Senate proposals, which would also benefit the highest-earning wage earners, would eventually empty the state coffers.

The GOP also wants to expand dramatically the K-12 private schools scholarship program in the state so that all families, regardless of income, can receive financial aid.

This expansion would ultimately send more than $500 million per year in taxpayer funds to the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The governor stated that the Senate budget, in contrast, would only raise the base salary of some veteran teachers by $250 over two years.

Cooper, in an interview with The Associated Press before his speech, said that the government had 'clearly given up on public schools' and instead decided to fund private ones. This is a deliberate slap on the faces of teachers.

Republicans claim that their plans would increase public education spending by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The GOP leaders see the expansion of private-school vouchers as part of their philosophy of giving all children equal access to education, regardless of where it comes from.

Rep. Tricia Cottim of Mecklenburg County dismissed Cooper's remarks as 'political theatre'. She credited the recent switch by Mecklenburg County from Democrat party to Republican for giving GOP veto proof majorities in both chambers.

Cotham stated that the governor was advocating systems and not students.


"Education does not fit all and NC families must have the right to choose what type of education they want."

Randy Brechbiel is a spokesperson of Senate Leader Phil Berger. He also shared a similar criticism.

Cooper's use the gubernatorial "bully pulpit" comes at a time when his power to confront lawmakers has been significantly weakened in the weeks following Cotham's switch of parties. Cooper said that he would still have made the call for education, even if there was a large amount of support from the legislature to override his veto. Education is vital to the fiscal health of the state. In rural counties, the public school system is usually the largest employer and helps prepare students for the workplace.

He told the AP that the public does not realize the impending disaster.

The Senate plan would have raised average teacher salaries by 4.5% over two years. This would be behind the recent inflation rate. Cooper's budget plan called for average increases of 18%.

Governor also accused the legislators for doing little to expand state's Prekindergarten program and stabilize child care centres. He also warned about a constitutional amendment, which if it were to be placed on the ballot, would take away his power to appoint almost all members of State Board of Education. Instead, members would be chosen in district elections.

In his speech, he stated that if they got their way, the State Board of Education would be replaced by political hacks dictating what should and shouldn't be taught in public schools.