NC Governor Declares State of Emergency – Against School Choice!

In a move that has sparked controversy and debate, Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina declared a state of emergency on Monday, citing the upcoming school choice legislation as a threat to public education. The bill, supported by Republican state lawmakers, aims to promote education reform through the implementation of school choice measures.

The North Carolina Senate’s committee on education has given a favorable report to Senate Bill 406, known as “Choose Your School, Choose Your Future.” This bill aims to expand the Opportunity Scholarship program to all students in the state, regardless of their family’s income. If passed, the bill would eliminate income eligibility requirements and guarantee up to a 45% scholarship for every student in North Carolina. Furthermore, it removes the previous requirement that students must have attended a public school before qualifying for the program.

Proponents of the bill argue that it will provide greater access to school choice for all families in the state. Senator Michael Lee expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Today’s a great day for kids – and that’s what this bill is about.” He emphasized that the Opportunity Scholarship would have no caps, making every North Carolina resident eligible for the program.

The current Opportunity Scholarship program assists families below a certain income level in covering tuition and fees at qualifying nonpublic schools. In the 2022-23 school year, 25,524 students benefited from the scholarship. With the potential passage of SB406, income eligibility requirements would be eliminated, ensuring broader access to educational choices for all students in North Carolina.

In a video announcement released by his office, Governor Cooper emphasized the significance of public education and likened the state of public education to other emergencies that require immediate attention. He stated, “It’s time to declare a State of Emergency for public education in North Carolina. There’s no Executive Order like with a hurricane or the pandemic, but it’s no less important.”

The governor expressed concern that the Republican legislature is seeking to undermine public education and urged citizens to take action against the proposed legislation. Cooper asserted, “It’s clear that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education. I’m declaring this state of emergency because you need to know what’s happening. If you care about public schools in North Carolina, it’s time to take immediate action and tell them to stop the damage that will set back our schools for a generation.”

However, Governor Cooper’s declaration faced immediate backlash from critics who viewed it as an overreach of government power. Many took to Twitter to voice their opposition, criticizing the governor for using emergency measures to interfere with legislative processes. The debate surrounding the state of emergency declaration highlighted the deep divide between proponents of school choice and defenders of traditional public education.

The announcement by Governor Cooper comes in the wake of State Representative Tricia Cotham’s decision to defect from the Democratic Party and join the GOP, citing her support for school choice as a key factor. Cotham stated, “On issues like school choice, like charters, we have to evolve. One-size-fits-all in education is wrong for children… [Democrats] didn’t really want to talk about children. They had talking points from adults and adult organizations.”

Critics have also pointed out what they perceive as hypocrisy on the part of Governor Cooper, as he opposes private school vouchers while sending his own daughter to a private school. These contradictions have fueled further skepticism and criticism of the governor’s stance on education reform.

The debate over school choice and its impact on public education is a contentious issue, not only in North Carolina but across the United States. Supporters argue that school choice empowers parents to make educational decisions that best suit their children’s needs, while opponents claim that it diverts resources from public schools and exacerbates educational inequalities.

As the state of emergency declaration in North Carolina continues to stir controversy, the fate of the proposed school choice bill hangs in the balance. The battle between advocates for traditional public education and proponents of school choice is likely to persist, as both sides strive to shape the future of education in the state.