Governor Cooper Special Address on Public Education
Hi everybody. 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.
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.
Here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks.
Their private school voucher scheme will pour your tax money into private schools that are unaccountable to the public and can decide which students they want to keep out. They want to expand private school vouchers so that anyone — even a millionaire — can get taxpayer money for their children’s private academy tuition. When kids leave public schools for private school, the public schools lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
And while they hand out private school vouchers to millionaires, they also want to give them large tax breaks, too. This drops an atomic bomb on public education by shrinking the state’s budget by almost 20%.
Public school superintendents are telling me they’ll likely have to cut schools to the bone — eliminate early college, AP and gifted courses, art, music, sports — if the legislature keeps draining funds to pay for private schools and those massive tax breaks.
The chance to fix our teacher shortage will also evaporate if the legislature chooses corporations over classrooms. We have more than 5,000 teacher vacancies in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms, leaving tens of thousands of students without a qualified educator. Our students deserve good teachers. That’s why, instead of tax breaks for rich folks and private school vouchers, I’ve proposed a pay raise of 18% over the next two years because our teachers deserve better pay and more respect.
But the legislature wants to give them neither one. In fact, the Senate has given veteran teachers — a $250 raise spread over two years. $250! That’s a slap in the face, and it will make the teacher shortage worse.
Tax giveaways to the wealthy also harm our youngest learners. Families and businesses across the state have called for strong investments in early childhood education. But so far, the legislature is turning its back on children, parents and the businesses that want to hire these parents by shortchanging pre-K, Smart Start and quality child care. Our strong state economy is built on strong schools at every level.
Smart investments in education work. An official report said students recovered dramatically from pandemic learning loss in North Carolina. And it’s because we invested $5 billion in federal dollars to pay for additional teachers, tutors and summer school.
What doesn’t work is taking away funding, and using partisan politics to fool parents who care deeply about their children’s future. Not satisfied just to starve public education, the Republicans in the legislature also want to bring their political culture wars into the classrooms.
If they get their way, our State Board of Education will be replaced by political hacks who can dictate what is taught — and not taught — in our public schools. North Carolina schools need rigorous science, reading and math classes, not more politicians policing our children’s curriculum with book bans, elimination of science courses and more.
Put together, these ideas spell disaster that requires emergency action. The North Carolina I know was built on support for public schools and we can’t let the legislature tear them down.
I’m fighting back, and I need you to do it too. Public schools can survive this legislative session if we can limit the damage, but we all need to pull together to do it.
Right now, please go to governor.nc.gov. This site lays out the facts and shows you how you can connect with your state legislators and tell them to support public education.
If you commit to call, write, text or visit with your legislators and work to hold them accountable, you will make a difference. Our children need us right now. Thank you so much.