North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has resorted to declaring a “state of emergency” as the Republican-led state legislature advances a school choice bill that promises to revolutionize education in the state. To many, the move by Cooper appears as a desperate attempt to retain control of an educational system that is increasingly perceived as underperforming and desperate for genuine reform.
Under the new legislation, all families – regardless of income – will be eligible for vouchers, breaking the monopoly of public schools and granting parents the freedom to send their children to private institutions. Moreover, it’s the low-income families who stand to benefit the most, with the potential to receive over $7,000 annually starting from the 2024-25 school year.
The focus is on empowering parents and enhancing competition. The new law is intended to inspire improvement in public schools and shift the focus of education back to students. In addition, the freedom to choose schools can promote accountability, offering parents an alternative if they’re dissatisfied with public schools.
Yet, Cooper sees it differently. In his video announcement, he compared the educational issue with a natural disaster or pandemic, claiming, “There’s no Executive Order like with a hurricane or the pandemic, but it’s no less important.” He added, “The Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education.”
What a hypocrite. Public schools aren't good enough for his kids, but they are for yours. https://t.co/zlt7VEO5cd
— Kelsey Bolar (Harkness) (@kelseybolar) May 22, 2023
Cooper’s emergency declaration, however, triggered sharp criticisms on Twitter. Critics viewed it as an overreach of government power and a strategic move to retain control over the state’s education system. Many have questioned Cooper’s motivations in the wake of this controversial announcement, given his record of sending his daughter to a private school while opposing private school vouchers for others.
Additionally, Cooper has opposed the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers to lower and middle-income students. His opposition to such programs contrasts the move by State Rep. Tricia Cotham, who defected from the Democratic Party to join the GOP, citing her support for school choice.
Rory Cooper of Purple Strategies remarked, “If I were the Governor of NC, I would’ve been declaring a state of emergency when the state was in the bottom third of states reopening schools and depriving children of the education they needed. Not once parents got involved and demanded something better for their kids.”
While Governor Cooper maintains that his actions are in the best interest of public education, the conservative audience views this as a desperate attempt to thwart a bill that may offer students a more individualized and effective educational experience.
The fact remains that school choice is gaining traction, with states like Florida leading the way. The coming weeks will reveal whether Cooper’s “state of emergency” will prove to be a legitimate concern or a political tactic to block a reform that promises greater freedom for parents and better outcomes for North Carolina’s children.