A “State of Emergency” was declared in North Carolina earlier this week by Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., after the legislature made progress on an effort to expand school choice, as well as other legislative measures that will push back on woke and radical gender ideologies in the classroom.
Last week, in a 65-45 vote, the North Carolina House passed House Bill 823, which will expand private school vouchers by $400 million and make families of all income brackets eligible to participate.
Dubbed “Opportunity Scholarships” in North Carolina, the vouchers allow low-income families to receive checks written by the state to put towards a private school education. With the expansion of this program, qualifying families no matter their income bracket will be able to receive a voucher. In order to enter the program, the parents must apply for the voucher, and the child must be accepted into the private school of choice.
If implemented, HB 823 would give the lowest-income families more than $7,000 a year and the wealthiest families more than $3,000 a year. The program will begin in the 2024-25 school year. Students who are already attending a private school will also be eligible.
Rep. Tricia Cotham, R-Mecklenberg, who sponsored the bill, argued that the purpose of the voucher program is to give parents a choice in sending their children to a school that fits their needs.
“Maybe a kid says they hate school,” Cotham said in an interview. “It’s just not the place, maybe the school is too large, maybe it’s the type of curriculum, maybe they have dyslexia and need another location for them. So this would give families, parents, the opportunity because they know their child the best to say where their child should go to school.”
Rep. Abe Jones, D-Wake, who voted against the measure, is concerned that the expanded vouchers would rob public schools of funding.
We don’t need to bleed off money to send to the private sector,” he said. “We need to strengthen the public schools where most people’s kids are going to still be going.”
Gov. Cooper agrees. When the bill passed, he declared a state of emergency to stop what he believes is an attempt to “choke the life out of public education.”
In a press release, he said,
“It’s clear that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education. I’m declaring this a 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.”
Despite electing to send his own daughter to private school for her education, Gov. Cooper went on to argue that the voucher program is a scheme to pour “billions of dollars in taxpayer money into private schools that are unaccountable to the public” and give anyone, “even a millionaire,” taxpayer money for their children’s private school tuition.
“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,” Gov. Cooper asserted.
The bill will now go to the Senate, which currently has a similar bill going through committees.
It’s standard practice now for the left to create a crisis when they don’t get their way. It’s what tyrants do. Never mind the democratic and legislative process put in place by our Constitution.
Gov. Cooper could veto the bill, of course, but the North Carolina legislature has a super-majority in place and the numbers needed to override his veto. By invoking his emergency powers, Gov. Roy Cooper plans to instead override the votes of the people and the legislative representatives they elected. Is it to ensure that poor kids don’t go to the schools he sent his daughter to? Is it because it terrifies him to lose control over the minds of other people’s children?
As Marcus Brandon, a former North Carolina legislator who is now executive director of NorthCarolinaCAN!, which advocates for high-quality education, pointed out on Twitter, “Never has a ‘State of Emergency’ been declared for black and brown kids who are 30-40 points behind in every category.”
Another Twitter user suggested that it might have been a more prudent idea for the governor to have used his emergency powers in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic “when the state was in the bottom third of states reopening schools and depriving children of the education they needed.”
We don’t have to look far back in history to know why authoritarian leaders like Gov. Cooper want so badly for children to be under the control of the state. Every dictatorial government in history has used the same tactics, including lying to the public about how harmful it is for a child’s education to go “unchecked.” In fact, Gov. Cooper says that children have to remain trapped in public schools because public schools will suffer financially without them.
This could not be further from the truth.
For the 2022-23 school year, state expenditures for North Carolina public schools totaled $9,845,743,139. The same year, $133,872,245 was spent on the Opportunity Scholarship Program — only 0.014 percent of the entire state budget. As it stands, the program is hardly making a dent in the state’s funding for public schools.
Furthermore, an analysis of the Opportunity Scholarship Program by the Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly found that in 2018-2019, North Carolina students participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program received an average voucher amount of $3,936 per pupil, while students attending North Carolina public schools received an average amount of $6,479 per pupil — or $2,543 more than students utilizing the scholarship voucher received. This does not even include local expenditures, which average just $2,410 per student.
This means that it is actually cheaper for the state to educate those students who take advantage of school choice, ensuring that more funding is available for public school teacher income, benefits, and classroom supplies.
If a child leaves the public-school system using a voucher, it is true that schools will lose state funding. However, they are able to keep the remaining federal and local funding when a child enrolls in a school choice program. For the state of North Carolina, 58 percent of funding is tied to the student. If a student goes to a private school using the Opportunity Scholarship program, the public school that student left gets to keep the remaining 42 percent of funding from revenue streams like property taxes and bond initiatives. On a per pupil basis, public schools actually end up with more money per child.
Moreover, a policy brief by the Center on Regional Politics found that North Carolina (along with 33 other states) has provisions in place in the event enrollment declines in public schools were to negatively affect school finances. If the enrollment of a school declines by 100 students or 2 percent, the school must adjust their allotment. However, the school can report the higher of two reportable months in addition to one-half the number of students that were overestimated. In other words, public schools receive funding for students who aren’t even attending public school.
All of this evidence proves that Gov. Cooper and all others in opposition to school choice in North Carolina are lying to the public to get their way and maintain their control over what students are taught.
Proverbs 22:6 gives parents the responsibility “to train up children in the way they should go.” It’s clear that Cooper and other liberal politicians no longer respect or even acknowledge parents’ rights to direct their child’s education and well-being. They believe that your children belong to the state — and, in this case, they are willing to take the unprecedented stop of leveraging emergency powers to keep them in their grasp.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.