RALEIGH, N.C. — Governor Roy Cooper visited Alamance County Thursday, expressing his concerns over public schools and teacher pay raises.
Cooper said that there are more than 5000 teacher shortages across our state.
He said in order to keep and attract teachers, we need to raise all teacher pay, and not allow private school vouchers to be available to all families.
Republican lawmakers disagree.
Governor Cooper said if current legislation passes the General Assembly money would be diverted to where it doesn’t need to go.
This past Monday, Cooper called for a "state of emergency" for public education. While this isn’t an official declaration, Cooper says people in our state need to reach out to legislators to prevent the state budget from passing.
The bill, which passed the state House, proposes a private school voucher system where families would receive money if they choose to send their child to a private school.
The bill would help families regardless of race, neighborhood, or income.
Governor Cooper says this is taking money out of taxpayers' pockets at the expense of public schools saying: "Legislative Republicans propose pouring billions of dollars in taxpayer money into private schools that are unaccountable to the public and can decide which students they want to admit. Their plan would expand private school vouchers so anyone – even a millionaire – can get taxpayer money for their children’s private school tuition."
“I feel pretty confident that there’s going to be some voucher program and if it has to be one, I want to keep it for low to moderate-income people and not expand it and put so much money behind it that it begins to hurt public schools, and I think that’s where they have gone with this vouchers on steroids,” Governor Cooper said.
Republican lawmakers argue that this is about students and parents deciding if they want to send their children to private schools and that it should be available to everyone.
"Private school is not for everyone therefore, we know public school is not for everyone, charter school is not for everyone but given the choice in the opportunity, it’s not right to give the opportunity to just the elite. Everyone needs to have that opportunity and that’s what we are trying to do," NC State Senator Steve Jarvis said.
Vice President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, Bryan Proffitt, said NCAE is worried about the impact of voucher programs on public schools.
"With kids of different faith and backgrounds, kids that have different gender and sexual identities, and kids whose parents cannot meet particular requirements. All of these students are going to be discriminated against from private schools with public dollars," Proffitt said.
The House proposed budget would raise average teacher pay by 10.2% over two years, compared with 4.5% in the Senate plan.
Cooper's budget proposal wants to raise teacher salaries by 18%. ‘
The general assembly is now in conference committee discussing the budget.
A decision has to be made on or before July 1st.