Jun 1, 2023 - News

NC Gov. Roy Cooper slams Republican school choice plan in new ad

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Raleigh News & Observer/Getty Images

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is turning up the heat on Republican lawmakers' sweeping plan to expand school choice.

Driving the news: In a television ad airing statewide beginning today, Cooper reiterates his claim that North Carolina Republicans are seeking to "choke the life out of public education" by granting "millionaires" tax cuts and vouchers for their children's private education rather than providing greater raises for public school teachers and more funding for the state's public schools.

Why it matters: The move is one of several Cooper has made in recent weeks as part of an effort to paint the Republican-led legislature — and numerous bills it has passed since securing a supermajority — as "radical."

  • "Republicans in Raleigh are trying to pass a dangerous scheme that would fundamentally erode the foundation of public schools in North Carolina, and this ad is an attempt to bring more public awareness to ensure legislators can’t sneak this awful plan by the public," Cooper advisor Morgan Jackson said in a a statement.

Yes, but: The proposal would expand the state's voucher program to low-income families in addition to "millionaires" by providing children who qualify for free and reduced lunch — or families of four with a household income of $55,000 or less — with up to 100% of the average state allocation per student of more than $7,000.

  • As household income rises, however, the voucher amount decreases. A family of four making $111,000 would receive as much as 90% of the average student allocation, or just under $7,000, and families with a household income of more than $250,000 could receive 45% of the allocation.

State of play: State Rep. Tricia Cotham's decision to change her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican last month handed the GOP a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature and stripped Cooper of what little leverage he had left in his final two years as governor.

  • With Democrats now unable to uphold the governor's vetoes, Cooper has resorted to using his platform in hopes of ginning up public pressure on the Republican legislature.

Between the lines: When Republicans advanced legislation restricting abortions after 12 weeks — one of their first major policy proposals since seizing a supermajority — Cooper toured the state, led a rally and spoke on national television in early May in an effort to pressure a handful of moderate Republicans to block the bill from becoming law.

  • Now, he's running a similar play again.

Catch up quick: Just a few weeks after Cotham joined the Republican party, she was among a group of lawmakers to unveil school choice legislation dubbed "Choose Your School, Choose Your Future."

  • The House passed the legislation earlier this month. The Senate has yet to take it up, though it's included in both chambers' budget proposals.
  • Cooper has declared an unofficial "state of emergency" for public education.
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