North Carolina’s absurd state of emergency

If you’re reading this, we can only hope and pray you’ve found safety from the “Public Education Crisis” currently taking place in North Carolina. We are still waiting for confirmation that the emergency is contained as Georgia closes its northeast border.

We’ll give updates as they come. In the meantime, please shelter in place and trust no one.

We, at least, are joking here. But we’re not so sure about the Tar Heel State’s governor, Roy Cooper.

Cooper has declared a state of emergency – a real one, as far as we can tell – due to several education bills in the North Carolina legislature, some of which look to expand school choice initiatives.

Ideally, a state of emergency is reserved for an actual public crisis – maybe inclement weather, COVID-19 or an invasion of Russian paratroopers. However, it’s nothing new for an executive to play fast and loose with what constitutes an emergency. In North Carolina’s case, a veto-proof majority supporting the bills was enough for Cooper to sound the alarms.

Cooper even partly admits to as much, saying in a video his office released on Monday, “There’s no executive order, like with a hurricane or the pandemic, but it’s no less important.” If this was anywhere close to the truth, one assumes Cooper would have simply issued an executive order.

So what new GOP maliciousness now threatens the lives of North Carolina’s children with the severity of a hurricane, but also is not quite as bad as a hurricane?

The governor’s move to abuse his platform to generate opposition in the general assembly addresses several pieces of legislation. Primary focus seems to be on North Carolina’s Senate Bill 406, “Choose Your School, Choose Your Future,” which eliminates the income eligibility requirement from North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program. This expands the program to all North Carolina families who want it, guaranteeing them up to a 45% scholarship.

The governor laments that this “voucher scam” will pull taxpayer money into private schools… which is also only true if the taxpayers themselves choose to take their money into private schools.

Advocates for school choice maintain that parents should have the freedom, unburdened by law or financial restraint, to remove their children from schools if their educational needs are not being met. This position holds that the education landscape should not be a one-size-fits-all system.

Cooper also notes that public schools will lose money if parents choose to remove their kids. This much is true, although schools are in many cases more capable of educating individual students on a per capita basis after students leave via opportunity scholarships. 

Either way, this is only a problem if public school is the only available option, which it previously had been for most families because of financial limitations. Now that private schools and other alternative options are becoming more available in North Carolina and across the country, public schools face a higher level of accountability.

Cooper also railed against other bills that he believes will introduce the “culture war” into the classroom. This includes House Bill 187, titled “Equality in Education,” which “demonstrates the General Assembly’s intent that students, teachers, administrators, and other school employees recognize the equality and rights of all persons and to prohibit public school units from promoting certain concepts that are contrary to that intent.” It also includes House Bill 49, which allows people with concealed carry permits to carry handguns in places of worship that have school services outside of school operating hours. Note that this one has nothing to do with public schools.

Note also that any issue a parent might have with a given school’s culture or curriculum could be addressed if that parent had the freedom to send her child elsewhere. However, the fight against school choice has always been a fight against parents.

What public schools truly stand to lose is a measure of political power (which can be seen flailing from the governor’s pulpit) if they no longer have unopposed control over K-12 students. Interestingly, this only seems to bother Cooper where other people’s children are concerned.

It is funny to consider this against Georgia’s own epic struggle for and against school choice. It must be nice to have so many school-choice supporters united on the issue. But at least we can appreciate that our governor stops short of abusing his office when legislation doesn’t go his way.

« Previous Next »