Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed “North Carolina School Choice Week” for the first time since the Democrat took office more than five years ago.
The proclamation of “choice week,” which began Sunday, is interesting given that Cooper has raised concerns about the increase in the number of charter schools. And he relentlessly opposes efforts by Republican lawmakers to expand the state-funded scholarship program allowing K-12 students to attend private schools.
The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools had asked Cooper to issue a proclamation every year since he took office in 2017 without success, group executive director Rhonda Dillingham told The News & Observer of Raleigh. Then-Governor. Pat McCrory, a Republican, issued the last such proclamation, in 2016.
“It’s an olive branch that we’re happy about and hope we can even take it further and see where it goes,” Dillingham said.
Cooper spokesman Jordan Monaghan said the association requested the proclamation and “we honored that request.”
“Over the past two years, educators at all levels have responded to unprecedented challenges with grace, flexibility and determination,” Monaghan added in an email. “We must do more especially to support our public schools and owe all educators our thanks and appreciation.”
North Carolina week coincides with National School Choice Week and is usually highlighted more by charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling parents.
Enrollment in traditional North Carolina public schools has declined while enrollment continues to rise in alternative locations, such as charter schools. These are taxpayer-funded public schools exempt from certain rules that traditional public schools must follow.
Cooper has repeatedly tried to phase out the state Opportunity Scholarship program for private schools and opposes “vouchers”. Yet he signed a budget in November increasing those scholarships. Cooper said he signed the budget because the good within outweighed the evil.
The North Carolina Educators’ Association, a longtime political ally of Cooper and an opponent of the vouchers, declined to comment on the proclamation.
The proclamation states that “North Carolina is home to a multitude of high-quality public and non-public schools from which parents can choose for their children, in addition to families educating their children at home.”