Has Gov. Cooper 'protected' NC education funds?
Cooper said he’d “protect” public education from those trying to “undermine it.” He also said he’d raise education spending without raising taxes and bring teacher pay to the national average.
His budget charted the course for achieving those goals but it was rejected by the GOP-led legislature, which passed a budget of its own.
That budget, according to state Senate leader Phil Berger, increased public education by $700 million over the next two years, authorized average annual raises for teachers of 3.3 percent this year and 9.6 percent over the next two years, expanded the pre-K program and restored the teaching fellow program – which offers scholarships for students that go to college to become teachers.
“The first problem with Gov. Cooper’s claims is they run counter to legislative Republicans’ years-long efforts to improve public education and raise teacher pay – which began before he was even an announced candidate for governor, much less elected to the office,” said Amy Auth, a Berger spokeswoman.
The second, she said, is that Cooper vetoed the budget passed by Republicans. So Cooper “can claim no victories on outcomes included in the budget when he rejected it,” she said.
Cooper, however, claimed in a recent interview that he has “raised the level of debate” around education, “and that’s resulted in more kids in pre-K and has resulted in the revival of the teaching fellows program.”
He continued: “But we’re not where we need to be with all of the investments in education that’s going to make our state great and give these companies the workforce they need.”
Regardless of who gets credit, education funding in North Carolina is going up. And some education advocates aren’t faulting Cooper for falling short on their funding goals.
“Governor Cooper has largely stayed true to his campaign’s education promises by pushing for higher teacher pay, expanded early childhood education and increased funding for public schools,” said Keith Poston, president and executive director of Public School Forum of NC.
Yevonne Brannon, chair of the nonprofit Public Schools First NC, said she’s encouraged at the progress that’s been made.
“It was encouraging that the Governor proposed an increase in the number of 4-year-olds served by the state’s pre-kindergarten program (NC PreK) by an additional 4,600 students,” Brannon said in an email. She noted that Cooper proposed an additional $6 million for 2017-18 and $12 million for 2018-19.
“While, the final budget approved included only half that amount of funding, this was a significant improvement and the General Assembly and the Governor should both be commended for supporting this program,” she said.
We rate these education promises In the Works.