RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed “North Carolina School Choice Week” for the first time since the Democrat took over the job more than five years ago.
The proclamation for “choice week,” which began Sunday, is interesting given Cooper has raised issues over expanding the number of charter schools. And he’s opposed relentlessly efforts by Republican legislators to expand the state-funded scholarship program for K-12 students to attend private schools.
The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools had asked Cooper to issue a proclamation each year since he took office in 2017 without success, group executive director Rhonda Dillingham told The News & Observer of Raleigh. Then-Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, issued the last such proclamation, in 2016.
“It’s an olive branch that we’re happy about and hope that we can even take it further and see where it goes,” Dillingham said.
Cooper spokesperson 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 particularly to support our public schools and owe all educators our thanks and recognition.”
The North Carolina week coincides with National School Choice Week and usually is highlighted more by charter schools, private schools and homeschooling parents.
Enrollment in North Carolina’s traditional public schools has declined while enrollment continues to rise in alternative venues, such as charter schools. They are taxpayer-funded public schools exempt from some rules traditional public schools must follow.
Cooper has tried repeatedly to phase out the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program for private schools and opposes “vouchers.” Still, he signed a budget in November expanding such scholarship money. Cooper said he signed the budget because the good inside it outweighed the bad.
The North Carolina Association of Educators, a longtime Cooper political ally and voucher opponent, declined to comment on the proclamation.
The proclamation states “North Carolina is home to a multitude of high-quality public and nonpublic schools from which parents can choose for their children, in addition to families who educate their children in the home.”