February 29, 2024

Gov. Roy Cooper & Gov. Andy Bashear: Welcome to the GOP’s new education agenda: Loot our public schools for private vouchers

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An excellent way to mark Public Schools Week is with this spirited defense of public education and a warning about the programs that threaten it, straight from the governors of Kentucky and North Carolina.

This is their strategy: Start the programs modestly, offering vouchers only to low-income families or children with disabilities. But then expand the giveaway by taking money from public schools and allowing the wealthiest among us who already have children in private schools to pick up a government check.

In North Carolina, the Republican legislature passed a voucher program with no income limit, no accountability and no requirement that children can’t already go to a private school. This radical plan will cost the state $4 billion over the next 10 years, money that could be going to fully fund our public schools. In Kentucky, legislators are trying to amend our constitution to enshrine their efforts to take taxpayer money from public schools and use it for private schools.

But they also talk about what they want to defend.

Our public schools serve all children. They provide transportation and meals and educate students with disabilities. And they’re accountable to taxpayers with public assessments showing how students and schools are doing and where they need to improve.

But private schools that get this taxpayer money have little to no accountability. They aren’t even required to hire licensed teachers, provide meals, transportation or services for disabled students. They don’t even have to tell the taxpayers what they teach or how their students perform. North Carolina’s voucher system has been described as “the least regulated private school voucher program in the country.”

Both governors know we can do better.

We aren’t against private schools. But we are against taxpayer money going to private schools at the expense of public schools.

The future of our nation goes to class in public schools, and all Americans must be on guard for lobbyists and extremist politicians bringing similar plans to their states. Our segregationist predecessors were on the wrong side of history, and we don’t need to go back.

We are going to keep standing up for our public school students to ensure that they have the funding they need, and that teachers are paid like the professionals they are. It’s what’s best for our children, our economy and our future.

Read the full op-ed here. 

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