Featured photo: Gov. Cooper (photo by Stan Sussina)

Gov. Roy Cooper sounded the alarm last week: a state of emergency in our public schools, brought on by new, ostensibly veto-proof legislation that would further decimate our schools.

Cooper said the expanded voucher program espoused by Senate leadership will “siphon a little over $3 billion from the General Fund” by allowing parents in any income bracket to claim a state subsidy on private education for their children.

The meat of the bill is in the math — allocations from the General Fund that start with $176.5 million in 2023-24, jumping to $415.5 million in 2025-26 and hitting more that $500 million by 2031. The total is $3.6 billion over nine years.

For comparison, this year just $98.5 million from the General Fund went towards the public school budget. So it’s new money, but the beef is that it’s being used to fund private schools instead of public-school teachers and facilities.

Make no mistake: Private schools in NC are already benefiting from the voucher program, dubbed “Opportunity Scholarships.” This year, private schools got more than $133 million that could have gone to our public school system. As an aside, eight of the Top 10 have a religious affiliation as Christian or Baptist, which combined took in $11.5 million for the 2022-2023 school year.

The state of our public schools can be ascertained from the Leandro case, a 1994 decision insisting on the need for more funding from the state, one that has survived decades of challenges and appeals without being fulfilled. The previous NC Supreme Court issued an order in November 2022 demanding an additional $1.75 billion for public schools, which the new Supreme Court quashed in March of this year.

Barring something unforeseen, we will get this instead of that.

Because the governor’s antics notwithstanding, leadership in the NC Legislature seems bound and determined to undercut our public schools.

Many Republicans are openly hostile towards public education, including NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who literally sits on the State Board of Education. In 2022, he established a puny task force with a snitch form people to “expose indoctrination.” As he runs for governor, the voucher program is a main plank in his platform.

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