Governor During State of State: “Public Education Is Our Most Important Job”
Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs & Policy Manager
Governor Roy Cooper proudly told state lawmakers, “[T]he state of the State is determined” during the annual State of the State Address on Monday. Governor Cooper addressed members of the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the millions of North Carolinians watching remotely, to discuss his priorities for the legislative session, including an increased investment in public education. “To start, we must come together and insist our public schools come first,” the Governor stated towards the beginning of his speech.
Education was a frequent theme throughout Governor Cooper’s address, as he discussed issues ranging from teacher pay to Pre-K expansion to school capital funding. “Simply put, public education is our most important job as a state,” Cooper said, declaring, “We must do better.”
The Governor highlighted the need to increase teacher pay, noting North Carolina is still ranked 37th in teacher pay nationwide. He emphasized that his budget would “put our schools and our teachers first.” While some portions of the speech were divided between party lines, Cooper shared his belief that “there is bipartisan agreement that education will succeed with a good teacher in every classroom and a good principal in every school.”
Governor Cooper went on to express his desire to expand NC Teaching Fellows, a state-funded scholarship program which covers college tuition for students who teach in the state for at least four years upon graduating. Cooper also discussed expanding Pre-K programs, noting “[W]e shouldn’t stop until every child has it.”
The Governor also weighed in on the current school capital funding debate, advocating for allowing the people to vote on a “strong school construction bond.” Governor Cooper mentioned “4 in 10 public schools in our state are at least 50 years old,” creating “classrooms with unreliable heat, leaking roofs, or crumbling walls.” Cooper highlighted the $8 billion needed in school construction and renovations, and seemed to reference arguments in favor of a statewide school bond, noting, “There’s a smart way to build them that locks in financing against the whims of future legislatures and lets the people decide at the same time.” He continued, “It gets hammers swinging all across the state, and still leaves money for good teachers and principals.”
The North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) would like to thank Governor Cooper for his continued leadership on various critical education issues, and we look forward to working with his team, as well as legislators in both chambers, to improve public education throughout our State. To read Governor Cooper’s full remarks, please click here.