(Nyamekye Daniel | The Center Square ) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a proclamation recognizing North Carolina School Choice Week next week, according to National School Choice Week officials.
It is unclear whether the proclamation signals a change in Cooper’s position on school choice – the governor’s office did not respond Thursday – but this is the first school choice week proclamation by Cooper since he took office in 2017.
Cooper has pushed to defund the state’s private school voucher programs in the past.
“We are excited that North Carolina families are speaking up for school choice, and we’re grateful to Gov. Cooper for issuing this proclamation,” said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week. “As parents and educators know well, each child is unique. Having an array of educational options gives parents the freedom to choose what helps their children succeed.”
National School Choice Week highlights K-12 education options for children. The week, which runs from Jan. 23 to Jan. 29, focuses on traditional public, charter, magnet, online, private and home education options. There are more than 800 celebrations planned across North Carolina.
A Civitas poll released last year showed a majority of North Carolinians support school choice. According to the results, 72% of North Carolinians surveyed said they favor creating education savings accounts, and 66% favor the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program provides state-funded tuition assistance for low-income students to attend private school.
A recent survey from National School Choice Week found more than half (52%) of parents surveyed said they have considered choosing a new or different school for their children in the past year.
A North Carolina Department of Administration report last year showed the number of children homeschooled in North Carolina jumped nearly 21% during the pandemic.
While Republicans continuously have pushed for the expansion of voucher programs, Cooper has opposed spending more money on school-choice options. Cooper, however, signed the state’s current spending plan in November that expanded private school vouchers.
The measure raised the income threshold for the Opportunity Scholarships voucher program, allowing more children to apply. It also increased the scholarship awards and created an easier application process for children with disabilities. Cooper had recommended spending less on Opportunity Scholarships in his budget proposal for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year.
North Carolina school-choice critics argue charter schools, which are public-funded and privately operated, lack transparency and accountability. Others say school choice promotes segregation and absorbs money that should be used for traditional schools.
A group of North Carolina parents and teachers have filed a lawsuit against the state and the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, claiming the Opportunity Scholarship program limits religious freedom and discriminates against students based on sexuality and religious beliefs. The lawsuit is still pending.