by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On Tuesday, August 11, 2020, a column written by John Locke Foundation CEO Amy O. Cooke appeared in the Bladen Journal. In her column, Cooke shares her powerful personal story of her family’s sacrifices for her education to argue that the state should remain dedicated to its Opportunity Scholarship Program – a state scholarship for low-income families to attend private K-12 schools.
Cooke writes that the charge against vouchers for low-income students is not about children; it’s about protecting a politically ingrained system whether or not it harms students. She writes:
A save-the-system-not-the-student mentality is at the center of the “left-leaning” N.C. Association of Educators’ lawsuit to thrust a dagger into the heart of our state’s school choice options.
This lawsuit could likely land in the hands of a state Supreme Court that does not take kindly to school choice. Cooke explains:
Led by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley… the court now is far left and likely to be sympathetic to the NCAE’s monopoly position over public K-12 education.
To make matters worse, it’s unlikely that low-income and minority students — 47 percent of whom are black — will receive any help from Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper. He openly opposes Opportunity Scholarships, claiming they cost the state money, when in reality the program saves taxpayers millions.
Interestingly, while Cooper wants poor black students to remain in public schools that fail them, he sent his own kids to an expensive private school.
Cooke explains her personal passion for such a program, and the sacrifices her large family made for her education. Cooke writes:
I’m the youngest of seven children. My mother stayed home while my father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot… We never owned our home, and I was in middle school before I rode in a new vehicle registered to my parents… Had free and reduced-price lunch existed when we were growing up, my family probably would have qualified…
My stay-at-home mom took an hourly job as a cook at the local middle school to pay my tuition for an all-girls Catholic college preparatory school for my junior and senior years…
I had to become a mother myself truly to appreciate the scope of what my mom did for me and the impact it had on my life…
I can never repay my mother for the gift she gave me, nor did she ever expect it. But I promised her before she died that I would pay it forward because I can personally attest to the importance of every child, regardless of socio-economic background, ZIP code, or skin color, having access to the school that best meets his or her needs.