by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Locke’s Terry Stoops shares North Carolina’s story with the rest of the country, via National Review Online.
“I am a Democrat. He’s the governor, and a Democratic governor.”
And with that explanation, North Carolina state senator Paul Lowe cast the deciding vote to sustain Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bipartisan bill offering in-person learning for kids. Seldom does a politician so openly declare a preference for party over parents, but honesty is a nice change of pace for elected Democrats in the Tar Heel State. …
… Why did Cooper veto a bill supported by fellow Democrats? Many suspect he was placating the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), a teachers’-union affiliate and longtime ally of Cooper and the North Carolina Democratic Party. The Cooper administration and the NCAE were at odds over the state’s pandemic response leading up to the 2020 election. Outspoken NCAE members demanded Cooper use his executive powers to close all public schools indefinitely. But Cooper understood that such a dictatorial declaration would not sit well with an electorate struggling to balance the demands of work with mandated remote learning. His election opponent, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, had promised voters to open schools immediately. Cooper struck a middle ground, acknowledging public school teachers’ concerns while carving out additional opportunities for districts to expand in-person instruction. Caution and optimism became a recurring theme of his televised briefings, and it appealed to a weary electorate. Cooper’s balancing act won him a narrow reelection, with just over 51.5 percent of the vote.
But after the election, we learned that it was just that: an act. Cooper acquiesced to NCAE demands on issues such as prioritizing teacher vaccinations, placing them above cancer patients in the priority list. And in February, Cooper proposed using state dollars to award $2,500 bonuses for teachers and principals and $1,500 bonuses for school staff for their “courage and commitment to educating our children.” All of this, inexplicably, for a self-described union in decline. …
Cooper’s actions have had consequences, including at least one neither the governor nor NCAE likely anticipated. Support for school choice has grown in North Carolina, as Terry Stoops’ Center for Effective Education colleague Bob Luebke documents here.