Today, Governor Roy Cooper traveled to Nashville Elementary School in Nash County, where he attended elementary school as a child, to proclaim 2024 as “The Year of Public Schools” in North Carolina. Gov. Cooper was joined by business leaders, state and local education leaders, teachers, and parents.
Highlighting the work that public schools in Nash County and across the state do every day to promote academic and social growth as well as career preparedness, the Governor called for K-12 education and early childhood funding as well as meaningful investments in greater teacher pay in the upcoming legislative session. The Governor also called for a stop to state spending on vouchers for unaccountable and unregulated private schools until North Carolina’s public schools are fully funded.
“North Carolina’s future depends on making sure every child has the chance to receive a high-quality education in our outstanding public schools,” said Governor Cooper. “The legislature must fully fund public education in North Carolina, including meaningful investments in early childhood education and paying our teachers like the professionals they are. During this Year of Public Schools, I urge North Carolinians to join me in fighting for our public schools by contacting their local legislators and candidates running for office to insist that North Carolina schools educate children for long-term success.”
This year, the Governor will highlight North Carolina’s strong public schools, teachers and staff across the state to show the positive impacts of a well-funded public education system on the state’s economy and communities. The Governor will also spotlight the dangers of underfunding our schools while pouring millions into in an unregulated private school voucher program that sends taxpayer money to private academies.
North Carolina’s public schools excel at preparing students for success from cradle to career. The NC Pre-K program is one of the best early childhood programs in the nation – evaluations show that low-income students that attended NC Pre-K had higher third grade reading and math scores than their peers who did not participate in the program. North Carolina public school students earn nearly 250,000 workforce credentials each year while in high school, and nearly one-third of public school graduates take at least one course for college credit while in high school. North Carolina has the most National Board-certified teachers in the nation – one of the highest recognitions teachers can earn.
However, Republican legislators continue to push policies that undermine and politicize public education. The most recent state budget significantly shortchanged North Carolina teachers and workers such as bus drivers with meager raises that were vastly inadequate and did not keep up with the rate of inflation. The budget also expanded the private school voucher program by $250 million over the next two years, for a total of $4 billion over the next ten years. Legislators also pushed legislation through the General Assembly that will scare teachers into silence by injecting fear and uncertainty into our public school classrooms.
North Carolina ranks near the bottom of all states in K-12 funding, spending nearly $5,000 less per student than the national average. In beginning teacher pay, North Carolina ranks 46th nationally and 11th out of 12 states in the Southeast.
Each year in office, Governor Cooper has proposed a state budget that would give North Carolina’s public schools the funding they need and provide meaningful raises for teachers and school officials. Last year, Governor Cooper proposed an 18% pay raise over two years for teachers, which would have set minimum starting teacher salaries at $46,000 in addition to local supplements. His proposal would have made North Carolina first in the Southeast in teacher pay and 16th in the nation, up from 32nd.
His budget proposal also included, as required by our state constitution, the necessary funding to ensure we have a qualified teacher in every classroom, skilled principals in every school, and the funding to support every student, most especially our students with disabilities, students from low-income families, and English-language learners. The budget would have provided public schools the funding to hire more educators, nurses, counselors, bus drivers, social workers and school psychologists, and funding for expanding the NC Pre-K program to more four-year olds.
As he begins his final year as Governor, Gov. Cooper is committed to prioritizing public schools and to hearing from the many communities across the state who know that strong public schools ensure we have strong communities.
Read the Proclamation here.