Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Governor Cooper Tours Forest Hill Elementary and NCSSM in Morganton, Highlights How Strong Public Schools Make Strong Communities Gov. Cooper Declared 2024 “The Year of Public Schools”

Today, Governor Roy Cooper toured Forest Hill Elementary and the North Carolina School of Science and Math– Morganton as part of “The Year of Public Schools” education tour.
Feb 20, 2024

Today, Governor Roy Cooper toured Forest Hill Elementary and the North Carolina School of Science and Math– Morganton as part of “The Year of Public Schools” education tour. The Governor was joined by teachers, students, local and state education leaders and local elected officials as he highlighted the outstanding work being done at North Carolina public schools in Morganton and the ways that public education is strengthening North Carolina’s communities.

The Governor again called for fully funding K-12 education as well as meaningful investments in early childhood education and 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.

“Public schools here in Burke County are doing outstanding work teaching and preparing our students,” said Governor Cooper. “Forest Hill Elementary sets students on a path to success from a young age and NCSSM-Morganton is a nationally-recognized example of North Carolina’s strong and innovative public schools that gives students an invaluable specialized STEM education. We need to fully fund our state’s public schools, so all students can access the resources they need.”

“Forest Hill Elementary School truly is a community school located in a wonderful neighborhood, and we are happy to show it off,” said Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan. “Mrs. Costello and her wonderful faculty and staff truly care about students and are all in to not only meet their educational needs, but also their social and emotional needs. We have great schools throughout our district and Forest Hill is one of the many bright examples of a great public school.”

“Across our institution, we have enjoyed unprecedented support from the state of North Carolina for the past eight years,” said NCSSM Chancellor Todd Roberts. “These investments have enabled us to create the Morganton campus, invest in our existing campus in Durham, and serve a record number of students around the state with cutting-edge, STEM focused public education. I appreciate our state's commitment to NCSSM and public education.”

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 of dollars into an unregulated private school voucher program that sends taxpayer money to private academies.

In Burke County, 85.5% of school-aged children attend public schools, and public schools in Burke County and across the state excel at preparing students for success from cradle to career.

  • The 2023 graduation rate for Burke County students was 87.9%.
  • In 2023, North Carolina public school students earned more than 325,000 workforce credentials while in high school. Over 6,000 of those workforce credentials were earned by Burke County Students.
  • North Carolina has the most National Board-certified teachers in the nation – one of the highest recognitions teachers can earn. In the Burke County School System, 88 teachers are National Board-certified.
  • In 2023, more than one-third of North Carolina high school graduates and 54% of graduates in Burke County Public Schools took a college course for credit while in high school.

The North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM), which opened in 1980 and is a part of the UNC System, was the first public residential high school of its kind in the nation. NCSSM’s two campuses in Morganton and Durham provide students from across the state with a high-quality STEM-focused education, preparing some of our state’s best and brightest students for promising futures.

  • For four years in a row, NCSSM has been ranked the top public high school in North Carolina and one of the top in the United States.
  • NCSSM enrolls 1,457 students representing 91 counties. The Morganton campus enrolls 300 students from 39 counties.
  • The annual economic contribution of NCSSM and its alumni to North Carolina’s economy is $1.34 billion (2020)

However, Republican legislators continue to push policies that undermine and politicize public education. The budget enacted by the legislature last year 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.

  • Under the expanded voucher program, public schools in Burke County could lose over $1.1 million in state education funding just in the first year of the expanded program. That loss in funding not only impacts students, but also Burke County’s workforce. Public schools are the second-largest employer in Burke County.

During 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 Year of Public Schools" proclamation here.

Read the Governor’s remarks from “The Year of Public Schools” launch event here.


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