Friday, March 22, 2024

Governor Cooper Tours Hall Fletcher Elementary School, Highlights How Strong Public Schools Make Strong Communities Gov. Cooper Declared 2024 as “The Year of Public Schools”

Mar 22, 2024

Today, Governor Roy Cooper visited Hall Fletcher Elementary School 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 Hall Fletcher Elementary School, ­­­Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County 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.

“Our public schools are going above and beyond to prepare North Carolinas students for a competitive future, but they are losing crucial funding and being forced to do more with less,” said Governor Cooper. “I encourage North Carolinians to reach out to their local legislators and candidates and urge them to invest more in public education.”

“We are honored to have hosted Governor Cooper at Hall Fletcher. He was able to observe the impactful learning our students from Pre-K to 5th grade experience everyday,” said Hall Fletcher Elementary School Principal Carrie Buchanan. “As Asheville City Schools Cougars we are grateful to Governor Cooper in dedicating this year as the Year of Public Schools focusing on educator pay and the importance of preschool.”

“Public schools are the heartbeat of the communities where they're located and serve all students without question, qualification, or exception. Our public school teachers are the single most important factor in providing all students with a high-quality education,” said Asheville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman. “Increasing teacher pay in North Carolina is imperative to retain the amazing teachers we already have as well as attract new teachers to the profession.”

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 Buncombe County, 75.7% of school-aged children attend public schools, and public schools in ­­Asheville City Schools and across the state excel at preparing students for success from cradle to career.

  • The 2023 graduation rate for Asheville City Schools was 91.2%.
  • In 2023, North Carolina public school students earned more than 325,000 workforce credentials while in high school. More than 1,500 of those workforce credentials were earned by Buncombe County students.
  • In 2023, more than one-third of North Carolina high school graduates and 63% of graduates in Asheville City Schools took a college course for credit while in high school.
  • North Carolina has the highest number of National Board-certified teachers in the country (over 24,000), including 292 in Buncombe County.

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 Buncombe County could lose over $5,500,000 in state education funding just in the first year of the expanded program. That loss in funding not only impacts students, but also Buncombe County’s workforce. Public schools are the third largest employer in Buncombe 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.