Cooper talks teacher pay, school choice at Public School Forum event

Posted January 25

— Gov. Roy Cooper told education leaders Wednesday that increasing funding for public schools, including raising teacher and principal salaries, is one of his top priorities, and he called on business leaders to help support his initiatives.

Cooper spoke at the Public School Forum of North Carolina's annual event in Raleigh, where the group released its top 10 education issues of 2017.

The governor covered a wide range of topics, including school choice, scholarship programs for teachers and early education, during his interview with Public School Forum Executive Director Keith Poston. The interview was recorded for Education Matters, a weekly show that runs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on WRAL-TV.

Cooper said he wants the business community to help him focus on three things: increasing funding for public education, repealing House Bill 2 and expanding Medicaid coverage.

"Do we continue corporate tax reductions, personal income tax reductions? Or are we going to say we’ve done enough, it's time now to truly invest in education?" he said. "Don’t cut the corporate tax again. Instead, raise teacher pay."

Cooper noted that "there are a lot of Republicans who support public education in the General Assembly" and said he believes lawmakers can find common ground "as long as we act like adults."

The governor said he is concerned about continuing the state's Opportunity Scholarships school voucher program, which offers up to $4,200 in taxpayer funds to low-income families who want to send their children to a non-public school.

"I am very concerned and have opposed vouchers because of the lack of accountability. We really don’t know what these schools are doing or how they are performing," he said. "Instead, we need to invest in our public schools."

Cooper called for the return of the Teaching Fellows program, or something similar to it, to provide scholarships for college students who are studying to become teachers. He also said the state should focus more on early childhood education, using data and research-driven policies.

"Starting these kids early is a moral responsibility, I believe," Cooper said.


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  • Chris Cole Jan 25, 2:08 p.m.
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    There are schools in New England, like Kent School, that are private and have boarding, but they do a sliding scale for costs so those who want their kids in that setting, but aren't a part of high society can still send them there. We could have that along with more investment in the public school sector.

  • Lynn Wilhelm Jan 25, 2:00 p.m.
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    I just visited websites for St David's and Ravenscroft. Tuition at those schools runs about $20K per year. Plus each school charges a "new family fee" of $2,000 or $1,500, respectively.
    Low and even middle income students aren't likely to attend those schools with vouchers without a lot of additional funds.
    Liberal hubris, my eye.

  • Lynn Wilhelm Jan 25, 1:54 p.m.
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    Do you really think students who receive vouchers will end up a schools like that. The current "opportunity scholarships" don't cover tuition at those schools.

    Supporters of vouchers really want the choice to send their children to schools like Wake Christian where religious views of education trump facts in courses like science and history (heck, students there learn that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.)

  • Lynn Wilhelm Jan 25, 1:49 p.m.
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    Not to mention the for-profit virtual schools featured recently on WUNC radio: http://wunc.org/post/short-expectations-virtual-charter-schools-promise-improve

  • Lynn Wilhelm Jan 25, 1:42 p.m.
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    Colin Burch III, it is not "easy to find out how any private school is doing". Private schools can have very different accountability standards for teaching and learning (if any at all) and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. Anecdotes about how a student is doing are not enough, we need data, we need standards.

    Any school that receives public funds should be made to meet or exceed standards set for all schools. Otherwise we end up throwing our money away.

    It's funny that so many people supporting school vouchers are the same people who complain about taxes and government spending. We need accountability any time our money is spent.

  • Terry Lightfoot Jan 25, 1:39 p.m.
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    No - he is saying that poorly run Charter schools like Kestrel Heights who gave out diplomas not earned ( could be subject to criminal probe) and Hope Charter Leadership Academy with very poor test scores are examples of lack of accountability, look up their recent news stories - not too flattering

  • Lynn Wilhelm Jan 25, 1:35 p.m.
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    George Orwell, there have been thousands of studies that show the benefits of early childhood education. Yes some benefits have been shown to lessen as students move through school, but that does not equal failure.

    A 2016 paper "The Economic Returns to Early Childhood Education" by Lynn A. Karoly (available here: http://www.futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=87 )
    looks at the evidence for cost-benefit analyses of early childhood education. Even though these can range widely, current cost-benefit ratios show that realistic returns today are at least $3 benefit for every 1$ spent.

    Comments here about "sponges" (Angus young) and about students that shouldn't be helped if their parents "can't get their kids prepared for kindergarten" are sad to read. The potential for harm to our communities because is great when we are unwilling to see that all children get a quality education and an equal chance at a quality program.

  • Ed Smail Jan 25, 1:19 p.m.
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    Liberals alway espouse choice. Except for a parents choice in their child's education. Is Cooper saying that Ravenscroft, The Montessori School of Raleigh, or St. Davids lack accountability? This just typical liberal hubris.

  • Colin Burch III Jan 25, 1:09 p.m.
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    School choice is important to a lot of families. It is easy to find out how any private school is doing. However, the real question to ask is how is the individual student doing in that school? That is the primary determinant. The counties spend more than $4200 per student and if the student does better in the private school setting then that is the better value for money spent. This more about the establishment wanting to control the money than the individual child's education.

  • Jim Dunn Jan 25, 12:40 p.m.
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    There have been studies of head start students (more at 4) and no study found that the head start program benefits the student. There is no proof of positive benefits.

    It has become nothing more than free daycare and should be stopped.

    Nothing and no amount of money can replace good parents involved in their childs education.