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Governor Roy Cooper discussed his new budget proposal when he visited an elementary school and child development center on Thursday. 

After his visit to Parkwood Elementary in Durham, Cooper fielded questions about his budget. 

“I’m excited about what we can do. I know that this is a visionary, aspirational budget,” he said. “I love it when Republican leadership says, ‘No, we’re doing more for public education.’ Good, I hope they win the race for teacher salaries.”

Cooper was referencing teacher raises brought about by Republican leadership over the past few years — a hallmark of Republican political campaigns during November’s election. 

Governor Roy Cooper talks to Parkwood Elementary 4th grader Skai Fisher
Governor Roy Cooper talks to Parkwood Elementary 4th grader Skai Fisher

Cooper also proclaimed his support for public schools, giving media a glimpse into his multi-generational experience with the public school system.

“I’m a product of public schools. My mom was a public school teacher. My three daughters had the benefit of public schools,” he said. “I’ve been a tutor and mentor for decades in our public schools. These schools are the key to our future. They are who we are as North Carolinians.” 

Cooper said he visits schools like Parkwood so he can get a sense of the positive things happening in public schools and to see what kinds of help they need. He said his budget takes a “broad view of education,” from birth through higher education. 

Governor Roy Cooper greets Parkwood Elementary Principal Michelle Bell
Governor Roy Cooper greets Parkwood Elementary Principal Michelle Bell

He also addressed his position on charter schools. His comments came after the controversy over Kestrel Heights Charter School, a Durham charter school that reported that 40 percent of its graduates, a total of 160 students, received diplomas without the correct number of graduation credits.

The State Board of Education voted to close the high school at Kestrel Heights and gave a three-year charter renewal to the K-8 portion of the school.

“I think there’s a place for quality charter schools, and it can be positive for our public schools to learn some of the innovations that can occur in charter schools,” Cooper said. “However, they have to be held accountable to standards. They have to be transparent, and we have to make sure they work.” 

Watch video below of a portion of the Governor’s visit, including him reading to Parkwood students as part of the school’s Read Across America event.

After completing his visit at Parkwood, Cooper traveled to Greensboro to visit Guilford Child Development, a preschool and child care center. He toured the facilities and again took questions from the media. 

He started out by saying he’s happy that he was able to put out a budget that concentrates on education, especially on early-childhood learning. 

The Governor’s budget includes money for an additional 4,700 slots for NC Pre-K, which would raise enrollment from 22 percent of eligible children to 55 percent. 

When asked where he would find additional resources for NC Pre-K, Cooper said that once people saw that the state was willing to invest in early childhood education, supply would take care of itself. 

“We believe that if we show people that we are going to provide money for these slots, then they will become available,” he said. 

Governor Roy Cooper with children at Guilford Child Development in Greensboro
Governor Roy Cooper with children at Guilford Child Development in Greensboro

Cooper also said he thought that he and Republican leaders in the General Assembly have similar points of view on many budget issues. 

“I think that there will be a lot of things upon which Republican Senate leadership and House leadership and I can agree,” he said. “I think where we’re going to have the biggest debate is to whether we’re going to have continued tax breaks for corporations and tax cuts for the very wealthiest among us, or are we going to invest in education?”

Cooper also talked about opportunity scholarships, which give students up to $4,200 of public money toward tuition for a private school. 

“We have a lot of school choice within our public schools, and we need to make our public schools better. These vouchers often don’t give kids and families enough money to choose high quality education,” he said. “I think if people want to send their kids to private school, they can certainly do that, but I want to make sure that our tax money is invested in public education.” 

Watch full video below: 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.