Has North Carolina’s Governor Lost His Mind?

He declares a ‘state of emergency’ over prospect that legislature will override his veto on a law backing school choice.

AP/Hannah Schoenbaum, file
The North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, affixes his veto stamp to a bill banning nearly all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, at a public rally May 13, 2023, at Raleigh. AP/Hannah Schoenbaum, file

Thankfully, we’re now going to move away from the debt ceiling and talk about something a lot more important in American life: school choice.  

One of the big questions tonight is whether the North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, has just lost his mind. Now, this is a guy who is a Democrat in a red state. Actually, in its ranking of governors, CATO Institute gives him a “B” and rates him the sixth best governor in America.  

Go figure this, though: He’s just declared a state of emergency because the Republican state legislature is expected to override his veto of a school choice bill that passed the legislature. I mean, he’s absolutely lost his mind and declared Armageddon.  

It sounds like he thinks the Russians are about to cross into the Tarheel State any moment, probably accompanied by President Xi and the Iranian mullahs, just because the legislature is moving toward school choice.  

Here’s what he said: “It’s clear that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education. I’m declaring this state of emergency because you need to know what’s happening. If you care about public schools in North Carolina, it’s time to take immediate action and tell them to stop the damage that will set back our schools for a generation.” 

Next thing you know, he’s going to be asking President Biden for F-16s.  

Just to step back for a moment. We’re talking about a parental choice voucher system that would allow people to choose where to send their children by directing state education funds to the schools of their choosing.  

Governor Cooper, who sends his own children to a private school, claims that millionaires are going to use this taxpayer money. The reality, though, is that in every case across the country, the vast majority of those using school choice programs such as vouchers or education savings accounts have always been in the lower and middle classes.  

The governor says that when students leave public schools for private schools, the public schools lose hundreds of millions of dollars. No evidence supports this claim.  

In 2020, North Carolina spent $10,791 a year per student, and the legislature expects the average award per student would be about $5,600 annually.  

Then, Mr. Cooper says that this is going to shrink the state’s budget by almost 20 percent, cutting programs like art, music, and sports. No evidence supports this claim, according to the Heritage Foundation.  

Anyway, Mr. Cooper’s meltdown notwithstanding, the preponderance of evidence on school choice around the country shows a great improvement in educational attainment in traditional school systems. In other words, competition works, and that’s what this is really about.  

In 2020, a Harvard study showed that eighth-graders attending charter schools were three months ahead of their district school peers. Black students were an additional six months ahead. Test scores of those in the bottom 25 percent income bracket increased nearly twice as much as those of students in district schools.  

Another study by SUNY shows that 88 percent of charter schools in New York City did better than their neighboring traditional public schools in English, and 91 percent did better in math.  

Yet another study conducted by New York City shows Black charter school students bested their public school counterparts in English proficiency, scoring 55 percent compared to 36 percent. In math, it was 46 percent to 21 percent.  

I don’t know everything about North Carolina politics or education, but this whole Roy Cooper implosion sounds like the teachers union is putting together a left-wing coalition and the formerly moderate governor is caving in to it. Mr. Cooper also recently vetoed a GOP budget that included tax cuts, and the legislature overrode that veto as well.  

This story is even harder to understand because Mr. Cooper is a lame duck who can’t run again for governor, so you’d think he would just go ahead and do the right thing … which is help the kids, through school choice and competition. Maybe he’s got national ambitions?  

Who knows? I don’t even know if this state of emergency is constitutional. Regardless, he sure is making a big mistake, if you ask me.

From Mr. Kudlow’s broadcast on Fox Business News.

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