Governor Pat McCrory headlined a school choice rally Thursday morning in Charlotte. WFAE’s Duncan McFadyen reports the governor used the opportunity to promote his education agenda.
Governor McCrory spoke to a friendly crowd at the Carolinas Aviation Museum ---about 150 people sporting bright orange scarves provided by the organizers. His message was clear: choice makes education stronger.
He touted the state’s new $11 million Opportunity Scholarship Program. Beginning this fall, low-income families can receive up to $4200 a year in state assistance for private school tuition. But the North Carolina Association of Educators is suing to block it. NCAE lead counsel Ann McColl says the program is just dressed up vouchers.
"Our argument is that our constitution makes clear that taxpayer dollars are to be used exclusively for the public schools," McColl says.
So using them to pay for private school tuition, the suit says, violates the state constitution. McColl also cites data from the two school districts with the longest-running voucher programs, Milwaukee and Cleveland. She says in both cases,students in traditional public schools outperform those receiving vouchers.
Governor McCrory argues that school choice is already working in North Carolina through charter schools, privately-run schools that receive public money.
At the rally, he highlighted a class of 8th graders from Sugar Creek Charter in Charlotte who he says are all taking high-school level classes.
"I’m very proud of these [students]," he says, "especially the kids that may have been in circumstances in their families or in their financial circumstances that were not succeeding in one method of education, but they’re now succeeding with other choices.”
There are 26 new charters opening in the state this fall; 11 in the Charlotte area, and the Governor did say that these schools have to be held accountable. He says his administration is willing to shut down any school that doesn’t meet state standards.
“If a charter school---or any school---is not meeting the standards that they promised our state, our community, the students and the parents, then we will take action…up to and including taking away their license,” McCrory says.
The governor says in the coming weeks his office will unveil a new education plan focusing on high standards for students and merit pay for teachers.