Under the Dome

Cooper outlines education proposals

Attorney General Roy Cooper held a news conference to roll out what he said would be the first in a series of his positions on the issues, spelling out his priorities if elected governor.

This first one focused on education and took place in a science classroom at Wake Tech’s northern campus.

“This is not the North Carolina – the education state – that I know,” Cooper said, repeating a phrase that might become his campaign refrain.

Cooper’s eight-point plan outlines specific ideas he would pursue, some of which address how he would pay for such proposals as raising teacher pay. He told reporters that one source of revenue could be stopping the corporate income tax cuts that the Republican legislature has enacted.

He described the plan as a list of proposals that he was willing to work with the General Assembly to accomplish. Even though the legislature has made balancing the budget its priority, Cooper said it was possible to do that and still support public education.

“In North Carolina, our state has been about public education,” Cooper said. “It’s not only in our state constitution, it’s in our DNA as a people. And to have dropped to 42nd in the country in teacher pay, that’s wrong.”

North Carolina has been about public education,” he said. “It’s in our DNA.”

Cooper said there could be a number of ways of paying for the proposals, but he said he wasn’t calling for a tax increase. Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign was quick to respond.

"While Roy Cooper’s proposal offers only Bernie Sanders-esque platitudes like ‘free college’ with no plan to pay for it, Governor McCrory is working together with educational leaders to implement actual strategies to improve North Carolina schools and raise teacher pay,” campaign manager Russell Peck said in a statement.

Cooper’s plan includes:

▪ Increasing funding for Smart Start and N.C. Pre-K, using more partnerships to increase high-quality childcare facilities.

▪ Emphasizing early reading programs, encouraging evening literacy workshops and giving parents additional leave from work to attend school events.

▪ Raising teacher pay, restoring funding for the N.C. Teaching Fellows and Teacher Cadet programs.

▪ Helping low-peforming schools to improve by encouraging creativity in classrooms and not over-testing.

▪ Requiring fingerprint checks for educators, and working with alternative schools to help at-risk students to keep students safe.

▪ Encouraging career readiness academies in every school district.

▪ Making college more affordable with free tuition for community colleges, establishing a student loan refinancing authority, creating a borrowers’ bill of rights, and helping borrowers with debt relief programs.

▪ Make education a budget priority, including finding consistent funding and setting higher standards for charter schools, and reforming lottery spending to increase education money.