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School Choice Victories Trigger Leftwing ‘State of Emergency’ Meltdown

May 25, 2023

As school choice sweeps the nation this year, the left is losing its collective mind.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a “State of Emergency” this week—not because of any hurricane, fire or flood, but because state lawmakers are poised to deliver parents and students some massive wins over the objections of the radical left.

Indeed, just days after the North Carolina House passed an expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship—giving every child in the state the ability to apply their K-12 funding to private education—as well as full Academic Transparency, Gov. Cooper took to the airwaves in protest.

Warning that state lawmakers were “aiming to choke the life out of public education,” Gov. Cooper pronounced, “I’m declaring this state of emergency because you need to know what’s happening.”

In fairness, Gov. Cooper is perhaps half right: school choice victories have unleashed a state of emergency—but not for any parents, students or state governments. Rather, they’ve unleashed a state of emergency within the boardrooms of America’s leftist teachers unions. These are the same unions, of course, whose hysterics boiled over into parading around with fake coffins, tombstones, and obituaries to demand schools stay shuttered during COVID, who screeched that school re-opening efforts were “rooted in sexism, racism, and misogyny,” and who have called basic academic (curriculum) transparency “teacher abuse.”

Of course, like these other outlandish descriptors, the new “state of emergency” amounts to nothing more than a rhetorical gimmick without any legal effect. But for a state like North Carolina that routinely suffers real emergencies (whether hurricanes, mass power outages, or Black Lives Matter-related rioting), casually waving around a “state of emergency” label does nothing but dilute and disrespect the significance and victims of true disasters.

Political leaders should not be weaponizing emergency powers for partisan purposes—even if doing so has proven irresistible to some in the aftermath of COVID. Proclaiming artificial emergencies for the sake of political theater is not much better. But perhaps it’s not surprising in an age when some officials will do practically anything to silence and marginalize parents, whether that means labelling them as domestic terrorists, concealing children’s “gender transitions,” or trying to bully parents with massive bills and threats of lawsuits for daring to request curriculum information.

Rather, state leaders ought simply to make clear where they stand: with the rights of parents and students to find and choose the best education available, or against those rights.

The legislation now at the epicenter of North Carolina’s controversy builds on the wave of school choice momentum recently achieved from Arizona, Florida, Utah, Arkansas, Iowa, and others. North Carolina’s governor should join families in welcoming, rather than repudiating, such newfound opportunities. While the final versions of North Carolina’s Academic Transparency and school choice bills each await further votes in the state Senate, it is clear from the democratically elected members of the state House that these issues are priorities to advance, not emergencies to suppress.

This latest stunt builds on the left’s long history of doomsday predictions regarding school choice and K-12 education, as well as its malignment of concerned parents. But the governor’s comments have raised these hysterics to new heights, even equating the North Carolina school choice legislation with “drop[ping] an atomic bomb on public education.” After throwing around this kind of unhinged language, perhaps it’s only a matter of time until the governor or the unions try issuing an official declaration of war on parents’ rights, too.

Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute. He also serves as director of the institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy.

John Thorpe is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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