February 4, 2021

In this new era of divided government in North Carolina, score the first big win for the Reform Majority in the General Assembly and their leaders, Speaker Tim Moore and Senator Phil Berger.

For months parents, education experts and conservative legislators have expressed concerns about a “lost year” of education for North Carolina’s school children. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence about coronavirus transmission in classrooms, declining student mental health and a lack of educational progress, Governor Cooper and HHS Secretary Mandy Cohen marched in lockstep with the NCAE Teachers Union since last March to keep kids shut up at home and out of public school classrooms in most districts.

When the pandemic first hit, most everyone wondered about kids’ safety in schools because so many medical experts reported that children were rarely getting infected with COVID. More recently, the science, in the forms of studies and medical analysis (even a major study by our own UNC and Duke universities) confirmed that kids could safely return to in-person learning in schools.

On Monday, legislators filed Senate Bill 37 requiring every school district in the state to offer families a choice for in-person instruction that complies with all CDC safety protocols. The bill received vocal public support from members in both chambers, including Speaker Moore and Senator Berger.

On Tuesday, at the prompting of Catherine Truitt, the new Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Governor Cooper slunk out in front the press and finally agreed that public schools need to have an in-person instruction choice for all families. While Cooper tried to appease the NCAE Teachers Union – whose previous huge financial support of Cooper’s campaigns has sparked campaign finance complaints with the state elections board – by saying he would not sign the proposed legislation, there is little doubt about how this will end when the bill arrives on his desk.

The two bigger questions for reform-minded conservatives in the legislature are: Has Governor Cooper already reached ‘Lame Duck” status? And how can they capitalize on this momentum to move forward on other parts of the conservative reform agenda that has so greatly benefited our state over the past decade?