GOP quickly moves on school choice after NC Dem’s party switch causes veto-proof supermajority

State Rep. Tricia Cotham officially switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP last week, causing a “political earthquake” in the state that gives Republicans a veto-proof supermajority and allows them to move forward with school choice legislation and educational reforms.

(Video Credit: GOP War Room)

The high-profile defection has incensed leftists who have bullied Cotham and called for her resignation. Their attacks have only strengthened her decision to jump ship after being elected in a deep blue Charlotte-area district as a Democrat. Her primary reasons for leaving the Democratic Party have to do with her children and a desire to actually get things done in North Carolina.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper can no longer wield his pen to simply veto legislation that isn’t leftist. The House now has the power to stop that and Republicans will reportedly pursue a conservative agenda including school choice.

“The House Republican caucus has for several years pushed for more reform on school choice. We believe that giving parents power over their child’s education improves educational experiences for everyone,” Rep. Jason Saine, the North Carolina House GOP caucus leader, told Fox News Digital in an interview.

“Representative Cotham, as a former teacher and principal, is in a unique position as an elected member of the House, to assist in badly needed reforms,” he asserted. “She was already part of the reform team, and she’s now freer to openly work on those reforms in an environment that cares more for children than antiquated systems.”

To the horror of Democrats, Cotham addressed school choice during a press conference when she switched parties. She bluntly contended that the Democrats’ stance on the issue was one of the reasons she ditched them for redder pastures.

“On issues like school choice, like charters, we have to evolve,” Cotham declared. “One-size-fits-all in education is wrong for children … [Democrats] didn’t really want to talk about children. They had talking points from adults and adult organizations.”

Cotham is the chair of the Education K-12 House Standing Committee. She will have a major influence on educational reform bills. Republicans are thrilled to have her join them in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

“The GOP will push through significant bills on education choice and parental involvement in schools,” Chris Sinclair, who is a political strategist in North Carolina, claimed. “I believe Cotham will be on board with a lot of these forthcoming bills.”

One of the measures, House Bill 219, seeks to provide equal funding to charter schools and public schools. The bill would change how per-pupil funding is determined. Advocates for the move assert that money should follow students to the school the family chooses.

“If a student attends a charter school, the local school administrative unit in which the child resides shall transfer to the charter school an amount equal to the per pupil share of the local current expense fund of the local school administrative unit for the fiscal year,” the bill states.

Leftists claim that the bill would take money away from public schools.

“We believe every student should have the same per-pupil amount of local tax dollars, no matter what school they go to,” Bruce Mildwurf, who is the director of governmental relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association, told WRAL News in an interview. “This bill significantly tilts the scales in favor of the charter schools.”

“That is money out of the classroom; it is fewer teachers; it is fewer resources. Charters are benefiting at the expense of district-wide students,” Mildwurf complained. “School boards want fair funding. We currently have fair funding. This bill is unfair funding and will take millions of dollars away from school districts each year.”

Saine called the objections “political double-speak.” He contends that the money should benefit the education of students, not be used to fund the current system.

“Going so far as to suggest that the bill seeks to take funding from traditional students when the fact is we believe money should follow the child, not an antiquated system that has bred disparity in outcomes across the state,” he commented.” This bill, cosponsored by several House leaders, including Rep. Cotham and myself, seeks to end the practice.”

Charter school attendance in North Carolina has jumped more than 19% from 2019 to 2022, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Many see that growth as a strong indicator that parents are dissatisfied with traditional public schools.

Saine pointed out that many public school systems “fall way short and unfortunately do a great disservice to many families.”

“Unfortunately, many in education refuse to innovate or acknowledge shortcomings,” he added. “What probably alarms guys like Midruff is his message rings empty on representatives like me and others. The district I represent has never received the ‘fair funding’ he claims exists and actually receives the least under the current system he defends. What’s an even bigger counter to the educational left’s argument is our district does far more in performance measures with less money than all other systems.”

House Bill 219 is just the first of many reforms that Republicans are seeking to push through.

“Expansion of school choice, election law reforms, as well as many other issues are still being discussed and planned,” Saine noted. “Having just completed the House budget proposal and receiving the vote of nine Democrats on our budget bill, which also included a number of policy reforms, we think we are in a good place to continue to move our agenda forward.”

According to Fox News, “The state House on Thursday approved a two-year budget plan that now goes to the Senate for a vote. The budget expands school choice by growing private-school choice programs and charter schools, in part through the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a means-tested scholarship designed to allow low- and moderate-income families to attend the private school of their choice.”

The governor proposed in his budget phasing out Opportunity Scholarships but that will not happen now.

Here is a longer clip of Cotham’s remarks at the press conference last week:

(Video Credit: Queen City News)

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