Dare commissioners, ed. board members asked to weigh in on school voucher debate

Dare commissioners, ed. board members asked to weigh in on school voucher debate

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Both the Dare County Board of Education and the Dare County Board of Commissioners are being asked to wade into the growing statewide debate over school funding, and specifically, the expansion of voucher payments for private schools.

At the state level, this battle is being most prominently waged between Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who has declared a public education “state of emergency” and the Republican-controlled State House, where the legislation to increase vouchers for private school has originated.

The partisan divide on the issue is clear and on June 12, the Dare County Democratic Party announced that its Executive Committee had passed a resolution calling for the Dare County Board of Commissioners and the Dare County Board of Education to publicly opposed both SB 406 and HB 823, known as “The Choose Your School, Choose Your Future” legislation.

The Dare Democrats’ statement said that “The legislation would greatly increase issuance of tax-funded vouchers paid to private schools…The funds will be taken from the state education budget. The Office of State Budget and Analysis and the Office of Governor Roy Cooper estimate that the immediate FY 2024-25 decrease in state funding to Dare County Schools will be close to $300,000.”

During the public comment session of the June 12 Dare County Board of Education meeting, a Dare schools’ parent, Jamie Wegener, “urged” the Board to pass a resolution in opposition to SB 406 and HB 823 in an effort to “support our public schools.” There was no further discussion of the matter during the June 12 meeting.

As Wegener noted in her remarks, Dare Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight is one of 19 public school superintendents in the northeast region of the state who signed a May 31 letter stating their view that the provisions “in Senate Bill 406 and House Bill 823 will have very negative consequences for northeastern North Carolina. As we have outlined, there are a host of potential problems with this legislation. We urge our legislators to consider the impact to our public school districts in the northeast and abandon any efforts to expand this program.”

In a Voice interview, Dare Board of Education Chair Ron Payne, when asked if the board might take action on the matter, said, “There’s several resolutions that have been sent by various school districts to the legislature and we’re reviewing the resolutions at this time.”

In an email to the Voice, Dare Democratic Party Chair Susan Sawin stated that “The Executive Board of the Dare County Democratic Party will make a written request to the Boards of Education and Commissioners to publicly oppose the legislation. Whether they allow us to make a formal presentation will be up to the respective boards.”

When contacted by the Voice for reaction, Dare County Republican Party Chair Browny Douglas said he was unaware of the Democratic Party resolution and had no comment.

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