CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Gov. Roy Cooper visited Huntingtowne Farms Elementary School Wednesday to highlight the importance of funding public education. This comes just days after Cooper declared a “State of Emergency” in response to the State GOP’s proposed budget. 

One of Cooper’s main grievances with House and Senate Republican’s proposed budget is their planned expansion of the state’s opportunity scholarship program. The program currently provides state-funded vouchers for low-income parents to send their kids to private schools. 

It currently receives around $130 million a year from the state, but some lawmakers in the General Assembly want to dish out around $400 million with their proposed budget. 

“It will directly affect a number of public schools throughout North Carolina,” Cooper said from the south Charlotte school. “This is private school vouchers on steroids. Anybody at any income level, can get money to send their children to private schools.” 

The budget lays out an expansion plan that doesn’t discriminate based on income level, and opens up the opportunity for any family, with any income level to access funds for vouchers. Lower income families would be able to receive up to $7,000 a year, and higher income families would be able to receive up to $3,000. 

Heidy Gomez, a single mom with three kids, said she had to work three jobs to send her daughter with special needs to a private school, because she wasn’t getting the proper help at her public school. Gomez later applied for a school voucher and has been utilizing North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program ever since.

“I just want the best for my kids,” Gomez said. “I want to be able to provide good education, safe environment for my kids. This is not about one party or the other one. This is just about children having the opportunity to have the education that they need.” 

Gomez hopes more parents will soon have the same opportunity she’s benefitted from.  

“I saw many times many families that were over the limit before, for $1,000, for $2,000,” Gomez continued. “The fact that people are able to apply regardless of their income is a blessing, because we pay taxes too.” 

But Cooper says it’ll only take more money away from underfunded public schools and give wealthier parents a financial leg up. Though Cooper did admit to sending one of his children to a private school during the press conference, he has maintained a firm stance against private school vouchers since entering office — and also received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the North Carolina Association of Educators PAC. 

QCN asked him about that. 

“I don’t know of any that I’ve received,” Cooper said. “For one thing, I’m glad to get campaign contributions from teachers. Our teachers are one of the most important employees in the entire state government. I’m grateful for their support.”