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Cooper slams lawmakers for bypassing statewide school bond

July 10, 2018

Stough Elementary School in Raleigh is so old that its gymnasium cannot hold the student body.

Gov. Roy Cooper criticized lawmakers Tuesday for not putting a $2 billion statewide school construction bond on the ballot this fall.

Cooper toured Stough Elementary School in Raleigh and other schools in the Triangle to highlight the need for more funding for school repairs and renovation to keep up with the state’s growth.

Built in 1968, Stough Elementary is one of the older schools in the Wake County Public School System. The school is so old that the gymnasium can’t even accommodate the student body, and several classes are outside the school in trailers.

“We do have some challenges when it comes to things that you don’t see, maybe things with the HVAC system or some of the roofing is old,” Principal Chris Cox said.

The school district plans to use its bonds to demolish and rebuild Stough Elementary during the 2019-20 school year.

Cooper said schools around the state are in much worse shape than Stough Elementary, and many counties aren’t as prosperous as Wake County and lack the means to renovate them.

“Some of these counties just do not have the tax revenue or the resources to provide the funding for school construction,” he said.

Last year, a proposed statewide school bond had strong bipartisan support in the legislature, but this year, Republican legislative leaders said they weren’t willing to put that much debt before voters on the November ballot.

North Carolina voters have not had a statewide school bond referendum since 1996.

Cooper says the state can afford the extra debt. What it cannot afford, he said, is crumbling schools.

“The needs across this state right now are at about $8 billion, so we know that, even with this school construction bond, there will be some unmet need,” he said.

Lawmakers added extra school construction money in the state budget this year, but it’s only about one-tenth of the funds the bond would have supplied.

Cooper criticized Republican lawmakers for putting six proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot instead of a school bond.

“They are forcing people to vote for constitutional amendments that are bad for our state and that are unnecessary, but they refuse to let people vote on a school bond,” he said, noting people will remember that when they head to the polls. “People are tired of the legislature shortchanging public education, clean air and water and health care, and I think that this will be a big year for challengers against incumbents.”

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