Politics & Government

Roy Cooper bashes Pat McCrory over education

Democrat Roy Cooper talks education

North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper met with Charlotte teachers Monday.
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North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper met with Charlotte teachers Monday.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper on Monday accused Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders of “turning their backs on public education.”

Cooper, the attorney general, made his comments after meeting with a half-dozen Charlotte-Mecklenburg teachers at Amelie’s bakery.

“Education is more important than ever,” he told reporters. “And what you see is Gov. McCrory and the legislative leadership turning their backs on public education, and it’s wrong. And we have to make it a priority in North Carolina.”

Education funding is part of House and Senate negotiations over the state budget. The House has proposed average teacher raises of 4.1 percent. The Senate plan would raise salaries an average of 6.5 percent.

McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said Cooper shares the blame for years when teachers got few raises under a Democratic-run General Assembly.

“I wonder if Roy Cooper told the teachers today how he stood by and did nothing as teacher pay in North Carolina fell behind more than any other state before Gov. McCrory took office,” Diaz said. “Over the past three years, Gov. McCrory has worked closely with educators to raise teacher pay more than any other state in the country…”

According to the National Education Association, North Carolina saw the steepest decline in average public school teacher salaries from 2003-04 to 2013-14. While average salaries fell 3.5 percent nationwide, no state saw a bigger decline than North Carolina, where average salaries, adjusted for inflation, dropped 17.4 percent.

That was despite raises almost every year, including an 8.23 percent hike in 2006-2007, according to the legislature’s Fiscal Research office.

In 2014-15, teachers got an average 7 percent raise.

Cooper listened to the Charlotte educators share concerns over pay, classroom size and resources and teacher retention.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill