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Johnson 'extremely disappointed' in veto of school reopening bill

State Rep. Jake Johnson State Rep. Jake Johnson

Last Friday, within a day of the bill becoming law without his signature, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 37, which would have required school districts across the state to offer some in-person option for students.

 

The In-Person Learning Choice for Families bill, which passed the N.C. House and Senate with bi-partisan support, would have let students continue remote learning if they chose to, and directed North Carolina schools to provide in-classroom instruction. The bill is supported by more than $1.6 billion in new funds sent to public schools in separate legislation previously signed by the Governor.

The state legislature also fully funded state per-pupil allotments for schools, promised to "hold harmless" education budgets regardless of enrollment drops, and provided teacher salary step increases during the pandemic, in addition to the new federal funds. SB37 had passed the House by a vote of 77-42 and the Senate by a 31-16 vote.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the governor disregard the wishes of desperate parents, medical experts and students who are trying their best to regain a sense of normalcy," said Rep. Jake Johnson, R-Saluda. "It is my fear that children who do not have the choice for in-person learning will continue to fall behind, not just academically, but in developing social skills as well. I want to extend my thanks to all of the teachers and administrators who are already going above and beyond to offer in-person options to families and students.”

The sentiment was also shared by House Speaker Tim Moore.

"The legislature has worked hard to find common ground with the Governor, but we have a constitutional duty to provide education access to our students and will pursue a veto override on behalf of North Carolina families," he said.

In his veto message, Cooper said he, too, supports reopening schools but with stricter health guidelines.

"Students learn best in the classroom and I have strongly urged all schools to open safely to in-person instruction and the vast majority of local school systems have done just that," he said. "However, Senate Bill 37 falls short in two critical areas. First, it allows students in middle and high school to go back into the classroom in violation of NC Department of Health and Human Services and CDC health guidelines. Second, it hinders local and state officials from protecting students and teachers during an emergency. ...  As written, the bill threatens public health just as North Carolina strives to emerge from the pandemic. Therefore, I veto the bill."