(The Center Square) – North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is soliciting donations to fight the “bigoted, anti-LGBTQ+ extremists” in the General Assembly who want parents to have a say in their children’s education.
Cooper sent out a fundraising email last week that attacked Republicans who reintroduced a Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation. He compared it to Florida, where last year put parameters on teaching sexual orientation or gender identity.
Cooper is term-limited and will be succeeded in the 2024 gubernatorial election. He’s risen through the ranks of the state House, Senate and 16 years as state attorney general.
“North Carolina’s GOP legislators just announced plans to pass their very own version of Florida’s ‘Don’t Day Gay’ bill – a law that has silenced teachers from having age-appropriate conversations with their students and ostracizes LGBTQ+ students and families,” Cooper wrote. “It’s blatant political pandering, and it’s just plain wrong.”
Cooper noted that Republicans hold a veto-proof supermajority in the Senate and are within one seat of the same in the House, following gains in the November election.
A similar Parents’ Bill of Rights cleared the Senate in June 2022, but did not receive a vote in the House. Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told the media at the time he did not believe the lower chamber had enough votes to override a likely veto from Cooper.
This year’s Senate Bill 49 would guarantee parents access to a variety of education records and materials, while prohibiting schools from creating, sharing or storing biometric data, blood, DNA, and video or voice recordings without written parental consent.
The bill also requires schools to create a process for resolving parental complaints, and subjects state employees to disciplinary action if they attempt to encourage or coerce a child to withhold information from a parent.
Cooper’s grievances seemingly center on a provision in the bill that addresses age-appropriate lessons for young students that reads, in part, “Instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality shall not be included in the curriculum provided in grades kindergarten through fourth grade, regardless of whether the information is provided by school personnel or third parties.”
In his fundraising email, the Democratic governor made it clear he believes school officials should make the determination of when students would be exposed to those topics.
“Look, public school teachers and administrators are the ones who should be determining what and how to teach,” Cooper wrote. “They’re the experts.”
Cooper contends provisions in SB49 “aren’t designed to protect kids. They’re a capitulation to radical right-wingers who hold extreme views and want to silence anyone they disagree with.”
“We can’t let bigoted, anti-LGBTQ+ extremists dictate how our teachers teach or prevent students from expressing themselves in school,” Cooper’s fundraising solicitation read. “We HAVE to elect leaders we can count on to defend our rights and treat all North Carolinians with dignity.”
Democrats in the General Assembly in early February unveiled a competing Senate Bill 74, dubbed the “Parents’ and Students’ Bill of Rights,” which the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Michael Garrett of Guilford County, described as a “thoughtful alternative.”
SB74 focuses on 10 rights for parents and 14 for students that include things like “a fully resourced classroom,” “a learning environment in which discrimination in all forms is not tolerated.” It also has due process for discipline, freedom from searches, and mediation and substance abuse programming, among other provisions.
SB49 cleared the Senate on Feb. 7 with a vote of 29-18, and no support from Democrats. It’s now in the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House. SB74 has not moved since it was referred to the committee of the same name in the Senate.