Yesterday, the Senate voted to sustain Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that would have forced school districts to offer in-person instruction. The bill originally passed with support from Democrats in both the house and the senate. Only one of the two senate Democrats needed to override Cooper voted to do so. The vote was a testament of Cooper’s strength and the unity of the Democrats in the legislature. 

Cooper and the Democrats objected to the bill because it did not provide provisions following CDC recommendations like requiring schools to maintain social distancing and did not provide schools with the resources to make opening safe. Republicans accused Cooper of caving to the North Carolina Association of Educators. They believe they’ve scored political points. 

As I’ve written, I lean toward the Republicans’ position on this one. I think we need to get children back into schools as soon as possible. I differ with Republicans in that I believe making teachers and school personnel feel safe should be a priority and instituting regulations and allocating money should not be a barrier. Cooper and his allies seem poised to score big if they can put together a bill that alleviates their concerns while also hastening school openings. Remote learning is clearly not working and our children should not be the collateral damage of the pandemic. 

However, the Republicans are wrong about any sort of political victory. The John Locke Foundation released a poll showing more voters support in-person instruction and opening schools. However, the numbers were close and there was not majority support for overriding Cooper’s veto. I doubt Democrats suffer any sort of serious blowback for sustaining Cooper’s veto. Children will almost certainly be back in school by next fall and by the time people are voting in 2022, this battle will be a distant and insignificant occurrence. 

All of that said, we need to get kids back in school and we need to do whatever is necessary to get them there. Republicans should find the money to offer schools the resources to use innovative strategies to open safely. Democrats should be very wary about being portrayed as the party that wants to keep schools closed. Right now, there’s daylight for a compromise that could give both parties and our children a win. Do the right thing and govern.   

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