Governor Roy Cooper is urging business leaders to pressure the General Assembly to make funding for education a higher priority.
“We need the business community to say to the Legislature, ‘Education is number one. Our workforce is number one',” Cooper said.
Cooper added educational investments should be a priority, “over anything else."
The governor made the remarks Monday at the Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State University. The theme of this year’s annual conference is Kidonomics: Investing Early in Our Future. The two-day conference is drawing about 700 education experts, elected officials and business leaders to discuss the connections between early childhood education and the economy.
Cooper said study after study has shown early childhood education is effective at preparing children for later grades. But he said instead of delving into the research, you could simply ask a classroom teacher.
“I challenge you to ask any kindergarten teacher if he or she can tell whether a child has had early childhood education or not,” Cooper said. “They can tell you.”
Cooper said school superintendents have told him that the General Assembly's mandate to reduce class sizes in Kindergarten through 3rd grade is forcing some schools to reduce their Pre-K classes.
Cooper went on to say that when he recruits companies to expand in the state, corporate tax cuts are not the top issue companies care about.
“The issue is skilled workforce. The issue is where their kids and where their workers are going to go to school,” Cooper said. “That is what matters.”
Cooper called for bringing teacher pay in the state up to the national average, expanding the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program and better funding colleges and universities.