Gov. Cooper asks for compromise on issues surrounding school reopening bill, says it hasn’t happened yet

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) again called for a compromise ahead of a key vote Monday night in the Republican-controlled North Carolina Senate on whether to override the veto of a bill to open more schools for in-person classes.

Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 37 on Friday, which would require K-12 public schools to offer the option of in-person learning saying it “threatens public health.”

The governor followed up with a statement released on Monday, saying that he believes students should be in the classroom but should do so safely. He has asked legislative leaders to compromise with him.

“The question on SB 37 that I vetoed is not whether our children should be in the classroom in person. They absolutely should. The question is whether we do it safely,” Cooper said.

The bill passed the Senate last month by a vote of 31-16. It takes a three-fifths majority of members who are present and voting to override Cooper’s veto. If all 50 senators are present and voting Monday night, 30 would have to vote in favor of the override for it to be successful.

Three Democratic senators joined the Republicans in voting for SB 37 initially: Paul Lowe, Kirk deViere and Ben Clark.

Lowe said Monday he would vote to sustain Cooper’s veto.

“Our students and teachers must come back to a healthy learning environment. I hope we can come to a compromise,” he wrote in a statement.

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) called on the three senators to continue supporting SB 37.

“If they stick to their convictions and side again with the overwhelming majority of parents, this bill will almost certainly become law,” Berger said.

If the bill does ultimately become law, school districts would have 15 days to comply.

Two of Kelly Mann’s three daughters are in public schools in Wake County. She’s pushed for this bill to pass, saying she’s concerned about the negative impacts of remote learning for some kids.

“I am deeply concerned about the rise, the increase, in damage that is going to be done long-term to our schools, and therefore, our communities,” she said. “There’s so much to consider about long-term damage that is just being ignored by our governor.”

Cooper has said he takes issue with the bill allowing school districts to choose whether to follow the state’s minimal or moderate social distancing plans as they reopen.

“The bill allows middle and high school students to be in school without following NCDHHS and CDC guidelines on social distancing,” he continued. “SB 37 also removes authority from state and local officials to put students in remote learning in an emergency like a new COVID variant hitting our schools.”

The governor said he asked legislative leaders to compromise with him on those two issues, but so far they have not.

“I will continue talking with legislators and I will work diligently with the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make sure all of our children and educators are in the classroom, in person and safe,” Cooper said.

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