Gov. Roy Cooper was wrong to veto a bill that would shift the oversight structure of North Carolina’s schools for the blind and deaf, according to a statement from Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.
The measure in question, Senate Bill 593, passed both chambers of the General Assembly by nearly unanimous margins in late June and early July. Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the bill July 11, calling it “blatantly unconstitutional” for continuing “this legislature’s push to give more control of education to Boards of Trustees made up of partisan political appointees.”
The Tar Heel State has three publicly funded schools dedicated to serving blind or deaf students — the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, the North Carolina School for the Deaf, and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind.
Under current law, oversight of the schools comes through the State Board of Education. But S.B. 593 would switch that guidance to local boards of trustees with five total members each — four members appointed by the legislature and one by the governor.
“The students at the schools deserve steady, knowledgeable leadership rather than becoming a part of the erosion of statewide education oversight,” Cooper said in his veto message.
In a statement July 13, Truitt, a Republican, criticized Cooper for the veto. She said that S.B. 593 received widespread input to reach consensus, including from the Department of Public Instruction, the three current directors of the schools, and from other stakeholders.
“This is an important piece of legislation that has been properly vetted, thoroughly discussed among multiple partners, and written while keeping the blind and deaf students of our state front and center,” said Truitt. “Unfortunately, without this legislation becoming law, these schools will not be in a sustainable position to provide the sound and basic education that our blind and deaf students deserve, and their families should expect to receive.”
“The decision by the Governor to take a political stand on a decades-long issue was not in the best interest of these children,” Truitt added.
The superintendent encouraged lawmakers to take up a veto override when the General Assembly returns to Raleigh July 26.
“Passage of S.B. 593 reflected a good-faith, bipartisan effort to improve governance of the schools for blind and deaf children,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “Gov. Cooper is out of touch with the broad coalition of elected officials and stakeholders who supported this legislation.”