McCrory, Cooper talk HB2, education at conference in Wilmington

McCrory, Cooper talk HB2, education at conference in Wilmington

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and his challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, both addressed state educators Friday morning in Wilmington.

In their comments, in front of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, the two candidates painted very different pictures of public education in the state.

Cooper said over the past few years public education has hit hard times under McCrory and the Republican controlled General Assembly.

"You know and I know that over the past few years public education has hit hard times, you know it acutely," Cooper said to the group inside the Wilmington Convention Center. "We know that the great University (of North Carolina) system, and our community colleges have been damaged. We know our teacher and educator salaries, and our per pupil expenditures over the last few years have dropped to some of the lowest in the country."

McCrory said his administration has done more to raise teacher pay than the previous governors before him.

"The fact is that between 2002 and 2012, before I was Governor of North Carolina and we had three Democratic governors with all due respect, the average teacher pay fell behind more than any other state in the United States of America," McCrory said. "It went from 19th to 46th, before I was in office."

Cooper also criticized McCrory's recent budget announcement, with plans to raise teacher salaries to $50,000 a year by providing a five percent average pay increase.

"We need a strategic effort to get our teacher salaries above the national average," Cooper said. "That doesn't mean just three years of a little bit of progress and a promise of five percent during an election year. It means a real plan for North Carolina."

"Between 2013-2014 and 2014-15, in years there were no elections, North Carolina passed the largest pay raise in the US, that was a seven percent average pay increase, and I'm proud of that," McCrory responded during his address.

Cooper brought up the state's new law, commonly called HB2, while on stage. When outlining several steps he thinks North Carolina should take to improve education, Cooper said passing "discrimination laws like HB2" would keep the state from maximizing federal funding.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Cooper went deeper into the HB2 issue, regarding the threat some say it creates by risking federal funding under Title IX.

"Federal funds are at risk with House Bill 2, as well as good paying jobs in our economy," Cooper said. "The Governor and the House and Senate need to get rid of it."

McCrory also addressed the new law in his remarks, saying it protects against invasion of students' privacy in schools.

"There should be no mandate from a local county or local city telling you that you have to allow a person of one gender to go to another gender's locker room,  restroom or shower facility," McCrory told the group. "This is not about discrimination, it's about common sense etiquette, and I'm going to fight for that common sense etiquette, and it's an etiquette that we've been using and we didn't need any rules or regulations to do that because you've been doing it anyway."

McCrory left the convention center without talking to reporters. It marked the second time in a little more than a week that he has left events in Wilmington without taking questions from reporters. McCrory departed quickly last Wednesday, after helping to crown Azalea Festival Queen Anna Kooiman in a ceremony along the riverfront.

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