With North Carolina legislators on the precipice of passing landmark universal school choice legislation, the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, has responded by giving a special address declaring a “State of Emergency for public education in North Carolina.” According to Cooper, “the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education” because “[t]heir private school voucher scheme will pour your tax money into private schools.” Cooper’s emergency declaration is absurd, on several levels.

First, the declaration is ridiculous as a matter of law. Normally, I’d argue that an executive who invokes emergency authority to try to circumvent the will of the legislature is abusing his position. But Cooper’s emergency declaration appears to be so legally toothless that it’s not worth the argument.

As Cooper acknowledged in his address, he’s not issuing a formal “Executive Order” declaring an emergency “like with a hurricane or the pandemic.” Rather, he’s just “declaring this state of emergency because [the public] need[s] to know what’s happening” and to encourage the public “to tell [legislators] to stop the damage that will set back our schools for a generation.” In other words, Cooper’s emergency declaration appears to be a nothingburger designed to grab headlines and stir up opposition to the school choice legislation.

Second, the declaration’s opposition to education freedom is wrong on policy. As the work of IWF’s Education Freedom Center has demonstrated, school choice empowers parents and students to select the academic environment that best meets their needs, and it encourages public schools to improve by holding them accountable. This should be a welcome development for a state whose test scores have dropped to the lowest level in decades and includes school districts with some of the worst achievement gaps in the nation.

On that point, perhaps the poor performance of North Carolina’s public schools is why Cooper sends his own child to a private school. Wouldn’t it be great if every North Carolina child had that freedom? With no thanks to Cooper, soon they will.