Education, HB2 and leadership: Roy Cooper hopes to implement big plans

Samantha Durham | Assistant Opinion Editor

Roy Cooper, a North Carolina native and candidate for North Carolina’s governor, spoke with The Seahawk on Wednesday, Oct. 26 in regard to his campaign and ideas for the state’s future.

Cooper states on his website and throughout his campaign that he has big plans for the North Carolina education system.

“We have to get our educator salaries to at least the national average,” Cooper said. “We have to support our public universities because they are the centers of innovation and the economic engine for our state.”

Cooper expressed his interest in supporting public education but also recognized that the costs of education are rising, leading to less affordable college programs.

“We have to make sure college is affordable as well, and one of the ways to do that is to make sure the state is doing its part so that these universities don’t have to continue increasing tuition and fees, which is hurting students.”

Education is a major topic nationwide, and North Carolina has taken a few hits on the topic.

The Washington Post reported in 2015 that former teacher James Hogan claimed North Carolina was raging a “war” against public education.

“The pathway has been paved with underfunded budgets, tactical strikes against public school teachers, fundamental changes in charter school operations, the division of public funds to private and religious schools, and the erosion of our hallowed University of North Carolina system,” he stated in a blog post.

The Washington Post also reported that in the budget cycle for 2014-15, legislature provided about 500 million dollars less for education alongside the close to half-billion dollar slash from the University of North Carolina system. Cooper lamented the governor’s actions toward education reform.

“I’ve been disappointed that this governor has not supported public education like he could have,” he said. “We are forty-first in teacher pay and forty-fourth in per student spending, and most of that money went to corporate tax giveaways and tax cuts for those at the top instead of investments in public education. I plan to make public education a priority.”

“We were the first state in the country to open our doors to higher education supported by the public,” continued Cooper, a UNC alumnus, when asked how he plans to maintain the reputation of our state’s universities. “We continued that tradition for decades, making sure that we emphasize higher education.

During his time at UNC, Cooper earned a Doctor of Law degree while also serving as president of the Young Democrats organization on campus. Likely based on his own experiences in college, Cooper asserted in his interview with The Seahawk the importance of hard work and extensive involvement for college students everywhere.  

“First,” he said, “you do have to work hard, and in college sometimes it’s a tough decision to work hard, but I tell students to concentrate on their academics and make sure they are dedicated to them. But, secondly, I would try to be involved in as many things as you can on campus, volunteer-wise, to see what your passion is. Often you decide what kind of career you want to go into because you have volunteered or taken part in some kind of activity that you’ve found you really enjoyed.”

Cooper praised the value he believes comes with liberal arts degrees because of the critical thinking skills young people learn while earning the degree. He believes that “young, fresh ideas” from young people are what is necessary to fix the problems that he sees in the American political process. Working in politics takes certain qualifications and skills that can be learned in a college environment, but some skills cannot be taught, according to Cooper.

Cooper does not believe that incumbent Governor Pat McCrory (R) has those skills. On his website, Cooper states, “Ultimately, I believe we now lack leadership and vision,” and while speaking with The Seahawk, he detailed how he believes a better governor would take responsibility for challenges.

“Governor McCrory blames other people for problems we have and challenges and often does not even recognize that we have a problem or challenge,” said Cooper. “I think it’s important for a leader to take charge and solve problems we have. […] I believe I can do that.”

House Bill 2, commonly abbreviated to HB2, was signed into effect March 23 after being passed by the N.C. General Assembly and signed by Governor McCrory. A controversy quickly arose surrounding HB2, for the law effectively states that transgender individuals who have not taken steps, legally or surgically, cannot use the restroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify and must use the bathroom that correlates with the gender on their birth certificate, regardless of personal identification, reported The Charlotte Observer.

In protest, many organizations, businesses, celebrities, and other parties have looked outside of North Carolina to hold their headquarters, events, performances or work.


Governor McCrory has continued to stand behind the bill while Attorney General Cooper has made statements to various news outlets condemning HB2, calling it “discriminatory” to ABC11 News in Raleigh.

Prior to HB2 though, McCrory exhibited what Cooper believed to be poor leadership, and he subsequently chose to run for McCrory’s office. Cooper has been Attorney General of North Carolina since 2001, while also serving in the N.C. Senate and the N.C. House of Representatives.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve as Attorney General, and being able to fight for everyday, working people has been a love of mine. […] I love North Carolina. Governor McCrory will not provide the leadership we need, and it’s time for me to step up.”


The Seahawk contacted McCrory’s campaign and received no response to its request for an interview.