Senate Bill 37, which was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper last week, would require in-person options for all schools in the state of North Carolina. An attempt to override was 29-20 in the Senate, missing the three-fifths majority required to override a veto by one vote.
According to WFMY News 2, “The governor said the bill falls short on safety. Supporters of the bill say that’s not true.”
If the bill had passed in the State Senate, it would have forced all North Carolina Public Schools to offer in-person learning. Gov. Cooper said he vetoed the bill due to the exposure risks outlined by CDC Guidelines and the possibility of new COVID-19 variants.
Another concern was that all school districts in the state of North Carolina would have only 15 days to comply with these orders. With only two weeks to adjust, Democrats worried that public schools would be sent into a scramble.
As in a few other states, the guardians of students would have been asked to choose in-person learning or remote learning for the remainder of the school year.
The major missing pieces in the bill were the lack of any social distancing requirement and its stance on vaccination. It would have pushed back vaccination availability for teachers and staff in counties around the state.
Gov. Cooper stated that,
“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. The bill allows middle and high school students to be in school without following NCDHHS and CDC guidelines on social distancing. 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 out schools. I have asked legislative leaders to compromise with me on these 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.”
Local school boards would have to make day-to-day decisions on how to handle their in-person learning and remote students if a COVID-19 variant appeared locally. They could not close school districts — only individual schools. This would make it more difficult to stop community spread of the virus and its variants across counties or school systems.
N.C. Republicans expressed anger over the close miss of the vote. Some placed blame on a few Senate Democrats who had voted differently on the issue before, and on Sen. Ben Clark who declined to appear to cast his vote.
NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley expressed his disappointment by saying, “With their vote against SB 37, the Senate Democrats – including three members who previously voted in support of reopening schools – helped Governor Cooper keep schoolhouse doors across North Carolina locked. It is very disappointing that North Carolina Democrats are siding with Joe Biden and teachers unions to keep our schools closed.”With the uncertainty of the plan, Gov. Cooper was worried that the bill would do more harm than good by limiting the state’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus. With cases finally going down after months of increase, North Carolina was only a single vote away from a huge step backward in stopping the spread of COVID-19.