'Stop playing politics': Reopen-schools debate heats up at Council of State meeting

Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Council of State heats up over school reopening
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson had some pointed words for Gov. Roy Cooper, saying "It is time for us as adults to stop playing politics with the lives of our children."

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina's Council of State meetings are designed for different agencies to exchange information and vote on some decisions, such as the sale of government property. But on Tuesday, drama played out over the fight to reopen schools.

"It is time for us as adults to stop playing politics with the lives of our children," said Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. "We can clearly see that they are hurting. It is time for us to stop this. It is time for us to stop worrying about our political future."

The Republican lieutenant governor's comments appeared to be a jab at Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed Senate Bill 37, which would have required all school districts to provide in-person learning options.

Cooper previously said he agrees that students should be in the classroom, and he would sign a bill to reopen schools, but that this one didn't have requirements to comply with health guidelines or allow leeway for another shutdown if COVID-19 metrics worsened.

The Senate failed to override Cooper's veto by one vote.

Robinson said his office is focused on getting children back into the classroom and ensuring students receive a quality education that doesn't include political indoctrination.

READ MORE: New statewide test results reveal grim reality of pandemic learning

"Our classrooms are not the place for politics," Robinson said during the meeting. "Our classrooms are the place for education, and that does not include indoctrinating our students in any political dogma."

After Robinson spoke, Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood defended the governor.

"I'm not going to sit anymore and listen to political speeches and denigrating our governor," Wood said. "Not anymore. So I'm saying we're either going to get back on track, and talk about what our offices are doing, keep the political speeches out of it or we need to stop this."

After the meeting, Wood said through a spokesperson: "That is exactly what I said, and I stick by it."

Cooper mostly ignored Robinson's comments but said during the meeting that "these are challenging times, and we have difficult issues to address and all of us working together as much as we possibly can is going to get us there at the end of the day,"


Durham Public Schools is set to welcome students back for in-person instruction. The School Board voted 4-3 on Tuesday night to start in person learning March 15.

The Durham Association of Educators had recommended the board push that back until April 8.

"It allows for full vaccination of every DPS employee who wants to get vaccinated so that's the thinking," said Michelle Burton, President of the Durham Association of Educators. "And we also know that, you know, it'll give DPS more time just to make sure we are opening smoothly and everything is set. So when the kids come back into the building, it will be ready to go."

The Durham Association of Educators presented this recommendation during Tuesday evening's Durham Public Schools Board of Education meeting but the board voted to start in-person learning sooner.