Opinion: Daily Journal

Media could learn a lesson on school choice in Wegmans mania

It’s hard to imagine, but did you know regular people can get as excited about new choices as Raleigh media get about new grocery store options? It’s true.

I know, I know, that’s saying a lot, when you consider how excited Raleigh media have been to have new grocery options. Daily stories, inside looks, interviews with enthusiastic soon-to-be patrons, progress updates, you name it:

Do you know what hardly registered? How much unfair hardship this new competition could place on the existing options. That thought never even occurred to reporters or editors. So, we didn’t receive a flood of stories about how upstart new competition threatened to take customers and siphon money away from established stores that have been serving us so well.

If you drain money away from our stores, they will lose the ability to serve their remaining customers as well. This is bad, and we shouldn’t allow it! That’s something else readers weren’t getting from these reports, for obvious reasons.

We also weren’t given fatuous fantasies about inferred racism or white flight to the new options, either. No, the media are foursquare in agreement with consumers that more choice is a good thing. In grocery stores.

You’d think they could apply that simple insight into other things, such as schools.

Instead, we get editorials about how “School choice is not the answer” (as if there is only one answer suitable for every family), how “we don’t need any more” choice, how your family having choice has a “negative impact” on others, how charter schools and Opportunity Scholarships “siphon money away” from public schools, arguments from the presumption that the schools are the top priority, not the students, and worse, arguments impugning in grossest terms the motives of families and legislators serving students’ interests more fully.

There’s no “Residents excited,” no “SNEAK PEEK,” no “The wait is almost over,” and certainly no “magical, mystical,” or “It’s about to get real” breathlessness. Media’s focus is strangely elsewhere.

For genuine excitement and happiness over discovering more options than the single thou-shalt-attend public school dictated to parents, you’d have to ask the parents. Watch parent’s stories about Opportunity Scholarships. Read what it’s like to wait and hope your children win the entrance lottery for entry into one of the limited charter-school options.

Let the realization dawn that a lottery is necessary because there are more families wanting to enroll in these new choices than there are spots available. (How’s that for “bigger than Black Friday!”) For them, even more options would be welcome.

Yes, some families in North Carolina can get about as excited for a new choice in school as Raleigh media are about Wegmans. Believe it or not.

Jon Sanders is director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation.