If I had my way, high school students would spend part of a course analyzing opinion pieces from reputable sources for their logic, use of evidence, and general reasonableness.
This op-ed from the Raleigh News & Observer would be included. It argues voting for a bond issue for new school construction. It starts like so:
Just think about it: Wake County already has the largest school system in the state, with more than 155,000 students, and by 2025, it’s projected that there will be 32,000 new students arriving.
Let's quickly move past how being "the largest school system in the state" is irrelevant to voting for bonds to fund new schools. This is the paragraph I want to focus on:
Some of the need will be met, it’s true, by additional charter schools, which have been growing in popularity. But the need remains for conventional schools, which are still the choice of the majority of families in the county. The school system can’t bet on the future of charters, or that charters will continue to grow in popularity. They are a viable option for some families but times and choices can change.
Questionable statement #1: ". . . which are still the choice of the majority of families in the county."
If the existing charter schools in Wake County all had excess capacity this might be true. (I say "might" because if the Frequently Asked Questions sections of some local charter schools are any indication, there are parents and guardians in the county who are poorly informed about their supposed "choice".) But at least some Wake charter schools have substantial waiting lists. Franklin Academy has, as of last year, 1800. I've heard that another Wake charter can accept only 10% of the students who apply. Statewide there are over 30,000 students on wait lists. (I couldn't find easily wait lists disaggregated by county.) And the number of students on formal wait lists probably understates demand according to Eddie Goodall, executive director of the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association:
Based on conversations with charter schools, Goodall believes “there’s tens of thousands” of interested students not showing up on the waiting lists. That’s because many parents don’t want to wade through a school’s application process already choked with hundreds, in some cases thousands, of lottery candidates. Others still mistakenly believe charter schools charge tuition, Goodall said.
Also note that the law uncapping the number of charters in the state at 100 was passed only in 2011; it seems reasonable that the number of charters will continue to grow for a while just to serve pent-up demand. For instance, Peak Academy plans to open in this fall, enrolling nearly 600 students, "to provide an alternative to the crowded classrooms, school caps and ever-changing school zones of western Wake County, its organizers say". And charters are limited in how much they can increase enrollment each year: they used to be limited to 10% growth; the percentage has only recently been increased to 20%.
Wake charters could well increase their market share. Last year there were 8555 charter school students in the county which was 5.2% of the total number of public school students. But in Guilford County charter students were 6.0% of the total; in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, 8.3%; and in Durham, 13.4.
Finally, both private school enrollments and home schooling in the county are increasing. (From 2009 to 2014, these types of schools added over 3500 students in the county.)
All of which casts doubt, at least to me, on how Wake public school enrollments are, and will continue to be, the result of families choosing them.
Questionable statement #2: The "school system can't bet on charters, or that charters will continue to grow in popularity. . . . times and choices can change".
Well, sure. But--but!--how do they know that enrollment will grow by 32,500 in ten years? Maybe it won't. Maybe people will decide they don't like Wake County and enrollment will fall! And maybe instead of liking charters less, maybe parents and guardians will like charter schools even more!
Yes, the future is so, so uncertain. But I strongly disagree that the only proper thing to do is to increase centralized control over people's lives. This gives them less incentive to plan for and adapt to the uncertainty.
And that's not even to consider all the corruption and waste . . .