By John Peters
February 4, 2014
In Today’s Mount Airy News, on this editorial and opinion page, we have a column called Tuesday Numbers, which is a periodic look at some of the numbers behind significant news stories and events that affect North Carolina residents. The information is supplied by NC Policy Watch, a decidedly liberal organization that often offers commentary on North Carolina politics.
To the no-doubt bitter disappointment of some who seem to believe the Mount Airy News is aligned with the New York Times and the descendants of Vladimir Lenin every time we published something with a liberal slant on this page, the Mount Airy News and its staff does not necessarily agree with all opinions expressed here. It’s not our job to present to the community just our beliefs, but a wide variety of opinions to spur thought and discussion.
We generally don’t take issue with those opinions expressed here, at least not pointedly and certainly not on the same day they are presented here. However, we make an exception today.
The Tuesday Numbers takes aim at the state’s new voucher system in which parents who send their children to some private schools in the state can receive vouchers, for as much as $4,200 in some instances, to help pay for their children to go to these schools.
NC Policy Watch, in its Tuesday Numbers column, continually refers to this as a “scheme” as if legislators had concocted some elaborate plan to steal money from the state. The organization also picks on Paramount Christian Academy in Thomasville as an extreme example of what schools might be eligible to receive via students getting these vouchers, as if Paramount was somehow evil or substandard, or that the voucher system was a giant battle of small private schools attacking the state public school system.
Unfortunately, that’s what discussions of educating the state’s youth often become, an us verse them argument, with public educators and their supporters desperately afraid of losing some of their political turf.
Educating youth is a community effort, not a state or local government effort. Sometimes it involves a government entity in the form of a public school system, sometimes it involves a private school, and other times it might involve a family homeschooling their kids. The most important people in this equation are the students and their parents, not school administrators, public or private teachers, or a politician casting a vote in Raleigh.
It is difficult for some people to fathom this, given the generally high level of professionalism and quality exhibited in the Surry County and Mount Airy public school systems, but there are some school systems in this state that fall woefully short in the very basics of teaching and operating day to day.
To tell a student she must remain in such a school system, just because that’s the public school she’s been assigned to clearly puts politics and turf-guarding above education. Even in strong school systems, such as Mount Airy and Surry County, there are some students will will do better in a private school setting, or in a home school setting — any educator being honest will tell you every child learns in a different manner, and while some will thrive in a typical classroom setting, there are others who need something different.
The voucher system approved by the General Assembly gives parents of all income levels the opportunity to make a better decision on what is best for their child when it comes to educating them, and helps, in some small measure, to put the focus back on the most important people in the education equation — the students — and what is best for them.