On the knife’s edge
How many stories are done on education and local schools every week? It must be, what, 10 percent of a newspaper’s content? It’s hard to imagine what could compete with it. Stories about the president and congress, maybe. Sports, certainly.
So, my question is, do each of those stories cite critics of public district schools? Of course not. It would be tiresome, argumentative and off point. If you cover a school board meeting you don’t need to go seek out a critic of school boards for the story, any more than covering a meeting of the Church of the Nazarene requires you to seek out a critic from the Catholic church.
Yet, somehow, it seems de rigueur if vouchers or charters are discussed. In an otherwise decent story about a choice rally, which was given proper placement, center front page, it was deemed necessary to give critics their due. So be it. At least it was a minor part of the story, as opposed to about half of it, which is common. Dispatch front page coverage will run 10 to 1 or 20 to 1 on this topic in favor of the status quo, so let’s just be sure to include choice advocates in every one of those stories.
(Plus, what an argument: A student leaves a school, and the school says it has to keep the money. Here’s a very simple insight for editors: There is an important difference between revenue and activity, and your reporting mixes up the two.
Editors are fixated on revenue, always worrying about “how we’re going to pay.” But the best way to not have to pay for something is to not have the cost of it. If the student is not at the district, on net not a dime has been diverted. Yes, revenue has been diverted, but so has the cost. To say choice “would divert $568 million” from monopoly districts is false, because it implies that it would divert $56 million of revenue, when it really would be only activity. It proves the opposite of what they put it forward to prove: It shows that that many students and parents do not want to be there and would rather be somewhere else. The student who isn’t there isn’t costing anything, while the student who is there does cost something. It has nothing to do with “diversion” of funds. It has to do only with whether the schools are too big becauset too many students do not want to be there. Odd that editors are convinced schools are prisons, and think it’s righteous to defend that idea.)