Throw competitive forces into the mix of virtually any industry or situation, and everybody involved steps up their game. That’s one of the reasons the school-choice reformers in the legislature are to be commended for their substantial work on providing parents with more choices. Clearly, traditional public schools are starting to notice that parents have options. Case in point: this column written by Tom Forcella, superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools for the Chapel Hill News. As the traditional school year begins, he writes that he is changing his mindset to what he calls “consumerism.”
First, our public schools are, and have been since inception, a community hub. Strong schools drive our economy, our commerce, our kinship, and our quality of life. Thomas Jefferson suggested an educated citizenry is the basis of an indispensable democracy. Thus, it is vital that we maintain a focus on healthy and vibrant public schools.
Second, the support of our community – via both student attendance and tax funding – is crucial to the existence and well-being of our schools.
We do not want to wake up five years from now and wonder why thousands of our students have decided on other educational alternatives. This has been the reality of many of my superintendent colleagues from other parts of our state and nation. That scenario would devastate our school district and severely impede our community.
So, before that happens, we need to make sure that, as a school system, we instill confidence in our consumers. We also need to tell the stories of our schools. Amazing things happen in classrooms throughout Carrboro and Chapel Hill on a daily basis.
I do not agree that people making choices outside the traditional system would “severely impede our community.” The point is to have an educated citizenry, not to circle the wagons around a one-size-fits-all system. That said, I take Mr. Forcella’s column as an acknowledgement that parents and taxpayers are consumers — not cogs in a system.