What You Should Know
The coronavirus pandemic utterly disrupted the lives and education of the nation’s 50 million public school students. Most schools in the United States closed in March 2020, and many public schools did not open fully for the majority of the 2020-21 school year. There are doubts that schools will open fully this fall, particularly in areas heavily influenced by teachers’ unions. The pandemic opened parents’ eyes to just how unresponsive and inflexible school districts are to their children’s needs.
As the country emerges from the pandemic, parents are engaging in school board meetings, running for school board, and demanding accountability from the local leaders more than ever before.
Many parents dissatisfied with inadequate remote learning, frustrated with hybrid learning schedules, and concerned about learning loss are seeking alternative educational options. Public school enrollment decreased by 3 percent during the last school year, and likely will decrease further. Homeschooling rates doubled to over 11 percent of the total school-aged population. Families in areas with perpetually closed public schools, but fully open private schools, eagerly transferred their children. Fortunately, state legislators recognized the soaring demand for educational options, and expanded or created new school choice programs in 20 states in 2021.
This is positive progress, but doesn’t go far enough. All families should have the power to direct their children’s educational path. Parents should demand reforms to give them more and better options, and they should continue to expand efforts to hold school boards accountable.