Governments seeking additional K-12 education aid should fund students over institutions

Center of the American Experiment signed onto a letter started by yes. every kid. calling for supporting a more student-centered and resilient education system—one that funds students and families instead of institutions.

State governments have received K-12 aid from the federal government to help offset the disruptions COVID-19 has caused to the education landscape. As governments are likely to continue seeking additional assistance, we believe this aid to assist K-12 and protect students and educators should be sent to families, giving them direct financial support to create stable and continuous learning for their children.

Too many schools will be closed partially or for the entirety of the 2020 fall semester, limiting the learning environment parents can access for their child. There are families who are unable to return to work because they have been thrust into the role of full-time childcare provider and at-home teacher. Others are struggling to balance work while trying to implement an effective at-home learning program for multiple children.

Parents shouldn’t be limited on the learning environment that they can access so their child receives a quality education. For too many students, distance learning this past spring had serious limitations, and there still isn’t a clear vision of what quality remote learning should like this fall. Because of this, families have taken matters into their own hands—pursuing innovative alternatives such as micro schools or learning pods.

Yet politicians and policymakers have focused on institutions, not families, “debating how many hundreds of billions of dollars should be spent to reopen schools that education officials have already said will be closed” and “debating the best way to provide digital devices and internet connectivity to children who won’t receive them until well after the semester has started—not to mention those who would rather be learning in person in the first place.” Which loses sight of one important fact: plans to reopen schools should be designed for the needs and desires of families, not the institutions that have been designated to serve them.

If additional funds are to be provided for education because of COVID-19, they should be provided directly to families through grants, stipends, rebates, or even emergency education savings accounts. Because families have already paid for the ability to access public education, providing them additional funds directly will give them the flexibility to access other forms of learning that best help their child—from covering costs of schooling, devices, connectivity, tutoring, and course work.