How COVID-19 is ‘super-spreading’ school choice

While the status quo failed too many students pre-COVID, more parents now are becoming aware of the system’s shortcomings in a way that has motivated them to seek out alternatives they may not have previously considered. From virtual charter schools and private schools to learning pods and homeschooling, many parents are experiencing first-hand how the traditional education system they have defaulted to for years isn’t working like they need it to.

According to Corey DeAngelis with the Reason Foundation, the coronavirus “will almost certainly spur long-lasting interest in school choice.” He expanded on this during his interview with Nick Gillespie, also with the Reason Foundation, which can be listened to here.

People are re-envisioning the factory model of school itself because a lot of people are getting a taste of homeschooling, and while some people maybe don’t like what they are experiencing with homeschooling, they weren’t previously homeschooling anyway, so at least they got to figure it out, but a large portion of families are saying that they like homeschooling now.

According to an annual survey by EdChoice, parents who were not homeschooling before the pandemic are more likely to be favorable now to it (43% more vs. 28% less). More than half of Black parents (53%) said they have a more favorable opinion of homeschooling as a result of the pandemic. And well over half of parents who were not homeschooling before the pandemic considered it at least part time for the 2020 school year, with nearly one-fourth of parents “very likely” to do so full time or part time on their own.

A national Gallup poll found the percentage of K-12 parents homeschooling this year has doubled, to 10%. And public school enrollment, while remaining the most attended type of school, has dropped seven percentage points since last year. DeAngelis does the math for us: that’s about 3.5 million students who left the public school system. Will they all return? Hard to know for sure. According to a national poll by Civis Analytics, around 18% of parents who disenrolled their student from their original school don’t plan on returning to that school.

From health concerns to watered-down distance learning curricula concerns, there are different pressures leading parents to consider alternative learning environments for their child. Parents are getting a closer look at the quality and quantity of instruction, and some are “appalled,” Gillespie says, over the political indoctrination in the classroom that they otherwise weren’t aware was being taught. The teachers’ unions aren’t helping either, fighting tooth and nail to keep schools shuttered despite parents wanting in-person learning to resume.

And even if school districts are “knocking distance learning out of the park,” DeAngelis continues, that model of learning still may not work for a student who does better with in-person instruction. It’s all about choice, DeAngelis stresses, noting that a family can pick the traditional public school and be pro-school choice. They are picking the learning environment that works best for them, while understanding one size doesn’t fit all.

Bottom line: Educational freedom empowers families, and given all the uncertainty we currently find ourselves in, many parents appreciate that they can take responsibility for their children’s education away from a top-down education system that has proven its limitations.