Brian Mark Weber / August 19, 2022

Good News: Parents Are Dropping Kids Out of Public School

After two years of lockdowns, masking, and related wrongs, many parents are awakening to the prospect of school choice.

It’s that time of year again.

As families return from vacations, they start thinking about sending their kids back to school (if they’re not back already). But in the post-pandemic era, there’s an increasing likelihood that some parents aren’t sending their children back to the same school. In particular, data suggest that many parents have had enough with public school education altogether.

“In the past two years, a mass exodus of over 1.2 million students has left the public school system as parents seek alternative education routes, such as public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling,” writes Marjorie Jackson at The Daily Signal. Jackson adds that some parents “believed the school’s handling of the pandemic was unsatisfactory, due to lockdowns, which inconvenienced many families, as well as masking and vaccination policies. Others were unhappy after taking a closer look at their local public school curriculum and wanted more say in what their children were learning.”

Many parents who wanted their kids to learn how to read and write, not learn about critical race theory or gender theory, were targeted not only by the media and their school districts but by Attorney General Merrick Garland. In 2021, the National School Boards Association asked Garland to investigate parents who had the audacity to speak out at school board meetings (the NSBA later disavowed the letter).

Ideology aside, the evidence is crystal clear that school lockdowns harmed our children and had a detrimental impact on their education. Data show lower test scores across the board, especially for students in low-income areas, but many parents also observed depression and anxiety in their children due to extended periods of isolation from their friends and teachers.

“The decline in children’s well-being and mental health is reflected in recent studies,” reports the New York Post. “According to a recent survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, more than four in 10 parents say their children have fallen behind academically.”

Heading into the new academic year, many schools around the country are finally opening their doors, although, incredibly, some school districts are still mandating masks. But not everyone is ready to send their kids back to school. Despite the evidence showing online learning isn’t good for kids, 38 states have set up permanent virtual schools. That includes almost all of the 20 biggest school districts in the country.

For all these reasons, parents have had enough. Fortunately, something very good has emerged from a bad situation: school choice.

“Last year, 19 states enacted 32 new or expanded school choice policies, making 2021 ‘the year of school choice,’” the Washington Examiner reports. “Now, a total of 21 states and Washington, D.C., offer school choice programs that give parents financial assistance and private school options.”

The Examiner adds, “Momentum has grown, and in 2022, several states adopted policies that empowered parents to pull their children out of traditional public schools and weigh other options, such as charter schools (tuition-free public schools that are independently run), education savings accounts (state-supervised funds that parents can use to pay for a selection of education options), learning pods (a parent-organized small group of children who come together to learn and socialize), and open enrollment (allowing students to go to another school district if it has space).”

The State Policy Network outlines many positive changes regarding school choice in states around the country, including transparency in what schools are teaching, expanding charter school access, and even allowing parents to choose which public school they want their children to attend.

We’ve had a rough couple of years, and so have our kids. But there’s good news out there. The unintended consequence of COVID-19 is that parents are finally waking up and finding ways to give their kids a better education.

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