Families are fleeing public schools across America — because those schools, especially union-dominated ones, have failed children so horribly in the face of the pandemic.
Data collected from 33 states by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press shows that K-12 enrollment in public schools has dropped by over half a million students, or 2 percent, since the same time last year. This, when the same states have typically seen yearly enrollment growth of 0.5 percent.
Parents are plainly furious at systems that keep schools closed altogether, and at remote-“learning” efforts that just don’t work. So they’re shifting to Catholic and private schools that are giving in-person classes, to public charters that manage to make remote learning work and to home-schooling.
An Education Week survey reports that the federal yearly average percentage of students homeschooling is a little over 3 percent. But this year, that number tripled to 10 percent.
In New York City, Catholic schools, which mostly offer in-person classes and tuition more affordable than other private schools, are seeing a sharp spike in applications and absorbing over 1,000 students who attended public school last year. Charter schools would likely see a similar boom — if state law hadn’t capped their numbers.
Teacher unions insist it’s inhumane to send staff into schools during a pandemic, even though the science says otherwise. And sclerotic administration and union rules also seem to prevent the kind of true innovation and flexibility that can make online classes work.
Mayor Bill de Blasio did better than many other urban leaders (and the entire state of California), re-opening schools in October — but it’s been a lot of close-and-reopen chaos ever since (and with some teachers going remote even as students are in school), even as infection rates for the system remain low.
Maybe the pandemic will provoke a sea change: a growing exodus from public systems, or reforms that ensure the kids actually become the top priority.
Certainly, Americans have seen countless public systems basically give up in this crisis; the only question is what they’ll do after learning that bitter lesson.
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