by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We are witnessing an exodus from public schools that’s unprecedented in modern U.S. history. Families are fleeing the traditional system and turning to homeschooling, virtual charters, microschools, and—more controversially—”pandemic pods,” in which families band together to help small groups of kids learn at home. …
… While the direct cause of this wave of departures is the pandemic, the exodus didn’t come out of nowhere. Many families simply realized the school system wasn’t going to be there for them. Some expected the remote learning disaster from the spring to repeat itself. Others didn’t like what they saw going on when they got a closer look at their child’s curriculum at the end of last year. And being offered slightly less poorly choreographed Zoom lessons—or nothing at all—wasn’t enough to keep the skeptics around. For many, COVID-19 was the final push they needed to leave a system that was already barely meeting their needs.
The education establishment is panicked, but there is little it can do to stem the flow once families determine to take matters into their own hands. What remains is the task of restructuring the underlying funding mechanisms to attach money to students instead of institutions, so that more families are empowered to escape a system that isn’t working for them.
As COVID-19 started to spread domestically and schools began to close in the spring, many families struggled. But some discovered that they really liked homeschooling. The pandemic-induced test drive of home-based education gave millions of parents a chance to reassess the factory model. Some families reported that their children were less anxious, more engaged with learning materials, and learning more in a fraction of the time. Other families realized that they could actually make homeschooling work—and decided never to turn back.