by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The public school system in America is in crisis — the worst crisis since the forced bussing and integration issues of the 1970s.
Simply put, parents and students have lost faith in the school system to educate. They doubt whether the schools have the best interests of their students at heart. This poisonous doubt is having a tangible effect on enrollment. Despite the fact that public education is free, parents are sending their children to private schools with more reliable, more predictable policies.
Enrollment in public schools nationwide declined by 3 percent last year. But it was the numbers for kindergarten enrollment that should chill the blood of teachers’ unions and school district officials. Kindergarten enrollment tanked by 13 percent last year, and it’s only expected to get worse this year.
One school district in Brooklyn, New York, has seen its rosters fall from 345 students in 2018–19 to a projected 225 this September, with kindergarten enrollment collapsing from 76 to 37. Because school funding is pegged to enrollment, that school stands to lose a sizable chunk of its funding — funds to pay teachers and other support staff.
And yes, it’s not the pandemic itself that’s causing the collapse in enrollment. It’s the policies put in place to assuage the desires of teachers. …
… It will be extremely difficult to dislodge the teachers’ unions from their perch at the top of the food chain. Their political power is awesome, given the $30 million they pour into the war chests of Democratic state politicians. They also hold the fate of big-city mayors in the palms of their hands as they can easily blackmail even the most powerful mayor by threatening a walkout. Voters become enraged when their lives are turned upside down because they can’t send their kids to school so they can work.
But all that might fall by the wayside if parents continue to vote with their feet and remove their kids from public schools.