Public Schools Are Losing Their Captive Audience of Children
Insisting that “the push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny,” the Chicago Teachers Union is fighting plans to return children to the city’s public school classrooms. Not only is the union seeking an injunction to keep kids at home, but it says “all options are going to be on the table“—an implied threat of a strike in an already chaotic year—if it’s not happy with the school board’s decision.
Amidst a multitude of such battles across the country, it’s no wonder that families weary of being held hostage to other people’s decisions are abandoning government schools to enroll their kids in private institutions or to teach them at home. That shift is likely to permanently transform education in the United States in a way that lets children experience diverse approaches and viewpoints.
School and union officials in Chicago differ over their reading of public opinion tea leaves. The board points to the 37 percent of students whose families have opted for in-person teaching, while the union flips that around to emphasize that a majority of families want to delay reopening. But both sets of data indicate the same thing: people have different risk tolerances and come to varying conclusions about the right way to educate their children. Uniform, top-down approaches inevitably leave large numbers of them dissatisfied and looking for something that better suits their needs.
With similar battles playing out around the country, many families are heading for the exits. The evidence shows that more children than before the pandemic are learning their lessons from options chosen by their parents and free of the whims of school boards and unions. Public school enrollment is down in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Minneapolis, Mississippi, and elsewhere.
“Comprehensive national data aren’t available yet, but reporting by NPR and our member stations, along with media reports from around the country, shows enrollment declines in dozens of school districts across 20 states,” NPR reports.
“The reason is no mystery,” according to The New York Times. “With public schools mostly shifting to remote or hybrid learning, parents are pulling their children out entirely, opting to keep them at home or looking for options that offer more in-person instruction.”
Where are those kids going? Perhaps some are getting lost in the year’s chaos, but it’s obvious that many families have embraced education options both traditional and new.
“More families are choosing to home-school or send thei
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