How the pandemic showed us we need school choice
The pandemic gave parents new insight into their children’s education
Since the start of the pandemic, school choice has gained traction at an extraordinary rate. Around the country, dozens of school choice bills have already been passed.
Here’s a look at how the pandemic highlighted Michigan’s need for school choice.
- Parents realized their voices weren’t being heard
School closures, mask policies and difficulties with video-based education – school was changing drastically, and parents had no say in what was happening. For many, feeling disempowered and unheard when it comes to their child’s education during a time of crisis was a breaking point.
- We got a first-hand look at what happens in the classroom
As homes became classrooms, parents suddenly had a front row seat to their children’s education. Flawed curricula, inadequate teaching styles and other issues came to light making it clear that parents weren’t being kept informed about what goes on at their child’s school.This also led parents to ask how their tax dollars were being spent. Federal, state, and local governments in Michigan budget $14,484 per pupil to fund K-12 public education and parents wanted a bigger say in how that money was spent. They discovered that vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts all fund students instead of systems, allowing parents to determine what is best for their kids.
- Inequality at the forefront
One survey showed that as many as 76% of working adults weren’t able to transition to home-based work while schools were closed. These parents were left with an impossible choice between their child’s education and their livelihoods while other families had a parent at home or were able to afford other alternatives. School choice helped level the playing field with options such as community-based learning pods, in which working families pooled resources to meet the demands of home-based learning.
- The biggest argument against school choice became obsolete
Opponents of school choice have long argued that public schools are unable to provide quality education because they are underfunded – and that directing funds to other forms of education would only exacerbate the problem.
That narrative was challenged when public schools were given the astronomical sum of $400 billion in special COVID funding – but nothing changed. Early data shows that students are still falling behind – especially in math.
- Parents saw what was possible
As communities adapted to the demands of the pandemic and discovered new avenues of learning, parents saw that the status quo isn’t the only way. Learning pods, voucher programs, homeschooling and other school choice programs gave parents control of their children’s education, allowing them to prioritize the individual needs of each child, a solution that the one-size-fits-all approach to education did not allow. As more and more students thrived under this approach to learning, the door opened to even greater opportunity.
The pandemic disrupted the way in which we do many things – and that’s not always bad. It forced to reevaluate the way we do things in a way that most of us had not done before. In education, many people reconsidered the trust they had placed in educational institutions. As parents considered a different reality, they became open to new and innovative ideas. They are finding that innovation in school choice.