The pandemic has shaken the foundations of American education to the core. Students have been shifted to online schooling or alternative learning methods with no notice. People are trying to make due, but what this is showing parents is that the education system is inadequate.
This is no shock, considering most people were dissatisfied with public education before the COVID-19 pandemic. Understandably, parents are now worried whether their kids are learning and developing as they should be. This situation urgently needs to be resolved, and public education as it stands now cannot do that.
Of all parents, only 29% feel their child is progressing very well academically; 25% for emotional development, and 27% for social development under COVID-19 restrictions. It is a bleak reality that under a third of all parents feel schools are performing above mediocrity with their child’s development.
Furthermore, the mental health of students has been considerably worse over the past few years, and school choice has a massive upside in curbing that loss in the long term. One article finds “that states that enacted charter school laws witnessed a 10% decrease in suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-olds. Private-school voucher laws were also associated with fewer suicides, though the change was not statistically significant.” Ten percent might seem small, but over time, that is hundreds of lives that can be saved.
Consider further that private schools are rated the highest by parents on how they feel their children are progressing (all 45% and over for each type of development). The only other type of school to exceed the average of all parents in any development is charter schools and academic and social development. Unfortunately, these two types of schools are the least accessible either via economic means or state regulation of charter schools.
These sentiments are confirmed by the support for school choice policies, such as education savings accounts (81%), school vouchers (73%), tax-credit scholarships (74%), and public charter schools (72%). These are massively popular programs that people believe can make a difference.
Not only do we need that difference, but we need it fast. The United Nations Children’s Fund warns that “when schools close, children risk losing their learning, support system, food and safety, with the most marginalized children – who are the most likely to drop out altogether – paying the heaviest price.” That is not just in the United States, but worldwide.
Our current system is not working as it should and too many are suffering for it. The United States needs to be an example for supporting children and their families. It is the duty of any public education system to do so. So why not consider the prospects of widely popular programs that aim to help these families? Let us open education alternatives for families and make it work for those who need it most.