Reports and studies have documented the damaging effects of COVID-19 closures on school children in California and across the country, but recent failures at the public school have given rise to encouraging news. The pandemic has opened the eyes of many parents, as support for educational competition has reached an all-time high.
A Yale University study found that school closures dramatically increased inequality “by seriously hampering the educational progress of children in low-income neighborhoods.” The US Department of Education has found that stay-at-home orders seriously affect the mental health of students and are devastating for children with disabilities.
Yet despite the difficulties faced by students, teacher unions and public school administrators have largely resisted efforts to open schools in a timely manner. In March, the teachers’ union representing the Los Angeles Unified School District voted overwhelmingly (91%) against reopening schools unless their harsh demands were met.
Suffice it to say, but union demands in Los Angeles and elsewhere had little to do with student welfare, with some districts using the reopening as a way to leverage the state for money (sometimes to programs unrelated to the pandemic). In contrast, public charter schools and private schools have generally tried to resume classroom instruction as soon as possible.
We are now seeing a growing backlash from parents. In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s race by exploiting parents’ frustration with public schools. Youngkin’s message resonated with suburban voters who had defected from the GOP. His victory will serve as a model for Republicans across the country.
Although California’s electorate is far more Democratic than Virginia’s, Republicans see it as an opening. They are trying to “capitalize on a growing coalition of parents who resent the education policies of Democratic leaders – including mandates for school closings, masking and a new law that requires every high school student to take a class. ethnic studies, âthe Sacramento Bee reported.
The proof of parental frustration is more than anecdotal. Although the union-dominated California legislature continues to limit the growth of charter schools, 18 other states have expanded certain types of school choice programs, according to a new report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
We appreciate the conclusion of the AEI: âMore remarkably, the success of the choice of school this year is attributable less to its defenders than to its worst enemies: the teachers’ unions. In their response to the pandemic, unions have exaggerated their game and exposed the inherent failures of the one-size-fits-all public school system. “
Supporters of the educational competition have long faced a dilemma of public perception. While most people understand that public schools often perform poorly, they tend to like their local schools. Yet the pandemic changed that dynamic, as parents watched their own children struggle amid their schools’ incompetent distance learning programs and their dragging-footed reopening.
To make matters worse, some school boards have shown little sympathy for parents who have shown up at board meetings to complain about the situation, which has heightened parents’ anger. Administrators at a northern California school board quit after being caught on camera (they didn’t know it was public) mocking parents.
This editorial board has long supported a strong system of school choice, not only for financial reasons, but because competition improves the quality of any service. The dismal response of public schools to the pandemic made this argument more compelling than ever.