Parents Want More School Choice In COVID’s Wake

By Josiah Dalke
October 22, 2021

As the country continues to return to normal from the Covid pandemic, issues of public policy arise and call for the attention of lawmakers to address. School policy has become one of those issues.

John Kristof of EdChoice has released a report that offers insight into the opinions and attitudes of a nationally representative sample of parents regarding schooling and its relation with Covid currently.

For one, the data suggests that parents are becoming more comfortable with sending their kids back to school for in-person learning. According to the report, 63 percent of parents polled showed that they were either “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with sending their kids back to school in person. Moreover, that number has risen from the previous month by 6 points.

Two possible explanations can come from this. Either parents see that the Covid situation is improving and, therefore, are becoming more comfortable, or they see no change and are gradually becoming more comfortable with sending their kids anyway. While the former is more likely, either option demonstrates that government simply cannot stick with the status quo. Something has to change to promote the education of children. Therefore, this issue ought to be a top issue for state legislatures.

Additionally, the data shows that parents view government institutions as the worst entities to respond to the pandemic. Even state governments rank similarly with national institutions such as the federal government, media, and national corporations. A third of those polled found state government as an obstacle rather than an aid to an individual’s way of life.

As things gradually return back to normal, people as a whole may become impatient with the government education system's inability to get closer to normal as well. Unfortunately, government is often an obstacle to meaningful change, so the default should allow more individuals and their families to make their own choices. This promotes true educational freedom.

It is important to note that the slight increase in support of mandatory masks does not necessarily provide a direct correlation with support for government mask mandates in schools. As time moves on and children continue to remain either out of school or in some Covid-related alternative, parents are gradually going to show support for any requirement for in-school learn as their desire to return to in-school learning increases.

 The prospect of masks protecting children at school is inconclusive at best, and some have suggested that they do more harm than good. However, if parents are given a choice between in-school learning with masks or some temporary solution that they think can no longer work, they will likely show support for masks. However, it is possible that such support is given as a concession rather than a preference.

The greatest takeaway from this report is that children have been severely affected by the pandemic. If a child was required to quarantine from school, most had to be quarantined from school multiple times. The average number of quarantines per child was about 2.54. This is a massive disruption to the development and education of the child.

Ultimately, as it approaches K-12 education policy, the state should adopt a philosophy of freedom and choice for families. Seventy-four percent of parents support school choice programs such as Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs). Additionally, parents desire to expand and promote programs such as school vouchers and charter schools to open up options for students as we exit the pandemic. These programs should be expanded to promote more options for families. Government often has a track record of inhibiting freedom. School choice reforms are an opportunity to change this trajectory and provide educational opportunities to families in the state.


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