Studious female high school student writing on wooden desk with pencil in her hand

The COVID-19 Exodus from Traditional Public Schools

Philip Klein of National Review Online documents the pandemic-related flight from traditional public education.

The public school system in the United States lost nearly 1.3 million students over the 2020-21 school year, Education Week reports, based on its analysis of currently available state-level data.

That represents a drop of almost 3 percent, as unnecessary coronavirus-related shutdowns and destructive distance learning policies caused parents to flee in droves. The data show that the exodus from the system was most pronounced among younger grades and disproportionately hurt low-income students. As many of us have been saying all along, Zoom was no substitute for in person instruction.

“When you already have pre-existing issues like poverty and the digital divide, and then you shut down the one place that is positioned to help close those gaps, you probably see that most districts have experienced an enrollment drop,” Education Week quoted Sharlonda Buckman, the assistant superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, as saying. “Most of our children work best in a school building with their teachers with all of the assets that position them to do well in their schoolwork.”

Having kept children away from classrooms despite evidence showing that schools were not a source of widespread transmission, officials now want to spend more money to try to deal with the resulting damage. …

… It should also be noted that President Biden’s budget request included a proposal for more funding to deal with the mental health effects of school closures.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen a “banner year” for school choice.

  • 5 new choice programs – 4 ESAs of various types and 1 tax credit scholarship – have been approved in five states (Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia)
  • 13 existing choice programs in 10 different states have been expanded. (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Oklahoma and South Dakota)

It’s possible North Carolina will join the list of states expanding choice options.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...