2022: Public Schools Continue to Shed Students as Homeschooling Surges

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2019, photo, Donya Grant, center, works on a homeschool lesson with her son Kemper, 14, as her daughter Rowyn, 11, works at right, at their home in Monroe, Wash. The rate of households homeschooling their children doubled from the start of the pandemic last …
Ted S. Warren, File/ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of the defining educational issues of 2021 has been the decision by many parents to reevaluate their means of educating their children, and more are opting to remove them from government-run schools in favor of other alternatives, including homeschooling, which has shown a significant surge.

In its December report on data showing a migration of students from public schools, NPR describes the change as “troubling”:

We compiled the latest headcount data directly from more than 600 districts in 23 states and Washington, D.C., including statewide data from Massachusetts, Georgia and Alabama. We found that very few districts, especially larger ones, have returned to pre-pandemic numbers. Most are now posting a second straight year of declines.

Among the school districts losing students is New York City, where enrollment dropped by about 38,000 students during the 2020-2021 academic year, with an additional loss of 13,000 in the current school year.

In Los Angeles, the data shows the district lost 17,000 in the last academic year, and about 9,000 this year.

Chicago Public Schools encountered an enrollment drop of 14,000 in 2020-2021, and an additional 10,000 this year.

The NPR investigation showed the Dallas Independent School District continues to be down more than 10,000 students since the fall of 2019.

In San Francisco, public school enrollment plunged as mostly white families have been fleeing the district, Breitbart News reported in June on data observed by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Enrollment in the district at the end of the 2021 school year was 50,955, the lowest in decades, and more than three percent lower than enrollment at the end of the 2020 academic year.

A drop of 299 white students, or four percent, was the largest numerical loss to enrollment.

The district’s kindergarten class saw a nearly ten percent decline from the previous year, with 3,504 children registered, a number that represents a loss of 374 children.

The Chronicle reported kindergarten applications had experienced a 55 percent drop from white families.

“When I talk to my colleagues … across the country, there’s a lot of concern right now,” Chicago schools chief Pedro Martinez said, reported NPR. “Pre-pandemic, we were already seeing enrollment decline. So it wasn’t that we had stability. What happened during COVID, we just saw an increase in the number that didn’t come.”

While public schools are currently awash in unprecedented federal funding through the Democrats’ coronavirus spending legislation, in the long term, funding cuts will accompany drops in enrollment, forcing school districts to compete for students whose families are now choosing private, religious, and homeschooling options during the school shutdowns and subsequent blocking of reopening by teachers’ unions.

Many education bureaucrats blame the coronavirus pandemic for their plunging enrollment numbers, but parents are pulling their children out of government schools because of COVID-related mandates and the infiltration of Critical Race Theory (CRT) principles and LGBTQ activist materials in curricula as well.

In April, the U.S. Census Bureau found 11.1 percent of K-12 students in the nation are now homeschooling. That statistic represents a significant jump from the 5.4 percent who began homeschooling when schools closed throughout the country in the spring of 2020, and from the 3.3 percent who homeschooled prior to the pandemic.

Of particular note in the Census Bureau data is that homeschooling rates are surging for black families, among whom the proportion of homeschooling increased from 3.3 percent in spring 2020 to 16.1 percent in fall 2020.

One of the more recent additions to education alternatives to grow out of the pandemic is “microschool networks,” which in many ways can be described as a community-based extension of home education.

Kerry McDonald, senior education fellow at Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) wrote in December of the surge in microschool networks, fast becoming popular “as families flee government-run schools.”

McDonald focused on The Wilder School, a microschool launched by Boston-area parent Jessica Gregory in 2020. It is part of the flourishing Acton Academy network.

According to McDonald, the Acton Academy network’s namesake is Lord Acton, who, in 1887, wrote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

McDonald described her visit to The Wilder School:

On the day I visited The Wilder School, a bright, colorful and welcoming classroom in a standalone, home-like building behind the church from which Gregory rents the space, I got a glimpse of how a day at an Acton Academy operates. In the morning, learners of different ages are dropped off and have some free time to prepare for the day. Then, they gather together to set and review daily and weekly learning goals. These goals fall within the broad academic categories of reading, writing and mathematics, but the children, called “heroes” at Acton, decide how and what those goals entail, with help from their instructors, or “guides.”

After setting their personalized learning goals, children at the Wilder School engage in self-paced learning using the resources that work best for them. Tuition is slightly more than $12,000 per year, which McDonald describes as “a fraction of the cost of other local independent private schools.”

Gregory is already planning to expand her space and is introducing early childhood and middle school programs.

“Acton offers a unique education model which complements individualized learning plans with small group, collaborative projects,” she told McDonald, explaining:

When I found it, I was intrigued. Acton then takes this a step further, implementing the best aspects of the world’s leading learning models in an intimate, community-centered approach that feels like a natural extension of home life. I knew this was the right model for our family because it supports whole-child development, valuing equally the real-world application of leadership and academic skills.

Gregory said the remote learning that occurred during the pandemic shutdowns gave parents the opportunity to see what their children were learning.

“If anything positive came out of it, the pandemic has raised our collective awareness of education alternatives and the expectation families have for their children,” she told McDonald.

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