All We’re Left With is School Choice

All We’re Left With is School Choice
(AP Photo/Jeff Amy)
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No one seems to be sure what we should do about school this fall. A recent survey from The AP-NORC Center shows that, while 46 percent of the public thinks K-12 schools should reopen with major adjustments, 31 percent believe schools should remain closed. Schools in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Atlanta will start school with all students learning from home, officials said Monday. Meanwhile, schools across New Jersey and Connecticut are planning to resume in-person classes. Obviously, we don’t all want the same thing. That’s why we desperately need school choice. Newly introduced legislation can help with this. 

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced legislation last Wednesday that would empower parents and increase education options and flexibility. The SCHOOL Act would let families use their own tax dollars to pursue education options that best fits their needs.

Late last month, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congressional School Choice Caucus co-chair U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the School Choice Now Act. This legislation would repurpose some of the emergency education-relief funding currently included in the CARES Act to give students Education Freedom Scholarships that would allow them either to return to the school they attended before the pandemic or to spend the funding on homeschooling expenses.

"Children in all K-12 schools, public and private, have been affected by COVID-19," Alexander said. "Many schools are choosing not to reopen, and many schools are failing to provide high-quality distance learning. This bill will give families more options for their children’s education at a time that school is more important than ever."

Some states are even seeing a spike in interest in private school options. Bruce Richards, the principal at St. Joseph Catholic School in Waconia, Minn., said he received about 10 calls from interested parents in a two-day span last week, after the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced that Twin Cities Catholic schools would open this fall.

Principal Alison Dahlman, of St. Peter Catholic School in North St. Paul, said some grade levels at her school are full and have waiting lists for the first time. According to Dahlman, parents are interested in in-person instruction and are even willing to switch schools to make that happen.

To help these families, local taxpayer funding should no longer be sent directly to public schools. Instead, it should follow kids wherever their parents feel it’s best for them to go.

The same rule applies to people who evaluate the risks of getting COVID-19 too high and prefer other alternative methods of schooling, which do not include in-person interactions. This way Nebraskans, whose homeschool filings jump up 21 percent, would be able to use the funding to provide their families with direct educational assistance, including private tutoring and other home-schooling expenses.

Today, parents are met with a unique challenge, a balancing act between their duty to protect their kids and their desire to help them actualize their potential. Giving them access to one-time, emergency appropriations scholarships won’t fix their problems entirely, but it’s a good place to start.

Anastasiia Rusanova holds an MA in Political Science from the Jagiellonian University and is currently interning at the American Spectator. She is a former Cato and the Wilson Center research intern.

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