Private School Primacy?
It’s back-to-school decision time for many parents.
With schools set to reopen, it’s time for parents to choose how best to proceed with their children’s education in our Covid-obsessed country. If there is no in-school option, how many will stick with online education from their local public school? And how many will opt to home school or select a private school, many of which will have traditional learning or at least more rigorous online learning?
While it is too soon to have a definitive answer, here are a few bones to chew on. According to a recent Civis poll, about 40 percent of parents of k-12 students nationwide say that they have “disenrolled their children from the school they were originally supposed to attend this year, in response to school reopening plans.” And of those who have removed their kids, 20 percent have signed them up at a private school.
Here in southern California, school districts are taking a hit, though primarily in lower grades. As reported by the Los Angeles Times Howard Blume, kindergarten enrollment in LAUSD is down 14 percent from last year.
Many who choose private schools will soon discover the difference between them and the public school variety. A recent survey conducted by Dick Carpenter and Josh Dunn, professors at the University of Colorado, speaks volumes. They found that in the spring, 89 percent of private school children received live, online instruction by their teachers, but only 56 percent of public school children did. They also report that 65 percent of private school parents said their teachers “graded student assignments and those grades played an important part in the overall assessment for the year,” but that was true for just a third of public school children.
Also, a recent report by the Center for Reinventing Public Education found that only one-third of public school districts examined required teachers to deliver instruction during the lockdown, and “less than half of all districts communicated an expectation that teachers would take attendance or check in with students regularly.” This lack of rigor is particularly egregious for poor and minority kids who were already suffering a subpar education.
It cannot be stressed enough that private schools must compete for business, charge about half of what public schools do, and importantly, are not unionized. Thus, children – not a political agenda – are their focal point.
Speaking of agendas, due to Covid-19, the teachers unions have been more driven than ever. All over the country, not only have they been insisting that the federal government pour more money into the bottomless education funding hole before teachers go back to work, but frequently make other demands. As American Enterprise Institute education policy expert Rick Hess explains, unions in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Oakland have joined up with the Democratic Socialists of America in a coalition “calling for a moratorium on charter schools and standardized testing, new taxes on the wealthy, police-free schools, a halt to home foreclosures, and much more.” Additionally, the teachers unions have been engaging in world-class hypocrisy. To wit….
The American Federation of Teachers, which supports safety strikes for teachers because “dead teachers can’t teach” and “dead kids can’t learn,” launched a $500,000 ad buy in August, in which the union accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of “stonewalling funds to help schools to reopen safely.” The union claims that billions are needed for comprehensive contact tracing, mandatory masking, and updating ventilation systems. Yet, the same union that sounds alarm bells about teachers returning to school still managed to join up with Al Sharpton’s National Day of Action in Washington, D.C. on August 28th, where social distancing was not practiced, and those who wore masks were not overly concerned about a proper fit. AFT president Randi Weingarten, who has solemnly reported that teachers are so scared of going back to work that they’re, “writing their wills,” had no compunction about speaking at the rally, sans mask, exposing her as a supreme hypocrite.
While Weingarten and her fellow unionistas are using the pandemic to advance their agenda, there are a few facts they choose to ignore. The median age for teachers is 41. And as the CDC reports, between February and August 3,450 people age 35-44 died from COVID-19 in the U.S. At this rate, over a year’s time there would be fewer Covid-related deaths than the 8,217 35-44-year-olds who died in automobile accidents in 2017. (Yes, older teachers, especially those with certain medical conditions, may have to wait for a vaccine before returning to a classroom.) Additionally, far more children die in auto accidents than because of Covid-19. So decisions about how to go forward should be made with a scalpel, not a bludgeon.
If parents haven’t already made a decision about fall schooling, they will be doing so very shortly. For those who abandon government-run schools, the choice could be a permanent one, which would have consequences for the education establishment long after the coronavirus has run its course. Talk about a silver lining!
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.