May 22, 2020
New polling is illustrating how the pandemic is changing the face of education, as the numbers show that parents are now more persuaded to consider home schooling.
Public school leaders are working to adapt to the fallout of school closures this past semester and the uncertainties of next fall. This requires thinking through innovative options to meet the unique safety and academic needs of students in the pandemic era.
A recent national poll from the American Federation for Children conducted by RealClear Opinion Research shows that 40 percent of families say they are more likely to home-school or enroll in virtual schools even after the lockdowns end.
Polling also shows that 64 percent support the general concept of “school choice.” Many families’ first option was unexpectedly removed mid-academic year, leaving families with few choices.
Another recent poll from the State Policy Network conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies reveals a similar trend. A majority of public (60 percent) and private school K-12 parents (77 percent) are considering changes to their child’s future schooling in some way. Both public school and private school parents show increases in considering home schooling.
When looking at the Mountain states region (Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado), data show that among public school families, 47 percent are considering a schooling change of some sort. And more specifically, 35 percent of public school parents are considering home schooling.
With a fair degree of uncertainty about next year and a trial run of home-schooling-lite in their back pockets, it’s not surprising that parents are weighing the pros and cons of continuing school at home. Whether parents do choose to continue is to be seen – and may come down to how they perceive the decisions being made by local leaders in preparation for next fall.
The reality is some families found “school at home” (technically different than home schooling) a jarring experience, while others were able to find benefits they hadn’t known before.
What parents choose is also facilitated by cultural attitudes toward home schooling. Of all the regions in the country, the Mountain states had the highest percentage of parents currently considering home schooling.
But it’s worth noting that the trend toward considering home school extends beyond the region, and it’s generating a national conversation. This growing interest has caused some scholars to advocate against home schooling and instead promote a pre-emptive ban on the option – an effort that received immediate backlash, likely due to the current social and political climate.
The fall will tell us more about what parents eventually choose, but it’s clear that the 2020 school shutdowns are bringing momentum to the home schooling movement.
Being truly educated means understanding one of the most powerful forces in the world: religion. Being a truly educated American means understanding the importance of protecting that force: freedom of religion.
The Washington model illustrates that by recognizing potential conflicts and enacting appropriate accommodations, schools can do their work without unnecessarily infringing the religious exercise of students. It is a model other states, including Utah, should follow.
Caring for children and families in vulnerable situations is an undoubted public priority, and everyone willing to provide good-faith help is needed.