2021: The Year of School Choice
Across the country, students are returning to school and thousands of children will have access to an education that had previously been out of reach. In what was dubbed the “Year of School Choice”, lawmakers in dozens of states introduced or passed legislation to create new educational choice programs or increase their state’s current ones. With students, parents, and legislators frustrated with public schools’ handling of the pandemic, 2021 was an incredible year for control to be returned to parents in the 18 school choice bills that are now law.
Along with West Virginia passing the most expansive education savings account program (ESA) in the country, New Hampshire recently passed their own version of ESAs, called Education Freedom Accounts. This new program offers low-income families an average of $4,600 to use on an education that works for their children, including tuition, tutoring, and homeschool expenses. And that is a big advantage for a growing number of families across the country as the Census Bureau shows the percentage of families homeschooling more than doubled from last year. Even as public schools began to reopen, families found homeschooling to work best for their children and are committed to continuing into the new school year.
The ability for families to have the resources they need to give their children the best education possible is why funding students over systems is so important. More well-off families were able to continue their children’s education while schools were closed, whether sending their children to an independent school that was open or paying for an in-person tutor. Unfortunately, lower-income families were only left with one option, going virtual when schools closed their doors. In response to this, state legislators around the country have returned control to parents through educational choice legislation. Now, lower-income families have additional educational opportunities to offer their children that were not available in years past.
Funding following the student has not been the only shift to education in America, but public school boards may be starting to change. Concerned parents all across America have decided to go beyond just voicing concerns – they are now running for local school boards. One concerned parent who decided to run told the National Review, “I guess the silver lining with COVID is that it has awakened a lot of us to what’s been happening in the districts that we wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to until it was too late.”
With union politics possibly getting in the way of another school year, parents and students are seeking alternatives to the “classrooms on zoom” education model. Should union politics continue to be put above student’s learning, it is likely legislators in the states will respond to parent’s concerns and push for more educational choice legislation. Now that families have additional options for their children’s education, potential expansion of choice legislation, and a growing number of concerned parents getting involved in school board meetings, 2021 is shaping up to be a monumental year for education in America.