When will school closures end? Not until we empower parents.
BY JUSTIN OWEN
Many kids across the country are beginning to return to school this week after the holiday break. But others are not. Due to the uptick in COVID cases arising out of the more contagious Omicron variant, some 3,500 schools shut their doors to in-person instruction this week according to the Wall Street Journal. On Wednesday, the Chicago teachers union effectively closed the city’s schools, a move that even the city’s mayor, Lockdown Lori Lightfoot, called an illegal strike.
Parents are fed up.
They were understanding when there was limited PPE for teachers, students, and faculty early in the pandemic, and when we knew little about its spread. But going on two years later, their frustrations are mounting at school districts that have received billions of dollars in federal aid to make their schools a safe environment despite the pandemic, yet are still closing their doors. Couple that with the growing availability of vaccines for younger and younger populations, as well as other treatment options, let alone the fact that Omicron has proven to exhibit far less severe symptoms than previous strains, and parents are left scratching their heads. And being their kid’s teacher.
But what are parents to do? They’ve shown up to school board meetings and pleaded for reopening. Yet they are repeatedly ignored by the education establishment. And they can easily be ignored because in most cases, they have little say over their child’s education.
That can change. Robust parental choice will finally put parents in the driver’s seat. If school districts or the unions that often drive their decision-making refuse to listen, then parents could take their money and walk away. All parents should have the ability to take the money we already spend on their child’s education and apply it to the school of their choice, be it their zoned public school, a charter school, a private school, an online school, or a combination of all the above.
Parental choice in education has been a necessary option for a long time for families whose children are stuck in schools that aren’t serving their needs. Now, many parents are finding that their children can’t even be stuck in those schools because the schoolhouse door has been slammed in their faces. They have every right to take their child—and the money spent on him or her—and go elsewhere. State legislators across the country, including right here in Tennessee, need to not only listen to parents’ legitimate concerns but truly empower them to do something about it.