“Even before the World Health Organization labeled the Omicron coronavirus strain a new ‘variant of concern’ Friday, school closures were continuing to increase across the country,” wrote Asher Lehrer-Small for The 74. “Last week, 621 schools across 58 districts announced new closures for a variety of reasons including teacher burnout, staffing shortages and virus outbreaks, according to counts from Burbio, a data service that has tracked school policy through the pandemic. Since the start of the academic year, 9,313 campuses across 916 districts nationwide have added extra days off.”
Virus fatigue is leading both teachers and parents to seek out other education options. In my latest Forbes article, I highlight the growth of the microschool movement, an educational trend that was gaining momentum prior to 2020 and has since taken off. Many teachers are burned out over ongoing coronavirus policies and staffing shortages that make their job more difficult, and some of them are leaving public schools to create smaller, more personalized microschools. Similarly, school mask mandates and related policies are prompting some parents to pull their children from district schools and enroll them in microschools or other learning settings where there is more choice and flexibility.
The wave of ill-advised school shutdowns last year compelled tens of thousands of parents to rethink their children’s education. When the classroom was virtually forced into their homes via Zoom, parents realized just how abysmal the public schools really were.
From 2012 to 2019, the homeschooling rate hovered around 3.3 percent of K–12 US students. That figure rose to 5.4 percent in spring 2020. By the following fall, that figure had more than doubled to 11.1 percent.
Among black families, the increase was particularly noteworthy considering only 3.3 percent of black children were homeschooled in spring 2020 versus 16.1 percent in the fall.
While legacy media focused on cases of parents keeping their kids home out of fear of covid, longtime critics of the public school system argued that the pandemic actually helped to expose parents to the lameness of public education.
Axios, the popular DC-based news outlet run by former Politico journalists, recently reported on the growth of the 1776 Project, a new political action committee focused on reforming public school systems at the local level.
The 1776 Project won three-fourths of its fifty-eight races across seven states.
By refusing to accept what federal or state authorities peddled throughout 2020, parents accepted more responsibility, clearly demonstrating that when things get personal, people will do what it takes to take back control.
In his essay “Education: Free and Compulsory,” Murray Rothbard argued that public school and compulsory schooling laws tend to victimize the child: “The effect of the State’s compulsory schooling laws is not only to repress the growth of specialized partly individualized private schools for the needs of various types of children. It also prevents the education of the child by the people who, in many respects, are best qualified—his parents.”
Choice, autonomy, and a respect for individual decision-making are contributing to the growth of the microschool movement, along with other schooling alternatives like homeschooling.
With hysteria rising over the Omicron variant, parents may seek education options for their children beyond their district school. For teachers, there’s never been a better time to create one of these options.