Coronavirus lockdowns causes spike in families favoring homeschooling

Coronavirus lockdowns causes spike in families favoring homeschooling

Just weeks after Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet recommended a ban on homeschooling in order to counter the influence of Christian and conservative parents, a stunning new poll from RealClear Opinion Research of 2,122 registered voters shows that COVID-19 lockdowns have had an unlikely effect: 40% of families are now “more likely to homeschool or virtual school after [the] lockdowns,” with 64% supporting “school choice.”

To John Schilling, president of the American Federation of Children, this is great news. “Every single family with kids in school has been incredibly disrupted by the lockdowns,” he said in a statement. “With 55 million students no longer in their normal educational setting, families are clearly considering new options, and many are seeing the benefits of homeschooling and virtual schooling. Policymakers should note that there is a strong desire to have these and other education options available to families, with strong support for the general concept of school choice[.]”

The poll asked parents (626 respondents): “Are you more or less likely to enroll your son or daughter in a homeschool, neighborhood homeschool co-op, or virtual school once the lockdowns are over?” To that question, 40.8% indicated that it was more likely, with 31.1% saying that they were less likely to do so. Of those who indicated that they were more likely, 44.9% were of the age group 18–34, 40.8% were of the age group 35-44, and 35.3%, 45-54. Only ethnic lines, whites were 36.6% more likely to consider these options, 50.4% of blacks were, 38.2% of Hispanics, and 53.8% of Asians. Somewhat surprisingly, the party affiliation breakdown was more or less even: 45.7% of Democrats and 42.3% of Republicans.

A shift toward greater parental involvement in the education of children — and more than that, more parental responsibility — would be a very encouraging development. As polarization continues to divide the United States into irreconcilable camps, it is increasingly untenable to have a single educational system run by the federal government, with standards imposed by whoever happens to be in office. (Barack Obama’s infamous transgender directives are a good example of this.) As the chasm between the beliefs of conservative America and secular progressive America grows wider, it increasingly makes far more sense for parents and communities to pursue their own arrangements, where they can guarantee that their deeply held beliefs are passed on to their children.

The poll was also encouraging with regard to support for school choice across the board. The question posed was pointed: “School choice gives parents the right to use tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support the concept of school choice?” Of the 64% of the 2,122 respondents who indicated their support, a full 59% were Democrats and 75.2% were Republicans (with 60.2% stating that they were Independents.) There was a majority through all age categories, with the highest support — 67.2% — among the age group 18–34. Wide support ran across ethnic and racial lines, and even among those who send their children to public school (67.7% support for school choice).

These new data, says John Schilling, indicate that it is time for action. “This is the time for leadership and for desperately needed bold reforms to be implemented across our K–12 system,” he stated. “Millions of families are seeing the inadequacies of school districts that are too inflexible. We owe it to our nation’s families and students to give them more flexibility and additional educational options. Moreover, policymakers owe it to the taxpayers who are footing the $800-billion K–12 education bill to maximize their investment by ensuring every child has access to a quality education and outcomes are improved across the board.”

Many conservatives and Christians were concerned that governments are utilizing and will continue to utilize the COVID-19 pandemic to vastly increase government control and interference in the personal lives of citizens. That is precisely why the proposal of Harvard’s Elizabeth Bartholet was so alarming — because we know that there are many in power who fully agree with her and would leap at the chance to ban homeschooling. In that context, this new polling is particularly encouraging: Rising levels of support for not only school choice, but also homeschooling and virtual schooling will make it difficult for authorities to restrict these options. And if increasing numbers of families decide to pursue these options for themselves, we will be threatening the secular progressive agenda in a real and definite way: by denying them access to our children.