Right now, families across America are managing the wild uncertainties of the new school year and facing difficult choices regarding the schooling of their children. Many families will be “virtual learning” for an indefinite amount of time. Others have chosen to pull their children out of public school and homeschool instead, and some are fortunate enough to return to a “new normal” of in-person private or public school. And, of course, many families are returning to homeschooling as usual. As families make different choices for their children’s education, no family is untouched by the effects of COVID on education in our country.
Millions of American parents have been compelled to decrease or stop working altogether to educate their children. We can relate. We both work outside the home, as do our husbands. We are grateful to have our careers but very familiar with the incredible challenge of educating children from home while working and parenting fulltime. It’s a lot to juggle, but we are the fortunate ones. Millions of American parents don’t have the option of flexing time at work or decreasing the amount of time they spend working. If they decrease their hours at work, their bills won’t be paid. It’s not an overstatement to say that many, many American families are faced with whether to provide food and shelter or education for their children. That is a choice no family should be faced with.
Some say “virtual learning” or “online school” is not homeschool. We agree – it’s not the same. In virtual school, the school provides the lesson plans and assigns work to students. However, the parents teach their young children how to use a mouse, open Google classroom, mute themselves, type into chat boxes, etc. –not to mention reading instructions to their children, helping them write and type assignments and ensure they are completed. In many cases, parents also absorb the financial costs of laptops, tablets, webcams, and high-speed internet service to participate in “virtual learning.”
Public schools receive thousands of dollars in state and federal funds per student enrolled in their school. Currently, public schools are receiving the same, full amount of per-student funding regardless of whether they are delivering in-class learning or “virtual learning” to students. Many districts are actually receiving more funding than normal due to federal COVID relief. So while parents are forced to work less or not work at all in order to home-educate their children, the public school system receives complete funding for their children’s education while the parents receive none.
This reality is not only unfair, but illogical and wrong. Now more than ever, taxpayer dollars for education must follow the child.
You might be familiar with the phrase “money follows the child” when you hear people talk about “school choice.” Traditional school choice allows states to give money directly to parents for the education of their child. Most commonly, these programs are called Education Savings Accounts or ESAs. These savings accounts provide families complete control over the taxpayer funds allocated to their child(ren) to purchase laptops, curriculum, private school tuition, tutoring and other supplemental materials.
Families need and deserve access to education savings accounts today!
Many families are desperate to access funds now to educate their children. If the public school is educating your child, that’s great. They should get the money. But if they aren’t, it is fundamentally unfair the school is getting paid while the families are getting the bill.
State legislators need to hear from families today. Please take a moment to contact your lawmakers and urge them to make education savings accounts available to families immediately. (To find your state representative and senator if you don’t know them, click here.)
Also, stay tuned! In a few short weeks, Family Policy Alliance® will be releasing a national education guide for equipping parents with all they need to know about school choice, what’s going on in the public education system and how to protect children, and to help parents engage with policymakers impacting their children’s education at all levels.
Statesmen Academy Director