Since the COVID pandemic began in 2019, U.S. public schools have lost over a million students. The major decline in enrollment is largely due to how schools handled COVID restrictions, such as masking and vaccine mandates, and the quality of education being offered.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, public school enrollment fell by 1.4 million students between 2019 and 2020. However, a report by Education Next reveals that between 2020 and 2022 there was a sharp decrease in public school enrollment, suggesting that the decline may be closer to 2 million.
Over the last three years, enrollment in public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling grew by 4.5%.
Some key reasons why, during the pandemic, parents decided to make the shift away from public school education include the poor quality of education and over-the-top COVID restrictions.
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As children moved to online learning, parents began to see firsthand the quality of education their kids received, and many were not impressed.
According to a poll taken by GALLUP, parental satisfaction with K-12 education fell significantly between 2019 and 2020. Pre-pandemic, 51% of parents reported being completely or somewhat satisfied with their child’s education. Now, this satisfaction level has dropped to 42%, which is the lowest in over 20 years.
23% of Americans reported being completely dissatisfied with their child’s education.
The Epoch Times interviewed parents who grew dissatisfied with their child’s education after witnessing their virtual classrooms.
One father from Florida, Matt Mohler, told Epoch Times that he moved his kids to a classical charter school in the fall of 2020 after realizing the minimal effort the teachers were putting in.
“For a while, [our kids] were getting homework assigned to them by their teachers … but there was no teaching going on,” Mohler said. “Once a week they’d all get together on a classroom call, and that was the extent of what the teachers were doing. We realized we weren’t getting a lot of effort out of the teachers.”
Another parent, Shireen Qudosi, moved her autistic son out of his public school in the fall of 2020 after seeing their online learning process. “There wasn’t even a functioning curriculum in place, which access into the classroom through remote learning confirmed,” said Qudosi.
Others were concerned with the content that was being taught to their children, for example, social issues like race, gender identity, sex, and drug abuse.
Mohler also spoke to The Epoch Times about the inappropriate topics being covered in his daughter’s second-grade classroom. He said, “The school had a ‘Say No to Drugs’ campaign, but they were going into detail on what drugs were out there. If they’re going to learn about that, they’re going to learn about that from me.”
J. Allen Weston, the Executive Director of the American Home School Association weighed in on the issue, saying that parents don’t want their kids exposed to the “radical indoctrination that the public schools are doing.”
Additional COVID-related causes of the drop in public school enrollment are the masking and vaccine mandates that were imposed on all Americans.
Many parents were angered by these requirements which forced their children, who are at little risk of COVID-19, to get vaxxed and wear masks for six hours a day, some during crucial developmental periods in their lives.
Fed up with the pointless mandates on their children, many chose to make the switch to homeschooling or private schools, which gained half a million enrolled students in 2020.
According to a report from NAPCS, almost 90% of families who switched school type experienced a positive change as a result, and 57% said their child was happier, too.