The Shift from Public Schools: A Growing Trend in American Education

The Shift from Public Schools: A Growing Trend in American Education | Future Education Magazine


Source-The New York Times

An overwhelming majority of American students attend public schools, but this trend is changing. According to new research from EdChoice, an organization that supports private school choice and tracks the sector, more than one million students used some form of private education voucher this year. This figure has more than doubled in the past four years.

In more than half of the states, parents can now use public money to educate their children at home, online, or in private schools. This shift has resulted in a growing movement towards what some are calling “choose-your-own-adventure education,” where parents can select programs that fit their beliefs and their children’s needs. However, this new form of education raises questions about accountability and standards outside traditional schools.

Factors Driving the Change

Several factors are driving this change in education. The pandemic prompted many families to rethink how their children learn, leading to an increase in private-school choice. Republican lawmakers have embraced this trend as part of a broader push for parental rights, viewing it as a way to appeal to young parents, particularly Black and Latino families, who are often critical of how public schools serve their children.

Additionally, teachers are experiencing intense burnout, with some leaving public schools to start small businesses that can accept these vouchers. These “microschools,” which I recently wrote about in The Times, are becoming increasingly popular. In the Atlanta area, for instance, some microschools have as few as six students. While most are run by career educators, the sector remains unregulated, allowing anyone to open a microschool.

Next year, Georgia will begin offering $6,500 through an education savings account to families who withdraw their children from schools in the bottom 25 percent academically. Parents hope to use this money for microschools, home-schooling supplies, therapy, or tutoring. Some parents, particularly Christian conservatives, want the Bible taught as history. However, more commonly, parents are simply looking for an alternative where their children can thrive academically.

Implications and Concerns

The shift towards nontraditional education comes with a new political vocabulary. Conservatives who support these programs no longer talk much about vouchers but instead praise money sent directly to families in education savings accounts. Terms like “entrepreneurship” and “permissionless education” are becoming more common, highlighting a preference for less regulation, fewer standardized tests, and no teachers’ unions. This growing marketplace for private education has few quality checks, with teachers not necessarily needing certification or college degrees, and facilities may not be inspected. Some states have even approved questionable home-schooling expenses.

Private-school choice programs are especially popular with parents of disabled children. Public school administrators sometimes suggest vouchers to parents whose children face difficulties, particularly with behavior. However, accepting a voucher often means enrolling in a program that does not follow federal disability laws, and private educators frequently do not provide on-site therapies.

Advocates for private-school choice embrace the lack of regulation, believing the market will correct itself as parents withdraw their children from mediocre programs. Robert Enlow, chief executive of EdChoice, stated, “We’re in the midst of a change on what we mean by accountability.” This change reflects a broader shift in how education is perceived and delivered in America, with an increasing number of parents seeking alternatives to traditional public schools.

In conclusion, the rising trend of private-school choice and the use of public money for nontraditional education highlight a significant shift in American education. While offering parents more control and customization, it also raises concerns about accountability and quality. As this movement grows, the implications for how children are educated in the United States will continue to unfold.

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