School Choice

Corey DeAngelis: COVID Lockdowns Made School Choice Inevitable

By forcing kids to learn from home, teachers unions did more to promote the need for radical K-12 education reform than a million activists.


You've probably heard the latest news that school lockdowns during the COVID pandemic are responsible for erasing two decades of progress in math and reading test scores. On national tests of 9-year-olds, math scores declined seven points between 2020 and 2022. Reading scores dropped by five points. These are "some of the largest declines" in half a century.

Such news comes on top of the massive frustration about chaotic, nonsensical openings and closings of schools, unscientific mask mandates for K-12 students, and insane policies like one in Washington, D.C., where the mayor and City Council recently decreed that kids ages 12 and older would need to be vaccinated even for remote learning, a measure that would have barred 40 percent of the city's black teens from getting an education. That policy was, thankfully, pushed back until January 2023, but it's still on the books, lurking like a bully at the far end of the hallway.

Today's guest on The Reason Interview With Nick Gillespie is Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children. Corey used to work at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this podcast, has a Ph.D. in education from the University of Arkansas, and is widely recognized as one of the leading activists pushing for radical school choice, in which funding dollars follow children to whatever learning institutions they and their parents decide on, whether private, public, religious, secular, charter, online, you name it.

I caught up with Corey at FreedomFest, the annual gathering in Las Vegas, just after Arizona had passed the biggest school choice law in the country, with $7,000 of state funding now following each student per year. We talked about how COVID lockdowns—so heavily pushed by teachers unions—radically raised parental awareness about how bad most K-12 education is; why top-down attempts to ban critical race theory and other specific curricula are misguided and ineffective; recent Supreme Court decisions that rightly get rid of legal concerns over tax dollars funding students at religious schools; why Texas is so incredibly awful on school choice despite being run by Republicans; why Republicans have nonetheless emerged as the party of school choice; and why all of us, whether we have kids in the K-12 gulag system or not, should be invested in education reform.