Of all the dislocations caused by government responses to COVID-19, arguably none were more disruptive to everyday life than the shutting down of in-person education for the country's 50 million public K-12 students and their parents.
Teachers unions fought to keep schools online even as evidence piled up that remote learning was disastrous for poor kids especially, and as the experiences of other developed countries, which mostly continued to operate in person, demonstrated that schools weren't a major source of infection.
The results were easy to predict: historic declines in reading and math scores. Major school districts continue to alienate parents. Washington, D.C., 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.
More parents than ever have exited major urban school districts and school choice proponents are building on recent policy victories, such as Arizona's new law in which money follows the child, with up to $7,000 that can be used at any public or private school in the state.
The politics of school choice are already a major issue in the midterm elections and will be again in 2024, especially as internal polls conducted by the American Federation of Teachers find for the first time that voters in battleground states are more likely to agree that Republicans are better on education than Democrats.
What happens next?
At FreedomFest, the annual July gathering in Las Vegas, Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, and a senior fellow at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason. We talked about how COVID has permanently reshaped the education landscape, why top-down bans on critical race theory are ineffective and anti-freedom, why some red states like Texas are terrible on school choice, and why all of us, whether or not we have kids in K-12 schools, should all be invested in radical reform.
Photo Credits: Abssch, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; college.library, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; Karla Ann Cote/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Charles Edward Miller from Chicago, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons; Lev Radin/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Johnny Milano/Polaris/Newscom.
Music Credits: "Release the Hounds (instrumental version)," by Michael Shynes, via Artlist.
Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Regan Taylor and Adam Czarnecki.