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Families are checking out of public education. Why?

Updated: May 3, 2023

Is there a way to turn this around?

Public school enrollment has decreased by nearly 1.5 million students over the past decade. Contributing factors include:

  • increased private school enrollment

  • decreasing birth rates

  • the number of home-schooled students has doubled

  • a growing distrust of public schools

If the exodus from the public school system has taught us anything, it is that families matter.

In the arc of human history, public schools are relatively new. Birthed in the early 19th century (and a little earlier in Britain with the Clapham Sect and others), they grew out of the Great Awakening and served to raise the quality of life for individuals around the world while teaching an agreed upon morality. As long as many families see improving life opportunities as the goal of education, they will probably support them. However, what many families see in districts around the US has raised serious concerns. The bravado of some educational and political leaders to dismiss parents' foundational moral, ethical, and academic concerns these past two years has been on full display, and a mass departure has ensued (see Minneapolis, San Francisco, Virginia, etc.).

Confident, healthy children are the foundation of thriving societies, and no one cares more about than family. It is time to think differently about the role families will play in the future of public education to regain their trust. Otherwise, many public schools will continue to watch families free their children from the clutches of what they view as toxic ideologies and pass through a metaphorical Red Sea, never to return again.

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