What comes after the end of public schools?
Anyone who cares about the education of children should be asking that question. So of course it’s one that the teachers unions don’t want us to discuss.
New York City schools are in trouble. As The Post reported Friday, “the city Department of Education expects to enroll roughly 28,100 fewer students this fall.” Enrollment at the city’s regular public schools already fell during the pandemic, and this new projection suggests it’s not improving any time soon.
And New York leads a large pack: California, Illinois, Oregon, Mississippi and Michigan have all seen serious losses of students departing their public-school systems.
Why? A Gallup poll last week showed only 28% of Americans have “a great deal or a lot” of “confidence in U.S. public schools.”
Much of this is tied to long closures during the pandemic. Teachers unions, with people like American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten leading the charge, pushed hard to keep schools closed for far too long. The shutdowns (and the travesty of remote learning) smashed public trust and it simply isn’t that easy to rebuild. Researchers at the American Enterprise Institute found that the longer a school district stayed remote, the larger its enrollment drop.
But parents tell me they have many reasons for saying “enough.”
New York City’s crushing of merit-based admissions under Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed people out, as did general woke nonsense replacing academics. Other parents pulled their kids when toddlers stayed masked after the rest of the city had stopped.
Mayor Eric Adams isn’t mincing words: “We have a massive hemorrhaging of students — massive hemorrhaging. We’re in a very dangerous place in the number of students that we are dropping.” But the City Council (clearly lobbied by the teachers union) is pushing for schools to retain funding at the old enrollment numbers. That’s crazy: These schools aren’t meeting families’ needs; they shouldn’t be rewarded for this failure with cash.
Especially because money is so often set on fire in the New York City system. Schools Chancellor David Banks and over 50 other staffers attended a conference last week “at a swanky hotel near Universal Studios in Orlando,” The Post reports. Kids had to zoom to get an education for over a year, but the grownups need to meet up near theme parks to discuss their education plan? Ridiculous.
Public schools are in a serious downward spiral. The options are fixing them, which hasn’t worked for decades, or letting parents get their kids out.
Public charter schools are, understandably, booming despite getting far less funding. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently pointed out, “Charter schools educate 7% of all public-school students, yet they receive less than 1% of total federal spending on K-12 education.”
On average, charters have higher math and reading scores than traditional public schools; Bloomberg notes, “Research has found that the benefits are especially pronounced for Black, Latino and low-income students.”
But the teachers unions hate charters. They hate when parents have choices for their kids.
They also hate outspoken parents fighting for their kids. Weingarten called parents showing up to school board meetings “racists” and has argued that school vouchers, which would give parents a way to get their kids out of failing schools, are “the end of public education as we know it.” To which we all should say: good.
Public education shouldn’t exist to serve Weingarten. It’s our money paying for our children to get an education.
School-choice activist Corey DeAngelis always asks, “Why would giving families a choice ‘end public schools’?” That’s the exact right question.
If parents are finding that the public-school system doesn’t serve their children, we need to give them an option to exit. If they all take that exit, that means their children have been failed by our current public-education model — and that’s a travesty we can’t ignore.
Politicians shouldn’t preserve this failing model because Randi Weingarten wants them to. They should remember: The last time they listened to her, public schools across the country lost over a million students.
After the last few dismal years, our focus can’t be on keeping special-interest groups like Weingarten’s happy. The mantra for us all has to be: Children first.