By Ashley Varner for RealClearPolicy
Perhaps predictably, many public schools kicked off 2022 by switching back to remote learning — or canceling classes altogether — leaving frustrated parents across the country frantically searching for more consistent schooling options.
These past two school years of remote and hybrid learning, forced masking, and an intensified culture of unpredictability has pushed teachers, administrators, students, and parents to very edge. What began as a temporary interruption to student learning has become a vicious cycle of confusion, inconsistency and lost educational time.
Thanks to the unreliability of distance learning, children are retaining less of what they’ve learned, reading at lower grade levels and suffering from a lack of social interaction. There is little to no support for children who rely on school to provide a safe haven from difficult home lives, and students in free or reduced meal plans have a harder time receiving them.
As school policies continue to isolate students from friends and peers, such as forcing students to eat their lunch outside on buckets, or facing the same direction without talking, the tragic numbers of adolescent depression, anxiety, and suicide continue to rise.
Millions of exasperated parents, many in deep-blue cities and states, are desperately pursuing educational alternatives that better suit their families’ needs and values. Parents are enrolling their children in private and charter schools in droves, while those without the financial means to do so remain stuck in a system captive to the whims of teachers’ unions and indifferent school boards.
Many teachers are going above and beyond in the name of what is best for kids, but their ability to truly innovate and explore new ways of teaching and inspire learning is being blocked by the unnecessarily restrictive demands of union leadership.
These unions tend to operate at state and national levels in ways that do not represent most of their members. Rather than sticking up for these vulnerable children, unions — as recently exemplified by the Chicago Teachers Union — are prioritizing strikes, walkouts and funding political campaigns, halting true progress as students remain stranded at home.
Fed-up teachers across the country have resigned their union membership, tired of their dues dollars funding an agenda they don’t support.
Thankfully, this power-flexing by the educational elites has also awakened a sleeping tiger — parents who care far more about their children’s education than the radical political agenda embraced by teachers’ union leaders.
Many parents are recognizing now more than ever the importance of school choice. Rather than forcing families to fit their children into an outdated, one-size-fits-all template, we now have the opportunity a build a new educational model that offers a wider variety of schooling options designed to fit the families it serves.
Parents are increasingly empowered to choose whatever type of education is best for their family, and they’re seizing this opportunity in a grassroots movement that is sweeping the country.
None of which is to suggest public schools can’t be saved. Our education system must be fixed, not abandoned.
Despite its boast of enhancing opportunities for everyone, remote learning has perpetuated the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Parents who lack the financial means to switch their children to in-person learning at private or charter schools — whether it be for a better educational experience or simply because they can’t afford to stay home from work to supervise remote learning — have no choice but to remain in public school.
We must find the courage to improve and innovate the public education system and put first what’s best for students and families, rather than national teachers’ unions.
Perhaps most importantly, parents and teachers alike must remember the power they have in making their voices heard. Though millions of angry parents will be going to the polls this November, it’s important they work to enact change now by calling school administrators, district superintendents and school boards to let them know they don’t support union agendas running their kids’ schools.
It’s time we set aside politics and remembered who education is meant to serve, and the futures we are fighting for.
Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.
Ashley Varner is vice president of communications and federal affairs at the Freedom Foundation.
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