Libertarians are wont to label public schools as “government schools.” And as the 2021-22 academic calendar rapidly descends upon students, parents, and teachers, there is good reason to believe the latter is indeed a more accurate term. A showdown between parents and the powerful National Education Association (NEA) union is picking up steam. There are curricula and health issues stirring that pot, not to mention disunity in the ranks. Meanwhile, some states are reporting more parents than ever pulling their kids out of the government system in favor of homeschooling. Finally, there’s the tangle of student vouchers being handed out for those wanting to avoid public education – something the NEA has historically fought hammer and tong.
First Period: Curricula 101
The raging battle over Critical Race Theory (CRT) is front and center. Some insist they will not teach the controversial curriculum; others contend they will not not teach it in defiance of several recent state laws aimed at prohibiting such teaching. Those who see it as nothing more than the weaponized indoctrination of students are fighting back in very public ways, but they’re now meeting with fierce resistance from the teachers union.
Earlier this month the NEA filed suit against a Rhode Island parent for submitting over 200 requests for information about CRT. Nicole Solas and “John Doe” Hartman filed the complaint asking a Superior Court judge to block release of certain non-public records claiming individual teacher rights. Solas was triggered by her child’s elementary school principal, who said the terms “boys” and “girls” have been scuttled in favor of gender-inclusive pronouns.
In Loudoun County, VA – where incendiary school board meetings have been elevated to national news – one educator issued an emotional public resignation this week. Fifth-grade teacher Laura Morris denounced the highly politicized training workshops she was forced to attend. In calling it quits, Morris tearfully told the Loudoun school board, “Clearly, you’ve made your point. You no longer value me or many other teachers you’ve employed in this county.”
Stay-at-home mom Amy Cawvey told Fox News parents in the heartland were surprised “to find themselves battling critical race theory at their doorstep.” Cawvey and two other parents, troubled by the culturally woke direction of the school board in Lansing, KS, ran for and won three primary spots in advance of the November general election. “We are the last line of defense against the indoctrination of our children,” Cawvey told Fox.
Second Period: Public Health 101
However, as divisive as it is, the CRT battle must take a back seat to the explosive school health and safety questions before state officials, parents, and teachers. New York Post reported on August 10 that the Biden administration is “examining whether he can order universal masking in public schools, overriding Republican governors in states like Florida and Texas.” This comes on the heels of an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis barring schools from requiring students to wear masks. This battle has already gone down the road of legal action. Two lawsuits have been filed in Florida, one for and one against a mandatory mask requirement. White House COVID guru Dr. Anthony Fauci muddied the waters even more, saying he’s “hopeful” that making youngsters wear masks won’t have a “lasting negative impact” on children’s health. At issue here are questions of public safety and personal liberty.
Third Period: Economics 101
Government schools are made possible by one thing and one thing only: your tax dollars. Fewer students mean fewer federal dollars. This is where things are getting dicey. Way down yonder in Texas – Lubbock, to be exact – the state’s Home School Coalition announced the doubling of homeschoolers in just the last week of July. In a news release, the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) reported:
“This latest number represents an all-time high that even exceeds the enormous call and email volume for THSC from the fall of 2020 when COVID-19 school restrictions dominated the news, and the number of homeschooling families in Texas had nearly tripled from 4.5 to 12.3% by October of that year according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”
This is hardly an affluent suburban phenomenon. In 2020, “the largest surge in homeschooling was driven by minority families leaving the public school system. Nationwide, the rate of black families homeschooling rose from 3.3 to 16.1%,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Meanwhile, Florida is providing school vouchers – public school advocates’ worst nightmare – to parents who contend forced mask-wearing amounts to harassment.
These are but a few of the many treacherous battles facing American public schools this year – and a battleground it is as parents, teacher organizations, and state governments are all drawing lines in the playground sandbox. Most of these disputes will ultimately land in statewide court systems. Doubtless, the hottest political theater in America centers around public education, and all indications are that things won’t be cooling down come this fall, but rather heating up.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.