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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - One positive effect of the Wuhan virus is that a generation of parents with school-age children are getting a taste of homeschooling, and a percentage of those parents are likely to stick with it for the upcoming school year.
That's the assessment of Reason Foundation's Corey DeAngelis who is saying that if just 2 percent of families continue homeschooling, "that could result in 1 million fewer students and a reduction of $15 billion in education funding."
A poll conducted by the American Federation for Children provides more support for this possibility. It shows that "40 percent of families are more likely to use homeschooling or virtual school education after lockdown restrictions are lifted." The poll also revealed that 64 percent of participants believe families should have the choice of public or private schooling.
Since education funding is directly tied to the number of students in the system, any drop in enrollment is a threat, not only to the school districts involved but also to teachers and their unions who rely on member dues. The largest teacher union is the National Education Association (NEA) with 3 million members followed by the American Federation of Teachers representing 1.6 million teachers.
Despite what teachers unions would like Americans to believe, an often-overlooked fact is that they represent teachers' interests — not students or their parents. Furthermore, the NEA, specifically "is committed to advancing the cause of public education [emphasis added]."
If there are fewer students, there will be fewer teachers, thus diminishing the unions' power. They cannot allow that to happen. After telling her union teachers that "President Trump has caused the country to lose ground in our fight to save lives and avert economic catastrophe," American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten gave her members this important talking point: "If the more than 500,000 laid-off educators are not rehired, it will cause lasting harm to our children's futures."
Both the NEA and AFT have well-financed and powerful lobbying arms. NEA lobbies Congress and federal agencies, and according to the Wall Street Journal, is active in the nominating process for Democratic candidates. From 1989 through the 2014 election cycle, the NEA spent over $92 million on political campaign contributions, 97% of which went to Democrats. The group is officially "non-partisan," but since the election of Jimmy Carter, the union only has endorsed Democrat presidential candidates.
Since the 1970s, the debate is not if public education is declining; the debate is why.
A map that assesses the strength of the teachers unions in each of the fifty states reveals a nearly perfect overlap between states with the strongest teachers unions and states with the most controversial Wuhan virus lockdown measures: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California.
Some critics are saying the media's perceived threat to public education has motivated them to publish a tsunami of articles claiming the inferiority of homeschooling and playing up the difficulties parents and children are having with remote learning.
Perhaps the most well-publicized clash has been between Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet's call for a "presumptive ban" of homeschooling and the backlash of articles, tweets and posts attacking her position. Harvard's efforts to quash homeschooling have included the organization of a symposium on the topic and the publication of three articles in their internal outlets echoing Bartholet's dire warnings about "homeschooling."
One of the most common criticism of homeschooling is the alleged lack of "socialization." But for the awkward teenager or the child with special needs, the socialization they get at a public school is far from desirable.
Even outlets like the New York Times are acknowledging that learning at home can be superior to traditional, classroom learning. For example,
But one unexpected silver lining of the shutdown has been an improved learning experience for certain students, including some who struggle to pay attention in class and even some high-achieving self-starters. Enough students are benefiting from this crash course in remote learning that parents and educators are wondering if, when buildings reopen, there are aspects that can be continued for these students, as well as lessons that can apply to everyone else.
One of the ways Bartholet tries to frighten Americans is by claiming that homeschooled children are more likely to be abused by their parents. She ignores the sexual, psychological and emotional abuse many students endure in traditional classrooms.