School Choice Spreads Through America As Teachers Unions Fight Back

More and more parents are opting out of public schools and taking advantage of school choice.

Written by Briana Oser

What’s happening: More and more families are participating in state-funded school choice programs that enable students to attend private schools or homeschool. This is part of the broader fight to restore power to parents in education in response to political material in classrooms across the nation.

  • The numbers: Homeschoolers increased by 63 percent in the 2020-2021 academic year, with only a 17 percent drop the following year. This happened alongside a 1.2 million drop in students enrolled in K-12 schools.

The state of education: Only 42 percent of U.S. adults are satisfied with the current state of education. Math and reading test scores in public schools plummeted during the pandemic due to remote schooling. Political influence in schools is also now parents’ top concern for education.

  • Leading the charge: Eight states— Arizona, West Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Utah — have either implemented or will be implementing “universal” school choice programs. These allocate money both to low-income families and wealthy private school families.

Resistance: Teachers unions oppose school choice because they fear that it will defund public schools. In reality, school choice programs don’t sap resources from public schools but rather cause them to improve through competition. Still, teachers unions hold immense power as they fund politicians to stall school choice legislation and file lawsuits against the programs.

  • Case study: Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro campaigned on school choice. But due in part to teacher union pressure, he ultimately vetoed a $100 million program in July to help low-income children escape low-performing schools.

  • Remember: Teachers unions helped keep schools closed – they protested the reopening of public schools in the fall of 2020 over COVID-19, so most did not open until 2021. Major educational organizations in America have also fought parental rights efforts.