As families flock to virtual charter schools and "pandemic pods," California blocks the money from following the child.
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Los Angeles was the first major city to announce that its public schools wouldn't be re-opening for in-person instruction in the Fall, and districts across the country have followed suit.
A coalition of parents in California are suing the state on the grounds that poor and special needs children in particular have received inadequate Los Angeles was the first major city to announce that its public schools wouldn't be re-opening for in-person instruction in the Fall, and districts across the country have followed suit.
A coalition of parents in California are suing the state on the grounds that poor and special needs children in particular have received inadequate instruction during the shutdown.
School districts around the country are weighing the needs of students against the danger that in-person instruction could cause COVID-19 to spread within their communities.
And teachers unions are understandably concerned about protecting the health of their members.
But in Los Angeles, the teacher's union is exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to prevent competition from charter schools, which are seeing a surge of new applicants from desperate parents.
The United Teachers Los Angeles co-signed a document with nine other unions and the Democratic Socialists of America calling for a moratorium on all new charter schools and private voucher programs. A bill signed into law in October backed by the unions might accomplish that, as it gives local school boards more power to stop new charter schools from opening and existing ones from renewing their charters.
"It's about protecting a monopoly from losing any students and the funding that goes along with those students," says Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.
And DeAngelis has reported on a new phenomenon called "pandemic pods," in which groups of parents are pooling their resources to hire their own teachers.
"It's essentially the idea of the one-room schoolhouse," says DeAngelis. "You essentially outsource the process of homeschooling."
He says the rise of the pods, or micro-schools, could permanently change the way Americans think about schooling.
"Fund the families directly so less advantaged families can take advantage of these options as well," says DeAngelis.
President Trump has called for more school choice as a response to shuttered schools, Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the School Choice Now Act, which would earmark COVID stimulus dollars for parents to spend directly on education, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill that would require states to give parents direct access to federal education dollars to spend on tuition or homeschool materials.
Oklahoma and South Carolina have already begun to redirect money earmarked for schools in the emergency CARES Act directly to parents to cover private school tuition, and Colorado legislators are proposing putting the money right into the hands of parents.
But in California, the political power of the union will likely prevent that.
But DeAngelis says that the current moment could be a turning point for school choice regardless.
"I think people are waking up to this idea…that families have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to k-12 education," says DeAngelis.
Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Isaac Reese.
Photo credits: "Siblings working on laptop," Sara Monika Westend6/Newscom; "Dad and son on laptop," Phillip Waterman Westend61/Newscom; "Masked girl washing hands at school," dirkkittelberger Westend61/Newscom; "Girl in pink at laptop," Dreamstock1982 Westend61/Newscom; "UTLA Protest," David Crane/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Boy with red headphones at laptop," Giorgio Magini Westend61/Newscom; "Moreno Valley teachers protest," Terry Pierson/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Woman reading to little boy," Brian Cassella/TNS/Newscom; "Red-headed girl taking test on laptop," Annette Holloway/Icon Sportswire/Newscom; "Family homeschooling," Rafael Ben-Ari/Newscom; "Masked students sitting on mats," Tyger Williams/TNS/Newscom; "School closed sign," Image of Sport/Newscom; "Rand Paul in Congress," Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; "Trump at COVID update presser," Abaca Press/Gripas Yuri/Sipa USA/Newscom; "Tim Scott in Congress," WIn McNamee/UPI/Newscom; "Body bags for teachers," John-Marshall Mantel/Polaris/Newscom; "Welcome Back to School coffin," John Marshall Mantel/Polaris/Newscom
Music credits: "Normalize," "Unplanned Run," "Free Radicals," "Subdivide," and "Binary Love," by Stanley Gurvich licensed by Artlist.