Government schools that relied most on virtual instruction and mask-wearing through COVID-19 lockdowns also saw the most severe declines in enrollment over the past two years, according to a recent study.
The American Enterprise Institute and the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College revealed that over 1.27 million students have left public schools since COVID-19 hit the United States. In addition to the 1.18 million who left their districts during the 2020-2021 school year, net losses continued into the 2021-2022 school year.
The study identified “districts that returned to in-person more quickly” as the same districts that are witnessing an enrollment recovery.
Districts with the most virtual classes churned 4.4% of their students, while districts that chose not to rely on remote classes lost 1.1% of students. The former category of school systems saw their most severe losses in their kindergarten and elementary populations — 8.1% and 6.2%, respectively.
Trends in enrollment declines were also linked to local voting records. Districts in counties carried by Joe Biden have seen 3.8% drops in enrollment, while districts in counties carried by Donald Trump have seen 1.9% drops.
“The road to recovery for schools will be long, especially for those that were more COVID-cautious,” the study said. Districts in counties with high mask usage lost 3.8% of their students, even as districts in counties with low mask usage lost 1.5%.
New York saw a 6% decline in enrollment — worse than any other state. Oregon and Mississippi also saw enrollment drop more than 5% between 2020 and 2022. Meanwhile, South Dakota, Utah, North Dakota, Idaho, and Alabama were the only five states to see net increases in enrollment.
American Federation for Children national director of research Corey DeAngelis told The Daily Wire that teachers unions — which collaborated with the Biden administration on COVID-19 policies and pushed for school districts to remain virtual — brought the “mass exodus from the government school system” upon themselves.
“The teachers unions overplayed their hand. Families voted with their feet to alternatives including private, charter, and home school options,” DeAngelis explained. Indeed, the study corresponds with data indicating that parents are seeking educational opportunities beyond conventional government schools.
One report found that from March 2020 to September 2020 alone, homeschooling rates across the country grew between 5.4% and 11%. By the summer of 2021, 5 million American children were receiving their education at home. The Department of Education likewise found that enrollment in public schools “fell by its largest margin in at least two decades” amid COVID-19 — a drop representing a 3% loss in enrollment between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.
“The teachers union-induced school closures hurt kids academically, mentally, and physically,” DeAngelis added. “The teachers union monopoly prioritized itself at the expense of millions of children, and parents are never going to forget their selfish actions. In a way, because persistent enrollment declines lead to less funding for government schools, the teachers unions actively worked to destroy their own empire over the past two years.”
Nevertheless, progressive academics are launching campaigns against homeschooling. As schools across America closed their doors in the spring of 2020, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet lamented that the United States has an “essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling” and “very few requirements that parents do anything.” Earlier this month, University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler claimed that there exists a “project about dismantling the public education system in the United States.”