Expanding Choice During A Pandemic
As you know, the past 18 months have been the most tumultuous season in the history of American K-12 education. Nationwide COVID-induced school closures and the process of their reopening have affected students, parents, and education on physical, emotional, and mental levels. Data is just now showing the widespread effects of academic learning loss, and the emotional scars of this year will take time to heal.
It’s time for students to return to the classroom in a way that ensures each family feels comfortable and safe. The national impasse over mandatory masking stands in the way. Some parents feel strongly that their children should participate academically in a mask-less environment, others cite masks as being necessary for their child’s safety. This division is exemplified by recent viral videos from school board meetings. Parents are frustrated that their state or district is attempting to force their students into a one-size-fits-all environment. School choice must be accessible for all families so that they can put their students in an environment that aligns with their health and safety priorities.
Regardless of your personal position on masks for K-12 students, the American Federation for Children encourages you to empower families to make those decisions for themselves. Already, Florida has adopted measures to empower families with school choice when they disagree with their school’s masking policy. Similar proposals have been made in Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas. We encourage you to sponsor legislation that will expand or grant choice to families in your state.
Already in 2021, twenty-one states voted to create, expand, or improve school choice programs. To follow this example and expand educational freedom for families, lawmakers should:
- Include the largest number of eligible students possible;
- Keep families together by extending eligibility to siblings;
- Provide consistency by allowing participating students to remain in programs in the years to come;
- Provide for the full range of educational options.
Polling shows that every demographic overwhelmingly supports funding students instead of systems. Especially in these trying times, we ask you to empower families with the financial resources to choose an education provider that will meet their specific, individual needs. We urge you to put families first with permanent legislation that will not only provide choice in masking policy but in education overall.
COVID-19 did not create America’s crisis in education, but school choice can mitigate the disruption caused by this pandemic and secure a brighter future for thousands of children in the United States.
The American Federation for Children