The American public school system fell apart this year. The overwhelming majority of American parents found themselves remote schooling from home. No consensus exists on whether or not schools should reopen, or whether they should reopen only after everyone attending gets vaccinated. Because teachers still get paid no matter what happens, anger and vitriol between parents, teachers, and other parents has increased to a point where the social fabric children lived in a year ago is ripping apart.
A Broken Model
We can only solve these problems by returning to a true marketplace for schooling. We need to admit that the public school system model has failed. It only marginally worked under the assumption that enough parents worked the same hours and paid enough money in property taxes to keep the system up and running. However, without a societal norm in terms of who can work from home, who needs to work on-site and therefore needs in-person childcare, and who even has a job, only the free market can possibly match the many different needs parents have right now.
The public school system was established less than two hundred years ago; and over the last hundred years, the state has increasingly inserted itself into the realm of raising children. States do not generate anything, merely redistribute it; and when they began to offer “free” childcare and education it came at the price of buying into a system increasingly difficult to opt out of.
Nationally, the United States spends an average of about $12,000 per year per student in the K–12 public school system. The average tuition for private schools nationwide is also about $12,000. Meanwhile, the parents who choose to pay for private schools pay twice. They pay tuition for their own children to attend the schools of their choice, and then they pay taxes for everyone else’s children to be educated as well.
Many people cannot afford this, so without a functional public school system, where does this leave them?
Public Schools Are AWOL, So Many Must Turn to Homeschooling
Homeschooling needs to be presented as a viable alternative for low-income families. I am currently in my ninth year of homeschooling. I spend between $500 and $700 a year on materials for three children. Of course, I have lost a lot of income by leaving my job in order to homeschool. When I quit my job to care for my children full time, I had been making about $40,000 a year. So, one could say it costs me approximately $16,700 a year in lost wages, per child, to homeschool.
However, it gets more complicated than that. I do not have to buy work clothes. I do not commute. My kids can wear thrift store clothes. I spend a fraction of what my former coworkers do on food, because I can cook from scratch. When my children were little, I had no time for anything besides childcare; now that they are older, we have a little hobby farm which produces much of the food we eat, as well as providing entertainment. Homeschooling can make it easier for parents to work part time. If I need to do school later in the day to take a lamb to a processing plant, or squeeze in our schoolwork earlier so my children and I can process chickens in the afternoon, I can do that.
Household finances consist of ins and outs. When you choose to homeschool, you may bring in far less in terms of lost wages, but you will also send far less out the door in expenses. If your wages have gone to zero due to lockdowns—and resulting involuntary job loss—then it costs you nothing in terms of lost wages to homeschool.
Women Are Heavily Impacted by Lockdowns
Millions of people lost income in 2020. There were 2.2 million fewer women in the workforce in October 2020 than in October 2019. Much of this has to do with the nature of jobs crushed by the covid-19 response. Women tend to work more in service positions. For example, in restaurants, as of 2017, while 52 percent of restaurant employees overall were women, 71 percent of the servers were women. Servers are some of the first people let go when restaurants have to shift to curbside pickup and takeout. Many of these jobs may not come back.
In our chaotic political environment it’s hard to predict which businesses will be allowed to bounce back and which will not. In addition to market uncertainty, there is also uncertainty over whether or not school will even be open for children who have not received the experimental covid vaccine. This would necessarily exclude many children whose parents are understandably not convinced of the vaccine’s safety.
The only certainty is that children grow up regardless of whether or not their parents have a plan. Homeschooling allows parents to exert control over the family’s schedule, finances, and medical decisions.
The American government grew dramatically in 2020. The Biden/Harris administration has never feigned interest in shrinking the size of the government; we can probably assume most of last year’s destruction of small business will continue. With the destruction of small business, so goes much of the control individuals have over how they bring money into the household. However, we can still control what goes out, and choosing to homeschool can help families save money and provide children an education that aligns with their values. More importantly, it sends the message to government bureaucrats that we do not need them to raise our children.
Joanna Miller writes from Colorado.