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Why Not to Abandon Public Schools

My name is Phil Schneider, but for about one hundred and ninety students a year, I am “Mr. Schneider.” I teach U.S. History, World History, Geography, and Sociology. Yes, I’m very busy.

I know that a lot of people are worried about sending their kids back to school in the fall, and let me be clear: I get it. I’m worried, too. My wife has a compromised immune system, and I’m overweight, which I’ve heard is another risk factor.

So, before you go further, I’m not discounting the health risks regarding returning to school in a few weeks.

That said, I want to encourage you to not abandon your local public school.

Some of you already homeschool, and that’s cool. It’s your choice.

But some of you are considering homeschooling your kids as a way to protect them for the coronavirus, which is something you’re entitled to do with your own children.

I’d just like a chance to convince you not to do this for a two very big reasons: the common good and your child’s good.

1) The Common Good
To an extent, this part is all going to boil down to money. If you pull your student out of the public school so that you can homeschool him or her, you are going to reduce the enrollment and attendance based funding your school district may receive from the state and federal government. But why should that bother you if you’re pulling your kid out? That’s a good question.

First of all, it means that other students will have less resources, less teachers, and less of an education because of that lost funding. You see, you may be able to pull your kid out of school, but not everyone can. They’ll be trapped in a poorer school because, unlike your child, they don’t have another option. And please don’t think: “I’ll send my kid back next year, when things are better, so the funding won’t matter.” Most school districts—especially in Illinois where budgeting issues have made it difficult to properly and cost-effectively educate the state’s youth for nearly two decades—don’t have the wiggle room in their budgets to just lose a bunch of funding in one year and then be fine the next year.

When a district’s funding dips significantly, cuts start happening because a district can’t take the risk that the dip is only temporary. They’ll have to assume that the funding is lost for at least a few years and try to make do without necessary staff, equipment, etc. So, if and when you do send your child back to public school, you’ll be sending them back to a poorer, less equipped school than the one they left.

2) Your Child’s Good
I do not think that pulling your student out of their public school is good for them, either educationally, emotionally, or socially. You may be a super intelligent person, but can you teach? Do you have the patience? Can you slow down how fast you solve a math problem to show your child how to do it step by step over a dozen times before they get it? I don’t. I’m pretty good at math, but I cannot teach math to my daughter. I can explain history to her. I can teach her all about that.

I think you’re probably like me. There’s something you know very well and could probably teach it to your child, but then who is going to teach them grammar? Who will teach them science? Let’s be honest: you can’t teach what you aren’t very good at, which means that your student is going to have serious gaps in their education.

“It’s only for one year, maybe two. They’ll be ok.” Are you saying that because you assume that you’ll send your child back to school after things have cleared up? That’s fine, but now they’ll be behind by maybe two years in certain subjects and the schools, which are now underfunded, won’t have the staff or the programs to help them catch up.

Emotionally, there’s just no substitute for your child being able to see his friends. Of course, you may be thinking of planning to get together with friends on your own, but then, if you’re willing to take that risk, why not just send them to school?

Socially, part of the purpose of public schools is to help socialize students into the local and larger national communities. It’s not what schools do overtly. It’s part of what sociologists call “hidden curriculum.” It’s things like walking on the right side of a hallway or staircase. I’ve met some very intelligent and well taught homeschool kids, but no matter how good their education might have been, I have observed many homeschool kids who were not been properly socialized. Many don’t have the ability to navigate a learning or working environment that isn’t controlled by their family. Again, I said “many.” Not all.

So I don’t know if I’ve convinced anyone, but if any of this has resonated with you, please reconsider your plan to pull your kid out of school.

“But I’m still concerned for their health!” — That’s fair! Begin petitioning your district for remote or distance learning options. That way, your student will still get some of the educational support you can’t offer, could potentially have access to video conferences with his or her teacher and even fellow remote students, while the school still gets funding. Remote learning doesn’t offer everything, but it does offer a nice balance where most of your concerns can be addressed.

My school district is offering remote learning, and I’m personally pushing for a hybrid (in-person and remote) system at my school. My daughter is going to be going into the fifth grade, and we’re planning to send her in-person, with a mask. She wilted during the stay-at-home order in the spring. So, we’re going to try to give her back some normalcy. In the end, it’s up to each and every parent to make the decision for their kids. I just wanted to offer a different perspective.

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