A new report from Stanford University has found a massive 91 percent increase in chronic absenteeism amongst public school students between the 2018-2019 and 2021-2022 school years, affecting every state.
Although many reasons are postulated, including COVID-19, bullying, and depression, parental concerns over school content, including topics like Critical Race Theory and revised American history, cannot be ignored. For instance, California’s new math framework insists on using mathematics to “both understand and impact the world,” reflecting the ideology that “mathematics plays a role in the power structures and privileges.”
In November 2022, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress highlighted the drastic effects upon the proficiency of America’s children: only 33 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading, with 36 percent proficient in math. Eighth grades were even worse, with 31 percent and 26 percent, respectively. The associated decline of trust in public education is reflected in a Gallup poll where merely 26 percent of Americans have a “great deal/fair amount” of confidence in public schools.
Teacher absenteeism is also alarming. Before the pandemic, The New Teacher Project found nearly a third of teachers “chronically absent.” Post-pandemic, Heritage Foundation researchers Jay Greene and Jonathan Butcher report a 72 percent rise in public school teacher absenteeism.
With this backdrop, parents are left with hard choices, especially due to the high cost of private schools. While nine states have championed universal school choice, 41 have yet to follow suit. The popularity of homeschooling has skyrocketed, doubling since 2020 with 6 percent of students homeschooled in 2021-22.
Yet, public school boundaries continue to trap students in subpar educational environments. Alarmingly, in 24 states, parents using false addresses for better school access risk criminal prosecution.