In California and Across the Country, Parents and Their Kids are Abandoning Public Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been the crack in the dam that allowed parents’ building frustration with the regular public schools to burst forth.  Public school enrollment is nose-diving across the country, with legions of parents everywhere choosing other learning options for their children.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently issued an analysis which examined data during the pandemic and found that the “public schools, including district-run schools, lost more than 1.4 million students (a 3.3% loss from 2019-20 to 2020-21).”

The report noted that the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that enrollment in public schools fell by the largest margin in at least in at least two decades.

Across California, state figures show that K-12 enrollment fell by 160,000 students, which was a 3-percent dip and the largest drop in enrollment in twenty years.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, enrollment dropped by 27,000 students, which was a nearly 6 percent fall.  The Los Angeles Times noted that this percentage decline “is three times what planners in the nation’s second-largest school district predicted.”

Even more ominous for the future of the regular public schools is the plunge in enrollment among the nation’s youngest students.

The education publication The 74 pointed out that federal data shows “the combined number of preschool and kindergarten students decreased by 13 percent last year.”  Further, “the pre-K population plunged by an astonishing 22 percent.”

As parents were exiting the public schools, they were choosing education options ranging from charter schools to homeschooling.

According to the NAPCS report, “Public charter school enrollment increased during the 2020-21 school year in at least 39 states, the only segment of the public education sector to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“All told,” the report found, “nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in charter schools during that period, a 7% year-over-year increase.”

In California, for example, the report said: “Charter schools saw enrollment increases for nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup, while district public schools saw enrollment decreases for nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup.  Specifically, charter schools saw particularly large increases of Asian, Filipino, Hispanic, and multi-racial students.  District public schools saw a particularly large decrease in White and Black students.”

Even more than the uptick in charter school enrollment, however, has been the surge in parents choosing to homeschool their children.

As I detail in my soon-to-be-released Pacific Research Institute book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities, U.S. Census Bureau data show that from just spring 2020 to fall 2020, the proportion of U.S. households homeschooling their kids more than doubled from 5 percent to 11 percent.

Among African-American families, homeschooling skyrocketed from 3 percent to 16 percent—a more than five-fold increase.  Among Hispanic families, homeschooling doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent.

In my book, I profile Magda Gomez, who emigrated from Mexico to the United States and who decided to homeschool her daughters after they were bullied at their regular California public school.  Homeschooling has worked so well for Magda and her daughters that Magda is now an activist in the Hispanic community promoting homeschooling and informing parents about the educational choices they have.

Analyzing the data, the Census Bureau concluded, “It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.”

Thus, “the global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked new interest in homeschooling and the appeal of alternative school arrangements has suddenly exploded.”

The Census Bureau’s conclusion is borne out by on-the-ground practitioners such as Alicia Carter, the head of a homeschool academy at a charter school in Sacramento whom I interviewed for my book.

Carter’s academy is a brick-and-mortar facility where homeschool parents can send their children to take art, music, and other types of enrichment classes a day or two a week.  Carter has been a homeschool parent, teacher, and administrator for many years and she has seen a lot of change over the years.  However, what she has seen over the last couple years has amazed her.

For the first time in her homeschool academy’s history, she told me, they had to hold a lottery for admission in 2021.

Carter says that part of the reason is the pandemic, but she also thinks that people are starting to consider homeschooling a viable option, not a fringe choice.  She says, “homeschooling has become much more diverse religiously, ethnically, and socioeconomically all over the country.”

As public schools continue to flail with controversial reopening policies, unpopular woke curricula, and unresponsive top-down one-size-fits-all edicts, parents, as the Census Bureau observes, “are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”  That is why homeschooling, especially, will be the education wave of the future.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute and the author of the upcoming PRI book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Insitute.


  1. Richard Cathcart says

    Any parent would be crazy to invest their stock (kids) into a failing corporation (public schools).

  2. As ever more parents opt to protect their children from anti American and racist indoctrination, one hopes that reason will break out on school boards.

    I expect though that most of the current boards will double down on stupid, so it is now clear that we, the citizens, need to vote them out of office.

  3. I know NO parent who is interested in having a radical teacher instruct their 7 year old that if they want to be the opposite sex, they can be, and steer them to a counselor to explore their options without their parents’ knowledge. This ridiculous gender dysphoria craze is a big driver of the public school exodus. Parents do not want to lose all control of what their children learn, see or read during those years when kids still listen to parents. Parents want children to learn reading, writing, math and science so their children can find careers in the world. At this point so much of the science and tech careers are going to foreign-born people with really good educations, while our children worry about pronouns.

  4. ALL of the above are SPOT on!

    • Charter schools are still public schools, financed by tax dollars which means ultimately controlled by those who administer public education money. This control can be exercised more or less. Best option is home school. Get away from the intellectual garbage mill. There are many programs available. One of the best is the Freedom Project Academy. Check it out at http://WWW.FPEUSA.ORG ..
      – Joe

    • Folks should remember that Charter Schools are still tethered to the public school financing. and its systemic financial controls. They are not independent and thus someday destructive curriculum and other trash can be mandated. You go along or lose the money. Home schooling is relatively inexpensive compared to the sums the public schools expend per student.. And, there are many resources for home school programs to choose from. One of the most comprehensive is the Freedom Project Academy. It has live 24-7 interactive class room offerings you or a group can link into online. Covers years k-12. Request a free information packet at FPEUSA.ORG .

  5. Somehow there is a need to attach the money to the student so that it follows them to options that meet certain performance criteria. Credentials should be attached to knowledge and ability to work with the students. – not to the loose criteria now used with many who seek to be teachers but have little willingness to put much energy into their teaching. Also, the students would have to show a willingness to do the required work and meet behavior requirements or not continue in the alternative program. Union membership should not be a requirement to teach in any educational program. Some will call this discrimination but it really boils down to being open to all who are willing to meet the requirements.

  6. Donald Franklin says

    This is how the tyrants handle any problem. Look what happens when they try to accomplish anything. They fail miserably. Do you want do save water, have more money for the school unions for political donations, have less damage to homes in fires, just make the state so miserable the good people give up and move out.

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