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School Choice: The Best Alternative for Students in the Face of COVID

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School Choice would be a respite for families affected by closures of educational institutions and by lockdowns adopted by governors in the United States in an attempt to mitigate coronavirus infections.

The pandemic brought a series of measures that have exceeded the power of the politicians in power, as a result of China’s handling of the pandemic in its territory and internationally. With its coronavirus lockdown strategy, Beijing has sought to demonstrate that the big power of the state is the right way to handle the COVID-19. This led politicians, analysts, and leaders worldwide to follow the same path. 

While in countries like Sweden, New Zealand, and Taiwan, public health decisions are made by scientific committees, in the rest of the world, citizens are at the mercy of bureaucrats, and the United States is no exception. Although these decisions in the United States are made at the state level, many of the mayors and governors have acted in a totalitarian way while others are pandemic deniers

In any case, the citizens suffer the consequences and face difficult measures, such as long confinements, school closures, unemployment, and mobility restrictions. Others, however, have acted without the necessary information to provide them with adequate care for preventing the virus, while the number of cases “neared 200,000 new infections in a day on Thursday, as hospitalizations broke records and the pandemic claimed its highest daily death toll since May 7,” according to The Washington Post

In the face of populist measures, the families have been most affected. They have had to survive the economic crisis and state inefficiency, but the strongest point has been the management of children at home. On the one hand, there are families who cannot keep their children at home due to social dynamics, and on the other hand, the schools, hand in hand with unions, are not sufficiently prepared for the new educational challenges, such as virtual education

School Choice Versus Teachers’ Unions

Unions have taken advantage of this to keep teachers at home. For example, in New York, despite statistics indicating that the risk of contagion in schools is lower than the established threshold, Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to close them again. 

Students have not had a real solution for access to quality education virtually. Nor have parents been offered solutions in line with their needs. They simply have to follow the orders of the bureaucrat on duty. 

The New York Times reported that in many cities, private schools are reopening while public schools remain closed, which has widened the gap in quality and access to education for students from low-income families. 

Unions are once again condemning poorer students, not only with outdated methodologies and ineffective supervision, but now with the refusal to open schools. 

In turn, the nationally representative survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs found that private and charter schools were much more likely to continue providing students with meaningful educational services during closure than traditional public schools.

Access to private schools or charter schools by low-income families has been made possible through the implementation of school vouchers. These have been a success for the management and access to education in some states in the US or in countries such as Sweden. 

School vouchers give parents the option to choose the place where their children will receive education, which are usually small schools with moderate facilities and even going through homeschooling or personalized tutoring. With school choice, families can choose any school beyond the reach of the bureaucratic policies of politicians or unions. 

In the midst of the pandemic, students with access to this system have been able to continue their learning thanks to the methodologies acquired by the school choice system, because many private schools already incorporate various tools to improve the quality of education. The best example is virtual education, which is completely different from the traditional methods of unions.

Many of these schools had already incorporated online education, which has made both families and students more adapted to the online education system. In addition, because private schools often tend to have smaller facilities, this allowed them to implement more efficient measures in handling COVID-19.

Biden, Enemy of School Choice

Joe Biden gained a lot of support when he announced that he would follow some of the measures taken by the World Health Organisation, i.e. quarantines, business and school closures.

Fortunately for the public, some laboratories have begun producing highly effective vaccines. However, the solution to the problems of the education system is not in sight. 

The growing discontent of families with measures taken by unions and public schools has led many parents to choose to move to private institutions, according to The New York Times. Parents have perceived that schools choice system have been very successful in caring for and educating children. 

It is likely that the poor performance of the teachers’ unions and politicians during this crisis will make parents feel that it is time to adjust the education system. 

Direct funding to students through school vouchers is a big step in seeking positive change without the intervention of bureaucrats who, like Biden, are an obstacle to incorporate a school choice system because of the influence and support they provide to the unions.

Biden in the White House and politicians like Bernie Sanders in office are bad news for families seeking real and effective solutions to their problems. The teachers’ unions supported Biden with the promise of new benefits and will seek to influence his decisions to end the school choice system or school vouchers.

Camilo Bello is a consultant focused on Asia Pacific studies and has experience in strategic management. He has studied law in Colombia and is currently pursuing studies in language and history at National Taiwan Normal University. He has collaborated with Students for Freedom in Hong Kong and Taiwan // Camilo es consultor enfocado en estudios de Asia Pacífico y experiencia en gestión estratégica. Cuenta con estudios en Derecho en Colombia y actualmente se encuentra realizando estudios en lenguaje e historia en National Taiwan Normal University. Colaborador de Estudiantes por la Libertad en Hong Kong y Taiwán

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