Sep 17, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Coronavirus feeds divide between private and public schools

Illustration of money as a division symbol.

Parents of at least some means are eyeing private schools more frequently.

Why it matters: Christopher Lubienski, an education policy professor at Indiana University, told Axios that parents' growing interest in private schools, pods and tutors will likely "promote privatization" in the U.S. education system and could "undercut the commitment to public education."

The big picture: Lubienski said a surge in enrollment at private schools could lead to greater inequality among families who don't have the resources to go beyond the public education system.

  • The privatization of the school system could lead to “greater social segregation” between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Public schools are "one of the few remaining institutions that temper inequality," Lubienski notes.

Between the lines: A poll from the nonprofit Murmuration and Morning Consult suggests Black parents and children lacked the same access to high-quality public education before the pandemic as their white counterparts.

The state of play: Private schools also feel the pressure to commit to in-person learning because they fear enrollment will drop, resulting in a loss in tuition and profit, the Poynter Institute notes.

  • In the Washington, D.C., area, the Silver Oaks Cooperative School, a small K-5 school just outside the city, has seen a surge in parents looking to enroll their children, WAMU reports. The school opened two years ago and has seen its reputation leap as parents vie to get their children into a classroom.
  • In St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Joseph Catholic School has a waitlist for the first time, with inquiries "off the charts," per the Star Tribune.
  • In Sacramento, California, the Brookfield School, a private elementary school, has seen about four times the interest in admissions as in previous years, the Sacramento Bee notes.

What to watch: The surge in private school enrollments, education pods and private tutors could ultimately move support away from public schools in a post-coronavirus world.

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