Falling Public School Enrollment Isn't Just About The Pandemic (Despite What Mainstream Media Says)

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File

The disconnect between school boards/administrators and average Americans with school age children appears to be extreme and ever-increasing, exacerbated by the federal government’s apparent side-taking against the people with the strongest natural right to worry: the parents.

A close read of this piece from Inside NoVa detailing the drop in enrollment at Fairfax County, Va. schools — which shares a border with the now-infamous Loudoun County, Va. — tells a tale of school administrators piecing together the mystery of a mass exodus from schools, and finding only the pandemic and lack of vaccines to blame.

Enrollment had held steady – in fact, increased slightly – through [the 2019-20] school year, despite the impact of the pandemic that began in March 2020.

But the 189,852 of June 2020 dropped to 180,151 that September, when Fairfax and other public-school districts across Northern Virginia opted for a rocky “virtual”-learning environment, not giving students the chance for in-person learning. A further 410 students disappeared from the rolls by June 2021.

Many parents with the means to do so moved their children to private or parochial schools – which were much more nimble in getting students back in class than local public-school districts. Others opted for home-schooling, and still others moved their children to areas of the country where schools were operating in person. And school leaders across the region acknowledge that, when it comes to some students who had been in classrooms pre-pandemic, they have no idea where they have gone.

Before the pandemic, about 3,000 FCPS students were schooled at home and that figure now is more than 5,000, the superintendent said. Many of those families have indicated their children will be returning to school once vaccines become available for elementary-school children, he said.

Brabrand told the School Board he was hopeful there would be “good news” soon regarding vaccinations for children ages 5 through 11, which he said would be a “game changer” for education in the county and across the country.

But discounting the concern parents have over curriculum such as Critical Race Theory; cultural issues surrounding gender which led to an alleged rape in nearby Loudoun County (but more on that in a minute; and the marginalizing of parents’ concern over what goes on in schools may be playing a bigger role than media is suggesting. Common sense would indicate that it is.

But media is doing its best to suggest otherwise. This New York Times piece reduces parents’ concerns to a misunderstanding about what CRT actually is, insinuates that the effort to stir up the parents is led by powerful special interest groups on the right, and calls the effort “a scare campaign cooked up by G.O.P. operatives” courtesy of the face of the teacher union, Randi Weingarten.

Then there’s The Washington Post, which ran an op-ed just straight up saying it: “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.”

But the Loudoun County incident, in which a father was arrested at a school board meeting because he says his daughter was raped in a bathroom by a transgender student, has made blaming the pandemic alone for the drop in public school enrollment harder to do.

Especially since the parents and even members of local school boards quickly realized, thanks to a letter from the National School Board Association that local chapters say they never signed off on, that their government was working in secret against them. And it got the parents branded domestic terrorists for simply caring about their children. Advocacy groups like Tea Party Patriots Action (TPPA) began working to educate the public by releasing an 88-minute video tutorial on the NSBA and urging parents to have it shut down.

Other groups such as Parents Defending Education have released a “woke report card” and a searchable database that follows the money behind how much these CRT consultants are being paid, and how much the curriculum is costing taxpayers.

And it looks like the powers working in secret against the parents goes all the way to the top.

As the enrollment situation worsens for public schools, there will likely be an effort to ramp up blame on the pandemic and the lockdown restrictions associated; and they both certainly played a role. But don’t forget government overreach playing out with teacher unions and the local school boards — who are often chosen by those same parents and usually have political ties to state legislators — as a huge part of why parents are pulling their kids out of government schools. Because the pandemic may eventually end, but bad leadership could infect these communities for many more years to come.