I made this point in shorter form as part of my column yesterday. Adam Peshek does it better.
The first step toward realizing a more resilient and family-centered system is to reimagine how we fund education. In short, it’s time to start funding families, not the buildings that are meant to serve them.
Americans spend at least $720 billion on education each year. At around $13,000 per child, that puts the U.S. among the highest-spending countries in the world.
Instead of providing this benefit directly to families — as we do for higher education, childcare, and health care — in K-12, we send this money directly to school buildings. Taxpayer dollars are collected and sent to a central office, and zones are drawn around individual schools where students are required to attend or forfeit the funds raised for their education.
The pandemic has exposed the flaws in this system. School closures, loss of childcare, and difficulties transitioning to online and hybrid-learning models are having devastating effects on children. According to one report, an estimated 3 million students have received no formal education since schools closed in March. That’s the equivalent of every school-aged child in Florida failing to show up for school.
To create a more effective and more resilient education system, we must learn from what has proven effective during the pandemic — namely, the ability of those with resources to identify and pursue a variety of individualized learning opportunities to meet children’s needs. To provide these same opportunities for all families, governments should prioritize direct grants to families, education spending accounts, refundable tax credits, and myriad other ways to get money into the hands of families so they can build an education that fits their needs.