The ongoing pandemic may have a catastrophic impact on private education. Private schools are scraping to make ends meet as students migrate to public schools and government help fails to meet demands. The Government has to bail out private schools or see the consequences of their failure ripple through the entire educational system. The main issue is that they may already be out of time.
How COVID-19 Affects Private Schools
The beginning of the new academic year is now a summer vacation away. Still, in today’s environment, it is difficult to say in what condition schools will reopen their doors to students this fall. Even worse, many private schools may not reopen at all.
As the number of COVID-19 infections in the U.S surpasses 3 million, the future of private schooling seems bleak for many institutions in America. The leading risks to their survival include:
- Government funds are not enough to support private schools
- An imminent economic recession may prevent many students from affording private education
- Families relocating to escape COVID-19 clusters will make it impossible for students to enlist in private schools or return to classes in the same institution
Many private schools could barely hold their financial records in the green in the pre-pandemic era. Now, besides the usual costs, they have to ensure the necessary funds for masks, disinfectants, and other antiviral means of protection. Students opting out of their courses to enroll in public schools is not helping their already difficult situation.
How the Government Has Helped So Far
In the wake of the Coronavirus crisis, the U.S. Department of Education rolled out the Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES Act Funding, which would divide more than $13 billion in aid funds among schools across the country.
At first, the debate about whether public schools should receive more money than private schools was gaining plenty of support. So, the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a rule that would help ensure all students whose learning was impacted by COVID-19 were served equitably by emergency funding authorized by the CARES Act, no matter where they attend school.
The Interim Final Rule (IFR) outlines how local education agencies (LEAs) must calculate the emergency funds available for providing equitable services to students and teachers in private schools.
The Cataclysmic Consequences Of Closing Private Schools
The new rule is more than welcome, but it may be a little too late for some private schools. Already, more than 100 private schools in low- and middle-income communities have announced they will not be able to reopen following the pandemic, and hundreds more are facing a similar fate.
The local public schools may have to absorb thousands of students transferring from private schools at a time when public schools are already under financial strain.
Unfortunately, student migration from private schools to public institutions would have a devastating impact on the economy. According to Robert Enlow, President and CEO of EdChoice, if only 10% of private school students shift into public schools, then the cost to state and local taxpayers would be more than $6.7 billion per year.
Why Private Schools Matter More Than Ever
We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it can be hard to see more than a few days into the future, albeit solve the problem of school funding for the next academic year. Still, we should use this time to remember the crucial importance that private schools play in the educational system of our country.
Private schools offer an alternative to public schools in the name of education pluralism. Students should have the freedom to attend institutions that:
- Offer single-sex education
- Approach education based on a religious belief
- Promote and support education for students with specific needs
- Explore alternative methods of education
Parents should also have the right to choose what they consider to be the best educational facility for their children from a widely diverse spectrum of schools. Losing private schools would mean a blow to the entire education system. It would also mean that present and future generations of students lose the opportunity to freely choose their academic path.
The Government has to take immediate action to save private schools across the country. The private education sector has consistently been overlooked, and without real, palpable support it may never recover from the pandemic blow.