The number of Texas families pulling their children out of public schools and pursuing homeschooling in one week this month is five times greater than the same time period last year, the Texas Homeschool Coalition reports.
“We are literally inundated with calls and emails from thousands upon thousands of families asking how they can begin homeschooling this fall,” Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, said in a statement.
“In the fall of 2020, the number of homeschooling families in Texas had nearly tripled from 4.5 percent in the spring to 12.3 percent by October, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” the coalition reports. A conservative estimate put the number of students being homeschooled in Texas in 2020 at roughly 750,000, a state record.
Last year, the coalition saw a 400 percent increase in requests from parents to help them process withdrawal requests from public schools. Prior to the state shutdown, between 22,000 and 25,000 Texas students had already been withdrawn from the public school system.
But then as children returned to school through virtual learning and parents observed what they were being taught or not being taught and increased failing grades were being reported, more parents withdrew their children from public schools. The coalition then published an online map reporting data related to the withdrawal of children from public schools in grades 7 through 12 based on Texas Education Agency data, which includes only those grade levels.
But 2021 numbers are “now crushing” the 2020 records, Lambert says.
The weekly call and email volume the coalition received last week set a new record, with more than five times more parents contacting them than during the same week last year, Lambert says. The call volume exploded after school districts imposed mask mandates and other restrictions, defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s order preventing them from doing so.
“Our call volume and contact volume doubled last week. We went from 300 to 500 calls to 1,000,” Lambert said.
Many parents hoping to have their children return to school in person with fewer restrictions than last year said they don’t want to have anything to do with school districts’ retaliatory policies for noncompliance or ongoing school district mandates.
Lambert told ABC affiliate KTRK TV, “We are hearing parents who are saying, ‘You know, I am real uncomfortable with the situation in the schools’, ‘I do not want my kids to wear a mask’, ‘I do want my kids to wear a mask.'”
Of the parents the coalition has spoken with, 72 percent said they were going to continue homeschooling as they did last year; 19 percent said they were going to try to return to in-person instruction and 9 percent said they were undecided.”
According to a survey last year by RealClear Opinion Research, 40 percent of registered voters polled said they were more likely to homeschool after their state’s respective lockdowns ended, meaning in the Fall 2021 term.
John Schilling, president of the American Federation of Children, said at the time, “Every single family with kids in school has been incredibly disrupted by the lockdowns. With 55 million students no longer in their normal educational setting, families are clearly considering new options and many are seeing the benefits of homeschooling and virtual schooling.
“Policymakers owe it to the taxpayers who are footing the $800 billion K-12 education bill to maximize their investment by ensuring every child has access to a quality education and outcomes are improved across the board.”
Texas lawmakers took note and passed two homeschool-related bills during the regular legislative session. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bills into law, The University Interscholastic League Equal Access Bill, House Bill 547, and the Learning Pod Protection Act, Senate Bill 1955, which become effective Sept. 1.
HB 547 will allow public school district students whose parents pay taxes to school districts to participate in University Interscholastic League-sponsored activities. SB 1955 exempts learning pods from local government regulatory burdens.
By Bethany Blankley