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EDITORIAL: Growth in home schooling leaves the left fluxed

Home-schooling has gone mainstream, and the left isn’t quite sure how to react.

Recently, The Washington Post reported that home-schooling is now the fastest-growing approach to education in the country. The Post collected data from districts and states around the country that keep track of home-schoolers. Some states, including Nevada, didn’t have district-level data. While the numbers were incomplete, the conclusion was obvious. Home-schooling is way up — everywhere.

“In states with comparable enrollment figures, the number of home-schooled students increased 51 percent over the past six school years, far outpacing the 7 percent growth in private school enrollment,” the Post found. “Public school enrollment dropped 4 percent in those states over the same period, a decline partly attributable to home schooling.”

In 2019, the federal government reported 1.5 million home-school students. The Post estimates the number now is 1.9 million to 2.7 million. The range is so wide because of the incomplete data. For comparison, 3.7 million students attended charter schools in 2021.

This growth isn’t just in more conservative areas. In California, home-schooling is up 78 percent since the 2017-18 school years. In New York, it’s up 103 percent. In Washington, D.C., it’s grown 108 percent.

This has left the education establishment befuddled. Progressives used to dismiss home-schoolers as socially isolated, religious zealots. But those caricatures are laughable when home-schooling in a Bronx district shot up by 358 percent.

Families home-school for a variety of different reasons, but they generally share a common motivation. Parents want the best for their children and believe home-schooling allows them to provide it. The pandemic and its accompanying school closures made many families de facto home-schoolers. Many parents believe they can do a better job than the troubled public schools.

Unsurprisingly, parents raising their children without the government checking on them makes some in the education blob very upset. Elizabeth Bartholet, an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School, said, “We should worry about whether they’re learning anything.”

The irony is rich. Nationwide, just a third of fourth graders are proficient in reading. Yet, Ms. Bartholet and many like her insist education must be left to the supposed professionals. In fact, it’s precisely the failure of public schools that led to an explosion of home-schooling.

Home-schooling parents deserve applause for taking an active interest in their children’s education. Policymakers should find ways — education savings accounts, for instance — to help more who would like to do the same.

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