Decentralize K–12 Education

Corey DeAngelis and Neal McCluskey:

State policymakers should

• enact universal education savings accounts;

• allow any students who so desire to enroll in virtual charter schools up to a school’s capacity to serve them, and allow their public education dollars to follow them to such schools; and

• let schools and districts determine whether students are receiving sufficient education rather than prescribing such measures as “seat time” for all schools.

• end state testing mandates.

As COVID-19 cases—and fears—spread in March 2020, schools across the country increasingly faced a problem: how, if at all, would they deliver education if children could not physically attend? They would have to get education at home. Thankfully, about 1.7 million American kids were already doing that. They were, of course, homeschoolers, and their existence after essentially being outlawed in every state as recently as the 1970s is both proof that children can learn at home and a ready source of advice and support for the more than 50 million American children who were enrolled in brick‐ and‐ mortar schools.

Homeschooling is the most visible sign of how educational decentralization can provide resilience in the face of a national emergency. But it’s not the only one: what the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear in education is that one size cannot fit all, and we must not try to force it.


Homeschooling has had a huge moment with COVID-19, and the country is fortunate to have homeschoolers. Homeschooling families have provided invaluable guidance to parents suddenly faced with children learning at home. Homeschoolers told those parents not to fear—that learning at home is an adjustment and that parents are not failing if their children struggle to complete their work, intersperse fun activities, or even loaf a little between academic efforts. Homeschoolers let them know that children spending only a few hours on schoolwork, where previously they were in school from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., is not a sign that kids are not learning—education can proceed much more quickly when teachers do not have to take roll, hand back papers, stop for misbehaving or struggling classmates, line students up and march from the classroom to the gym, and more time‐ consuming activities.