Let’s Get Small: Microschools, Pandemic Pods, and the Future of Education in America

Jason Bedrick and Matthew Ladner:

Policymakers should assist families, especially low-income ones, who want to send their children to microschools by supporting education choice programs.

COVID-19 spurred a dramatic rise of microschools, or pandemic pods, as school districts remained closed and desperate parents explored alternative education options.

Microschools make it easier for parents to tailor individual learning needs of their children, and they are often less expensive than traditional private schools.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have conceived a sentiment or an idea that they want to produce in the world, they seek each other out; and when they have found each other, they unite. From then on, they are no longer isolated men, but a power one sees from afar, whose actions serve as an example; a power that speaks, and to which one listens.

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

COVID-19 Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic upended American education, throwing schools first into an impromptu version of distance learning in the spring of 2020 followed by a summer beset by uncertainty then delayed and uneven reopenings in the fall.

Parents faced tough decisions about their children’s education during the pandemic. In July, a poll found that more than 80 percent of parents of K–12 children were concerned about their children getting exposed to coronavirus at school, including 53 percent who were “very concerned.”1 Even those willing to send their children back to school had concerns about lack of recess or extra-curricular activities, social distancing in hallways, and students eating lunch alone at their desks.