According to new statistics released by the California Department of Education, home schooling in California continued to grow during the 2020-2021 school year, reaching record levels of students learning from home.
The number of new home schooling affidavits filed by parents with the California DOE has nearly tripled in the last few years, going from 14,548 in the 2018-2019 school year, to 22,433 in 2019-2020 and 34,715 in 2020-2021. A further 3,215 affidavits for private schools with 6 or more students were also filed in 2020-2021, another large increase from previous years.
While exact numbers of students were not given in reports, estimated figures based on the new affidavit numbers points to similar increase percentages. Pre-pandemic, California had roughly 200,000 home schooled students, with 6.1 million public school students and around 500,000 private school students. However, with the pandemic, as well as other factors such as an increase in parents removing students due to issues over what is being taught, the number of new homeschooled students kept pace with the number of new affidavits with close to 400,000 being homeschooled for at least part of the 2020-2021 school year. The estimated figures also keep pace with the national average of between 5%-11% of students being homeschooled during that time period.
“It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children,” said the U.S. Census Bureau in March. “In the first week (April 23-May 5) of Phase 1 of the Household Pulse Survey, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported homeschooling . By fall, 11.1% of households with school-age children reported homeschooling (Sept. 30-Oct. 12). That change represents an increase of 5.6 percentage points and a doubling of U.S. households that were homeschooling at the start of the 2020-2021 school year compared to the prior year.”
With most school districts now planning on fully reopening this fall, including the Los Angeles Unified School District which refused to reopen for several months earlier this year due to union concerns, the number of home schooled students is expected to go back down. However, with COVID-19 still a concern, and many parents now used to a home schooling set up, California may now see a permanent higher number of home schoolers in the state for the foreseeable future, potentially depriving many districts of a significant number of students.
Skyrocketing popularity of home schooling in California
“A lot of parents and guardians are going to keep on with home schooling, or at the very least, give it another semester or two,” Ellen Dundas, an Education researcher and statistician from Chicago, told the Globe on Monday. “Right now the percentages are generally higher in the Southeast U.S., as well as parts of the Midwest and West, but states like California are also going to see these pandemic rises not go back down to where they were in 2019.”
“I would say some are being kept out of fear of COVID-19, but a big part of that is parents now wanting to keep that in place. And the reasons have been different. Some simply like it, some are used to it now, some got a big response from students themselves wanting it. A big thing has also been religion and personal beliefs. During COVID, a lot of parents found that teaching at home let them focus more on certain things or teach in a certain way. And, you know, religious parents have been utilizing home schooling for decades. But the pandemic allowed many to try it out, and many have decided to keep it.”
“In particular, California has high religious reasoning for homeschooling, but a lot of it has also been students wanting it. Remote learning and homeschooling led many to want to continue it to avoid being bullied or to help social anxiety and other factors like that.”
And the high number of new homeschoolers could have an effect on school districts.
“Let’s give Los Angeles as an example,” added Dundas. “They have roughly 600,000 students. Even if they lose a quarter of 1% of all students, that’s still 1,500 students. That’s less money going in and that’s a lot to reconfigure. It’s not a huge worry among unions alone, but increased charter schooling and private schooling is. Add home schooling into those figures, and the numbers are boosted. So a long-term increase like this in home schooling can definitely hurt teachers unions. There are bigger fish to fry right now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there is some home schooling pushback in the next few years by traditional teachers.”
Public school enrollment figures are expected to be closer to pre-pandemic figures in the 2021-2022 school year.