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Were Private Schools Shuttered Due to COVID a District, They Would Be…

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Neal McCluskey

In my report on the impact of COVID-19 on private schools released Tuesday, I wrote that permanent closures connected to the pandemic were less severe than many people feared early on. Still, we lost a minimum of 132 private schools at least in part due to COVID in one year, and have since seen closure announcements pick up, with 6 so far in April.

Is this all minor?

A little context may illustrate that while things have been better than worst‐​case scenarios, the loss of private schools – especially relatively low‐​cost ones – is not insignificant:

  • The 141 closures we currently have catalogued enroll nearly 23,000 students. Were that a public school district, it would be larger than roughly 95 percent of all districts in the United States
  • 141 is 2.35 times more schools than the average number of schools in the nation’s larger districts
  • The cost of enrolling all those kids in public schools would be around $359,000,000, which is more than the total revenue of the nation’s 114th largest school district – Chandler Unified in Arizona – in the 2015–16 school year

Considering that these closures are minimums – the ones we know about – and more seem likely to come, this is not minor. And considering that the evidence suggests private schools as a group were appreciably more responsive to COVID-19 than public schools, we should do what we can to preserve them.

What should that be? Not special favors, just equal treatment. Enact or expand school choice programs, as we see many states working on, so education dollars follow children rather than going directly to government schools.


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