Public schools are losing their captive audience of children

Homeschooling, in particular, is booming. Once regarded as a fringe choice for hippies and religious families, various approaches to DIY education pushed into the mainstream in recent decades and reached critical mass this year. An estimated 3.3 percent of children were homeschooled in 2016, up from 1.7 percent in 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That share roughly tripled this year to nine percent, in an Education Week survey. Gallup agrees, finding that 10 percent of children are now being homeschooled.

“Home schooling will become more mainstream and socially acceptable, now that so many people are getting experience with schooling their own children from home—whether it’s through traditional home schooling or overseeing their children’s remote schooling,” Christopher Lubienski, a professor of education policy at Indiana University, told Education Week. He predicts that some families will return to public schools after the pandemic passes, but the ranks of homeschoolers will permanently increase.

Many private schools, too, are seeing growth in enrollment. That comes after years of declines because of the Great Recession and the proliferation of charter schools which offer options without charging tuition.