America’s Crumbling Public Education System is Exacerbated by Short-Sighted, Wealthy Parents


Cadence Ayoubpour, Contributor

Schools across the country are experiencing a mass exodus of public school education, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but mainly led by stressed out and short sighted parents. Like most issues in our country, the root of this problem isn’t necessarily greed- it’s a product of a system that is failing to provide people with the support and resources they need. Our public education system is crumbling and wealthy parents are trying to get their children off the fault line. But the gap in education is widening and kids with no other option are being left behind to fend for themselves. 

Public education is essential to America’s core beliefs about equality of opportunity. Education that students receive in public schools sets the tone for their political engagement, views on the world, and basic skill set later in life. Yet over the past few years, enrollment in public schools has been decreasing at a rapid and concerning rate. With federal and state governments cutting funding for public education, wealthy parents of school-aged children are presented with a difficult decision: enroll their children in costly private schools that have more resources, or keep their kids, and money, in public schools with fewer resources. It seems that across the state, deep-pocketed parents are choosing the former option and costing the already struggling public education system thousands. 

State spending on public education has been struggling to keep up with demands with more issues like COVID-19 taking precedent. Education funding from the state is determined on a per pupil basis, meaning that districts are paid a set amount of money for each student enrolled in one of their schools. This funding varies between state to state and California is, somewhat surprisingly, falling behind. In California, the state spends about $12,400 per pupil – more than $200 less than the national average which hovers around $12,612. The lack of funding for public schools in California is exacerbated by wealthy parents pulling their children out of public schools and instead sending them to private, and oftentimes more well resourced, schools. With each student that leaves public education, schools lose over $12,000 on top of the extra donations that wealthy parents often make to school funds like WeAreSR! or other PTA groups. 

With less funding, districts are forced to cut funding for arts programs, extracurricular activities, counselors and elective programs. Mr. Winton, a history teacher at SRHS, said, “Over the last 20 years…we’ve lost…a lot of technical classes.” These programs keep kids in school, provide an essential outlet for the struggles that young people face, and prepare students for careers when they leave the walls of high school. The mass public school exodus is screwing over the kids who don’t have any other options. 

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped this discrepancy either. Public school districts throughout the state have been seeing sharp drops in enrollment since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020. California alone has lost over 60,000 kindergarten students. Many parents of young children understandably didn’t jump at the chance to have their little ones learn the alphabet over Zoom and instead opted for alternative methods like pod schooling – or sending their kids to private schools that kept their doors open. California did respond to the pandemic by “freezing” funding for schools – meaning that schools would be paid a set amount of money based on their pre-covid enrollment rates, regardless of their reported average daily attendance, but this change didn’t do enough. Schools were still left strapped for funding and reeling in the wake of increased support needs from the pandemic. Schools needed to buy computers, chargers, internet hotspots and more. California is also back to paying schools based on their average daily attendance, even though attendance rates are still low due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Balancing what is best for individual children and what is best for the general public shouldn’t fall onto the shoulders of already burnt out and struggling parents – but without meaningful education system reforms, the burden unfortunately does fall squarely on them. Public schools offer well-rounded education, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity, and often more systems in place to support students with disabilities or otherwise high support needs. Taking children out of public schools in favor of private schools harms more than just that child’s educational background. It harms the opportunities of and resources for their neighbors, friends, and classmates. 

As long as American families choose individual opportunities over what is best for their communities, our public schools communities will continue to suffer.