Coronavirus exposes the weakness of a K-12 education system built for one learning style

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What will education look like in the coming months and years as Georgia continues to grapple with, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic? Our state’s schools will reopen in August. But even then, education is likely to look much different. Virtual learning will be more popular than ever. Many parents will likely have their eyes opened to alternative education options available. And all of us will have a new appreciation for the vital role of teachers.

One blind spot the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is the weakness of an education system built for one approach and a single learning style. The traditional public school system is based on this one-size, fits all option. But even as many families have flocked to alternatives—through charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling—that cry for flexibility will only increase in the coming months and years.

Our traditional school system offers a brick-and-mortar school that students come to for set classes and time periods during the day. Families will increasingly see that this archaic system no longer works in a 21st century education environment.

Here is what will be necessary in the post-COVID-19 education landscape: 

  • Public schools will need to adapt to virtual learning and break down the technology barriers that unfairly inhibit low-income students from succeeding. 
  • Elected officials must begin putting the needs of individual students and their families ahead of protecting “the system,” whatever that may look like. A wide diversity of educational options is key here—ones that maximize the potential of all students.
  • Unfortunately, academic achievement gaps could widen as low-income students and those from rural areas struggle with the new technological demands. This makes it even more crucial that lawmakers prioritize ways to extend educational access and resources to all of Georgia’s students, not just those in wealthy zip codes and urban areas.
  • Our state must give all students greater educational choice by passing an Education Scholarship Account in Georgia, which empowers families who wish to choose a private school to do so.
  • We also must continue to support Georgia’s programs that expand educational access, including the Scholarship Tax Credit Program and Special Needs Scholarship Program.

To be sure, many parents will still prefer the traditional approach offered by traditional public school districts. Georgia must continue to support a strong public school system. But many others will want expanded options, and lawmakers and the K-12 education infrastructure must adapt.