Public Education’s Three Strikes

Photo: ValentynVolkov/iStock

The year 2020 threw public education a furious curveball. The system swung and missed. Strike one. We were glad to see 2020 end thinking 2021 would have something much better to look forward to. What a trick. We got a repeat of what we just left. More haphazard planning, inconsistent information and reactive pandemic responses that affected student achievement. Strike two. Now 2 years into the pandemic, public education, students and families are still in an upheaval with no plan of stability in sight. 

Students are missing instruction. Educators are stretched thin. Parents are scrambling to ensure they can work while some districts send students home to learn… again. Teacher absences are high. Substitute teacher availability is low. Special education services are lacking. As it relates to education, the start of 2022 is not looking good. Strike three is on the horizon.

With 2 years of pandemic precedence to examine, it is a good time for parents and  families to consider education options for their children.

Two years of inconsistent instruction and attendance has negatively affected student learning for many children. For students who were struggling prior to the pandemic, it is even more important to have measures in place to address deficits and ensure achievement. 

The gaps being fueled by the pandemic are growing larger with each day of interrupted instruction. There will come a time when the gaps will be impossible to close and students will suffer the consequences . It is up to parents and families to ensure their children’s needs are met in school during and after the pandemic. While we are waiting for public education administrators to implement plans for continuity and consistency, it’s a good idea to identify potential support for children who need it.  

The pandemic does not relieve school districts of their federally mandated requirement to provide special education services to students who qualify for it.

If your child receives special education services, do not hesitate to speak to district special education administrators  about options to meet your child’s needs during the pandemic. Assistance from tutors, or for services like occupational therapy, autism support and life or vocational skills training can be provided during the pandemic at district expense.   

The same goes for students who don’t receive special education services. If your child is struggling academically, speak with district administrators about supports that can be accessed for your child during the pandemic.

If virtual learning is not working for your child, do not hesitate to ask the district what might be available to help your child, including outside services.  Research options available in the community and present them to the district for consideration. 

Don’t be surprised if the district is not eager to pay for external services.  However, your child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education. The fact there is a pandemic happening does not change that. Ask the district what they will do to ensure your child receives the education they are entitled to.

Take time to pursue opportunities for learning online, especially those that are free. With a little foot work and persistence, you can make sure the odds are stacked in your child’s favor while public education administrators figure out where schools are going. 

Dr. Teresa Sanders
Dr. Sanders is an international bestselling author, education researcher and student and family advocate in the education setting. Dr. Sanders has presented at international education conferences and is the founder of Safari Small Schools, an innovative micro school in Canton, Texas. Dr. Sanders created Safari Small Schools to meet the needs of learners who aren’t thriving in the traditional classroom. Dr. Sanders can be reached at