NEPC Review: Public-Private Virtual-School Partnerships and Federal Flexibility for Schools during COVID-19 (Mercatus Center, March 2020)
A short report from the Mercatus Center argues that, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, education budgets should be reallocated toward investments in virtual schools. It also describes the pandemic as presenting Americans with the opportunity to see the benefits of virtual schooling, which “could change education content delivery forever, making instruction more flexible and suited to the needs of each individual student.” While this is the first report we have seen that makes this argument, it is unlikely to be the last. While immediate crisis responses may reasonably involve such partnerships, the report’s broader call for this response to lead to a long-term shift to virtual schooling is not supported by the report. In fact, this recommendation runs counter to a solid body of evidence documenting the shortcomings of this online approach. The result is an uncompelling plea for policymakers to use this crisis to embrace an educational approach that the author sees as beneficial, notwithstanding the clear evidence of its limitations and problems.