Reasons parents are leaving Washington state public schools

Mar 16, 2022

Key Findings

1. Governor Inslee closed all public schools in March 2020 in response to COVID, and these schools stayed closed to in-person instruction in September 2020.

2. By contrast, with health and safety measures in place, private schools and public charter schools reopened to in-person instruction in September 2020.

3. The mandated online instruction provided by the public schools for over 13 months was disorganized, unfocused, and did not cover a full school day.

4. During this period of time, school administrators lowered academic standards in curriculum, testing, credits, and grading.

5. Washington was one of the last states to reopen public schools in late April 2021.

6. On May 5, 2021 the governor signed a law requiring the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the schools, an ideology that teaches students to be racially intolerant.

7. November 2021 test scores, the latest available, show public schools failed to teach 70% of students to the required math standard, and failed to teach 52% of students to the required English standard.

8. The state legislature mandated a radical sex education curriculum which includes graphic materials and the teaching of gender and sexual issues at inappropriate ages.

9. In many urban areas, particularly Seattle, parents feel the physical environment at public schools is becoming increasingly unsafe.

10. The union proposed legislation to reduce classroom instruction time to four days a week.


Over the last two years more than 41,000 families have pulled their children out of Washington‘s public school system, according to a recent report by the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council. The Council’s researchers say this number is not temporary and that most of these families will likely never return to public schools.

The data shows that tens of thousands of parents have lost confidence in public education and are seeking alternatives. The decision to turn down a free public education is not made lightly. Moving to private school, homeschooling, private tutoring, or enrolling in private online courses involves considerable family sacrifice and expense. Yet thousands of Washington families are doing exactly that, indicating strong dissatisfaction with the way many public schools are managed.

Click here to read the full Policy Note.


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