Terrible Bill O’ The Day: Capturing Learning Pods For Public Schools

If you’re not familiar with learning pods, let’s get you started with that. A learning pod is a form of homeschooling. To wit

learning pod is a small group of children who come together to learn and socialize. Learning pods are organized by parents, who take turns teaching or may even split the costs and hire an instructor. No two pods are alike because they’re based on families’ specific needs. Students might learn inside a parent’s home, a backyard, or community center. Some pods use the students’ public school curriculum while others use their own course of study. Some parents use learning pods to complement their child’s online learning, while others use learning pods as the sole means of educating their children.

Learning pods are similar to microschools, but they’re different in that microschools tend to be affiliated with a network and they’re a little more like schools – namely, that a microschool starts with a teacher and then attracts students, while a learning pod starts with the students and their families and then the pod finds an instructor.

The point being this is something a growing number of folks find preferable to government schools and their woke ideological indoctrination – or even the fact that a learning pod provides not just more individual instruction for the kids but an opportunity to build a learning “team” around similar interests and personalities. Going to school with a dozen or so of your good friends, with no bullies or disruptive slow learners to hold you back? “Yes, please,” say a lot of kids and families.

It’s a small number of people who are embracing this departure from “traditional” education, but it’s growing very quickly. Between learning pods, microschools and other forms of homeschooling we’re now talking about nearly 10 percent of the entire education market.

And homeschooling, on average, seems to produce significantly better results than traditional government schools…

  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 25 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is roughly the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015).
  • 78% of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement show homeschool students perform statistically significantly better than those in institutional schools (Ray, 2017).
  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.

So this is something which (1) seems to be working for the folks choosing it, (2) probably doesn’t need a whole lot of government intervention particularly given the atrocious performance of our public schools particularly here in Louisiana, and (3) will only grow in size, particularly if various money-follows-the-child education funding bills make homeschooling more accessible to parents who don’t have the means for homeschooling or private education.

And Louisiana’s legislature is made up of a majority of people who are quite keen to expand school choice. As they should be – without releasing the numbers, we’ve seen polling which shows an astonishing level of support for money-follows-the-child education policy.

Enter Joseph Bouie, the fired former chancellor of Southern University’s New Orleans campus, the worst-performing public higher education institution in Louisiana. Bouie went from that job to the state legislature, and he’s now a state senator who can be relied upon to defend government schools against any kind of reform.

So when Joe Bouie brings a bill about learning pods, you can bank on that bill not being a particular instrument promoting their growth. Senate Bill 71 is, predictably, no such instrument.

Present law provides for the establishment of learning pods. Provides that students at a learning pod shall be eligible for all participation in services and activities for which they would have been eligible if not assigned to a learning pod. Further requires the school governing authority to adopt certain polices and procedures.

Proposed law requires that a learning pod be provided free of charge to students. Further prohibits students from being charged tuition or certain other fees.

Proposed law provides that transportation and food services are included in the services in which a student at a learning pod is eligible to participate.

Proposed law requires the governing authority of the school to adopt a student fee policy for each learning pod and to provide the policy and a listing of all student fees to each student and the parent or legal guardian of each student prior to start of each academic year.

Probably, the pitch for this will be that it gives poor people the chance to access a learning pod for their kid and lets them access all the services of a public school, like the free lunches and the bus rides and so forth. And on the surface, that sounds fine.

Except that’s something local school districts can figure out for themselves without the state government stepping in and mandating it, and current law already provides for that.


Making learning pods free at public schools is a way of co-opting the money-follows-the-child wave to keep the schools open. Not to mention that Bouie’s bill mandates free transportation between the learning pod and the school – we’re assuming this is in situations where the learning pod isn’t on campus – for “student services and activities available only at the school.”

Like the free lunch? We’re going to bus kids from learning pods to the public school and back, not to mention to and from home?

Everything about this is unwieldy and suspicious. It seems awfully clear that this is an attempt to lock learning pod parents and kids into the public schools and keep the woke indoctrination and low standards alive.

When the whole point of learning pods and other educational innovations is to break out of the failed education model of the government schools.

Know what works better than Joe Bouie’s SB 71? Educational Savings Accounts. Money-follows-the-child. Let the parents decide what to do with the education dollars dedicated to their kids’ schooling, and let the schools compete in the marketplace with as few rules laid down by state legislators as possible.

This bill is about making learning pods just another extension of bad government schools, and for that reason it’s our Terrible Bill O’ The Day.



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