Editor’s note: This commentary from redefinED executive editor Matt Ladner appeared Tuesday on newsweek.com.

Public education may have reached a crossroads.

We really wanted it to work, but millions of women exited the workforce to educate their children during the coronavirus pandemic and many may not come back. The census recently announced a surge in homeschooling (as opposed to distance learning) from 5.4% last spring to 11.1% in the fall.

Polls indicate many more are considering following suit. Avoiding a messy breakup with public schooling will require lawmakers to embrace pluralism in parents’ preferences.

The existing system has proven excessively rigid for families and teachers alike. One size fit few, but a varied set of schools will prove to be a much better fit for far more.

Arizona and Florida have done the most to take up this challenge to diversify schools. Both states have seen strong gains in overall academic performance — as well as large achievement gains for low-income students, students with disabilities and minority students.

Back in the early 1990s, both states had student bodies that were more than 60% white and scored very poorly on national exams. Today, both have “majority-minority” student populations and much higher academic achievement.

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