This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation. They discuss the growing popularity of learning pods, an education innovation propelled by K-12 public education’s failure to meet the COVID-19 moment. With as many as three million children enrolled in learning pods, 35 percent of parents participating in them, and another 18 percent interested in joining one, Butcher shares findings from his report on the role of pods in expanding parent-driven educational choice options. He reviews states’ responses to learning pods, as well as school choice legislation in some states that can help expand educational opportunity to families in need. The conversation then turns to the key findings from a spring 2020 report co-authored by Cato, Heritage, Pioneer Institute, and others, Rightsizing Fed Ed: Principles for Reform and Practical Steps to Move in the Right Direction, which provides a blueprint for restoring K-12 schooling authority to states, localities, and parents. Butcher also offers thoughts on how states and districts will spend federal COVID-19 relief funds, and be held accountable, the record of federally driven early childhood education efforts, and the Biden administration’s recent call to expand federal early childhood education and care.

Stories of the Week: President Biden announced the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion plan to expand America’s K-12 system, from two years before kindergarten to free community college. In South Carolina, a bill passed by the House of Representatives expands the state superintendent’s authority to remove local school boards and take over struggling schools in chronically low-performing districts.