US homeschooling doubled during pandemic – National & International News – TUE 23Mar2021

US homeschooling doubled due to poor remote schooling efforts, virus fears and telecommuting.

Homeschooling doubled during pandemic. Child migrant crisis grows. Afghan leader rejects US peace deal. 200 Chinese vessels line up off Philippines coast.


Homeschooling doubled during the pandemic

According to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, the number of US households homeschooling children more than doubled between May and October 2020, from 5.4% to 11.1%. The percentage has since fallen somewhat, but it is still double the number who reported homeschooling in the the 2019-2020 school year.

The most significant rise in homeschooling has been among black Americans. The number of black households homeschooling children increased nearly fivefold, from 3.3% in late spring to 16.1% in the fall.

Different states have also seen a greater rise than others. In Alaska, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia, the figure rose by at least 9%. In many other states, there was no significant change.

The reasons vary, but many parents have expressed dissatisfaction with remote schooling efforts. In districts that have reopened schools, many parents still fear for their children’s health and safety.

Christopher Lubienski, a professor of education policy at Indiana University, has also pointed to greater flexibility for parents who now have the option to telecommute. He says that whether this trend holds steady depends on whether employers will continue to allow telecommuting. Lubienski says, “that could potentially open up opportunities for homeschooling families that aren’t there otherwise”.

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Child migrant crisis intensifies

US Customs and Border Protection says the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the US border is only growing. The chaotic situation has earned the Biden administration criticism from both parties as well as immigrant rights groups.

Jennifer Nagda of Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights says, “what we’re seeing is just a volume that the federal government was unprepared to address despite ample warning that it was coming their way”.

The White House has defended its response to what they refuse to call a crisis. For the most part, they lay the blame on the Trump administration. Trump dismantled much of the housing system for lone child migrants run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Moreover, during the Trump years, any undocumented migrants already in the US who came forward to care for the children (such as parents or relatives) would have their information shared with immigration officials. The Biden administration since since rescinded that policy, but many undocumented family members are still afraid to come forward.

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Afghanistan: US withdrawal deadline nears, peace deal no closer

Sources close to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani say that Ghani has rejected a peace deal proposed by the US special envoy to the region. Last year, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban for a full withdrawal of the last US troops on May 1, 2021. With that deadline weeks away, the Biden administration has not signaled whether or not they intend to honor that deadline. The White House hopes to keep pressure on the Afghan government to hammer out a deal with the Taliban.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has proposed a deal that would see Ghani step aside and the formation of an interim government. The interim government would include representatives from the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government. Both sides have now essentially rejected the deal, as the Taliban have already said they would not participate directly in an interim government.

According to one senior official, Ghani will present a counter proposal at an upcoming conference in Istanbul. The official said the counterproposal “would be to call for early presidential elections if the Taliban agree on a ceasefire”.

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Alarm in Philippines as 200 Chinese vessels line up offshore

220 large commercial fishing vessels have lined up one alongside the other abutting a reef in a key Philippino shipping lane. Filipino Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says that the ships are manned with Chinese “militia” rather than fishermen. The show of strength comes as China’s long-standing disputes over its neighbors’ territorial waters have begun to heat up. The reef, a rich and ecologically sensitive fishing area, lies well within Philippine’s exclusive economic zone. This means the Philippines “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources”. Unfortunately for the Philippines, the reef is also claimed by China, along with the entire South China Sea, which borders four other countries.

Filipino officials expressed worries that the huge fleet would endanger the delicate reef either by damaging it with their ships. However, the vessels have not been seen fishing, and it seems clear to Lorenzana that they are not there to fish.

Filipino dictator Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for cozying up to Beijing. Speaking of China’s violations of the country’s maritime sovereignty, Duterte has said, “When Xi says ‘I will fish,’ who can prevent him?”, referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping.

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