Amid pandemic shifts and concerns over controversial curricula, more families have opted for private or homeschool. But many believers see their place in the system.

When pastor Clark Frailey noticed that his local schools were underfunded—at the time, Oklahoma received less education funding than almost any other state—he stepped in to help provide materials like wipes, paper, and markers.

But he soon realized the problem was much bigger than empty supply closets. School buildings developed black mold. Teachers were rebinding decades-old textbooks. Kindergarteners jammed into classes of up to 30 students.

So in 2016 Frailey and fellow Baptist pastors launched an initiative, Pastors for Oklahoma Kids, to advocate for the students and schools across their state.

“We had a lot of demonization at the time,” he told Christianity Today. “People were saying our schools were Marxist, socialist, atheist—and that just wasn’t our experience as local church pastors.”

They knew the principals, teachers, and superintendents leading locally; school staff attended their churches and volunteered in Sunday school and the nursery. The discussion from fellow Christians, alleging radical ideology in the school system, “felt like a false narrative,” Frailey said. “There was a strong movement to discredit public education in Oklahoma.”

That movement has targeted public education in communities across the country.

Homeschool and private schooling have jumped at unprecedented rates since schools transitioned to online education during the first months and years of the pandemic. Concerns over curricula were heightened too, as stories spread of public schools teaching “gender theory,” encouraging transgenderism, and promoting critical race theory.

Despite the headlines, many Christian educators told CT they haven’t seen cause for …

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