Often, Democratic politicians, health and school officials, and teachers’ unions in some of America’s bluest cities and suburbs have lined up perfectly in a mission to keep school doors closed for so long. In these places, in-person instruction was deemed non-essential by the very people who claim to fight for education in public schools.
the high academic
and social costs
distance learning and closed schools are now indisputable, but there has also been a political cost. Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia In capital letters
on it by appealing to frustrated parents in 2021. He won an underdog race in this increasingly blue battleground state, the first statewide victory for the GOP in addition to a decade, the strength
better suburban performance combined with grassroots rural participation.
His opponent, former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe definition blunder
— “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach” — bolstered his party’s image as being aligned with school boards and teachers’ unions, as did her decision
to have the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, on his side at the end of the race.
After that loss, and a squealer for Democrats in the race for a New Jersey governor Animated
by many of the same issues, the landscape has changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded
that for the 2021-22 school year, the risks of schools closing outweighed them opening – even in the face of more contagious variants like Delta and Omicron. But the political damage remains for Democrats, who had become the face of school closure politics.
Is it any wonder, then, that in a recent NPR-PBS-Marist poll of parents, 60% of parents
with children under 18 favored the Republican Party towards the midterm elections? Education has always been a strength for Democrats. A long moment 15 to 20 point lead
on the issue has dwindled to single digits, with Republicans leading at times. The change mirrors what Democrats first saw in Virginia, where McAuliffe lost a 33 point lead
among voters who prioritized education in less than two months.
Much of Blue America, which has kept schools remote or hybrid for the 2020-2021 school year, has conducted an unprecedented “social experiment” on children, resorting to long school closures for millions of children – a tactic not used in other national emergencies or previous pandemics.
Now the results of the “social experiment” have come in and they’re very, very bad, and the people who supported the shutdowns are finally ready to talk
“Distance learning was a failure”, writes David Leonhardt
of the New York Times, describing the consensus of researchers
and the results of a new study from Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, which compared pre-pandemic scores on a particular national test (MAP) in 49 states and Washington, D.C., to pandemic-era scores in high and low income districts, in-person, blended and virtual learning.
“The main effects of hybrid and distance learning are negative, implying that even in low-poverty (high-income) schools, students fell behind growth expectations when their schools became remote or hybrid “, said the the authors of the study write
. But they do better than already disadvantaged students.
According to in the study
Economist Thomas Kane, author of the study, told the Harvard Gazette
“In very poor schools that have been remote for more than half of 2021, the loss was about half of the typical growth in a school year’s results.”
It was not hard to imagine, and it is only the slightest indication of the crisis. Learning loss during summer vacation was a well-known phenomenon years before the pandemic, and The New York Times editorialized in April 2020
that losses due to closures of “weeks or months due to the coronavirus pandemic may well be catastrophic in comparison”. That was the case back then, and the closed neighborhoods made the problem worse for 12 months, sometimes longer.
Nor is it a small number of students.
According to Burbio, an aggregator of school and government data, who followed
which schools have been open and closed throughout the pandemic, 13% of American school children were still completely remote in April 2021. That’s more than 6 million students absent for more than a year. Tens of millions more than that were in Zoom School for less time, but still significant portions of a year, while their parents fought to bring recalcitrant school districts
back into the classroom.
Despite early warnings from The Times, it quickly became wildly unpopular in leftist areas to advocate for schools to open. In Northern Virginia, a school board member asked the parents
if they wanted their children to “live or be educated?” In the Bay Area, a school board member maligned parents
for “want[ing] their returning babysitters.”
Being as careful as possible about Covid-19 was seen as good and liberal while the idea of school opening was Trumpian bad speech
especially after then-President Donald Trump declared
in July 2020 his determination to push governors to open schools.
He became perceived as a project
selfish white supremacists and people who wanted to sacrifice children. I am not exaggerating the rhetoric in these areas, where a mixture of political conformity, social pressure and exaggeration of the risk of Covid-19 for children has created a spiral of fear and bureaucratic inertia that has lost schools over 1 million
registered and counting.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona responded to this new Harvard study by entirely missing
the point: “This study rightly quantifies and highlights something that every parent, caregiver and educator has seen over the past two years – that the pandemic has had a huge impact on our children.”
No, the study shows that it was not “the pandemic”, but poor pandemic decision-making that hurt children, with almost no gain to be had from it.
Long-term school closures were not just an educational disaster, but a mental health disaster, as Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers recently noted.
“Our children are in crisis” Weingarten said
. “And we had a mental health crisis before Covid…but for two years of disruption, two years of staring at screens, two years of not having a normal routine and rhythm. Recovery is really hard.”
They are in crisis, a crisis exacerbated by Weingarten herself, whose union would have had a great influence
on reopening guidelines written by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to emails allegedly discovered by Republicans
to the House Special Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and FOIA requests
. Weingarten says access was just for collaboration
Yet she tweeted last week that 47% of families
did not feel their children’s education was interrupted due to Covid-19, while linking it to the results of a NPR-Ipsos national poll
conducted last month. This supposed triumph of American schooling leaves a solid majority on the other side, which poses a problem for the Democrats.
It was a long-cultivated brand of school funding and alignment with teachers’ unions that won the trust of Democrats on the issue of education. It was the pandemic school closures and union support that lost him. Ignoring parental concerns or pretending they are solely driven by prejudice and partisanship will not get it back.
Until Democrats and teachers’ unions can at least admit it, they can’t hope to fix the problems they’ve caused in the classroom or at the ballot box.