COVID-19 Policies Wrecked Public School Enrollment and Student Outcomes

“After the historic one-year enrollment drop of 2.5 percent in the 2020-21 school year, public K-12 attendance has stubbornly refused to bounce back. Two new studies further indicate that the biggest two-year declines correlate strongly with the most restrictionist school-opening policies, particularly in Democratic-controlled big cities.”

“”The effects of the sharp, recent enrollment declines may be long-lived,” Stanford University Education Professor Thomas Dee told The 74 Million. “The fiscal consequences will remain for some while.”

K-12 spending amounts to around 20 percent of all state and local government spending. If the customer base for this freely offered product continues to reject it in favor of more expensive options, not only will education budgets (which are usually tied to enrollment numbers) get slashed, the political enthusiasm for paying the price tag via taxation will likely wither.

America was a global outlier in the amount of closures and restrictions imposed on public schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in particular played a key institutional role in mixing messages and producing senseless over-caution. Remote learning didn’t just repel students, it consigned the ones who remained to staggering amounts of learning loss. We do not yet understand the full extent of the hit, but what public education decision makers did to public schools the past two years will likely go down as one of the most flagrant and impactful acts of institutional self-harm in the 21st century.”

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