April 15, 2024

When even the New York Times finally has to admit the school closures were disastrous for education, childhood developmental disruption, behavioral breakdown in the classroom and future earning potential, you know it was worse than the legacy media, politicians and teachers’ union leaders like Randi Weingarten were willing to admit.

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Many Americans have been screaming this from the proverbial rooftops for years now. The kids were not all right. The school closures led to emotional and mental health crises among students forced to participate in class on a computer screen for months and even a year or more.

The Times recently reported on February test scores by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which reveal devastating drops in math and reading scores by fourth and eighth graders.

In February 2024, the “Nation’s Report Card” found that, among 9-year-olds, reading scores dropped five points compared to 2020, and math scores dropped seven points.

These are students who were in kindergarten four years ago when the school lockdowns began, and they were deprived of their opportunity to get that strong educational foundation because their classroom learning was disrupted.

Piling on by the “adults in the room,” they were forced to wear masks and sit behind plexiglass desks while trying to learn math and reading while their teacher talked to them, muffled, from behind a mask.

Also last month, NAEP found that among 13-year-olds, reading scores dropped four points compared to 2020, while math scores dropped nine points during the same timeframe.

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These are students who had a better foundation in early childhood reading, so their reading scores didn’t drop as much.

But what was happening in math? In eighth grade, students start to grapple with the basics of algebra, and these students were deprived of a solid algebra base, which will affect the rest of their relationship with mathematics going forward.

Just as they were entering more complicated math studies, the infrastructure was taken from them, and the test results are there to prove it.

This disastrous learning loss in basic algebraic skills will affect all of us, as we will need people in charge of building bridges, planning roads, and designing buildings to have the basic functions of algebra for every other advanced math skill.

American parents knew the damage that was being done to their children, and they cried out for the schools to go back to in-person instruction.

Unfortunately, the school districts covered by the stronger political teachers’ unions, like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, refused to do what was best for the kids because they were doing the bidding of the teachers’ unions, which fund largely left-wing politics, not to mention the school board and city council candidates.

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The teachers’ unions saw the COVID pandemic as a strike they didn’t have to call in order to exact political gains and other perk concessions they would never have been able to get at a normal bargaining table:

  • hazard pay for going to class;
  • extra teacher working period days;
  • four-day school weeks; 
  • jumping to the front of the line to get their vaccines;
  • trying to force the children to get vaccinated;
  • increased funding to upgrade school buildings and hire more school employees; and,
  • even demanding Medicare for All and Equitable Housing projects (especially Los Angeles)

Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was in the vanguard of all of this. In congressional testimony, she was found to have had personal communication with Rochelle Walensky, then-head of the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and AFT staffers were allowed to virtually rewrite the agency’s school reopening guidelines to make it easier for them to stay closed longer.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ.) famously revealed that Weingarten had a direct line to Wolensky’s personal cell and said she wished, as a member of Congress, she had the same access to the CDC chief.

The obvious difference in the disastrous results of the COVID school lockdowns is between red and blue states and cities. In those jurisdictions with conservative leadership, where the teachers’ unions don’t control the politicians, schools reopened at a more normal pace, kids got back into the classroom sooner and they’ve experienced far fewer of the behaviorial, mental and emotional problems. Meanwhile, the scores dropped less.

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The blue cities and states, where the teachers’ unions kept the schools closed far longer than needed, are experiencing the most severe declines in behavior and testing outcomes.

There has been no accountability. No one has paid for the price they cost our students.

No “COVID amnesty.” We won’t sweep this under the rug.

Ashley Varner is the VP of Communications for the Freedom Foundation.

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