By Phil Kerpen and Stephen Moore
From the NY Post:
Of all the COVID policy blunders, the most unforgivable — which will have by far the longest-lasting negative effects — is the closure of schools.
It was almost exactly three years ago that education officials and politicians started to put padlocks on the school doors.
Harvard was the first domino to fall. The vast majority of public schools soon followed suit.
The result — as we predicted at the time — was disaster.
Closures at the end of the 2019-20 school year alone will be associated with 13.8 million years of life lost, one study found, as educational attainment has a well-established relationship with both income and life expectancy.
Many parts of the country had an even longer closure to start the 2020-21 school year.
National Institutes of Health-published research shows life expectancy for high-school graduates is four to six years longer than for high-school dropouts.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates learning losses from the period could cause a 3% decline in lifetime earnings.
The loss of just one-third of a year’s learning has a long-term economic impact of $14 trillion in the United States alone.
The closures exacerbated a youth mental-health crisis.
Health and Human Services reports “there were significant increases in children’s diagnosed anxiety and depression, decreases in physical activity, and decreases in caregiver mental and emotional well-being and coping with parenting demands.”
The number of children diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29% and depression by 27% from 2016 to 2020.
As many as 250,000 would-be students are completely unaccounted for, their whereabouts and situation unknown, a recent Associated Press-Stanford study found.
In Sweden, where primary schools never closed and were not disrupted by mitigation measures, there was no learning loss.
The long-term harms to this generation of kids in terms of their lifetime earnings and wealth will be tragic.
A 2021 World Bank and United Nations study found that globally, this cohort could lose about 14% of today’s gross domestic product “as a result of pandemic-related school closures.”
Here in America, the University of Pennsylvania Penn-Wharton economic model estimates that by 2040, today’s primary-school students will have lost 10% or more of their earnings and secondary students 7% — and as they continue to age, those losses will rise.
What is maddening is that closing public schools was entirely unnecessary from a health standpoint. After relatively brief closures, almost all private schools reopened with no negative health impact.
It was clear very early on that children’s risks were minimal and comparable to other respiratory viruses. It was obvious by April 2020 that schools operating in Europe showed no meaningful adverse consequences for children or broader communities.
The teachers unions played a major and inexcusable role in keeping schools locked down.
Just 11 days after the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended full openings and no masks in elementary schools — recommendations President Donald Trump embraced — it reversed in a literal joint political statement with the teachers unions.
Robert Redfield was unambiguous: “I don’t think I can emphasize it enough, as the director for the Centers for Disease Control, the leading public-health agency in the world: It is in the public-health interest that these K-12 students get the schools back open for face-to-face learning.”
Many children suffered a full year or more of closure and an additional year of severe disruption via masks, quarantines and other interventions. These rules were enormously disruptive and harmful — and completely futile.
What are the lessons learned?
First, the teachers unions and the pediatricians’ association should be held accountable for the harm inflicted on millions of children. As far as we can tell, they never have issued a formal apology for their malpractice.
One positive development from the tragedy of school closures is that around the country parents who saw their children damaged have turbocharged the movement in states to allow parents to have more choices as to where their kids can go to school.
Iowa, Florida, West Virginia and Arkansas have passed laws allowing education dollars to follow the children.
If a public school shuts down or is not performing up to par, the kids can be transferred immediately into schools that are open and educating. We think every state should adopt this policy.
And we should all be able to agree that when it comes to prolonged school closures, the clearest lesson of the COVID era is: never again.
Photo Credit: Akbarali