Tens of thousands of school-aged children missing from virtual and online classrooms, but nary a peep from the Left about its significant and detrimental ramifications in the future. Yet parents, educators, and public health experts agree on one issue: shutting down school facilities in the name of safety during the coronavirus pandemic has done far more harm than good. But it will take more to convince powerful teachers’ unions and President Joe Biden otherwise.
The Washington Post published a deep-dive article on the significant hurdles that public school districts face as school buildings are closed and classes are conducted online. The article profiled a Detroit Public Schools engagement official, Kenneth Chapman Sr., in his efforts to locate children who have been absent from online classes since last year. In all, Detroit’s public schools could not locate at least 3,000 missing students since last year. Other states are facing similar problems, such as North Carolina being unable to find over 10,000 students and New Mexico searching for more than 12,000 missing students. Though New Mexico eventually whittled down the figure down to under 3,000 students, it is a daunting and Herculean task for school districts and state education agencies to track down and locate missing schoolchildren.
The majority of missing schoolchildren are minorities and in low-income communities, which will have long-lasting effects in future years. Without consistent schooling and academic progress, these students will regress academically. Adding to that, many students rely on school-provided meals for nutrition. Although school districts attempted to deliver meals to students’ homes or offered pick-up times at the school buildings, these actions ultimately failed to alleviate the child hunger crisis during the pandemic.
There have been multiple reports of the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting school shutdowns, that the 2020-2021 is a “lost year” in academic progress. There is a strong possibility that a large number of these missing schoolchildren could fail to graduate their current grade level, be held back, or drop out of school altogether.
Teachers’ unions have long resisted going back to in-person classes, despite the overwhelming evidence about child hunger, a “lost year” in academics, and the low coronavirus transmission rates among school-aged children. Unions in places such as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area demanded more public education funding, guarantees of vaccinations for teachers, and other concessions before going back to in-person classes.
Biden, for example, has notoriously flip-flopped on re-opening schools as quickly as possible. The Biden administration initially said in December 2020 that it wanted to have the majority of schools re-open by his hundredth day in office. Then in February 2021, Biden’s camp said it changed its mind and would only require half of the country’s children to return to in-person classes at least one day of week. Several days later, the Biden White House backtracked and said it is committed to re-opening schools as soon as possible.
In other words, the Biden administration flip-flopped on its rhetoric due to internal pressure from teachers’ unions and eventually changed its tune to satisfy disgruntled parents.
Schools are beginning to slowly re-open in many states, but the damage has been done, thanks in part to powerful teachers’ unions.