The New York Times’ Shawn Hubler, reporting from California, had an obvious but still surprising take on the front of Wednesday’s edition: “Public Schools Have Lost Over a Million Students in Two Years.”
Yet one had to wait until paragraph six for the Times to mention the obvious culprit: Covid restrictions that kept schools shuttered, a policy that most now admit caused incredible harm to children.
All together, America’s public schools have lost at least 1.2 million students since 2020, according to a recently published national survey….
A broad decline was already underway in the nation’s public school system as rates of birth and immigration have fallen, particularly in cities. But the coronavirus crisis supercharged that drop in ways that experts say will not easily be reversed.
No overriding explanation has emerged yet for the widespread drop-off. But experts point to two potential causes: Some parents became so fed up with remote instruction or mask mandates that they started home-schooling their children or sending them to private or parochial schools that largely remained open during the pandemic….
Believe it or not, the Times actually praised, although briefly, Florida, and without mentioning liberal Public Enemy No. 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), for keeping schools open. But teachers’ unions weren’t blamed for keeping schools shuttered in urban-liberal enclaves.
In some states where schools eschewed remote instruction -- Florida, for instance -- enrollment has not only rebounded, but remains robust. An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, concluded last month that remote instruction was a major driver around the country, with enrollment falling most in districts most likely to have delayed their return to in-person classrooms.
This sounded ominous for the anti-school choice crowd: Hubler talked to a Laguna Beach doctor “so fed up with the public school district’s plan for reopening classrooms….she moved two of her four children to private schools.” She also reported school districts are finally responding to their clientele and holding off on (useless) mask mandates.
Policymakers are straining to avoid further losses. Some districts have resisted reinstating face masks, even amid a resurgence of Covid-19, because of the suspicion that mandates are turning off families. California lawmakers recently postponed the addition of Covid-19 inoculations to the list of required school vaccinations in part because some school superintendents worried about the potential hit on enrollment.
Hubler concluded with the parental cri de coeur:
“We love our school,” Lisa Rogers, 38, a district mother of two, said. “But if my children are forced to wear masks again, or if I’m forced to vaccinate them against my will, I’m going to pull them out and home-school.”
So, mask mandates are damaging the future of public schools? Tell the paper’s City Hall bureau chief Emma Fitzsimmons, who on Thursday all but begged New York City Mayor Eric Adams to slap masks back on all schoolchildren (the useless, harmful mask mandate for toddlers remains in place, a galling fact Fitzsimmons didn’t deign to mention). “Adams Resists Reinstating Mask Orders as Cases Rise.”
Mayor Eric Adams of New York City said on Wednesday that he does not plan to bring back mask mandates now, after the city entered the high alert level for the coronavirus this week….Asked if he would reinstitute a mask mandate for schools, Mr. Adams replied: “No.”
Fitzsimmons wouldn’t stop harping on school mask mandates, without providing any evidence they work, mentioning them even before vaccines.
….The guidelines also recommend that Mr. Adams consider requiring masks at schools and bring back a proof-of-vaccination requirement at restaurants and gyms.