The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Kids Gone from School

Feb 20, 2023

What was already a problem in the U.S. educational system was made worse by the COVID pandemic, according to a comprehensive study published in June of 2022, entitled "The Biggest Disruption in the History of American Education." The study indicated that neither the Great Depression nor even the two World Wars imposed anything close to as drastic a change in how America’s school children spent their days. School closures cut children off from teachers and friends. Children were cut off from various public services that in some way run through schools, like food, nursing and mental health care, social work services, physical and speech therapy, etc.

And though COVID has "gradually lost its grip on American life, today’s teachers and students and parents are living with a set of altered realities, and they may be for the rest of their lives." (America Should be in the Middle of a Schools Revolution, February 17, 2023, New York Times).

And what are those “altered realities?” During the first full academic year of the pandemic, K-12 public school enrollment fell by 1.1 million and fell yet again by an additional 130,000 students the following fall. Estimates are that 26% of students were switched to home-schooling, 14% to private schools—and, many just fell through the cracks during the pandemic. One study just indicated that 240,000 students in 21 states went “missing” from public schools and their absences couldn’t be accounted for!

Test scores in the key core subjects of math and reading fell, so much so that, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, two decades worth of math and reading gains were more or less erased for nine-year-old children during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, millions of students never were able to navigate the remote mode of instruction. According to one estimate, 16 million students, that is, nearly 30% of students in the U.S., were chronically “absent,” even after the height of the pandemic, during the 2021–2022 school year.

And yes, worsening discipline problems are reported—like increases in fighting in the schools. Well, you don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to understand that two years of social isolation, of not being in school, has done a number on the social and emotional development of young people. It has led to increased fighting, mental health problems, including increased rates of suicide and suicide attempts.

To address some of problems that exist today, politicians point to their “unprecedented” 190 billion dollars in pandemic relief funds they have allocated to American schools. But education experts say that at least 700 billion more dollars would be required to catch kids up.

But even if 700 billion were allocated, that would not address the inherent inequalities that have existed in education. For the inequalities in this capitalist system weigh heavily on EVERY aspect of ordinary people’s lives.

Yes, a tidal wave of funding is needed, and a total revamping of education. But that is not going to happen without a fight—a massive fight for a different social system which truly puts children first. For there to be a “schools revolution,” there needs to be a social revolution.