CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship, September 2, 2022


September 2, 2022

COVID-19 HardshipSeptember 2, 2022  

The back-to-school edition. Kids are returning to classrooms, but we find students, teachers, and schools themselves in a pandemic-related crisis. For students, the damage that has been done became more apparent than ever this past Thursday, September 1, when new data revealed just how big a hit students took academically during the pandemic’s first two years. New test results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress, often called the “nation’s report card,” showed students of all income levels and ethnicities on average fared much worse in early 2022 than they did in early 2020, just before the pandemic. But students from families with low incomes and Black and Hispanic students fared even worse. 

Teachers too are in crisis – many are leaving the profession. They cite pandemic stress, low pay, and, increasingly, a developing culture war that threatens to restrict what they can teach in the classroom – restrictions that in some cases include mention of LGBTQ issues or America’s history of racism. 

School districts are hurtling toward budget crises – this is due in part to the coming phasing out of pandemic relief to schools and due to declines in enrollment. Since school funding is tied to enrollment, cities that have experienced the sharpest declines are contemplating four-day school weeks, combining classrooms, laying off teachers or shutting down entire schools. Experts warn of an approaching “Armageddon” for public schools by about 2024. “Federal (relief) money is delaying it a year or two, and the fact that state budgets are healthy is delaying it a year or two,” said Marguerite Roza, Director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. “Federal money will run out, and enrollment for some of them isn’t going to come back. These cost factors are going to just slam down on people.” 

There’s an action step you can take today to help our public schools. President Biden has proposed a historic $40 billion investment in public education that would help students, teachers, and school districts’ bottom line. Please write your members of Congress today to encourage them to support this necessary funding. 




In two nationwide tests of 9-year-olds, one administered just before the pandemic and the other administered two years later, math scores dropped by 7 points and reading scores dropped by 5 points. Math scores for Black students fell 13 points, compared with 8 points for Hispanic students and 5 points for White students. Tweet this.


Nearly 300,000


The U.S. faces a shortage of nearly 300,000 teachers and support staff, according to the National Education Association. Some states are particularly hard hit, with 2,000 teacher vacancies in Illinois and Arizona, 3,000 in Nevada, and 9,000 in Florida. Tweet this.




According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 10.6 million educators working in public education in January 2020, before the pandemic hit. As of earlier this year, that number had dropped to 10 million, a net loss of 600,000. Tweet this.




New research released in late August by the Economic Policy Institute found that teachers made 23.5 percent less than comparable college graduates in 2021. That’s the widest gap ever. And salaries have essentially flatlined since 1996. The average weekly wages of public school teachers (adjusted only for inflation) increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, from $1,319 to $1,348. In contrast, inflation-adjusted wages of other college graduates rose from $1,564 to $2,009 over the same period – a $445 increase. Tweet this.



The percent of educators who are thinking about leaving the profession, according to a survey released earlier this year by the National Education Association. That represents a huge increase over the 37 percent who said they were thinking about leaving when NEA conducted a previous survey in 2021. The 2022 survey found that a disproportionate number of Black educators (62 percent) and Hispanic/Latino educators (59 percent) were thinking about leaving. Tweet this.




From fall 2019 to fall 2020, total public school enrollment for pre-K through 12th grade dropped 3 percent, from 50.8 million to 49.4 million students. It was the largest single-year decline since 1943.



In fall 2020, 40 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in public schools – a 14 percentage point drop from the 54 percent who were enrolled in the fall of 2019.




Across the U.S., more than 1 million students who were expected to enroll in public schools did not show up. Of this population, a startling 340,000 were kindergarten students. A study shows that the largest kindergarten declines were in neighborhoods just below and just above the poverty line – the enrollment decline was 28 percent greater in those neighborhoods than in the rest of the country.



School shootings rose from 114 in 2019-2020, the first year of the pandemic, to 146 in the 2020-21 school year.



With inflation, parents are expected to spend $168 more on back-to-school supplies than they did in the pre-pandemic summer/fall of 2019, according to the National Retail Foundation’s annual survey. Had the expanded Child Tax Credit been extended, it could have easily covered the extra cost. Instead, Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) allowed it to expire in December.