CHN’s Human Needs Watch: Tracking Hardship, September 11, 2023


September 11, 2023

September 11, 2023 

The not everyone back to school edition. It’s September, and our children really should be back at school. But millions are missing – described as chronically absent. Why? Part of the explanation may be academic disengagement during the pandemic. Another part is the nation’s youth mental health crisis – the two causes are probably related, although the youth mental health crisis existed before the pandemic began.  

In the week following Labor Day, there were other reasons for not being in school. Students in at least ten states, particularly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, were sent home early because their schools either completely lacked air conditioning, or their systems were not up to the task of dealing with the country’s dangerous heat wave. In Baltimore and Pittsburgh, students were told not to show up at all – they were instructed to log in remotely.  

It is clear that our students and our schools need more in the way of investments – having working air conditioning, enough teachers, adequate resources to address mental health issues, and investments focused on the post-pandemic academic gap hardly seems too much to ask. But some House right-wingers want to cut education spending. They’ve proposed an 80 percent cut from schools located in low-income neighborhoods, harsh enough to force the loss of 224,000 teachers, despite existing serious teacher shortages. They’ve also proposed cutting 51,000 kids from Head Start, and eliminating English Language Acquisition services for more than 5 million English learners – a direct attack on immigrant families. These deep cuts come after federal investments in education and youth mental health have lost ground over the past decade because of budget caps. Meanwhile, millions of children and youth are also at risk of losing health coverage – more below.  

Click here to write to your representative and demand that Congress reject cuts to education. 


14.8% 28.3%


Between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years, the share of chronically absent public school students grew from 14.8% to 28.3%, almost doubling. A new report estimates that an additional 6.5 million students are now chronically absent (out at least 10% of school days). Tweet this.



Last year, the nationwide teacher shortage was estimated at 49,000, which was an increase of 35% over the previous year. Tweet this.



The House subcommittee-passed 80% cut to K-12 education funding for low-income school districts is equal to lay-offs for 224,000 teachers, at a time of large teacher shortages nationwide. Tweet this.


4.8 million/

7.5 million


Between 2011 and 2020, mental health-related emergency room visits among children, adolescents, and young adults almost doubled, going from 4.8 million a year to 7.5 million a year, according to a report published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Tweet this.




More than 60% of public schools reported insufficient mental health staff to manage the need as a barrier to providing mental health services, according to an April survey from the Institute of Education Services. Tweet this.


1,127 to 1 


The national school psychologist-to-student ratio was 1,127 students for every psychologist during the 2021-22 school year, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. The recommended ratio is 500 to 1. 


1.1 million/
6.7 million


At least 1.1 million children in 15 states+ have lost health care coverage as states scramble to determine eligibility for some 87 million Medicaid recipients and several million more in the Children’s Health Insurance Program. As many as 6.7 million children are at risk of losing coverage, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. Medicaid could be the only alternative source for mental health coverage for students if schools cannot provide it. 



A 2020 study from the Government Accountability Office found that an estimated 41% of school districts needed to update or replace HVAC systems in at least half their schools. 


40 million+


More than 40 million Americans will be required to resume payments on student loan debt in October. A pause on federal student loan payments had been in effect for three and a half years due to the pandemic. 


20 million+ 


Under a brand new repayment program, more than 20 million Americans may receive help with their student loan payments, depending on their income level and family size. The new Biden Administration initiative will allow the average borrower to save $1,000 a year.








Human Needs Watch: Tracking Hardship