The74 conducted a study of the relative learning loss in Democratic (Blue) and Republican (Red) states and found that Red states offered almost twice as much in-person instruction as Blue states during the 2020-21 school year.
Less in-person instruction meant less learning. The study quotes Chad Aldeman of Georgetown’s of Edunomics Lab: Because remote learning offered less live face-time with instructors, “lost [in-person] instructional time is likely to lead to lost learning.”
The chart below shows that Red states (that voted for Trump in 2020) provided in-person instruction for 74.5% of the 2020-21 school year, while Blue states (that voted for Biden) only provided in-person instruction for 37.6% of the time. Put another way, children in Red States got 134 days of in-person instruction versus 68 days for Blue state children. The bottom line: Red state kids got almost twice the number of in-person days than Blue state kids during the school year. That’s an enormous difference in learning.
For an expanded view, click here.
But what is even more striking is that political affiliation — not COVID case rates — drove school closure decisions. Jon Valant of the Brookings Institution found that counties’ partisan leans were far more predictive of school re-openings than COVID rates in the surrounding communities: “This whole pandemic has broken on political lines in lots of different places, and schools are just one of them.” Blue states like New Jersey are known for powerful, politically active teachers unions, which were often strong proponents for keeping schools closed, including in New Jersey.
The data shows Blue states kept schools closed for longer, and very Blue New Jersey, under very Blue Gov. Murphy, did so as well. Importantly, this included large districts like Newark, Jersey City and Montclair, which were allowed to remain closed after most New Jersey schools had re-opened. This disparately impacted minority students, which New Jersey’s test results revealed to have the largest declines in learning. Murphy may have had his reasons for allowing this to happen — was he kowtowing to the teachers unions again? — but he did allow it to happen, and now we all must live with the consequences.
Brookings’ Valant brings home why it is so important to recognize these facts:
“‘A lot of kids are going to need some additional time than normal going forward.’ It’s about ‘identifying which students are struggling and targeting resources for that.'” [Emphasis added.]
This is where Murphy has demonstrably abdicated his responsibility for educating New Jersey’s kids. Murphy has failed to release the full, district-level data from the state tests, which is essential for proper remediation. Parents, community leaders and elected officials need to know where and how much learning loss has occurred so they can ensure that the necessary resources and remedies are being directed to the right places. But they don’t.
If Murphy has abdicated his duty to New Jersey’s kids, isn’t he a failure as a governor?