The Lifetime Pandemic Education Tax
Dr. Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has been studying the relationship between academic achievement and spending for decades. Recently, he has been putting numbers to the lost opportunities experienced by students who were in school when they all shut down in 2020. The consequences are real. His prediction is that this generation will lose around 6 percent in lifetime earnings. For Black children, it’s 8 percent.
This is essentially a lifetime tax that isn’t being addressed as the crisis that it is. Collectively, our nation could lose as much as $28 trillion because the workforce will simply have more people who know less. That’s more than 15 times the current estimate of the economic cost of the pandemic.
The future of Missouri’s workforce is certainly not promising. Our K-12 enrollment is declining. Four in ten of our 3rd graders, who were in kindergarten in 2020, do not have even a partial understanding of 3rd-grade reading material. And last year, 40 percent of our high school graduates were not college or career ready, as measured by state standards.
Test scores matter. Declining test scores matter. Watering down the tests, backing off the grading scale, and not holding students and families accountable for chronic absenteeism only add to the negative impact.
Dr. Hanushek’s policy recommendations may seem harsh, but they’re the kind of bold ideas we ought to consider. He suggests creating meaningful financial incentives for “good” teachers to teach more students and buying out the contracts of low-performing teachers. These are solutions that prioritize the children in the system over the adults. What are the chances that Missouri is willing to take that approach?