The wages of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ overly-oppressive Wuhan coronavirus pandemic policy continue to accumulate, this time at the expense of Louisiana’s kids.
This week, the Louisiana Department of Education released its annual Reading Report, which evaluates reading ability for children in kindergarten through third grade. While the older children made gains, the youngest showed a decline. Superintendent Cade Brumley fingered a pandemic policy that effectively caused closure of early learning centers and face covering mandates that may have delayed speech development and language acquisition.
Both conditions Edwards needlessly foisted onto families. Actually, very early in the pandemic while schools exited in-person instruction in the last two months of the spring, 2020 semester, many centers remained open. The problems began when Edwards didn’t lift commercial restrictions and then imposed masking that summer and kept these in place far too long, becoming one of the last states to ditch such policies two years later even as considerably earlier the relative lack of efficacy of restrictive policies had become apparent.
The problem became twofold insofar as centers with many struggling financially since. First, many had difficulty reopening because the overwhelming majority operate outside of state institutions and couldn’t tap into unlimited resources to stay operating at preferred levels. Restrictions made workers scarcer and more expensive to hire, plus expenses increases in other precautionary areas, and clientele suffered from cutbacks to their resources triggered by restrictions, reducing demand that impacted center revenues and ability to have their children access services. It added up a portion of the youngest children missing out on reading development.
The other aspect, masking, particularly injures the ability of the youngest to learn. Research increasingly points to a number of negative side effects regarding children and masking, both from them having to wear them and adults around them doing the same, including with reading skills, and especially among the youngest. Reading at this level involves hearing speech and associating visual cues from sounds emanating from reading out loud, and this opportunity was reduced for some.
The data observed by LDE back up this hypothesis. The tail end of the cohort that caught the beginning of the pandemic restrictions in their crucial learning period are first graders today, while kindergartners are the first to bear the full brunt of restrictions. As it was, third graders scoring satisfactorily on reading were up 1.3 percent and second graders 1.9 percent, but first graders managed only a 0.6 percent gain in numbers and kindergartners dropped 2.3 percent. If the theory holds up, next year’s kindergartners will show another decline before the trend should reverse.
That may not be the end of it. It likely will be at least a decade before the full impact of unnecessarily restrictive measures when sufficient evidence existed to avoid these becomes apparent. The destructive effects won’t just be limited to reading but will extend in many directions from a generally stunted development that will cause personal and behavioral difficulties disproportionately in people who then were youngest or born during those two years.
Sadly, this unfortunate result adds not only to the needless costs of Edwards’ mistakes related to the pandemic, but to the general policy ledger that as he heads into the final year of his term overall he has left Louisiana in a worse place than when he took office.