COVID-related disruptions in education could mean a $14 trillion hit to the U.S. economy in the long term.
Helping kids get the individualized help they need—through Back on Track scholarship accounts—could stem some of those losses.
Robin is a single mom on a fixed income in Tioga County. She’s worried about the impact the school shutdowns will have on her 12-year-old daughter Hailie. Robin’s district struggled to find its footing in the initial closure in March, and she’s unsure what the new school year will bring. Her main concern is the long-term effects on Hailie.
Robin is right to be concerned. A new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) points to severe, long-term impacts from COVID-related school closures. While expected learning losses are widely acknowledged, the OECD report focuses on what those losses mean for future economic growth and societal welfare.
Based on previous studies of the impact of reduced schooling—including from teachers’ strikes and summer breaks—the report estimates the spring disruption is likely to reduce a typical American student’s future earnings by three percent. This could translate into a $14.2 trillion economic loss for the U.S. by the end of the century.
But there’s hope. The report’s authors say some of these losses could be stemmed by “individualizing the instruction” of students so they can work at their own pace. They predict this “could elevate the learning for all students and could act to ameliorate the losses from prior closures by offering learning opportunities matched to each student.”
The report notes the large knowledge gaps that existed in classrooms pre-COVID. These are likely to be exacerbated, since some families have been able to support their children’s academic growth during school closures better than other families. Getting kids individual help will reduce some of these gaps within classrooms.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania lawmakers Rep. Clint Owlett and Sen. Judy Ward recognized this problem months ago. They proposed Back on Track education scholarship accounts to facilitate individualized instruction by providing parents $1,000 per student for approved educational expenses. The accounts cover tutoring, tuition, counseling, curriculum, and other learning supports—so they give the flexibility needed to get each child the help they need.
Recognizing the greater challenges faced by low-income families, the legislation would give priority to families earning under 185% of the federal poverty level—around $40,000 for a family of three. This will ensure the funds go where they’re needed the most.
Robin says Back on Track scholarships would be a tremendous help to her and other families in her area who have faced new expenses and challenges from school shutdowns. And according to the new OECD report, the Back on Track proposal can have an even greater impact on the success of our students and the strength of our economy.