Don’t repeat failed strategy [Rep-Am]

April 6, 2022

Waterbury Republican-American editorial:

As the Connecticut legislature mulls a well-meaning but precarious experiment to address students’ deteriorating mental health, lawmakers also are considering expanding remote-learning options for the 2022-23 school year.


These developments, which were reported in The Sunday Republican and the Republican-American, show how governments often find themselves attempting to extinguish fires they started.


The drastic educational setbacks experienced by students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have made clear that remote learning is not a viable long-term model, especially for younger students and those with special needs. “Across the state, students who learned fully or mostly in-person last school year fared better academically than their peers who learned fully or mostly from home, according to data from tests taken in the spring,” the Republican-American reported last September.


The report noted math proficiency took the greatest hit.


Remote learning took a toll not only on academic performance, but on students’ mental health. The need for mental-health care for school-age children has increased throughout the pandemic, as they were isolated from their peers and lost access to resources they depended on.


“Among adolescents who received mental-health services between 2012 and 2015, 35% received these services exclusively from school settings, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” an American Psychological Association article noted, while addressing the impacts of remote learning.


There has been such a large influx of students requiring these services after returning to the classroom, that Connecticut legislators are considering reducing the educational requirements for school mental-health professionals from master’s to bachelor’s degrees, so there will be enough workers to handle the expanding caseload.


Critics of the proposal have warned it could put students under the care of unqualified individuals and potentially exacerbate their existing troubles.


So why, in these perilous times, did the legislature advance a bill that, according to The Sunday Republican, “would allow boards of education to authorize remote learning (for) grade K-12 students” next school year?


Legislators already got it mostly right when they passed a law banning remote learning in Connecticut’s public schools this school year, while permitting boards of education to allow high schools to authorize it next school year.


Gov. Ned Lamont subsequently warned school districts that the pandemic was no excuse for keeping students out of classrooms this school year. The policy received bipartisan support.


Sen. Eric C. Berthel, R-Watertown, said the data showed the state was “shortchanging our children” with remote learning, according to the Republican-American.


Time will tell how much damage the school lockdown policies adopted throughout the United States and continued at the behest of teachers unions did to the intellectual and social growth of the next generation of Americans.


There is no good reason for Connecticut legislators to return to a failed experiment that would set students back while increasing the demand for public schools to offer non-academic services to an untenable number of troubled students.


Gov. Lamont should veto any such measure that passes in the legislature.