The Cost of Lockdowns and Shutdowns: Part II

How school closures became a policy decision that held Minnesota students hostage.

The decision to close schools was a profound mistake that changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Minnesota students. It wasn’t the pandemic that held students hostage and caused this severe learning loss — it was the policy choices made by Gov. Walz and his commissioners.

This report chronicles how Minnesota policymakers had all the data they needed early in the pandemic to see that school children were not at risk of getting or spreading the virus. It also found that districts with little in-person instruction experienced the greatest declines in reading proficiency in both spring 2021 and 2022 compared to spring 2019.

Our government’s policy responses to COVID-19, including shutting down schools, unequivocally exacerbated the already-declining academic achievement of our students.

And state education leaders — under pressure from the teachers’ union — stubbornly stuck by their shutdown decisions even as the data showed children were at much lower risk for contracting the coronavirus and transmitting it to family members.

The result of the policy decisions made during the pandemic are staggering. As the 2022-2023 school year begins, fewer than half of Minnesota students are proficient in math (44.6 percent), as measured by the state’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). Just under 50 percent of students can’t read at grade level.

To be clear, this report is not hindsight. Many of us were warning about potential learning loss and calling for schools to reopen back in September 2020.

This is the second of two reports examining the costs of government policy choices due to the pandemic. The first report details how Minnesota’s government policy responses to COVID-19 cost each resident $1,866 in lost GDP by the end of the first quarter of 2021, or $7,464 for a family of four.

Click the “Download PDF” button to read the rest of this report.