In a recent poll, parents’ top concern was whether their children will miss in-person school instruction time. And they have good reason to be concerned as 67% of teachers said completion rates of student assignments were worse than in-person instruction.
This hurts disadvantaged students the most, as the Texas Education Agency recently noted that students in low-income families across the U.S. had a drop of 55.6% in online math coursework whereas those in middle-income families had a 34.2% decline and in high-income families actually had a 4.8% increase.
These losses in students’ participation in learning can contribute to lower lifetime earnings, with a troubling racial achievement disparity.
One study finds that the educational level of the average black or Hispanic student is already two years behind the average white student. These differences are based on multiple factors, including place of residence and wealth disparity.
Delaying in-person instruction due to fears about COVID-19 will exacerbate this disparity.
That study notes that if in-person instruction doesn’t start until January 2021 across the U.S., then while “white students would earn $1,348 a year less (1.6% reduction) over a 40-year working life, the figure is $2,186 a year (3.3% reduction) for black students and $1,809 (3.0% reduction) for Hispanic ones.”
Add to that how disadvantaged students tend to lose educational progress during school breaks as there’s usually less parental involvement and resources available to them than other students. Just think of how months of missed in-person instruction would set them back.
Even if government schools were to educate every student at the same level, the disparity between races and socioeconomic statuses will grow without the choice of in-person instruction. Unfortunately, minorities and poor Texans will suffer the most from this policy choice but would benefit most from that choice.
Despite these concerns, Austin ISD and many other school districts across the state have already decided to have only virtual education for the first few weeks of the school year.
But what of educators’ fears?
Pediatricians, educators, and superintendents from organizations across America recently released a letter noting, “Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools.”
The Austin Public Health Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott recently told Travis County Commissioners that having in-person instruction would put the lives of the 192,000 students in Travis County in jeopardy.
While he accurately noted that there have been no reported COVID-19 deaths of those under 19 years old in Austin/Travis County, he said there could be “between 40 and 1,370 deaths in that age group.”
But given flaws in the modeling, these projections are highly suspect.
First, Dr. Escott couldn’t use local data because there were no deaths among school-age children, so he resorted to using China’s data—where there was one death out of 965 cases of those 19 years old or younger.
But extrapolating those data from a communist country like China is a poor choice given the different demographics and health of people. This was also the case with Neil Ferguson who projected the U.S. would have 2.2 million deaths from COVID-19 without any other changes—deaths are currently less than 150,000.
Second, even with the problems with America’s government-dominated health care system, its quality and results are much better than the system in China. And the treatments here are better.
Third, COVID-19 seems to be ineffective in harming and spreading among young people or teachers globally.
Considering the poor modeling of the effects of COVID-19 such as Dr. Escott’s high estimate of 1,370 deaths that’s more than the 1,032 deaths of those 34 years old and younger across the U.S. as of July 15, we should be highly skeptical of these types of projections.
So, why delay or deter the choice of in-person instruction when the lives and livelihoods of kids, parents, teachers are at stake? It would be a disservice to the Texans who need opportunity the most.
Today, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar revised the Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE) to project a fiscal 2021 ending shortfall of $4.58 billion which Hegar attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent volatility in oil prices.
“Today’s update by Texas Comptroller Hegar on the budget shortfall shows the importance of reining in government spending without raising taxes as families across the state are struggling financially from the COVID-19 situation,” said TPPF’s Chief Economist Vance Ginn, Ph.D. “Fortunately, state leaders have already asked some agencies to find 5% savings to cover part of this shortfall, and we recommend that every agency use all efforts, including zero-based budgeting to find additional savings up to 15% by cutting wasteful and unnecessary spending. This would also alleviate the need for any more state bailouts from the federal government. By safely reopening Texas and getting people back to work and students in schools, the state will be best positioned to deal with any tax receipts shortfall while providing the best opportunities for Texans to flourish.”
The projection is a decrease from the $2.89 billion positive year-end balance originally projected in the Oct. 2019 CRE.
Many states are demanding more money from the federal government to deal with the COVID-19 situation.
But providing even more bailout money to states would mean inappropriately supporting years of poor fiscal management and incentivizing unnecessary government lockdowns.
Ultimately, bailing out states means less money in our pockets at a time when many of us are struggling financially — and fewer opportunities for entrepreneurs to help conquer the effects of the novel coronavirus.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the HEROES Act to spend more than $3 trillion in response to the COVID-based recession, with $1 trillion of that going to bailout states. And now the Republicans and the White House seem to be coalescing around a bill of about $1 trillion without state bailouts.
While we are discussing such large numbers, recall that the U.S. is $26 trillion in debt (roughly $80,000 owed by every American) or 130 percent of economic output, which is the highest since at least the Great Depression. Also, the federal government is likely to run at least a record of a $4 trillion deficit this fiscal year (about $10,000 per person).
In short, the government has no money to spend, and the House Democrats want to spend $3 trillion more that the federal government doesn’t have. And $1 trillion would be handed out to state and local governments, rewarding those who mismanaged their finances and the COVID situation.
Not only is this act a bailout — which is bad enough — but it far exceeds what’s needed.
According to the Tax Foundation, state governments are expected to have a tax receipts shortfall over this year and the next of at least $121 billion compared with a 2019 baseline due to the COVID-related recession.
In March, the CARES Act dedicated $150 billion to cover this potential shortfall. Total resources dedicated to state and local governments has been $1 trillion so far.
Fortunately, there are practical, responsible steps that states can take to weather this storm and to overcome potential shortfalls.
First, states must end lockdowns that force employers to close their business and workers to lose their jobs. Reopening society would revitalize the human ingenuity of entrepreneurs to not only better deal with the COVID situation through trial and error rather than one-size-fits-all policies but to also rehire workers. This would have the secondary effect of increasing tax receipts.
Second, states must restrain their spending, which is always and everywhere the primary source of budget shortfalls. This can be done by eliminating wasteful expenditures and freezing inflation-adjusted per capita spending to keep it within the means of taxpayers. Doing so will help the government from growing excessively and putting a higher tax burden on taxpayers, especially when they’re already struggling.
The other things that would provide a pro-growth environment to help Americans deal with this unfortunate health situation is for states to not raise taxes or regulations, and in fact, they should consider cutting them.
We can make it through this crisis without sacrificing the future. State and local leaders must make the hard choices for the good of their communities, and we must support and encourage them to be good stewards with our money.
And Congress should scrap their current strategy, which hasn’t worked well, and instead consider the Workplace Recovery Act to keep struggling businesses operating so employers and workers don’t lose their livelihoods while limiting excessive government spending.
By safely ending the lockdowns and responsibly budgeting our tax dollars, governments at all levels can help restore opportunities for us to pursue our hopes and dreams. Bailouts would only achieve the opposite.
(The Center Square) – Stimulus checks for Americans at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made sense, but a potential second round could prevent some recipients from working and prolong fiscal recovery, an economist says.
“Ultimately what we’re for is people going back to work,” Vance Ginn, chief economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), told The Center Square. “We need to find a responsible way to end the shutdowns, and find ways for people to get back to work, instead of having incentives to not go back.”
Another stimulus check for individuals and families has been discussed as part of the next phase of federal coronavirus relief.
“There may have been good reason for stimulus checks during the major part of the pandemic outbreak, but we think that time is over now,” Ginn said. “The stimulus check payment was put in place when many people were forced out of work, but now we’re looking at how to get people back to work and having businesses open.”
There are other ways to help people pay their bills and expenses, said Ginn, who formerly served as associate director for Economic Policy in the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.
The $600 weekly unemployment benefit that Congress included in the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act expires at the end of July, but people can still get state unemployment, which usually pays about 50 percent of what their weekly income was, Ginn said.
As short-term federal programs from the pandemic’s onset wind down, other proposals are under consideration to help businesses.
One is the Workplace Recovery Act, which addresses operational losses incurred during the government shutdowns.
“It would focus on replenishing net operating losses for businesses so they can stay in business,” Ginn said.
A payroll tax cut for employers and employees through the end of the year also would put more money in the pockets of workers, and incentivize businesses to grow because they would have lower costs and do more hiring, Ginn said.
Another key component to economic recovery is quelling fear.
“We need to deal with the pandemic situation in its full context,” Ginn said, “We don’t need to resort to lockdowns and closing society again because it would have a devastating effect on our lives and livelihoods.”
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.