If you asked me a week ago what I thought of the United States government’s economic response to the pandemic induced recession, I would’ve said that it’s done its best to navigate this storm. While I’m sure my statement leaves room for various opinions, it was my opinion until I saw the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While losses in the private sector are at this point expected, I was surprised to note a 216,000 total layoffs of government jobs in the most recent report - around 50,000 of these were in state and local education. The education sector overall, which includes private and public education has lost over 355,000 jobs since February.
We’re going through one of the most challenging times in recent history; financially, physically, mentally, and universally due to the pandemic. Despite providing over $2T in stimulus bailouts for individuals and wealthy industries, the country seems to have neglected one of the most critical foundational pieces of a strong economy: a robust, well-funded education system. Losing over a quarter of a million educators, teachers aides, professors, administrative support staff and all of the other professionals who keep schools running is crippling to our recovery for several reasons:
- Increased Stress on Existing Education Providers - As any parent who has had to see their child through “Zoom school” this year can attest to, teaching is hard. Our education system was already underfunded and under prioritized before the pandemic leading to unequal levels of access to resources and mobility through education across the country. Shedding this shocking number of jobs in such a short period of time further increases this inequality as families have even less access due to the constraints resulting from COVID. Less teachers will be required to serve more students and parents in more varied ways, while continuing to battle the stress, personal and economic toll of the pandemic.
- Contribute Towards a Major Recession - Though the stock market would have you think there’s not an economic crisis slowly rising like floodwaters over our ankles, the fact is that the US economy has shrunk by 33% since April. Though the banks and billionaires have thrived, the government’s focus on business as usual has yet to stop the layoffs. This level of unemployment is simply unsustainable. The country has yet to return to pre-pandemic employment levels and adding another hundreds of thousands to the ranks of unemployed will only prolong the country’s slow descent into a mucky recession.
- What About the Future? - With all our occupation on the future of the country in a post-COVID world, there seems to be a lack of focus on how detrimental the long term effects of these changes will be. If we really hope to insulate ourselves as much as possible from economic fallout, focusing on children (aka the literal future) and investing in educational infrastructure is critical. The skills gap between US students and other developed countries widens every day. Putting more strain on the education system by cutting funding and jobs in a pandemic will only see this gap widen to a chasm.
Other countries in the world are recovering economically from the virus, thanks to aggressive steps by their government to mitigate the damage and by the people embracing a unified vision in order to move forward. The actions by the government this year are disappointing to say the least and will likely have lasting effects for the next generation. It’s disheartening to live in a country where the government has focused so much on enriching the stock market and those with the means to ride out the pandemic while leaving millions of needy others - our children and grandchildren especially - twisting in the wind with crippling disadvantages. It’s concerning and moves like this show the early signs of an amazing country that could easily rot from the core if it isn’t careful.
Let’s hope these job roles are back sooner, rather than later.
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