For all the parents who have spent the last two years fighting for our children, I’m sorry to say our brief summer respite is over. The data on pandemic learning loss are coming in, and they are devastating. And yet the failing grades and rising absentee rates dominating the public education system today are exactly what those of us who fought school closures warned would happen.

The liberal teachers’ unions and their allies in the legacy media downplayed our concerns, but parents knew this would be the result. And unfortunately, our predictions have been confirmed. It is no surprise that the worst learning losses occurred in schools that kept their doors shut the longest and among children who are the poorest. According to a recent Harvard study, high-poverty schools were most likely to have been remote for the longest (over a year in many places), and enrolled students lost the equivalent of 36-40 weeks of learning. Even in low-poverty schools that switched to virtual learning, students lost the equivalent of 13 weeks of learning.

The schools with the longest closures also suffered the largest enrollment declines. Some of those students moved to private schools if they were lucky enough to afford it, but many have likely fallen into the abyss of drugs and crime in places like Chicago and Los Angeles. The simple fact is that we don’t know where many of these children are and no one seems to care. School districts estimate that 1.2 million students have disappeared from the U.S. public school system since 2020.

Where were all the highly paid diversity, equity, and inclusion directors when schools were implementing policies that would disproportionately harm black and Hispanic students? It’s hard to take these people seriously when they all sat back and allowed this to happen. Do they really care about equity, or do they just like to say they care about equity while working from home on their laptops?

The worst part of this debacle is that it’s still happening. A number of school districts, such as Washington, D.C.’s, plan to exclude healthy children from school with onerous vaccination requirements and disruptive quarantine policies. It is unbelievable that we are still allowing these bureaucrats to do this to our children. Any gains we hope to achieve in getting children back on track academically, especially in blue states with powerful teachers’ unions, will be impossible. We’re heading into yet another year of lost learning and another year of putting children last.

Unfortunately, children don’t have a powerful union with millions of dollars in political contributions lobbying on their behalf. But they do have us. It’s our responsibility as parents to remedy this situation and ensure it never happens again. Districts have billions of dollars of unspent COVID-19 federal aid. Let’s make sure school districts use that money to help children recover academically. Many schools still have asinine quarantine and masking policies — we must refuse to let them lock our children out of the classroom.

Parents must demand to know how every dollar of that federal aid is spent. We must demand that children have a completely normal school year, free of testing, quarantines, and masking. We must continue to show up at board meetings and be present in every way possible. Let your administrators, union leaders, and school board members know that you aren’t going away.

Families must also encourage state legislators to create and expand education freedom options. If public schools continue to be unresponsive to parents, families deserve the option to take their students to a school that will prioritize their needs. We deserve schools that understand that we, as parents, are in the best position to know what our children need to thrive. The public school system needs to know parents can and will take their dollars elsewhere if a school isn’t meeting their standards.

Our children have lost so much due to purely political policies. It won’t be easy fixing this, but based on what I have seen parents accomplish over the last two years, I know we have it in us to come to the rescue again.