Elementary and middle-school students in the United States have recovered significantly from the massive learning loss sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the Education Opportunity Project at Stanford University. But more work remains for students to fully rebound. Many students are not on pace to fully catch up before the expiration of billions of dollars of federal aid in September. And as the New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller, Sarah Mervosh and Francesca Paris explain, low-income students are recovering slower than their wealthier peers and may never fully catch up. 

The students most at risk are those in poor districts, whose test scores fell further during the pandemic. Though the new data shows that they have begun to catch up, they had much more to make up than their peers from higher-income families, who are already closer to a recovery. The result: Students in poor communities are at a greater disadvantage today than they were five years ago.

Racial disparities in the learning recovery also exist:

Racial gaps in student scores have also grown, with white students pulling further ahead. Black students, on average, are now recovering at a faster pace than white or Hispanic students, the analysis suggests — but because they lost more ground than white students, they remain further behind. The gap between white and Hispanic students has also grown, and Hispanic students appear to have had a relatively weak recovery overall. The analysis did not include Asian students, who represent 5 percent of public school students.

Another special session overreach?
Gov. Jeff Landry is expected to call the Legislature into a special session next month focused on reducing crime. While this issue was a pillar of the governor’s successful campaign, Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate columnist Clancy DuBos points out that violent crime has mostly declined statewide. 

In every Louisiana city except Shreveport, violent crime dropped significantly in 2023 — as it did nationwide, only more so here. Moreover, the criminal justice reforms enacted in 2017 dealt exclusively with nonviolent criminals, and citizens continue to support those reforms. Even the conservative Pelican Institute think tank found no correlation between the reforms and sporadic increases in violent crime

After Landry faced pushback from legislators by seeking to overhaul state election rules during the recent special session, DuBos calls for more openness and transparency in the next go-round. 

In the interest of transparency, and for his own political sake, Landry should give citizens and lawmakers lots of advance notice — and details — about the next special session agenda. And he should avoid overreaching. If he doesn’t, lawmakers should send him the same clear message again … only louder.

Louisiana is still locking up kids in adult jails
Louisiana’s beleaguered Office of Juvenile Justice is paying tens of thousands of dollars a month to a parish jail for holding juvenile offenders. Many of the children were previously being held at the state’s maximum security adult prison in Angola. The Appeal’s Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg explains how the state reneged on a promise to move children out of Angola and into a new juvenile justice facility and allegations that the Jackson Parish Jail is not providing education and other programs required by law. 

The Appeal obtained a copy of the contract between OJJ and the Sheriff’s Office, which shows the agency reserved 30 beds for kids and pays a daily rate of about $143 per bed—and can be charged even if the spaces are not occupied. … The boys wrote in their statements that they were not only denied access to their education but also held in dangerous conditions. …One boy said that, during the rare occasions when he was allowed to leave his cell, he was shackled—even when he showered. The boy said that a guard maced a child because the kid had asked for help with his tablet.

State sues EPA for communication records
Louisiana has sued the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain communication records between the federal regulatory agency and environmental justice advocates and reporters. The federal agency was investigating whether state regulators discriminated against Black residents when allowing petrochemical plants to operate – and pollute – near neighborhoods and schools. But the EPA dropped its civil rights investigation of two state agencies last summer because of a separate legal challenge from then-Attorney General Jeff Landry. Verite News’ Drew Costley reports

“What a pathetic waste of taxpayer’s resources,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, one of the environmental groups named in the FOIA request. “They’re going to refuse to acknowledge racism in a state in the Deep South and instead they’re gonna waste their time looking for emails that they believe might be problematic. I mean, it’s just pathetic.”

Number of the Day
275,000 – Number of people that Louisiana has purged from its Medicaid rolls from June through December because of expired pandemic-era coverage protections. Almost a quarter of the people who lost coverage were children. (Source: Louisiana Department of Health via the Louisiana Illuminator)