As kids returned to school amid reports of a new COVID variant, some districts around the country began mandating masks again. The only problem is masks don’t work and lockdowns cause more harm than good.

In response, it’s time for a different kind of lockdown: We need to “lockdown” what we’ve learned from previous battles with COVID and force public officials and educators to deal with the facts.

On my Philadelphia radio show, Marty Makary from Johns Hopkins University cited the Cochrane Review metastudy that reviewed studies involving 276,000 participants in randomized trials or cluster tests. It found masking did nothing to reduce the spread of COVID. This is becoming the consensus view.

At least this debate on masking is being conducted loudly and in public.

In contrast, not much attention is being paid to what happened to kids’ learning loss from school lockdowns. Where is the public discussion of what schools should be doing to urgently address this educational crime against our kids?

It’s clear the learning loss was devastating, but schools don’t seem to share that urgency.  These issues are not just confined to big urban school districts like Chicago and Philadelphia, but they are also apparent in suburban districts, too.

For example, the Bucks County (Pa.) Herald reported recently that scores on the statewide tests for the affluent, suburban Quakertown School District are down significantly from where they were before the pandemic. To their credit, district officials said they will engage in intense tutoring to close the gap. What our schools need is a Manhattan Project to defeat learning loss. The stakes are that high.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia understands what’s at stake. Youngkin, a Republican, won his 2021 election by emphasizing educational issues, particularly in suburban districts. He released a study that showed Virginia students continue to suffer historic learning loss.

Youngkin also reported that in the 2022-2023 school year, nearly one in five third-through eighth-grade students were classified as chronically absent, missing 18 or more days of school a year.

To address these problems, Virginia officials are convening a chronic absenteeism task force to target kids who aren’t making it to school.  They will invest in intense tutoring, meaning students will receive three to five hours a week of one-on-one tutoring. This is what every school district should be doing.

American taxpayers have given vast amounts of money to deal with issues related to COVID. In 2020 and 2021 alone, Congress spent more than $190 billion for K-12 education. The vast majority of that money went to local school districts. What have they spent it on?

I understand that controversies over gender and sexually explicit reading materials in school libraries will be huge topics this year. However, learning loss is the prime issue. I think it should be a major issue in all political battles.

Republicans should use this issue to highlight how teacher unions endorsed classroom shutdowns. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, in particular, is still identified with pushing to keep schools closed at all costs, and she famously pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do so.

So if you are a concerned parent or grandparent, assess where your children were academically before the pandemic and where they are now. Do not wait to see the first report card. These are long-term proficiencies we are discussing.

This learning loss issue is one of the reasons I hope Youngkin enters the presidential race. His entrance would elevate the importance of educational lockdowns. Those will have a deep effect on our economy of the future and even our identity as a nation.

We also hear voices now that are gearing up to take us back to the masking of schoolkids and school lockdowns. The facts about what happened to our children should lock that down and prevent it before it happens.