Wednesday Edition


Chronic absenteeism, the share of students missing at least 10% of the school year, increased from 15% in 2018 to 26% in 2023. (EducationWeek)

Chronic absenteeism decreased in 33 out of 39 states last year, but it’s still well above pre-pandemic levels. The increase in chronic absenteeism has disproportionately affected students from districts with the lowest achievement and highest poverty rates. Racial disparities in chronic absenteeism have also widened, with increases observed across all groups.

  • For instance, in urban districts across the country, a whopping 41% of Hispanic and 46% of black students are now chronically absent.

The absenteeism crisis comes at a time when schools are already struggling with pandemic-era setbacks, particularly learning loss. From 2018 to 2022, U.S. students' PISA math scores fell 13 points. That’s the equivalent of almost two-thirds of a school year’s worth of math learning.

American Enterprise Institute fellow Nat Malkus testifying before Congress last month on post-pandemic challenges facing schools: “Chronic absenteeism stands apart from pandemic learning loss in important ways. The pandemic, a one-time event, disrupted regular schooling and led to lingering learning loss, but the obvious pandemic drivers of that loss have ceased. … Teachers, grappling with absenteeism, must divert valuable class time to help chronically absent students catch up, leaving less time for those with regular attendance.”

Seattle laws intended to boost pay for delivery app workers may actually be hurting their bottom line. (The Center Square)

Seattle’s App-Based Worker Minimum Payment Ordinance and App-Based Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance aim to ensure fair wages for app-based delivery drivers through minimum pay rates and time off.

UberEats saw a 30% decrease in order volume in Seattle after the two laws were implemented on Jan. 13.

  • DoorDash reported 30,000 fewer orders in just over two weeks following the introduction of the pay regulations.

  • Uber couriers in Seattle are waiting 30% longer for delivery requests than before the ordinances.

The laws are having a negative effect on local businesses, too. Digital sales for independent grocers in Washington have dropped by 10-12%.

A number of companies made moves last year in response to state minimum wage hikes. Pizza Hut planned to lay off 1,200 delivery drivers in California, which raised its minimum wage from $16 to $20 in 2024. DoorDash removed tipping prompts and increased service fees in New York City in response to the Big Apple’s new minimum wage for app-based food delivery workers. Uber Eats limited work-time options for couriers in New York City due to new regulations.


For the first time since 2019, immigration has topped the list of voters’ top concerns in Gallup’s polling. (Axios)

28% of U.S. adults now view immigration as the most pressing problem, up from 20% the previous month. Immigration outpaced the government (previously tied with immigration), the economy (12%), and inflation (11%).

Politicians have taken notice of the spike in concern about immigration. Both President Biden and Donald Trump are scheduled to visit the U.S.-Mexico border this week.

Border crossings hit record levels over the past few years.


Are Florida and Texas anticensorship laws that would force social media companies to publish nearly all user content constitutional? (WSJ)

The Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments in two cases related to lawsuits brought by NetChoice, a trade group representing social media companies, including Meta, Google and X. The companies say Florida and Texas’ laws, designed to prevent social platforms from censoring and banning conservatives, violate their First Amendment rights.

A key question centers on whether social media firms should be seen as publishers, with full First Amendment protections, or as common carriers, like phone companies. If they’re common carriers, they’d be obligated to transmit all content neutrally.

Justice Samuel Alito: “So [social media companies] say this is just like a newspaper, basically. It’s like the Miami Herald. … And the states say no, this is like Western Union. It’s like a telegraph company … I look at this and I say it’s really not like either of those.”

The cases, which should be decided before July, could establish key guidelines for protecting speech on the internet.


Big cities' migrant issues have been grabbing major headlines, while small towns like Whitewater, Wisconsin are being overlooked. (Washington Free Beacon)

Whitewater had a population of 15,000 before a surge of migrants began arriving in late 2021. In just two years, 1,000 migrants, most from Nicaragua and Venezuela, made their way into the town. That’s nearly 10% of the population.

  • For comparison’s sake, recent years migration into New York City has added only 2% to the Big Apple’s population.

The influx has strained local resources, including schools, emergency services and health care providers. Whitewater faces a $400,000 budget deficit due to migrant-related expenses. The town has had to hire new ESL teachers and enrolled over 300 ESL students in public schools, with significant costs.

According to some officials, there have been reports of sexual abuse among migrant students, an uptick in STDs and increased police response to incidents, including drug-related activities.

What Whitewater resident Michael Smith told the Washington Free Beacon: “I haven't seen anyone who isn't welcoming, but you have to have blinders on to not see that there have been problems. … Everything is relatively overwhelmed right now.”

Whitewater’s issues echo the problems seen in bigger cities.

  • A September report by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute: “New York City spent an estimated $1.7 billion on shelter, food, and other services for migrants through the end of July. Chicago expects to have spent $255.7 million between August 2022 and the end of 2023. Washington, DC spent $36.4 million on migrant services by late August, and expects the total to reach $55.8 million by October.”

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