“It’s really shocking to me how little appreciation there is for the situation in Washington,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute and head of the California State Board of Education. “It’s not a problem that can be solved at the state level.”

Plans are still in flux for state and local governments, but parents hoping for a swift return to normal are likely to be disappointed. Many districts are weighing proposals in which students would split time between virtual and in-person classes to maintainstrict social distancing inside buildings.

And as businesses and investors try to map the arc of the recovery, they should probably start with those classrooms.

“There are 78 million parents with at least one child in their household under 18. That’s almost a third of the adult population,” said labor economist Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department official. “A parent’s ability to find and keep a job is inseparable from child care and schooling.”