Will New York Lead the Way in Screwing Up School Reopening?
For those of us subject to his misrule, the second week of December did not seem a particularly auspicious week for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to start touting his experience with reopening public schools as a model for the rest of the country.
After all, my 12-year-old still hadn’t set foot on her campus for weeks, having attended class just seven times this academic year. My 5-year-old was back in kindergarten (after an arbitrary, de Blasio–imposed break), but only half time, because her school didn’t have enough personnel to process kids in groups larger than eight or nine. That half time quickly turned to no time when two staffers in a 1,000-student school tested positive for COVID-19.
Remote learning—the borderline oxymoronic term to describe classroomless education attempted via computer screen by tens of millions of K-12 students nationwide—continues to be the norm for more than three out of four New York City public school students, including a disproportionate share who are economically (and now academically) disadvantaged.
Yet de Blasio may have been onto something when he puffed out his chest to Politico and said, “Just do it! We have proven you can keep school safe if you are willing to adopt enough rigorous measures.”
And with the election of a teachers union–friendly Democratic president, Gotham’s policy of prioritizing guild wish lists over student and parental concerns may indeed become the national norm.
God help us all.
“Reopening schools is vital for the health and education of our children,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wrote in The Hill in late November. This sentiment was rather belated. Then–President Donald Trump and then–Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had been banging the school-reopening drum since July, when the science and global track record had already shown that kids in group settings were not catching, spreading, or suffering from the novel coronavirus in any statistically meaningful way. Weingarten’s conversion reflected three new political realities.
First, initial public school enrollment figures from this fall were brutal: 3–5 perc
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