New York City public schools close as of today, with no sign of when or even if they’ll reopen this year — or even of what might determine it. Parents can, should and will blame the woeful incompetence of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, as well as the conniving of the United Federation of Teachers.
Back when he was getting the UFT’s assent to any reopening at all, de Blasio bound himself to an absurd benchmark for a total shutdown: a 3 percent seven-day rolling citywide average of positive virus tests.
This is utterly unscientific and arbitrary: Testing says little about what’s happening with serious virus cases, and next to nothing about what’s going on in New York’s schools — where kids and staff alike are seeing far lower positive test rates.
Anyway, even the World Health Organization doesn’t call for school closures unless the area’s positive rate hits 5 percent.
Meanwhile, city Catholic schools aim to stay open all winter long — without even the “blended learning” that the public schools inflicted on families that did want children going in full-time. (Charter schools might prefer the Catholic way — but they mainly operate in city-owned buildings, which are run by Team Blas’ chaotic rules).
The mayor has been warning of possible closing since late last week, yet on Wednesday he still dithered on announcing the shutdown — delaying his press conference until word had already leaked, since Carranza e-mailed principals first.
So roughly 300,000 children who’d been “blended” will now join the 700,000 or so in all-remote classes. (Enrolled in them, anyway: Carranza’s Department of Education seems unable to even check on how many kids are actually logged on, or even how many were showing in school.)
The families that will suffer most are those that de Blasio and Carranza insist they care most about: Better-off New Yorkers are more likely to be working from home anyway, and more able to ensure their children learn despite the schools’ dysfunction. Working-class parents and their kids are up the creek without a paddle — again.
Even Gov. Cuomo has gone freaky on the issue, verbally assaulting reporters (“snarky” and “stupid” were some of his terms) who asked about school closures earlier in the day. The mayor had actually told the gov what was coming before Cuomo’s press conference, yet Cuomo feigned surprise when asked about Carranza’s e-mail to principals.
This, though the gov himself had dissed the 3 percent rule just days before.
As for the UFT: Its leaders feel compelled to cover for their most panicky members — and do so ruthlessly, threatening to stop all semblance of education if they’re not appeased. In a rational world, the concerns of older and immune-compromised teachers could be dealt with fairly, but “rational” doesn’t apply to labor relations in this town.
If there’s any silver lining in all this, it’s that parents (and even New Yorkers with no kids in school) are learning some very bitter lessons about how utterly screwed up this system is. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able elect some politicians dedicated to replacing the entire public-school system — unions, dysfunctional bureaucracy and all — with one that doesn’t completely melt down in a crisis.