The mayor, DOE and teachers’ union are all failing NYC school kids

How did New York City, with fewer than 1 percent of positive COVID-19 cases, make such a mess of school opening? Because American cities have largely put schools last.

Faced with the possibility of a teachers-union strike, Mayor de Blasio announced on Tuesday that school opening will be delayed until Sept. 21. The announcement came nine days before school was set to begin. Did the September start date for New York City schools catch him and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza by surprise?

“We heard real concerns raised by our labor partners, and we needed to work these through collaboration, and it didn’t happen overnight,” the mayor said.

OK, so it didn’t happen overnight. Did it happen over six months? Because that’s how long New York City schools have been closed so far. A little more than three months ago, the mayor still wasn’t seeing any rush to make school decisions.

“It’s May, for God’s sake,” de Blasio said on May 18 when asked about school reopenings. It was clear then to most New York parents, who know how much planning ahead is required when children are concerned, that schools would not be opening on time.

The mayor’s incompetence is well documented, but the lack of priority placed on New York’s schools is still shocking. How could schools be so extraneous?

There’s a lot of blame to go around. Gov. Cuomo set the stage for this by placing schools in “Phase 4,” and making his virtual preference clear: “All across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms. Why? With all the technology you have?”

That statement sent shivers down the spine of every parent who wants their kid to return to normal schooling.

Cuomo also delayed opening summer camps and day-care centers until some were forced to fold. Parents who have to work, be it in or out of their homes, have faced impossible choices all summer long.

Then there are the unions. Theoretically, it should be parents and teachers standing together against the bungling Department of Education — but the union is frequently in the way of that.

Parents are largely on board to demand from the DOE the supplies schools need. Several principals have sent letters to their school bodies saying they don’t have the Personal Protective Equipment they were promised or, worse, that the DOE is reneging on pledges to get them desperately needed teachers to fill the in-class slots of those educators taking medical accommodations.

Parents would absolutely stand with teachers and principals to get them what they need. But the unions keep expanding the list of demands until it’s clear to parents that they don’t share our same goal of getting the kids educated.

The latest demand, to have random COVID-19 tests in schools, is preposterous. Being asked to produce a negative COVID test to start school would be one thing. But a child being administered any kind of medical test without a parent present is a nonstarter. At this rate, schools will never reopen.

New York City has failed spectacularly but we’re not the only major American city to put education last. Public schools in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta and Houston are going fully remote to start the school year. Education just isn’t looking like an American priority right now. We’ve opened nail salons and bars but kept schools closed. It’s backward.

Other countries focused their energy on opening schools first. Even without the child-care component, school is essential. When I talk to friends around the world — in Scotland, France, Sweden, Greece — they all tell me their schools are opening for live education. Some of these countries have rising rates and some have falling ones, but all have decided that the education of their children was paramount.

In America, many suburban areas are opening school full-time to live instruction. When we worry about the death of American cities, we can not ignore how much of a role the lack of actual school will play. Parents will put up with a lot to live in places like New York City. They won’t put up with schools being an afterthought.

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