The Situation in New York

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March 14, 2020 1:01 a.m.

From TPM Reader MS

I have rooted for Mayor de Blasio since he took a strong stand against stop-and-frisk and for a bold affordable housing plan in 2013. I’ve been an observer of him for many years from inside and outside city government. And I am completely perplexed by his very-in-character decision to not close the schools.

Until today I was on the fence about closing the schools, and have two public school kids myself who need a lot of supervision. But after talking to other parents and some teachers, it’s just inexplicable. (I will acknowledge that I can weather a school closing, as I’m a white collar worker with remote capability and some control over my schedule.)

But we are too late here by a week – the schools need to be shut ASAP. They needed to announce today to teachers what to expect on Monday. I know in your Ed blog you said you didn’t want to overly focus on NYC but here’s a reason why it’s national news:

-NYC is the biggest school system in the country and has one of the most positive infections in the country.

-I went down the list of the largest school systems in the country and I got to #12 (Hawaii) before I found a system that wasn’t at a minimum closing for two weeks starting Monday. Simply staggering that NYC with his public health tradition is the outlier here.

The Mayor is just wrong and the explanations for not closing the schools at his press conference this evening were staggeringly lame excuses. Yes there are challenges in how to make sure kids eat and to ensure that children who do not have supervision have some. But NYC is not exceptional here- LA and Chicago have a higher rate of poverty than NYC! They also have health care workers with children in public schools. If anything our exception is that we are more vulnerable given our density, public spaces, and use of mass transit.

The window of minimum pain for the City is about to close, if it has not already. Afterschool programs are already closing citywide. Attendance rates in public schools are way way down today. A bunch of staff who are at-risk (which by age alone must be a large proportion of staff) will not be in next week. The ability to deliver a functional school experience is going to break down pretty quickly next week and I can’t see how that is defendable while it increases the chance our health care system is going to overload.

The level of disagreement in de Blasio’s admin must be huge. I must imagine that public health officials are pushing to shut down the schools and DOE is pushing back because they can’t conceive of any other way to deliver services. And de Blasio must be digging in his heels because lots of high-income parents are clamoring for the schools to close, but he views himself as the voice of the voiceless.

I don’t envy those making these decisions and have a fair amount of compassion for them. But this is a really bad way to make NYC exceptional. Every day the schools are open increases the chances our medical system fails in the next month.

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