To all the women screaming, “I love you Andrew Cuomo, and I want to have your baby!”: Would you mind asking him where that baby will go to school?
Millions of New York parents would like to know what, exactly, is the plan for the kids.
When Cuomo closed schools in New York for the rest of the academic year, parents mostly understood, even if we now know the coronavirus risk to children is minuscule. But then came the plan to reopen the economy. It would take four phases, the governor said. And there in phase four, after construction, retail and restaurants, sandwiched with “arts and entertainment venues,” we finally reached education.
How could schooling be such an afterthought?
It’s hard not to notice that our government officials are using this time to launch a sustained attack on schooling.
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza actually said we shouldn’t “let a crisis go to waste,” and Mayor de Blasio on Thursday said he has no interest in restoring the pre-virus Gotham and went straight for his pet issue: destroying the best schools. “Certainly,” he bloviated, “the screen schools are being re-evaluated.”
Even Cuomo is getting in on the act, saying, “All across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms,” he said. “Why? With all the technology you have?”
Wait, come again? Are the state and city chief executives actually pondering an end to physical schooling?
It was a shocking comment. Does the governor really need to have it explained to him that kids need to interact with other kids and that the traditional school model isn’t just about education but also about community, socialization and so much more?
But OK, New York parents figured, school is almost over anyway. Surely, the governor in his mercy will give some direction on summer camp.
We figured wrong.
Rep. Elise Stefanik sent Cuomo a letter co-signed by several state and county representatives asking for guidance on summer camps, since Stefanik’s congressional district is home to many of them. Cuomo’s response was complete nonsense: “What you can say to Rep. Stefanik and all our great Washington representatives: We could provide rental assistance, child care for essential workers, you know what it takes? Money. Funding. Money.”
What in the world does any of that have to do with camp?
Camp in this case is shorthand for summer child-care. When the school year ends, many parents eagerly sign up their kids for camp. The kids get to vent energy. Parents can go to work and, yes, get a little rest.
For many if not all parents, the hang-up isn’t money. It’s about Cuomo giving the order to permit camps to reopen. In Connecticut, camps are set to open at the end of June. What’s our timeline?
How will the parents whose jobs are in Phases One, Two and Three do their jobs when there is no summer child-care option?
All of this doesn’t even take into account how stressful and difficult this time has been for children, something that other countries like Israel and Australia have prioritized by putting schools at the top of their reopening list (and both had strict lockdowns).
“You just care, because you have kids” goes the odd argument at parents when we express concern about the current situation. Well, yes, I care about the well-being of children because I am in close proximity to three of them and daily witness the toll the extreme lockdown is taking on their minds and bodies.
This isn’t about me. The truth is, my work life hasn’t changed all that much. I have always worked from home. Sure, the kids weren’t at home then, but now that my husband works from home, too, we’ve settled into a symbiotic work routine. And my kids, ages 4, 7 and 10, are mostly self-sufficient in the amusement department. Many parents don’t have this privilege, but if we are to avoid societal collapse, we need them to get back to work.
And if the personal is political, then that explains why our elected officials are ignoring child care. Cuomo doesn’t have small children. Nor does Hizzoner. Someone needs to tell them: We can’t open the economy if parents have nowhere to send their children. Child care needs to move way up on the priority list — lest we risk the rest of the phases crumbling.