Sunday, April 12, 2020

Two Little Boys in a Sandbox

It's beyond disgraceful that, in a time of crisis, Governor Andrew Cuomo would see fit to bicker with Bill de Blasio over who gets to close the schools. For weeks now, Cuomo has been on TV posing as a leader, calmly laying out plans and speaking facts about the crisis.

Meanwhile, he covets his power, and let the whole world know yesterday that the important thing was not protecting 1.1 million children from disease, but rather who gets to decide that walking into overcrowded buildings during a pandemic is a bad idea.

It's time for these two to bury the hatchet, ideally in one another's thick heads. Sometimes emergencies bring out the best in people. It hasn't really been that way for either of these guys. I know I keep harping on this, but I simply cannot get over Bill de Blasio shutting down Broadway and leaving public schools open. I don't think I ever will.

Anyway, that bothers neither Cuomo nor de Blasio. The important thing to them is to carry on their decade long pissing contest. It's a big show. De Blasio says one thing and Cuomo says another. And after that happens, de Blasio gets the chancellor to write a letter about school cancellation, just so everyone knows that de Blasio doesn't care what any stinking governor has to say.  They're too busy blaming one another to focus on public health, and the tit for tat goes on forever. It shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

They tell conflicting stories to the press, and leave us with no reason to believe either over the other.

Nonetheless, de Blasio said he was making this announcement days ago. Cuomo chose to ignore it rather than reaching out. So, let them point fingers. That's what's important to them. Still, if it's too dangerous for theatergoers who shelled out hundreds of dollars to see Hamilton, how on earth can it be safe for my students and colleagues to traverse Francis Lewis High School, as always, packed to over 200% capacity?

In fact, when you consider the ramifications of disease in overcrowded buildings, how the hell can you overcrowd buildings at all? It's especially egregious when you overcrowd schools. These are places where our children are supposed to learn about the world and prepare for life. Are we trying to teach them that their lives mean nothing, and that they're expendable? That's the lesson I get right now. And if they don't do anything to ameliorate the problem, that lesson will be accentuated for years to come.

We now know that there is a real issue with overcrowding schools. We now know that cramming students like sardines is a bad idea not only educationally, but also for health reasons. Bill de Blasio broke a promise to lower enrollment in our school that, believe it or not, Mike Bloomberg had followed through on. While we are now getting an annex, which is better than nothing, it's a band-aid that won't fully address the issue. I did not pursue this until I was sure I couldn't get de Blasio to honor Bloomberg's promise, because even though we'll have more space, there's nothing to stop de Blasio or any future mayor from simply overloading us even more.

We also know that Mayor Bill de Blasio's DOE doesn't give a damn about class size, because one of his thugs told me right to my face during contract negotiations. Maybe if the mayor were unable to cram 34 kids into a class the schools wouldn't be so overcrowded. This might be a good time to bring that issue to the fore, and I'll do what little I can to help. While de Blasio ran himself ragged enabling pre-K, and while that was to his credit, ignoring this issue in the face of a health emergency is not particularly admirable.

I've also admired the chancellor's calls for equity and excellence, and for the most part I've respected that he's taken hits from people who wanted to maintain the status quo. While he certainly shouldn't have walked out on that parent meeting in Queens, I understand that pressure gets to you sometimes. I have seen him speak repeatedly on the dignity of teaching, how he himself respected the profession, and I've met him on multiple occasions when he came to see us. He stood and marched with us in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which no recent chancellor but him would have even considered.

But the chancellor has a boss, who clearly told everyone to hold the party line, and the chancellor must have agreed. While it was too risky for Bill de Blasio's well-heeled BFFs to use their $800 Hamilton tickets, it was perfectly fine for NYC students and teachers to walk into overcrowded buildings, even as our suburban counterparts, with better facilities and lower class sizes had their schools closed.

I don't ever want to be lectured about equity again by any member of this administration at any level. Any DOE person who comes to my school to talk about it will have to tell me why it was okay that Broadway was closed while we were open. And while I stayed until the bitter end last time, I'm not going back this year to satisfy Andrew Cuomo's wounded ego. Nor will NYC parents send their babies into dangerous infected areas just to let Cuomo know that he's won a pissing contest.

It's time for our leaders to grow up and at least pretend they care about us. I don't even demand they be sincere anymore, because it's quite clear they aren't. But if they're gonna put on a show, they owe it to us to at least make it a good one. We ought to be happy to see them taking charge.

Every time I look at these recalcitrant schoolboys, I want to vomit. New York deserves better.
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