Mayor de Blasio’s April 11 declaration that the city’s 1,800 public schools would remain closed through the end of the school year was overruled by Governor Cuomo just hours later—and the political squabbling between the two was panned by educators, parents and activists.
The Mayor had announced March 15 that schools would close until at least April 20 as part of the city’s coronavirus response, leaving staff scrambling to train in distance-learning. With that date approaching and the number of COVID-19 cases across the city surpassing 117,000, he said that keeping schools closed would help in the fight against the virus.
'Painful But Right Thing'
“Having to tell you that we cannot bring our schools back for the remainder of this school year is painful. But I can also tell you, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. The de Blasio administration reportedly informed the state of its decision to keep the school system closed just five minutes before the Mayor told the public.
But hours later, the Governor, who has had a longstanding feud with Mr. de Blasio, called the announcement an “opinion,” asserting that the decision affecting 1.1 million city students was his to make.
“This is a state emergency; the state will follow a uniform plan," Mr. Cuomo said. “That is the law, that is what governs."
Three days after the Mayor’s declaration, the Governor announced that the state would work together with six states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, to reopen the economy. “We have to have a coordinated approach on the reactivation, if you will. Schools, business, workforce, transportation—it all has to be coordinated,” he said.
The Mayor stated that determining whether schools should reopen was not a “legal or jurisdictional question” but a moral one.
“I respect the Governor. I think the Governor has done a very good job during this crisis,” he added.
Expert: Cuomo's Call
David Bloomfield, a Professor of Educational Leadership, Law, and Policy at Brooklyn College, said that despite the confusion over who has the authority to keep schools closed, “there’s a consensus that Governor Cuomo will make a determination that the schools will remain closed through the end of June.”
And if schools were to reopen before the term ends, “parents and staff may not be willing to re-enter these buildings,” Mr. Bloomfield noted.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew stated that “keeping school buildings closed is the right decision—regardless of who is responsible.”
The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators declined to comment on the political bickering, but stated that it was “unfortunate that the conflict between the Governor and Mayor has led to confusion.”
Educators, parents and advocate groups were also critical.
“This squabbling between the Mayor and the Governor is embarrassing and causing tremendous stress for families, students, and educators,” Natasha Capers, the director of the Coalition for Educational Justice, said in a statement. “Their inability to come together…is immoral and will continue to have disastrous consequences for our communities, especially those so deeply impacted by the inequity in health-care and testing.”
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