Mayor Bill De Blasio pumped the brakes on the teachers’ strike by announcing the in-person school reopening and remote learning delay, but unanswered questions still remain on how everything will proceed.
This spurned Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, Sea Gate), joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, on Thursday morning, September 3, to convene a media roundtable and virtual City Council Committee on Education hearing to discuss his proposed Resolution 1410.
Treyger said he welcomes the delay but logistics around testing and communication with parents and staff are still confusing.
“There’s still some questions about what exactly the Mayor is [saying] and there’s also very serious questions about resources, and the ability to operationalize plans,” said Treyger. “As a result I believe that they are trying to cut corners.”
The resolution calls on the Department of Education (DOE) to “only open school buildings that have met the health and safety standards” outlined by United Federation of Teachers (UFT), DC37 labor union, and Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) demands and to implement a randomized COVID-19 testing program for adults and students in all school buildings.
New York City, being the largest education system in the nation, as of August 12, has a growing number of parents opting for remote only instruction for the upcoming school year, reaching about 300,000 requests, said Treyger.
According to Treyger, at least 15 percent of teachers have submitted a request to only teach remotely, with no information from the DOE on how they plan to hire full-time replacements to maintain staffing ratios.
Both Treyger and Williams said they were utterly disappointed that the Mayor and Chancellor Richard Carranza opted out of the education hearing.
“We invited the administration to testify. I’m being told that they don’t want to come testify on a resolution because a resolution is not binding,” said Treyger. “We’re up against Mayoral control. The state legislature voted to give the Mayor full control of the school system, so we could pass a resolution but it’s not binding. Doesn’t have legal authority, but I think it still sends an important message.”
Treyger said he argues that these are not normal times and it’s insulting to the city council and school stakeholders to not show up and defend their plans publicly.
“I do appreciate that the Chancellor, even the Mayor, will speak to me about these situations, but I am appalled that they didn’t show up to these hearings. It’s disrespectful to the council, it’s disrespectful to the people of this city who are not there when we’re having these discussions in private. They need to hear what’s going on,” said Williams.
“It defies logic that we have to be here, it really doesn’t make any sense. We have to be intentional, and it seems like the administration is being kind of incidental when making decisions. There’s absolutely no reason why we should be working off some arbitrary date to reopen in-person,” said Williams.
Williams doubled-down that not showing up in a simple hearing is not good leadership, and there’s a lack of clarity and consistency on their part. “We’re saying you can now have over 1.1 million people, not including faculty and staff, and you can go to the gym, but you can’t have indoor dining? That doesn’t really make any sense and I think that adds to a lot of the confusion. And our leadership has to do better than that frankly,” said Williams.
Several parents in the subsequent public hearing, particularly with Black and Brown students at home, testified they didn’t trust the COVID safety plans for schools and are not sending their kids into school buildings this September.