Resilience & Recovery Triad:
Safe Schools — Safe Jobs — Safe Streets
“Safety first” is more than a motto or slogan. As human beings, we can only be our best selves when we experience our environment as safe and secure —nothing goes well in the absence of both actual and perceived safety. The same is true within families, communities, organizations and, yes, cities.
Our city’s resilience and recovery depends upon restoring safety in three vital domains — schools, jobs & streets — as an essential foundation and precondition for all that follows. Safe streets and jobs are urgently necessary but hardly sufficient to ensure survival of the city. Safe schools are vital to success; otherwise, parents cannot fully work and kids of all ages cannot adequately learn, grow and develop as citizens — as future New Yorkers.
As mayor, my first priority would be to maximize in-person learning for city public school students, all too many of whom are now being deprived of an education — a right they’re entitled to under the state constitution and a responsibility shared by the governor and mayor.
The governor was right on Success Academy; the mayor was wrong. On school reopening, the governor is wrong and the mayor is right. If only he was capable of converting his intent to craft, manage and operationalize a comprehensive plan to do right by the over 1 million NYC public school students, 75% of whom are poor, 10% of whom are homeless, whose wellbeing has been so ignored at all levels of government over these last 6 months.
It’s not easy to be a leader, and not every leader will get everything right all the time, including me. But I am campaigning as I would govern — by following the facts, listening to New Yorkers, dispelling fear and proposing new ideas.
Here’s what the facts tell us:
- Public perceptions of risks to kids and teachers are unduly exaggerated;
- Short-term risks of school closure to kids, especially those who are vulnerable at home, are troubling and often are minimized or ignored;
- Longer-term impacts of school closures are terrifying; and
- City leaders must keep New Yorkers informed and govern accordingly.
So the sensible thing to do is get young healthy kids back in school with healthy teachers and staff under the age of 50. The kids are at less risk from COVID than from bathtubs. It’s the staff and teachers and parents and — especially — grandparents we need to protect.
To be clear, some kids WILL have to be kept home, taught by teachers who need to stay home. But let’s not fool ourselves that this is to protect the kids. Do NOT blame the kids. This is to protect vulnerable adults.
And if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame Trump: this never, ever, ever, EVER should have been allowed to happen in the first place. The forward-deployed CDC teams in China should never have been withdrawn; protective public health measures such as social distancing and mask wearing should never have been politicized; and a national plan unleashing full industrial manufacturing capacity — to ensure adequate PPE supplies, prioritize development of rapid and reliable testing; and achieve safe and effective therapeutics — should have been in place months ago.
When it comes to the impact of violent and destructive disruptions stemming from protests gone amok, blame the mayor and local elected leaders whose dereliction of duty concerning their fundamental responsibility — to preserve and protect public safety and health — is beyond unconscionable.
Further, city leaders have squandered an enormous opportunity to harness an “all of city” approach to support our kids in school and to save the city from potentially irreparable economic ruin. For starters, pay city restaurants to deliver quality food; bring in Broadway actors, musicians and stage designers to liven up classroom learning; recruit college students to take a gap year and tutor students; grant credits for students majoring in education to help out; and reach out to retired educators who could lessen the load on teachers.
Beyond the pressing issues related to the pandemic, city leaders must also tackle the enduring challenges facing our city education system, which has pitted families, schools and communities against each other in recent years.
Listen, I love teachers — we all do. And I love unions. But you know who I love even more? Kids. And they have no union. For decades now, NYC school kids, on average, have not learned nearly as well as they could.
If you elect me mayor, I will do all I can to respect and honor and compensate teachers and work with their union — but will push hard for improvement, because there are some decade-long experiments in the city which have proven that all our public school kids — low income kids, kids of color, kids for whom English is a second language, kids with disabilities — can do extraordinarily well when given the opportunities to succeed.
We need to view those experiments not as threats to teachers, but, rather, as opportunities for kids. If our kids do well, our city will do well. So, yes: if I am mayor, I will do everything a mayor CAN do to step up our game. It’s time.