New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio probably overstepped his authority when he decided late last Friday that he would keep the city’s 1,800 public schools closed through June, and he certainly bungled the decision politically.
For starters, he didn’t tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo first — but he did tell Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, according to The New York Times. And when de Blasio did inform the governor, he did so by text.
That led Cuomo to argue Saturday that only he has the authority to make such a decision, and he wanted to take a coordinated regional approach to school closings.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran immediately backed Cuomo, saying she, too, would like to see a regional approach. We agree.
Lost in all the rhetoric, however, was an important point that de Blasio was making: He wanted to provide greater certainty to students, educators and parents about what they could expect over the next two and a half months.
The governor has taken a wait-and-see approach to school closings, shutting them down two weeks at a time. We understand the need for such an approach. We shouldn’t be hasty in deciding to close the schools. Everyone wants children back in the classroom as soon as possible.
That approach, however, leaves all parties involved in limbo, wondering what will come next. What educators and children need is certainty.
Right now, there is no coordinated approach to how schools should handle the state’s curricula, and so, statewide, we have a hodgepodge of approaches. Some districts are fully online, with regular teaching schedules. Others, citing privacy concerns, are not teaching remotely, but rather are emailing students their assignments.
Many students — particularly those in low-income areas — don’t have computers and internet connections.
The state must make a decision soon about the fate of this school year, and if the schools are to remain closed through June, there should be one plan for all that ensures children will continue learning during this trying time.