NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
February 14, 2014
The Real Reason School Stayed Open
by James Panero
Ideology trumps safety and common sense
In Bill de Blasio’s New York, apparently, you do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
How else to explain the rash decision to keep city schools open during yet another dangerous blizzard, which slammed the city Thursday just as predicted?
When it comes to declaring a snow day, the safety of city parents, children, teachers, school staff and caregivers should come first. But that’s not what happened during this current storm — and the reason is ideological.
Wednesday evening, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña declared that schools would stay open despite the “anticipated inclement weather conditions.”
The strange logic of this decision was made even stranger by what de Blasio had said earlier in the day: “Because of its timing and intensity, this storm is going to make both the morning and evening rush hours extremely difficult. If you do not need to drive, you will help yourself and everyone else by staying off the roads.”
So, adults should stay off the roads, but kids need to come to school?
The paradox left families scratching their heads. Judging by the online reaction, it also gave some young de Blasio supporters a bit of buyer’s remorse.
“It is pouring snow and de Blasio says no snow day, my 7y old just said ‘I miss Bloomberg,’” school parent Richard Bonneau wrote on Twitter Thursday.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, had harsher words: “I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety. Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.” Public Advocate Letitia James agreed.
What they’re not saying is that there’s a philosophical reason why de Blasio and Fariña have now kept school open despite several severe storms.
Fariña believes in the social-justice mission of city schools. This means that for her, schools are the custodians as much as the educators of children.
“My decision is where the kids are safest and the most taken care of, and the answer to that is in schools,” she has argued. When schools are closed, “Many of our kids don’t get a hot lunch and, in many cases breakfast.”
Such logic appears to have led Fariña to declare that schools would be open before waiting to see conditions on the ground. Her indifference to meteorological reality even continued through the storm: “It is absolutely a beautiful day out there right now,” she said Thursday morning.
The problem is that, while some city families may indeed be safest inside school, Fariña put all families in danger by deciding they should attempt to come to school in such hazardous conditions. What’s worse: missing breakfast, or breaking your leg trying to get it?
The street-side danger of heavy snow is no joke. Last week, the video of a man getting knocked down by the spray of a speeding plow in Sheepshead Bay went viral. And Thursday, a 36-year-old pregnant woman was killed by a snowplow in Brooklyn.
There’s a reason why the city’s independent schools, which in the past tied their closings to the city’s decision-making process, now largely make their own calls.
Thursday morning, my wife and I made our own decision to ignore the city’s illogic, and kept our daughter home from nursery school. Statistics show that a majority of public-school families did the same thing: Attendance Thursday was a dismal 44.65%.
Last month, de Blasio said that pedestrian safety would be a top priority of his office. He also renewed his campaign pledge to work for the elimination of traffic-related injuries and deaths through an initiative known Vision Zero.
Unfortunately, when he keeps school open despite serious street hazards, he merely demonstrates zero vision.