Will the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives “Select” the Next President?

For months President Trump has been denigrating absentee voting,

President Donald Trump insists there’s “NO WAY” an election with increased mail-in voting will be legitimate.

The president refused to endorse a “peaceful transfer of power, he said “…there would be no power transfer at all …You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the [mail-in] ballots, and the ballots are a disaster … get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful election— there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,”

Why is he so opposed to “mail-in” voting?

Predictions suggest that the November turn-out could be a once in a century event, “ a new Pew Research Center survey released this week provides the most compelling evidence yet that turnout this November will be massive and that states will be challenged to complete timely counts of a record number of mail-in ballots.”

The President is calling on his voters to vote in person, and, it is possible that the in-person voters will be Trump voters and the “vote by mail” voters Biden voters.

On a normal election the polls close, let’s say at 9 pm, within a few hours the results are published, occasionally in a close election the results may not be known until the next day; however, with an enormous turn-out, and record breaking votes by mail the count could take days, or, in some instances even weeks.

On December 8th, the electors will cast their ballots.

Each state’s electors meet in their respective state capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December to cast their votes. The results are counted by Congress, where they are tabulated in the first week of January before a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives, presided over by the vice president, as president of the Senate.

Electors are selected by the candidates, Trump and Biden electors; the number of electors are the number of Representatives plus the two Senators, for example California has 55 electors and Montana 3 electors, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states are “winner-takes-all,” the winner of the popular vote get all the electoral votes. (In Maine and Nebraska the winner of the popular vote receives two electoral votes and the winners in each Congressional district get one electoral vote).

Trump’s campaign will claim the “votes-by-mail” are fraudulent and ask that they be excluded from any count, ask the courts to issue a “temporary restraining order” halting the count. States have wide discretion: they can issue the order pending a court hearing, continue the count and hold a hearing or dismiss the claim. The state court decision can be appealed into the federal courts; this is a federal election. We have a recent precedent: the 2000 Bush v Gore controversy.

In 2000 the election in Florida was extremely close, only a few hundred votes separated the candidates out of many millions of votes cast. The election was challenged in state courts and the Florida Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote ordered a recount, the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court and SCOTUS overturned the decision of the Florida courts, by a 5-4 vote.

Read a detailed account of the controversy here

Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent in Bush v Gore wrote,

“The extraordinary setting of this case has obscured the ordinary principle that dictates its proper resolution: Federal courts defer to state high courts’ interpretations of their state’s own law. This principle reflects the core of federalism, on which all agree. ‘The Framers split the atom of sovereignty. It was the genius of their idea that our citizens would have two political capacities, one state and one federal, each protected from incursion by the other.’ 

The Court assumes that time will not permit ‘orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise.’  But no one has doubted the good faith and diligence with which Florida election officials, attorneys for all sides of this controversy, and the courts of law have performed their duties. Notably, the Florida Supreme Court has produced two substantial opinions within 29 hours of oral argument. In sum, the Court’s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court’s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States.

I dissent.”

Bush v Gore centered on should the Florida court decision ordering a recount be sustained or overturned, the reversal of the Florida court ended the count and gave the election to Bush.

The Trump attack on “mail-in voting” must show fraud, and fraud at a level that will impact the election. The “fraudulent” votes must exceed the difference between the candidates, in other words, potentially change the outcome of the election

For sake of argument lets say the dispute continues into January without resolution, the Constitution provides a remedy, a venue that Trump seeks.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot … And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chose by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chose the President. But in chosing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chose from them by Ballot the Vice President.

California would have one vote and Montana would have one vote.

To further complicate the situation “mail-in” ballots are also cast for Representatives and Senators; if the courts prohibit a counting of ballots in some states, or, all states, many seats in the Congress will not be occupied. Terms expire for all Representatives and a third of the Senators at the end of the year, one could argue that although their term has expired, no one has been “elected” to replace them, they remain in office.

The Constitution requires A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice, the Democrats could refuse to provide a quorum preventing the House from convening.

A 6-3 or, a 5-4 conservative Supreme Court could decide to support the Trump claim, and invalidate all “mail-in” ballots, although I see no legal pathway considering fraudulent claims differ from state to state.

What happens if no president is selected by January 20th, the inauguration date set by the Constitution?

If no resolution is reached by January 20th Trump might hold an inauguration ceremony himself, and claim his re-election, or, simply argue he remains as president until a successor is selected through a constitutional process.

The 1876 presidential election was challenged by the Republicans, the results were very close in three states, and, the Republicans needed all three states to win. In 1876 the inauguration date was in March.

A backroom deal was brokered, the Republican candidate, Rutherford B Hayes, would become president in exchange for ending Reconstruction, federal troops removed from the former Confederate states beginning the reimposition of slavery by another name, the Jim Crow laws and a string of Supreme Court decisions removing rights guaranteed by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. It took almost a hundred years to reclaim the rights, the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s, rights that are still being eroded today.

On the international scene with our nation in chaos the Russians could seize the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), China could occupy Hong Kong; on the domestic front millions upon millions demonstrating, widespread disruptions, Trump sending federal troops into cities to “keep the peace”; open conflicts between states and Washington.

Anger in the streets is nothing new.

In 1787 former Revolutionary War veterans, who were unpaid, marched on local courts to prevent the seizing of their land, called Shay’s Rebellion.

In 1932 World War 1 veterans were owed “bonuses” from serving during the war, Congress refused to authorize the bonuses and the veterans camped across the street from the White House, called the Bonus Army, they were forcibly evicted by the Army at the direction of President Hoover

Urban unrest in the 60’s (Los Angeles, Detroit, Newark) resulted in unparalleled violence, hundreds of deaths, cities burning, National Guards and tanks in the streets.

Can the Trump attack on “mail-in” ballots so disrupt the election that court decisions lead to the House selecting a president, or, a constitutional crisis and no president selected by January 20th?

Is this the beginning of a movie script or a prescient look into the future?

Listen to Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker,” 

Will Trump Nominate a Far Right Ideologue to Replace RBG? Will the Republican Senators Confirm the Nominee? How Should President Biden Respond?

On Thursday, September 17th, the National Constitution Center presented the Liberty Medal to Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “for her efforts to advance liberty and equality for all.” (Watch the ceremony here).

The next day, Friday evening, for many of us during Rosh Hashanah services, we learned of the passing of Justice Ginsburg.

Six years ago I had the great pleasure of listening to Justice Ginsburg at the New York Historical Society (Listen to her comments here – about an hour).

Ruth Bader was a Brooklyn girl, a graduate of James Madison High School, the school at which I taught for over three decades. Madison has a Law Institute, lawyers work with the students on projects, the students visit the courts, and, each year Justice Ginsburg hosted a visit from students at the Supreme Court. She impacted the lives of untold numbers of students.

Within hours of her passing Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate announced he would bring the president’s nominee before the Senate for a confirmation vote. Four years ago President Obama nominated Judge Garland eight months before the presidential election and McConnell and many Republicans jumped to support their leader. Republican after Republican explained why the next president should have the opportunity to fill Supreme Court vacancies, not President Obama.

What has changed?  Nothing, except that venality and moral corruption has become the currency of the day.

Kamala Harris responded to McConnell.

“Mitch McConnell wasted no time declaring he would bring Trump’s appointee to a vote on the Senate floor, where he holds a Republican majority. And there is no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump will nominate someone who will overturn the Affordable Care Act, strip protections from immigrants, overturn Roe v. Wade, and more.”

We can expect the President to nominate a justice, perhaps at Judge Ginsburg’s funeral, and we can expect a far right ideologue..

The favorite is forty-eight year old Judge Amy Coney Barrett, currently a Trump appointee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. At her confirmation hearing she defined herself as an “originalist;” in other words, forget about precedent, the long established practice of honoring previous decisions of the court; the founding fathers are still speaking to her.  (Read more details about Barrett here)

McConnell and his co-conspirators are packing the courts with ideologues to use the courts to legislate, use the courts to bypass the legislative process.

Garrett Epps in the Washington Monthly writes,

The passing of Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg has left a deep hole in the hearts of millions across the country. She was a giant of jurisprudence, one of the most consequential Americans to have ever lived, and an inspiration to so many for her intellect, her moral center, her trailblazing biography, her resilience and even her physical toughness.

But her passing also leaves a bleeding wound in American democracy, one that reinforces the crisis of legitimacy of conservative minority rule in America. It is a legitimacy crisis that Democrats must heal and rectify should they win power in November–especially if Republicans are shameless enough to force through a conservative to replace Bader-Ginsburg before the inauguration of the next president, against her dying wish. Democrats must, if they win, alter the composition of the Senate and the Court so that both reflect the will of the majority rather than the tyranny of a minority.

Is it possible that Republican Senators will honor their commitment to allow the new president to fill Supreme Court vacancies?  Four Republican senators will have to refuse to take part in the charade; Senator Collins of Maine has already announced she will not support a presidential nominee at this time. Are there three other Republicans?

To quote Joseph Welsh at the McCarthy Hearing, “Have you no sense of decency?” (Watch here)

The Constitution establishes the “supreme court, and, inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

Article III, Section 1

The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

The size of court, the organization of the courts, the duties of the courts all fall under the Congress.

In 1937 President Roosevelt threatened to “pack the court,” to appoint additional justices, read about the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 here

Listen to FDR justify his proposal here during a Fireside Chat on court reform

The conservative wing of the court had ruled a number of New Deal laws unconstitutional; when FDR threatened to appoint additional justices the conservative wing of the court backed away and the bill never became law.

I would urge a Biden presidency with a Democratic controlled Congress to introduce the Judicial Reform Bill of 2021.

There are currently thirteen judicial districts, courts of appeal, the highest level of courts below the Supreme Court; the districts, sometimes referred to as circuits, have widely varying populations; for example, the Ninth Circuit; which includes California has 20% of the nation’s population.

I suggest:

The thirteen judicial districts shall be reconfigured to more accurately represent the population of the nation, and, expand the Supreme Court from the current nine to thirteen members, each new justice selected from among sitting judges in the circuit, each future vacancy shall be filled in that manner.

President Biden would upon passage of the legislation appoint four new Supreme Court justices.

The Federalist Society, a right wing think tank, supported by wealthy elites,

… the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a right-wing trust, gave over $3 million to the FederalistSociety. Koch Industries, several other Koch-network foundations and trusts, and nearly a dozen wholly anonymous donors have given over $100,000 each to the Federalist Society

and fast tracks “issue cases” through the courts.

Issue cases might be challenging gun control (Second Amendment) legislation, using the First Amendment to allow unlimited, unregulated anonymous contributions to political campaigns, recently ruling that all union actions are “free speech” therefore any employees can continue to receive all union negotiated benefits and opt out of “fair share” payments to support union functions. A number of anti-abortion cases are moving towards the Supreme Court. None of these issues would be supported by the Congress.

A Biden victory and control of both houses of the Congress will reverse the current assault on our democracy.

What do Trump rallies remind you of ….?

Teachers are Cautious, Fearful and Anxious to Teach in a Safe Environment: Will NYC Schools Open on September 21st?

You toss and turn, can’t fall asleep, why is the clock moving so slowly, tomorrow is the first day of school.

No matter whether you’re a first year, a fifth year, tenth year or a seasoned veteran that first day brings apprehension.

You go over classroom procedures, be welcoming, get those routines in place, make lists, say something nice to the principal, and on and on.

This year is one like no other.  In a flash you moved from an ordinary day to remote instruction. From checking Facebook every few days, to texting friends to mastering Google Classroom and Zoom, from preparing for the State Standardized Tests to figuring out how the engage kids from afar, how to make sure they log on each and every day, online grade meetings; Town Halls with parents, and worrying, really worrying about yourself and your family.

Members of your church have lost parents and friends, you see too many people without masks, you miss the kids, and you worry about returning to school.

Will my school be “safe?”   Will my kids come to school “healthy?” Can I catch COVID from my kids? from other adults in the school? Do I qualify for a medical accommodation? 

I love my kids; I watched them fall further and further behind as the year progressed. Four siblings sharing a Chrome Book, families without WiFi, the inability to connect with families, one day the kids is online, the next not online.

Teachers feel guilty and fearful.

You stand online and take your COVID test, and wait, and wait for the results.  You have fashionable face masks; whoever would have thought that as you decide what to wear to school you have to decide which face mask to wear?

As the opening day came closer the union and the mayor clashed, and, finally, an agreement was reached; however, the city appeared to be struggling to comply with their own procedures.

Would kids actually start schools on September 21st?

UFT President Mulgrew said   if the DOE can’t enact a safer protocol in time, he would not support reopening schools on September 21st.

We had dozens of confirmed cases in March where the city would not confirm them because of their bureaucratic process,” he said. “And if the city is going to follow that, we’re gonna probably not open our schools on the 21st.”

Frustrated and fed up, in a message to members, the president of the United Federation of Teachers blasted the city left and right.

“We’re angry, we’re frustrated, we have anxiety,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

He says the organization is upset that the COVID test results of many teachers haven’t come back in the 24-48 hours promised.

“We’re doing our jobs, you do yours,” Mulgrew said.

While the Department of Education is struggling to implement the regulation they agreed to, the COVID positive testing rates across the state and the city remain below 1% for the 35th consecutive day.

COVID rates across the nation remain high with “hotspots” popping up especially in the Deep South, Southwest and other large urban centers.

The agreement between the union and the city is specific: Read the agreement here.

The issue is the ability of the Department of Education to carry out the specifics of the agreement in the 1800 schools scattered across the city.

The hybrid instructional models will result in class sizes of 10-12 in elementary schools, maybe even less; a rare opportunity to teach children in a low class size settings.  How do the in-person and remote teachers collaborate? How do schools comply with the mandates of children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), i. e., Students with Disabilities? How do in-person and remote teachers of children who are in English as a New Language (ENL) classes collaborate?  Secondary schools have more complex issues, if a Chemistry teacher has a medical accommodation and is teaching remotely and you have no other Chemistry teacher what are the options?  and on and on.

The union is addressing the staffing issues,

While moving from instructional models to actual instruction is complicated, really, really complicated and safety issues, as they should, dominate the discussions.

Schools are faced with decisions – assuring the safety of staff and students and minimizing the learning loss that accompanies remote instruction.

“The risk of coronavirus outbreaks has been the primary concern. But shutting school and going remote will also inflict a serious cost, borne by students: a loss of learning and social-emotional development.” 

The New York Times reports,

   ,“Once schools shuttered in the early days of the pandemic, educators quickly discovered the possibilities and limits of distance-learning technologies,” notes Justin Reich, director of the M.I.T. Teaching Systems Lab and author of the book “Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education,” which will be published this month. “Months later, it is obvious that the bright points of learning tech are substantially offset by the loss of schools as places for camaraderie, shelter, nutrition, social services, teaching and learning. Many things that happen in schools simply cannot happen at a distance.” 

The most vulnerable children are faced with learning losses,

 “Two-thirds to three-quarters of teachers said their students were less engaged during remote instruction than before the pandemic, and that engagement declined even further over the course of the semester,” Matt Barnum and Claire Bryan wrote for the education reporting site Chalkbeat in June. “Teachers of low-income students and students of color were much more likely to report that their students were not regularly engaged in remote learning.”

This week teachers and school leaders will work on their instructional models, will communicate with parents and students, will set up the routines, and, maybe, begin the hybrid school year on September 21st.

Hopefully the city and the department will comply with the safety agreements.

Some teachers and parents argue we should wait for a vaccine, the wait could be months; could be until the next school year? We don’t know anything about the efficacy of the yet to be determined vaccine.

Fewer than half of American received the annual flu vaccine last year, a vaccine that lasts about six months and must be reconfigured each year.

Will a COVID vaccine mirror the flu vaccine?   We don’t know.

How many of us will refuse the vaccine?

Can states mandate COVID vaccinations for students and school personnel? Maybe … Read here.

Teachers are fearful, cautious, they want to teach, and, they want to be safe.

UPDATE: The agreement that defines the role of in-person, remote and hybrid teachers, Read here

Will Teachers Determine the Next President?

Ballots for the November 3rd presidential election are in the mail in North Carolina, we are in the countdown phase heading towards selecting a president.

Teachers live and work in every hamlet, town and city, in every one of the over 13,000 school districts. 

There are 3.2 million public school teachers in the nation, if you add in guidance counselors, school nurses, teacher aides, and paraprofessionals etc, over four million educators in public schools; about 70% of whom belong to one of the two teachers unions. (See all the data here).

A majority of students are non-white.

Here’s a racial breakdown of the student population in American public schools, as of 2017:

  • White students: 47.6%
  • Hispanic students: 26.7%
  • Black students: 15.2%
  • Asian students: 5.2%
  • Two or more race students: 3.9%
  • American Indian/Alaska Native students: 1.0%
  • Pacific Islander students: 0.4%

When it comes to race, America’s teachers look very different from its student population.

  • 79.3% White
  • 9.3% Hispanic
  • 6.7% Black
  • 2.1% Asian
  • 1.8% Two or more races
  • 0.5% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 0.2% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander

No one goes into teaching to become rich, unless you intend to start a virtual charter school. In spite of the dedication of teachers electeds and policy sages denigrate the profession; so-called reforms diminish the worth of the folks toiling in classrooms. It should not be surprising that teacher anger bubbled over into the “Red for Ed” movement that resulted in statewide teacher strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere.

You don’t think of teachers as active trade unions; however, teachers are dedicated union members.

As of June 2019, the National Education Association has about 2.29 million full-time-equivalent members who are active educators or retirees.

As of June 2019, the American Federation of Teachers has almost 1.7 million members.

The NEA has a new elected leader, Becky Pringle, who is ready to “…turn up the heat,”

 In an interview the National Education Association’s incoming president said that means supporting local strikes or protests over teacher safety in the era of the coronavirus, filing lawsuits to block reopening plans that teachers see as unsafe, and other efforts to put teachers at the center of the national conversation.

The AFT is led by Randi Weingarten, who encouraged members o support any Democratic candidate, set up town halls for all the candidates and hosted a candidate “discussion” centering on education issues. In 2016 an early endorsement of Clinton probably resulted in some Bernie supporters staying on the sidelines; this time round the AFT was in the forefront of teacher involvement in all the campaigns. The AFT is actively involved on social media.

Teachers are volunteering in droves across the nation, and very well could determine the outcome

Teacher Militancy: The disrespect shown to teachers turned teachers to active political militancy.

Common Enemy: De Vos, the US Secretary of Education sees her role as destroying public education, destroying what she calls “government schools,” what we call public education,

 In one interview, recently highlighted by Diane Ravitch on her blog, DeVos spoke in favor of “charter schools, online schools, virtual schools, blended learning, any combination thereof—and, frankly, any combination, or any kind of choice that hasn’t yet been thought of.”

School Re-Openings and Trump:  Teachers and parents are fearful as schools begin to re-open; some fully in-person, some fully online and most in a combination of in-person and remote to reduce social interaction. We know that packing too many people in a ventilated indoor space is the prime reason for the spread of COVID, and, what are classrooms?

As the President threatens to deprive schools of funding if they fail to fully return to in-person instruction, regardless of the COVID risks, teachers and parents are further mobilized.

Teachers are volunteering to man phone banks, to host virtual meetings, reaching out to parents and community members, engaging themselves fully in the campaign.

We can impact the next generation of children by electing a president who puts public education first.

New York City and the Teacher Union (UFT) Agree to a Delayed Opening: Including Student Testing and Other School Safety Provisions

The second hardest action is getting members to go on strike, the hardest … getting them to end the strike.

As COVID began to ravage the city the teachers’ union demanded schools close,  the mayor refused, vacillated, hesitated, and finally agreed.

75 school-based Department of Education employees died from COVID. The Nation  is sharply critical of the Mayor’s delay in closing schools

… the possibility that the number of deaths could have been reduced by as much as 50 to 80 percent had governments instituted social distancing a week or two earlier, the question of how many school workers could have been saved has haunted New York City educators. For many, the high number of deaths has served as yet more evidence of the great cost educators have paid for what they consider the city’s drawn-out decision to close the public schools. 

As summer progressed the COVID positive rate continued to drop, it is now below 1%, dramatically less than other large cities. The New York State Department of Education released a 149-page School Re-Opening Plan   and the New York State Department of Health issued interim guidance. .

New York City submitted their 109-page re-opening plan .

The Mayor and the Chancellor made it clear; New York City was opening on September 10th in a hybrid model, a combination of in-person and remote instruction.

A bit of arrogance, de Blasio would be the only large city mayor who was not delaying an in-person opening.

The teacher union (UFT) and school leaders were less than enthusiastic; hundreds of school leaders signed letters asking for a delay in school re-opening.

As the days passed it was increasingly clear; the school system was not meeting their promises.

UFT President Mulgrew aggressively began to more than hint, teachers would not be reporting to school until the union was satisfied that schools were safe.

On Monday night (8/31) the Union Executive Board met and authorized the Union officers to take steps towards a strike vote.

The Union had scheduled a virtual Delegates Meeting for Tuesday (9/1).

At the meeting Mulgrew reported that at 8:30, as he was driving to his office, a settlement with the city was reached.

Chalkbeat describes the highlights of the agreement,

 All students will begin a “transition and orientation” period on Sept. 16. Regular coursework will not resume for students in-person or remotely until school buildings reopen on Sept. 21. Teachers … report to buildings on Sept. 8, as previously scheduled.

 The agreement … includes random, monthly testing of staff and students for COVID-19. Officials said 10 to 20% of a school’s population could be randomly tested based on its size. Sampling will happen “in or near” school and will be self-administered — not the more invasive swabs which reach far back into the nasal cavity Parents of students learning in-person will be asked for consent to random testing.

Still, the deal does not include mandatory testing of students and staff before school buildings reopen, something union officials had been demanding. Instead, the city is prioritizing students and teachers at 34 testing sites across the city with results in under 48 hours.

Once random testing begins on Oct. 1, any student who declines to be tested will be switched to fully-virtual instruction, union officials said, and staff members who refuse will be placed on unpaid leave.

The Union tweeted the highlights of the agreement,

We have reached an agreement with City Hall and the Department of Education that meets our demand that the safety of our school communities must come first. Our schools will now reopen in a much better place because of all our work together.

Schools will reopen for staff on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and for students on Monday, Sept. 21.

The decision on whether to reopen a school building to students will be based on the UFT’s 50-item safety plan, including the availability of masks and face shields, a room-by-room review of ventilation effectiveness, an isolation room and a COVID-19 building response team.

Union reps are visiting every school to check that they have these supplies and procedures in place. School buildings or rooms that do not meet safety standards will remain closed.

The city has also agreed to a robust program of repeated random sampling and COVID-19 testing of adults and students present in schools. This new testing program is one of the major pieces that medical experts told us we needed.

  You can listen to the Delegate Assembly here 

The speakers at the meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement,  and, 82% voted to approve the agreement.

Mulgrew:  if the city failed to live up to the agreement the Union would move directly to Court to force compliance.

Mulgrew and the union comes out as winners, the agreement protects, to the extent possible, school personnel and students, The delayed opening allows schools to figure how to blend the in-person and remote instruction, extremely complex and will vary from school to school.

While the agreement is a major step budget cuts at the state and city level are still hovering.

The insiders are hinting that the White House and the Senate will agree to an iteration of the HEROES bill as we move closer to November 3rd.  Who knows?

“This is Not the End of Cities,”  Cities are the Engines of Democracy, Innovation, and Growth and Schools Play a Major Role.

Former NYC mayor Giuliani at the Republican National Convention (RNC) railed against democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and painted a picture of a dystopian nation. In reality over the last thirty years “major crimes,” in New York City, the reminder of the nation and other parts of the world have dropped, dropped sharply.

Criminologists, sociologists and journalists are proffering reasons, many, many reasons, without any agreement.

In New York City the decline in the homicide rate has been incredible.

.Since 1990, major crimes [in New York City] have fallen 81.9% in a period that spanned the administrations of four mayors, both Republican and Democratic … Despite last year’s jump [2019], murders were still 85.9% below 1990 levels.

Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg pointed to “broken windows  policing” and “stop and frisk,” hundreds of thousands of men of color detained, searched and questioned by the police.

In August, 2013 Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin declared the practice of “Stop and Frisk” unconstitutional.

It is important to recognize the human toll of unconstitutional stops. While it is true that any one stop is a limited intrusion in duration and deprivation of liberty, each stop is also a demeaning and humiliating experience. No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life. Those who are routinely subjected to stops are overwhelmingly people of color, and they are justifiably troubled to be singled out when many of them have done nothing to attract the unwanted attention.

 Newly elected Mayor de Blasio ended the practice and outgoing police commissioner Kelly, conservatives, the NY Post, the Manhattan Institute all predicted an uptick in homicides, in reality, homicides continued to decline, and, at a more rapid rate.

As stops have receded, crime in New York City has dropped significantly, with 2018 seeing the lowest number of recorded homicides in nearly 70 years. New York’s experience proves, unequivocally, that police do not have to stop hundreds of thousands of innocent people to bring down crime.

Why have major crimes been declining for the last thirty years and why has New York City been leading the trend? Why has major crime continued at high rates in some cities? No cities in the entire New York-New England region and the western U.S. made the list. (Thirty cities with the highest murder rates here)

In 2015 the Brennan Center at the NYU School of Law published, “What Caused the Decline of Crime,” a deep dive into the data, and point to a number of policies that had a small impact, the one that does virtually no impact is mass incarceration, the US has more people incarcerated per capita than any other Western nation.

The NYU report argues that one of the effective police policies in reducing is Compstat,

One policing approach that helps police gather data used to identify crime patterns and target resources, a technique called CompStat, played a role in bringing down crime in cities: Based on an analysis of the 50 most populous cities, this report finds that CompStat-style programs were responsible for a 5 to 15 percent decrease in crime in those cities that introduced it.

Increased number of police officers had a small role in crime reduction.

Certain social, economic, and environmental factors also played a role in the crime drop: According to this report’s empirical analysis, the aging population, changes in income, and decreased alcohol consumption also affected crime. A review of past research indicates that consumer confidence and inflation also seem to have contributed to crime reduction.

Among the economic factors reducing crime are high employment, a thriving economy and neighborhood gentrification.

The report concludes that it can only attribute reasons for reducing crime to 1/3 of the policies discussed above.

A highly controversial paper argues, “unwanted children are at an elevated risk for less favorable life outcomes on multiple dimensions, including criminal involvement, and the legalization of abortion appears to have dramatically reduced the number of unwanted births.” (Donohue, John J.; Levitt, Steven D. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime over the Last Two Decades,” National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2019)

I have argued that the phasing out of large dysfunctional high schools, beginning in the early nineties and the creation of small, more personalized high schools may have played a role in reducing crime. (1990:126 high schools, 2020: 489 high schools, the same number of kids)

In December, 2017 a blogger  wrote,

I proffer that students in the New York City school system are less likely to be disconnected.

Students who struggle with academics, students from single parent or dysfunctional households, students living in gang-infested neighborhoods are “connected” with their school staffs.

The culture of these programs connects students to staffs, builds communities, acts as an alternative to the streets, and, in my opinion, plays a role in reducing homicide rates.

Smaller schools, smaller class size, schools with flexible programming, student advisory classes addressing social and emotional needs, students not left to be won over by the streets, meaning fewer disconnected youth, means fewer kids likely to be victims or perpetrators.

Smarter policing not harsher policing, more job opportunities, higher wages, all play roles;  the impact of schools have been ignored in parsing the reasons for declining homicide rates.

Perhaps COVID and the move to remote instruction disconnected kids from school and played a role in increasing serious criminality.

The increases in serious crime, homicides and gun-related crimes are disturbing; whether the increases are part of the Ferguson Effect is disputed, in fact , the entire concept of a Ferguson Effect is under serious scrutiny.

.Communities of color are debating the role of policing.

After Three Murders On One Street, Neighbors Disagree On Whether More Police Will Help During a recent five-day stretch, three people were fatally shot on Ocean Avenue. And while some locals are skeptical that cops and residents can build trust, others fear there’s been a policing slowdown. “These men that are going around killing people feel that they can walk freely with their gun,” said the mother of one victim. “I think they need to bring back that full funding of police officers, I really do.”

One of the most violent neighborhoods in the city, Brownsville, has been sharply critical of policing and an excellent article discusses the use of community residents to work with disaffected elements within the community, points to specific programs, urges the city to adequately fund the programs and change the role of the police (Read “What ‘Defund The Police’ Means In A New York Neighborhood With High Homicide Rates and a History of Struggling for Justice,” here)

Over the last thirty years New York City, for complex and disputed reasons, has reduced homicides and violent crime in general by enormous percentages; however, the city has a long way to go to keep the numbers moving downward.  In the most impacted communities the police have to learn to work with communities, not against communities.

If New York City keeps the COVID  numbers low and the city continues to edge towards normalcy, if the financial woes are resolved and a vaccine emerges I believe the vibrancy of the city will return even more invigorated.

Richard Florida, a sociologist who has written extensively about cities (“This is not the end of cities” 6/2020) tells us,

Not only are cities on the upswing, we are in the early stages of a new wave of urban policy innovation, which is occurring from the bottom up in cities, our true laboratories of democracy. Even before the current crises, cities were beginning to address the mounting challenges of racial and class division, inequality, police reform and worsening housing burdens. Coalitions and networks of mayors, urban leaders, neighborhood and civic groups, philanthropy, and public-private partnerships were already moving on all of these fronts to develop new and better strategies for inclusive urban development. The current crises have given these initiatives greater salience and urgency. And, the racial and economic diversity of cities and of today’s urban protest movement give them heightened political resonance.

We are seeing the coming together of a political force that can spark a new urban agenda and much more …. The growing ranks of unemployed and under-employed are demanding — and deserve — an expanded social safety net, universal health care coverage and better schools. Black Lives Matter is demanding — and requires — real police reform that redirects funding from policing per se to initiatives that reduce violence and promote social stability by strengthening the fabric of disadvantaged communities. That will also require much-needed investments that at long last address the root causes of concentrated poverty and of systemic racial and economic inequality. This coalescing movement represents a political force that is stronger and more potent than anything we have seen in decades.

It is no longer possible to ignore our cities, which remain our underlying engines of innovation, economic growth, and job creation, and the vanguards of a healthier, more sustainable and resilient future. Remaking and rebuilding urban America to be far more equitable, just and inclusive is the necessary first step in the long-overdue process of healing and recovery for our nation as a whole.

Does the Hybrid School Re-Opening Need a “Pre-Season”?

Mayor League baseball players gather a month before the first game for spring training, the NFL players have been practicing for a few weeks before the early September first game.

In spite of mounting pressure from the unions representing teachers, principals and other school workers the mayor and the school chancellor refuse to move to a phased, aka, delayed, school opening in order to assure safety protocols are in place.

Other large cities, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami and others are beginning with a fully remote opening.

In New York State the Big Five have delayed reopening; Yonkers will be fully remote until early October, Buffalo is battling with teachers over the re-opening plan, Rochester is beginning remote with a phased re-opening  and Syracuse will begin with a hybrid model for elementary/middle schools and fully remote for high schools.

The hundreds and hundreds of smaller districts have a vast array of models. Read the Westchester/Rockland plans here.

New York City is struggling to create blended aka hybrid models and have ignored the phased re-opening pathway: begin remote and move slowly, step by step to a hybrid model.  Schools were given a number of choices, alternate days (M-W-F in-person, T-Th remote, flipped the following week, or, M-Tu in-person, W-Th remote with F flipped. The models are both confusing to parents and makes arranging for childcare difficult. Teachers don’t know what class(es) they will be teaching.

The major issue is safety, for children, for staffs, for parents and for others living with children and staff.

The COVID rates by neighborhood vary widely are New Yorkers from the highest COVID zip codes choosing to be tested? The unknowns outweigh the knowns. The city has an agenda: open the schools so that parents can go back to work and recharge the economy, school personnel feel they are being needlessly sacrificed, being unnecessarily put at risk.

Is the motivating factor for the mayor “the good of the students” who need full time teachers? Or, recharging the economy? Or, the reputation and legacy of a mayor who has watched his star dim.

In spite of frequent testing baseball has had a positive COVID test almost every week and professional sports are playing to empty stadiums.

The mayor, boasting about extremely low COVID testing has been threatening, principals and teachers are fearful and worried that schools won’t be ready and the promised protocols will not be in place. The teacher union (UFT) has been preparing members for a possible strike.

A phased re-opening would appear to make sense, in-school training days for teachers, begin the year remote, slowly phase in hybrid in-school/remote instruction, with variability in high schools depending on the size of the school. Allow the data drive the school re-opening calendar.

Why are the mayor and the chancellor adamant about beginning the hybrid model on September 10th?

Mayor de Blasio is term-limited, the June, 2021 primary will select the democratic candidate, and, unless a republican with deep, very deep pockets emerges, the winner of the primary will become the next mayor. Scott Stringer, the current Comptroller, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Boro President, Cory Johnson, the current leader of the City Council are already running and we can expect three, four, five other candidates. The election will be the first time Rank Choice Voting will be the method of choosing the winner.  Potential candidates are criticizing the performance of de Blasio,

The enmity between de Blasio and Cuomo is unrelenting, and, one-sided; the governor has defanged de Blasio, a permanent detumescence.

Does de Blasio perceive re-opening schools as some sort of a victory?  Fighting for families and children? Preparing for his post-mayor role?  A “hero” who opened schools in spite of the opposition of supervisors and teachers?

Supervisors report to work in a week, (August 31st) and teachers are due the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 8th.

Possible scenarios:

Supervisors and teachers announce a “safety strike,” and offer to continue to work remotely.  The mayor could invoke the Taylor Law, public employee strikes are illegal and the Public Employee Relation Board (PERB)/court-imposed penalties are steep, loss of a day’s pay for each day on strike, fines for the union and the loss of dues check off for a period determined by the courts. On the other hand the courts could sustain the union claim that the schools are unsafe.

Under the Taylor Law any “concerted action” (sick-outs) is considered a strike with Taylor Law penalties accruing.

The governor could intervene.

Current legislation empowers the governor to “temporarily suspend” any statute, local law or rule “if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster” upon declaring an emergency order.

Can the governor temporarily suspend mayoral control law and appoint an acting chancellor to run the school system?

Under his emergency powers can the governor order the city to move to a phased re-opening?

In 1975 the city, without warning and in the midst of contract negotiations laid off 15,000 teachers, the union immediately went out on strike, and, rapidly realized that the strike was funding the city deficit. After five days on strike the union worked out a complex settlement, delaying raises and loaning the city pension fund dollars preventing the city from defaulting.

Layoffs are looming, the state and the city financial situations are dire, teachers and supervisors are frightened.

A vaccine, at best, is a year away,

Most people in the US should be able to get vaccinated by the second half of 2021 according to the US’s top health officialDr. Anthony Fauci.; other researchers have doubts that the vaccine will protect us over time

With each day the city moves closer to a supervisor/teacher strike, with each day the city moves closer to layoffs, the mayor seems unwilling, or unable, to negotiate a settlement acceptable to supervisors, teachers and parents.

In 1975 a behind-the-scenes power broker, Jack Bigel and Al Shanker crafted a settlement (Read the absolutely fascinating account here) that averted an immanent city bankruptcy.

Is there a “hero” out there to put the pieces of the zig-saw puzzle together?

A “safe” process leading the way to school re-opening and averting layoffs and devastating reductions in city services.

This week is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “Don’t Call Me Names”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H_oHAqTbbs

Ugh!! It’s All [expletive deleted] Politics!!  Why Does Politics Have Such a Negative Reputation?

We live in an era in which news, pseudo-news, fake news, opinion are intertwined; Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and websites: who can we believe?  The news cycle never ends, and, we’re never sure what is “news” and what’s campaign rhetoric. We do know that “sex, scandal and violence” garner the most “hits;” sadly, we seem to get the “news” we want!

A president can tweet, dissemble, insult, in past it was the supporters of the president. now, it s everyone.

Politics has always been a rough and tumble “sport.”

The concept of politics has its origins in Athens.  Aristotle, in “Politics,”

 … calls a city (polis), or as he likes to call it, a “political association;” cities are designed and created with the purpose of achieving happiness  …  all human actions have a positive intention. The highest form of community is the polis, standing ahead of other political associations such as the household and village. Aristotle … believes the public life is far more virtuous than the private and because people by nature are “political animals” and goes on to further say that people by nature are worse and more savage than animals.

 Our founding fathers, the elites of our nation, were well-read, from the Greeks to the bible, to Hobbes and Locke; a compendium of scholarly works.

One of the prime purposes of “politics,” the polis, was to restrain the savage side of mankind so that the people could achieve “happiness.”

Our founding fathers, Madison and Hamilton, were well aware of the nature of man.

From April till September of 1787 the fifty-four members of the Constitutional Convention, by the way, a secret meeting, no press, no scrutiny, no minutes, slowly, crafted our founding document, our Constitution.

Prior to the Constitution the thirteen states functioned more like thirteen nations, their own militias, their own tariff barriers under the dysfunctional Articles of Confederation the existing government had no power to tax, states could ignore laws and the consent of all thirteen states was necessary to amend the Articles.

The successor document, the Constitution, required ratification by nine states and its ratification was uncertain.

Madison and Hamilton wrote eighty-five essays called the Federalist Papers, today we’d call them op eds, published in newspapers across the nation urging voters to ratify the Constitution.

 Federalist # 10 addresses the question of factions.

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.

 Madison saw faction as a “mortal disease,”

The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished

 Madison defined faction,

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

 Madison had undoubtedly read Aristotle,

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.

 Madison was well aware of the duality,

  If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Factions are commonplace throughout our history.

Joanne Freeman, a history professor at Yale, in her recent “Fields of Blood,” describes Congress (1830-60) in which fights on the floor of Congress were common occurrence.

Representatives and Senators were frequently armed on the floor of Congress.

So, you think Congress is dysfunctional?

There was a time when it ran with blood — a time so polarized that politics generated a cycle of violence, in Congress and out of it, that led to the deadliest war in the nation’s history.

Jefferson and Hamilton were bitter enemies, Andrew Jackson was despised, the Civil War rent our nation and ended the stain of slavery, created the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, the imposition of Jim Crow reintroduced slavery by another name, the Great Depression, the Ku Klux Klan, the rise of the American Nazi Party, the McCarthy era: the list of factions is long, yet, in each case the nation survived, albeit at a cost.

Winston Churchill’s quip on democracy is widely quoted,

‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

A few years after the ratification of the Constitution Benjamin Franklin warned future generations,

Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

Politics can be messy, frustrating and, at times, we fear that factions will rip the country apart or one faction will move us from democracy to autocracy.

Too many of us throw our hands in the air and withdraw, we may display our anger for all to see on Facebook; we also fail to vote, we just complain.

Politics in our nation, from its very origins until today, yes,  is messy, and the messiness is one of our strengths, our rights of freedom of speech, of the press, freedom of assembly, allows us to involve ourselves and exercise our rights. Our greatest weakness is our apathy.

Don’t revile politics, involve yourself in the process and make the process better.

We’re celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment,

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

From the Seneca Falls Convention (1848) until 1919 women, Black and white, fought for the right to vote, they were a faction, ignored for decades, a thorn in the side of the white, male establishment, until Congress, by narrow votes passed the Constitutional Amendment and the states, one by one ratified.

Those annoying factions have moved out nation, from women’s right to vote, to the civil rights legislation of the sixties to the right to marry whomever you please. (same-sex marriage and interracial marriage)

Vote, advocate, and get involved, apathy is democracy’s greatest enemy.

NYC voters can apply for an absentee ballot here nycabsentee.com

Are We Staring at Teacher Layoffs? Or, Worse?

Is “Black Tuesday” (Tuesday, October 29, 1929) hovering? Are we a few weeks or months away from the economic cliff?

The “roaring twenties,” seemingly endless increases in stock prices, three consecutive Republican presidents (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover), the flu pandemic was gone, a farm depression was concerning; however, the nation appeared to be booming.

On March 4, 1929, at his presidential inauguration, Herbert Hoover stated, “I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.” Most Americans shared his optimism. They believed that the prosperity of the 1920s would continue, and that the country was moving closer to a land of abundance for all. Little could Hoover imagine that barely a year into his presidency, shantytowns known as “Homerville’s” would emerge on the fringes of most major cities, newspapers covering the homeless would be called “Hoover blankets,” and pants pockets, turned inside-out to show their emptiness, would become “Hoover flags.”

The stock market allowed anyone to buy stocks “on margin,” borrowing 90% of the cost of the stock from the broker, if the stock lost 10% of its value, the broker could sell the stock, the investor losing everything, for investors, seemed unlikely, the market only moved in one direction, up!

On Thursday, October 24th the market stumbled, Hoover delivered a radio address on Friday in which he assured the American people, “The fundamental business of the country . . . is on a sound and prosperous basis.” On Tuesday the market crashed, by December the market had lost 50% of its value. President Hoover had only been in office for eight months and his response was far from adequate,

President Hoover was unprepared for the scope of the depression crisis, and his limited response did not begin to help the millions of Americans in need. The steps he took were very much in keeping with his philosophy of limited government; a philosophy that many had shared with him …   Hoover was stubborn in his refusal to give “handouts,” as he saw direct government aid. He called for a spirit of volunteerism among America’s businesses, asking them to keep workers employed, and he exhorted the American people to tighten their belts and make do in the spirit of “rugged individualism.”

 Read an excellent analysis of the origins Great Depression here.

Does it seem a little familiar?

In the last hundred days the stock market has increased more than in any other hundred days since 1933. The market has reached unheard of levels. While the market pushes higher and higher the pandemic has shattered the economy with unemployment levels approaching Great Depression levels.

The Congress and the President immediately responded with the infusion of dollars, the CARES Act:  $600 week unemployment, $1200 payments to all Americans earning under $75,000, loans used to retain workers that can be forgiven to virtually any business.

In May the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion infusion, dollars for schools, for cities and states, continuing unemployment insurance (the CARES Act expired at the end of July), See details of HEROES bill here.

The Senate refused to negotiate with the House, eventually Mark Meadows, the President’s chief of staff and a former House member led the negotiations on the Republican side. At least 20 Republican Senators are opposed to any additional aid.

The negotiations are stalled, the President issued “questionable” (are they constitutional?) executive orders, one of which suspending payroll taxes, the funds used to fund Social Security and Medicare.

The response to the pandemic: quarantine, social distancing, wearing masks, contact tracing shut down local economies and is resisted in some states.

Without the HEROES bill state and local governments, schools as well as tens of millions of unemployed Americans are desperate.

The politics of the November 3rd election determine every decision: regardless of the consequences.

Are we seeing the repeat of the Hoover approach to the stock market crash?

Federal law prohibits states from declaring bankruptcy. State and local governments, without federal dollars will have to raise taxes and/or cut services, aka, laying off state and local workers.

The New York State budget passed on April 1st, with a caveat, if revenues lagged the state could cut the budget midyear, and, the governor has mentioned a potential 20% cut in the budget.

The New York City budget passed in the waning days of June, was “funded” by borrowing from itself, using dollars in the “rainy day” funds  including $1B in unspecified savings from labor agreements.  Mayor de Blasio threatened 22,000 layoffs unless the unions agreed to 1B in labor savings, and, without the “rainy day” funds next year’s budget will be far worse.

Progressives, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party have all called for “taxing the billionaires,” the cries are popular. The bills introduced into the legislatures would tax unrealized profits from investments, called ad valorem taxes, taxes specifically prohibited by the NYS Constitution.

Intangible personal property shall not be taxed ad valorem nor shall any excise tax be levied solely because of the ownership or possession thereof, except that the income therefrom may be taken into consideration in computing any excise tax measured by income generally. Undistributed profits shall not be taxed. (NYS Constitution, Article XVI (3))

Mayor de Blasio is moving forward on his threat to layoff 22,000 city employees by October. He has asked every city department  to identify specific job titles and prepare layoff lists.

The New York State Comptroller released a report that paints a bleak picture of city and state finances.

Here are some of the highlights, or really lowlights, of what the crisis has done to the state’s economic engine:

  • More than 944,000 jobs were lost in March and April. That’s the largest job loss since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Unemployment has spiked from 3.4 percent in February to 20.4 percent in June. It has never been higher in 44 years.
  • New York City has projected a revenue loss of $9.6 billion from the pandemic. It has taken $11.4 billion from different resources, including $4.1 billion from reserves and $2.6 billion from the Retireee Health Benefits Trust.
  • The proposed budget is resting heavily on non-recurring actions to balance its spending and close a gap of $4.2 billion.

“The social, economic and budgetary impacts of the pandemic have been unprecedented on New York City, the state and the nation,” the Comptroller said. “Without additional federal budget relief, the city will need to make hard choices to ensure budget balance in the current fiscal year and to close next year’s budget gap.”

The unions are reacting cautiously, supporting asking the legislature to allow the city to borrow, frowned upon by governor, and the unions continue to “discuss” savings with the city.

The economy is precarious.

Investors could seek other havens for their dollars and flee the market sending prices into a downward spiral; the continuing spread of COVID, a delayed vaccine, an international “incident,” could push world economies into an abyss.

Sense could prevail and the White House could agree to an iteration of the HEROES bill, or not.

As the days tick by, closer and closer to the September 10th school opening New York continues to bleed dollars fighting the pandemic the specter of public employee layoffs looms.

How can schools re-open in a highly controversial hybrid model and, at the same time,  the city plan for layoffs?

Not uplifting, perhaps fitting, Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker,”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0nmHymgM7Y

Principals and Teachers Demand a Delayed Reopening, a Phasing in of the Hybrid Model: Are We Heading Towards a Confrontation? Principals/Teachers versus the Mayor/Chancellor?

“In order for schools to reopen and stay open, the percentage of positive tests in New York City must be less than 3% using a 7-day rolling average. Schools will need to close if the percentage of positive tests in New York City are equal to or more than 3% using a 7-day rolling average. It is important to note that the above threshold is just one trigger for closing schools, but may not be the only trigger. For example, a decision to close schools would be made where there were recurrent, uncontrolled outbreaks of COVI D-19 in schools, even if the overall case rates across New York City were to remain low.”

 (From the New York City Department of Education’s School Reopening Plan Submission to the New York State Department of Education (Read entire plan here)

What does “recurrent, uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools” mean? How many “outbreaks” in a single school? One? Two?  In how many schools?

A scenario:

A few days after school opens a student tells a teacher that an uncle who lives with her family is sick, the teacher tells her principal, who reports to the superintendent, who reports to the executive superintendent who reports to the bureaucracy. A few days latter the student appears “symptomatic,” and stops coming to school.

The principal insists on testing the student, it takes a few days to get parental consent, awaiting testing results the department takes no action, no one has yet tested positive. The test comes back positive, according to the protocol only the class of the student is moved to remote learning.

Contact-tracers are shunned, in the undocumented community no one is willing to talk with government agents.

Other students appear symptomatic.

The superintendent says only the class of the student can go fully remote.

The principal, without approval from the superintendent, places the entire school on remote learning.

The department removes the principal.

The supervisor (CSA) and the teacher (UFT) unions call emergency remote citywide meetings and vote to go fully remote, without the approval of the chancellor.

Is this scenario unrealistic?

In de Blasio’s home district fifteen principals sent a letter to the chancellor, with specific reasons why the current blended model is dangerous and urged a full remote opening,

The NYC Reopening plan, referenced above, is complex, with many, many moving parts.

The supervisor (CSA) and teacher union (UFT) have called for a delayed opening, beginning all remote and phasing in a hybrid model. (Read UFT position here ).

Unfortunately the best laid plans stumble, and stumbles will result in the spread of COVID to students, parents, families and staff with dire consequences.

Israel apparently controlled the spread of COVID, opened schools and COVID exploded across the nation.

Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May.

Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world.

The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.

 Parents and staffs are concerned: is the promised process of rapid testing, essential for the system to work, in place?

City public health officials said they were growing increasingly alarmed by the delays, pointing out that widespread testing and quick turnaround times were needed to reduce transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients, who are believed to play a major part in the virus’s spread.

Leonie Haimson, a frequent commenter on schools weighs the risks and benefits of a school reopening. Read here.

The Urban Assembly Maker Academy released an alternate phased reopening plan Read here

The New York City Reopening Plan has to be approved by the State Department of Education, and the Board of Regents just selected a member of the Board, Betty Rosa, who was serving as chancellor, as interim commissioner. The new interim commissioner will have to decide whether to accept the NYC plan: quite a first decision!

The one topic that sadly has fallen by the wayside is what happens when the kids get back to school.

School leaders are struggling to create a hybrid model: dividing classes into two or three cohorts also involves the many, many nuances.  Siblings have to be in the same cohorts, special education students group in cohorts in integrated models, the in-person and the remote teacher collaboration, and on and on.  In a letter to the chancellor the president of the supervisor’s union provided a long, long list of unanswered questions.

While safety dominates the discussion there no past practices to use as a guide, the reopening of schools is learning to swim by being pushed off the end of the diving board. Swimming lessons on land do not guarantee that anyone has learned how to swim.

The least discussed area is the question of instruction.

Teachers will have a rare opportunity: teaching half a class – perhaps ten or twelve students on either successive days or alternate days and the other days remotely. How do you integrate in-person and remote learning? Perhaps with two teachers: the in-person and the remote teacher?

After three months of remote instruction (April – June) has there been a “learning loss?”

The question of learning loss is controversial, Paul T. von Hippel took a deep dive into the research on summer learning loss and decided the research did not hold up to scrutiny.

 Early-childhood scholars believe that nearly all of the gaps between children’s skills form before the age of five, or even before the age of three. According to their research, the gaps that we observe in ninth grade were already present, and almost the same size, as they were when those children started kindergarten. Where does summer learning loss fit into that picture?

The Harvard School of Education explored options,

School districts should explore common online lessons for students as opposed to teachers creating their own assignments. One way to ease the transition … is for districts to create “standardized modules” that all teachers can use and administer to their students.

Scott Marion, Center for Assessment, warns,

 “Do not give a general assessment of the prior year content, or earlier content, that isn’t tied to your curriculum as closely as possible. And if you do, don’t make deterministic decisions about them,” said Marion, noting that the results will be tenuous at best. For example, some students who look like they’re behind might bounce back in two weeks and should not be automatically put in a remedial track.

 “I don’t think I can give you a large-scale assessment that can tell you what aspects of fractions you know and don’t know,” Marion explains. “We need things that are much more in teachers’ hands for the instructional piece.”

Think of a balance scale, on one side school re-opening: NYC the only large city not to go all remote, hybrid maybe more effective instruction than fully remote, a hybrid model will enable more parents to go back to work, if there are jobs to go back too, on the other side of the balance the dangers, spreading COVID from children to adults in schools and at home and from parents and relatives to students.

Which side of the balance are you on?

Listen to “The Sounds of Silence,” Simon & Garfunkel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9z87viDmOo