Low-income, Black and Latinx parents are saying what they want, but their voices are missing from the discussion

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Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

To listen to media, politicians, and experts, you would think the decision to open schools is driven by concern for the families most affected by educational inequalities and the economic fallout of closures. Polls showing that large numbers of parents don’t believe it is safe to reopen are dismissed as the opinions of privileged parents who have the luxury of opting out.

It’s a convenient narrative. It imbues those arguing to open schools with moral authority. …


We need to fight for a just pandemic response

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Photo by LaTerrian McIntosh on Unsplash

The debate over whether to reopen schools this fall is a turning point because it is about so much more than just opening schools. At its heart, it is about whether “we have to learn to live side by side with the virus” — and endure the mass deaths that will result — or whether we will marshall the necessary resources to suppress the virus and save lives. It is the bright red, blood-stained thread that has run through every question since the beginning of this pandemic: their profits or our lives.

If there is anything that Trump’s campaign to fully reopen schools — everywhere, at whatever cost — should prove, it’s that it’s not about the kids. Coming from a man who has separated immigrant kids from their parents and put them into concentration camps on the border, the hypocrisy is obvious. …


We have been presented with unacceptable choices by a society that doesn’t value children or working families

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Plans for “reopening the economy” are plowing ahead even as new cases of the coronavirus — and our national death toll — continue their steady climb upwards. More bars, restaurants, bookstores, hair salons and all kinds of undeniably non-essential businesses are opening each day. But the discussion of if and how to open in-person schools this fall remains one of the most fraught.

Working — and non-working — parents who have been home alone with their children for months, or struggled to patch together informal childcare arrangements, are becoming increasingly desperate. As the food writer Deb Perelman pointed out in a NY Times piece, this isn’t just about the emotional challenges of being home with the kids — real though those are. Instead, as she notes: “We are not burned out because life is hard this year. …


They are being used as a blank check for reopening when they should be seen as a call to fundamentally alter our priorities

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Like so many parents, I have become increasingly anxious about the impact of extended time away from school on my child’s development. I have felt frustrated, even desperate, that my own life is on hold as I now have to fill all the roles that used to be played by teachers, friends, and school-based activities.

So I understand the collective sigh of relief that has greeted the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) guidelines calling for a return to in-person schooling. The main takeaways of the AAP report being promoted are that the health needs of kids outweigh the risks of the coronavirus, that the risks have been overstated, that many of the guidelines for reopening are overly cautious, and that returning kids to school must be the top priority. …


What we can learn from the inequalities exposed by remote learning

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Photo by Santi Vedrí on Unsplash

Remote learning has brought welcome attention to the massive disparities in students’ abilities to engage in school from home. Schools have been forced to grapple with students’ lack of access to internet and digital devices, home situations involving high levels of responsibility and crowded conditions and the unmet needs of students with disabilities. This is unfolding in the context of unprecedented levels of generalized anxiety, trauma and economic precarity.

The pressure, not only on students but also on their families, is immense. Parents struggling with job loss, a sudden shift to working from home or working essential jobs involving heightened risk are now also asked to be responsible for remote learning for their children. …


Killed by prison guards in 1970, he understood that even the simplest demands have always been met with state violence

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George Jackson, San Quentin Prison photo by Ruth-Marion Baruch available at UC Santa Cruz Archives

As I’ve watched our cities explode in protest and rebellion these last weeks, I’ve thought a lot about these words by the Black Panther and political prisoner George Jackson.

“Freedom means warmth and protection against harsh exposure to the elements. It means food, not garbage. It means truth, harmony, and the social relations that spring from these. It means the best medical attention whenever it is needed. It means employment that is reasonable, that coincides with the individual necessities and feelings. We will have this freedom even at the cost of total war.” — George Jackson

I’ve always loved this quote because it speaks to the elemental nature of the demands that have animated every major social struggle in our history. The struggle that has been touched off in the last three weeks is demanding something as fundamental as the right to exist freely — without having to fear for one’s life at the hands of racists. …


We should be focused on our kids’ social and emotional needs, not academic expectations

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Photo by Rubén Rodriguez on Unsplash

As school districts begin planning to re-open this fall, a panic about lost learning time is dominating the discussion. This focus directly pits measures to close the achievement gap against the health, safety, and emotional well-being of students, teachers, and families.

New research — widely circulated in the media — asserts that students have fallen months behind during the coronavirus. This makes intuitive sense to parents and teachers who have watched their children and students struggle with remote learning. And polling shows that a majority of parents are worried that their children are falling behind.

It would be strange if closing schools for more than two months in the midst of a national crisis and widespread trauma didn’t impact academic gains. But there are also important reasons to challenge this focus and its underlying premises. …


The struggle against racism has always held the hope for a better world

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Video by Stephen Jackson Sr at _Stak5_

This piece is not about the debt owed for the stolen labor that built the richest country on earth. This debt amounts to trillions of dollars and reparations are long overdue.

Nor am I talking about what is owed for the lives that have been stolen. To the families of victims of police brutality. To the millions who’ve been harmed by mass incarceration. Or to the communities destroyed by redlining, predatory lending and gentrification.

All of these — and more — represent a bill that has long come due and payment is being demanded in the form of a mass rebellion in the streets. …


And they put essential night workers at further risk and harm struggling cities

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Image by Milan Pinder from Pixabay

Half an hour ago, I learned that Governor Cuomo had ordered a curfew for New York City. This will do little to stem the tide of protest and rage. In fact, it is quite possible that this decision will tip our city from rowdy, but mostly peaceful protests into full-scale rebellion. If it does, the responsibility should be laid directly at the feet of the Governor, Mayor and NYPD.

What is clear is that the curfew will put even larger numbers of people at risk. And the toll will fall most heavily on those who have already suffered the most from the triple horrors of police abuse, economic devastation and the pandemic. …


NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s defense of police who drove into a crowd of protestors is an insult to New Yorkers fighting for justice

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Photo by All-Nite Images, Protest for Eric Garner, NYC, 2014

On Saturday, May 30th, video footage captured NYPD cruisers driving head-on into a crowd in Brooklyn that was protesting the murder of George Floyd. It was a scene eerily reminiscent of the day a white supremacist drove head on into a crowd of protestors in Charlottesville just three summers ago. In a strange twist, last week would have been Heather Heyer’s 35th birthday — if she had not been killed that day for standing up to racism.

Luckily none of those standing up to racism in Brooklyn this weekend were killed by a similarly weaponized vehicle. However, our Mayor’s unequivocal defense of the police and demonization of the protestors will only embolden the police to engage in further violence. …

About

Jen Roesch

Socialist, Writer, Mother, Teacher — Fighting for a World Worth Living In. I run a newsletter about schools in the time of COVID at JusticeLens.substack.com.

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