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Biden should end ‘national emergency’ and open up schools now

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Biden should end 'national emergency' and open up schools now

Six months ago, when President Joe Biden was candidate Joe Biden, he spoke of “a crisis being felt all across the United States of America.” The crisis was school closures. Millions of children were staring at laptops rather than learning in a classroom. Biden said: “This is a national emergency. President Trump doesn’t have a real plan for opening schools safely. He’s offering nothing but failures and ­delusions.” 

Six months later, the education crisis abounds, and now-President Biden is so far just making it worse. 

At Tuesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the new White House goal was “to have the majority of schools, so more than 50 percent, open by Day 100 of his presidency.” She defined that as “some teaching in classrooms, so at least one day a week, hopefully it’s more.” 

This isn’t just walking back a promise; it’s completely erasing one. 

According to school-data aggregator Burbio, we are already well past Psaki’s spring milestone today, and we were before Biden took office. Over 60 percent of school districts are already open with at least a “hybrid” model. “Hybrid” colloquially means two to three days a week of in-person learning. One day a week was not originally part of this debate. It’s a new and lower standard — one Team Biden has introduced. 

At first, I thought the transgression was simply they had put the issue on the back burner and were not paying attention to it, given the strange one-day-a-week utterance. But after 24 hours of blowback, Psaki was asked to clarify these remarks and she doubled down, calling the plan “bold and ambitious.” And sticking to the one-day standard, she said they hoped to exceed it. 

Again, this supposed “bold and ambitious” plan was exceeded before the inauguration. Politico Playbook said: “It is a goal so modest and lacking in ambition as to be almost meaningless.” 

President Biden’s ambitious rhetoric around schools was always going to have a collision course with his teachers-union benefactors, who simply do not want schools to fully reopen anytime soon. Not even after teachers got priority in vaccinations, and K–12 schools received over $68 billion in 2020 to mitigate COVID issues. I just didn’t expect that he would be breaking a core campaign promise so early in his ­presidency. 

So what’s holding Biden back from keeping his word? The White House would argue it’s funding, ventilation and class sizes. Let’s look at each in turn. 

As mentioned, Congress allocated over $68 billion in 2020 for COVID mitigation in K–12 schools. So far, most of this money has not been spent. That hasn’t stopped the Biden administration from demanding another $130 billion. But let’s ignore the currently unspent billions of dollars for a moment and ask the essential question: Will more funding help? 

In fact, the schools that are currently open five days a week in America are parochial schools, which generally have less per-pupil funding than their public counterparts, and public schools that don’t compete with the per-pupil wealth of closed but well-funded districts such as Chicago, Virginia’s Fairfax County, San Francisco and others. The issue is will, not resources. 

Ventilation is simply a crutch to excuse doing nothing. It was a problem identified early in 2020, again to mitigate the return to school before a coronavirus vaccine was available. The $68 billion Congress authorized provided funding specifically for ventilation. But most schools did little or nothing in the past year to improve ventilation, and it is more likely that we finally return to school before any substantive changes are made to the thousands of schools that remain shuttered. The absence of new ventilation systems has not held back the majority of schools that have opened up to some degree without disruption. 

Meanwhile, focusing the debate on the importance of class size is a way to disguise proposing that kids will go to school two days a week indefinitely. The idea is that a full class increases risk, so we need to cut class sizes in half. But nobody realistically believes that America is about to double its school-building capacity, at least not in the next year. Anyone whose kid has gone to class in a trailer behind a school building knows that it takes years to develop plans for new buildings, personnel and district lines. 

The two-day-a-week hybrid model, with its implicitly smaller class sizes, was created to get kids back into the classroom before a vaccine was available. Inept school boards kept delaying the end of this temporary measure. Now, after it has been done for so long, it is being deceptively embraced as the post-vaccine ideal. This is simply nuts. After teachers in closed school districts are vaccinated, schools should be open full-time, five days a week, just as so many of their counterparts already are doing (and as some were doing before vaccines were even available). 

Now that teachers are being vaccinated, for whom are we making these vast infrastructure changes anyway? It’s not for the teachers, whose risk will thankfully soon be measured in decimal points. And it’s not for children, who — public-health officials often and repeatedly remind us — are not significant spreaders or victims of this virus. In fact, the major health crises facing children today — depression, suicide, lack of confidence, academic failures, lack of socialization, poor nutrition, insufficient exercise — are being caused by the closures, not by the virus. 

In September 2020, Joe Biden said: “President Trump may not think this is a national emergency, but I think going back to school for millions of children and the impacts on their families and the community is a national emergency. I believe that’s what it is.” 

If this was a national emergency six months ago, and remains one today, where’s Joe? 

Some would argue that he should have more time, and that patience is required. He’s only been in office a few weeks. But we shouldn’t be surprised that many parents are simply out of patience. 

Others argue that advocating for school openings is anti-teacher. It’s a convenient way to shut down debate, because teachers are often underpaid and undervalued and thus not open to critique. But I love my kids’ teachers, who are doing the best they can. This is about being pro-children, not anti-teacher. 

In September, Biden said: “Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos ­haven’t stepped up. We’re all seeing the results. Millions of students are now starting the new school year in the same way they finished the last one, at home. At home. Parents are doing their best, but more and more, they’re finding themselves at wit’s end struggling to balance work and child care and educational duties or worrying about their lost paycheck and how they’ll make ends meet while trying to keep their kids on track with remote ­learning.” 

Under Biden’s current plan, he has failed to live up to the standard he set for Trump. 

It’s time for Biden to purposefully engage this issue. He has enormous influence over unions and those who are advocating for kids to remain locked out of in-person instruction indefinitely. He has a serious group of public-health advisers who can persuade nervous parents and teachers of the low risks they face returning to the classroom (especially after a vaccine). 

As Joe Biden said six months ago on this subject: “Mr. President, where are you? Where are you? Why aren’t you working on this? Mr. President, that’s your job. That’s what you should be focused on right now. Getting our kids back to school safely.” 

Rory Cooper is managing director of Purple Strategies, a former adviser to one-time House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and the father of three elementary-school students in Fairfax County, Va. From National Review. 

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — Feb. 26, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — Feb. 26, 2021

The Issue: The accusation by a former aide of Gov. Cuomo that he sexually harassed her on the job.

When it rains it pours, especially for Gov. Cuomo. Already on the hot seat for hiding the true number of CO­VID-related deaths in nursing homes, now he is accused by a former aide of sexual harassment (“Cuomo’s a pig,” Feb. 25).

The details already released are pretty bad. This could be the beginning of the end for him. He has, in essence, abused the power of his position to a great extent.

It’s about time he meets his fate in a courtroom. It seems like every day a new, ugly truth is revealed about him, so let justice be handed down against him to the fullest extent of the law.

Joseph V. Comperchio, Brooklyn

Obviously, Cuomo did not heed the adage that you shouldn’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

He conducted a virulent campaign against former President Donald Trump, accusing him of being egotistical, autocratic, a sexual predator, a vindictive bully and, of course, a liar.

Now it seems the chickens are coming home to roost for Cuomo, and not a moment too soon.

Frank Brady, Yonkers

Cuomo is in deep doo-doo now. His directive caused the deaths of thousands of people in nursing homes. He’s been dancing around it, pointing fingers at others, and he may never answer for it.

But now a former aide has accused him of giving her an unwanted kiss on the lips — without warning. And that may be the end of him. It could be the first snowflake in an avalanche of accusations.

One scandal should have caused handcuffs to be slapped on him, and the other should have caused a solid slap in the face from an aide.

James Grant

Massapequa

Score one for Mayor de Blasio, a fellow Democrat in the moral minority, who is calling for an independent probe of the sexual-misconduct allegations against Cuomo.

Although I find it discouraging that the left-wing media is turning a blind eye to Cuomo’s harassment charges and liberal women leaders are not demanding that aide Lindsey Boylan has a right to be listened to.

It was a different story when allegations were made against now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Trump.

The American people have a right to know the full story — not the cherry-picked version that the media chooses to report.

JoAnn Lee Frank

Clearwater, Fla.

The most revealing part of this “Cuomo is a pig” story is the hypocritical silence from the former loudmouths of the now-forgotten “Me, Too” movement.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that Harvey Weinstein was the most evil person on the planet? And Hollywood turned into judge and jury for the despicable Kevin Spacey?

Impeach this creep, now.

Joe Nugent

Staten Island

After causing the deaths of thousands of the elderly and trying to blackmail people into silence, we now find out Cuomo is also an accused sexual predator.

Using his power to allegedly maul a woman shows what a low-life he really is. Why isn’t his brother reporting on this?

Too bad New Yorkers don’t have the guts or brains to remove him from office. Maybe then they could save their state.

Storm Destro

Bayonne, NJ

Lord Cuomo has been exposed for the corrupt bully that he is. It’s time to stop talking and start taking action.

We need to start the impeachment process immediately to have him removed from office so he cannot do any more damage to the great state of New York.

Gene O’Brien

Whitestone

Now that Cuomo has allegedly done some very bad things that brought dishonor to his last name, it might be time to remove the Cuomo name from the Tappan Zee Bridge, which spans the Hudson River.

The “Mario Cuomo Bridge” never sounded right anyway.

John Kirkwood

Westwood, NJ

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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De Blasio’s lame recovery plan won’t end NYC’s Ghost Town

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De Blasio's lame recovery plan won't end NYC's Ghost Town

Almost a year into Gotham’s devastating lockdown, Mayor de Blasio has announced the appointment of former school-construction chief Lorraine Grillo as “recovery czar” to, in his words, “super-charge” an economic recovery. 

But a close look at the mayor’s sad, thin recovery plan belies his commitment to the future of New York City as a locus of growth and opportunity — which it must once more be if the desolate ghost-town effect is to disappear.

In his news conference announcing Grillo’s new role, Hizzoner proclaimed the “incredible” news that the city would extend its contract with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to manage Kennedy airport. The contract, set to expire in 2050, will now run through 2060. This “great plan,” says de Blasio, means that “a lot of the money from JFK will go to minority and women-owned businesses. A lot of the hiring will be from the surrounding neighborhoods in Southeast Queens.” 

Indeed, people in Jamaica will continue to work at the airport, as they always have, and the renovation of terminals, runways and parking lots will surely involve the hiring of local labor, too. But so what? It’s not like de Blasio was going to take over the largest airport in the Northeast when he can’t even able to figure out a way to assume management of two Central Park ice rinks from Donald Trump. The mayor’s role in determining what happens on Port Authority property is miniscule. 

It’s a sign of how unserious de Blasio is about economic recovery that he celebrates the planned return of the city’s 330,000 municipal employees to their offices. City workers have been held “harmless” throughout the pandemic, even while many of them have had little, if anything, to do. Been to a library lately? It’s fine that they will finally be getting back to work, but only in de Blasio’s fantasies do government employees represent economic vitality. 

The key to de Blasio’s economic-development strategy is to leverage Gotham’s newfound expertise with contagious disease to make it the “public-health capital of the world.” Central to this vision is a plan to rename First Avenue, with its many hospitals and labs, “LifeSci Avenue.” This moniker may not have the romance or elan of “Museum Mile” or even “Avenue of the Americas” — but you have to give the mayor credit for trying. 

The problem is that the United States already has two cities that are “public-health capitals,” namely Atlanta and Bethesda, the homes of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, respectively. Public health — as in, tracking seasonal influenza outbreaks—is important but not very profitable, which is why the federal government manages it.

Assuming that because the Big Apple was slammed by COVID we should now go into the pandemic business is a bad joke. It’s like telling Flint, Mich., to start a new company to compete with Pür water filters. 

De Blasio also wants to hire 10,000 temporary workers for a “City Cleanup Corps” to beautify the city by removing the graffiti that has steadily taken over New York’s streets and even subway cars. Of course, it was just last July when de Blasio suspended the popular and successful Graffiti-Free NYC program, after which the scourge of graffiti really exploded. The NYPD has substantially cut back vandalism-related arrests, too. So there’s another formula for economic rebirth: encourage filth and then hire the unemployed to clean it up. 

The mayor also plans to make the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity, a city-funded boondoggle his wife nominally runs, a permanent office of city government. The taskforce will help “identify areas of structural racism in New York City” and “root out this systemic rot.”  

None of that will revivify a dead Midtown. Instead, de Blasio, as usual, wants to “tax the wealthy and redistribute wealth.”

Taxing billionaires to plump up social services has been an enduring strategy for the city’s political class for a long time, but it only works as long as the goose doesn’t mind waiting around to be plucked. But raising taxes isn’t a plan for growth and will only hasten the accelerating departure of rich New Yorkers for sunnier climes. 

Memo to the mayor: Reviving New York City’s stalled economy will take more than slowly bringing municipal clerks back to their desks. 

Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and ­author of the forthcoming book “The Last Days of New York.”

Twitter: @SethBarronNYC

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Lockdowns don’t work and other commentary

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Lockdowns don't work and other commentary

Libertarian: Lockdowns Don’t Work

“Despite the stark difference in policy,” America and Britain “saw remarkably similar COVID-19 trends this winter,” Reason’s Jacob Sullum points out. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown “closed most businesses” and required everyone without a “reasonable excuse” to stay home. Britain’s “seven-day average of new cases peaked” Jan. 9, while America’s peaked Jan. 11; cases then “fell sharply in both countries.” The same story of “starkly different policies and similar outcomes” appears in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a lockdown, and Texas, which “remained largely open.” The two states have had “almost the same drop” in cases: 85 percent and 81 percent. And California’s infection rate tripled in December and January while Texas’ doubled. Lockdowns, with their “economic and social costs,” simply weren’t “necessary to bring case numbers back down.”

Ex-hostage: What I Learned in an Iranian Prison

At The Wall Street Journal, Wang Xiyue recalls his shock at being ­arrested in Iran in 2016 “on false espionage charges,” even though the ­nuclear deal had been implemented and it seemed to be “a period of rapprochement between the US and Iran.” He had thought doing research there would be safe, since his professors stressed that Tehran’s hostility was exaggerated, stemming largely from the bad behavior toward it by the West, “particularly” America. Yet his 40-month captivity gave him an “intense re-education”: The regime’s hostility “isn’t reactive, but proactive”; the “menace of Iran can’t be appeased” but “must be countered and restrained.” And “only by showing strength of will can President Biden hope for genuine progress in containing the Iranian threat to peace.”

Iconoclast: America’s Real Divide

America is supposedly divided along race and gender lines — yet, ­observes Joel Kotkin at The American Mind, the conflict might really be between those who primarily make a living manipulating “incorporeal” information and those who toil in the “tangible world of making, growing and using real things.” President Biden’s campaign was propelled by the incorporeal class — and so far, he has mainly delivered for its members, with anti-industrial climate plans and sops to the woke. Yet “it’s unlikely” that the heartland’s oil riggers, welders, haulers and machine-tool operators will be “too thrilled” by Team Biden’s promise of “green jobs.” Worse, Biden’s folks “must address the fact that the key Democratic base — the big coastal core urban areas — has been fundamentally undermined by the pandemic, last summer’s disorders and a steady rise in crime.”

Conservative: Fauci’s No Shaman

President Biden’s chief pandemic adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “is a bureaucrat,” National Review’s David Harsanyi ­declares, “not our parent, or our personal physician, or a shaman, or our life coach.” Yet Democrats and media elites treat him as all that and more — including by unquestioningly accepting his calls for harsh lockdowns and a “unified approach” to the pandemic. Yet “the Fauci approach” is basically “an Andrew Cuomo approach”: “centralized,” devastating to the economy and to individual rights — and far from effective. And don’t forget Fauci’s early ­anti-mask guidance and “praise for the Chicoms’ lackeys at the World Health Organization.” Bottom line: “The press should never have canonized Fauci.”

Defense beat: China’s Hidden Weakness

At The Hill, Susan Yoshihara flags an overlooked but huge problem for Beijing’s ambitions: Thanks to decades of state-ordered population control under the harsh one-child mandate, “China’s downward human spiral is ­accelerating.” That’s “on top of nearly a decade of contraction in working-age Chinese citizens.” As a result, “China’s main state pension fund and ­urban-worker pension fund are projected to run out of money by 2035.” In the short term, the population drop helps explain Beijing’s aggression from Tibet to Taiwan and the South China Sea, as well as its genocide of the ­Uighur minority: It sees “closing windows of opportunity to resolve manpower-intensive security disputes before losing its robust working-age population.” Longer term, America “should be thinking about exploiting China’s strategic weaknesses.”

— Compiled by The Post Editorial Board

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