Reparations for Children: Business as usual is not acceptable. We need more.

From the newsletter

With vaccination rates going up and infection rates going down, we are all slowly coming out from our caves, blinking in the bright sunlight of normality. Last weekend, I went to a friend’s house for her annual Greek Easter party. Around the kitchen island, we laughed and hugged and drank and nibbled at the roasted lamb. It was exhilarating. 

Schools are slowly opening their doors, too. With summer coming, some kids will be able to go to camps and swim clubs. 

Of course, progress isn’t happening across the board, in all communities. Some cities in New Jersey have still not opened their doors. There are private and county-run schools for disabled kids that have still not opened their doors. Black and Latino families are more reluctant to send their kids back to school for rather complicated and not fully understood reasons. Few schools in my area are open for full days, five days per week. 

This week, I attended the Education Writer’s Association (EWA) annual meeting. It’s a great conference where journalists listen to political leaders and top academic researchers share insights and information. Attendees can type questions for the panelist in the sidebar of the Zoom call. 

I tried to get Randi Weingarten, the presidents of the AFT, on the record saying that all schools will open in the fall. I said, “The New York Times reports that the business community is bringing back their workers to the office as early as June. Will all schools be ready for the children of those workers? Will all schools be open full day, five days per week by September?” 

She said, “I can’t think of anything that would stop us from doing that.” 

Do two negatives equal a positive? I’m not sure, but it’s close enough for me. 

Meanwhile, we’re hearing more and more tales about kids who fell through the cracks this past year and a half. The Times’ story about a kid struggling to log onto classes from his mom’s cellphone, after her late night shift at the casino, is tragic. There will be more stories like this, now that reporters are finally admiting that the response to COVID may have been too extreme.

Some kids have felt the pain more than others. At one of the panels on special education at EWA this week, one expert said that they don’t really know exactly how far special ed kids fell behind this year, but that “projections are grim.” 

We owe kids. They were promised a dozen eggs, and they only got six. We can’t just pretend that this year and a half didn’t happen. 

How can we make it up to kids? How can we get them back on track? The answer came up in every panel that I attended —summer school and tutoring. 

Kids need more, more, more. In addition to hot-and-cold-running academic support, they need connections with others, fresh air, exercise, life, laughter. They need to get out of their god awful bedrooms with the damn Chromebooks and be given the opportunity to breathe and to be stimulated. 

The usual summer school programming, which traditionally offers de minimis help is not good enough. Schools have six weeks to make something better, something that combines academics with camp-like experiences. Get to it, administrators! Chop, chop! 

Business as usual is not acceptable. We need more.