smolaw11/iStock(NEW YORK) — The political rivalry between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio heated up again this weekend over the decision on shutting down schools for the remainder of the year, leaving millions of confused and frustrated parents stuck in the middle.
On Saturday morning, de Blasio, who has control over the city’s public school system, along with New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, announced that schools won’t reopen this academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Later in the morning, Cuomo said no decision was made, since he is working on a coordinated policy among all school districts and neighboring states.
The different messages continued into Easter Sunday when both leaders stuck to their positions. De Blasio said during his daily news conference it was imperative to keep children, educators and parents safe from the virus, which has infected over 98,000 NYC residents as of Saturday night.
“It’s abundantly clear that to do those things we have to keep our schools closed for the remainder of the school year. So this is just about doing our jobs and making sure people are safe,” he said.
Cuomo, however, said during his briefing on Sunday that it is still too early to make a decision, and reiterated that doing so this early could send the wrong message to New Yorkers.
“If you say the schools are closed through June, you’re effectively saying businesses are closed through June because you can’t restart the economy fully without restarting schools,” he said.
A spokeswoman for de Blasio told ABC News that the city does have the authority to extend school closures without approval from the state. Representatives from Cuomo’s office, however, told ABC News that under the state’s emergency COVID-19 executive order, no local municipality can make its own order without approval from the state Health Department.
Statewide, schools are ordered closed until April 29.
Cuomo and de Blasio have had public spats over several policies, including education, in the past, but since the pandemic began, they have made an effort to work cooperatively.
But an educator says that the territorial dispute has left many parents confused about what comes next.
Christina Greer, an associate professor of politics at Fordham University, told ABC News she wasn’t surprised that the beef between the two leaders would reemerge, but said their public bickering over this issue was hurting the public.
Greer said parents from all over the city have been voicing their frustration all weekend and want a clear answer on the future of their kids’ school year.
“There are a lot of parents who are like ‘We just need to know,'” Greer said. “A lot of parents assumed probably they wouldn’t [reopen], but there is a difference between an assumption and a mandate.”
Both de Blasio and Cuomo said they are talking with each other to resolve the dilemma, but each maintained that their respective order is valid.
“I think he’s done a very good job,” de Blasio said of the governor. “But my responsibility is to the children of this city, my responsibility is to the parents of this city, to the educators who serve this city.”
Cuomo stressed that all New York regions, New Jersey and Connecticut needed to work together.
“We go day-to-day to watch those numbers and we’ll work with Jersey and Connecticut and our local governments in each state to come up with a coordinated plan,” he said.
Greer said both leaders will need to put aside their differences and deliver a uniformed answer on schools soon, otherwise they would lose all the trust they’ve gained from the public on their handling of the pandemic.
“You can’t leave a few million New York families not knowing about the future of their children,” she said.
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