Holding power to account
We went from ‘if you want schools to open you are a racist murderer!’ to ‘what a terrible thing schools were closed for so long, such a shame that happened!’ We skipped a very important step.
Last week, on Friday August 26, at a Women's Equality Day celebration in Albany, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said:
"We're going to peel back every dynamic and let's look at not just in the workplace, but what happened to women when the decisions were made to have all the kids go home and learn remotely. Wow. Wow. What a mistake that was. What a mistake that was."
She’s right. It was detrimental for women in the workplace, not to mention the kids cast aside into remote schooling for a year and a half. The learning loss and mental health impact on children is well documented at this point. Reality is now accepted. But where is the accountability?
Did she push back on these policies made by then Governor Cuomo? No.
She had this to say in May 2020:
“NY Governor Cuomo announces K-12, colleges will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. Distance learning will continue with a decision on summer school expected at end of May. This is the best course of action to keep students, staff and NY families safe.”
On the same day that Governor Hochul called for schools to remain closed, my family went to a rally to demand that they re-open.
This was the very first open schools rally in San Francisco. My husband went with my youngest children because it was already clear that schools could open safely. In fact, Sweden had never closed schools at all. And Denmark had already opened them in mid-April, recognizing that the harms being done to kids from the closures were already too great, after only a few weeks.
I didn’t attend this rally, fearful I’d be caught on camera, perhaps in the press, and lose my job. Seems kind of silly now since I lost it anyway.
This is my family in December 2020, about to kick off a rally we organized.
If you wonder why I’m wearing a mask in this photo, outside, it’s because there was an outdoor mask mandate in San Francisco at this time. Adhering to it, at a rally that was ultimately captured by news cameras, was my last pathetic effort not to lose my job.
My husband never adhered to any of this nonsense, and rightly so.
It had been almost nine months since San Francisco public school students had been in a classroom and there was no sign that was going to change any time soon. I simply didn’t care anymore if I lost my job for being there to protest. It was just too important.
But where was Governor Hochul? Did she, by December 2020, advocate for open schools? No. But now she says the closures we all a big mistake.
We went from ‘if you want schools to open you are a racist murderer!’ to ‘what a terrible thing schools were closed for so long, such a shame that happened!’
And we skipped a very important step: holding power to account.
Government and health officials did this. They put women in the impossible position of managing useless, isolating virtual schooling for their kids while trying to manage their own jobs remotely. Or, if they had “essential” jobs, where in-person work was required, they had to opt out to help the kids manage zoom school. Or leave the kids home alone.
The result: 1.1 million women left the labor force in 2020-2021, accounting for 63% of all jobs lost. Women are still short by more than 1.8 million jobs lost since February 2020.
Schools in large Democratic states and cities stayed closed the longest, about a year and a half. And these schools are disproportionately populated by vulnerable, lower income students. These students stayed remote from spring 2020 until fall 2021. For the 2020-2021 school year alone, on average, these students missed the equivalent of 22 weeks of in-person math learning, more than half of a traditional school year.
Now, after being told that school is not essential, these same kids are absent in record numbers. Chronic absenteeism in New York is at an all-time high. Education department officials estimate that approximately 40% of New York’s K-12 students were chronically absent this past school year. “Chronically absent” is defined as missing at least 10% of the school year. This is significantly higher than in 2018-2019 (when it reached 26%.)
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In reality, government officials like Governor Hochul are the ones who put these abusive policies in place, and they deserve to be penalized. They should certainly not keep their jobs, having demonstrated such extreme incompetence.
Beyond the kids and women who were harmed, anyone who spoke out against these policies was deemed a granny-killing white supremacist.
I spoke out early and often and lost my job as the President of Levi’s. I went against all-knowing public health authorities and Democratic Party leaders by insisting public schools needed to open. For saying children, who are guaranteed an education as a civil right, were being harmed by zoom school and deserved better, I was vilified as a malignant misinformation spreader.
But I was right. And now everyone seems to agree. Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to go first.
I’m just one formerly well-paid, now unemployed, executive. My job loss is not the tragedy of pandemic policies. But the push back I, and others like me, received, the demonization and character assassination, discouraged others from speaking out.
If we’d had a well-reasoned societal discussion about this - if doctors weren’t silenced, if the press wasn’t cowardly, if parents weren’t terrorized - we might have opened public schools in April 2020, like Denmark. Or in the fall of 2020, like Florida.
But censorship and ad hominem attacks stifled debate, and now we must all live with the repercussions. It is unacceptable for no one to take ownership of these catastrophic policy decisions.
We must hold them to account. Government and public health leaders cannot be allowed to pretend this “just happened.”
Our kids have already paid too high of a price for these “mistakes.” It’s past time for those who drove these harmful policies to pay a price for what they did.
I really admire your husband, and his posts on Twitter were always worth a read.
New York is still banning 400,000 unvaccinated students from extracurricular activities. Most of these students are low-income BIPOC, which Democrats like Hochul claim to care about. She also fired thousands of healthcare workers for not getting boosters, causing staffing shortages. Everything Democrats do hurts women and people of color, yet they still win those voter demographics by large margins. Hochul was never elected and polls indicate that she will win against Zedlin in November. It makes your head and heart hurt. Thank you for taking a real stand and continuing to hold these tyrants accountable. Here is what life in Democrat cities is like: https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/how-to-visit-karenland