Cuomo: Is Summer School the Answer for Schools?
On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo floated the idea of summer school during his COVID-19 briefing from Albany. Cuomo said several school districts across the state are considering the idea right now.
"I’m not really comfortable about getting too far ahead of ourselves," he said. Cuomo spoke of the options of re-opening schools by name, including the possibility of remaining closed, re-opening after May 15th, or some sort of scenario that included classes over the summer.
Cuomo said any predictions beyond a 2-week window are not smart. "Anyone who tells you they know what’s going to happen in a month, I’m not sure I would believe that person," he said.
Is Remote Distance Learning Not Working?
According to Cuomo, reports from many of the 700 districts across the state show that the distance learning attempts that schools are making might be one of the difficult lessons learned from this crisis. "I think is going to be one of the lessons we learn. Remote learning is great in concept. We had to jump into it with both feet. We didn't really have a chance to scale up for it," he said. He added that those difficulties and the fact that some students could be falling behind have ignited talks of extending the school year in some manner. He stressed that no decision has been made, as of yet. "Before we do anything, I want to make sure we know what we're doing," Cuomo said. Last week, he said a decision on schools will come before April 30th.
Schools Could Re-Open on May 18th, or Not?
As of right now, schools in New York are closed until May 15th. Despite saying a decision on re-opening hasn't been made, the Governor did hint that based on his re-opening New York strategy, May 18th won't work for schools. During his Sunday briefing, Cuomo offered a scenario where a phase-one re-opening of contracting and manufacturing business might happen in the Mohawk Valley and other upstate regions on or about May 15th, but, that phase would not include schools. He said instead, schools would be part of a phase-two general business re-opening, which could come after a two-week waiting period, following implementation of phase-one on May 15th. While he did not specify a date during the briefing, based on that plan, schools would have to remain closed until at least May 30th.
The Governor added that any re-opening by region would be in accordance with strict CDC guidelines which calls for two weeks of declining hospitalizations, something that is not currently happening in Oneida County. This weekend alone, Oneida County has reported three new deaths and 37 additional COVID-19 positive cases. Hospitalizations have remained steady at between 27 and 33 patients from Oneida County. Cuomo said he would expect that regions upstate will re-open before New York City and parts of downstate, if the numbers decline here.
School Budgets and Elections
School districts throughout New York are still in limbo when it comes to the amount of aid they'll be receiving from the state. Previously, the Governor said schools should expect up to a 20% decrease in aid, but the number could increase or decrease based on what kind of relief comes from the federal government. The state will know where it stands with federal funding by May 1st, and school districts will be given the state aid runs by mid-May, giving them time to finish their budgets. School Board elections have been moved to sometime after June 1st. An actual election date has not been set.
Federal Funding for States?
Earlier in the week, Cuomo criticized U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after he suggested instead of bailing out blue states like New York, which faces a potential multi-billion dollar deficit, the states should file for bankruptcy. Cuomo called that a "dumb" idea.
“I say pass a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. I dare you. And let the president sign that bill,” said Cuomo. “You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble? You want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil? Do that.”
Cuomo said New York sends more tax dollars to the federal government than any other state annually as compared to the amount it gets back. He added that McConnell's home state of Kentucky is the third largest recipient of those federal funds.