Psaki Circles Back To The School Opening Goalposts
Psaki Circles Back To The School Opening Goalposts
While some media lifeforms (like Potato Stelter) see Biden press secretary Jen Psaki as “refreshing” (get the man a bib), she is only doing what most press secretaries do: spin, spin, spin.
Except she seems to do it comparatively badly. Unlike her predecessor Kayleigh McEnany – who carried a giant binder full of information that she had up on the podium with her – Psaki prefers to give press conferences by platitude. Well, when you have an adoring media who thinks that you are the second coming of sliced bread, that’s easy. But whenever Psaki gets asked a question that requires a command of facts, political skill, and diplomacy in order to not get tripped up… well, let’s have a look at her most recent example of getting caught empty-handed – or as she calls it, “circling back” – and having to fix that mistake later.
On Tuesday, Psaki was asked what the Biden White House’s metric was for a school being opened, as Biden had promised to do by the first 100 days of his presidency. Apparently, “open” does not mean “open” the way that any normal person would think of a school being “open.” Psaki said that the administration’s magic number was… ONE. As in, a school counted as open if a teacher and students were in the classroom at least ONE day a week. And she doubled down on this the next day, saying that this was “bold and ambitious.”
Psaki on the White House goal of one day of school per week by the end of the school year: Part of our "bold and ambitious agenda" pic.twitter.com/VTQw4cVmU3
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 10, 2021
There’s just one itsy bitsy teeny tiny little problem with that standard.
This is so misleading and maddening. 2/3 of public schools ARE OPEN TODAY at least two days a week. We've already met the metric they set for 3 months from today. Biden's goal is for us to move backwards? https://t.co/6DNDpQy140
— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) February 9, 2021
If that bar were any lower, it would be on the floor. Which was likely the point. After all, you can’t fail a standard that you’ve already met, right? The Biden administration is SO SUCCESSFUL, EVERYONE.
If the Trump administration had pulled this kind of bait-and-switch on goal setting, the media would have howled. Now, because it is coming out of the mouth of Jen Psaki, it’s “refreshing.” The spin is juuuuust like a long draught of Fresca to a parched press room. Or something.
But the truth is that school reopening is quickly becoming the most contentious and consequential fight in America. And it’s getting straight up ugly out there between parents and school districts.
— njdotcom (@njdotcom) February 10, 2021
Yes, you read that right.
After a parent sent multiple messages complaining that her Middlesex County school district has not returned to in-person learning, a school official replied with an email saying the community has not taken the COVID-19 outbreak seriously and attached photos of the parent and her son recently sledding with friends while not wearing masks.”
So, an angry parent complains to the school district. The assistant superintendent decides the best way to respond to the parent was to get pictures of the family not wearing masks and email them back to the parent with this rejoinder:
“Bottom line, we will not subject our school community to the potential risk and exposure that results from the blatant failure to follow the same guidelines you are asking us to reference,” (Paul Rafalowski, assistant superintendent of Middlesex Borough schools) said.”
Cue the rest of the pissed off parents.
The parent, whose name was redacted from the email sent to NJ Advance Media, shared the letter with other members of the community, prompting an angry response from other parents who sent messages to the board and spoke at Tuesday night’s board meeting.”
“My son is one of the 16 pictured. He is 7-years-old. He was outside. Snow sledding. With some friends. On private property,” Roger Sanchez wrote in an email to members of the borough’s council and school board.”
“It was worrisome to see my son’s image used that way, to say the least,” Sanchez said, adding that he felt the school board singled out and retaliated against parents who have vocally disagreed with their virtual learning policies.”
This stunning lack of judgment by school officials was compounded by the explanation that someone had tattled on the original family, or obtained the pictures somehow, in order to give the district ammunition against the original parent.
District Superintendent Frederick Williams on Wednesday defended Rafalowski, saying the email was in response to one from a parent who has been extremely vocal about children returning to school.”
Williams said that neither he nor Rafalowski knew the names of the children in the photos and that the assistant superintendent had blurred kids’ faces before sending his email. Rafalowski’s email said the photos were “sent to us as evidence to validate our concern” after they were posted on Facebook.”
Someday, and it could be sooner than they think, these schools are going to wake up and find out that the parents who were involved and who cared are all gone, and the only ones left are the ones who couldn’t escape the tyranny. No more or very few parent volunteers in classrooms, no more or very few involved in PTAs, no more or very few willing to go the extra mile to help a teacher – and then the unions will complain about the bed they made, and demand EVEN MORE MONEY to fix it. And an administration in thrall to the teachers’ unions has no incentive to fix the situation, which is why “one day a week” sounded like a perfectly acceptable metric to Jen Psaki when she said it.
Well, someone must have gotten to the Biden team and said “what are you guys huffing back there” because this kind of “bold and ambitious” goal setting just made parents mad. After all, weren’t we told repeatedly that Joe Biden had better plans than Donald Trump??? Time to circle back, Jen.
A journalist asked Psaki at a White House briefing “why should they be satisfied with that” goal after a full year of educational interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“They shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t be as a parent, and I am a parent, I should say, I have two young kids, and I know many of you have kids as well,” Psaki replied.”
“The president wants schools to open safely and in accord with science. And we are going to listen to science and medical experts — the CDC guidelines, we expect them to come out tomorrow. We are eager to hear more about the clear science-based guidelines for opening schools and how we can do that safely and how we can keep them open. The president will not rest until every school is open five days a week. That is our goal.”
Psaki and the Biden administration decided to play it safe. When they got caught setting the bar so low that even the media said “what?” then they had to backtrack. Why Psaki couldn’t attempt to identify with parents – after all, she proudly proclaims her children’s existence in her Twitter bio – is just another example of the glaring disconnect between the elite and the rest of us. I don’t think Jen Psaki will be placing her oldest in kindergarten in the DC public school system when the time comes, will she?
And if President Biden is serious about reopening schools, perhaps he should get on the line to Middlesex Bourough, NJ. It seems that they need some help in doing that.
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Featured image: Press Secretary Jen Psaki via Wikimedia Commons, public domain