Why I am Still A Democrat
Despite Being Let Down By The Democratic Leaders in New Jersey, I'm Not Changing Trains
I attend our town’s bimonthly school board meetings regularly. Sometimes I go as a education journalist to observe and keep the pulse of what’s happening at the local level. Sometimes I go as a parent to speak up for kids who aren’t on the fast track to Harvard. Sometimes I go as person who flirts with the idea of becoming more directly involved in politics. Last Monday, I was there with my journalist/observer hat to hear the stories of the parents who assembled en masse to rant about the situation in the classroom of the littlest kids.
Parents walked up to the microphone and told the School Board that kindergarteners were struggling with huge behavior problems, because some children never attended a nursery school, and others spent two years in masks. Those problems were compounded by larger class sizes and a lack of classroom aides, who are now refusing to work for $13 per hour. So, kids are trying to learn in highly chaotic situations, with huge variation in skill levels, and the teachers are overwhelmed.
While I often talk about the impact of the school shutdowns on students with disabilities and college students, we shouldn’t forget the little kids. Studies show that younger students are suffering from social skills deficits and learning lags. Just last month, The New York Times reported on how the pandemic worsened the reading crisis in schools. Many need extensive speech therapy. There are even hints in the data of lower IQs in young children.
As I wrote before, I am angry about all what happened to the most vulnerable people during the hard shutdowns in the Northeast, and the complete lack of restitution or remediation for those problems. I think the shutdowns should have not been so severe and that people like my son, Ian, should have been offered support both during and after the pandemic.
Despite my left-wing political leanings, I was plenty mad at Democrats during this pandemic. My allies on Twitter this past year were often Republicans. I think that CNN was irresponsible in downplaying the harms that the shutdowns caused. The shutdowns were so severe in New Jersey, because we have a Democratic governor who allied himself with the state’s strong teachers’ unions. People got salaries even though they didn’t do their job to care for vulnerable. There’s no question that the Democrats handled the pandemic response badly in my state and are turning a blind eye to the damage in their wake.
I thought about moving. I could use the savings in property taxes* to directly purchase the needed therapy and support for our son. I could just bypass the whole corrupt system. Others have certainly made that move. My cousins down in Florida are getting overrun by people fleeing New Jersey and New York.
But we’re not moving, and I’m not switching my voting preferences. Because it is very clear that I cannot replicate an education and social services on my own. I was forced to do more than I ever expected, and now I’m a burned out shell of my pre-pandemic self. No volunteer group or church stepped in to help out. I want to pay a government institution to educate my children and care for the my son, if he is unable to be fully independent in the future.
These government groups should, of course, operate fairly and be run by smart people. I’m also okay with the government passing along those responsibilities (with oversight) to third-parties. But I can’t join the party of small government, after seeing what happens when government fails. If anything, this pandemic strengthened my belief that that vulnerable people and their family need a strong safety net from the government. We can see first hand what happened to young and vulnerable kids without schools and social services and daycares and town programs. I hope Democrats will pivot towards repair and remediation, and also strengthen their commitment to a well-functioning safety net, because I can’t quit them.
*$18,000 is the average tax bill in my town.
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On the Blog: Community: What Would You Keep?
PICTURES: Hoboken Train Terminal, October 2021