Suddenly — seemingly out of nowhere — concerned parents in every corner of the country are screaming and asking, “What about our kids’ education?”

The debate surrounding reopening schools is contentious and exposes every systemic flaw in public education. Parents are bringing up inequity and inequality. They are discussing special education, mental health, social and emotional development of children. They are asking questions about legalities, taxes, and unions. They are concerned. They are extremely concerned.

They have all become experts in pedagogy, educational policy, economics, epidemiology, and virology. They all have sound advice for the teachers, administrators, and school staff. They know how “to make it work.” For them.

Yet, where were these same parents when public education was getting gutted. Every year. Budget cuts, every year.

Where were you when public education funds were diverted to religious, private, and charter schools? Why were you silent then?

You didn’t know because you didn’t care to know.

Where were your cries for equality when schools were segregated based on property and school taxes?

You didn’t care because you either didn’t notice the lack of diversity in your school or you preferred it that way.

Where were your cries for equality when schools were deemed as “failing” and shut down, displacing thousands of students?

You didn’t speak up because your children went to a “good” school.

Where were your cries for equity when students with special needs needed services that were unavailable or underfunded? When some parents had to fight the districts to receive services for their children? Where was the outcry?

You didn’t fight with them because your child didn’t have special needs.

Where were you when school discipline disproportionately affected children of color and children with disabilities? Where was your outrage?

Where were you when teachers begged for supplies online, created GoFundMe/DonorsChoose campaigns, when they walked into bare classrooms and spent hundreds, if not thousands, of their own money to create a warm classroom for your children?

You complained about the “extensive” back-to-school lists on social media. Because “shouldn’t my taxes pay for that?”

Where were your cries for safety when children and teachers were being murdered in schools?

You asked for bulletproof backpacks just so you could keep your assault rifles.

Where were your cries for mental health when children were committing suicide at staggering rates?

You shook your head and were grateful it wasn’t your child. Then, you judged that parent for “not seeing the warning signs.”

Where were you when schools didn’t have the funds to hire counselors, nurses, therapists, and other mental health professionals?

Where were you when class sizes kept growing but funding and space decreased? Did you speak up about the quality of education then?

Where were your cries for justice when your children were denied quality education when the federal government tied federal funds to high-stakes testing? When your district failed to offer full-day kindergarten? When dress codes disproportionately affected girls? When school libraries were destroyed, sex education eliminated, and art and music classes abandoned?

Where were you when teachers were asking for fair wages and having to work multiple jobs in order to pay their bills. Did you fight for them then?

Where were you when public education was decapitated, torn limb from limb, tendon by tendon, vein by vein? Where have you been?

You weren’t there. You weren’t screaming. You weren’t crying out. You weren’t marching in the streets demanding change. No. You were home.

You were complaining about the lack of homework or about too much homework. You were throwing a fit over teacher’s wording, classroom management, decorum.

So, enough. Enough with the faux outrage. Enough with the dramatic cries.

You need us for only one thing: To watch your children while you make a living. And we see right through you. This isn’t about equity, equality, or mental health. This is solely about your convenience. So, just say it. Say the truth.

You have never been on our side.

Where were you when public education needed you?

Originally published on as Where Were You?

The Milwaukee Independent began reporting on what was then referred to as the mysterious “Wuhan Virus” in January 2020. Other local media did not picked-up on the story until many weeks later. Our early features focused on the economic impact, social issues, and health concerns long before other Milwaukee news organizations even mentioned the coronavirus. Over the following year, we have published hundreds of articles about the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of Milwaukee residents. This extensive body of work can be found on our COVID-19 Special Report page, a chronological index of links by month. Our editorial voice remains dedicated to informing the public about this health crisis for as long as it persists.
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