Inside a classroom at Montgomery Elementary School in Chula Vista in early 2020. / Photo by Megan Wood

Members of a Bay Area school district rightly caught a lot of fire this week for dismissing distressed parents who want schools to reopen as a bunch of slackers who simply wanted their “babysitters” back.

The outrage was fierce, but the sentiment certainly isn’t new – and it’s bizarre and misguided for many reasons.

Two weeks ago, for example, June Cutter, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Assembly in 2020, pushed back against this idea a few weeks ago: “If you think opening schools is about ‘daycare’ for kids, you clearly don’t have kids and therefore have not witnessed the mental and emotional damage that has been imposed upon our next generation. Ask a parent what they think. Because it sure as heck isn’t about ‘daycare,’” she wrote on Twitter.

A mother of a student in the district busted for the hot mic “babysitters” comments said something similar to Fox News: “I know I speak for many of my good friends, around us, around me, that want the best for our children. And for a lot of our children, distance learning is just not conducive. It’s stressful. A lot of crying, a lot of hair-pulling, a lot of attitude. It’s not the best form to be learning. We’re doing our best, the teachers are doing their best but at the end of the day, it’s not school.”

I don’t think either of these moms are wrong. We have ample evidence of the ways in which remote learning has been devastating for kids.

Yet there’s something about this brand of response that I think inadvertently fuels the problem.

It accepts a flawed premise.

People who dismiss school as “daycare” or “babysitting” are certainly downplaying the value of the education system. But they’re also suggesting that parents don’t actually need space away from their kids in order to do their work. They’re wrong.

We need babysitters. We need daycare. Saying so isn’t shameful or selfish or lazy – it’s a mundane acknowledgment of reality.

Say someone saw me buying an apple at the store, and scolded me by saying, “Look at that woman, selfishly buying an apple so she can eat it.”

I could, I suppose, respond by insisting that the apple was so beautiful and nutritious it deserved to be eaten, and I was just looking out for the apple’s best interest. Or I could just acknowledge the absurdity of the insult – OF COURSE I’M BUYING THE APPLE IN ORDER TO EAT IT, MY HUMAN BODY REQUIRES NOURISHMENT.

All of the (very inadequate) systems we set up as a society before the pandemic are built around the basic fact that working and caring for family members is not possible to do simultaneously. It’s why sick leave, paid family leave and parental leave exist. It should be a given that parents cannot possibly supervise their kids’ online learning while carrying out their jobs, let alone sustain that scenario for more than a couple days.

They need help. Ideally it’d come from a school, but a daycare or babysitter (hell, maybe even a very responsible Labrador at this point?) would also work.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Will Huntsberry wrote a great analysis laying out what Cindy Marten’s rise tells us about the state of education politics.

And in higher education, here’s why it took a year to fire a UCSD professor with a history of complaints who sent a student porn.


The communities hardest hit by the coronavirus also have the lowest rates of vaccines administered. Maya Srikrishnan explored what’s standing in the way.

We talked about vaccines and our experiences volunteering at one of the super stations on this week’s podcast.


The San Diego County Water Authority and the smaller agencies that buy water from it have much different views about how much water San Diego will need in the future. And it turns out the Water Authority didn’t take a new water source, the city’s Pure Water project, very seriously until recently.


Here are the candidates and issues heading into a special election to replace Shirley Weber. And here’s what her former colleagues in the Legislature are up to this session.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“May you make direct eye contact with your neighbor during your yard pee.” – This is one of 13 suggested curses for Texas to wield against Sen. Ted Cruz

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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