The Kids

Ask The Tot where his mama was on Saturday morning and he’ll proudly tell you, “Education.” He knows that has something to do with school, and that it’s important, but he probably can’t tell you what exactly Mama’s work for education means. I’m not sure I can either, but it feels good to at least learn what the heck is going on.

On Saturday morning, I was down on the south side, at Ariel Academy in Kenwood. Sonia Kwon, Jill Wohl and I bypassed the floods and the Cubs traffic and made it to the humid, slippery auditorium in time to hear Karen Lewis’ rousing speech about CPS, the state of Illinois and the state of education. Lewis reported that the powers that be at CPS are repeating the same, tired schpiel that all people in power repeat when their motives or actions are called into question: Won’t someone please think about the children? Oh, please. Like CPS teachers are in it for the money? Like involved parents’ primary motivation are not their children? Were we all giving up a couple of hours smack-dab in the middle of a summer Saturday for some other reason but the children? As Lewis said, it’s about money and power. Like everything else in Chicago, it seems. Same-old, same-old.

Lewis also said something that struck me as pretty powerful. In 2004, she said, 62% of the CPS budget went to personnel costs. In 2009, that number dropped to 49%. What changed? Why? I wish I could say that I checked her facts against existing data to substantiate her claim, but getting the city to share its “datapoints” is harder than getting a willful toddler to eat smashed peas.

But her ire was not directed only at CPS, but at the state as well. She suggested that we all call our state representatives and senators and tell them that they are late in their payments. “And we’re not even charging you interest.” Good point.

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