By Ron Brzoska
This past week, the Chicago Public School system released maps of safe passage routes to their schools that are opening for the new year on August 26th.
The stories and spin surrounding the release of the maps has centered around the need for these safe passage maps was brought on by the school closings that Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Board of Education voted for earlier in the year. The stories say that if it weren’t for the 47 elementary school closings, the children would not be forced to cross gang lines and be in danger. They also like to point out the costs of this safe passage program ($8 million). With the danger and the dollars being hi-lighted, the reader is supposed to be outraged. The Chicago Teachers Union loves the way the press is telling this story.
The problem is that if you read the story and don’t do any of your own thinking, and know your history and your math, you will be outraged. You will think this is all Rahm Emmanuel’s fault. As much as I don’t want to admit it, it most certainly is not his fault. It is ours. We as a society have created this problem.
Let’s talk about the symptoms first. The CPS has to spend $8 million dollars extra this year on its safe passages program (which was started in 2009 by the way). Why, that’s an outrage! They have no money to spend. Isn’t the CPS in debt. If they are cutting staffs and closing schools, where are they getting the money? I’ll wait for a second and hope you get the answer on your own. Ok, time’s up. Did you figure it out? They got the money from the savings created from cutting staff and closing schools. In response to a $1 billion dollar budget deficit, the CPS cut staff and closed schools to save $867 million over a ten-year period. Adding $8 million back into the budget means that they still cut costs by $787 million. If you take this from a dollars and sense standpoint, then this move makes all of the sense in the world.
But there is a human factor that must be considered. The kids are in danger. But is it because of Rahm Emmanuel and the Board of Education? No, they had to cut costs because there is no money left. Karyn Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union and her supporters say that this is another reason why they shouldn’t close schools and cut staff. What Ms. Lewis is hoping for is that we have forgotten the recent past. When the CTU went on strike, the mayor’s office and school board said that if they gave the teachers union what it wanted, it would need to lay off teachers to pay for it. The union fumed at the threat and didn’t think it was real. Guess what happened? They cut teachers to pay for the raises to the others. Emmanuel kept his word. Oh my God! Stop the presses! A politician, a Democrat at that, kept his word. So don’t let believe the blather coming from Karyn Lewis and the CTU. They knew that some teachers had to be sacrificed to pay for their demands. If they didn’t, they are too dumb to be teaching your kids. It’s the feeling of entitlement… the feeling that it won’t be one of them on the chopping block… that makes them feel everything is going to work out fine. The Chicago Teacher’s union has as much blood on their hands for any child harmed as does Mayor Emmanuel.
But we are still COMPLETELY missing the point. The real point is that we are failing as a civilized society. The truth is that the safe passages program shouldn’t have to exist. This is not Afghanistan. This is Chicago. Children are walking to and from school. They are not a foreign army. They are defenseless. They are harmless. They are innocent, and have every right to walk through their neighborhoods. No one is talking about the real problem: the gangs. They shouldn’t be there, let alone preying on their own. Why should any 17-year-old gang member feel threatened by a ten-year old walking to school? Why are we taking gangs as a given, and that we have to work around them? Shouldn’t we be channeling the effort we are making to usher our children to school safely into ways to reduce gang activity. Are we hostages in our own neighborhoods? Do we realize that if it is ok to accept gangs determining our school districts, then it is only logical to think that gangs can rule us as adults as well? Don’t be mad at Emmanuel. Don’t be mad at Lewis. Don’t be mad at the teachers. Be mad at the barbarians (just like those that sacked Rome, we have barbarians sacking our largest cities) that kill with no rhyme or reason.