Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where is the adult leadership?

Chicagoans – and most specifically, parents and students in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system – have been shocked in recent days by the announcement that CPS intends to close 54 underperforming schools. The announced closures seem to be concentrated in some of the majority African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of Chicago and this fact rightly has many people asking important questions about what the role of race and/or racism might have been in the compilation of this closure list. I get that. Makes sense to at least ask these difficult questions. And yet – and yet, I must clearly express my outrage at Karen Lewis, the President of the Chicago Teachers Union, for several of her childish and silly statements at a rally yesterday that will clarify the title of this blog.

As reported by WBEZ’s education reporter, Linda Lutton, Karen Lewis said the following to the assembled protesters yesterday: "So lemme tell you what you’re gonna do. On the first day of school, you show up at your real school! You show up at your real school! Don’t let these people take your schools!" This union “leader” is calling on elementary students to show up at their “real” schools? Really? These are children we are talking about. Where is the adult leadership here? Flanking Ms. Lewis was the Rev. Jesse Jackson, signaling his apparent support of her outrageously irresponsible call to action.

The closure of 54 out of roughly 600 schools is certainly a significant development and understandably one that can be expected to engender emotional responses and passionate questioning, but asking children to go to their “real schools” after they’ve been closed strikes me as deeply irresponsible and childish, at best.

These schools are going to close, Ms. Lewis.

The mayor has made that clear, as has CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

As a leader of the Teachers Union, you should be working on solutions, not suggesting that children – children! – be relied upon for acts of civil disobedience.

Let me be clear. This is not an anti-Union screed. I am not only a big fan of unions, I am a member of more than one.

This is a call for adult leadership and adult behavior.

Chicago’s students and taxpayers deserve more from our leaders.