Back to School and The New Economy

Back to School and The New Economy

Today is the first day of school for the majority of Chicago Public School children.

With the new school year, new mayor, and new CPS leadership, there is no shortage of change in the air. Expected school reforms include boosting student performance and graduation rates, closing the gap between white and minority students and cutting costs across the board.

Chicago Public Schools are at the center of wide-sweeping change that may even include a longer school day for students. The Tribune reports that three schools have already decided to move to a longer school day, and others who follow will receive financial incentives of up to $150,000 for schools and $1250 for teachers.

“I think everybody is glad to see the young kids back in school,”said Ald. Pat Dowell in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “And with the economy the way it is, with so many parents struggling the way they are, school is probably the best place for them to be.”

Preparing for and working through the struggle seems to be the name of the game.

“More people say the economy has changed forever how they think about and handle money,” according to Sandra Guy’s piece for the Sun-Times, chronicles the depth of the changes and how Americans are reacting to them.

Terms like “The New Economy” and “The Great Recession” are flying around, hinting at the idea that things have changed forever.

Personally, if I rewind five years I can tell you that my lifestyle is drastically different now. I used to juggle credit card debt, and squeeze as many purchases on to my card as I could. Now I only use credit cards when I absolutely have to. My $15,000 debt is now under $1000.

I also take public transportation to work. Guy reports, “the price of gasoline is up 35 percent — about a dollar a gallon — from a year ago.” I used to drive my gas-guzzling jeep everywhere, but when the prices started creeping up, I stopped jeeping around.

The Sun-Times article follows several Chicagoland residents who are holding onto older cars, spending less on lawn care and dry cleaning, maintaining a savings account for vacations, paying off credit cards monthly, clipping coupons, skipping expensive vacations and brown-bagging their lunches.

“Americans are saving more, paying down mortgages, reducing credit card debt, moving to cheaper housing, working at unpalatable jobs and postponing retirement.” We are also postponing the replacement of major appliances, and paying for more things in cash because of less access to credit cards.

Soda prices are up. Data on spending shows that we are spending less on sports outings, club memberships and the theater, but technology spending remains consistent. People “will buy an iPad, an iPhone and other computer equipment, as technology becomes such an integral part of everyday life.”

If all else fails, you can just Groupon a new teaching career for a 60% discount.  Technology wins again.

Dorothy Claybourne is a corporate business woman, entrepreneur, and independent artist working in Chicago.

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