I am glad I don't have to wear Barbara Byrd Bennett's shoes. Mayor Rahm won't help her find enough money and yet she's responsible for repairing our city's broken hearts--the CPS kids.
Over 50 Chicago Public School closings forcing thousands of students to relocate to other buildings, leaving a laundry list of potential problems ranging from safety concerns to vacant schools becoming eyesores to the community. To add insult to injury, CPS announced cutting an additional $52.3 million in central office, administration and operations to close a $1 billion budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2014 to minimize impacts on the classroom. My daughter's school principal emailed a letter to parents about the potential cuts coming in the fall such as eliminating ACT Prep courses, security positions, electives such as business, art, music and world language.
I bet teachers will add toilet paper to the school supply list.
Maybe this is the moment Chicago needs. Let me be clear. I’m just as rattled by the Chicago Public Schools deficit. I once received a pink slip from Ron Huberman. Remember him? I am the mother of two CPS kids. I know miracles need to happen in our city, currently notorious for the violence snuffing out it’s youth, and now shutting down educational anchors in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.
All of this nonsense has left our city with a broken heart. But I think the only people with the power to mend it are the parents. We can receive manna from heaven to fix the budget deficit. We can bring in the national guard to support the Chicago Police Department with stopping violence. But if this city's parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, and 2nd cousins twice removed don’t step up to take back Chicago's communities for their children, Chicago will stay broken.
"The stars are aligned for Chicago to make a dramatic difference in the way we educate our children," -Barbara Byrd Bennett Chicago Public School Chief Executive Officer
Parents are used to dropping off kids expecting teachers to do all of the work. Maybe this will spark the fire needed to force us to step up. Here are seven ways Chicago parents can help their CPS kids:
1) Enroll in a few parenting classes. The Black Star Project is waiting for you. You are your child's first teacher. Tell your kids to pull up their pants. Everyone is sick of seeing bootees walking down the street. Give them the attention they need so they are not tempted to get it from the interesting characters on the streets. Learn a few discipline strategies. Talk to other parents to get tips and strategies about how they are raising their kids in this city. We need to do better.
2) Enroll your kid in out-of-school activities. Oh, some of you are thinking, “what if parent’s can’t afford $65.00 a week karate lessons?” That is a fair question. I challenge professionals with no children to sponsor a child to receive the same opportunities you did growing up. Then I challenge every privately owned dance, karate, tennis, AAU basketball, little league, and soccer facility to figure out a way to accommodate those who can’t afford your programs. And a few parents can afford to sacrifice a couple of trips to the hair salon. Lose the weaves. Brown bag it to lunch. Where there is a will there is a way.
3) Volunteer to coach something. They will probably start talking about cutting sports teams if schools do not have funds to pay a coach. Were you a whiz at geometry? I know a school who needs you to teach a few ACT prep courses after helping the girls' volleyball team.
4) Challenge Chicago’s museums to develop free programming for children. Chicago museums crack me up. $27 admission for adults and $18 for children? They do have free days but they close at 5:30 pm. And for some reason, the free days are never on weekends. The Art Institute of Chicago has fascinatingly expensive summer programs. Thousands of Chicago kids have never been to the plethora of cultural centers this city has to offer with the exception of a speedy field trip with a cranky teacher and bored chaperone parents. Let's get these places offering programs for kids. Consistent exposure to museums, libraries and other cultural institutions will help to improves grades an overall interest in school.
5) Start neighborhood book clubs. I always wonder why kids aimlessly roam the streets at odd hours. Shouldn't they read a book? --several books? Or send your kids to the library. They have great free events and programs and usually stay empty. They are air conditioned, too. The more you read the better you get at it, and comprehension becomes easier. Third grade ISAT reading test scores just might improve.
6) Challenge the wonderful restaurants in this city to have cooking classes for our youth. If you ask 10 kids what they want to be when they grow up, seven of them will say, "culinary artists." Expose them to restaurant kitchen life. Let them learn the importance of understanding metric conversions to feed 5,000 people from one fish and a loaf of bread. Math ISAT scores will soar.
7) Find the savvy computer techie in the neighborhood to teach kids about appropriate internet and social media usage. Especially since Instagram has added video features. If your kids have dreams of obtaining a college scholarship but enjoy posting naked selfies, the savvy computer techie in the neighborhood just may be able to help out.
Most kids can rely on their parents to help mend their broken hearts. What if every parent rallied together to take back our neighborhood by really working with their kids to support their academic and social success? We could start mending our city's broken heart. It just might help.