Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard are performing the annual Chicago late summer ritual: reminding parents about the first day of classes.
I’ve always found it a bit disconcerting that parents and students have to be reminded for a full month to attend classes the Tuesday after Labor Day. Then I found out that Chicago Public School students are in class for five hours and forty-five minutes each day– among the worst in the country– I figured maybe the reason why students need to be reminded about school beginning is because its easy to forget school with the lack of instruction they get while they are there.
When compared to public school children in Houston, by the end of high school students in Houston receive a full four more years in the classroom than CPS students. Four more years of instruction. Who do you think has a better chance at succeeding in college?
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union for a longer school day: “Children for too long in the city of Chicago have been an afterthought, not the primary thought,” he said. He continued by stating Chicago teachers have it pretty good. “Every year for the last nine years, pay has been increased by 4 percent. Instructional time: zero, Those are facts. Which is why we have the shortest school day and shortest school year of any major city.”
It does not seem likely students will get increased instruction for this academic year, but the mayor’s denial of teachers their annual raise has brought the teachers unions to the negotiating table, where the issue increased instruction will likely be raised.
CPS students need increased instruction. But our students also need increased parental participation. Ultimately, my son’s education is my responsibility. It is my responsibility to know when the first day of school is and make certain my son’s butt is in his seat on that day and every day until June. It is my responsibility to make certain that the television is turned off when it’s time to do homework. It is my responsibility to find my child a school at which he can learn.
And that’s why every year we hear about two things around the city: competition to get kids into “good” Chicago schools and suburban flight. From the time a child is walking– if not before– many Chicagoans are fighting to get their kids a leg up so they can get into a good elementary school. That fight continues through high school. Many of these students end up in charter schools– where teachers are not members of the Chicago Teachers Union and instruct students for longer and where parents are generally more involved in the process of educating their children.
We also hear about suburban flight. For many the prospect of fighting for limited spots the “good” Chicago schools– or paying for a private education– is daunting. These parents do research on suburban school districts, figure out where they want their child to go and move into that district, many times paying for it with respect to property taxes, but also insuring that their kid can walk to a school where he can get a good education. That my parents moved into a school district rather than a particular city was something I heard often growing up.
And I understand that many people– especially in today’s job and real estate market– can’t just up and bolt to the suburbs. But sitting on your hands and blaming CPS for your child’s lack of education isn’t the answer. Because after twelve years of complaining about the lack of education but otherwise sitting on your hands, your child leaves high school far behind the great majority of students in the United States.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Chicago Teachers Union to have a little bit more pride in their product. It is disconcerting for Karen Lewis to be fighting against the opening of more Chicago charter schools rather than fighting for the education of the students that her members teach. People would not be clamoring to get children into charter schools if Ms. Lewis’ teachers were doing a better job.
That said, parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. You can’t send children off to school for less than six hours a day and then suspend the educational process for the other eighteen hours at home. A respect for education and teachers is necessary out of the home. That every August the mayor has to go out and tour neighborhoods and remind parents through the media to send children to school is evidence that Chicago parents should have more respect for their children’s education.