BELLA: Rahm Emanuel vs. the Chicago school system

Pundits and progressives are premature in writing Rahm Emanuel's political obituary. Photo: Rahm Emanuel / AP

CHICAGO, May 24, 2013 — The long week is finally over. Chicago can celebrate a long holiday weekend after the disaster of this week.

By Tuesday most people’s memories of the tragic, terrible, and horrific events greater, even than, the Chicago Fire will be erased. They will go on with their lives like nothing happened.


SEE RELATED: Rahm Emanuel defends closing 54 Chicago schools


It was not a natural catastrophe, mass murder, or terrorist incident killing and maiming large numbers of people. There are no real victims.

What happened in Chicago this week was a tragedy and catastrophe made up entirely of whole cloth. It was devised, planned, propagated, and agitated by the Chicago Teachers Union and an army of professional protesters and activists staging protests, and adding gale force wind, across the Windy City.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, like his predecessors before him, decided to touch one of the third rails in Chicago, nay in national politics: Education Reform (with capital letters intended).

Mayors have been trying to improve Chicago schools since 1955. Since 1955 they have always met stiff resistance from various factions who want to keep the status quo.


SEE RELATED: The seriousness of Rahm Enanuel versus the silliness of Karen Lewis


The status quo is comfortable and profitable.

Mayor Emanuel went where no other mayor went before. He did something that was long overdue. He closed 49 underperforming and underutilized schools at once. This week.

Chicago Public Schools are facing a billion-dollar budget shortfall.  Closing schools identified as underutilized or ill performing is seen as a way to take move funds to other schools, improving overall education for ALL students.  

The problem is that the schools are mostly in black and low-income neighborhoods. The closures forces students to cross gang boundaries to get a mediocre education.

About 30,000 students will be affected by the closings.


SEE RELATED: Rahm Emanuel versus Chicago Teachers Union is new breed versus extinct breed (Video)


Emanuel and CPS feel the underutilized schools were a drain on the Chicago Public Schools budget. Too few children attended them to justify the operational costs.

The Chicago Teachers Union, and its loud, brash, president, Karen Lewis, started a hate filled propaganda campaign in a failed effort to stop the majority of, if not all of the closings.

She often neglects to mention that while the average Chicagoan makes $30,000 per year, the average teachers salary, pre-labor union enhanced benefits, is $71,000.

Lewis has threatened if the schools are closed, the Chicago Teachers Union would fight to defeat Rahm Emanuel’s reelection.  

Good luck with that. Particularly if the children begin to succeed.

Chicago has partaken in a greased pig contest while grappling with failing schools for more than three decades. It has never been about the kids winning, but about the special interest groups run by and for adults.

But maybe this time there will be improvement. Public education in poor Chicago can’t get any worse. Up is the only direction left.

Whether you like, dislike, agree, or disagree with Emanuel, he does deserve his chance to improve the schools. If his methods fail he will fail.  If he succeeds, even the almighty Karen Lewis will not be able to block his reelection as mayor for life.

Believing every child deserves a decent basic education in a safe environment; that children should, at the very least, come out of grammar school knowing how to read, write, and do simple arithmetic. That graduating from high school means having the ability to communicate, think critically, demonstrate problem solving skills, and enter college or the work force, Mayor Emanuel is also doing something no other mayor has done.

He is treating the teachers and principals like employees, instead of equals. They are, after all after all public employees. Employees do what they are told not what they want or believe in.

Emanuel expects them to do their jobs in a competent manner. If they can’t they should be fired. Some should probably never have been hired.

The Chicago Teachers Union has been fighting efforts to hold teachers accountable for educating the children.

Firing a union teacher is harder than defeating a career poltroon politician. That has to stop. Emanuel knows it, the Board of Education knows it, anyone with intelligence and common sense knows it.

Teachers, politicians, and the Chicago Public School System do not bear all the blame. Parents are to blame too. Especially parents who treat the schools like glorified day care centers.

There is an insidious culture that prevails in the Educational Industrial Complex that locks parents out of the education process. Teachers are given the know all and end all power in education.

Parents who want to get involved are discouraged, especially if the parents are well educated and have common sense.

There is one last thing Rahm Emanuel can and should do.

Force the Chicago Board of Education to study the Catholic school system. It is a model of stunning success. It educates children, prepares them for the future, and does so at much lower labor, operational, and capital costs than the Chicago Public School System.

He should also study children who are home schooled since they also are getting quality education. Getting advice from successful models will create rabid apoplexy in the Chicago Teachers union.

Instead of protesting they may start a riot.

Intelligent people model success and innovate off of it. Failures, like the nation’s Educational Industrial Complex and its teachers unions, keep doing the same dumb things over and over and over again. They do not expect or care about results or educating children.

Why? Kids do not vote. Kids cannot bribe politicians with campaign contributions.

Unfortunately, too many kids are not being educated either.

Some in the media are writing Rahm Emanuel’s political obituary. These are people who do not know Chicago, its politics, or the way things work. People have short memories.

Come Tuesday the only thing they will be talking about is what they did over the long weekend.

Karen Lewis thought she won a victory by going on strike, especially during a season of protest, when well-funded groups were already protesting everything and anything.

She thought she could bite the hand that feeds. She forgot there is another hand who can take away what the other has given. Lewis is also playing the race card from the bottom of the deck. Racism has lost its meaning. No one takes the accusations seriously anymore.

Through over use and dishonesty the definition of the term has been diluted to the point of silliness.

Mayor Emanuel is an extremely focused results oriented individual. If you do not deliver results you are gone. That is the way things are supposed to work.

Chicago teachers and principals have not delivered results. It is time to change that dynamic. Deliver or be gone. They are nothing more than employees, public servants.

Servants who forgot who they really serve.


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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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