Recently State Senator Rev. James T. Meeks held a press conference. At the conference, Sen. Meeks asked Chicagoans to keep their children home on the first day of school. He wants parents to instead take their children to a school like New Trier in Winnetka and attempt to enroll them there. The reason behind his request was to call attention to the disparity in school funding between a Chicago school and a school like New Trier.
Now in my opinion, what Sen. Meeks is calling for is a stunt. Some stunts are powerful and can attract positive attention to an issue. Other stunts just highlight a lack of political savvy and can be readily identified as being just that-a stunt!
I do have a very strong opinion on what Sen. Meeks is attempting to do. I believe he should be putting his efforts as a “political animal” into working the political process, garnering the support of the majority of his 58 other senators and 118 state representatives to come up with a school funding policy for Chicago that is fair to our students. He should also work with all the Chicago aldermen to get their support in looking into how the Chicago Board of Education is spending the money it gets. But Sen. Meeks has chosen to ask that Chicago parents keep their children home on the first day of school.
So let’s say that 50 percent of Chicagoans heed his call and keep their children home. What are those children supposed to do all day? I haven’t heard him calling for parents to begin to home-school their children. Or will all the local churches open their doors so the children will have a safe place to go as their parents go off to work? What if tens of thousands show up to board the buses to go to New Trier and attempt to be enrolled-will there be enough buses to take them all there?
If, for example, New Trier enrolls all the students who go there on the buses, how will they get there the next day? We currently have children who are being bused to schools within Chicago being picked up as early as 6 a.m. How will a child from 121st and State Street or Madison Street and Laramie Avenue get to New Trier School if they are enrolled? Is there anything in place to get children there the rest of the school year? Or will we now have young people leaving home at 5 a.m. in the morning so they can catch the CTA and RTA to get to that northern suburb by the time first period starts?
Once the children get there, how will they get back home at night? Looking at the website and class schedules for New Trier, many activities occur early in the morning and into the evening-including parent meetings at 7 p.m. So if a child is enrolled at the school, I’m pretty sure the Chicago parent won’t attend those meetings.
New Trier has two campuses-one in Northfield for the freshmen and one in Winnetka for the upper classmen. Those are two separate suburbs. So if two siblings are enrolled and one is a freshman and the other a junior, they can only travel so far together. I am sure Sen. Meeks has a plan to address that issue.
Now what I found out about New Trier in doing my homework for this column was interesting. They are a school that is truly online. So if our children from Chicago don’t have laptops or home computers, how will they compete? Everything is done online. I hope Sen. Meeks has a plan for that as well.
There are several Chicago public schools that compare to New Trier-schools like Whitney Young, NorthSide Prep and Walter Payton. I wonder why Sen. Meeks didn’t call on Chicagoans to go to those schools and demand that our children be given the opportunity to enroll, seeing that they are also Chicago public schools.
I am anxiously awaiting what will happen on Sept. 2. By the way, the New Trier school year begins on Aug. 21. By the time Sen. Meeks pulls his stunt on Sept. 2 and goes to New Trier, they will have already had seven days of school. All the books will have been passed out and all the classes started. They will have also already hosted Freshman Athletic Orientation, Special Education Parent Night and College Application Info Night. I hope those who are involved in this stunt are prepared to support our children with all the tools they will need to make up for already missing seven days of school at New Trier as well as the first day of school in Chicago.