By John Kass
The militant hard left bosses of the Chicago Teachers Union closed schools again this week, leaving students and parents in the lurch again.
Chicago’s loudly progressive Mayor Lori Lightfoot has returned to her default position: scowling impotently, having already caved to the CTU bosses again and again and again, as her leaderless city crawls toward the grave.
And Chicago’s business leaders? They’ve long been obsequious servants of any regime that runs City Hall. Now they sit off to the side, twiddling their thumbs, hoping they won’t be noticed.
But public school parents and taxpayers have noticed. They’ve figured things out. Those with the means to flee will follow tens of thousands of other refugees who’ve already voted with their feet. No city can lose its middle class and survive.
And what of those left behind?
They’ll witness and fall victim to the new crime spree that CTU leaders are seeding, now, on top of last year’s already devastating spike in violent crime, in a city overwhelmed by lawlessness.
Because once again, in the shutdown blue city in the shutdown blue state, students in the government schools —most of them low-income racial minorities—are falling farther and farther behind. Academically, they were already too far behind even before the pandemic. Now they’re left to idle and drift, losing ground they can’t afford to give and have hope for a better future.
What these children and their families have suffered at the hands of the leaders of this broken political system that runs broken government schools is morally indefensible. And as CTU pushes for remote learning that has already failed the kids, many at-risk teenagers, when they’re not out carjacking, are left alone to be slaughtered in Chicago’s street gang wars.
If teachers refuse to provide leadership, and if Lightfoot won’t, at least you should know that there are a few strong leaders out there that tens of thousands of troubled kids have already turned to for support:
The chieftains of Chicago’s murderous gangs.
All of the Chicago metropolitan area and beyond will pay the price of this.
The omicron variant now spreading across America causes much milder symptoms than did other variants. Healthy children are considered safe, even by the pro-China World Health Organization. But the school unions shout that they are not safe, and push for remote learning that the mayor rejects.
During the pandemic, Chicago kids have been safer in sub-standard government schools than on the streets, where some 4,500 shootings and 800 murders prove the city is a killing ground for the young.
“What we are seeing now is… the decoupling between the cases and the deaths,” said a senior WHO official quoted by Reuters.
But the CTU doesn’t really care about the science. They care about power. They’ve long cleaved to the pandemic fear-porn script offered up by the Democrats, including the president and Lightfoot and many of their fellow travelers in corporate, legacy media. Lightfoot and other blue state politicos used media fear porn to drive the voting herds before the last national election.
And now she’s shocked that her Frankenstein’s monster has turned on her?
Too late, Lori.
Only a small handful of Chicago public school students, most with serious co-morbidities, have died from the pandemic. But about 230 kids have been victims of homicide in Chicago, according to wirepoints.org
Who weeps for that 15-year-old South or West Side boy who was already academically behind, that boy who was cut adrift during last year’s failed remote learning?
Now, after one year already lost and CTU shutting schools again, that boy is again cut loose by a morally indefensible system.
He’s lost out there. A few of his friends may get lucky and find a productive future, perhaps join the Marines or the Army and realize structure in discipline.
But that lost boy? His future is all about fear and prison and pain. He’ll become a statistic floating away in Chicago’s river of violence, where the names of the dead are forgotten by a city already numb.
And who’ll weep for that boy?
CTU leaders won’t weep. Neither will hard left progressives who love their virtue signaling and back the CTU’s illegal work stoppage. Randi Weingarten–president of the American Federation of Teachers that serves as the shock troops for the Democratic Party–won’t weep. And neither will Chicago’s silent, frightened business community.
CTU president Jesse Sharkey, the angry man in red in the photograph above, piles on Lightfoot. As does Weingarten.
And the left continues devouring its own.
As I typed that last sentence, I was reminded of an iconic photo of the George Floyd riots in Chicago. You may remember it. It was in the Sun Times, taken as the left began to devour administrations of liberal black mayors across America, including Lightfoot’s, in those “sometimes fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”
The photo was of an angry white woman facing off against two black Chicago police officers. I didn’t see any identification, she could have been an incognito Republican secretly hell-bent on discrediting the raging neo-Marxists, but I doubt it.
I figured her for a CTU member teaming up with Black Lives Matter rioters out on Michigan Avenue, or one of those angry suburban female leftists, just before all the Boul Mich storefronts were shattered and looted.
The photo shows her masked, her face a foot or so away from two black cops. The veteran officers were calm. She was not calm, with both of her beefy pink arms upraised, giving the officers the finger from each hand. It was an image beyond words:
Angry white woman of the left up in the faces of two unmasked black cops, her two middle fingers up, her political rage boiling through that mask that protected her identity. You could almost hear her screams.
Some 35 years ago, then Secretary of Education William Bennett pronounced Chicago’s Public Schools as the “worst in the nation.” Now, it’s even worse than Bennett could have imagined.
Over the last few years, as more and more parents—black, brown and white—began pulling their children from Chicago Public Schools in droves, the CPS budget kept growing even as the CPS student population shrunk. Yes, the system is morally bankrupt, but flush with cash, spending about $27,000 a year per student only to fail them.
To those of you wise in the Chicago Way, the muscle flexed by militant CTU leaders is clear:
They’re measuring the drapes in the mayor’s office. CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates has been floated as a mayoral contender. Sharkey isn’t the power. He’s the front man. Gates is the one with the real juice and the nerve.
And the 2023 mayoral campaign proceeds in a dying city.
Lightfoot opposes CTU’s move toward remote learning. She has responded by locking CTU teachers out of remote learning platforms. She’s threatened to withhold their pay. She deserves credit for talking tough, but then, she’s talked tough many times before. Each time she’s caved to the CTU.
She hasn’t had a win since her inauguration day, when she shamed the City Council. Now she struggles in her mayoral fundraising efforts, flailing.
The other day she made a speech, trying to reboot on fighting the crime wave. But her rhetoric isn’t nearly enough, especially not after she failed to stand up to rioters and looters that savaged the city during the BLM George Floyd riots, as Chicago began its plunge into lawlessness.
She talks of “positive police interactions” with communities, even as murders in those neighborhoods go uncharged, as crime goes unprosecuted, as violent career criminals charged with more violent crime are released back on the streets through low or no bail, or electronic home monitoring, to victimize others even as they await trial.
Much of the blame for this goes to Cook County State’s Atty. Kim Foxx and Foxx’ patron Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Yet Lightfoot dares not mention Toni’s name. And Lightfoot endorsed Foxx for re-election.
As troubled parents flee with their kids–some running to Indiana, Florida, Wisconsin, some to private/parochial schools they can’t afford–we should remember what former Mayor Rahm Emanuel said about crisis.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said. “And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.”
What is that thing Chicago couldn’t do before?
Real School Choice.
Real School Choice is the only way out for Chicago and the nation. It is the only way to break the militant teacher union leadership’s hold on the most vulnerable families. It is the only way to stop the left’s radicalizing of children in the cities and the suburbs.
Let tax money follow the students. Give families a choice. In Chicago, the money is there. $27,000 a year can pay for private school tuition.
This is called freedom. And not freedom only for those with means, but hope for low-income black and brown and poor whites who’ve been left behind by a corrupt system controlled by corrupt political actors.
This is why Real School Choice is hated by the left. This is why it is vitally necessary.
“It is obvious that now, that the system needs real change. And school choice—in which the funding is provided directly to parents to use in the school of their choice, whether public or private–is that change,” he wrote. “It is long overdue. And the evidence leaves us no other option.”
Vallas has been making media appearances. It looks like he’s gearing up to run against Lightfoot, despite my advice that he not run, and allow the city to collapse upon cowardly business leaders who don’t have the stones to fight for Chicago’s survival, or their own.
Lightfoot should take Vallas’ advice on this. He’s given her the roadmap in the column. But he can’t give her a spine.
She could get parents back on her side, if pushed Real School Choice, if she’d bring a meaningful fight to the CTU for the future of the kids and the city. The people want a leader. But her reliance on cheap angry theater won’t work, nor will her memes, costumes, rhetoric, scowls and spin. Chicago is past all that. Chicago is all but past the point of no return.
To save the city, Lightfoot would have to show real guts, and go nuclear, and demand Real School Choice.
As Vallas explained in his column, the city already has the money. Gov. J.B. Pritzker won’t help her. Born on third base thinking he hit a triple, Pritzker is afraid of his own shadow, and like all other Illinois Democrats he curries CTU favor. And CTU makes it clear they plan on taking Lightfoot out. President Joe Biden won’t help her either. National Democrats may use Lightfoot as a prop, but they all suck up to Randi Weingarten.
Lightfoot is alone. It is not a nice place to be, but then the good families of Chicago are alone too. So are a quarter of committed CTU members who voted against shutting the schools. They seek leadership that might encourage them to raise their voices.
As do all Chicago and Cook County taxpayers who’ll suffer the continuing crime wave born out of this unnecessary and illegal CTU school shutdown.
Leadership isn’t only about talk. It’s about the courage to take meaningful action in crisis. And Real School Choice is the only leverage left to the mayor.
Will she fight, knowing her Democratic Party has abandoned the city’s poorest and most vulnerable minority children so they can suck up to militant teacher union bosses?
Or will she just scowl and make her memes and growl up some rhetoric, as CTU measures the drapes in her office, as a once-great city crawls toward the grave?
(Copyright 2022 John Kass)