The photo of this week’s Time magazine cover guy is accompanied by a question that I can only assume is rhetorical. Because the answer to the question about Chicago’s mayor–why are people mad at him?–should be readily apparent to anyone following recent headlines about the 50 Chicago schools slated to be closed. It’s certainly obvious to nine-year-old Asean Johnson, who gave the mayor a piece of his mind when his elementary school was on the chopping block.
It doesn’t seem to be a question anyone else is really asking, so I wondered if maybe it might be on the mind of the man himself. In which case I’m happy to oblige and use my letter this week–to tell him why they’re mad.
It’s me, Melissa. Mind if I call you Rahm? Or how about Rahmbo!
Remember that? That was the nickname you earned yourself back when you were the gladiator to President Obama’s Olivia Pope. The bad cop to his good one.
The Merlin to the president’s King Arthur. The guy the New York Times once described as “the leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital.” Back when you were the White House Chief of Staff you used your special magic to help the president advance his agenda.
I miss that guy.
This guy on the Time cover in 2013? Not so much. “Chicago Bull?” Only if it’s describing what you’re full of.
Because let’s be honest, Rahm, your reasons for closing those 50 schools doesn’t quite hold water. You’ve said reassigning students from closed schools to higher performing schools is intended to make sure every child can get a quality school with a quality education. But the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research found no demonstrable improvement for students whose schools are closed.
In fact, in the short term, the stress and anxiety of being displaced actually causes students to do even worse academically. As for the need to close that billion dollar budget deficit? Funny how that need is pressing only when it comes to schools in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods and not when you’re using $100 million of taxpayer dollars to build a basketball arena for DePaul University.
Meanwhile, your decision is forcing students to cross gang lines to travel to new schools in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Mayor Emanuel–the lives of children are too high a cost to pay for a free education. And students are not the only ones who suffer when a school is closed. It also robs a neighborhood of an institution that is often the heart of a community - leaving in its wake an empty shell that is a magnet for blight and crime in areas that are already struggling with these burdens.
Mr. Mayor, I really hope you start feeling like your old self again, that guy who was the president’s pit bull. Because the people of Chicago need a mayor who is a fighter–just one who’s fighting for, not against, them.