Chicago, Illinois, has a chronic inflated state problem disguised as a schooling problem. In order to eradicate the symptom, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided to attack those who suffer from it and not the actual root of the problem — adopting a classic “more of the same” approach.
A plan approved in May is set to take effect soon, forcing high school seniors to either be enlisted in the military, have a job, be enrolled in a gap-year program, or have a college acceptance letter before the Chicago public schooling system will give them their diploma. The obvious consequences of this new policy are problematic. Still, Emanuel doesn’t seem to care.
In the scenario Chicago’s mayor envisions, students from the poorest areas of the city, where many parents are often absent due to their work schedules, problems with the law, or other issues, children nearing the end of their senior year will have to head to a counselor’s office for advice on which path to take if they want to obtain their high school diplomas. Unfortunately, in many of the schools in those areas, counselors often work with 400 students at a time. With few resources to offer sound advice, these students will be forced to do whatever seems easier, less complicated, and perhaps less burdensome in order to meet the new requirements. As such, many will enlist in the military while others will head to already crowded city colleges. The other obvious consequence of this policy is that many students will simply postpone graduating or completely give up on it.
In no time, Chicago, whose population already suffers due to poverty, high crime rates worsened by a suffocating anti-gun agenda that hurts blacks more than anyone else, and the ongoing drug war will see yet another problem gradually taking over. As young high school students feel uncertain of their future, they will have no incentives to pursue their own individual paths. Instead, they will turn to those that are readily available. As a result, many of the poorest kids in the city will likely take up crime, whether on behalf of the state — by joining the military — or on behalf of a drug cartel that wouldn’t exist without the U.S. government’s war on drugs.
Inflated State, Ineffective Schools, Unhappy Kids
In 2015, when Emanuel failed to promptly find a way to cover some of Chicago’s teacher pensions, he also struggled to find a different means to increase revenue. As a result, teachers and school staff were slashed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case only in Chicago, but where teachers unions have a great deal of power with the local and state authorities.
Thanks to the pact between teachers’ unions and public schooling systems, government-run schools have a great deal of overhead to take care of. Unfortunately, the taxpayer isn’t an endless cash supply, and at some point, the government runs out of other people’s money. Without a way to cover teachers on tenure who are often impossible to fire, these schools struggle to make changes that would actually benefit the students.
In this perverse universe, the schooling system works for the teacher, whose union-backed contract ensures his job and pension are guaranteed no matter how effective the teacher truly is. The student hoping to obtain some important skills to lead a better life outside of the schoolyard, on the other hand, gets nothing.
In Chicago, what Emanuel did was continue this tradition.
Instead of putting an end to this evil system, which allows corruption and inefficiency to remain unaddressed, he’s penalizing students — poor students, in particular — by forcing them to have it all figured out by the time they are done with their senior year. As we all know by now, this plan is sure to backfire.
But why do politicians like Emanuel continue to enable this type of behavior? What do they gain by never addressing the root causes of these issues? The short answer is: a lot. After all, many local, state, or even larger congressional races can’t be won without the support of unions. And teachers unions are some of the most powerful organizations in the country.
To many politicians, standing against teachers unions means losing — and badly.
Thankfully, however, things appear to be changing, but not enough that the mentality surrounding public schooling is also shifting.
For us to have a definitive and constructive conversation about education in the country, we must first tackle the very root of discontent: the government-run education system.
Until then, be prepared for many more Chicagos and many more Detroits to unfold across the country before average Americans finally realize they cannot rely on the state to ensure their children are properly educated.
This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license