The cuts to the Chicago public school system are as egregious as they are politically transparent. Aside from the 50 schools that are closing outright, many are simply being gutted to ensure failure. John F Eberhart Elementary School, for example, serves 1648 students and will be losing $1.5 million. Gee, I wonder if the fact that the student body is comprised of 97.6% low income kids, 8.5% Special Education students, and 31.9% non-native English speakers has anything to do with that? (Almost 90% of kids of the kids from the 50 schools to be closed are black, by the way. JUST FYI.) And I wonder if it has anything to do with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s push for privatization through charter schools?
Emanuel’s total lack of compunction in absolutely eviscerating an already severely underfunded public school system resulted in a strike last year, which obviously didn’t resolve or secure much of anything. Many teachers, however, aren’t taking it lying down. CPS Teacher Michelle Gunderson, for example, is asking that you help her students wipe their asses.
While much is made of the lay-offs and job losses that school closings cause, Gunderson decided to draw attention to the absolute dearth of even basic resources that already exists, and will only be exacerbated by the mayor’s cuts. One of the more dire examples is lack of toilet paper.
Two weeks ago school-based budgets were released, and over the past week principals and Local School Councils rolled out their plans. The cuts are drastic. Our school had to empty out all reserves, pink slip two teachers’ aides, and eliminate a school secretary position. We are mercifully able to keep all of our teaching positions this year, but with drained reserves this will not be sustainable for another cycle.
This is when we get back to the toilet paper issue. In many schools, including mine, there are no funds left for janitorial supplies – and this includes toilet paper.
This Tuesday, Chicago activists will gather toilet paper donations outside of an event where Barbara Byrd-Bennett, our schools chief, is proclaiming the benefits of her five year plan. What might seem juvenile to some is in fact a perfect metaphor for the disregard of human dignity – the Chicago Public Schools care so little about children that their basic needs are being neglected.
There’s even this awesome tongue-in-cheek PSA—a brilliant combination of footage from a Chicago Student Union bathroom tour and that completely brutal ASPCA video on animal cruelty. The video is quick to point out the Mayor’s priorities.
“ Chicago’s budget is tight, and it’s hard to afford a new arena for DePaul, a new Hyatt Hotel, and still adequately fund the city’s public schools. If you send a roll of two-ply, or even one-ply to the Mayor’s Office, I’m sure they will get it out to the schools that need it most.”