A Chicago Education Mayor’s Christmas Carol

The Ghost of Christmas PresentThe snow fell gently. The candles on the Christmas tree glowed. I fell into a sound sleep, having just spent a day listening to endless testimony at a legislative hearing where Scrooges with green eyeshades were preparing to fill teachers’ Christmas stockings with lumps of coal.

Suddenly I heard a rattling. The candles on the tree flickered. Then I saw a fearsome sight – a creature in a grey robe whose wizened head was nearly turned around looking back over its shoulder. It spoke in a strong, proud voice, saying “I am Gery Chico, the Ghost of School Reform Past. Vote for me for mayor and I will resurrect Paul Vallas and bring back all the policies he started when I was president of the Chicago Board of Education.”

“But Mr. Chico,” I quavered. “Wasn’t Paul Vallas run out of Chicago and Philadelphia? Isn’t he ruining the New Orleans schools by turning them into charters and allowing them to push out the most challenging children to the few struggling neighborhood schools?”

“Sure,” answered Ghost Chico. “But who cares? Public schools should only be for students who are already doing well, unless they’re related to me and get a new high school built for them. That’s why I supported Paul Vallas’s high-stakes testing and flunking policies, and that’s why as City Colleges Chairman I objected to having to pay the costs for those students who’ve graduated from high school but still need remediation.”

“But sir,” I asked, “Aren’t those graduates who need remediation now the same ones who were children when you and Paul Vallas ran the schools?”

“Bah! Humbug,” shouted Ghost Chico, and disappeared.

I was about to resume my nap when the candles on the tree were extinguished and the room was plunged into darkness. I lit a lamp and then shrieked. Before me was a frightening sight – an apparition with flaming eyes, wild hair, part of one finger missing, and sharp teeth, which he bared as he cursed aloud. “Where the #^@% am I?” he roared.

“Chicago, sir,” I answered. “Chicago, Illinois. It’s in the Midwest, remember?”

He cursed again, then snarled, “Who cares!! I am Rahm Emanuel, the Ghost of School Reform Present. I WILL be your next mayor and I WILL continue the policies of Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan. We will have more school closings, more charter schools, more testing, and more teacher-bashing.”

“But Mr. Emanuel, those programs haven’t worked so far. Why should we keep doing things that don’t work? Isn’t that the definition of insanity?”

“I don’t debate the issues. Get away from me!!!” he roared.

“But…it’s my house.”

Ghost Emanuel let loose a string of curses which were drowned out by a huge clap of thunder. I squeezed my eyes closed, and when I reopened them, he was gone. In his place was a purple clad figure wearing a clerical collar and a powdered wig. He had a Bible under one arm and a copy of the Illinois School Code under the other. There were red-lined post-it notes sticking out of both volumes.

“Who…. who are you?” I asked.

“I am the Reverend Senator James ‘Jacob Marley’ Meeks,” he orated. “God wants me to be Mayor so that I can change the ways of the wicked. I will rid the schools of that evil street gang, the Chicago Teachers Union, and save God’s parochial schools by giving out vouchers. Repent, all ye sinners!!!”

“But, excuse me, Ghost Marley-Meeks, isn’t it true that you run a church school that would benefit from vouchers? And isn’t it also true that your school refuses to enroll children who score below grade level on standardized tests?”

“Who cares!” he cried. “I have the Chicago Tribune on my side. Who needs the truth?”

Suddenly an enormous finger appeared above Ghost Marley-Meeks, and a bolt of lightning shot out of it, striking him and reducing him to a pile of ash. I backed away rather abruptly and bumped into something that felt like angel wings. I turned around and saw a group of beings with halos over their heads and shining white robes.

“Who are you?” I asked in wonderment.

“We are the Ghosts of School Reform Future,” they answered in chorus.

“I’m Danny.”

“I’m Carol.”

“I’m Miguel.”

“We hope that you will vote for one of us for mayor,” they continued. “We believe in an elected school board, strong teachers unions, empowered local school councils, and a great school in every neighborhood for every child. We want to limit standardized testing, lower class size, and only close schools when everything else has been tried. We want to see parents more involved in the schools and fair school funding.”

I rubbed my eyes. I had to be dreaming, but suddenly I didn’t want to wake up.

So, God bless us every one.

Comments are closed.

Support PURE!
About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.