We like to believe that the people in charge of our public schools – administrators and labor leaders – care about students and what’s happening in their community.
In Chicago, what’s happening in the community is not good. The city has been plagued in recent years with a frightening increase in shootings, including many incidents that involve school-aged children.
Somehow Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, finds that funny.
Lewis appeared at the recent conference of Labor Notes, which bills itself as a “Troublemakers Union.”
It’s essentially a Big Labor agitators’ convention, and there’s no more appropriate keynote speaker for such a group than Lewis, who is still riding the wave of fame created from the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike.
In part of her remarks, Lewis was explaining how elected leaders are providing supposedly false pension reform choices to education unions.
“’Take this cut or nothing’ – that’s not a choice,” Lewis said. “You gonna shoot me here or here?” she said, pointing to different parts of her body.
“I’m still shot! And this is Chicago!”
The crowd roared.
Lewis’s joke obviously refers to the huge number of shootings that occur each year in the city. In 2013, Chicago became the murder capital of America, recording 500 murders in 12 months. That year, there were 2,328 shooting victims, according to the Huffington Post.
In the week following Lewis’s joke, the city recorded 47 shootings, reports the Loyola Phoenix. That’s nearly six per day.
A few days ago, 15-year-old Chicago resident Travon Beech was shot to death. We doubt very much that his family finds any humor in his loss.
In February, 15-year-old honors student Hadiya Pendleton died after gang members mistook her and her friends for members of a rival gang and shot her.
A total of 24 CPS students were killed by gunfire in the 211-12 school year, and 319 were shot, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In 2013, Chicago Public Schools proudly announced a record graduation rate – 65.4 percent. That’s an increase over the previous year, likely because the district allowed students to complete academic work in five years instead of four.
But digging deeper into the numbers, one can see a greater reason for despair. While the CTU was out on strike and demanding a 20 percent raise, standardized testing revealed only 21 percent of 8th graders were proficient in reading while 20 percent were proficient in math.
In 2011, CPS’ dropout rate was nearly 40 percent.
How many of those students turn to a life of crime and violence because their government schools aren’t preparing them for life?
Yet somehow Lewis finds it all a laughing matter.
She ought to be ashamed of herself.