Last night Anne and I were over at Weegee’s, a local bar in west Logan Square, where they were holding an annual fundraiser for Unity Park.
Unity Park once was a little playlot. In Chicago, a playlot is couple hundred square feet of wood chips, some swings, a jungle gym, a slide and two hoops. But as a result of community involvement and battles with past alderman, including a sit-in to keep her from taking away a basketball court (basketball brings in the “wrong element,” according to the now defeated alderman), the playlot expanded into a real park with a water feature, grass and tons more age differentiated playground equipment. In the summer it bustles with families, elote carts and old ladies selling helado de coco.
Why a fundraiser? Because the Park District doesn’t give the park council enough money to do what is needed. Good park programs need money. Rahm is quicker to give money to the Board of Trade than he is to give budget money for parks, libraries and schools.
So we have fundraisers at bars so kids can have parks.
What a system.
When we got home, someone had sent me this article from the San Francisco Chronicle by David Sirota.
The story: Want better schools? Give them more money.
I remember hearing Jonathan Kozol speaking at the University of Chicago s few years back and he was mocking those who said you can’t solve education problems by throwing money at them. “Of course you can,” Kozol would say. “It is better than dropping it from a helicopter or shooting it from a cannon.”
As 2011 draws to a close, we can confidently declare that one of the biggest debates over education is – mercifully – resolved. We may not have addressed all the huge challenges facing our schools, but we finally have empirical data ruling out apocryphal theories and exposing the fundamental problem.
Thus we arrive at the factor that decides so many things in American society: money.
As the revelations of 2011 prove, students aren’t helped by billionaire-executives-turned-education-dilettantes who leverage their riches to force their faith-based theories into schools. Likewise, kids don’t benefit from politicians pretending that union-busting, teacher-bashing and standardized testing represent successful school “reforms.”
Instead, America’s youth need the painfully obvious: a national commitment to combatting poverty and more funds spent on schools in the poorest areas than on schools in the richest areas – not the other way around.