Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Meeks

Despite widespread criticism that he’s doing more harm to education in Illinois than good, State Senator James Meeks insisted last week that his planned student boycott of Chicago Public Schools will go forward.  Parents are almost unanimous in their opposition.

From the Sun-Times:

Parents at a Humboldt Park back-to-school festival Saturday said “no thanks” to the Rev. James Meeks’ planned student boycott of the Chicago Public Schools’ opening day of class Tuesday.

“The boycott is not good,” said Maybeline Juarez, who makes sure her 13-year-old daughter always attends school. “My daughter is in special education classes, and she needs all the help she can get. Colleges look at that.”

Angelo Valentin, who has five children in Chicago Public Schools, agreed that a boycott isn’t the answer to the schools’ money problems.

“The schools should get their money, but it shouldn’t be in the lap of the children,” said Valentin. “You can’t use them as pawns.”

The last statement really made an impression with me.  Meeks is using children as pawns in a vicious political game.

Meeks’ grand plan is simple: bus 2,000 students to wealthy Winnetka to protest school-funding inequities in Illinois, then try to register them at New Trier High School’s Northfield Campus.

This misguided publicity stunt will do nothing.  The children will not be able to register at New Trier High School.  At the end of the day the children will be left with anger and frustration.  No doubt Meeks will point reporters in the direction of children shouting in anger, or crying.

Then, next week, those kids will have to go to school, starting the year four days behind.  Will Senator Meeks pick up the tab for the Huntington Learning Center or the Sylvan Learning Center?  I doubt it.  When these students who took the four-day field trip with the senator start to fall further behind, Meeks will no doubt take advantage of the opportunity to further point out the failures of education in Illinois.

Another leader in education reform has another idea:

While Meeks prepared for the boycott, Phillip Jackson, founder of the Black Star Project, was at the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park on Saturday urging men to participate in the project’s nationwide “Million Father March” by taking their children to school on the first day.

Jackson said he also wants better school funding. But he wants children in school on the first day — and every day.

“Every day they’re not in school, they’re further and further behind,” said Jackson, who expects “tens of thousands” of mostly black and Latino fathers in Chicago to take their children to school Tuesday.

Sadly, Meeks’ boycott is all about Senator Meeks, a publicity stunt he can tout during campaigns and from the pulpit.  The children of Illinois, already victims of an unfair educational system, will suffer.