I don't know why anyone's surprised that Mayor Daley pulled Ron Huberman from the CTA to head the Chicago Public Schools.
It's true that Huberman has no background in education other than having attended school. But running Chicago's public schools has very little do with educating children. In fact, if you're the CEO, the less you know or care about schools or children the better off you'll be. At least then you might not be as upset by some of the things the mayor makes you do.
During the reign of Arne Duncan, Huberman's predecessor, the main responsibilities of Daley's school chief were to keep contracts going to the mayor's favorite charter programs, close schools in gentrifying neighborhoods so they can be demolished and turned into condos, and remain quiet while the system hands over about $275 million a year in property taxes to Daley's tax increment financing schemes. That means you have to regularly chastise the state for not sending Chicago more school money while knowing that so much of what the state does send gets squandered on boondoggles.
Anything else? Oh yeah: you have to be very--and I mean very--loyal to the mayor. You have to take the hit for his really dumb ideas and you have to remember to thank him at press conferences and ceremonies for being a special human being.
There's also going to be a new twist to the job now that President Obama's poised to unleash a torrent of federal education dollars, up to $150 billion over the next two years. Much of Huberman's time will be spent funneling the billions he gets from Duncan, now the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, to whatever projects Daley wants. The last thing the mayor needs is an independent-minded schools chief questioning how he spends his money.
Now I appreciate just about any increase in education funding, and I have no doubt that a few good programs here and there will be funded with the federal money we'll get. It's sort of like blasting a shotgun at a flock of geese--you're bound to hit at least one.
But this being Chicago I have to figure that millions more will be wasted on pork, clout, and stupidity. So Huberman will have to perfect a look of outrage when especially egregious scandals are revealed.
As you can see, the job requires some first-rate acting skills. Come to think of it, there had to be more qualified candidates than Huberman. But I guess they were busy.