Wake up, everybody: Linda Lutton tells it like it is about CPS | Bleader

Wake up, everybody: Linda Lutton tells it like it is about CPS


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  • David K. Staub/Wikimedia Commons
  • CPS Headquarters
I was going to write about the great rent-a-protester controversy rocking the Chicago Public Schools, but I got distracted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's bold new experiment in library management.

That's the one where he saves the libraries by destroying them.

So I've let some of the other writers in town do the heavy lifting on the school protester thing. Which means it's time for a few shout-outs ...

Starting with George Schmidt from Substance, who may be the only writer in town even older than I am.

And moving on to Sarah Karp at Catalyst, who was telling it like it is about those charters long before it was fashionable.

And, of course, the great Linda Lutton over at WBEZ.

A lot of people might now know this, but many years ago Linda was a proofreader at the Reader. In fact, that buzzing sound you were hearing back in the 1990s was her putting my copy through the shredder.

I don't hold it against you, Linda.

Her recent story on the rent-a-protesters is a classic and I urge everyone to check it out, if only to hear one of the protesters call her "darlin'."

Which is a lot nicer than "fuck you, Lewis," which is what Mayor Emanuel said to Chicago Teacher Union president Karen Lewis.

And is probably a whole lot nicer than what I imagine Karen said to Rahm in response ...

"You pint-size, needle-neck, mutha-fu...."

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when those titans went at it.

Back to the rent-a-protester thing...

I feel one of my explanations is in order for all you readers who've been too busy to follow it, or are new to town and might not know all that much about our public school system.

Like Mayor Emanuel's police chief, who comes from New York. And his school's CEO, who also comes from New York. And his library commissioner, who comes from San Francisco. And, in fact, Mayor Emanuel himself, who comes from Wilmette by way of Washington.

Or maybe it's the other way around.

Anyway, the Chicago Public Schools is that big thing that runs the public schools—you know, those big, redbrick buildings you see around town.

It's overseen by a board of mayoral appointees who are carefully vetted to make sure they rarely have anything resembling an independent thought and wouldn't dare to express it even if, by chance, they got one.

From time to time, the board gets together and decides which schools to close and which schools to turn over to cronies of the mayor who will get paid to "turn them around."

Which generally means firing all the teachers and replacing them with androids who begin each day by putting their hands over their hearts and saying in unison: "I pledge allegiance to Mayor Rahm ..."

Oh, wait—those are the charters.

Before they officially close or turn around schools, the board holds public hearings where all the little people of Chicago get to speak their minds.

Generally, most of these little people passionately plead for the board to keep their schools open. After which the board generally closes them—because what fun is it to have little people if you can't make them cry?

But this time around there were busloads of little people saying things like: "CPS knows!"

An immediate clue to most reporters that something fishy's going on, 'cause nobody from Chicago would ever say "CPS knows."

Except, of course, the people who sit on the school board.

The protesters also waved signs that read: "Wake up Everybody, it's time to teach a new way."

That's a line from "Wake Up Everybody" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, one of the greatest songs of all time.

I will now sing a line or two, while doing a dance in my pajamas and slippers....

"The world won't get any better, if we just let it be...."

Sorry, always get carried away when I hear Teddy Pendergrass sing that song.

Back to our story ...

After a little digging, the reporters discovered that many of these protesters didn't even know the issue they were protesting about. They'd merely come along 'cause they'd been paid.

So crucial decisions that would affect the lives of hundreds of children were being shaped in part by the testimony of people who were just doing what they were told in order to make a buck.

Which, when you think about it, is sort of how most decisions get made in this town.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize it's hard to find locals to join the mayor's educational crusade even if you pay them.

I mean, the mayor had to go to Rochester, New York, to find Jean-Claude Brizard, the chief executive officer.

And he had to go to Denver, Colorado, to find Noemi Donoso, the chief education officer.

And he had to go to Winnetka to find Tim Cawley, the chief operating officer.

As a matter of fact, Cawley still lives in Winnetka, which, as you may or may not know, is next to Wilmette.

Hey, here's an idea—the mayor should talk to Cawley about the libraries. 'Cause one thing we know about Wilmette—they sure know how to run a library!