Call one art teacher Annie and the other art teacher Amos.
I'm giving them pseudonyms because they're convinced anything and everything that they say about the state of public education in Chicago probably will come back to bite them in the ass.
As if Mayor Emanuel's hatchet men and women are keeping track and if you say the wrong thing, they'll blacklist you. No matter how many student loans you have outstanding.
I can't say that I blame them. In this age of Mayor Emanuel's budget cuts, everyone's paranoid.
As you may recall, I wrote about Amos in April. He has the dubious distinction of having worked at nine schools in the last 12 years—through no fault of his own.
It's just that in the world of Chicago Public Schools, there's not enough money for every school to have one full-time art teacher. And there's not enough money 'cause we waste precious education dollars on stupid stuff—like basketball arenas for DePaul or skyscrapers in River North.
And so when it comes to art, a lot of schools make do with one art teacher, who comes around two or three days a week.
So half the school gets art in the first half of the year. And the other half of the school gets art in the second half of the year.
And lots of art teachers—like Amos—stitch together an existence by holding down two half-time gigs. Thus equaling one full-time salary.
Anyway, Mayor Emanuel closed one of the schools where Amos worked. So he was out half a job. But Amos was calling to say—good news! He'd got a second half-time job at a school that was created when two schools were consolidated.
Now, you might think that there'd be enough money for one full-time art teacher in a school whose enrollment jumped thanks to Mayor Emanuel's consolidation.
After all, the mayor promised he'd use money saved on consolidations to offer bigger and better service for students in the consolidated schools.
But if the mayor hires too many art teachers for the public schools that will cut into the millions he wants to spend on things like buying the land for DePaul's basketball arena. So—tough luck, kiddies!
In any event, Amos was back to having a half-time job at school A, where he had been teaching, and a half-time job at school B, which had been newly consolidated.
It's been a harder time for Annie, who lost her job when the mayor closed her west-side school. She hadn't received any job offers—even though she has an excellent rating.
Listening to Amos and Annie tell their stories, I realize the mayor's turned teaching in Chicago into a big game of musical chairs. In this case, the chairs are vacant jobs and the truncated music is represented by a call from a principal.
So you have hundreds of desperate teachers circling a steadily dwindling number of chairs, waiting for the principal to call, at which point—they lunge for the vacant job.
On some strange and perverse level, I worry that the mayor may be enjoying this spectacle a little too much.
Wait, this just in . . .
Amos called to say he's back down to a half job. The principal at school A called to say they were going without any art teachers—what with the latest cuts.
And Amos is back in the hunt, circling the chairs, hoping to beat Annie and all the others when the next job opens.