In my role as the guy on staff who has to do the really boring stuff, I've spent the better part of the day reading the Illinois school code.
I'm reading the code because I want to ascertain the validity of something said by Gery Chico and Christopher Koch—chairman and superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education, respectively—in regard to the ISAT.
Not that I don't automatically believe everything that Koch and Chico have to say.
First, a word or two about the state's school code. It's long, boring, and horribly written.
Truth to tell, I doubt either Koch or Chico have read it in its entirety—not that I blame them.
Now, a few words about the ISAT, which is also long and boring. It stands for Illinois Standards Achievement Test and, as the name suggests, it's the standardized test we give to our children in order to make them miserable.
'Cause one of the central tenets of public education in the 21st century is that misery is good. Which helps explain why so many rich and influential people have opted to send their kids to private schools.
Like a certain mayor of Chicago.
Over the last few weeks a growing movement of public school parents have asked CPS leaders: Why should my child have to take the ISAT if you're phasing it out and it has nothing to do with high school or college admissions?
An excellent question to which Mayor Emanuel's response boils down to: 'Cause I say so!
The matter recently erupted into a showdown when teachers at two schools—Saucedo and Drummond—voted not to give the test.
That led Barbara Byrd-Bennett—Mayor E's handpicked school chief—to ask Koch and Chico to weigh in.
What resulted was the great letter of February 28, which Koch and Chico issued as if it were an oracle from above. All they needed was a burning bush.
"Schools are required to administer the [ISAT] under both federal and state law and any [school] that does not comply with those legal requirements faces possible local and state disciplinary action."
Furthermore, "teachers and administrators that willingly refused to comply" face "possible action by the state Licensure Board."
In other words—book 'em, Danno!
Unfortunately, the Chico-Koch letter cited no section of the school code. So to find the relevant passage, I wasted the aforementioned better part of the day reading the state's school code.
Actually, it wasn't all that bad. There was a section dedicated to sex—or at least sex education.
You horny bastards. I knew I only had to mention sex to grab your attention.
But I could find hide nor hair of anything having to do with the ISAT.
For assistance I called Chris Ball, a north-side parent who's read the state law inside and out as part of his effort to let kids opt out of the test.
Damn, I could have used a guy like him—and his allies—back when I went to grammar school.
"Chris," I said. "Where is the section in the state school code to which Koch and Chico refer?"
"It's in section 2-3.64," he said.
Ah, yes—good old 2-3.64. My favorite part.
Don't worry, I won't quote the whole thing. Just the most relevant sentence: "Beginning no later than the 2005-2006 school year, the State Board of Education shall annually test: (i) all pupils enrolled in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades in reading and mathematics . . ."
But the law doesn't specifically mention the ISAT. As Ball points out, state law requires that public schools give a test. But there is no law requiring students must take it.
It's like the state has to provide the water, but they can't make the dog drink it.
"Not a bad analogy," said Ball.
Just call me Earl Warren!
That makes me wonder: Did Koch and Chico play hardball with the teachers because (1) they made an honest mistake in their reading of the school code or (2) they do what Mayor Emanuel tells them.
Hey, this could be a great question for next year's ISAT!
Oh, wait they're phasing it out. Never mind.
As I've been saying all along, there was no compelling reason for the mayor and his henchmen to make such a mountain out of this molehill.
But what's the fun of being a bully, if you can't actually bully someone—right, Mr. Mayor?