On Wednesday, I spent several hours of the morning at CPS, trying to gain admittance to the Board of Education meeting on the 5th floor, or the overflow observation room on the 15th floor. My patience and calm request paid off, and I was eventually allowed to sit in a rolling green chair with a crowd of other people in a large room that featured few windows, a set of fire doors, and two flat screen TVs and a sound system to view the goings-on of the board chambers 10 floors below.
It was a rowdy crowd up there on the 10th floor, and as anyone who has been around The Girl will tell you, hunger and thirst makes people especially crabby. By the time I sat through six aldermanic speeches, two CTU addresses, and approximately 18 rounds of public testimony, I was no longer muttering under my breath, but joining my fellow observers in yelling at the screen.
At least three people told the Board that they'd be forced to move to the suburbs if conditions in their schools didn't improve, get more money, or whatever. Up on the 15th floor, each of these comments elicited a response of, "Go ahead!"
And I agree with their reaction. Since I became enmeshed in advocacy for schools in Chicago, I've heard, "I'll move to the suburbs!" countless times. It is said like a threat, and perhaps it is meant as threat as well. But as a threat, it feels hollow. Threatening to move to the suburbs is a luxury afforded the generally white, generally affluent, generally mobile, and generally well-resourced parents of CPS, if not of Chicago itself. Every time I hear statements along these lines, The Tot (Who's Not)'s favorite line echoes in my head: Aw, come on! Seriously, if
you have the means and the desire to move out of the city, maybe you
should do so, instead of holding your residency up like you are a
precious gift you've decided to bestow on the city of Chicago.
I am not going to make that claim. Maybe it's because I haven't reached a level of frustration with CPS and the city that has me contemplating the move? Maybe it's because my kids attend a kick-ass magnet school? Maybe it's because Grandma & Grandpa Texas just moved six blocks away?
But if I want to move to the 'burbs and can afford to do so, I think I will just do it. And if I'm irritated with CPS and city politics and want to make a statement about it, I feel pretty confident that I'll have the means and outlet to do that as well. Certainly, I may be frustrated in my efforts to effect immediate change, as most of the speakers on Wednesday were. But as a chronic optimist, I'm neither ready to move to the suburbs nor to overstate my importance to the city by threatening to do so.