Take for example Debra Pickett's recent post, Goodbye to All That, which is making the rounds among my online Chicago communities. At the risk of boiling down it even further, Pickett's message is "Some CPS schools are elitist within the system. I am moving to Wisconsin."
Swap out "the suburbs" for "Wisconsin" and you've just defined one of the main messages of Chicago's well-to-do urban middle-class parents, especially as they justify their flight outward. My response to this sentiment remains unchanged, and I've become almost deadened to any emotion whenever I hear of another family moving in protest to outside of city boundaries. I'd make a comment about asses and doors here, but as a hardened city resident, I've no longer got the time to invest in fair weather Chicagoans. Real estate in my neighborhood is like a revolving door as young families with a toddler age into young families with a kindergartener, look at CPS, freak out, and move out.
You see, I'm too busy donating my time to making my kids' magnet school able to continue to provide its students with a top-notch public education. A K-college graduate of public school, albeit mostly very good ones, I've no idea what a private or parochial school looks like. I can only assume it doesn't get Title I monies or state aid.
However, Pickett's charge of ludicrous parent-led fundraising did resonate. I've have read enough policy papers and statistical analyses to know that the kind of money raised by Picket's former school makes the process of educating everyone better. Even the "poor kids" will benefit from the time, resources, money, and effort put in by Pickett's peers at Oscar Mayer.
But the problem is not in the fundraising itself. It's in the control and the direction of funds by those who've raised them. I think this is what CPS's legal department is struggling--and failing--to regulate as it attempts to tighten the reins on school-based fundraising.
Raising funds in a challenging economic climate is, at best, challenging. San Franciscans have panhandler-fatigue; Chicagoans have nonprofit-with-a-cause fatigue. In a four-block span in the Loop yesterday, I avoided representatives from Illinois PIRG snd Children International. I'll sign a petition on the street, but I'm not giving a 22-year-old my credit card number to lobby my congressperson.
A few months ago, I attended a series of workshops on grant writing and the grant making process. The series was well-run, well-attended, and informative. What I learned was also rather revolting: corporations have found a way to privatize nonprofit giving, using large sums of tax-free cash to influence organizations directly, rather than paying their fair share of taxes and letting state and federal social service agencies decide which programs and initiatives to advance. If I wasn't so horrified, I'd think it a rather brilliant interpretation of the one-per centers' golden rule.
I much prefer Aesop's version.