If all goes as planned, 150 buses will be packed with poor kids and sent up to Winnetka, Illinois, where the rich kids go to school. It's a big show, to get a spotlight shining on James Meeks, while Chicago kids miss a day of school and everyone gets reminded about the way that schools are funded in Illinois.
Those wealthy kids have everything, and the poor have nothing. In the mind of Rev. Meeks, that's why the poor kids don't do well on tests and go to college and get good jobs. It's all about the money.
It has nothing to do with the two-tiered school system in Chicago, where property taxes are sky-high. The poor black kids could try for a spot in the magnet schools, which are better than the high school in Winnetka, but that doesn't fit the scenario Mr. Meeks is trying to paint.
The poor black kids aren't suffering so much from a lack of funding. There's not a huge difference in the amount that Chicago pays per pupil as compared to other wealthy communities. What they're lacking is attitude.
Students in wealthy communities don't have the option of failing. If anything proves difficult, they will be told to study more. They cannot quit. They cannot take it easy. No one in their family will tell them that it's all right to give up. Parent-teacher conferences are taken seriously and the parents are guaranteed to be there. Students in wealthy communities are not allowed to misbehave in class. They are under pressure to perform, to excel, to succeed.
On Tuesday, the cameras will roll and the highly organized event will be shunted off to a little used campus on the far west side of town, where fewer Winnetka residents will be inconvenienced by the traffic. The New Trier parents will serve water and cookies to their visitors. They won't serve up the rules that govern their own children's success.
Catholic schools have a record of success on a tight budget. There's plenty of money put into the Chicago public school system, and the real issue isn't money. The problem is where those dollars go, whose pockets are lined, and 150 busloads of Chicago schoolchildren won't solve that.