In his rush to hold press conferences to announce the construction of new schools, Mayor Rahm forgot one thing: He has no money to fund them.
  • Chandler West/Sun-Times Media
  • In his rush to hold press conferences to announce the construction of new schools, Mayor Rahm forgot one thing: He has no money to fund them.

Mayor Emanuel had just finished another press conference in which he lauded himself for building new schools when Alderman Nick Sposato broke the latest news about his toilet-paper drive for local schools.

“Jewel gave me 27 cases,” Sposato told me during a phone interview. “That’s a lot of toilet paper.”

Welcome to Chicago—schizo city when it comes to funding public education.

We’ve got Mayor Emanuel—apparently realizing that he’s in danger of losing the votes of parents—barnstorming around town declaring his intentions to spend tens of millions building schools, as opposed to closing them.

He’s held four press conferences in four days—which has got to be a record even for him. At today’s press conference he declared he’d spend $17 million for an addition at Walter Payton High School.

At the same time, we don’t have enough money to properly fund the schools that we have.

So many schools are asking their students’ parents to buy them toilet paper.

The mayor did not indicate at any of his press conferences whether he’ll supply the new schools with toilet paper. Keep it here for details.

As everyone knows, I love public schools. And I’m happy for the parents, students and teachers at Wildwood, Gallistel, Faraday, Melody, Payton and Al Raby schools, which will be getting more construction money.

So thank you, Mayor Emanuel. Better late than never. Which seems to be your motto when it comes to schools.

Of course, I’m not sure if spending $17 million for an addition to Payton—which was built only ten or so years ago—belongs at the top of the list of priorities.

It obviously has less to do with educational needs and more to do with placating the mayor’s north lakefront base. Still, if nothing else—slick move, Mr. Mayor.

But . . .

It doesn’t do much good to build new schools if we have to pass the hat to buy such basics as toilet paper.

And that’s what going on, in light of the extreme budget cuts that preceded—and probably prompted—the mayor’s spate of recent new-school press conferences.

Let Alderman Sposato tell the tale of his ward: “I have six public schools—all were cut,” he says. “Bridge lost 500K. Canty lost 400K. Dever lost 200K. Locke lost 500K. Sayre lost 200K. And Steinmetz High School lost $1.4 million. That’s a lot of money.”

Those cuts came over the summer, prompting many principals to rewrite their budgets to use supply money for teachers.

Which gave Alderman Sposato an idea.

“I was talking to my principals about helping them with supplies,” he says. “I said, ‘let’s have a toilet paper drive.’ So I’m not raising money for schools. I’m raising toilet paper. I reached out to Jewel, Target, Walgreens—they all supported it. It’s been a huge hit. I think we have collected enough rolls for the school year.”

Alderman Sposato says he has mixed feelings about the toilet-paper drive.

“On the one hand, I think CPS should have enough money to buy its own toilet paper.”

And the other hand?

“You got to have toilet paper!”

Excellent point—though it seems to have eluded Mayor Emanuel.