Having served as Chicago school board president and City Colleges president, candidate Gery Chico claims to know plenty about public education. That includes, he says, the knowledge that hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted by budget-challenged Chicago Public Schools that are not providing what children need.
"This laptop is not seen enough or used enough by our students," said Chico.
And, with that observation, Chico promised that by the end of his first term every Chicago public high school student would be given a laptop computer, paid for, he says, with money the district already spends on archaic textbooks.
"This is easy. You have a textbook fund with tens of millions of dollars appropriated every year, and we're missing the boat," said Chico.
The mass laptop purchase is part of Chico's education plan released Tuesday at Kelly High School, his Southwest Side alma mater.
Chico said, by restructuring CPS's $6 billion dollar budget and cutting administration, he could find money for more pre-schools, a longer school day and year, parent academies to foster their greater involvement, and the continuation of sports and music programs.
"Sports will be promoted in my administration, and we will also purchase the proper equipment," said Chico.
Meanwhile, candidate Rahm Emanuel toured a formerly failing West Side school that had been turned around, and said parents should get report cards on how well their child's school performs.
Emanuel says, if elected, he'll focus on improved teachers and increased parental involvement. As for laptops?
"Technology is important. But technology without a good teacher misses the mark. Technology with a qualified teacher but an uninvolved parent is off the target," Emanuel said.
Chico, who once served as Mayor Daley's chief of staff and school board president, said the administration had lost its momentum on education reform and that recent CEOs had mismanaged taxpayer money.
"It is what it is. I'm not gonna name a name," Chico said. "I think there are a lot of different people who are responsible for these things. I'll tell you one thing students aren't being served by it."
Chico was the first of the candidates who filed Monday to detail his education proposal. Others have promised to release their plans during the next few weeks.