Give That Young Man His Due

29 May

Asean JohnsonAsean Johnson has a talent for advocacy and had some good teachers.

Some called for the boy to run for mayor. Others reached further, suggesting he could run for president. (Because of his age, he wouldn’t be eligible until 2039.) As for Asean Johnson, he said he might consider a run, but honestly, he’d rather be a professional football player.

“President would be my second choice,” he said on a recent day, taking a break from the playground at his Far South Side school, Garvey Elementary. “And I might want to be a scientist or a lawyer. Those are going to be my two backup plans.”

The reed-thin boy with big ears and gap teeth shot to celebrity last week when a video of him speaking passionately on behalf of his school went viral on YouTube. As of Friday night, the three-minute clip had been viewed 153,000 times, by people as far away as China and Australia.

Enjoy the speech – until the school year ends and schools close.

In a controversial move last week, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 of the city’s public schools. It’s the largest mass school closing ever in one U.S. city. Some 30,000 students will be affected, around 90 percent of them African American.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed for the closures. He says the city will save more than $500 billion, half of its deficit. Proponents also say the closures will hit schools that are both underperforming and underutilized. But a vocal coalition of parents, teachers and students has fought back.


There’s been a real shifting rationale about why the district is closing the schools. What they keep—what they’ve said is that it will save money and they have a budget deficit to worry about, and then now they’re saying that this will allow them to better serve the students whose schools are being closed. Both rationales are outrageous. As far as saving money, the district is planning—or the city is going to spend $300 million to renovate a new stadium for the DePaul basketball team and renovate the tourist areas of the city, that we don’t believe the school closings will save that much money. And we definitely don’t think that this will actually help the students that are being affected. In all the previous rounds, we found that the University of Chicago research shows that over 90 percent of the students actually wind up with worse educational outcomes as a result of their schools being closed. So, this will be very harmful to the students. It’ll be harmful to the public school system as a whole, and to the people who work in the schools, as well.

All those kids, all that money sitting there that could pay private tuition.


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