Especially when you consider the very same Mayor Emanuel's revving up to take $55 million in property tax dollars—more than half of which comes from the schools—and spend it to build a DePaul basketball arena and hotel.
But now it's getting absurd.
I got a call yesterday from a teacher at Von Steuben High School—go, Panthers!—who said the principal had just delivered some bad budget news to the staff.
Among the proposed cuts are the school librarian (apparently, the library's going to be run by security guards), the math club, the debate team, and toilet paper.
At the moment, it's not clear what students are supposed to use in the absence of toilet paper (their sleeves, perhaps?), or whether it's part of a larger push by the mayor to train people not to use bathrooms at all during school hours.
Imagine how much money CPS can save if they no longer have to operate bathrooms!
I'll keep you posted as details come in.
Von Steuben's not alone. Apparently, other principals are threatening to stop buying toilet paper as part of larger cuts in their operation and management budgets, which cover supplies.
For a little historical perspective, I called one of the oldest retired teachers I know, whose tenure in the classroom began in the late 1940s.
Just so you know—she's a little hard of hearing, as 80-something-year-olds often tend to be.
What follows is our exchange.
Me: In your 40 or so years as a teacher—through strikes, recessions and economic meltdowns—have you ever seen the mayor make the schools go without toilet paper?
Retired teacher: Go without what?
Me: TOILET PAPER!
Retired teacher: Toilet paper? Of course not. That's the dumbest thing I ever heard. Why would the mayor do something stupid like that?
Unfortunately, the mayor happened to be out of the country, and conveniently unavailable for comment, as the budget cuts came down. It seems the mayor's always conveniently out of town when the shit hits the fan—no pun intended. As you recall, he was skiing in Utah when CPS announced the school closings.
In any event, I'll be interested in his response to Toiletpapergate, should he ever decide to return to Chicago.
Sometimes when embarrassing stuff breaks, he blames it on mistakes made by anonymous aides. Like when they tried to yank Persepolis from school classrooms and libraries.
Other times he claims a higher purpose. Like when he sort of suggested he got the school-closing idea from Martin Luther King Jr.
Maybe the mayor thinks CPS students are spending too much time in the bathroom. Maybe he got the idea to cut toilet paper from Malcolm X.
Coincidentally, I've just finished reading a reminiscence by the actor Gary Sinese about how he used toilet paper pilfered from Ravinia to stock the bathrooms in the fledgling Steppenwolf Theatre he and his pals were starting in Highland Park.
It's an interesting idea, teachers. Perhaps you might want to try it when you take students on field trips—that is, if CPS can still afford field trips—to the Art Institute, planetarium, aquarium, etc.
Here's an even better idea. Have DePaul create a CPS toilet-paper fund with some of the millions Mayor Emanuel's giving it for the basketball arena.
While you're at it, DePaul, kick in a little something so Von Steuben can keep its librarian. Having security guards run the library is almost as dumb as having bathrooms without toilet paper.
It's the least DePaul can do for taking all that property-tax money from the public schools.