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Standing on a soapbox giving a political speech sounds like fun. That was the order of business this past Saturday at Bug House Square. This is the informal name of Washington Square, a park at Clark and Walton on the near north side of Chicago. The event was sponsored by the Newberry Library, which is across the street.
I came out to hear my friend Bruno Behrend speak on the subject “Public or Private? What should be the future of public schools in Chicago?” He debated Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago Public School principal.
You can imagine the topics. Bruno spoke of school choice, charter schools, right to work, vouchers, private schools, with focus on the residents, taxpayers, and children. Bruno is known for using the term, “government education complex.”
This from his Heartland Institute blog: “The ‘Government Education Complex’ is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.”
The other side spoke of higher taxes and more spending. Much of his focus was on the importance of teachers. In true “soapbox debate” fashion, the audience of about 1000 cheered, booed, groaned, and heckled.
Many people look at the Chicago Public Schools as a jobs program for teachers and as a political activist group. Of course there are millions of dollars available for vendors and contractors. Recently I wrote about the $20 million no bid contract for SUPES, an outsourced educational firm to train principles now under investigation. This led to the dismissal of Barbara Byrd Bennett, the superintendent and part of the school board. Many refer to it as a scandal, but few media stories about it lately.
I would call it the appearance of impropriety or better yet, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption.
There were several other smaller debates throughout the park all day. There were about 20 tables of activist groups including Planned Parenthood, The Green Party, and Socialists of America. The socialists were promoting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It appeared that the attendees could be categorized as left-leaning. The term “socialism” was used openly throughout the afternoon. Of course, there was a handful of us conservatives promoting limited government with freedom, liberty, and opportunity.
The debate went well, as I declared Bruno the winner. Bruno is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. They just moved their offices to Arlington Heights and are planning an open house on Saturday, August 23, 2015 from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM. More details can be found on their website.
Next year I would encourage more conservatives to attend this event. It is important to get the message out of limited government with less taxes, less spending, and less borrowing. This will create more freedom, liberty, and opportunity for all. I welcome the debate, even if I have to stand on a soapbox.
[First posted at Illinois Review.]