By Ashleigh Costello
CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan Tuesday to offer parents $25 Walgreens gift cards to attend parent-teacher conferences and pick up their child’s report card.
The gift cards are being supplied by Walgreens, so taxpayers aren’t out anything if the program doesn’t work. But we have to wonder how effective bribes will be in solving the problem with neglectful parents that has plagued the district for decades.
Alongside Walgreen Co. CEO Greg Wasson, Mayor Emanuel said the program is aimed at encouraging parents to become more involved. The program will be piloted at 70 Chicago public schools with a record of low parental involvement, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“This is a way, in my view, of incentivizing responsible parenting,” Emanuel said at a press conference Tuesday.
The mayor hopes the program will “close the gap between parents, teachers and principals to have a united front investing in our kids’ education,” the Tribune reports.
CPS plans to track data on parental involvement to measure the program’s effectiveness.
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett believes such incentives will help to spur parental involvement and lead to greater academic gains in the sorely struggling school district.
“Principals and educators can set the environment for learning within a school. Beyond those boundaries, it is incredibly important for that environment to be reinforced for students by parents, guardians and family members,” said Byrd-Bennett. “We need to do more and we can do more to actively engage our parents within our schools, and we will continue to look for new and creative ways to do so.”
Some critics believe that parents should not have to be bribed to be responsible guardians. Children require stable homes and continued parental involvement. A $25 gift card is unlikely to turn absent parents into engaged participants in their children’s education.
What kind of message does the program send students? If you’re neglectful and ignore your responsibilities long enough, someone will pay you to do what you should have been doing all along?
Perhaps the gift card money would be better spent on afterschool programs for students or workshops to teach responsible parents how they can get more involved.
The mayor may have had good intentions, but bribing parents isn’t a viable long-term solution.