Are we doomed to be a fat and stupid City?

By JoshMogerman in News on Mar 13, 2011 7:30PM

2010_07_22_CPS.jpg Chicago News Cooperative’s excellent columnist James Warren drops an educational bomb today in detailing CPS’s new “Breakfast in the Classroom” program. No doubt that nutritional issues are hampering performance for a lot of public school kids who simply aren’t getting the food at home needed to keep them focused through the day. And no doubt that takes a toll on teachers and other students. But Warren points to some hugely problematic issues with the program that makes us wonder if the well-meaning plan doesn’t end up doing more harm than good.

The column points out two big problems: CPS already has the shortest school day of the 50 largest school districts in the nation and carb-heavy “meals” that don’t seem like the healthiest fare for a nutrition-focused initiative. The school day issue seems like a clincher on its own. Chicago kids currently get a pitifully short 5.5 hours of instruction (Warren notes a Rahm Emanuel stump speech claiming that Houston public school students get what amounts to 4 years more class time from K-12 than our little Cubs and Sox fans), but the time lost to breakfast could diminish that woeful total an additional 10 lost days cumulatively---or more. And while class times shrink, waste lines will continue to expand if menus featuring PB&J on graham crackers are the norm, as a teacher Warren spoke with claimed.

Look. We know a ton of folks at CPS in administrative and teaching roles. We know it is tough, thankless work. We know that the City has not done nearly enough to give CPS the tools needed to fix things. But if Warren’s characterization of the program is right, it seems likely to make things worse, not better. We know plenty of teachers read this site, so please school us---tell us if this program is a game changing godsend or a stupid overreach dooming our kids to soft brains and bellies. We truly want to know!