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Rahm on Education Woes: 'We Have Parents That Can't Be Parents'

By DNAinfo Staff on March 15, 2013 3:43pm  | Updated on March 15, 2013 4:02pm

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared at a New York housing panel with Jacksonville, Fla. Mayor Alvin Brown (far r.) and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee (inner r.).
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared at a New York housing panel with Jacksonville, Fla. Mayor Alvin Brown (far r.) and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee (inner r.).
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

By Jill Colvin and Alex Parker

NEW YORK – Chicago’s efforts to improve education opportunities for young children is going to take more than a multimillion dollar investment in universal kindergarten and corporate partnerships, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday.

It’s going to take better parents.

Appearing at a housing panel in New York alongside mayors from San Francisco and Jacksonville, Fla., Emanuel touted Chicago’s new universal kindergarten program, a $15 million effort set to debut in the new school year.

“For God sakes, I ain’t waiting for the federal government to give me money, because it’s not gonna happen,” he said.

And one big barrier to children’s success in the classroom? Bad parents, the mayor said.

“The real problem is not just the education of our children,” he said. “We have parents that can’t be parents.

“We have too many kids, literally, from a broken home.”

The mayor said the city is making headway in connecting parents to their kids’ academic success, pointing to an initiative sponsored by Walgreens that rewards parents with $25 gift cards for picking up their child’s report card.

Another program uses 12 parent engagement centers at schools across the city. The program allows parents to learn digital skills while interacting with their children at home and at school.

“As I always say, the most important door a child walks through for their education is the front door of the home. If that home is not right, nothing else in the classroom can supplement it,” he said.

Emanuel wants to tie after-school program enrollment to parents picking up report cards.

“You know, you vote, you get a sticker. We’ll give you a sticker when you pick up your kids’ report card, and then you can enroll them in after school [programs],” he said.

Too many parents, he said, lack the skills to prepare their children for the real world.

“We have a lot of kids who aren’t ever going to, at home, get soft skills: showing up on time, dressing appropriately,” he said. “All that comes with the work experience.”

He said the city needs to invest in projects that will help children learn skills and values that will translate to jobs.

“[We] have too many kids in homes where none of that value structure, and the pieces that come with it, get there,” he said. “What is missing here is that parental piece in helping us.”

Jill Colvin is City Hall reporter for DNAinfo.com New York