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Chicago to bribe parents -- to get them to help their kids

November 19, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come up with a plan to attract more parents to participate in parent-teacher conferences.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come up with a plan to attract more parents… (Olivier Douliery / MCT )

At some schools in Chicago, very few parents show up for their conferences with teachers, a situation that Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Chicago is one of the cities with mayoral control of schools) proposes to fix with, let's face it, a bribe.

Parents at 70 schools who show up in person to pick up their child's report card and have the related conference with the teacher will receive a Walgreens loyalty card, preloaded with enough points to provide them with $25 worth of free merchandise.

Is this what it's come to? The only way to get parents to fulfill their basic responsibilities is with a financial incentive?

Walgreens is picking up the tab, but this isn't precisely a full-on act of philanthropy either. The aim for the company is to get its loyalty card out there in more hands to encourage shopping at its stores.

It could prove worthwhile. Even if the parents' motives for showing up at school are less than noble, maybe this will break the ice, make them more comfortable about talking to the teacher and learning about their children's progress. It's not, after all, their children's fault when parents don't bother about education. What works, works.

If it works. Could this lead to an expectation that parental involvement must be rewarded year after year? Worse yet, what if it turns out that $25 isn't enough? What if parents want more money to go to the trouble of a teacher conference?

Even if it does work, it's hard to escape that sinking feeling that we've reached the point where good numbers of parents must be bribed to do their jobs.

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