CHICAGO (WBBM) – Once upon a time, politicians promised a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage. In the race for Chicago mayor, Gery Chico is promising to put a laptop computer into the hands of every Chicago Public Schools student.

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Chico said, during a news conference at his high school alma mater, Kelly High School, that he would supply the laptops to high school students “immediately,” and to the rest of the system’s more than 400,000 students within four years.

He said the emphasis would shift from books to multimedia instruction.

“First of all, 100,000 or 400,000 computers laptops, when viewed against the Chicago Public Schools Textbook Fund, is not that big,” he said. “We will redirect some of our current textbook spending to laptops and licensing content so that we now enter the modern age.”

In order to make computerized instruction work, Chico said he would place a priority on completing a citywide Wi-Fi network. And he promised instruction for teachers who may not feel comfortable in a multimedia surrounding.

Chico said that the city’s school system, which he headed as Chicago Board of Education president for six years, has lost momentum.

Chico promised to rebuild central office functions from the ground up, and said he could do so while eliminating more than a third of existing personnel. He said that an emphasis would be place on putting the best teachers in the classroom and recruiting promising teachers through programs such as Teach for America.

He said the arts, foreign languages and athletics would all be given priority and funding if he is elected mayor. He said to make it possible, he would extend the class day to 5:30 p.m. and the school year to 200 days. And he said he would negotiate raises for teachers to make it happen.

Chico said he saw room for an additional 20 to 25 charter schools in the city; currently there are 91. And he said he wanted to expand the number of schools offering college prep curriculum, based on the long lines of parents hoping to get their children into the system’s existing college prep schools.

He said he would back a program to give vouchers to the parents of students in the city’s worst-performing schools, would increase efforts to single out bullies and move them to alternative schools and would provide more police personnel to patrol the hallways of, and neighborhoods around, problem schools.

“My job is not only to protect you, but to make sure you get everything that came to this school to get from it,” he told a student who attended the news conference at Kelly High School, 4136 S. California Av., from which Chico was graduated in the early ’70s.

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