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Sun-Times: School staffing doesn’t always match CPS enrollment

by lauren fitzpatrick - chicago sun-times  |  August 29, 2016

Ever since it began doling out money per student for school budgets a few years ago, Chicago Public Schools officials have blamed most teacher layoffs on enrollment drops, especially the round of pink slips after the release of each year’s budget.

CPS said the layoffs earlier this month of 494 teachers and 492 support staff of were part of a “normal annual staff movement between schools” because when enrollment drops, so does funding to its schools, and with fewer students, a school doesn’t need as many staffers. As the Chicago Teachers Union criticized the layoffs, the district also pointed to 1,000 vacancies that still need filling systemwide.

A Sun-Times analysis of the layoffs found numerous examples of a disconnect between enrollment patterns and the number of teachers and other staff let go.

In fact, several schools projected to gain enrollment laid off multiple staffers — and will lose staff overall, something of a paradox under the student-based budgeting model.

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Crain's: Time to end the war on Chicago's neighborhood high schools

by BEATRIZ PONCE DE LEON  |  August 26, 2016

As the first day of school approaches, Chicago Public Schools continues to grapple with large budget cuts to schools and central office, and it expects to see a drop in enrollment of around 5,000 students. To keep families from leaving, Chicago can start by doing everything possible to make neighborhood public high schools great for all students.

This would guarantee families a high quality high school education for their children without the admissions madness, anxiety and uncertainty caused by our choice system.

We do not need to open new selective enrollment or charter schools. Choice alone doesn't guarantee access and it doesn't guarantee quality. Today, families with means often turn to private schools or move to the suburbs in search of this guarantee. Some try charters. According to two recent reports from the Chicago Consortium on School Research,neighborhood high schools are driving increases in graduation rates and ACT scores in CPS.

Despite this, many of these schools continue to battle negative public perception and have a hard time competing for students. Yet neighborhood high schools enroll almost half of all CPS high school students—42.5%—and serve students of all abilities and backgrounds.

It is time to put our neighborhood public high schools front and center again.

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Don't believe the hype

by ctu communications  |  August 25, 2016

CTU members may have recently received a letter about "fair-share" fees from the Liberty Justice Center (LJC), a "non-profit organization dedicated to protecting workers' rights." This letter, however, is part of a campaign from the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), which claims to be a “independent research and education organization,” but is really a group backed by billionaire governor Bruce Rauner that seeks to gut unions and destroy collective bargaining rights. The LJC and the IPI even share the same 190 S. LaSalle St. address. What a coincidence!

Remember, Rauner, just weeks ago, was revealed to have said half of us Chicago public school educators were "virtually illiterate." Needless to say, there is nothing the "Liberty Justice Center" can do for us but take away our power to stand up to people like him. Be kind and recycle this letter with the rest of your paper waste.

ILLUSTRATION: LJC phishing scam

New CTU report reveals rampant, unaccountable outsourcing is impoverishing and undermining schools

by ctu communications  |  August 22, 2016

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a report detailing the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on privatized services—services which have resulted in multiple conflicts of interests and an extremely poor level of service in Chicago’s public schools. The report, titled “Outsourced: How CPS Sells its Own Governance to the Highest Bidder,” comes as CPS claims to have insufficient funds for providing students much-needed classroom services, but continues to dole out millions to for-profit corporations.

More than 1,000 staff members were laid off on Aug 5 and special education funding drastically cut as part of CPS’ “balanced budget” for fiscal year 2017. This budget includes nearly $2 billion in private contracts for a wide variety of services—with minimal oversight or accountability. 

“Teachers and students are returning to school buildings that are unsafe due to potential lead contamination, unclean, unhealthy and understaffed,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “This is no way to run a school district.”

“Our report is just the beginning—digging deeper would undoubtedly reveal even more overspending and mismanagement,” Lewis added.

The 1995 Illinois School Reform Act marked the beginning of both mayoral control and outrageous outsourcing in CPS, and the use of private vendors is now justified by claims of “cost savings” and “higher quality services.” “Outsourced,” however, finds that the opposite is true. For example:

  • Custodial contracts: These were among the first services to be outsourced in 1995.  CPS has gone through a slew of contracts with various corporations over the last 20 years but the most egregious have been the recent three-year contracts with Aramark ($260,300,000) and SodexoMagic ($80,000,000).  Instead of cleaner schools, less principal oversight and management, and reduced costs, the reality has been deplorable and unsanitary conditions that have forced teachers, clerks and principals to do much of the cleaning themselves.
  • Food service contracts: Before the 1995 Reform Act, school lunches were prepared in-house by staff hired from local communities.  After numerous scandals with various contractors, CPS now spends $102,351,381 to Aramark for food service.  This is the same company that lost its contract with Michigan prisons for serving maggot-laden food!
  • Nursing contracts: CPS previously supplemented school nurse staffing with a variety of temporary agency nurses. RCM Technologies Incorporated now has an exclusive $30,000,000 contract for three years. CPS students are subjected to a revolving door of insufficiently trained nurses, many of whom cannot perform assigned healthcare duties because they are unfamiliar with procedures.
  • IT department: In FY15 alone, CPS spent $14,349,849 in cost overruns for seven IT contracts that were originally budgeted at $22,750,151, a 63% increase. This is the problem with IT contracts. They are sole-sourced with proprietary licenses and CPS is locked into them, no matter what the cost overruns.
  • Charter schools: In fiscal year 2015, at least $161,775,498 was spent by charter schools on office and administration, management fees, rent, interest payments on loans, and “other.”  This amounts to approximately 27% of public funds (local, state and federal) that are not being spent on students in classrooms.
  • AUSL turnaround schools: With no discernable academic benefit, CPS has given the Academy of Urban School Leadership, an organization with strong ties to the CPS Board of Education and its financiers, $49,277,577 in direct contracts since 2004 plus at least $37,378,875 in AUSL Program Support since 2014 for a total of at least $86,656,452.
  • Management and planning: CPS often claims to make central office cuts, but then contracts out much of that work.  The powerful influence of strategic planning consulting firms (instrumental in the massive school closures of 2013) has also contributed to increased outsourcing.

“CPS administrative chaos and the increasing reduction of support services are driving families out of the district, thereby creating a negative spiral of continuous cuts,” said CTU researcher Sarah Hainds. “Elected school boards in suburban districts do not allow this to happen.” 

The conclusion of the report finds that CPS is not saving money by outsourcing, as years of declining enrollment has reduced the district’s revenue. The CTU makes five recommendations to reverse the trend of rampant and unaccountable outsourcing, which are: in-sourcing, more oversight and contract management, public input, proof of cost savings, and the support of financing options through municipal banks.

“At Wednesday’s Board of Ed meeting, the mayor’s handpicked school board will vote to approve nearly $270 million in contracts and borrow $945 million for school construction without a real capital improvement plan,” Hainds added. “All of this is done while asking teachers for a pay cut and refusing to fund sufficient numbers of social workers, counselors, nurses and psychologists.”

Ultimately, what Chicago’s public schools need are more stability, public oversight through an elected school board, and a significantly stronger contract procurement process that will not undermine the pursuit of a quality education and the schools our students deserve.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians, students and others are set to picket the Board of Ed this Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 9 a.m.

Don't blame teachers

by Parents 4 Teachers  |  August 19, 2016

As CPS released its 2017 budget, the mayor and CEO Forrest Claypool immediately began ratcheting up the pressure on teachers to accept a 7 percent pay cut. Let’s be clear. Teachers have already given more than their fair share.

The city stole a 4 percent raise from educators in 2011, increased the length of the day and year without fully paying teachers for it, laid off over 1,200 educators, closed 50 schools, decimated special ed programs, imposed three unpaid furlough days and sanctioned sky rocketing class sizes. We could go on and on.

Most importantly, teacher compensation, including pension costs, have not caused the district’s financial problems. Bad fiscal management, wasteful spending on contracts, ballooning debt payments and charter expansion are at the heart of the current crisis. In fact, teacher pay and benefits as a share of the budget, have been steadily falling for years.

Rather than tap into available revenue, CPS and the city continue to play the blame game. Rather than use the hundreds of millions of dollars in the TIF surplus, reinstate the corporate head tax, or utilize a number of other revenue sources at its disposal, the city chose to slash school budgets by over $150 million, laying off 1,000 educators and staff. All while claiming cuts didn’t hit the classroom.

Now they want teachers to accept a pay cut by eliminating the pension pick up. Years ago, teachers agreed to forego raises in lieu of the pickup, a move that saved the district money. It’s not a perk and it’s not unusual—many districts pay more than CPS. And, to make matters worse, CPS never really contributed the money they supposedly were "picking up" to the pension fund. Remember, teachers don't get social security. Their pension is all they have.

While no one wants a strike, teachers, parents, students and communities across the city must fight back. Attacks on teachers are attacks on our children and their classrooms. The mayor didn’t get this back in 2012 and he still doesn’t get it. But parents do.

Contact your alderman and ask him or her to support the TIF Surplus Ordinance and other progressive revenue proposals being pushed by parents, community groups and the CTU. Find city council contact info here. FYI, here’s a list of those school by school layoffs.

We've got a lot of work to do to support teachers and ensure quality schools for all Chicago children. P4T is an all volunteer group--email to get involved.

Measuring the impact: Schools struggle from multiple angles with incarceration

by Tara García Mathewson - EducationDIVE  |  August 18, 2016

Editor's note: This story is the fourth in a series of pieces that examine the impact of a number of health and social issues on education planning, funding and operations. The previous entry, on poverty's impact on schools, can be found here.

Yasmine Arrington, 23, grew up with her mother and grandmother while her father was in and out of prison. As a black Washington, DC, native, Arrington grew up in a city with the highest incarceration rate in the country as a member of a race disproportionately represented in prisons and jails. Her mother died when she was a freshman in high school. Yet, still, she kept her sights set on college.

Arrington graduated from Elon University in North Carolina in 2015, five years after founding a scholarship program for children of incarcerated parents, ScholarCHIPS. When Arrington was researching funding opportunities for her own college expenses, she noticed a distinct lack of support for high schoolers in this vulnerable group.

And the group is not that small. As many as one in 14 children has had a parent serve time in prison or jail.

“Aside from my personal life experience, my primary motivation is to make people understand that we cannot blame a child or a young person for the things their parents did,” Arrington said in a prepared statement. “We shouldn’t put them in a box and assume that, ‘Yes, they’re going to get pregnant by the time they’re 16’ or ‘They’re going to drop out of school’ or that ‘They’re going to go to jail themselves, so there’s no sense in even investing in them.’”

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Tribune Editorial Board consistently missing the mark

by Jim Cavallero - Chicago Academy High School  |  August 16, 2016

Kristen McQueary's editorial, "Karen Lewis would better serve CTU by standing up to it's radical faction" again shows her lack of research and knowledge about teachers in Chicago. The 7% pension pickup she says CTU members should give up isn't a perk. It's 7% of our salary that goes into our pension. It is salary that has been directly paid into our pension for years. CPS has always considered it compensation until recently and their trying to make it sound like an extra benefit is disingenuous. Our pension contribution is in line with other public workers such as police and firefighters that she mentions. What is not in line are the salaries teachers earn compared to police and firefighters.

According to the FOP contract the starting salary for police officers as of July 1, 2016 is $47,604 a year and after 12 months, that salary increases to $67,938 and after 18 months it increases to $71,790 per year. A brand new firefighter starts at $55,746 and after 12 months that salary is increased to $67,938 and $71,790 after 18 months per their contract effective July 1, 2016. In comparison, under the CTU's expired contract a starting teacher, with a master's degree, made $59,830 their first year. The second year they should have made $60,830 but no increases were given when the collective bargaining agreement expired. According to that same expired contract a new teacher would have to work six years to reach a salary of $71,788. These contracts can be found at…/city_of_chicago_collectiveba… (for police and firefighters) and (for CTU).

Pay discrepancy does not end there, however. The Economic Policy Institute stated in a report that "in 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994." So teacher pay is not in line with other professions that require the same education either. In addition, teachers are not eligible for social security and therefore our pensions are our retirement income. Most employers pay about 9% into individual's social security so we aren't getting something extra. We are getting something that's in line with other workers. The average teacher pension is $51,454. That is modest as the median income in Chicago is $47,831.

McQueary, as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have used the word taxpayer quite often to express who pays for public services. They seem to forget that we are taxpayers also. Every property tax increase and utility increase they mention we pay as well. We are forced to live in the city and so we are being asked to take a double hit by agreeing to a 7% pay cut. Many of us are parents of children in CPS as well. Not only do the schools we teach in and the students we teach get hit with cuts but CPS puts the burden on our children's backs by making cuts at their schools also. I also don't know how they do their math. If you cut someone's pay by 7% and increase their healthcare premiums and then offer a 5-6 percent raise over three years that is a loss. I and all the other CTU radicals know the numbers. We've actually seen them. I doubt Kristen McQueary has.

Teachers didn't cause CPS' budget problems

by Timothy F. Brown, retired superintendent of schools, Oak Park  |  August 15, 2016

Chicago Public Schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Tribune insist on disconnecting the payment of pension costs by Chicago teachers from their total compensation package. I totally understand the logic of this rationale. However, the whole package was likely intended to confuse both teachers and the public.

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EPI: Teacher pay gap wider than ever

by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel - Economic Policy Institute  |  August 12, 2016


What this report finds: The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever. In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994. This erosion of relative teacher wages has fallen more heavily on experienced teachers than on entry-level teachers. Importantly, collective bargaining can help to abate this teacher wage penalty. Some of the increase in the teacher wage penalty may be attributed to a trade-off between wages and benefits. Even so, teachers’ compensation (wages plus benefits) was 11.1 percent lower than that of comparable workers in 2015.

Why this matters: An effective teacher is the most important school-based determinant of education outcomes. It is therefore crucial that school districts recruit and retain high-quality teachers. This is particularly difficult at a time when the supply of teachers is constrained by high turnover rates, annual retirements of longtime teachers, and a decline in students opting for a teaching career—and when demand for teachers is rising due to rigorous national student performance standards and many locales’ mandates to shrink class sizes. In light of these challenges, providing adequate wages and benefits is a crucial tool for attracting and keeping the teachers America’s children need.

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Sun-Times: Brown: CPS layoffs hit home — and homeless

by mark brown - chicago sun-times  |  August 11, 2016

There were only two students identified as homeless at Prosser Career Academy in 1996 when the principal made Patricia Scott the school’s liaison to a new federal program for Students in Temporary Living Situations.

The number jumped to eight soon after that, and at its high point, ballooned all the way to 81 homeless kids.

At the end of this past school year, Prosser counted 68 homeless students among its 1,400 enrollees, 26 of whom were seniors.

“They all graduated,” Scott told me Wednesday. “I’m very proud of that.”

That group of 26 seniors will be the last class of homeless students Scott shepherds to their high school degree at Prosser.

On Friday, she was among 1,000 Chicago Public Schools employees to learn they were getting laid off.

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Chicago Teachers Union