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CTU releases editorial cartoon on the hypocrisy of Bruce Rauner’s campaign for governor as he hides behind wife

by ctu communications  |  April 17, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released an editorial cartoon created by attorney J. Peter Dowd with the law firm of Dowd, Bloch, Bennett & Cervone, which represents the CTU and other unions and their pension and health funds. Regarding the illustration, Dowd said:

ILLUSTRATION: Rauner Hypocrisy Toon“I was inspired by the blatant hypocrisy of Bruce Rauner. For the Republican primary he started out as the successful businessman in expensive suits and tie. He proposed to run the state like a business, slash the state budget, cut taxes and crush the union bosses. For Rauner, in a moment of regretted candor, it was a good idea to cut the minimum wage by $1.00 instead of raising it to $10.  According to Boss Rauner, state employees and retirees are overpaid. The $160 billion in cuts enacted by the legislature was opposed by Rauner because the cuts were not deep enough. He was proud of the wealth that put him not only in the top 1 percent, but in the top .01 percent. He also promised to reign in collective bargaining rights of teachers and to privatize more public schools by multiplying charter schools.

“Then, with the Republican nomination in hand, Rauner embarked on a 'regular guy' remake similar to Mitt Romney’s attempt to erase this Republican presidential primary persona like a cartoon character on an Etch-a-Sketch. The suit and tie is replaced by a plaid shirt. The anti-union, anti-worker platform is covered over with images of his wife who trusts him and will vote for him even though she is a Democrat. There is no longer an angry boss with a conservative Republican platform. He wants to seduce independents and Democrats with his crooked smile and trusting wife.”

DePaul College of Education Forum: Mission Hill

by ctu communications  |  April 16, 2014

ILLUSTRATION: Mission Hill Forum

Tribune: Charter school drops controversial discipline fee

by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah - Chicago Tribune  |  April 14, 2014

The Noble Network of Charter Schools has dropped a $5 fee charged to students hit with a detention, one of the most controversial aspects of its strict discipline policy.

Noble sent a letter to parents informing them of the change dated April 8, a day after the Tribune detailed the privately run school's tough approach to student discipline. In the letter, Noble Superintendent  Michael Milkie acknowledged the school's fee over the years “has attracted attention, and as a result been a distraction.”

Parents of students at Noble have long complained about the fees, and some say they have been forced to take their children out of a Noble school because they could no longer afford them.

Please click here to continue reading at chicagotribune.com.

How did your legislator vote on the mayor's pension plan?

by ctu communications  |  April 09, 2014

We have the roll calls from Tuesday's Illinois General Assembly vote on SB1922, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's city pension plan. See how your state senators and representatives voted for changes that will significantly reduce and devalue the pensions of 4,000 of our members.

The CTU represents 4,000 active members and thousands of retired members in the Chicago Municipal Fund (MEABF). We were not part of any negotiations with representatives from the City of Chicago regarding changes to this fund’s benefit levels. We continue to oppose this unfair and economically damaging proposal.

Senate vote and House roll call

GOP hopeful Bruce Rauner’s Noble Street charter network scores $400,000 at the expense of low-income, minority children

by ctu communications  |  April 08, 2014

CHICAGO—As the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) pushes for reform in Illinois charter school law and increased accountability to the public from charter networks, there is increasing concern among parents and fair education advocates over disciplinary policies at some of the privately held, publicly funded schools. The Noble Network of Charter Schools, supported financially by millions of dollars in donations from billionaire gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, has garnered much attention for its use of fines to encourage better behavior.

Noble has raised almost $400,000 in disciplinary fees since the 2008-09 school year, according to data received from Freedom of Information Act requests by the parent group Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) included the charter network in its own research on how charter schools expel students at a vastly higher rate than the rest of the district. At Noble campuses, anywhere from 2 percent to nearly 5 percent of students were expelled in the last school year. The district average for expulsions last year is just over 0.05 percent.

“It’s very clear that Noble Street’s ‘secret sauce’ is no real secret,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “Under Bruce Rauner’s leadership our students are commodified and their teachers are incentivized to punish children and collect fines. It is also ironic that while charters are in Springfield demanding more money and less accountability that the billionaire boys club—Rauner, Ken Griffin, Lester Crown and others—continues to pour money into these failed reform models.”

ILLUSTRATION: C. Montgomery RaunerRauner, infamous for his pro-charter school stance, despite sending one of his daughters to a high-performing Chicago public high school with union teachers, has given about $2.5 million to the Noble network and its nearly 9,000 students, 98 percent of whom are African American and Latino/a and 89 percent who come from low-income families. His family foundation has also given about $4 million to other organizations that operate or support charter schools.

While the amount in disciplinary fines collected by Noble is considerably less than the contributions made by Rauner, one of its largest benefactors, it is a serious concern when a school consistently hailed by the mayor of Chicago for its innovation and academic success lacks a progressive stance on discipline. Hundreds of thousands of dollars may be small change to the gubernatorial hopeful, but it’s a lot of money to the minority and low-income families of the city. The suspension and expulsion data shows that charters are much more punitive than neighborhood schools and CPS wants to work with the charters on a remedy, but cannot due to the inherent autonomy in their governance structure. 

“Rauner doesn’t care about our children” Lewis said. “He is a ‘twenty-five percenter’—someone who believes that 25 percent of our students don’t deserve access to a high quality education. He and his charter allies are only looking to help children who are compliant and help them promote the false narrative that charter operations fair better than neighborhood schools—something that is patently untrue.”

When billionaires like Bruce Rauner fund charters and receive tax reductions from the donations, the school district loses money that it would have been able to spend on things like more social workers to help improve the disciplinary problems at the schools. The public school tax evasion from billionaires creates budgetary problems that prevent schools from implementing positive programs to help students succeed, and money directly to private charters makes them appear more attractive and safer.

Parents from low-income families who want their children to become their family’s first-generation college graduates are led to believe that the only way to attend college is to be subjugated to paternalistic, draconian rules and pay hefty fines. This, however, is false. Only about 69 percent of Noble freshmen graduate from the network in four years, so their college enrollment rates, which are calculated on the number of students graduating, are grossly inflated.

“Excessively fining our children is not the way to improve their behavior,” Lewis said. “You help them much more effectively by improving the social and wraparound services offered in their schools and communities, giving them structure and giving their families the resources they need to succeed.”

CTU President Lewis calls on Governor Quinn to veto the unfair, unconstitutional pension legislation, open talks

by ctu communications  |  April 08, 2014

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis released the following statement on the passage of SB1922 in the Illinois House of Representatives, a proposal by the mayor of Chicago that will cut the retirement savings of thousands of city workers:

“This is a sad day for our paraprofessionals, especially our retired ones, who will see their pensions reduced and devalued significantly. They will lose the value of a third of their retirement savings, so instead of the people who crashed the economic system having to pay their fair share, our elected officials brutally attack the people who are most vulnerable—many of whom have become the head of their households, caring for both children and grandchildren,” Lewis said.

“They’re making this a law so that these individuals, lifelong city and state workers, will lose their benefits. This is theft—plain and simple. We urge Governor Pat Quinn to veto this unfair, unconstitutional legislation and instead call for renewed discussions among Mayor Emanuel, the city and our unions."

The CTU represents 4,000 active members and thousands of retired members in the Chicago Municipal Fund (MEABF). We were not part of any negotiations with representatives from the City of Chicago regarding changes to this fund’s benefit levels. We continue to oppose this unfair and economically damaging proposal.

Charter School Accountability Act

by CTU Communications  |  April 07, 2014

Background: Illinois’ charter schools receive millions in public funds but are not required to follow the same accountability provisions, both financial and operational, as traditional public schools. The absence of such accountability measures creates easy opportunities for misuse of public funds and abuse of the public trust. HB 6005 and SB 3030 as amended address these shortcomings. This bill ensures fairness across the school system without impacting charters’ pedagogical autonomy, discipline policies, or educational focus areas. In fact, for those charter schools already hewing to the spirit of existing statute, this bill would have little impact. This bill addresses weaknesses in the current law that enable bad actors and tarnish the system as a whole.

  1. Drive money to classrooms, where it belongs.

    Charter schools have much higher shares of administrative costs than traditional public schools.

    Issue to AddressHow bill addresses it…
    1. Charter management fees as high as $550 per pupil. Many charter schools have for-profit educational management organizations that collect fees and divert money away from classrooms. Management fees across 8 large Chicago charter networks diverted more than $14 million to private companies and UNO at a time when budgets for traditional public schools across the state were slashed. This legislation limits for-profit EMOs to renewal or replacement of current agreements but does not allow for future for-profit EMOs in Illinois.
    2. Excessive CEO pay. The legislation caps excessive charter CEO at a percentage of the district superintendent’s pay. Addresses issues in Chicago where some charter CEOs make more than the district CEO. Increases money available for classrooms.
    3. Administrative expense monitoring Provides for an audit trigger if administrative expenses are particularly excessive (20% higher than the host district).
    4. Spending public money to on charter school marketing The bill prohibits the use of public funds for school marketing purposes. Money raised through private fundraising could still be used for marketing expenses.
  2. Close glaring funding loopholes related to involuntary student mobility.
    Issue to AddressHow bill addresses it…
    1. Charter expulsion rates As a recent Chicago Tribune story highlighted, charter schools in Chicago expel students at 12 times the rate of traditional public schools. Catalyst magazine found that 85% of those charter expulsions would not have resulted in expulsions in traditional schools.
    2. High charter mobility rates A joint WBEZ-Catalyst report from November 2010 found that 11% of charter students left their schools in 2009. Such student mobility points to a variety of issues, including a deeper charter funding issue. Namely, charters are able to capture funding for students and then remove them from the rolls without returning the money. This legislation would bill charters on a per diem basis to recover those funds. This provision is similar to ones included two other proposals in the House (HB 4591 – Martwick, HB 5887 – Chapa La Via)
  3. Address abuses to admissions process.
    Issue to AddressHow bill addresses it…
    1. Unfairly weighted admissions lotteries A Chicago magazine article outlined how UNO charter schools gamed admission procedures for political reasons through selective (rather than blind) admissions lotteries and through manipulating its waiting list. As such, deserving students were denied admission.
    2. Centralized admission lotteries and waitlists Moving the admissions lottery and waitlist to central administration is the best way to ensure that the process is fair. The Illinois Network of Charter Schools agreed to such a proposal in the 2011 Gates Compact with the Chicago Public Schools.
  4. Eliminate employment conflicts of interest.
    Issue to AddressHow bill addresses it…
    1. Conflicts between the CMO/EMO and the charter school itself The former UNO CEO’s role as head of the parent organization and head of the charter school network created a conflict of interest between the charter schools’ goal of education and the organization’s goal of acquiring political power and distributing money and contracts to friends and relatives. This legislation would prohibit a person from working for both the charter management organization like UNO and a charter school, thereby eliminating this potential for abuse.
  5. Enforce equal reporting standards.
    Issue to AddressHow bill addresses it…
    1. Getting information from charter schools is often a difficult process and reduces trust and accountability. Many charters have been lax in their reporting of key data related to student discipline, compliance with FOIA requests, Special Education compliance, and even making required pension payments. This legislation remedies this lax reporting by including stiff penalties for non-compliance (withholding of general state aid) and increases charter transparency and accountability.

 

Chicago Teachers Union Advocates for Comprehensive Charter Reform in Illinois

by ctu communications  |  April 07, 2014

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has been a vocal critic of Illinois charter operations which compete with neighborhood schools for critical resources and often cherry-picks students based on test scores.  The law that sanctions the privately held, publicly funded charters is deeply flawed and in the wake of the UNO scandal the union and taxpayers have continued to lobby lawmakers to do something about it.

Thus, CTU, along with a number of education advocates, parents and others, currently backs several pieces of legislation under consideration in Springfield that will bring significant reforms to unstable charter movement in Illinois, including a bill calling for the elimination of the Illinois State Charter School Commission.

“Tax payers are demanding more accountability from charter operators; they want to know whether the money going to these schools is actually being spent on educating students,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, NBCT. “With all of this talk of school choice there is surprisingly little information about their students’ rates of graduation, drop out or push out from these organizations. The law as its currently written totally undermines the authority of the Illinois State Board of Education and gives it to a shadow commission with little to no oversight. This is unacceptable in the nation’s third largest school district.”

ILLUSTRATION: Proud parentCharter operations not only lack accountability but with little to no innovation in pedagogy they also fail to outperform CPS’s traditional schools, according to research.  Another crucial and little-known element of charter proliferation is the large financial windfall that can flow toward investors such as billionaire political hopeful Bruce Rauner.  The would-be governor has given about $2.5 million to Noble Street, which has 8,850 students, 98 percent of whom are minorities and 89 percent who come from low-income families. A campus bears his name. His family foundation has also given about $4 million to other organizations that operate or support charter schools.

A vocal opponent of public education and unionized teachers, Rauner once floated a scheme that would call for the transferring of public wealth and resources to private hands throughout extreme leverage (debt) similar to financial structures that led to the Great Recession in 2008. In 2010, he instigated a plan that would raise $200 million in equity, borrow $600 million and purchase 100 CPS schools that the investor group would then lease to charter operators. In such a plan, the investor group would reap two benefits: First, they would receive steady streams of revenue from the leases, and second, they could claim tax credits from depreciation on the buildings.  In short, the public would ultimately pay to lease back its own buildings.

Such schemes have made charter proliferation big business in Illinois. While CPS cited budgetary reasons for closing and consolidating scores of neighborhood schools, their own charter proliferation policies have caused unnecessary expenditures.  Here is a look at current legislation pending in the General Assembly of which the CTU supports:

1. SB2627/HB3754: Eliminates the Illinois State Charter School Commission

Senate Sponsor: Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D) | House Sponsor: Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D)

Co-sponsors: Sen. J. Collins (D) | Rep. Kifowit (D), Rep. Pritchard (R), Rep. Cassidy (D), Rep. Williams (D) and Rep. Dunkin (D), Rep. Cabello (R), Rep. Martwick (D), Rep. B. Mitchell (R), Rep. Davidsmeyer (R), Rep. Hoffman (D), Rep. Meier (R), Rep. Golar (D), Rep. Berrios (D), Rep. Flynn Currie (D), Rep. Ford (D), Rep. Turner (D), Rep. Flowers (D), Rep. Mayfield (D), Rep. T. Jones (D), Rep. Mayfield (D), Rep. D. Davis (D). Rep. A. Brown (R).

What this bill does:  Seeks to eliminate the Illinois State Charter School Commission and return its functions to the State Board of Education (ISBE).

Rationale: The State Charter School Commission (SCSC) is an initiative of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote the expansion of charter schools, especially in suburban areas where there is little support for charters. The SCSC eliminates local control of schools by providing a second application round for charter schools. Charters whose applications are denied by the local school board can appeal to the SCSC for approval. Two Chicago charter schools linked to the Turkish Gulen movement were approved in this manner, and a Sun-Times investigation found that these schools had significant conflicts of interest regarding contracts and expansion.

2. SB2779/HB4237: Diminishes authority of State Charter School Commission by mandating a referendum

Senate Sponsor: Sen. Linda Holmes (D) | House Sponsor: Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D) Co-sponsors: Rep. Kifowit (D), Rep. Pritchard (R), and Rep. Dunkin (D)

What this bill does: Would require a voter referendum for any charter approved by ISBE or the State Charter Commission. The municipal election would take place in the district where the charter would be approved.

Rationale: The bill provides for voter approval for charter schools that have been approved over the wishes of the local school board. It is an additional mechanism to return control over district policy to local school boards.

3. HB 6005/SB 3030: Charter School Accountability Act

Senate Sponsor: Senator Jacqueline Collins | House Sponsor: Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia

What this bill does:  Requires the charter school authorizer to host charter school lotteries (rather than the school)

· Provides that a charter school waiting list must be centrally administered by the authorizer

· Prohibits a charter school from creating any admissions process subsequent to a lottery

· Requires the authorizer to inform the next parent or guardian on the waiting list in the event that a student transfers from a charter school

· Prohibits future charter schools from contracting with for-profit EMO/CMOs

· Mandates that the physical property of the charter school is owned by charter not EMO/CMO

· Forbids an employee to be employed by both a EMO/CMO and charter school

· Mandates that charters pay pro-rated portion of funding for student who leaves to the new school district

· Prohibits charter schools from spending public funds on marketing

· Charter is subject to an audit by auditor general administrative costs are 20% greater than those of the host district

· Requires a charter assessment report every 5 years

· Includes funding limits if charters are not in compliance with reporting regulations

· Creates a compensation cap for charter school CEOs—compensation cannot be greater than 80% of the compensation of the school district superintendent

· Creates a compensation cap for charter school principals—compensation cannot be greater than 10% more than the average compensation of principals in the district

Rationale: The UNO charter school scandal identified important weaknesses in the current law that have yet to be remedied and provide opportunities for future abuse. These reasonable regulations ensure a level governance playing field between charters and traditional public schools.

4. SB 3303: Limits charter expansion in areas where public schools have been closed

Sponsor: Senator Jacqueline Collins

What this bill does:   Provides that no charter can be granted within the same zip code, or neighboring zip code, in which a public school was closed within 10 school years.

· Provides that no charter must be granted unless the General Assembly has appropriated transition impact aid for the school district where the charter school is to be located.

· Provides that CPS designate attendance boundaries for Chicago charter schools.

Rationale: In the wake of the largest mass school closure in US history and the subsequent approval of 18 new charter schools, this law would provide crucial limits on future charter school openings by ensuring that any new campuses opened only where needed and when resources are available.

5. HB3745: Requires all charter high schools to establish vocational academies

Sponsor: Rep. LaShawn Ford (D)

What this bill does: Requires all alternative schools and charter high schools to establish vocational academies for students in grades 10-12.

Rationale: True career readiness requires access to experiential job training that only vocational education can provide.

6. HB4655/SB3004: Applies sections of the School Code that pertain to student discipline policies to charter schools

House Sponsor: Rep. Will Davis (D) / Senate Sponsor: Senator Kimberly Lightford (D)

Co-Sponsor: Rep. Rita Mayfield (D)/ Senator Jacqueline Collins

What this bill does: Amends the school code as it pertains to school discipline policies, and seeks to apply sections of the school code disciplinary policy to charter schools. The bill seeks to redefine what school behavior rises to the level of expulsion or suspension, sets limitations on out-of-school suspensions, in-school arrests, and requires behavioral support services and alternative educational services to be provided to certain students. The bill also provides that a student may not be issued a monetary fine or fee as a disciplinary consequence.

Rationale: Charter schools should be held to the same discipline standards as traditional public schools. Fines and harshly punitive discipline measures have resulted in an expulsion rate in Chicago charters that is 12 times the expulsion rate in public schools. These discipline actions have a disproportionate racial impact, as Latino and especially Black students are subject to such discipline at far greater rates than white students.

7. HB4527: Mandates charter school compliance with state and federal SPED and ELL laws

Sponsor: Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D)

What this bill does: Requires charter schools to comply with all federal and state laws and rules applicable to public schools that pertain to special education and the instruction of English language learners.

8. HB 5328: Mandates Chicago charter schools be administered by a local school council

Sponsor: Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D)

What this bill does: Requires a school that is initially placed on academic watch status after a fourth annual calculation or that remains on academic watch status after a fifth annual calculation to be approved by the school board and by the school's local school council, if applicable.

Rationale: Parents and community members should have a role in the governance of institutions that receive public money and claim to be public schools. This bill ensures that parents have meaningful roles in charter school operations.

9. HB 5887: Creates restrictions on virtual school options for students

Sponsor: Rep. Chapa La Via

What this bill does: Provides that the State Charter School Commission must require Commission-authorized virtual charter schools to (1) ensure student access to teachers and report to the local school board or boards information regarding teacher accessibility, the teacher/student ratio, and the amount of teacher/student contact time; (2) provide opportunities for peer interaction and collaboration; and (3) adopt protocols to prevent bullying or other inappropriate online behavior. Sets forth requirements and limitations that the Commission must impose with regard to entities proposing virtual charter schools.

· With respect to Commission-authorized virtual charter schools, requires the Commission to limit the withholding of State funds from a school district in proportion to the per pupil expenditure used for building maintenance, classroom supplies, transportation, safety and security, and other costs unique to brick-and-mortar schools.

· With respect to all Commission-authorized charter schools, provides that the Commission must require that proof of continuing enrollment and attendance be submitted quarterly, with prorated refunds to the school district upon withdrawal of students from the charter school.

10. HB4591: Requires funding to follow charter students who transfer to district schools

Sponsor: Rep. Martwick (D)

What this bill does: Provides that if a charter school dismisses a student from the charter school after receiving a quarterly payment from the school district, the charter school must return to the school district on a pro rata basis, for the time the student is not enrolled at the charter school.

Rationale: Because of high dismissal rates, charters are able to keep funds for students they no longer educate. Such funding should follow the student if that student transfers from a charter to another charter school or to a public school.

WBEZ: Local school council elections attract 4,384 parents and community members as candidates

by Linda Lutton - WBEZ  |  April 07, 2014

There’s an election in the city of Chicago Monday and Tuesday that you may not even have heard about—and  thousands of candidates are running.

Local school council elections happen every two years (Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks he voted in the last one). Just about every Chicago public school has a council—something like a mini school board. (Charters don't have LSCs, but there's a bill afoot to change that.) Councils are made up of six parents, two community members, two teachers, and one “non-teaching” school staffer. The councils are unique in the nation because they have some real power. They hire and fire the principal, and along with the principal they determine parts of the budget and curriculum, and outline the school’s strategy for improvement.

Under mayoral control of the schools, the councils’ power has been scaled back; schools on probation get less say over budgets and principal selection. Many of Chicago’s new schools and privately managed public schools have only “advisory” LSCs.

Despite that, and despite many schools struggling to get enough candidates to fill their council, there are still 4,384 parents and community people running for local school councils this time around, along with 1,736 teachers and other school staffers.  Elections at grammar schools are Monday, at high schools Tuesday. Polls are open 6a.m. to 7p.m.. Any Chicago resident can vote—no citizenship or voter card needed. Candidate statements must be posted in each school and made available for the public.

WBEZ filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the list of candidates from all schools (we’re not sure why the school district doesn’t post this list for the public, or why it takes a FOIA and 10 business days to produce it). We present it here, along with a few things we noticed about the candidates:

Please click here to continue reading at wbez.org.

46 Years Later

by ctu communications  |  April 04, 2014

ILLUSTRATION: Lorraine Hotel

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in a widespread conspiracy to halt the labor movement, stop Afro-American progress, divide a coalition of activists fighting for economic justice and stave off opposition to the Vietnam War. They thought they killed the “dreamer,” but instead they empowered the “dream.” While Madison Avenue has worked overtime to redefine King’s image, his voice remains forever clear and consistent. They cannot erase the images of his marching, praying, advocating, speaking out, standing up and pushing forward for millions of people from all walks of life fighting to define democracy for a nation. Long live the memory of MLK, and may his life and works inform much of what we do at the Chicago Teachers Union, as well as your own lives. Peace.

Chicago Teachers Union