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CPS Pulls Plug on Electrical Program

by By J. Coyden Palmer | Story Posted:07/17/2014  |  July 18, 2014

FORMER SIMEON ELECTRICITY shop teacher Latisa Kindred poses with 12 of her current and former students during a rally Tuesday night on the South Side. Chicago Public Schools cut the program at Simeon earlier this month, the last of its kind within the school district. Kindred and her supporters say by eliminating Career Technical Education programs, city kids are being denied opportunities afforded to those who know trades like plumbing, carpentry, welding and other vocational trades. (Photo By J. Coyden Palmer)

When Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett took over the helm of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in October of 2012, she told the Crusader during a meeting in her office that she was committed to maintaining vocational trade curriculum within the system.

Last week, CPS quietly cut the final electrical program offered in city schools when the program at Simeon Vocational Career Academy was given the axe without warning.

Members of the local electricians union, former Simeon electricity shop students and the instructor who taught them, came together Tuesday night just blocks from the school to begin organizing an effort to save the program. The elimination of the electricity program—a year after the last machine shop course was cut in the city—will have a devastating effect on African-American students looking to get into the trades, said a representative of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

Michael E. Brunson, recording secretary for CTU, said while CPS is eliminating Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, suburban school districts are either maintaining or increasing them.

“These are opportunities that our young African-American and Latino students are missing out on. We are coming out of a recession, so the demand for electricians, machinists, plumbers, carpenters, and all of the other trades are on the rise again,” Brunson said. “So, why are we hurting our kids and their teachers?”

The Crusader reached out to both Mayor Emanuel’s office and CPS for comment on this story.

According to officials at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 134, an apprentice electrician is currently making $18 an hour. After four or five years in an apprentice program, a journeyman electrician can make $44 an hour. Within the next five years, that is expected to increase to $50 an hour.

Last week, Latisa Kindred, who has been at Simeon since 2007, said she was notified by Principal Dr. Sheldon House she would not be returning. This past school year, Kindred said she had 60 students in the electricity program in the beginning of the year and by year’s end, 56 students.

Read more at The Crusader

Education Week: Chicago Mishandled School Closures, Says State Panel

by Denisa R. Superville - Education Week  |  July 15, 2014

An Illinois state task force has released a stinging report on the wave of school closures last year in Chicago, assailing the district for what it sees as a lack of long-range planning, adequate community engagement, a formal system to track and evaluate the student-level impact of the closures, and evidence that the closings benefited students.

The report, issued last month by the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, is laden with criticisms of the 400,500-student district's planning, execution, and other actions related to its closings in 2013 of 49 schools, which directly affected 11,728 students. African-American, poor, homeless, and other students deemed at risk were disproportionately affected by the closures, the report says. More than half the students who moved attended new schools that were on academic probation, it says.

But the district is aggressively pushing back against the report, which Chicago school officials said is riddled with inaccuracies. It is rebutting some of the major findings point by point and accusing task force members of excluding key facts and data that the district provided in response to its questions.

The state task force's report—which looked both at the mass closures in 2013 and consolidations and closures in 2012—is the third in recent months offering harsh indictments of the closures and their effects on Chicago students, parents, and communities. One point that the district contests in the new report is the view that the school system does not individually track students affected by the closures, a charge that John Barker, the school system's chief accountability officer, labeled "factually incorrect."

Tracking Students

The district twice presented information about students to the task force, Mr. Barker said, and a midyear report from the district in March was possible precisely because the school system was tracking students. The district's year-end report on the closures is planned for release this summer, he said, and a study in conjunction with the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research incorporating parents' perspectives on the closings is underway.

"It's still too early to know the complete picture of the impact," Mr. Barker said, but students who moved from closed schools to other schools had "higher attendance rates, fewer misconducts, and higher grade point averages for the first semester."

Facing a $1 billion deficit, the school system closed dozens of schools in 2013, embarking on the biggest downsizing in its history. It cited underutilization as a major reason for the closures.

But the facilities task force blames the district for contributing to its own problems. The report says that while the school system has lamented enrollment losses, it has opened 33 charter schools with 23,368 slots since 2011.

So far, the 2013 closures have cost taxpayers more than $263 million, including for expenses related to closing and emptying the buildings, and new programs, upgrades, and repairs in the receiving schools, according to the report. The task force was unable to calculate the final cost and savings from the closures.

In May, the Chicago Teachers Union released a report concluding that the district had not kept the promises it made when it embarked on the closures. It found that many of the receiving schools did not have enough resources; classes were overcrowded in others; and staff vacancies were higher in receiving schools than the district's average. The union report also criticized the district for a lack of transparency about the costs and savings associated with the closures, and said the money should have been reinvested in existing schools.

"This is typical of the CPS," said Carol Caref, the union's research director. "They have a 'portfolio' approach to schools, as if schools were [a] business. And part of that approach involves closing those schools and, of course, opening more charter schools and building selective-enrollment schools." The district disputes the union's findings.

ILLUSTRATION: West Pullman closing 

Other Views

The Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education, a research-and-advocacy group at the University of Illinois at Chicago, released findings on the impact of the closures from parents' perspective. That report, issued last month and based on in-depth interviews with 23 parents, revealed that parents thought their children were negatively affected by the closures, and that their children's new schools were no better than those that had been closed. The process left the parents traumatized and deeply distrustful of the school system, according to Pauline Lipman, the study's lead researcher. Those perspectives differ sharply from the viewpoint of the Chicago district. In its midyear update—which the outside groups dismissed as largely superficial—district officials praised their handling of the closures and the transition and listed $41 million in savings. The report touts the success of Safe Passage (a district program developed in the wake of the closures to help students safely get to and from school) and the millions of dollars it used to prepare the receiving schools for new students. (The Safe Passage program and transition funds also got plaudits in the facilities report.)

But the schools' data show that while students' grade point averages increased districtwide, those of students in schools not affected by closures rose higher than the GPAs of students who moved to new schools and their peers in the receiving schools. The teachers' union questioned the numbers used in the district's midyear report, which it said showed only minor improvements in selective categories.

Both the facilities task force and the University of Illinois reports call for a moratorium on school closings and turnarounds. Mr. Barker said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's chief executive officer, had already committed to a moratorium on school closures; however, turnarounds were in response to federal education policies.

The facilities task force also calls on the Illinois legislature to dissolve the state charter agency; mandate the preservation of existing public schools when possible; and require the Chicago district to provide detailed plans on the possible future uses of school buildings and the costs involved before approving closures. The panel also wants the district to provide five years of academic and financial support to students affected by the closures.

Make a Career Connection: Construction and Related Industries Career Fair

by ctu communications  |  July 15, 2014

 
Click here to RSVP
 

ILLUSTRATION: Career Fair

 
Click here to RSVP
 

Rahm’s Reign of Error

by ctu communications  |  July 14, 2014

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union analysis of internal data and public reports has found that since the election of Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago in 2011, Emanuel and his handpicked Chicago Board of Education have laid off nearly 7,500 Chicago Public Schools teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs), closed 58 schools and relegated 18 schools for “turnaround” in an unprecedented attack on neighborhoods and communities.

The mayor’s failed education policies, along with mishandling of the city’s pension obligations and soaring violent crime—including nearly 150 Chicagoans shot and wounded since July 1 and a violent lakefront riot this past weekend that left four Chicago police officers injured—has resulted in continued questions about the leadership coming out of City Hall.

“In what other profession can you lay off close to 7,500 employees in the span of three years and that would be acceptable?” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “And some of these years don’t include 20th day of school reductions due to declining enrollment, so we’re probably undercounting…these numbers could be even higher.”

Despite claims by the district that more than half of the individuals laid off are rehired for vacant positions, the CTU continues to receive reports from members who have been out of work since the mayor’s first round of layoffs in 2011. A great number of teachers and PSRPs are eventually forced to retire, resign and live off their pensions, or seek lower-paying jobs in education or other fields. Teachers who are middle-aged, female and African-American have the most difficulty re-applying and securing employment in Chicago Public Schools.

YEAR

PSRP LAYOFFS

TEACHER LAYOFFS

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

SCHOOL TURNAROUNDS

2011

283*

1081

1

0

2012

235

830

7

10

2013

1587

2239

50

5

2014

600

606

0

3

TOTAL

2705

4756

58

18

*only includes CTU paraprofessionals

While recently claiming a reduction in CPS suspensions and expulsions, here are the numbers the mayor failed to mention for his 38 months in office: nearly 5,000 teachers laid off; close to 3,000 providers of essential school services gone; nearly 60 neighborhood schools closed; nearly 20 schools handed over to private “turnaround”; 10,000 students unaccounted for; and thousands of minority children left with few options other than underfunded, privately held charter operations.

Also neglected by the mayor and the Board of Education are the futures of the educators affected by their decisions—those who receive “Dear John” letters stating that they’re highly qualified, yet their applications are denied.

“I have attended numerous job fairs as well as went on interviews,” says a tenured teacher who has been laid off since 2011. “Where is the justice for teachers like myself who have invested time, money and dedication only to be laid off and never rehired? I did nothing wrong to deserve this.”

Stop the CONCEPT Con on the West Side!

by ctu communcations  |  July 14, 2014

ILLUSTRATION: No Concept in 37th Ward!

Reader: CPS has libraries—but where are the librarians?

by ben joravsky - chicago reader  |  July 14, 2014

I was reading a collection of Kurt Vonnegut's letters—great book, by the way—when I came across a missive from February of 1983 that sort of sums up Mayor Rahm Emanuel's curious attitude toward libraries.

 

No, Uncle Kurt wasn't writing to Rahm, who was all of 23 back then and just getting started in the political business. His letter was to Charles Ray Ewick, an official with the Indiana State Library.

Apparently the state of Indiana was so broke it couldn't afford to buy books for its libraries, so Ewick had one of his staffers write a letter to Vonnegut—who grew up in Indianapolis—asking if he'd be so kind as to donate a copy of Deadeye Dick, his latest novel.

To which Vonnegut replied:

"I have complied with this request. Since books are to libraries what asphalt is to highway departments, I assume that Indiana is also asking donations from suppliers of asphalt for her roads. Or has it been decided that asphalt is worth good money, and that books are not?"

I love that letter on so many levels. Not the least of which is that it gets at the curious attitude officials—then and now—seem to have toward books and libraries.

On the one hand, they know that books and libraries are like broccoli: you're supposed to like them, even if you don't.

On the other hand, they're definitely the last thing you want to have to pay for.

In Mayor Emanuel's case, he loves libraries—or at least he loves using them as backdrops for his press conferences.

But he clearly doesn't want to spend the money to hire librarians to run the libraries.

Please click here to continue reading at chicagoreader.com.

WEDNESDAY: CPS budget hearings

July 14, 2014

ILLUSTRATION: CPS budget hearing flyer

Tribune: How a bad Chicago Public Schools idea got worse

by chicago tribune  |  July 11, 2014

In April, Chicago Public Schools officials revealed that they intended to grab what turned out to be $650 million from the district's fiscal 2016 budget. They said they wanted to shovel that not-yet-collected revenue into their fiscal 2015budget to help cover a massive deficit. It was a bad idea.

Stick with us as we explain their loopy strategy: The district said the money it collects in the 12 months of fiscal 2015 won't be enough to cover the year's expenses. CPS said it also would grab two months of revenue from fiscal 2016, which starts July 1, 2015, to help cover 12 months of spending in fiscal 2015, which started last week. Get that? In essence, CPS seeks to spend 14 months of revenue to run schools for 12 months.

District officials also say they will repeat this revenue cycle in future years — always reaching into tomorrow to help pay for today.

Please click here to continue reading at ctunet.com.

Washington Post: Teachers union convention opens, Common Core on table

by Lyndsey Layton - washington post  |  July 11, 2014

In response to teachers who are uneasy with the Common Core State Standards, a major teachers union is offering to underwrite projects crafted by teachers to improve the math and reading standards.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is expected to announce Friday that the union will give up to five grants worth as much as $30,000 to teachers for projects aimed at reforming the standards.

Weingarten plans to make the offer as part of her keynote address to the AFT’s annual convention, which begins Friday in Los Angeles and runs through Monday.

The Common Core standards, a set of expectations of what every student should know in math and reading from kindergarten through 12th grade, is expected to be a central focus of the AFT convention.

Forty five states and the District of Columbia originally adopted the standards, but in recent months, Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma reversed course and decided to drop the standards. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), tried to pull his state out of the standards but is fighting with the state’s board of education about whether he has the legal authority to do so.

The AFT and the other main teachers union, the National Education Association, have both supported the standards but have been critical of the way they have been implemented.

The unions also are opposed to the use of new standardized tests based on the Common Core to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Most states are using these teacher evaluation systems at the Obama administration’s direction.

Please click here to continue reading at washingtonpost.com.

A teacher's take on arts education in CPS

by ctu communications  |  July 09, 2014

John Perryman, chairman of the CTU Arts Committee and Arts Liaison at Ortiz Elementary in the Pilsen/Little Village Network, responds to the State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools report:

“They’re giving themselves a bunch of pats on the back, but this report is also based on that extended school day funding that was cut the next year. 2012-2013 was the strike year, and there was one year of longer school day money, and then it dried up. They’re trying to feel good about the 84 teachers [added] from TIF money, but this year, they cut 100 positions because of the end of extended school day funding, which is creating great instability in the arts education field in Chicago. When that TIF money runs out, those teachers are probably going to be let go in three years.

“They view ‘arts partners’ as the most viable solution to the lack of arts instruction, but really what we need are more certified teachers. The way arts instruction is funded has created a lot of instability. It’s not the proper way to run the district. No other district is looking for private philanthropy to fund their arts. We need the city to properly fund the arts like every other district does in the state, we need more certified staff, and the principals need the funding. We agree with the report when it calls for more money, but arts and music teachers are still very nervous about this, because they’re going to bring in ‘arts partners’ and won’t need certified staff anymore.”

“And they shouldn’t be feeling good that they finally know how many arts teachers there are in Chicago. The city should know all of that already.”

ILLUSTRATION: Child painting 

Chicago Teachers Union