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NPR: Librarians Are A Luxury Chicago Public Schools Can't Afford

September 02, 2014

CPS cutting library staff

By Becky Vevea

Two years ago, the Chicago Public Schools budgeted for 454 librarians. Last year, the budget called for 313 librarians, and now that number is down to 254.

With educators facing tough financial choices, having a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago's more than 600 public schools.

It's not that there's a shortage of librarians in Chicago, and it's not mass layoffs. The librarians are being reassigned.

"The people are there, they're just not staffing the library; they're staffing another classroom," says Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School. She says all across the district, certified librarians are being reassigned to English classrooms, world languages or to particular grade levels in elementary schools.

"We got down to the point of saying, well, we have a classroom and it doesn't have a teacher," says Scott Walter, a parent at Nettelhorst Elementary, a popular school in the upper-middle-class Lake View neighborhood on the city's North Side.

He says when the district stopped funding specific positions and let principals and school councils decide how to spend their money, the numbers weren't adding up.

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Setting the record straight on Lewis’ ‘apparent change of heart’

by sarah hainds - ctu researcher  |  August 27, 2014

Karen Lewis did not have an “apparent change of heart” regarding the career and tech (formerly vocational) education [“Old video suggests shift in Lewis’ views”]. The proposal for CPS to move the firefighters training program from an after-school program to an in-school CTE program, like the one at the DuPage Area Vocational Center, is in response to the mayor’s plan to give CPS graduates a preference when they apply for the firefighters’ academy.

In the quote from the video from April 2013, Karen was discussing the history of CTE in the public schools as being the publicly funded training program for private industry. When there were sufficient jobs available to high school graduates, this worked fine. Now the jobs have been outsourced to such an extent that there is high unemployment in this country — and especially in specific Chicago communities. And because of detrimental austerity measures like student based budgeting, education was also sacrificed in the process so that we have students graduating from some Chicago high schools who did not have access to a full, rich curriculum and also their CTE program options were reduced. That is a double whammy on students who already faced an uphill battle because ofsocio-economic factors.

It is not hypocritical to say that CPS should provide both an enriching academic curriculum and also more CTE options. Instead of preparing CPS students for the firefighter’s academy, the mayor would prefer to lower the admissions standards — no one will be benefit from that plan.

Sarah Hainds, 
Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Teachers Union calls for full-day universal preschool

by ctu communications  |  August 27, 2014

Karen Lewis at preschool for all rally

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) calls on the City of Chicago to level the playing field for the thousands of preschool aged children by adopting a universal system that provides a full-day of early care and education for children under the age of 5.  

Under the current system, hundreds of youngsters are at risk of losing access to educational programs that would foster cognitive learning, academic achievement, social skills and emotional development.

Since 2009 State-level funding  for early childhood education has decreased by more than 25 percent leaving hundreds of children without access to half-day, or full-day programs.  State-level funding disparities are just the tip of the iceberg as the enrollment rates among minorities continues to slide. 

According to a report from Voices for Illinois Children, about 58 percent of white children and 55 percent of black children attend some sort of preschool, yet only 40 percent of Hispanic children are enrolled.  Also children in poverty are underrepresented in preschool enrollment, while 24 percent of children under 5 are in poverty, only 19% enrolled in preschool are in poverty.

Just as Chicago Public Schools has responded to Chicago’s high poverty rate by offering all students free breakfast and lunch, a similar community response is needed to support the thousands of working and nonworking families in need of full-day preschool.

 “The current preschool system of half-day slots doesn't work for parents who need reliable, full-day programs to allow them to work to support their families,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “The families left out are precisely those who need this programming the most--low-income parents with few resources who are trying to lift up their families and get ahead through steady full-time employment.”

In order for the current system to work the CTU recommends the following:  

  • Expand existing half-day early learning programs (like Preschool for All and Head Start) to a full-day for 3 and 4-year-olds.

  • Expand early learning programs for infants and toddlers from birth to 3 –years-old who receive child care through the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program.

  • Ensure transparency and accountability in the use of the mayor’s Children’s Fund. Millions of dollars have been set aside from speed camera revenues, but community members are left guessing when it comes to how funds are used within Chicago.

  • Explore both immediate and long-term progressive revenue options to support expanded early care and education—such as reclaiming money lost to banks by renegotiating toxic swaps, millionaires’ tax, financial transactions tax, etc.

  • Require teachers in community-based early childhood programs to hold the same credentials and earn the same wage as preschool teachers in Chicago Public Schools.  This move will create good jobs in Chicago’s communities and will reduce teacher and caregiver turnover, which means more stability for young children and families.

The CTU’s effort to secure full-day preschool is in conjunction with the Bright Future Chicago: Where Kids and Parents Come First campaign.  Bright Future Chicago is on a fast track to make universal coverage a reality by expanding the already broad support for universal coverage through education and outreach, partnering with elected officials and community leaders for concrete reform of the city’s broken system, and promoting a comprehensive and accessible universal plan covering all of the city’s working families.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at

Washington Post: And now, final exams for kindergartners. Really.

by valerie strauss - washington post  |  August 26, 2014

Just when you think things can’t get any worse for kindergartners, they do.

It used to be that kindergartners could play  — which is how early childhood development experts say young children learn and are socialized best.  Today 5- and 6-year-olds are forced to sit for hours at a time doing academics, often with little or no recess, and in some places, no time for a snack. Homework goes home every day with many kindergartners.

Stories about the bastardization of kindergarten come from across the country. John Gemmill of Dodge City, Kansas, told me in an e-mail that he spent at least half of the 186 days he teaches a year giving some sort of mandated standardized assessment — with strict rubrics to follow — to kindergartners in his classes last year. One veteran educator described his granddaughter’s Houston kindergarten class as a “sweat shop.” This past spring the interim principal and four teachers at an elementary school in Elwood, N.Y., sent a letter to parents saying the annual year-end kindergarten play was  being cancelled so kids could keep working hard to be “college and career ready.” (This really happened.)

So what’s next? How about final exams for kindergartners?

Katie Jane Klepko, right, stands with her kindergarten class at Mason Classical Academy in Naples, Florida.  (AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Carolina Hidalgo)
Katie Jane Klepko, right, stands with her kindergarten class at Mason Classical
Academy in Naples, Florida.  (AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Carolina Hidalgo)

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2014 Deferred Pay Advisory

by Kevin Hough and Lois Jones - CTU Field Representatives  |  August 22, 2014

For many of our fellow Chicago Teachers Union members, this past summer provided a hardship as members struggled to make it through almost 10 weeks without regular pay. While every individual’s financial situation is different, those who were able to regularly save a portion of their salary throughout the school year were able to use these savings during the summer break.

As you unpack your boxes and ready your classrooms or offices, also consider doing the same to your finances. New CPS employees should research and enroll in available 403(b) retirement investment options. Returning employees are advised to review their investments and select the options which match their investing goals.

For those who enrolled in an automatic savings plan like those offered by the United Credit Union, it is recommended that all employees readjust their plans to reflect annual contractual raises and lane adjustments. Automatic transfers are offered by most financial institutions and are easy to establish from any account funded by a direct deposit.

In order to fully replace salaries throughout the ten weeks of summer break, the one week of unpaid winter vacation and one unpaid holiday before Thanksgiving, the CTU recommends members set aside at least 23 percent of each paycheck for their personal “deferred” pay fund.

While difficult, setting aside 23 percent of each paycheck is the best way to ensure you have a steady stream of income throughout the year.

CPS Scraps Concept Expansion

by Becky Schlikerman  |  August 21, 2014

This article is reproduced from the Sun-Times Early & Often blog.

CPS scraps controversial South Side charter school campus plan

Concept Schools offices in Des Plaines. | Dan Mihalopoulos/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools officials are not allowing a beleaguered charter school operator to open a planned South Side campus next month, a CPS source has confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Concept Schools'  Horizon Science Academy-Clay Evans, which was planned for the Chatham neighborhood, will not open in September, the source said.

The decision was made after Concept, whose Des Plaines headquarters were raided by the FBI in June, lost out on its first facility. 

The second facility chosen for the school at 9130 S. Vincennes won't be ready for the first day of school next month, the source said.

The located generated controversy after the Sun-Times reported earlier this month that David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, runs a bank that would have benefited if Concept had opened the school in the Vincennes building.

Read more at the Sun-Times Early & Often blog.

DNAinfo Chicago: Dyett Protesters Say CPS is Urging Students to Abandon School

by ted cox  |  August 25, 2014

Dyett High School students are being urged by CPS to abandon the school immediately, before its final year begins, according to protesters trying to keep the school open.

Dozens of protesters with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School sought a meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at City Hall Monday and were told one would be scheduled at their convenience. They also asked that Dyett students receive reassurances from Chicago Public Schools that their senior year would not be disrupted.

"Students from Dyett have received phone calls from Chicago Public Schools encouraging them to leave Dyett and go to either Hyde Park or go to Bronzeville Scholastic Institute," said Jitu Brown, an education organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the national Journey for Justice Alliance. He added the students would be "displaced for the last year of their high-school career."

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Chicago Defender: Simeon’s Electricity Program Reinstated

by Andrea V. Watson - Chicago Defender  |  August 20, 2014

Simeon StudentsAfter much pushing from the community and alumni, Simeon Career Academy High School’s electricity program will be brought back this fall.

Chicago Public School announced the news Wednesday. A partnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will provide high school graduates an opportunity to become an electrical apprentice. Initially, the program was cut due to lack of enrollment from incoming freshmen.

“After hearing from students, parents and the community, CPS is restoring the electricity program, providing our students the opportunity to learn technical skills and secure electrician jobs across the City,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Through our partnerships with local unions, local businesses and education institutions, we are committed to preparing the next generation of Chicago’s workforce.”

For the full story please visit the Chicago Defender website at

On Due Process, Or What You Call Tenure

by ctu communications  |  August 20, 2014

For the purposes of this essay, I’m using the term “due process” in lieu of tenure because people like Whoopi Goldberg (and millions of others) confuse “tenure” for “job for life.” If that’s what we call “tenure,” then “due process” is more exact. More and more, what it means for K-12 educators and college professors is coming to a confluence.

As far as my contract is concerned, it’s not like, after my third year, I got a job for life. Due process just gives me a better chance at talking back.

Teachers earn (please know this) due process after three years of working and building up a portfolio of pieces that we’ve gathered showing that we have the right to object to our dismissal for frivolous reasons. This carries tons of implications, especially in places where school funding waxes and wanes depending on who the principal, superintendent, mayor, or governor were / are. It means teachers can’t get fired for frivolous reasons, many of which include being pregnant, speaking out of turn, dress code, or different racial make-up than the students they serve, or because the principal just doesn’t like you.

Within reason.

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Sun-Times: Million buck pledge changes Lewis’ ‘calculus’ — but not timeline

by TINA SFONDELES  |  August 20, 2014

Karen Lewis said Tuesday that a $1 million pledge of support from the American Federation of Teachers “automatically changes the calculus” of a potential mayoral campaign.

But apparently not enough to push the Chicago Teachers Union president any closer to deciding whether or not to actually challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“I want to run things on my time line,” Lewis told a capacity crowd of union members at Morgan Park’s Beverly Woods Banquet Hall.

It was her third “conversation” with Chicagoans.

And she’s got 74 more to go.


Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, (right) talks with Walter Jacobson Tuesday night at the Beverly Woods Banquet Hall. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, (right) talks with Walter Jacobson Tuesday night at the Beverly Woods Banquet Hall. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Chicago Teachers Union