by illinois federation of teachers | October 02, 2015
The clock is ticking! There is just one week remaining to sign up for the upcoming session of IFT Union Leadership Institute (ULI) North. The registration deadline is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9.
Limited space is still available in the three-weekend courses, which will be conducted at the Robert M. Healey Center in Westmont on:
- November 7-8, 2015
- February 6-7, 2016
- April 23-24, 2016
Participants in these sessions must attend all three weekends to complete the course.
Space is also available in the special single-weekend session, "Childhood Health & Wellbeing: Supporting Grieving Children," which will be conducted only on Nov. 7-8. This new and important AFT-developed workshop is open to educators, social workers, PSRPs, and others who work directly with students. It will address:
- how grief impacts learning and a student's ability to develop skills necessary for social and emotional development;
- how to hold difficult conversations with grieving students; and
- how to work with colleagues to address the special needs of a grieving child.
by CTU Communications | October 01, 2015
Thursday morning, as teachers, clinicians and PSRPs in East St. Louis School District 189 walked the picket line, the Chicago Teachers Union expressed their strong support of Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1220, the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers. Serving about 6,000 students from pre-Kindergarten through high school, the East St. Louis educators have gone three years with frozen salaries and withstood numerous school closings in the last several years. Educators throughout Chicago stand with our Illinois Federation of Teachers sisters and brothers in their fight for stability, support and basic respect. Supporters can visit Local 1220’s facebook page to show solidarity.
by ctu communications | September 29, 2015
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a special report examining the state of special education services in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The report, titled “Special Education Services in Crisis at CPS,” looks at the impact of special education “right-sizing” throughout the district, culminating most recently in June with devastating cuts to more than 700 positions and the slashing of more than $40 million from the CPS special education budget. The CTU finds these cuts to be not only untenable, but also unsupported by any data grounded in student needs.
CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson has been quoted as saying that the cuts to special education would not hurt children and that CPS will intervene to make sure students receive the supports they need. CPS administrators have claimed that none of the closed special education paraprofessional positions would affect services written into Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and that all were just “supplemental” positions closed after a CPS audit of its resourcing levels. These cuts were reportedly the result of an “18-month review” of special education, yet CPS has been unable to produce documents that detail the needs outlined in student IEPs across the district and analyze how current or past staffing was being utilized to meet those needs.
In fact, in an email to a parent inquiring about the cuts at a specialty school, Markay Winston, head of the CPS Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, clarified that no audit specific to their school had been conducted, and further, that no written report existed about the district's review of special education staffing levels at the schools, nor about the process for deciding cuts. According to Winston, the oft-cited 18-month “review” was an unrecorded “process by which we looked at our schools over a period of time to determine student enrollment and staffing needs.”
Last week’s 10th day budget cuts are further eroding special education supports. While net losses across all district schools for special education positions total 16.5 teachers and 52.5 assistants, there are 161 schools losing special education teachers and 185 schools losing paraprofessional support. These schools will have to cope with the loss of 237 special education teachers and 337 special education assistants. Furthermore, of the 40 schools that clawed back special education aide positions in August from the district, 21 of those schools have now lost aide positions in the 10th day cuts. Across those 21 schools, more special education paraprofessional positions have now been cut than won back: 42 cut this week vs. 41.5 gained on net in August.
“Special Education Services in Crisis at CPS” documents the impact that the initial cuts have had to the first two weeks of school, detailing how the loss of paraprofessional supports has made it impossible to meet critical accommodations for students; how the lack of special education teachers have meant more students with disabilities pushed into over-sized general education classrooms without the supports outlined in their IEPs; and how school staff has been forced to give up essential prep time in order to cover for the scheduling holes that the district’s budget cuts have created. For overworked case managers, setting up legally required IEP meetings with parents, teachers and ‘touring’ clinicians—who barely spend more than a day at one school a week—is difficult enough, but teaching and clinician staff also need time to meet and plan services for students. The lack of planning, resources, sufficient training for administrators and little transparency pervades the district’s roll-out of All Means All, and its drive towards what it terms “inclusion.”
The district’s approach towards special education has a lot in common with its approach to the mass school closings in 2013, where it used a blunt metric for assessing buildings as a stand-in for the real-world usages that diverse communities have for their schools. The district views special education provision as a matter of just hitting the right measures, so they substitute “achievement gap” language for meeting students’ individualized needs; view “inclusion” as something to immediately implement rather than as a process to support; and let blunt metrics like staffing ratios determine how to “right-size” special education from the top down instead of working to support the resource-need established in the IEPs by the student, family members and professional teams. This commonality is no coincidence—this top-down approach permeates every policy change in CPS.
The district has painted a false picture about special education cuts that have decimated our schools. Due to the district’s failure to provide data on how student needs are being met, the CTU is calling for the mayor’s newly re-structured Chicago Board of Education to have the district audit special education services across all schools; carefully document instances where accommodations and services are not being delivered; and require the district to stop discouraging, obstructing or threatening parents or staff who speak out about these devastating violations of their students’ special education rights.
by ctu communications | September 28, 2015
When CPS released its enrollment projections earlier this summer, neighborhood schools across the city braced for hits — and the loss of the dollars that come with each student.
But 10th-day enrollment numbers were even worse than projected: 16 district-run schools — all but two of them high schools — lost more than 100 students this year.
Among the worst-hit were Schurz, Foreman and Kelvyn Park — located on the city’s Northwest Side — and Dunbar, located on the South Side, all of which lost more than 200 students since last school year.
Jerry Skinner, who serves on the Kelvyn Park Local School Council and teaches English at the school, located in Hermosa, says he’s worried about teachers and support staff across the Northwest Side who are losing their jobs.
“I hope we can all band together as neighborhood open-enrollment schools,” he says, adding that the impact of the Renaissance 2010 plan to open new schools is finally “hitting our area, after hitting the West and South Sides.”
by ctu communications | September 25, 2015
Displaced Chicago Public Schools workers are eligible for employment services designed to help you obtain re-employment as soon as possible. These include services such as job search and placement assistance, access to grant funds for education and training programs, support programs and facilities, career transition services, Labor Market Information (occupational information and economic trends), etc. To learn more about these services and how to access them, you are invited to participate in an interactive webinar designed for laid-off employees of Chicago Public Schools.
To register for a webinar, visit the registration page at http://chicago-public-schools.eventbrite.com.
In addition, a web page has been set up to provide information about these services and includes a message board with the latest information. To access the web page visit www.illinoisworknet.com/Chicago-Public-Schools.
by ctu communications | September 23, 2015
Illinois State Representative Esther Golar of the 6th District, a member of the Illinois House of Representative for nearly a decade, passed away Monday at age 71.
Golar was a passionate leader who strongly believed in communities fighting for justice. She fought for legislation to help vulnerable students and people with disabilities, and worked tirelessly for safe, thriving communities and well-supported schools. Golar was extremely passionate about public education, serving on the Fulton Elementary Local School Council for seven years.
Golar served with the Chicago Teachers Union on the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force (CEFTF) since 2011, asking very tough questions of Chicago Public Schools officials and insisting that the district needed to improve transparency and public engagement. Since taking office in 2006, she pushed for charter school accountability and agreed with the rest of the CEFTF that charter school expansion needed to be included in CPS’ long-range planning. Golar was a strong proponent of democracy and political activism, constantly telling members of the CEFTF that they needed to “hit the streets” to make CPS listen.
This year Golar sponsored bills to help students with high mobility rates obtain additional academic support, help previously incarcerated people find jobs, seal the records faster for those with police records and help people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis receive physical therapy without delay. She was widely recognized as a compassionate leader for public education, public safety, people with disabilities and people struggling for a better life. Because of this dedication, Golar received numerous awards, including Legislator of the Year in 2014, for her disability rights work across the state.
Golar’s fiery passion for justice—especially for the most vulnerable people in Illinois—will be greatly missed.
Emanuel’s insistence on leaving ‘no stone unturned’ with city budget has Chicago’s schools between a rock and a hard place
by ctu communications | September 22, 2015
CHICAGO—Today in his annual budget address, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said “We must do everything we can, and leave no stone unturned” when it comes to Chicago’s public schools. He did, however, leave some things out:
- His administration’s refusal to sue banks to recoup illegitimate losses tied to toxic interest rate swaps
- His administration’s refusal to levy the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) capital improvement tax for four years
- His administration’s passage of a school budget with $500 million in fake money that will, in the words of CPS CEO Forest Claypool, necessitate layoffs by Thanksgiving
- His administration’s closure of 50 schools and the disarray created for thousands of families
- His expansion of selective enrollment options in lieu of relieving overcrowding
- His administration’s approval of $20 million in no-bid contracts for SUPES and the $200 million maintenance contract for Aramark that has resulted in mass layoffs and dirty schools
- The absence of a promise to immediately surplus any tax increment financing (TIF) increases tied to his property tax increase
- His administration’s continuing push for Springfield action that’s anything but assured
- His administration’s lack of action on specifics he campaigned for—like a tax on luxury goods and services
- His administration’s continued reliance first on regressive taxes such as hiked fines, fees and taxes on cell phone services
- His administration’s continuing willingness to pass costs to others—such as keeping closed mental health clinics shuttered—thereby forcing more and more people into Cook County jail
- His administration’s continued differential policing of low-level drug offenses that result in tickets for some and jail for others, and dragnet-style checkpoints in Black neighborhoods with low DUI incidents and no checkpoints in white neighborhoods with high DUI incidents
by michelle gunderson - living in dialogue | September 21, 2015
The hunger strike for Dyett High School ended this morning on day 34.
Once again I headed to the south side to be with my friends and fellow education fighters known as the Dyett Twelve. Education activists had been told that the hunger strikers would have an announcement this morning, and many of us converged at the Rainbow Push Coalition broadcast to be there in support.
I sit in the pews behind Cathy Dale and Jeanette Taylor-Ramann – two women who I have come to love and respect through this struggle. After 34 days of fasting the hunger strikers have an other-worldly presence. They seem so strong and focused, yet vulnerable at the same time.
The Dyett hunger strikers make their decisions collectively, and I have seen this process first-hand. There is always a careful and respectful debate, an analysis of strategical plan, and a strong focus on the mission: A neighborhood high school open to all children governed by the community and focused on a curriculum that the community wants.
It was difficult to bring this strike to a righteous close and a real win.
by United Working Families | September 18, 2015
We have lived with underfunded public schools in our neighborhoods for years and it continues to get worse. Chicago students have suffered from the lack of leadership from the appointed Board of Education. They continue to cut resources from classrooms while opening the door for undemocratic charter school companies to take more public money from our neighborhood schools.
According to the Raise Your Hand Coalition:
- Charter schools are privately operated, but publicly funded-they get our tax dollars, but have fewer accountability mechanisms. CPS funds new charters from the same inadequate pool of money they have to fund existing schools, spreading resources too thin.
- CPS has opened 42 new schools (21,251 new seats) since Fall 2012 (aka “school closing season”). Since then, over 8,000 students have left the district.
- Charters expel students at much higher rates than district schools (see Chicago Tribune article 2/26/14; “CPS:expulsion rate higher at charter schools). All studies show that in general charters and district schools perform about the same.
Please sign this letter asking your alderman to support a charter school moratorium
Chicago can’t afford more publicly funded charter schools when it has just cut $200 million and says it might cut $480 million more this winter. Alderman Sawyer is sponsoring a City Council resolution for a moratorium on charter school expansion. We at United Working Families are urging each member of the Chicago City Council to sign onto this important resolution. Please take a minute of your time to sign this letter to your elected city council alderman asking him/her to support this Charter School Moratorium.
Preliminary PARCC results fulfill CPS plan to set students up for failure, drive educators out of the profession
by ctu communications | September 16, 2015
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) finds today’s release of preliminary results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test to be the latest example of Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) efforts to undermine educators and drive them out of the profession through the implementation of high-stakes testing. CPS admitted itself earlier this year that the district was not able to handle a proper rollout of the test due to technical issues and frustration among students, teachers and administration over administering the test properly, and as ISBE now claims that scores are well below expectations, that ineptitude and dysfunction has come to fruition.
Further, by changing course on its previous decision to limit the PARCC to just 10 percent of Chicago’s public schools, the district burdened students with the inhumane pressure of over-testing and took valuable time away from classroom instruction. A number of CPS teachers who took the sample PARCC test stated the assessment was inappropriate for the target grades and coyly designed for students to fail.
Parents of thousands of CPS students chose to opt out of participation in the PARCC, a result of the realization that the experimental assessment had no proven educational value and was part of a broader effort to punish students, teachers and schools by creating a system of chaos in which success would be difficult to achieve. The CTU House of Delegates in March passed a resolution against the PARCC assessment for being pedagogically detrimental to the teaching profession and to student learning and emotional well-being.
“If you believe these scores have merit, I have some swamp land in Brooklyn to sell you—and a lot of it,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher. “These scores have very little to do with how children actually learn.”
“These arbitrary scores are designed to advance the narrative of failed schools and bad teachers,” Lewis added. “When tied to evaluations, scores from such high-stakes tests as the PARCC drive educators out of the district and the profession. The results are flawed, the scores mean nothing and our students are being short-changed.”