June 2012 Archive
June 29, 2012
“It is our responsibility to work toward a contract that is fair and equitable to our members and one that will help us give our students the high-quality, first-class education they deserve,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “While there has been progress in some areas we remain far apart on many others.” A fact-finder will release recommendations on many of the economic issues on July 16. Both sides will have 15 days to accept or reject the recommendations. Should both sides accept the fact-finding report will become part of the new contract.
Despite the absence of a new collective bargaining agreement, as of July 1 CTU members still retain specific rights. These rights include, but are not limited to:
- Wages – The wages paid to CTU members at the levels currently described in the Appendix A cannot be reduced—regardless of the length of school day.
- Health Insurance – Members retain the same basic coverage at the same rates described in Appendix B of the contract.
- Pension Pick-Up – The board will continue to pay the employer contribution for educators’ pensions.
- Sick Days – Sick day banks remain intact and will continue to accrue. The Union is currently in negotiations over payouts of unused sick days, and this will be determined when the contract is settled. However, the PEP program expires at the end of the contract and will not continue unless it is included in the final contract settlement.
- Grievances – Teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians still have the right to file and process grievances.
- Summer School – All of the terms in the current contract should continue without any change.
- Leaves of Absence – All of the terms in the current contract will remain.
- Vacation – No change, however, the Board has already announced its intent to eliminate Columbus and Pulaski days from the current schedule.
- Whistleblowing --- CTU’s right to monitor and police CPS activity is unchanged.
There have been critical changes in state law regarding evaluation and teacher practice begin this school year. Please reference www.ctunet.com/evaluation for detailed information on the Performance Evaluation Reform Act or the new REACH system being imposed by CPS.
by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah - Chicago Tribune | June 29, 2012
Chicago Public Schools is losing both its top legal officer and its top labor executive to retirement in the midst of tough contract negotiations with its teacher's union.
General Counsel Patrick Rocks and Chief Labor Relations Officer Rachel Resnick will both be retiring.
Rocks, who has overseen legal matters internally for the district, will be replaced by his first deputy James Bebley. Resnick's job will be taken by Joseph Moriarty, who is the CPS representative on a three-member arbitration panel that's considering issues in the talks with the Chicago Teachers Union.
Private attorney Jim Franczek is the district's chief negotiator in labor talks, and a district spokeswoman said the retirements are not an issue as those negotiations go forward.
"This won't impact contract negotiations as we have a deep team of negotiators at the table doing work day to day to get an agreement with the CTU and other unions," said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.
Resnick, a former early childhood and bilingual teacher, was appointed by former schools chief Arne Duncan, who's now U.S. Secretary of Education, to lead the district's labor relations team in 2005. She also helped craft state legislation leading to a new teacher evaluation system and the 2011 education reform bill that made it harder for the CTU to strike.
Rocks, who began his career with the City of Chicago's corporation counsel's office, came to CPS at the same time. Under his leadership, the 1980 desegregation consent decree was modified in 2007 and then vacated in 2009. Rocks then led district efforts to develop new socio-economic criteria for the city's most academically challenging schools.
Bebley, a product of CPS who grew up in Englewood and the Harold Ickes Homes, will be earning $175,000 in his new position. Salary information for Moriarty was not available.
The district is also losing Richard Smith, head of the Office of Special Education and Supports, who will be retiring. A replacement has not been named. Controller Daryl Okrzesik will also be leaving after 15 years in that office.
by CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle | June 29, 2012
CTU dues are taken over 20 pay periods and the last deduction was taken on the June 15, 2012 pay date. We have never taken dues from deferred pay paychecks. We have collected all of our dues for 2011-12 school year so no dues were necessary to deduct from the last paycheck of the year. Don't worry if your paycheck shows no dues deducted, you are still a member.
June 28, 2012
Community activists, students, parents, teachers, and pastors will participate in a forum on schools in Austin and North Lawndale. Help them continue efforts to give students the schools they deserve.
There will be a Q & A session.
Additional details forthcoming.
Westside Community Forum
July 11, 2012
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center
5820 W. Chicago Ave
by Associated Press | June 28, 2012
Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard called off classes Thursday at 10 schools that don't have air conditioning.
In a statement, Brizard says the district determined the cancellations are in the best interest of students and staff.
Chicago is the nation's third-largest school system with about 405,000 students and more than 675 schools.
The schools closed Thursday are Altgeld, Attucks, Bennett, Courtenay, Faraday, Gregory, Holden, Penn, Stevenson and Harold Washington.
June 28, 2012
WAITING LIST ONLY
Sorry, general registration full.
We are excited to invite you to the first ever summer professional development event co-sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union's Quest Center and Chicago Public Schools
On August 1st at the UIC Forum, hundreds of teachers from across the city will come together with educational leaders from around the country to learn about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), share curricula and best practices, and network with each other. We can’t wait to join together with you in this powerful work!
Participate in sessions to learn how your colleagues create units of instruction driven by the CCSS.
A Conference on the Common Core
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
UIC Forum located at West Roosevelt Rd. & South Halsted St.
8:30 am – 4:15 pm
7 CPDUs available
More information on specific sessions and registration steps to follow. For the most up to date information, please refer to: collaboratechicago.org.
June 28, 2012
Freedom Rides 2012 - Journey for Education Justice Fundraiser
Young People from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) have a leadership role in a national effort to stop discriminatory school closings and phase-outs. Youth and parents from 10 different cities (and growing) are going to Washington in July and September to make their voices heard.
THEY NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
Friday, July 6th 2012 5:00-7:30 PM
AIN’T SHE SWEET CAFÉ
526 E. 43rd Street
Free to attend, but please donate generously.
by Rosalind Rossi | June 27, 2012
If Chicago teachers strike, “many, many hundreds” of parents will join them on the picket line because the union’s desires reflect parent desires, a parent group charged Wednesday.
“Good teaching conditions are good learning conditions,” Clark said. If teachers go on strike, Clark said, “many, many hundreds of parents will be on the picket line with them.”
by Sabrina Stevens - AFT Voices From The Classroom | June 27, 2012
I was very happy when I learned of Change.org's decision to end their relationships with two astroturf organizations operating against the common good in education. It's always heartening to see how people faced with tough decisions can listen to (often heated) input and weigh sometimes competing concerns. Having spoken to some of their staff, I know they take our concerns very seriously, and I applaud them for having the courage to publicly take this important first step towards ensuring that their business commitments fully align with their stated values.
For those unfamiliar with why this became such a contentious issue, let's return to the David and Goliath metaphor some of Change.org's staff and many commentators use to describe the site's impact.
How would you feel about King Saul if, just after sending a slingshot-armed David into battle, he turned and sold upgraded slingshots to Goliath and the rest of the Philistine army? That's how many public education advocates had begun to feel about Change.org.
For well over a year now, many had grown increasingly outraged after watching Change.org sell premium petition and list-building services to astroturf organizations, information that's often harvested directly from our hard work organizing to combat problems fueled by these very groups. For example, I and other volunteer organizers spent hundreds of unpaid hours on blog posts, web development, digital outreach and more to get people to sign petitions in the run-up to last summer's Save Our Schools marches and related actions. 'Angry' hardly begins to describe my tired, frustrated self when I found out that StudentsFirst-- whose corporate lobbyists work against pretty much everything we marched for -- was allowed to buy the names and contact information of our supporters who clicked too quickly after signing ours, and then claim them as their own 'members' (without their informed consent).
There were also painfully ironic moments, where petition signers were tricked into taking a second action whose intent directly contradicted the action they actually set out to take. For instance, people who petitioned to reinstate a charter school teacher who was fired for helping her students plan a Trayvon Martin fundraiser were often immediately asked to click-to-sign (or "join") StudentsFirst, which lobbies to eliminate the due process rights that could have prevented her unjust firing in the first place.
That's why so many people signed and spread Chicago teacher Jennifer Johnson's SignOn.org petition to Change.org last Friday. She wrote the petition out of frustration, after discovering that the Illinois office of Stand for Children had started running a paid follow-up petition on the site as part of a larger media campaign intended to disparage the Chicago Teachers Union during their intense negotiations with Chicago Public Schools.
Had they taken the time to listen to both sides of the bargaining table, Stand might have discovered that among the key issues the union is fighting for are more libraries, arts programs, in-school services and smaller classes, all of which directly benefit Chicago's (often needy) kids.
Unfortunately, Stand has demonstrated no interest in the teachers' side of the story. Worthwhile public services like public school libraries and arts education aren't biggies on the ALEC agenda. Union-busting, on the other hand, is.
And let's be clear: when you look behind their extensive (and quite expert) use of coded language, you will find that just like StudentsFirst, most of the policy proposals Stand For Children supports are lifted right out of the ALEC playbook. (Yes, that ALEC, the same corporate-funded lobbying group that gave America the deceptively named "Stand Your Ground" laws. You can click the links above and compare their agendas to ALEC's archives for yourself right now. For the sake of time and space, I'll share a side-by-side comparison in another post soon.)
In each state they infiltrate, both StudentsFirst and Stand For Children have consistently dedicated the lion's share of their attention and vast resources to advertising, lobbying and electing public officials who will enact a very specific set of education policies, which can all be found in ALEC archives. Virtually none of these policies are backed by credible research or past experience, and they are vigorously opposed by many public school stakeholders. On the flip side, virtually all of them directly enrich private corporate benefit at public expense, in particular by expanding demand for corporate products and services -- particularly those related to high-stakes testing and school management companies.
In light of these facts, it's clear that, all rhetoric aside, these two groups clearly don't meet the criteria of Change.org's client policy. Their policy expressly says it will not "accept sponsored campaigns from organizations that ... seek private corporate benefit that undermines the common good." Slowly, but hopefully surely, the progressive community is learning that Goliath is no less of a Goliath when he shows up to battle wearing a t-shirt that says "I heart kids," and for the Goliaths influencing ed policy battles around the country right now, StudentsFirst and Stand For Children are that t-shirt.
So again, I applaud Change.org for looking beyond these groups' rhetoric and examining whether the two clients really fit with their policy. As a former teacher and present education and labor advocate, I look forward to seeing how we can all work together to ensure that powerful platforms like these can become fully supportive of interrelated issues like educational justice and the rights of working people.
Progress Illinois: Parents, Teachers Rally For Fair Contract, Better School Conditions At Board Of Ed Meeting
by Ellyn Fortino - Progress Illinois | June 27, 2012
In three days, Chicago Public Schools teachers will see their contracts expire. This morning, members of the Chicago Teachers Union along with dozens of public school parents and students rallied outside CPS headquarters, calling on the Board of Education to negotiate non-salary issues.
Since November 2011, the CTU has negotiated with the Board of Education for a fair labor contract. The union presented the board with proposals for art, music and foreign language classes for all students, smaller class sizes, properly staffed schools and fair compensation for teachers, among other education-improvement efforts.
The current contract expires June 30, and a fact-finder’s report will be released July 16. Earlier this month, CTU members voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike should the contract negotiations fail.
“The board and the union are locked in some very tough contract negotiations right now, and we are here to call on the board to get serious,” said CPS parent Erica Clark of Parents 4 Teachers. “Start negotiating the things that really matter to our kids.”
Clark said the board is not listening to the union’s proposals.
“All we hear from the board are proposals that call for a pay cut disguised as a pay increase, a controversial merit-pay scheme that’s not only going to harm teachers, but harm our children,” she said.
It’s the teachers and the union that are putting the kids first, Clark said, adding it’s a “disgrace” that 160 schools don’t have libraries and 90 schools are without playgrounds.
“The board has the nerve to tell us that class size doesn’t matter,” Clark said. “How they can say that to parents with a straight face I don’t understand, but they do.”
Becky Malone, a parent of two CPS students who is with the 19th Ward Parents group, said she stands in solidarity with the teachers.
“As parents we support our teachers, because as it’s been said many times before but bears repeating, our teachers’ working conditions are our children’s learning conditions,” Malone said.
If teachers are not supported by the school district, how can we expect them to provide high quality education our children need, Malone asked the crowd.
“This is why our teachers have spoken out with more than 90 percent of their membership voting to strike,” Malone said. “They are looking out for the best interests of our children, and for that they deserve the support from us as parents and community members.”
The teachers also have support from students such as Alberto Brito, a junior at Theodore Roosevelt High School, located at 3436 W. Wilson Ave., and member of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council.
“When I was going through bullying and depression, the people I looked up to were my teachers,” he said. “In a lot of ways, teachers are our role models.”
He said the parents, teachers, and students are the most important stakeholders in schools.
“We are the ones that are affected in the schools the most, so why is the system not listening to us?” he said. “They’re making decisions without our voices and ignoring our needs.”
The group held a picket line outside CPS’ headquarters chanting, “Education is a right that’s why we have to fight,” before making its way to the 10 a.m. Board of Education meeting.
CPS was unavailable for a statement at the time of publication.
June 26, 2012
Episode 2 of CTU-TV to air on CAN-TV Channel 19 in July, featuring: Matt Damon, Reverend Jesse Jackson, CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle, CTU PSRP Gloria Higgins, CTU history, and footage from the MAY 23 CTU STANDS STRONG RALLY.
Thursday, July 5th at 8:00 PM
Friday, July 6th at 3:00 PM
Tuesday, July 17th at 11:00PM
Friday, July 20th at 6:30 PM
Sunday, July 22nd at 1:30 PM
by Stephanie Simon - Reuters | June 26, 2012
(Reuters) - The national education reform group StudentsFirst, which has set out to transform U.S. schools by introducing more free-market principles to public education, raised $7.6 million in its first nine months - and spent nearly a quarter of it on advertising - according to partial tax records released on Monday.
Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, launched StudentsFirst in the fall of 2010 with the stated goal of raising $1 billion over five years. Among the reforms it advocates: abolishing teacher tenure; permitting more teachers without formal education training to take charge of classrooms; evaluating teachers in large measure by their students' scores on standardized tests; and expanding charter schools, which are publicly funded but typically run by private corporations, including for-profit management firms.
Rhee has pressed her agenda in states from Connecticut to Alabama to Michigan, spending millions on TV and radio ads, public rallies and lobbying as well as campaign donations for friendly candidates.
In each state, Rhee has drawn ferocious opposition from teachers unions, which say her policy prescriptions have not been shown to improve student learning.
Rhee, a political lightning rod since she closed scores of schools and laid off hundreds of teachers during her tenure in Washington, has refused to discuss her funding or her donors. The IRS forms released by her organization on Monday cover only the first several months of her work, through July 31, 2011. Updated filings are not expected until the end of the year, though Reuters has confirmed that recent donors include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier, who have pledged substantial resources to a StudentsFirst partner organization in New Jersey.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, funded by hedge fund manager John Arnold, has also pledged $20 million to Rhee's organization over five years, a donation that does not appear to be reflected in the IRS forms released on Monday.
The IRS forms do not detail Rhee's spending, except for a previously undisclosed donation of $100,000 to Partnership for Ohio's Future, a campaign run by the state's Chamber of Commerce to push for passage of Republican Governor John Kasich's 2011 budget. That budget, which passed and was implemented, included deep cuts to public education funding. Separately, Kasich pushed for restrictions on public-sector unions, including teachers unions; Rhee did not support that bill.
Rhee's critics, led by teachers unions, have criticized her for working closely with Republican governors who have slashed education funding, including Kasich, Michigan's Rick Snyder and Florida's Rick Scott. Rhee responds that schools don't necessarily need more resources; they need to spend what they have more wisely. Among her prescriptions: eliminating the union contract provisions that protect the most veteran - and often the highest-paid - teachers from layoffs. Instead, Rhee argues that pink slips should go first to the least effective teachers - as determined, in large measure, by students' scores on standardized tests.
WINING AND DINING
The tax forms show that Rhee was paid $62,500 for nine months of work as the chief executive officer of StudentsFirst, which is organized as a political advocacy organization, and the affiliated StudentsFirst Institute, which focuses on public education. She also travels the country giving lectures, some of which bring her as much as $35,000 in speaking fees.
Other expenses documented in the IRS forms include $1.7 million in advertising and promotion, more than $100,000 for public opinion research and $337,000 to develop lists of potential donors and members.
Rhee has recruited many of her more than 1 million members through online petitions, which call for widely popular policies such as putting an excellent teacher in every classroom. People who sign the petitions become members unless they later opt out. Last week the liberal website Change.org pulled Rhee's online petitions under pressure from critics who said her policies were anti-union.
While Rhee's more recent spending is not documented, Reuters has tracked about $3 million in advocacy expenditures since last fall, much of it funneled through StudentsFirst's network of political action committees. Among the line items: $790,000 on advertising and lobbying in Connecticut; $6,700 to wine and dine lawmakers in Missouri; and $120,000 in donations to candidates and political caucuses in Tennessee.
In Michigan, StudentsFirst spent $955,000 last fall to lobby state lawmakers for an education package that included evaluating teachers primarily by student test scores and restricting union bargaining rights, so issues like the new evaluation system would not be subject to negotiation. (The reforms were passed by the legislature.) In California this spring the organization spent $770,000 to back two Democratic candidates in primary races for state Assembly seats; one won, the other fell just short.
Last week, Rhee joined more than a dozen other education and business advocates with similar agendas in asking the teachers unions to work with them, rather than fighting them, on school overhaul bills in several states. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, took to Twitter to repeatedly dismiss the pitch for cooperation as a public-relations stunt.
Nancy Zuckerbrod, a spokeswoman for StudentsFirst, said the organization could not match the resources of the teachers unions, which have spent $150 million on state politics and lobbying since 2008. "However, we have raised enough through our grassroots and fundraising efforts to be competitive and make a major difference in reforming our nation's education system," Zuckerbrod said.
by Ramsin Canon - Gapers Block.com | June 26, 2012
The media is reporting, occasionally breathlessly, on the "standoff" and "contest" between the Board of Education--a proxy for the Mayor, who appoints it and controls it--and the Chicago Teachers Union, the democratically-elected collective bargaining representative for 24,000 public school teachers.
I watched an interesting debate over the weekend unfold on Twitter between a young academic in education policy and an award-winning teacher and activist. They were arguing about the supposed intractability of teachers and parents over the pro-privatization reforms of groups like Stand and DFER. The academic was striking a "reasonable" pose:
You're going to have to compromise. That's politics. There are two sides with competing goals, let's get an agreement.
For a young academic looking to get into education policy, this is a smart position to take. Most of the money in education policy is on the side of organizations like Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform. If he ever wants to work in education policy, the good jobs are all going to be on the side of the pro-privatization reformers. Pro-privatizers have done a good job of conflating being against their version of reform (e.g., being with parents and teachers) as being pro-status quo. It's the surest way to keep yourself out of the education policy job market to be on the side of the straw man status quo.
Notoriously funded by tiny groups of immensely wealthy people, with no control by or buy-in from communities, no democratic structures that allow for parent participation, and in fact nothing other than the whims of their millionaire funders, these groups have unilaterally decided they deserve a spot at the negotiating table. They bought their button, in other words.
Why shouldn't we be heard, they ask. After all, although we don't live in your community, don't send our children to school there, don't vote there, don't have any meaningful membership there and, to what degree we do have some supporters there, they have no meaningful say in how we as organizations make decisions, we are rich. In other words, we are not rooted in your communities at all; we have no stake in the outcome of our programs and policies insofar as they don't materially affect us; nobody in your community has any say in how our organization is run; but we, for no reason other than our wealth empowering our speech, deserve a seat at the table and you mustnegotiate with us, or you--not we--are "politicizing children."
This is the absurd position they've taken. Their goals: liquidate teachers' ability to collectively bargain and privatize enough the school systems to reduce the public schools to last-resort catchalls, not unlike public County Hospitals. Use unreliable but easily consumed standardized test scores and fluidly defined "graduation" rates to allow parents to choose a school from a menu, encouraging competition.
That parents and teachers are unwilling to treat these demands as coordinate in legitimacy is then called out as "politicizing," or as being unwilling to compromise. Why should they compromise, though, with organizations that have no legitimacy outside of their cash reserves, and who have as stated purposes the de facto elimination of the two things parents and teachers care most about: keeping schools public and equal, and keeping teaching a competitive profession, drawing and keeping the best?
Parents and teachers see, in the middle distance, the death of public education as the incubator of civil society with the goal of equality, in the form of neoliberal privatization reform. Who says you have to negotiate with death to be reasonable? You don't negotiate with death. You fight death to your dying breath.
The Ricketts Effect: Billionaire intrigue, Political Deception and the fight for the soul of the Chicago Public Schools.
by Jackson Potter - CTU Staff Coordinator | June 25, 2012
The Ricketts Effect: Billionaire intrigue, Political Deception and the fight for the soul of the Chicago Public Schools.
By Jackson Potter 06/20/12
Nearly one month ago, Joe Ricketts, patriarch of the Ricketts billionaire clan, pledged $10 million to an anti-Obama attack campaign focused on the president’s relationship with radical Chicago preacher, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The revelation exposed a dark undercurrent anchoring the wealth of the Chicago Cubs’ new ownership. Tom Ricketts, son of Joe the patriarch and the day to day face of the Cubs organization, has fostered an image as a prominent democratic operative. The image is designed to help the family lobby city Democrats like the Mayor and Alderman Tom Tunney, to increase their profit margins and freeze out competitors on nearby roof-tops and product peddlers in the famous Wrigleyville neighborhood.
The activities of right wing extremists with lots of money, in Obama’s home-town, were not lost on the Democratic Mayor of Chicago. Emanuel blasted the move as antithetical to the interests of an overwhelmingly blue electorate. The Mayor continues to use the incident to increase his bargaining leverage over the Ricketts family regarding the amount of tax-payer subsidies the Cubs will ultimately receive. The incident was no anomaly, but a symptom of a larger development in national and local politics where very wealthy and predominantly Republican interests create a façade of liberalism and progressive values to manipulate constituencies that otherwise would reject their efforts outright as diametrically opposed to their political desires.
In the March elections for the Illinois state House of Representatives a precursor to the Ricketts’ controversy was playing out on the West-side of Chicago. Crest-fallen representative Derrick Smith was campaigning against his, supposedly Democratic, challenger Tom Swiss. Despite Smith’s natural advantages as an incumbent and hand-picked choice of Chicago king-maker, Secretary of State Jesse White, Smith was worried about an advertising blitz by his upstart opponent. Swiss was in reality a Republican candidate who had switched parties in order to show that it was possible to upend a seemingly invulnerable democratic politician in a democratic district through campaign deception and manipulation. The central idea of the Swiss campaign was that a predominantly low income and African American voter base (which some pundits labeled as an “extremely low information” voting block) could be convinced to vote against their own interests. For example, Swiss blanketed the West side with advertisements and huge billboards promoting his candidacy, not with a picture of himself, an older white male, but a photo of a black construction worker with a hard hat saying “Jobs Now.” Despite a scandal that showed Smith accepting illegal campaign contributions from undercover agents, he ran away with the election largely because his constituents recognized Swiss’ deceptive and cynical tactics.
The intrigue doesn’t end there, as the battle for the soul of public education unfolds in Chicago between the Mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union, a litany of outside, well-heeled education “reform” organizations have parachuted into town in an effort to tip the balance of the debate. One of the most prominent of the “reform” groups is Stand for Children, based out of Oregon, that sponsored legislation known as SB7. The legislation requires 75% of the union’s membership to authorize a strike, the highest threshold for any union in the country and way beyond the number of votes any politician needs in order to get elected. While Stand claims to support policies that help students learn, they have consistently refused to lobby for smaller class sizes, a Better School Day with art, music, etc., or dramatic increases in school funding in Illinois. However, they have supported the school district in its confrontation with the union. They have also dedicated their time to opining about labor management relations, constantly pushing for the CTU to be “reasonable” and “get back to the table” even though the CTU has never left the table. Prior to the CTU strike authorization vote on June 6th, 2012, Stand ‘s Chicago Director, Juan Jose Gonzalez, claimed that the CTU was distorting CPS contract proposals with our members even though Stand had never been part of any of the CTU/CPS negotiations and does not have access to either side’s official bargaining positions (unless CPS is leaking to them confidential bargaining information, which currently does not seem to be the case based on their one sided version of reality). Stand automatically, took the school Board’s side in the dispute. While Stand claims to represent parents and school communities throughout Chicago, despite only their very recent entry into the local scene, the predominantly Republican billionaires and millionaires who fund their operation is another version of the Ricketts Effect.
Stand for Children’s top donor, Ken Griffin, a Chicago based billionaire hedge fund operator, was recently quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, “I think (the ultra-wealthy) actually have an insufficient influence [in our society and political system]” so much for representing the democratic will of the people. Stand also has accepted many donations from the primarily Republican Crown family, partial owners of the Maytag and the Hilton Hotel chain. Last, Penny Pritzker of the Hyatt Pritzker family, and a number of her siblings have donated heavily to Stand. Penny also has the distinction of being the first billionaire appointed to the Chicago Board of Education, making her support of Stand that much more troubling. We should hope that Mayor Emanuel appointed Penny to represent the interests of the 400,000 plus students in the Chicago Public Schools, not fly-by-night advocacy groups, funded by the wealthy, who are clamoring to weaken the voice of parents, teachers and their unions.  Additionally, businessmen from Bain Capital, the vulture capital investment firm where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made his millions, have made considerable contributions to Stand for Children.
Stand is not the only group in this category. There is also the Democrats For Education Reform, headed up by millionaire hedge fund operators and Steve Barr, the founder of the Green Dot Charter school franchise. DFER arrived on the scene in recent months, just in time to weigh in on the stand-off between the CTU and the school board, quite a coincidence. DFER also hides behind an advocacy agenda to put kids first, though their real objective is to further the spread of largely underperforming, budget-busting, unregulated and non-unionized charter schools at the expense of our current public system. Their arrival coincides with Mayor Emanuel’s vow to double the number of CPS charter schools, making them 20 percent of the system (they are currently at just above 10 percent). It appears that not only Republican financiers, Billionaire Democratic heiresses and charter school boosters are responsible for the proliferation of these fake proponents for Chicago families. The Democratic machine locally and nationally is lending their support to similar astro-turf efforts.
In the days preceding the CTU’s strike authorization vote, DFER sponsored a series of radio spots denouncing the vote as rushed and insensitive to parents, with two obviously African American moms blasting the union for its haste. It turns out that the radio spots were developed by none other than AKPD, a firm owned and operated by David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief political strategist.
Now that Chicagoans are gaining awareness about the wolves in sheep clothing in our midst and how Initiatives funded by the 1 percent are vying for our hearts and minds, the fight for our schools takes on a new light. The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 educators who have lived and taught in Chicago for their professional lives and this year is the union’s 75th anniversary. It’s no wonder that Chicagoans by a two to one margin in a recent Tribune poll trust their teachers more than the Mayor’s Ed Reform pretenders, to improve our schools. Teachers have deeper roots in their communities and honestly represent their outrage at the district’s refusal to lower class size, respect experience in the classroom, provide art, music, P.E. and world language to our students and properly staff schools with social workers, nurses, counselors and school psychologists. It is a travesty that as our city continues to suffer from record levels of violence and homicide while the powers- that- be cut vital services for our children and their schools. The best reforms help to secure our future and stabilize the present. Will the real reformers please stand up!
by by Carrie Maxwell, CTU Member, for Windy City Times | June 25, 2012
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) LGBT Rights Committee presented its annual Allan Wardell Inspiration Award to Emily Tongue—a special-education science teacher at Collins Academy High School and faculty sponsor of its gay-straight alliance (GSA)—at its June executive board meeting.
After some introductory remarks by CTU President Karen Lewis, LGBT Rights Committee Chair Mel Ferrand presented Tongue with her award.
Wardell was a Chicago teacher, CTU member and LGBT activist. Tongue was chosen because she has helped foster a safe and healthy learning environment for all students through the positive teaching of tolerance and demonstrates commitment and courage in the pursuit of equality for all students and staff.
Since starting the GSA—with a group of dedicated students—at the beginning of this school year, Tongue helped organize an anti-bullying day of service. Through this day of service, students created anti-bullying videos that were shown at a neighborhood elementary school. The video deemed best became the official one for the school's website.
School staffers (who nominated Tongue) have said students and teachers have worn pride ribbons and "No Hate" buttons throughout the school year, resulting in a marked decrease in anti-LGBT statements being heard throughout the school. Although the GSA was snickered at and its meeting signs were torn down at the beginning of the school year, GSA members eventually became leaders at the school. Also, a number of teachers and staff hung "Safe Zone" signs on their doors so students would know who they could talk to about LGBTQ issues and bullying concerns.
The GSA, with Tongue's guidance, sponsored the school's National Coming Out Day in October. They worked with the humanities department to organize a school-wide service-learning day in December focused on anti-bullying strategies and identity empowerment, and participated in the recent National Day of Silence. The nominators added that as the year went on, more students felt they could confide in their teachers, stick up for their friends, promote equality throughout the school and create a culture of safety and respect due to Tongue's leadership.
Upon receiving her award Tongue said, "I am honored to accept the Allan Wardell Inspiration Award. Allan Wardell was a dedicated educator who went beyond his role as a teacher to become an advocate for his students and colleagues. By accepting this award, I promise to continue to fight to ensure that all students and staff have a safe environment to learn and work."
Anita Zajac, a middle-school social studies teacher at Stockton Elementary School, was this year's runner-up. Some of her eighth-grade students—who will now be going on to high school—will be marching with CTU members and other students in this year's Chicago Pride Parade.
Zajac said, "I was inspired by my students who were so concerned and passionate about LGBT issues and bullying. They gave me the courage to address these issues within an elementary school setting. I am thankful to my principal who gave me the go ahead and backing to help my students create programming that would foster inclusion and understanding of all students."
Pictured, from left: GLBT Rights Committee Chair Mel Ferrand, CTU President Karen Lewis and Emily Tongue.
by Katie Osgood | June 22, 2012
McPherson Elementary school on Chicago's northwest side is in chaos. Thanks to the unfunded longer school day, massive changes to the school personnel, class schedules, and class sizes are being planned for the next school year. According to the principal, Carmen Mendoza, at the latest Local School Council meeting, in order to afford the extra supportive staff (4 new classroom aides) needed to monitor the mandated recess 2 teaching positions will be lost. Due to the reduction in staff, many classrooms will become split classrooms (two grades levels in the same room-much harder to manage and teach effectively). Also, class sizes will likely be increased. On top of the lost positions, many teachers are also being displaced as the entire schedule needed to be re-designed. For example, the 5th grade, which was formerly self-contained (the same teacher teaching all subjects) will now become departmentalized (different teachers teaching math, reading, science, etc.) These shifts in scheduling require teachers to have certain endorsements, which many do not. And those teachers are being laid off.
I attended this LSC meeting. The usually sparsely attended meeting had to be moved into the auditorium due to the outrage of parents when they heard many of their favorite teachers were being lost and lasted nearly five heart-wrenching hours. Dozens and dozens of parents, many accompanied by their children all dressed in fancy dresses, ribbons, and ties for the graduation ceremonies earlier that day, spoke passionately about how upset they were to lose such beloved teachers. Many of the teachers being displaced are experienced educators with National Board Certification and 5+ years of teaching at McPherson. They were some of the founding members of the Friends of McPherson fundraising group and brought in outside after-school clubs and sporting teams. Parents and teachers alike broke down into tears while they pleaded for a way to keep these teachers in the McPherson community.
"There just isn't enough money." This was the resounding refrain from the principal. Now I don't know how much of this could have been avoided, how much was inter-schools politics or personality issues, but what I do know is that the longer school day mandate caused this insanity.
Losing fantastic dedicated teachers, increasing class sizes, and creating split classrooms...none of these things are good for kids. Even worse, the morale at the school has plummeted. Teachers who still have positions are afraid and angry, parents are threatening to remove their children, and the displaced teachers are wondering what the next step in their career will be. There are heightened tensions around who was displaced and who was kept, regardless of experience or teacher effectiveness. Everyone is upset.
My take on all of this is that the longer school day is a mess. I have heard that other schools, such as my neighborhood's local high school Amundsen, will also be losing positions as a result of the longer school day mandate. One CPS high school teacher on my facebook page pointed out "CPS wants HS teachers to take on an additional class during the additional time. Rather than teaching 5 classes per day we may be teaching 6 if this goes through. Rather than 150+ students we'll have 180+ students each day. Imagine trying to singlehandedly teach 180 HS students, many of whom don't want to be there, something like the quadratic equation or Shakespeare and make sure that all 180 of them are learning it each step of the way... grading 360 assignments per week. Do the math... if you spend 3 min per paper that's 18 hours per week just in grading... not to mention planning, paperwork, and other obligations. The unfunded longer day is not about improving education." Ultimately, of course, it is Chicago's children who will lose out. Larger classes for longer periods of time in poorer learning conditions is not the answer. Forcing schools which are already stretched to the breaking point in terms of budgets to play around with the same or less money for more time is a logistical and practical nightmare.
The unfunded longer school day does not work. Period. So why are we doing it, Mr. Mayor?
by Larry Duncan - Labor Beat | June 22, 2012
by Rosalind Rossi, Chicago Sun-Times | June 21, 2012
Parents and students from seven cities joined Chicago activists Thursday in filing civil rights complaints against school closings, phase-outs and other “rampantly horrible” reform upheavals they contend have disproportionately victimized minority communities.
The group called for a “national moratorium’’ on the kind of school reform shakeups that they say began in Chicago under then Schools CEO Paul Vallas; ramped up under his successor, Arne Duncan, and have continued nationwide during Duncan’s tenure as U.S. Education Secretary.
“This is the birthplace of all this mess,” said Jitu Brown of Chicago’s Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization. “What’s happening around this country is insane.”
Brown said that residents of New York City; Detroit; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Atlanta; Wichita, Ka.; and Eureka, Miss., were filing complaints Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education, alleging that school closings and other “reform” efforts in those cities had disproportionately impacted African American and Hispanic students, thereby violating their civil rights.
“These policies have not only not improved education, in many communities, they have made education worse,” Brown said. “We want sustainable school reform, not this mess.”
Brown said the group was also demanding a meeting within two weeks with Duncan and Russolyn Ali, assistant secretary with the Department of Education’s office of civil rights, to discuss reform research or “we are prepared to take a Freedom Ride to Washington, D.C.” The group will hop on buses and do a “journey for education justice” all the way to Duncan’s doorstep, Brown vowed.
Among those gathered outside the Chicago Office of the U.S. Department of Education Thursday was Helen Moore, a Detroit school activist for 45 years.
“I’ve never seen anything so rampantly horrible as this reform movement,” Moore said. Detroit has closed so many schools that “they have caused parents to move away because they do not know what to do. There’s confusion everywhere. ... The parents who have the money are getting the hell out.”
Ten years ago, Moore said, the Detroit school system had 300 schools; now it has 86. The system has been shattered into a crazy quilt of neighborhood schools, charter schools, “site-based” schools overseen by a selected school board and schools run by an outside agency. An “emergency manager” runs the place like a “dictator,” she said.
“No Child Left Behind. Race to the Top. The charter experiment — we were better off with reading, writing and arithmetic,’’ Moore said. “We want to blow the top off of that. It’s not working and we want to tell the world. Enough is enough.”
Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said the department’s civil rights office had already received a Chicago complaint about civil rights violations filed weeks ago.
“We will evaluate the allegations on the merits, as we do all complaints. We are committed to vigorously upholding civil rights laws and to ensuring that every child has access to the world class education they deserve,” Hamilton said.
Joining Brown Thursday also were New York City residents who echoed the frustration many Chicago parents have expressed at the upheaval of their schools in the name of “reform.”
Jorel Moore of New York City said schools labeled there as low-achieving have been replaced with schools with similar or minimally better achievement.
Moore said his high school was among more than 100 to close or phase out in 2003. During the phase out of Franklin D. Lane High School, a fifth high school — a charter — was placed inside the building, leaving Lane’s classrooms some days with literally “not enough seats,” Moore said.
“We lost our resources, our teachers, our space, because our school was not good enough,” Moore said. “This sends the message that you do not care about us. You are not willing to give us the time and resources we need.”
Copyright © 2012 — Sun-Times Media, LLC
by Sarah Hainds | June 21, 2012
Chicago Teachers Union Critique of “ELP Ventures: Supporting Innovation in Public Education for Chicago’s Global Future”
CHICAGO—The new proposal from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to solve Chicago’s education “crisis” does not offer anything new, despite the fact that the document repeatedly refers to combatting the “status quo.” The group that put this plan together, members of the Council’s Emerging Leaders initiative, claim to have access to business and education leaders who will be able, for the first time ever, to launch radical education projects that will have measurable outcomes.
This thought is incredibly arrogant and shows that none of the members have read anything about Chicago Public Schools (CPS) except for a few sound bites from the corporate reformers who are still manipulating the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores and distorting the truth about American students’ ability to take a test.
When the PISA scores came last fall and everyone was excited about Finland, several psychometricians analyzed the scores in relation to many of the demographic and socio-economic variables that PISA publishes along with the test scores. When poverty is held constant, Americans score very well – top in the world. Similarly, studies have linked the correlation between access to libraries and student achievement. Finally, lots of research links the effects of trauma and academic achievement, including this recent article in Catalyst: http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/06/18/20187/tragedys-aftermath
Research has established a link between the experience of trauma and school misbehavior and academic failure. Hard data on the number of traumatized children is sketchy, but surveys show that as many as a quarter of children in rough Chicago neighborhoods have witnessed a shooting. Helping these children is proving to be difficult.
According to the Council, the CPS education system is in “crisis” because our students are not globally competitive. The document never explains what that means, but the solution is more STEM programs and more social studies projects. CPS is launching a corporate partnership initiative this fall where five high schools will become STEM schools: Michelle Clark—Cisco, George Corliss—Verizon Wireless, CVCA—Motorola Solutions, Lake View—Microsoft, South West High School—IBM. This is also in addition to the new STEM magnet elementary school. Altogether, about 4,400 students have access to STEM curriculum, and it’s being funded by Chicago’s top businesses.
These new STEM schools are in addition to the many IB programs offered throughout the district and the magnet schools that score top in the state.
The “crisis” in education goes back at least to 1958 when the National Defense Education Act was created to fund math and science in US schools in response to the Soviets’ launch of Sputnik—becoming globally competitive in these subjects was regarded as national defense. The “accountability” movement took off in the 1970’s and “A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform” was published in 1983. So while the idea of a “crisis” is not new, interestingly this report actually presents this as a new crisis because it claims that “Forty years ago U.S. high school graduation rates led the world, and less than twenty years ago U.S. college graduation rates were tied for first place.” But these historical facts are very misleading for two reasons: this country is still producing people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and there is an enormously growing income gap coupled with skyrocketing college tuition rates. That last point is not the reality of the U.S.’s biggest “competitors”, which the report cites as Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Korea, and Switzerland.
Furthermore, the report does not describe the basic supports that CPS schools in struggling communities are missing: social workers, guidance counselors that are available for guidance and not testing, libraries, recess, nutritional food, art, music—the ideas promoted in CTU’s “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.” Instead, the report claims that “top leadership has invested billions of dollars in new approaches often considered groundbreaking by other districts around the country.”
Really? What approaches are those? High School Transformation/IDS, Chicago Reading Initiative, AVID, AMPS, the SES program that was never managed well? The report also claims that principals have never been properly trained or supported but this new venture philanthropy will solve that. Go through the CPS board reports and the contracts and procurement website and you will see an endless list of contracts for professional development and support for principals. So why are 150 principals retiring en masse this summer? Because of the pension crisis and the new merit pay. CPS is the reason why CPS doesn’t work.
Every new administration wastes so much time and energy changing everything around—sometimes this happens twice within a year. CPS does not contract with proven initiatives and does not give initiatives enough time to work before it jumps on the bandwagon to spend millions of dollars on the next gimmick. And that is all this new ELP Ventures project is—the next gimmick.
“The new philanthropy is at the forefront of a right-wing movement to corporatize education at multiple levels,” says DePaul University Professor Kenneth J. Saltman. “That is, venture philanthropy contributes to both the privatization of public schooling as well as the transformation of public schooling that is based on the model of corporate culture—from voucher schemes to charter schools to the remaking of teacher education, educational leadership, and classrooms.”
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs report claims to care about the inequities in education between students of color and white students, and between middle class and low-income students but it never attempts to explain why the inequities exist—it only talks about the resultant achievement gaps. In Chicago, schools in struggling communities have been inundated with district mandates that have prohibited innovative ideas. It’s the district that has stifled the schools, not the lack of good teachers or strong leaders. Talk to any teacher that was subjected to the wrath and draconian policies dictated by Area 11 CAO Janie Ortega. Ms. Ortega was recruited by CPS for her one-year stint at ruining neighborhood schools (Marquette, the largest, is now a turnaround) after doing the same in Austin and Boston. Unfortunately for Chicago’s students, there are many examples of people like Ms. Ortega.
This report proposes that in addition to STEM, CPS needs to push for “global competence” in its schools. What happened to social studies and civics? ELP Ventures is claiming innovative credit and promises to solve our education “crisis” by doing what Rethinking Schools and other progressive educators have been promoting all along! Teachers throughout CPS have been working very hard to incorporate current events and global issues into their curriculum, despite the fact that federal mandates on testing have pushed these subjects to the side in favor or reading and math. CPS’ selective enrollment schools and IB programs are already preparing students for what ELP Ventures is proposing, and the schools that aren’t—the disinvested neighborhood schools that have been turned around and inside out -- lost all of their programs to become test prep factories. Julian high school used to have four years of Japanese, and now it only has two. This is an example of a very common phenomenon across the district.
“ELP Ventures will identify and fund transformational programs and leadership that will advance the cognitive abilities, language skills, interpersonal sensibilities, and cultural awareness of students whose lives and careers will unfold at the intersection of local and transnational challenges.” (p. 30)
→ they propose to do this by:
- civics, social studies, and debate team
- best practices (early childhood, no standardized testing, society that respects teachers as professionals, schools that support collaborative teaching??? This is what CTU is proposing!)
- “invest in innovations that enhance global competence”
→ and also:
- something like IB programs
- more TFA programs (even though they also criticize teacher turnover – which is the hallmark of TFA’s two-year commitment)
- PD for principals and teachers
There is no reason why a privately run initiative that is staffed primarily by business people needs to bring these ideas to CPS—we already have these programs and we just need to bring them to scale. It won’t take venture philanthropy to do that, it only requires the will of the district to allow our schools on the west side and south side to have the same programs as our schools on the north side.
Leadership is another major barrier to global competitiveness, according to this report. However, the report does not acknowledge the reality that CPS principals face:
- too much admin work
- LSC’s are untrained and unsupported
- area officers are tyrants
- each new CPS administration changes everything and creates chaos
- new principals will have merit pay
The ELP Ventures project does not really explain how it will be different from the Chicago Public Education Fund (CPEF). Additionally, with all the talk about “measurable outcomes”, the CPEF website doesn’t explain at all how it works and how the money makes direct impact—instead, it talks generally about things like CTU’s Nurturing Teacher Leaders (NTL) program and how many teachers are nationally board certified. This is quite ironic, since the ELP Ventures report claims that the district lacks an assessment and implementation of best practices in teaching—something that NTL does on a continual basis. NTL is a highly regarded program, funded by many of the foundations that the ELP Ventures will rely on, thatgraduates among the nation’s highest number of Nationally Board Certified teachers every year.
Finally, there will be a minimum donor participation of $50,000 and this is tax deductible. This is money that the local and federal government will not be getting to fund public education. The corporate school reform movement has been pushing this more and more over the years and as a result public education has dwindling resources.
“Venture philanthropy is a slow road to privatization,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Right now, CPS is a revolving door of people peddling expensive, disruptive and ineffective privatization and so called reform. If we are going to improve our schools it should be with educators, parents and the CTU not venture capitalists and people who are only out to make a profit.”
by Sarah Hainds | June 21, 2012
Two reports from Education Week this week (here and here) detail how the U.S. General Accounting Office is looking into disparities nationally in charter schools’ support for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
by Kenzo Shibata | June 21, 2012
Chicago Public Schools history teacher Jennifer Johnson was tired of watching her colleagues being bashed by out-of-state special interest groups and opportunistic politicians. Many of these groups fashion themselves as being part of some kind of progressive movement and attend cocktail parties on that side of the aisle.
One of these groups from Oregon, calling itself "Stand for Children" used its billionaire-backed coffers to fund a campaign with the progressive activist website Change.org. Change.org hosted a petition by Stand filled with misinformation about the current CTU/CPS contract negotiations.
Johnson was shocked. She fought back.
Students, parents, and school employees won.
Johnson wrote this petition urging Change.org to drop Stand, which received thousands of signees within days.
Initially, Change.org was hesitant to change course.
As the grassroots momentum pushed Johnson's campaign forward, Change.org did the right thing and dropped Stand -- as well as the teacher-bashing group fronted by former embattled D.C. schools boss Michelle Rhee -- from its client list.
Click on the video to watch Jennifer Johnson and her colleagues explain why they signed the petition.
Stand and other out-of-towners are not going anywhere. They now have friends in a new group of "venture philanthropists" who will throw more money into the school privatization trough.
Although those who support strong public schools with strong unions do not have venture capitalist money, a movement of stubborn, persistent, and engaged citizens can take back our schools, our cities, and our world.
Connect. Stand up. Fight back.
Follow Kenzo Shibata on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kenzoshibata
June 21, 2012
The film tells the story of Mary Eve Thorson, a 32-year-old elementary gym teacher in Ford Heights District 169 who took her life on Thanksgiving Day 2011. A Jan. 1 Chicago Tribune article on Ms. Thorsen refers to her note in which she tells of her frustration with the district's school leaders, lack of resources, and lack of respect for teachers.
A reception follows the film with live music and refreshments in celebration of teachers. Tickets are $8. Proceeds will go to Thorsen's parents, who intend to use the money to help students in need.
"Dying to Teach: The Killing of Mary Eve Thorson"
June 30 at 4 pm
Beverly Arts Center
by Raise Your Hand | June 20, 2012
CPS Public Meeting Cancelled
CPS has cancelled the meeting at Gage Park HS for next Monday 6/25. Sorry for the confusion on this, but we received an email from them with this message that they are giving to parents:
“After thoughtful consideration, Chicago Public Schools has decided to postpone the collective bargaining meetings until after the fact finding report is released on July 16th. In order to respect the bargaining process and the high sensitivity of this issue, CPS will wait until after the findings are released to host these meetings. We apologize for any inconvenience and would like to have the opportunity to call you back in the next coming weeks about information on the meetings.”
June 20, 2012
CPS history teacher Jen Johnson came across a petition from Oregon corporate education group “Stand for Children” hosted on the liberal website Change.org. She was surprised to see a progressive media company working with a reactionary anti-union group. The petition was filled with misinformation about the current CTU/CPS contract negotiations.
Jen wrote this petition urging Change.org to drop Stand, which received thousands of signees within days.
Jen and colleagues explain why they signed the petition.
Stand and other out-of-town astroturf groups are not going anywhere. They now have friends in a new group of “venture philanthropists” who will throw more money into privatizing schools and turning teaching to a low-wage, high-turnover, temporary job.
Although Stand can no longer use its petition as a means to spread misinformation, they are taking their talking points to the public. Please attend one of their upcoming events and to speak truth to dollars.
We can expect more attacks from the out-of-towners, so please sign up for alerts from Chicago Teachers Union today.
Text CTU1 to MYAFT for text alerts.
by Kari Lydersen - In These Times | June 20, 2012
The Chicago Teachers Union lost an important skirmish with Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year when the state legislature passed Emanuel-backed legislation requiring a 75 percent vote to authorize a strike – a high number seen as a blow for teachers unions in Illinois.
But the attack apparently helped energize and mobilize the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), as a whopping 89 percent of teachers voted on June 11 to authorize a strike come fall (actually late summer) as highly contentious contract negotiations stretch on. Chicago teachers last went on strike in 1987.
Emanuel acknowledged the overwhelming vote but tried to minimize its significance by asking the public and media to focus on other numbers – the increased hours he wants kids in school. Teachers have repeatedly said they are not against a longer school day or school year, but demand appropriate pay raises in return. Emanuel rescinded a contractually obligated 4 percent raise for teachers during his first year in office, and now his administration is proposing a contract with a 2 percent raise while lengthening the work day from seven hours to seven hours and 40 minutes.
Many parents have pushed for a compromise, with more time in school but not as much as Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard are demanding. Critics of the longer day cite oppressive heat in many non-air conditioned buildings, other demands on students’ time and the inescapable fact that Chicago schools’ problems go much deeper than the number of hours in class.
At five hours and 45 minutes, Chicago students have one of the nation’s shortest days. But teachers say the actual amount of instruction in Chicago schools is on par with other schools nationwide. There is no easy fix for the systematic economic and social problems that impact Chicago students, but more resources and smaller class sizes would likely do more than extended days to improve student engagement and performance.
The union says the administration’s contract proposal will result in larger class sizes. Jackson Potter blogged on the union website:
Like Republican candidate Mitt Romney, they make the argument that class size doesn’t matter…The Board has reserved the right to change class size policy at any time and merely notify the union and it has eliminated any funding of positions to lower class size in the district; the previous contract committed $2.25 million to lower class sizes. These changes will concretely increase our class sizes throughout the district, even though many kindergarten and primary grade classrooms throughout the city have class sizes that approach 50 students in a room.
The union blasts the administration’s proposal for increasing the focus on standardized test-based student performance in evaluating teachers, including an emphasis on “merit pay.” Nationwide, teachers have long complained that evaluating their performance based heavily on standardized testing is unfair to dedicated teachers in under-funded, low-income and immigrant-heavy schools and curbs their ability to teach creatively.
Potter summarizes other reasons the union opposes the administration’s proposal: eliminating teachers’ ability to bank sick days, increasing health insurance costs and requiring teachers to work 10-hour-days during report card pickup.
In the wake of the strike vote Emanuel also touted the fact that 60.6 percent of Chicago Public Schools students who were freshmen four years ago graduated this year – the highest rate since at least 1999. But the insinuation that this improvement is because of measures pushed by his administration comes off as disingenuous when one considers that these measures have only been rolled out in recent months and not in all schools.
Emanuel said the strike vote does not affect ongoing contract negotiations with the teachers union, but the union has noted that taking the vote several months before they might strike was meant to provide leverage in the negotiations and allow 1,500 retiring teachers to vote. With more than 25,000 unionized teachers, CPS is the third-largest school district in the country and the CTU is the largest member of the American Federation of Teachers.
Emanuel has portrayed teachers as putting their interests before students’ well-being, and professed his dedication to Chicago students – framing his battle with the teachers as a fight for opportunity and equality for low-income students. But many parents and students have spoken out in support of teachers, who often already put in many unpaid hours and often spent money out of their own pockets to buy supplies.
There has been much intrigue around efforts to generate community support (or the appearance of it) for the Emanuel administration’s reform policies, including revelations last year that politically connected ministers had paid church members to show up at community meetings in support of administration proposals to close so-called failing schools. Around the strike vote, many parents received robocalls attacking the teachers' decision to hold an early strike vote. The calls and other efforts against the teachers have been linked to national astroturf "education reform" groups also active in California and other states where public sector unions have squared off with city and state officials.
Meanwhile, it turns out that Obama strategist David Axelrod’s former public relations firm AKPD Media and Messaging is behind ads attacking the teachers union. Long-time progressive school reformer and small schools advocate Mike Klonsky noted in a blog post about this revelation that Emanuel “seems hell-bent on destroying the city's public employee unions.” Klonsky also questioned the motivations of American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten sharing the podium with Emanuel in support of his massive new infrastructure plan – with a heavy focus on privatization – just weeks after she marched with Chicago teachers calling for a strike vote. (The infrastructure plan’s marketing is spearheaded by another of Axelrod’s former outfits, ASGK Public Strategies.)
Chicago Sun-Times columnist – and former teacher – Carol Marin noted:
Teachers in this town have been demonized, demoralized, and disrespected. No profession is beyond criticism and no public school system is without significant problems. But taking a sledgehammer approach to CPS teachers and their union has backfired on the Emanuel administration and his schools CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard. And all the radio ads and robo calls funded by out of town, union-busting billionaires doesn’t alter that fact.
While longer days and closing schools are the prominent issues in Emanuel’s battle with union teachers, the conflict has much deeper significance in terms of ongoing battles for the future of public employees unions. And while Emanuel and others who figure into the administration’s plans are considered far to the left of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the battle promises to continue nearly as polarized and hard-fought. Stay tuned.
by Ryan Grim - Huffington Post | June 20, 2012
Change.org Drops Michelle Rhee Group Under Pressure From Progressives
WASHINGTON -- In a surprising reversal, Change.org, the progressive online powerhouse that channels grassroots energy into petition-based activism, has dropped two anti-union clients, including Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst, according to multiple sources familiar with the decision.
The move comes after intense pressure from the labor movement and other progressive allies, who accused the for-profit company of betraying its liberal roots by partnering with Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C., public schools, and the similarly aligned group Stand for Children headed by education advocate Jonah Edelman. The ouster of StudentsFirst and Stand for Children was confirmed by a Change.org spokesman.
Change.org's meteoric rise has included a host of glowing profiles and the Time magazine stamp of approval when it named CEO and founder Ben Rattray one of the 100 most influential people in the world. It is staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country -- many of whom are well known and liked in the tight-knit liberal community, making the feud that much more bitter. And Edelman is the son of liberal champions Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman.
StudentsFirst and Stand for Children oppose teachers unions as obstacles to education reform, and advocate on behalf of tying teacher pay to test scores and other student metrics. Change.org started working with Rhee's Students First in March 2011, five months after her resignation as Washington's public schools chancellor, and with Jonah Edelman's Stand for Children in October 2011.
Rhee's group, aware of its reputation as an enemy of organized labor, has consistently avoided activism around union issues on Change.org's platform, focusing instead on immigration reform, anti-bullying, and other issues that resonate with progressives and don't alienate labor. Labor officials and other Washington-based liberal activists have, over the course of the last year, been publicly and privately pressing Change.org to draw a line that refuses business from anti-union groups, just as it currently rejects business from organizations with an anti-immigrant or anti-gay bias. They made little progress until Stand for Children launched an anti-union petition.
It was Change.org's recent controversial petition, criticizing the Chicago Teachers’ Union vote two weeks ago to authorize a strike in the fall, that set off the current firestorm of protest. The letter, sent to the Chicago Board of Education and CTU President Karen Lewis, was authored by the Illinois chapter of Stand for Children:
400,000 Chicago students could be locked out of Chicago classrooms because contract negotiations are starting to break down, causing a premature strike-authorization vote to occur before anyone knows what is in the contract proposal. We strongly call for all parties to bargain in good faith to reach a new agreement. Don’t hold our students hostage in a negotiation where they have no voice!
The petition provoked a barrage of responses, with Chicago teacher Jennifer Jones drafting a letter on a MoveOn.org-affiliated site, SignOn.org, to the founder of Change.org, demanding that the website “Stop Supporting Union-Busters.” Jones’ letter has collected roughly 4,000 signatures.
[Editor's note: the teacher's name is Jennifer Johnson, not Jones - KS]
MoveOn.org has used the controversy to promote its own petition project, which it notes is nonprofit and doesn't face the same pressures as a private company. (Change.org, despite its URL, is a for-profit company.) "We’re nonprofit, and we can’t be bought. SignOn.org is entirely funded by small donations from our members. And unlike other petition sites, we never promote petitions because someone paid us to -- we only promote the petitions that MoveOn members support," reads SignOn.org's mission statement, which MoveOn has been flogging to the progressive community.
The Washington-based progressive community has been attacking Change.org both publicly and privately. "For Change.org to claim to be a progressive organization or support the progressive movement while soliciting and accepting cash from corporate front groups is, at best, disingenuous," Aniello Alioto, national political director for ProgressNow, told HuffPost before the decision to drop Rhee was disclosed.
John Aravosis, who writes the pro-gay-rights AMERICABlog.com, said that Change.org, despite its petition-based strategy, is still a political consulting firm -- a reality that liberals ought to recognize. "I'm glad they're not allowing anti-gay campaigns, but why allow anti-union?" Aravosis said. "You just don't do that. Big, evil consulting firms that liberals attack all the time do that. The netroots has found itself in bed with a typical old Washington organization that plays both sides, except they're built by the netroots, and we're supposed to be better than that."
Change.org leaders, for their part, said they think some of the outrage resulted from a misunderstanding of the company's goal, which is not to spread American-style progressive values around the globe, but rather to empower as many people as possible under the theory that the world will be better as a result. By not embracing American progressivism, the company said it hopes to make its platform more welcoming to people around the globe who might see such an association as imperialist or anti-Muslim.
"At the heart of Change.org mission is an open, democratic philosophy: we believe our platform should be open to people from a range of viewpoints who share a common interest in changing their world for the better. It is in that spirit that we agreed to accept Stand for Children as a client," Change.org spokesman Benjamin Joffe-Walt told HuffPost. "In the last few days, we have listened closely to the community of Change.org users, who have voiced their concerns in response to this decision. After careful consideration, we have agreed to end the contract with Stand for Children, and the petition is now closed.
"At Change.org, we believe in open dialogue, and we try to listen as we grow. We appreciate that the broader Change.org community cares enough about our company to weigh in, foster discussion, and directly share their points of view with us. We're going to to pursue our strategy of empowering people around the world and are looking forward to tackling the difficult questions that all organizations face as they grow."
Zuckerbrod, of StudentsFirst, said that Change.org officials told the organization bluntly that the progressive pressure drove the decision.
by Michael Puente | June 19, 2012
Read the original post (with audio) here.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he’s still hopeful that lawmakers can reach an agreement on pension reform sooner rather than later.
He’s been meeting with the leaders in both houses over the past few weeks in Chicago, since lawmakers left Springfield without a deal in hand to fund the state’s $83 billion pension deficit.
On Monday, Quinn signed into legislation Senate Bill 179 which creates the position of state actuary to oversee the five state-funded public pension systems. Joined by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), Quinn said the law will increase transparency in the public pension systems.
“We must restore integrity and accountability to the state’s pension systems and we are headed in the right direction,” Quinn said.
But Quinn knows, SB 179 isn’t the bill everyone is waiting for.
“This has to be the year of pension reform once and for all in our state of Illinois. It’s long in coming,’ Quinn said from at a press conference at the Thompson Center. “Frankly, it’s long overdue.”
But getting members to agree isn’t easy.
State Republican lawmakers are opposed to a plan to shift the cost of pensions from the state to suburban and downstate public school districts.
Chicago isn’t included in a pension reform funding package but it currently already funds its teachers’ pensions. Quinn hoped to get a deal in place by the end of June, right about the same time he must sign a new state budget. He is hopeful that can still be achieved but if it isn’t, he’s prepared to keeping pressing.
“We’re prepared to do whatever necessary to get this public pension reform done and behind us,” Quinn said. “We really want to keep pushing the leaders and members to do what they know in their heart is the right thing to do.”
Under the cost shifting plan, public universities and community colleges would gradually pick up the costs of employee pensions. Quinn says the presidents of public universities and community colleges support the move.
Currie, meanwhile, is confident an agreement can be reached still this summer, well ahead the general election in November when state lawmakers are up for re-election. She said the four leaders of the House and Senate agree in principal to the cost shift but she cautions that may not be enough.
“Even if the leaders agree, that doesn’t mean all of the members of the General Assembly will follow along,” Currie said.
June 17, 2012
Chicago’s public school teachers said a lot with their overwhelming vote last week to authorize a strike.
And their rejection of a puny proposed raise is just a part of it.
When 90 percent of teachers authorize a strike there’s no denying the anger in our schools. For months, Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel downplayed the bubbling resentment. Then, they tried to meddle in the strike vote.
Only after the results came in did Brizard acknowledge to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Rosalind Rossi what must have been obvious to the former teacher all along: “What I see in the numbers is a level of anger and frustration of being asked to do so much without the proper dollars to support it,” he said.
Finally, the schools chief spoke to one of his teachers’ deepest grievances: working for a chronically underfunded school system that lacks the dollars and the wherewithal to offer the basic services all kids deserve. Many teachers also strongly disagree with the direction Brizard is taking CPS.
His longer school day, they argue, doesn’t include adequate funding to make it a better day. They also argue that his reforms will exacerbate pressure to teach to the test and unfairly scapegoat teachers for conditions beyond their control.
For the sake of a better school system, Brizard must address these issues, although, as we’ve said before, contract talks aren’t the right venue. Labor contracts are about pay, benefits and core working conditions — spending dollars the school system has, not dollars it wishes it had. They are labor negotiations, not school reform negotiations.
But it would be a mistake for Brizard and Emanuel to ignore these cries as they move forward with their chosen reforms, many of which we support. The union is raising critical questions and the CPS should work with teachers to resolve them. These are the issues we consider most pressing:
More student supports: In February, the CTU put out a thoughtful blueprint for school improvement that featured a recommendation we have long supported: dramatically increasing the number of social workers, counselors and school psychologists per school. The troubles that students bring to school interrupt learning yet CPS continues to hire shamefully low numbers of mental health experts for its schools.
A better day: All schools will move to a longer day when school resumes, but it’s doubtful that most schools will have enough money to add the music, art and gym classes that would make it a significantly better day.
A different board: There is growing dissatisfaction with the makeup of Emanuel’s appointed school board. We don’t support an elected board, but an improved board would include fewer well-intended wealthy people and more regular folks with experience in CPS schools — parents, principals, graduates.
Meanwhile, CPS can make meaningful contract concessions right now to help improve working conditions:
A decent raise: a pay bump that reflects the increased hours in a longer school day — but one that also acknowledges that current salaries are based on a too-short day. Keep any raises based on student performance to a minimum.
Class size limits: CPS wants to remove language from the contract that spells out class size limits. Those limits are laid out elsewhere, in CPS’ class size policy, and Brizard hasn’t changed the current limits. But CTU wants the extra protection of the language in the contract and CPS should relent.
Value experienced teachers: Experienced teachers displaced from closed schools can struggle to find a new position because of their tenure status and because of the black mark that can accompany a closure (which ironically punishes teachers who seek out those challenging positions). We don’t support blanket recall rights but think well-rated teachers should get job openings before teachers who are new to CPS.
by Norine Gutekanst | June 15, 2012
Summer Organizing Internships for CTU Members
Get involved in the campaign to promote our members' rights and fight for educational justice! Summer Organizing Internships will provide training in organizing skills, leadership and union and community education issues.
Interns will meet with CTU members, parents and community leaders on our contract campaign, school funding issues and other struggles to improve our schools and our jobs. Interns will work to organize meetings and public events, mobilize supporters and develop grassroots leaders. Play a key role in our fight for a good contract and for good schools for all, while learning skills that will help you become a school leader when you return in the fall!
Interns will receive a weekly stipend and reimbursement for transportation expenses.
· Position requires strong communications skills and a passion for social justice.
· Must be willing to travel throughout the city and have access to an automobile.
· Minimum six week commitment.
· Women and people of color strongly encouraged to apply.
· Bilingual abilities are a plus.
· Open to all CTU members: PSRPs, Clinicians and others encouraged to apply.
* Training begins June 25.
· To apply or for more information, please email: email@example.com.
Deadline for applying for internship: Monday, June 18, 5:00 p.m.
CTU will be conducting interviews for Summer Organizing Internship next week. Send a letter of interest and/or resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
June 15, 2012
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has claimed that national education policy groups disruptively shape the Chicago Public Schools' agenda and are now interfering in contract negotiations between CPS and the teachers union. On Monday, Lewis called a vote by teachers to authorize a strike “an indictment of the outside groups that seek to destroy the real work being done by Chicago’s teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians.”
The one outside group that has indisputably stepped into the collective bargaining fray is Education Reform Now, which is headquartered in New York and has seven state branch offices including Wisconsin, but none in Illinois.
Last week, the group placed automated calls to CPS parents that scolded CTU for holding a strike authorization vote. The vote, which started June 6 and ended June 8, resulted in almost 90 percent of CTU members putting their support behind a strike authorization – clearing a 75 percent threshold imposed by state law, and giving CTU the option to strike if negotiations break down.
In the “robo-call,” a woman identifying herself as a Local School Council member says that, “Teachers deserve a raise. But it bothers me that the union is taking a strike vote before an independent arbitrator offers a compromise.”
The woman then gives parents a number to text message to let CPS and CTU know their disapproval of a strike authorization vote, and notes that Education Reform Now paid for the message.
Wendy Katten, of the parent group Raise Your Hands, claims that parents throughout the city received these robo-calls amid the three-day strike authorization vote.
In response to questions about the robo-call and their involvement in contract talks, Jake Breymaier, advocacy director for the group, released a statement saying, “Education Reform Now is advocating for a solution that avoids a strike and does what is best for Chicago’s children.”
“We will continue our outreach to parents, voters, and citizens as long as necessary and we will use all available avenues to reach them,” Breymaier continued.
Education Reform Now was set up in 2005 in conjunction with Democrats for Education Reform, a Political Action Committee.
In a May interview with Education Week, Joe Williams, executive director for Democrats for Education Reform, said the group was created to elect politicians “less beholden to teachers unions.”
Much like the Natural Resources Defense Council does for the environment or the Chamber of Commerce does for business, Education Reform Now is part of a coterie of new, but growing education groups that lobby on the national, state, and local level. Typically, these groups push policies that unions oppose such as more charter schools, which are usually staffed by non-union teachers.
For example, the group routed over $50,000 into a 2010 Buffalo, New York school board race to support a candidate who favored more charter schools and wanted to base teacher pay partly on student performance.
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll says that the district has not coordinated with any outside group in getting their message out to parents.
While that might be the case, the message from CPS and Education Reform Now is identical on the strike authorization vote, they argue that CTU violated the spirit of last year’s landmark state education law by holding the strike authorization while an independent fact finder reviews both sides' proposals.
In a letter to CPS parents (PDF) dated June 6, CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard writes that the two sides “are in the middle of a contract negotiation process that was established in the recent Illinois Education Reform Legislation and designed specifically to foster negotiation and avoid a strike.”
“Teachers must be allowed to see the final independent compromise proposal before making the decision to authorize a strike,” Brizard added.
National education groups were central in drafting and lobbying for the state education law.
Eric Zorn argued in his Chicago Tribune column Wednesday that groups such as Education Reform Now and the Oregon group Stand For Children celebrated the passage of the law last year for effectively preventing any future CTU strikes. But the law never specified when during the collective bargaining process teachers could take a strike vote.
It is not clear if outside groups with views that align closer to CTU might step into the collective bargaining process. For example, the American Federation of Teachers, which CTU is a part of, could financially support their own public relations campaign in support of Chicago teachers.
June 14, 2012
Join us for a sign-making party this Sat., June 16, 2012 at 12 noon at the CTU Office, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plz., Suite 400 to get ready for our participation in Chicago’s 43rd Annual Pride Parade on Sun., June 24. Pizza, soda and snacks will be provided. Free parking voucher provided for the Mart Parc garage at Kinzie/Wells. Children are encouraged to attend the party since they were some of our best artists last year! The parade theme is "Pride Links Us Together." We invite all Chicago Public School teachers, students, staff, parents and other LGBT and education allies to march with us in the north side parade. The Pride Parade line-up location for our contingent and float will be announced next week.
by Nathan Goldbaum | June 13, 2012
Why I would’ve been in the 90% of those teachers
BY CAROL MARIN email@example.com June 12, 2012 6:54PM
Click here to read the article on the Sun-Times website.
If I had been a Chicago public school teacher last week, I would have done as 90 percent of them did — and voted “yes” for a strike authorization.
Teachers in this town have been demonized, demoralized, and disrespected. No profession is beyond criticism and no public school system is without significant problems. But taking a sledgehammer approach to CPS teachers and their union has backfired on the Emanuel administration and his schools CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard.
And all the radio ads and robo calls funded by out of town, union-busting billionaires doesn’t alter that fact.
And let’s be clear. That strike authorization vote is in no way a statement that Chicago teachers want a strike. They do not. It would be horrible.
I know a little bit about this. Though it was long ago, I remember my first — and only — teacher strike. I was fresh out of the University of Illinois, buried in college loans, and grateful beyond words to have landed a job teaching English at what was then Dundee High School in suburban Carpentersville.
Joy turned to panic when the first words I heard at my very first teachers meeting were, “We’re on strike!”
I hadn’t even voted on that strike. I was too new.
Beside me that day was a veteran, superb teacher named Kay Burmeister, who on the phone just yesterday, still chokes up as she remembers. “It was a tremendously difficult vote . . . painful in a million ways . . . My [young son] Mark was about to start kindergarten. You want to throw up,” she said.
But the issues in that strike were about class size, not just compensation. And in six days teachers and the school district worked out a deal each could support.
On Tuesday, I also called the best CPS teacher I have ever known. Arlene Brennan was our son Joshua’s first-grade teacher at the Ogden Elementary School. “Teachers want to teach,” she told me, “but class size is critical. In my last year of teaching, I had a class of 35, 12 of whom were special needs . . . and I was at a good school.”
Brennan retired from CPS in 2007, maddened that she was required to “teach to the test” to amp up performance scores, not teach children in creative ways that are not necessarily data driven. She now works with Northwestern and Columbia College mentoring and evaluating student teachers.
“I would have authorized a strike vote,” she said. “It seems to be the only way to have a conversation” with the administration.
In a city where we don’t have a handle on the intractable violence that plagues neighborhoods and seeps into many of our schools, teachers are often on the front line of kindness and caring in a really harsh world.
We used to treat their profession with respect.
They know that.
And said so in their vote.
by Stephanie Gadlin | June 11, 2012
Chicago Teachers Vote Overwhelming for Strike Authorization as Contract Negotiations Continue
CHICAGO – Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) revealed nearly 90 percent of its eligible members voted to give their labor organization the authority to call a strike should contract negotiations reach an impasse. The Union has been in negotiations with the Chicago Public School system (CPS) since November 2011. A new state law requires a 75 percent of all eligible CTU voters to vote in the affirmative in order to provide strike authorization.
Although both CTU and CPS are in the fact-finding stage of negotiations, the Union pointed out that the independent review will only provide recommendations on a small number of contract concerns. Public school educators say they are fighting for smaller class sizes, art, music, world language and physical education classes for students, and fair compensation for being asked to work under more difficult guidelines as determined by CPS.
Armed with strike authorization, teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians say they believe this will give them more leverage at the bargaining table going forward. Should a strike become necessary, the Union’s 800-member House of Delegates will set the date for a work stoppage. The three-day vote tally showed:
|Vote Day 1||19,235||379|
|Vote Day 2||2,060||48|
|Vote Day 3||370||22|
|% of vote||98.01%||1.99%|
|Total valid votes||24,262|
|% of membership voting||91.55%|
|% of membership YES||89.73%|
|% of membership NO||1.82%|
|# rejected/spoiled ballots||494|
|(includes any spoiled, etc.)|
|Category||Number||÷ Membership =||%|
÷ 26,502 =
Members Voting “YES”
÷ 26,502 =
Members Voting “NO”
÷ 26,502 =
Members Casting Votes
÷ 26,502 =
Members Not Voting
÷ 26,502 =
|Day||Daily Votes*||Number||÷ Vote Count =||%|
÷ 19,614 =
÷ 19,614 =
÷ 19,614 =
÷ 2,108 =
÷ 2,108 =
÷ 2,108 =
÷ 392 =
÷ 392 =
÷ 392 =
÷ 2,148 =
÷ 2,148 =
÷ 2,148 =
÷ 24,262 =
÷ 24,262 =
÷ 24,262 =
* Daily Votes were totaled each day for members on the roster for each school. "S" refers to Supplemental ballots, which are those cast by employees voting at a site where they do not appear on the roster (e.g. school social workers or nurses, who service multiple schools). These votes are tallied separately.
CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT, said the following during a news conference today:
“We have called you here today to announce the results of the strike authorization vote held last week. The results are not a win. They are an indictment on the state of the relationship between the ‘management’ of CPS and its largest labor force, members of the Chicago Teachers Union. It is also an indictment on the outside groups that seek to destroy the real work being done by Chicago’s teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians.
“We do not understand why Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now and other organizations continue to stand on the backs of our children and profess to care about them when they ignore the harsh realities of their lives. And while our members work in schools that are under-resourced, understaffed and under-appreciated, they have toiled in silence long enough while the mayors of this city have exerted control, shut down schools, and handed over facilities to their well-connected friends.
“The problems with our schools will not be answered by overpaid outside consultants or billionaire education dilettantes but rather by the people who actually work in our schools with our children in full partnership with the District. For some reason, this administration has behaved as if the Union was some out of touch bureaucracy only speaking for ourselves. But the dominant narrative among the so-called Ed Reformers in concert with city’s business fathers and mothers has been that the reason why CPS is in such bad shape is that its teachers are incompetent.
“This new leadership of the CTU were all classroom teachers and paraprofessionals two years ago. We have the pulse of our members. We listened to what they had to say. And we made a plan using the tools and the resources we have. That’s what teachers do. We analyzed the data and adjusted our plans. But all along, we had the feedback of the members in our schools. While the chaos on Clark Street continues, our members, intent on being heard were loud, clear and serious.
“We want a contract that gives Chicago’s Students the Schools They Deserve. So we call on CPS to take the process seriously and negotiate with us in good faith and with an eye on the real prize: Our children.”
by Rick Smith Show | June 07, 2012
Matt Farmer is a parent, blogger, lawyer, and activist. He talks to Rick about Penny Pritzker as well as her alliance of republican and democrats who are trying to dismantle public education in Chicago. Rick mentions similar issues in Philadelphia and how Governor Corbett is trying to replicate efforts. Rick and Matt talk about how as a parent he supports the teachers and why parents need to be unifying to fight against the bi-partisan attempts to privatization our children's future. We need to be saying with a unified voice that we want children who can think critically and not just push buttons for the boss.
A must listen for anyone questioning why their property taxes are going up. Your hard earned money is going to these privateers.
Illinois Education Labor Relations Board rebuffs CPS’ attempt to interfere with CTU strike authorization vote
June 07, 2012
Today, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) rejected an attempt by the Board of Education to interfere with the strike authorization votes currently underway in over 600 public schools.
On Wednesday, June 6, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) filed an unfair labor practice charge (ULP) against the Board of Education (BOE) due to actions by BOE and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard in attempting to interfere with the strike authorization votes currently underway. The Board committed several unfair labor practices when it first issued a letter on June 4th seeking intervention by the IELRB in the voting process, although there were no pending issues or claims at the IELRB. Secondly, the next day, on June 5th CEO Brizard issued a letter to all CPS teachers which was threatening, coercive, and unlawfully interfered with the Union’s right to seek strike authorization from its members. The CTU seeks the issuance of an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint against the Board. The CTU’s charge asserts, the following:
The right to strike and to participate in a strike authorization vote is a fundamental cornerstone of labor relations and one expressly guaranteed in the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. Strike authorization voting is an internal Union affair over which the Board has no legal right to interfere or dominate. Without the right to strike, educators are left with little else to bargain for fair contract terms.
Mr. Brizard’s letter warned teachers that “a strike authorization vote is a very serious action with tremendous consequences.” He said that with respect to the bargaining process for example over wage increases, one of the consequences of a strike authorization at this juncture would “likely derail the process, not aid it.”
Mr. Brizard was disingenuous in trying to convince teachers that a strike authorization vote at this time is unlawful. Mr. Brizard repeated those insincerities in a letter sent to CPS students and their parents. Despite Brizard’s statements, Section 13 of the IELRA law allows the CTU to take a strike authorization vote at any time and to ensure members have an opportunity to vote.
In a sign of utter disrespect of the Union and the bargaining process, Mr. Brizard also attempted to offer terms of employment to the teachers that have not been offered in collective bargaining. In particular, Brizard said that “teachers deserve a raise and will receive one that is fair.” To date the CTU has not received a fair salary proposal. The Board has promised a mere 2% raise for the next five years, despite asking teachers to work 20% longer, terms that are inherently and objectively “unfair.” Mr. Brizard’s attempt to offer terms directly to the teachers is an end-run around the bargaining process. The CTU’s ULP charges that Brizard’s statements and promises constitute illegal direct dealing with the members instead of with the CTU.
As the Union stated in its labor board charge, “[t]hrough these actions the Board has sent a clear signal that it intends to negotiate this contract in the trenches rather than at the table, preferring to sling mud rather than exchange proposals.”
June 06, 2012
FIGHTING FOR BETTER SCHOOLS (June 6, 2012):
Teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals from Cassell Elementary School pose in solidarity after casting their votes for strike authorization at their school on Wednesday. The Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education have been locked in a contract battle since November 2011. An independent fact-finder memo expected in July will not resolve major issues raised by educators. Teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes, arts/music/world language classes for students and a pay raise in the wake of being asked to work 20 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase. CTU President Karen Lewis said members are tired of being “bullied, belittle and betrayed” by the school district.
(Photo by Chicago Teachers Union)
by Nathan Goldbaum | June 06, 2012
CTU President Karen Lewis has released a letter to parents in response to the anti-union letter that CEO Brizard ordered teachers to deliver to parents today. Click here to download a printable version of this letter.
The 25,000 Chicago teachers and staff who operate the schools are taking a Strike Authorization Vote today, Thursday, and Friday. Do not be alarmed—this vote is NOT a vote to strike. The decision to strike—if it happens at all—may come towards the start of school next fall. But there is a long way to go before we get to that point.
Please be assured that the union is doing all it can to avoid a strike—we are engaged in serious negotiations. The two parties have agreed to a “fact-finder” which is designed to help us settle some of the difficult issues. We are open to compromise and are presenting reasonable and educationally sound proposals.
In fact, the union has a very small number of key demands in these negotiations—
- Smaller classes—we are proposing a reduction in class size
- A Better Day to go along with a longer day—we want the Board to offer instruction in the Arts, World Language, and Physical Education
- Fair compensation—we are asking for a raise to go along with expanded responsibilities: a new curriculum, a new evaluation system, and a 20% increase in instructional time.
- Job Security—Chicago Teachers are virtually the only public school employees in Illinois who can lose their job due to no fault of their own (such as a school closing) and have no meaningful recall rights. We are proposing a simple recall provision.
We feel these demands are aligned with the interests of parents and children.
We are aware that the Board has sent a communication to parents that portrays our vote as premature, misleading, and harmful to the process of reaching an agreement. We strongly disagree. The strike authorization vote, which is receiving overwhelming support from teachers and PSRP’s, is designed to put pressure on the Board to bargain seriously over important issues. Rather than trying to place more and more restrictive limits on our right to bargain, the Board should listen to the actual educators when designing the Longer Day, compensation, and the structure of school next year.
The CTU intends to use our negotiating power to ensure that both the people who work in the schools AND the people who go to the schools have a high quality education. Political leaders may try to score points with education “reforms”—but the educators who actually run the schools must have a voice in the process. This vote ensures that we cannot be ignored. It is our hope that we will have a new contract to vote on by the time school is ready to start in September!
Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT
RELEASE: CPS Educators Forced To Distribute Anti-Teacher, Anti-Union Letter to Parents on First Day of Strike Authorization Vote
by Stephanie Gadlin | June 06, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2012
CPS Educators Forced To Distribute Anti-Teacher, Anti-Union Letter to Parents on First Day of Strike Authorization Vote
CHICAGO—This afternoon, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) criticized schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard for forcing teachers to distribute a misleading letter about today’s “strike authorization vote” to parents of students in their classrooms. President Karen GJ Lewis called the letter “anti-teacher and anti-union,” but said because she does not want members disciplined for insubordination and therefore should do what is required of them by their employer.
This is the first day more than 25,000 public school educators will cast ballots to either authorize or deny their Union permission to set a strike date should labor negotiations fail. The CTU has been in contract negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since November 2011. In July, an independent arbitrator will release a fact-finding report that will only address a small number of contract disputes but will not address class sizes, more resources and art, music and language classes for students, or the need for safe and healthy school facilities. The current CTU contract ends on June 30.
Several public school teachers have flooded the Union’s email system and grievance department today with complaints about being asked to distribute a letter they believe is not in their best interest. Some members even questioned whether or not the request was legal and whether or not it violates collective bargaining.
“The CEO has been given a script and tactics designed to muddy the discourse about what our labor negotiations are really about,” said Lewis. “Despite his denials, he continues to bully and disrespect public school educators when he uses a tactic such as forcing them to give their students a letter about our fight for a strong labor agreement and our strike authorization campaign. His anti-teacher, anti-union letter attempts to simplify very complex issues and in the end it winds up spreading false and misleading information to our parents.”
However, she cautioned CTU members, “Teachers are the best source of information to our parents about what is going on in the classroom and our school system,” she said. “While it is disrespectful to ask our members to distribute such a misleading letter, they must do as instructed by their principals. We do not want anyone written up for insubordination. Now if the letter happens to get lost, that’s another thing.”
by Keith VanderMeulen | June 06, 2012
As a member of the “large bargaining team”, I have had the opportunity to observe several bargaining sessions, give feedback to the “table team”, and participate in caucus discussions before, during and after bargaining sessions. The table team consists of the Union’s Lawyer and the four Union Officers, while the Large bargaining team consists of thirty PSRPs, Clinicians, and Teachers on the Executive Board and other active union members.
The negotiations have been on-going for several months and have included presentations by many of the union members on the Large Bargaining Team to the board. These presentations involved contract topics in which the members are subject area experts. Our members demonstrated their professionalism and expertise and were well received by the Board’s Bargaining Team.
At times the negotiations have been contentious, but for the most part, they have been civil. The Board’s Team does seem to genuinely give the Large Bargaining Team members respect, and seem to listen intently to our presentations. They stick steadfastly, however, to the ideology of their original proposal. This proposal includes a large helping of moving to accountability measures which include lousy measures of teaching effectiveness, an almost nonexistent raise offer, and most concerning to me a total unwillingness to bargain over any of the many “optional” bargaining topics under Illinois state law. The Board does not have to bargain over length of day, length of year, class size, and many other issues having to do with educational policy. The Board’s unwillingness to open these topics backs us into the uncomfortable position of being able to bargain over very few non-financial issues. Meanwhile the Board’s team argues both publicly and within the bargaining session that they are extremely financial constrained. We would think this would make them want to open up bargaining in areas that would not cost them anything. As of yet, it has not.
There have been some small areas of agreement on minor issues. There remain large differences on the major issues including fair compensation, benefits, and the many researched based proposals the union has put forward to improve our educational system for our students.
In spite of the lack of progress, from our side I believe the process put in place by President Karen Lewis and her Union Officers has been extremely useful. The Large bargaining team has involved former political rivals of the current union leadership, such as myself. Our internal discussions have been very good and the unity in our bargaining team is absolute. The process has been democratic but well organized by the table team. Copious documents have been provided to the large bargaining team. Some of these are original proposals; some have been put together by the Union Leadership to summarize board and union proposals. We have had many structured discussions about various board proposals and Union leadership has acted on many recommendations given by rank and file members. Having thirty rank and file members representing PSRPs, Clinicians, elementary school teachers, and high school teachers gives the Large Bargaining Team a working knowledge of negotiations and a better ability to take information back to our schools about the status of the process. Ultimately, I think it will also get us a better contract.
I am, and I feel the whole team would say the same, honored to be a part of the negotiating process representing my sisters and brothers of the Chicago Teachers Union.
by Raise Your Hand | June 06, 2012
We have received many questions on whether we support today’s strike authorization vote. Many parents are confused about what this vote means. Here is our viewpoint:
Click here to download a letter in response to CEO Brizard's letter to parents of June 6, 2012.
Click here to download a flyer for distribution to parents. Keep checking back at on the delegate resources page for more resources to build with parents and communities.
June 06, 2012
DETERMINED TO VOTE: Beard Specialty School Teacher Jean Luchini (center) didn’t let a major surgery stop her from having her say in Wednesday’s on whether give the Chicago Teachers Union the authority to authorize a strike should contract negotiations with the Board of Education come to a screeching halt. Colleagues from her school delivered voting materials to her at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. An independent fact-finder memo expected in July will not resolve major issues among the educators. Teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes, arts/music/world language classes for students and a pay raise in the wake of being asked to work 20 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase. CTU President Karen Lewis said members are tired of being “bullied, belittle and betrayed” by the school district.
(Video by Kenzo Shibata/Chicago Teachers Union)
by Ramsin Canon | June 06, 2012
Beginning today, over 20,000 Chicago teachers will vote on whether or not to authorize their bargaining committee to call for a strike should negotiations with the Board of Education over new contract terms fail. For authorization, 75% of non-retiree union members would need to approve. The voting takes place over three days. This high threshold is the result of legislation passed last year. As state public employees, teachers' collective bargaining rights and terms are governed by state, rather than federal, law.
The legislation in question, known as SB7, was passed after intense and stealth lobbying efforts by Stand for Children, a well-funded non-profit that operates at the state level to encourage entrepreneurial changes to public education that incrementally privatize school systems. Stand for Children co-founder Jonah Edelman famously bragged at a conference that they used access to important and influential political figures like Rahm Emanuel and Michael Madigan, and insiders like Jo Anderson to tighten restrictions on the Chicago Teachers Union. Part of the strategy was to take away one of the union's more potent tools, the strike threat. Unable to take away the right to a work stoppage, Stand settled for a 75% approval threshold.
Now, it is looking like Stand's strategy might backfire, if teachers ultimately vote to authorize a strike. After all, the question teachers will vote on is whether to authorize a strike, not whether to go on strike. Arguably, winning an authorization vote by 50%+1 would not be a real show of strength. A significant portion of teachers would have expressed their opposition to a strike, and maintaining the strike, once called, would be exceedingly difficult. The organizational capacity teachers build by being forced to get over 75% means a resilient strike, should things come to that, and a battle-tempered organization prepared to push hard during negotiations.
Besides the mechanics of it, there are the underlying social conditions that are bringing this to a head.
Why, after all, did Edelman and his cohorts go after arcane (to the public) collective bargaining rules in their effort to, as their mission statement says, "ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education"? What is the connection?
Edelman and the small but wealthy coterie of donors and activists who want to overhaul education by partially privatizing it view teachers unions as the primary obstruction to their vision, which is by all indications sincerely held. Politicians have, by most measures, been pliant. In the last two State of the Union addresses, one of the only points of agreement between the President and the GOP responder was education policy. Big city Mayors, most of them Democrats, have eagerly promoted high-stakes testing and charter schools. The only institutional resistance these reformers regularly meet is from teachers organized into unions. The tactical solution then is to weaken teachers' credibility and undermine their organizational strength. (Which, again, Edelman essentially detailed.)
Part of this tactic has been to blame teachers for poor student outcomes, and characterize arguments and research that show the connection between family income and educational outcome as "excuse-making." Over the last ten years in particular, "bad teachers" have been elevated as the primary reason for poor student performance, and teachers unions have been attacked by implication for "protecting" them. Whatever the objective value of this reasoning (and the data supporting such arguments is at best conflicting), the social reality is that teachers feel besieged and disrespected, while at the same time seeing the profession of teaching as an institution collapse in a real way.
That type of disrespect isn't an abstraction. Teachers, like other professionals, have invested enormous time, energy, emotion, and money into growing into their profession. When outside forces undermine that very real and viscerally felt investment, there is going to be a strong reaction, and resort to extreme measures.
What adds to this is that the privatization process sets off an endowment effect among parents. In order to eliminate unionized teachers, privatization groups work with politicians to institute "turnaround" programs that suddenly shut down neighborhood schools. People generally react more strongly to losing something they have than they do to failing to achieve something they want. The turnaround process has beentraumatic for thousands of Chicago families, and it's a cumulative phenomenon; in the early days of turnarounds, the impact was scattered. Over the years, and particularly with Mayor Emanuel's outspoken desire to pump up the number of charter schools, the sheer numbers of those impacted has grown and grown, networks of aggrieved and distrustful parents have emerged, and common cause with teachers who want to preserve public, neighborhood schools has been found.
So the top-down, political-relationship heavy, marketing strategies of groups like Stand for Children lose their efficacy over time (and ironically, it's a strategy with its roots in the pro-NAFTA campaign partially engineered by Mayor Emanuel). Such strategies rely on the vast majority of people being unaffected in an immediate material way by the policy changes being proposed; the sophisticated marketing with inoffensive, abstract visions appeal to people in the way most advertising does. But the campaigns enjoy diminishing returns as more and more people feel the effects of a policy, particularly in localized conditions, because the effects are concentrated.
And this is not mere speculation. Because charter schools in particular have objectively not had the spectacular results promised, there is no attendant surge in support for the privatization agenda on the ground, of the kind necessary to, for example, defeat a strike authorization vote, break a strike, or dominate local school council elections. Because of the proportions and numbers involved, high-level operations (relationship making with editorial boards, politicians, and social and economic clubs) are less effective. In other words, the proportion of people adversely effected by a given set of policies will be higher in localized conditions; and in adversarial situations involvingonly those policies, public relations-heavy tactics won't penetrate and persuade. It'd be like if a Red Bull bottling plant leaked thousands of gallons of concentrated Red Bull into the water supply of Eureka, Illinois, causing thousands of cases of acute kidney pain. Probably Red Bull sales would plummet in Eureka, no matter how many Flugtags they hold.
It remains to be seen whether Chicago's teachers end up authorizing a strike, and if authorized, whether they will take the major step of actually striking. Since this would end up taking place in the fall, there will almost certainly be pressure from national Democrats, including the President, to keep a teachers strike from erupting in the President's home city, where the policies of his Secretary of Education are still basically in effect. The 75% threshold will be exceedingly difficult to meet, and since the Board of Education is seeking fairly draconian changes to the collective bargaining agreement, they have plenty of ground to give in negotiations to avoid a strike.
If nothing else then, SB7 changed the lay of the land such that teachers could not afford to be slack. As a result, the union is in a state of heightened readiness that a top-down style of campaign organization is ill-equipped to handle.
by Walter Jacobsen CBS News Chicago | June 06, 2012
CHICAGO (CBS) – Tomorrow will be a big day in Chicago. The teachers in our public schools will vote tomorrow on whether to authorize a strike.
It will be a scary day for teachers, because they’re being warned by City Hall not to vote to authorize. Don’t you dare, say Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS boss Jean-Claude Brizard. It’ll be unfair to the children to authorize a strike, very bad for everybody to authorize a strike.
Emanuel and Brizard are publicly proclaiming it’ll be bad, because they want us to believe that the vote tomorrow will be yes or no to go on strike, but it won’t.
It’ll be to authorize a strike, just in case contract negotiations break down.
So what’s unfair about that, a teacher voting to authorize a strike just in case? The city of Chicago is preparing what to do in case contract negotiations break down. Why can’t the teachers prepare?
What do the mayor and Brizard expect the teachers to do? Shut up and do what they’re told to do? You got it.
June 06, 2012
Today - In a move to acquire more leverage at the bargaining table, members of Chicago Teachers Union cast ballots to give its Union leadership the power to call work stoppage should contract negotiations reach an impasse in coming weeks. The last teachers strike was in 1987 and it lasted 19 days.
CTU President Karen GJ Lewis said, “We want the mayor and Board to know we have the support of all of our members at the bargaining table and we will use the full weight of our power to ensure we get a strong contract for our members and our students,” she said. “Strikes aren’t good for anyone and if the Board is wise it will work with us to do what’s in the best interest of our public schools.” Nearly 10,000 CTU members rallied and marched on the Board of Education on May 23rd, in a bold display of union solidarity.
President Lewis and other officers visited their former school campuses where they cast their ballot for strike authorization. Union leaders gave the public a rare glimpse by allowing reporters to observe them casting their affirmative vote for strike authorization early this morning.
June 06, 2012
June 05, 2012
Beard Specialty School teacher Jean Luchini won’t be defeated by the Board of Education’s bullying behavior or a health crisis that came at a time when she and her colleagues were gearing up to fight for a fair labor contract. After recent spinal surgery, the special education teacher told coworkers she wouldn’t let ‘a little pain’ stop her from casting her ballot in Wednesday’s strike authorization to be conducted by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) in over 600 schools this week.
Shortly after the epic May 23rd rally, where nearly 10,000 members flooded downtown Chicago to protest the Board’s proposals and fight for education justice, Mrs. Luchini worried she would miss a possible strike authorization vote because she was slated for surgery and she knew she would be incapacitated for the entire month. However determined to have her say in how her proposed labor contract, she contacted her school delegate hours after surgery to request a ballot be delivered to her bedside.
The Union delegate, Georgia Waller, did her one better, a group of the long-time educator’s colleagues will not only hand deliver voting materials to her they will bring a boost of good cheer to the friendly educator who teaches special needs children in preschool, kindergarten and 1st grade. Jean has been a CTU member since 1975. “I may be down, but I still plan to vote Wednesday,” Mrs. Luchini said.
June 05, 2012
- About 25,500 members of CTU are eligible to vote.
- Over 3,500 retirees, also represented by the Union, cannot vote.
- “Agency Fee” participants, those who have opted not to join the CTU, but still reap be benefits of negotiated labor agreements, also do not vote.
CTU delegates are the official representatives of their schools. It is up to each delegate to set-up the voting stations and to ensure each member within their school casts a vote.
Voting is conducted before and after work hours. Voting can begin as early as 6 a.m. at some schools and last until after 5 p.m. The Union delegate knows the best time to conduct votes.
Votes are cast by secret ballot. Once an individual votes they will place their ballot into an envelope which will be sealed at the end of voting.
How long will the vote last?
CTU will conduct the voting process until there is a clear result. Right now this vote will take place over the course of three business days.
When will the CTU report the results?
The Union will report the results as soon as it certifies the election and that every eligible member has had an opportunity to cast a vote. Members who do not vote, for any variety of reasons (out-of-town, sick, etc.) will be counted as “no votes.”
Why doesn’t CTU wait until after the “fact-finding report” is issued in mid-July before taking the vote?
In May, CTU requested fact-finding around specific economic concerns. The fact-finding report, issued by a three-member panel (one representative of the Union, one from CPS, and an independent reviewer) will only cover a small portion of disagreements between the CTU and CPS. This report will not address some of the other key issues such as class size and resources for CPS students currently being negotiated.
CPS and their politically-connected charter school cronies are attempting to trick the public into thinking the July fact-finder reporter will resolve all areas of dispute in negotiations via a series of radio ads airing on select Chicago stations. This is not the truth. Either side can reject or accept the fact-finding report, however, the other issues will still have yet to be resolved.
Is this strike authorization vote just about the money?
No. CTU is fighting for a variety of things that will help improve neighborhood schools, including smaller class sizes, air conditioning and heating repairs in schools; art, music, world languages and physical education instructors and classes in every single school; better school facilities; stipends for school supplies for needy students; and a host of other things that will improve the quality of education in our public schools.
Wages and benefits are important parts of labor agreements. The upcoming July 15 report will primarily address some of the CTU’s wage and benefits concerns. The CTU has requested a negotiable 29% pay increase over two years in the first round of bargaining. Twenty percent because teachers and public school educators are being asked to work 20% longer; 4% because this was the contractual raise stolen from public school workers last year; and a 5% increase in the second year of the new contract.
The current CTU contract expires June 30. Public school educators are fighting for smaller class sizes, resources for students and schools, job security and adequate compensation for being required to work 20 percent longer and for having their 4 percent contract raises stolen from them by the City last year.
June 05, 2012
City TIF spending on school construction work widens disparity, report says
From the Greg Hinz On Politics blog
Read the original: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120605/BLOGS02/120609940/city-tif-spending-on-school-construction-work-widens-disparity-report-says#ixzz1wvikG7mf
The city's beleaguered tax-increment financing program is taking another big hit, this time over where and how it's spent more than $800 million building and repairing public schools.
A report being released today by Roosevelt University sociology assistant professor Stephanie Farmer concludes that TIF expenditures, instead of reducing inequality, are "contributing to income and race/ethnicity place-based inequality."
In particular, it says, selective-enrollment schools like charters and magnets get a disproportionate share of the available cash. That shortchanges open-enrollment neighborhood schools, it says — echoing a frequent charge from the Chicago Teachers Union.
The report specifically examines how the city has spent $858 million in TIF money on schools since 1983. The money makes up a little more than a fifth of all TIF spending.
City officials frequently have cited the $858 million as proof that a substantial share of TIF resources goes not to subsidize big property developers or to spur construction downtown but to needy neighborhoods.
But the report challenges that assertion head-on.
In fact, Ms. Farmer reports, open-enrollment neighborhood schools have received just 48 percent of the TIF cash, even though they comprise 69 percent of all schools.
In contrast, it says, selective schools and privately managed charters have done much better, with nine selective-enrollment high schools that make up 1 percent of the total number of schools getting 24 percent of the money spent on school construction projects.
As a result, it says, schools with a Latino population at or above the citywide average got just 27 percent of the money, though they enroll 44 percent of all CPS students. And heavily white schools got 23 percent of available TIF money, even though white students make up about 9 percent of citywide enrollment.
Black students fared somewhat better, too, comprising 42 percent of CPS students citywide but their schools getting 55 percent of TIF money.
Roughly the same pattern holds when schools are divided by relative wealth of the neighborhoods they're in.
The top one quarter of schools by neighborhood wealth got 36 percent of TIF money, and the bottom quarter 36 percent. The middle half got just 28 percent of the $858 million.
The report, prepared for the research group Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education, also has one other analysis. It chooses 30th Street as the geographic center of the city and finds that 78 percent of schools that got TIF money are in the northern half.
But Ms. Farmer said 30th Street is only a geographic division and that she does not know offhand whether most students or schools are north or south of there. That skews any conclusion, in my view.
Despite that flaw, the report appears to offer some new data on the question of whether Chicago's TIF districts are lifting up poor and blighted areas — the original intent — or merely are being used for citywide goals.
The report concludes the latter, saying the TIF-funded construction "adds to the widening gap between affluent Chicagoans and everyone else."
I shared a copy of the report with CPS officials last evening, and they had no immediate response. But expect to hear lots more on this one.
The question: Is it better to focus the cash on selective, often innovative schools whose students test well? Or would other schools do better, too, if they got more of the money?
Read more: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120605/BLOGS02/120609940/city-tif-spending-on-school-construction-work-widens-disparity-report-says#ixzz1wviqq7tG
June 05, 2012
Idea of teacher strike no longer farfetched, but for now it’s only a vote
BY MARK BROWN firstname.lastname@example.org June 4, 2012 9:16PM
Click here to read the story on the Chicago Sun-Times website.
To fully appreciate the delicious irony surrounding the strike authorization vote Chicago teachers will commence Wednesday, you need to turn back the clocks just one year.
That’s when Jonah Edelman, a school reform activist out of Oregon, was videotaped before a Colorado think tank bragging how his organization had outfoxed the Chicago Teachers Union by helping pass legislation in Illinois he thought would make it impossible for teachers here to strike.
The provision of which Edelman was so proud: a requirement that the CTU couldn’t authorize a strike without an affirmative vote from 75 percent of its members.
“The unions cannot strike in Chicago. They will never be able to muster the 75 percent threshold necessary to strike,” boasted Edelman, basing his prediction on data showing past strike authorizations had never exceeded 50 percent of the membership. Edelman suggested the teachers hadn’t done their homework.
A lot of folks figured he was probably correct about the 75 percent threshold being insurmountable. Not any more.
Teacher discontent is so pervasive within CPS that the possibility of the union passing a strike authorization vote — not to be confused with actually going out on strike — now looms as a strong possibility.
It’s such a strong possibility that CPS officials and school “reformers” have adopted a new strategy in recent weeks: whining that the union is conducting the vote prematurely.
They say its unfair that the teachers are voting now instead of waiting for a neutral fact-finder to issue his report in July setting forth key issues in the negotiations and offering a possible compromise.
One of those reform groups has even gone to the airwaves this week asking Chicago parents to sign a petition protesting the union vote.
What did they expect?
Let’s step back a moment. You don’t want a teacher strike. I don’t want a teacher strike. I’m pretty sure Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want a teacher strike. And Chicago teachers say they don’t want a teacher strike.
Let nothing I write here be interpreted as encouraging a teacher strike.
But if you haven’t noticed, those teachers are mad as hell after getting kicked around on one front and another for a whole year now.
From the longer school day to giving up their scheduled 4 percent pay raises to school closings that shunt veteran teachers aside, teachers are feeling belittled and disrespected.
Somebody in power probably should have figured out before now that it might be a good idea to take their foot off the teachers’ necks before we got to this point.
While some elements of school reform have been sensible, I don’t blame the teachers for taking whatever legal steps they believe will strengthen their position at the bargaining table, given the onslaught of blame being sent in their direction.
As far as the argument Chicago teachers don’t have enough information at this point to authorize a strike, I’d guess the teachers are probably smart enough to figure that out for themselves and vote accordingly.
Remember: A strike authorization vote does not send the teachers out on strike.
The bargaining process will continue to run. At its conclusion, it will require another vote by the union’s 800-member Board of Delegates to actually call a strike. The union also says it will give its members an up-or-down vote on a final contract offer.
A strike authorization vote is just a bargaining tactic designed to let the mayor, CPS leadership and the rest of us know the union has the support of its members at the negotiating table.
When I say “just,” that’s not to indicate in any way that I consider it a vote to be taken lightly. As a veteran of many strike authorization votes over the years, one never wants to vote to authorize a strike that they’re not prepared to take if push came to shove.
But it’s no reason for everybody — CPS parents especially — to get all panicky right now either.
If necessary, there will be plenty of time to get panicky when the whole process comes to a head in the fall.
by Jackson Potter | June 04, 2012
CTU brought proposals to the bargaining table that will give Chicago’s students the schools they deserve and teachers, paraprofessionals, and clinicians dignity and respect on the job.
The Chicago Board of Education’s proposals will be detrimental to both teaching and learning.
Some of CPS’ Proposals:
- The Board wants to eliminate any real enforcement of class size limits: Like Republican candidate Mitt Romney, they make the argument that class size doesn’t matter. In their proposal they say, “The Board has informed the CTU that it does not intend to bargain over this subject. …. While teachers would have a reduction in their workloads, studies have not proven that class size reductions have predictable and discernible positive impacts on educational outcomes.” The Board has reserved the right to change class size policy at any time and merely notify the union and it has eliminated any funding of positions to lower class size in the district; the previous contract committed $2.25 million to lower class sizes. These changes will concretely increase our class sizes throughout the district, even though many kindergarten and primary grade classrooms throughout the city have class sizes that approach 50 students in a room.
- Pay and benefit cuts: the Board has offered a one-time 2% raise for a five year contract despite the fact that teachers will be forced to work much harder next year. They have also asked for merit pay for the last three years of the contract that will increase the pressure to teach to the test and lead to testing scandals like those that we’ve seen in Atlanta, D.C., and Houston.
- Elimination of sick day banks: This benefit has been an incentive for teachers who have not called in sick and the Board’s proposal incentivizes absenteeism and disciplinary action against our members. The Board wants to eliminate our ability to bank our sick days for the sake of enhancing our retirement. While they have offered short-term disability and maternity leave in return, there is no clear process to ensure our members will have widespread access to those benefits. Additionally, the Board has been lowering evaluations and imposing discipline on members throughout the system for excessive absenteeism, even when they are using contractually guaranteed benefit days. We cannot allow a situation where our sick days are structured as “use it or lose it” and then we are disciplined for using them.
- Refusal to develop and reward experience in the classroom: Under the Board’s proposal highly qualified and effective teachers at struggling schools will be pushed out of the system. The CTU believes that a school district that loses excellent teachers to the suburbs and has a very high turnover rate needs to work to ensure that our experienced and qualified educators are retained.
- Increasing the length of the day and year and yet reduced the number of professional development days, no commensurate increase in preparation time, and forcing teachers to work evenings and Saturdays. Recent studies show that teachers are already working nearly 60 hours a week and requiring them to work evenings and weekends. The Board’s Appendix B proposal requires elementary school teachers to bank 15 minutes a day until they have 75 minute increments. While they say we get to vote on whether we work the extra time on Fridays or Saturdays, the two options require either an 8 hour and 40 minute day during the normal work week or working Saturdays.
- The Board is also requiring teachers to work a 10-hour day on report card pickup with students dismissed 3 hours early from a normal school day but staff is required to stay 5.5 hours beyond dismissal. With all teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians, social workers, counselors, and school psychologists required to work more instructional minutes next year under an entirely new Evaluation system and Common Core curriculum, there must be a proportional increase in the amount of preparation time afforded to teachers to properly plan their lessons and collaborate within their normal work-day. This would require the Board to ensure elementary school teachers with an additional preparation period beyond what they are willing to allow.
- Increasing the amount of test-based evaluation of teachers to 40% of the overall evaluation within the next 5 years: Teachers think will distort our practice to being primarily concerned with test prep instead of quality instruction.
- Healthcare: The Board is proposing an increase to overall family contributions for healthcare by over 100% from the last contract. This is more cost-shifting by CPS to place the burden of their costly charter and turnaround experiments upon our members’ backs.
by Christel Williams | June 04, 2012
June 15, 2012 at 6:00 PM - La Plena Restaurant -2617 West Division Street
Free drink to the first 30 attendees
by Kenzo Shibata | June 04, 2012
How many big city mayors are in our family?
How many of your friends are executive directors of Astroturf organizations?
Are you on a bowling league with any members of theChicago Tribune Editorial Board?
Some of you reading this may have a few of these elites in your life. Most of us don't.
Now, how many teachers do you know and love?
We know that the public loves its teachers. Why would anyone want to be a teacher if it meant spending an average of 58 hours a week around students and parents if they didn't like you?
The public is behind educators even though the corporate education reform establishment continues to try to drive a wedge between teachers and the public they serve.
Although this is common sense -- in our data-driven world, people want to see numbers. Chicago Teachers Union conducted a poll of Chicago voters in early spring that showed nearly three-quarters of Chicago voters had a favorable impression of Chicago public school teachers and a solid majority of voters also holds positive opinions of the CTU. CTU shared its poll with the Tribune. Of course the only thing people like more than numbers are their own numbers, so the Tribune conducted its own poll where they found:
On the question of who voters sided with in the more comprehensive debate over improving the city's public school system, [Chicago Teachers Union] scored a better than 2-1 ratio over the mayor, who has had a testy relationship with the union's leadership.
Among all respondents, 40 percent sided with the union, compared to 17 percent who backed Emanuel... Among public school parents, 48 percent sided with the teachers union and 18 percent sided with the mayor.
That should settle it, right? The mainstream media now has to open its eyes to the fact that people love teachers.
However, the Tribune doubled up its efforts against teachers in its May 24 editorial, where editors pleaded with the union against taking a strike authorization vote.
This editorial was published the day after CTU organized a massively successful rally where thousands of teachers and supporters took to the streets. The theme of the rally was "Respect." Teachers and school staff felt beaten up by the corporate elites and needed a coming out party.
The Tribune must have seen such successful organizing as a threat to the status quo of slash-and-burn school reform.
Perhaps the Tribune is starting to think that this kind of unity will lead city educators to not only take on but also achieve the 75 percent vote required to go out on strike.
This editorial is an emotional appeal to divide the public from the teachers, paraprofessionals, and school clinicians they love.
The Tribune went so far as to insult teachers by implying that even thinking about voting takes a focus away from the classroom.
What they may not want you to know is that when the vote is taken members will not immediately go on strike. The vote will give CTU leadership the latitude to call for a strike if negotiations have reached impasse. Currently the union and the board are in the middle of a 75-day "fact-finding period." Once this period has concluded, it could take up to another two months for an actual strike to occur. Everyone is still at the table, including CTU's 40-member rank-and-file bargaining team.
June 04, 2012
Final House of Delegates Meeting for 2011-2012 School Year
Thursday, June 7, 2012
1340 W. Washington Blvd.
From North Side: Take 90/94, exit on Randolph, keep going West on Randolph, past Racine. Entrance to parking lot is between Ada and Ogden.
From South Side: Take 90/94, exit on Randolph, keep going West on Randolph, past Racine. Entrance to parking lot is between Ada and Ogden.
From West Side: Take 290, exit at Damen, go North on Damen to Washington Blvd. go East on Washington Blvd. until after passing Ogden. Entrance to parking lot is between Loomis and Ada Street.
From the Loop: Take Randolph West, past Racine. Entrance to parking lot is between Ada and Ogden. Or take Madison West to Loomis. Make a right turn at Loomis to Washington Blvd., go East on Washington Blvd. and make a sharp left to get into the parking lot.
June 04, 2012
Beginning on June 6, 2012, Chicago Teachers Union will be conducting a strike authorization vote in schools across the city. All members are permitted to vote in any school.
In addition, CTU has established three locations where members can vote from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM (except where noted).
Please bring proof of membership which is your Union card or paystub.
Lawndale Community Church
3837 W. Ogden (Avers/Near Cermak)
Progressive Beulah Church
(Use parking lot entrance)
1301 W. 87th Street
Edgewater Presbyterian Church
1020 W. Bryn Mawr
Chicago Teachers Union
222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 400
7:30 AM-6:00 PM
June 02, 2012
May 23 Rally Highlights to Air on CAN-TV
CAN-TV Channel 21
June 6th at 8PM
June 8th at 10:30PM
June 9th at 9:30 PM
June 11th at 8:00 PM
June 13th at 2:30 PM
CAN-TV Channel 19
June 9th at 8:30 AM
Another episode will air in July including the Matt Damon interview.
by Stephanie Gadlin | June 01, 2012
CHICAGO – Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced it has set a strike authorization vote for Wednesday, June 6th, which will be conducted in all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with CTU members. State law requires 75 percent of Union members to vote in the affirmative in order to authorize a strike. More than 90 percent of teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals have already rejected the Board of Education’s current contract proposals.
CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT, said a strike authorization vote was “an important step in ensuring the voices of over 25,000 public school educators will be heard at the bargaining table.” Teachers have criticized the Board’s proposals saying they are harmful to students. If the Board has its way it will:
- Eliminate any real enforcement of class size limits: In their proposal to the CTU, CPS uses the same argument that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently made in Philadelphia. The CPS proposal claims, contrary to common sense and teacher experience, that class size does not matter. Their language in quotes says that “the board shall establish a class size policy and notify the union of that policy.” Not only will they impose whatever class size they think is appropriate, after they have said class size doesn’t matter, they have cut any funding in our contract to lower over-sized classes and have eliminated any real limits on ballooning class sizes next year.
- Ignore staffing levels in all schools: The Board has rejected all of the CTU's proposals on appropriate staffing levels for our students. Including art, music, physical education, library and world language teachers -- counselors, social workers, nurses and school psychologists -- despite woefully inadequate staffing levels throughout the district and a longer day that will require additional staff if it is to be a better day.
- Reject ‘better school day’ proposals: CPS refuses to accept any of our recommendations regarding full day kindergarten, playground facilities and air conditioning for all schools -- despite just last week many of our schools reaching temperatures of over 90 degrees, when learning becomes nearly impossible and classroom conditions inhumane. They have already cut the facilities budget by 85 percent next year even as they propose 60 new non-union charters and plan to close nearly 100 schools next year.
- Refuse to adequately compensate teachers: CPS continues to disrespect teachers with a 2 percent raise offer for the first year of a five year contract even though working at CPS is getting much harder next year.
- Refuse to offer job security to qualified teachers: The Board plans to remove protections for experienced and qualified educators who lose their positions through no fault of their own which will exacerbate the current 50 percent teacher turnover rate every five years -- something that interferes with continuity and quality instruction.
“A strike authorization vote is not a vote to go on strike,” Lewis said. “…We want to avoid a strike. Strikes aren’t good for anyone—not our members, not our parents and certainly not our students. As a matter of practicality, it is important that we conduct this vote now while our members are still in schools and not while they are on vacation. We certainly hope to have a contract in place before school starts in the fall and we look forward to everyone—including our members—returning to the classroom.”