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Annenberg study calls for new charter school standards to be implemented in policy

by National Education Association  |  September 19, 2014

WASHINGTON— A new report just released by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University calls for increased accountability, transparency and equity in the taxpayer-funded charter school sector. The Institute is proposing standards to be implemented into state and charter authorizer policies that would better serve all students and protect the public’s investment in public education. Approximately 2.57 million students are enrolled in over 6,000 charter schools nationwide.

“Charters began as a way to free teams of educators to devise innovative ways to engage students and learn from effective practices to improve all of public education,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “Unfortunately, the lack of vigorous oversight and a superficial regulatory structure in the charter sector has enabled too many of these schools to fall short of delivering on what they promise students and families. Charter sector standards are key to making sure that more of our charter schools serve their students well and do not make the job of our traditional public education sector even more challenging.”

As charter schools have expanded rapidly across the country, this frequently lax oversight has harmed taxpayers and communities as well. A May 2014 report by the Center for Popular Democracy documented over $100 million in waste, fraud and abuse in 17 areas alone. Closing loopholes, stronger regulation and vigorous oversight is essential to prevent further bilking of taxpayers and undermining the strength of public school systems in our communities, while allowing the best qualities of chartering to flourish.

“Children deserve choices, but not just for the sake of offering choices,” said National Education President Lily Eskelsen García. “If charters are to continue receiving public funds, they should be accountable to the public – the very communities they exist in.  But more and more we see the voices of educators, parents and community members bypassed in favor of doing what’s best for corporate profits—and students end up truly paying the cost.”

The Annenberg report found some common concerns: uneven academic performance; practices that pushed or kept students out of charter schools; overly harsh discipline policies; funding patterns that destabilized traditional schools; and a lack of representative governance, transparency, and adequate oversight.

Eskelsen García said it’s time for the charter industry to be just as transparent in enrollment, discipline and oversight as traditional public schools. “The public deserves to know that all taxpayer-funded schools, charter as well as traditional and magnet, are working to provide the best education they can for students. Good standards are about protecting their investment and protecting our students. It’s time to shine a light on charters and make sure they are serving students and communities first.”

NEA believes that the Annenberg standards and report are a major contribution to identifying and offering constructive suggestions on key concerns in the charter sector. “We urge policymakers, parents, educators in all sectors and communities to read it, discuss it and draw from it to develop measures that work for students,” said Eskelsen García.

Follow NEA at twitter.com/neamedia. Join the conversation using #CharterStnds.

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

New CTU report highlights failures of school maintenance outsourcing, calls for the reinstatement of nearly 500 laid-off custodians

by ctu communications  |  September 18, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a report on the decision of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in February 2014 to move union Operating Engineers custodians out of schools and outsource management of public school custodians to two private companies—Aramark and Sodexomagic—which has resulted in poor maintenance conditions throughout the district. The study, titled “Outsourced: Aramark’s Filthy Mishandling of Chicago’s Public Schools,” examines what occurred in the aftermath of the outsourcing, as promises made by the district were broken, sanitation conditions deteriorated, and parents and staff were forced to clean and maintain schools themselves to ensure student safety.

The release of the report follows an announcement from CPS on September 13 that Aramark would lay off 468 public school custodians by the end of the month. In June, the CTU surveyed all members for whom an email address was available and received more than 1,000 responses expressing anger over the new outsourcing and concern about the health and safety of students in their schools. Concerns were generally raised about Aramark, and not Sodexomagic.

The teachers did not, however, blame the custodians in the schools—they blamed CPS for outsourcing janitorial services to Aramark, and both Aramark and the district for their mismanagement and the relocation of custodians with experience at a particular building to other buildings. “Outsourced: Aramark’s Filthy Mishandling of Chicago’s Public Schools” finds that CPS’ and Aramark’s stated goal was to save money by increasing productivity by 50 percent, meaning custodians would do 1.5 times as much work for less pay. Due to cutbacks, 625 custodians are now responsible for cleaning 485 school buildings serving 307,110 students.

Among the survey comments found in the report:

  • “A parent pulled my student out of my school because the room was filthy [and] not cleaned for weeks. We also had two bouts of bed bugs.”
  • “All of this dust and grime aggravates the respiratory systems of children and makes those with asthma and other respiratory problems seriously ill.”
  • “Our administration and teacher leaders have found the CPS/Aramark middle managers full of excuses and unresponsive. Repeated complaints are met with repetitive promises of, ‘We’re working on it.’” 
  • “Students are asked to bring in their own toilet paper, soap, paper towel and tissues. If they don’t, I supply.”
  • “Our rooms get cleaned on average two days a week. Previously, they were cleaned every day. Floors are rarely swept and never mopped.”

“The physical condition of our schools is a very serious problem, but the issue isn’t with the maintenance workers, but the way in which they are managed, which has left students in extremely unsafe and unsanitary conditions,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “If the district wants to create a healthy learning environment, a big part of that is having safe and clean facilities, and custodians who work in accordance with teachers and principals more so than their private employers.”

“Outsourced: Aramark’s Filthy Mishandling of Chicago’s Public Schools” finds that school contracts with Aramark have been controversial throughout the United States, particularly as a result of cost-saving measures that drastically reduce the number of custodians required to keep schools cleans and children and staff healthy. The CTU calls on CPS to demand the rehire of all 468 laid-off custodians and placement in their original assignments and management under Operating Engineers.

Bloomberg: Chicago at Brink of Swaps Fee as Bond Ratings Fall: Muni Credit

by Darrell Preston and Elizabeth Campbell - Bloomberg  |  September 18, 2014

Chicago’s deteriorating credit quality has pushed taxpayers to the brink of paying almost $400 million to Wall Street banks on derivatives contracts that are backfiring.

The city and Chicago Public Schools, both at risk of rating reductions as pension obligations mount, agreed to interest-rate swaps with companies including Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Loop Capital Markets LLC last decade as part of debt sales. The accords were designed to cap expenses in case interest rates rose. The deals went awry as the Federal Reserve cut borrowing costs during the recession.

The issuers’ combined bill to exit the deals has reached about $400 million, almost two-thirds more than the metropolis spent on streets and sanitation in 2013. The contracts on the derivatives stipulate that the banks can demand payment when the issuers’ credit rating falls to a specified level. For the city, that trigger is one level away on most contracts after Moody’s Investors Service cut it to three steps above junk.

“These governments are in a precarious position,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a Chicago watchdog on government finance. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.”

 Please click here to continue reading at bloomberg.com.

Public School Educators, Public Service, Child Care and Health Care Workers Call on Mayor to End ‘Toxic’ Swap Deals and Restore Millions to City and Schools

by ctu communications  |  September 16, 2014

Logos of: CTU, AFSCME Council 31, and SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana

CHICAGO—Three of the city’s largest unions are calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to immediately file for arbitration to seek a refund of sums expended on fraudulent interest rate swaps that are costing the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public School district more than $100 million every year.
 
In a letter to the mayor, the Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME Council 31 and SEIU Healthcare IL charged that Chicagoans are losing out as banks profit from risky interest rate swap deals.  More than $800 million has already gone into the coffers of a handful of big banks, such as Bank of America, and private investment firms such as Loop Capital.
 
These toxic swaps were entered into by government bodies in hopes of stabilizing their financial planning and protecting against major losses of public resources. But the banks’ failure to fully disclose the risks of these agreements has cost the public billions in cities and towns across the country.
 
“Ending these deals would generate additional revenue that would help the city meet a wide range of vital needs—mental health services, early childhood education, public safety and the growing pension obligation,” wrote CTU President Karen Lewis, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch and SEIU Healthcare IL President Keith Kelleher in a September 15th letter to the mayor. “…Recouping the city’s losses on interest rate swaps is one viable option and we urge you to pursue it aggressively….”
 
Record low interest rates caused by Wall Street’s crashing of the economy in 2008, and a bailout by tax payers have worked to put the banks on the winning side of these toxic swaps. Banks have profited from these deals while the city has justified closing schools, shutting down clinics and slashing retirement savings due to a lack of cash.
 
Public officials around the country are beginning to challenge these deals and the banks that benefit from them. Now Chicago labor and community organizations are urging Mayor Emanuel to do the same by filing for arbitration under the federal Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
 
An arbitration panel recently found that swaps with the Baldwin County Sewer Service in Alabama were obtained through misrepresentation of the risks associated with these deals. The county Sewer Service was awarded all money lost ($7.4 million) on the bad swaps from the bank and was allowed to terminate the agreement with no penalties. The Los Angeles City Council and Harris County (Houston), Texas have both taken first steps to end these deals and recoup money lost to these fraudulent agreements as well.
 
Filing for arbitration for the City of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools is a simple but essential step to force renegotiation of the deals and recover the hundreds of millions of dollars already lost to the banks which have left Chicago taxpayers on the hook.  The unions’ letter to the mayor made clear that action is needed immediately, pointing out that the “option of filing for arbitration under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority could end as early as October.”  Unions, along with concerned community groups, are planning a series of actions focused on exposing the biggest abusers of these agreements.

Chicago teachers union leader and mayoral hopeful comes to Newark to learn from Mayor Baraka

September 15, 2014

NEWARK - Chicago Teachers Union president and potential mayoral candidate Karen Lewis came to Newark on Friday for a series of meetings and seminars. But as she prepares for a possible run against incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the most important meeting in the days ahead is with one particular man: Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

"I want to talk to [Baraka] about his progress - his move from the education sphere into the political sphere, and how he's managed that," said Lewis, a reference to Baraka's former job as principal of Newark's Central High School before he was sworn in as mayor in July. 

There are some considerable parallels between the careers of Lewis and Baraka. 

Lewis was the fiery leader of the Chicago teachers union during the 2012 teachers' strike, and she vocally opposed the closure of about 50 schools in mostly poor, minority neighborhoods of Chicago in 2013. 

Baraka was elected with strong public sector union support and on a wave of discontent emanating from the announcement of the One Newark school reorganization plan in December, six months before the May mayoral election  in Newark. 

The initiative includes the expansion of charter schools, which already serve approximately 20 percent of the city's students, as well as the closure or consolidation of certain public schools.

Read more at Chicago teachers union leader and mayoral hopeful comes to Newark to learn from Mayor Baraka | Politicker NJ.

Chicago Teachers Union Formally Endorses Incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn for Governor

by ctu communications  |  September 12, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union today endorsed incumbent Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in his re-election bid against school privatization proponent Bruce Rauner. The endorsement came after the governor met with leaders of the union’s Political-Legislative Committee (PAC/LEG) and where he fielded tough questions about collective bargaining, charter schools, teacher evaluations, the city’s under-resourced schools, school closings, job creation, among a myriad of other topics.

In making the announcement, CTU President Karen Lewis said, “I am proud CTU’s rank-and-file has made Governor Quinn their choice to lead Illinois. He is a consensus builder, will support public school educators and will continue his work to strengthen public education in Illinois and protect working families. Governor Quinn believes in public schools and I know he will fight to make sure every child has a great education."

Lewis blasted Rauner as an “out-of-touch” privatizer who will lay off one out of every six teachers across the state. “A Rauner vote is a vote for more school closings, more than 27,000 teacher lay-offs, statewide charter proliferation and an erosion of our collective bargaining rights,” she said. “Rauner's Tea Party-type policies have no place in Illinois."

It is no secret Rauner considers teachers’ unions a hurdle to privatization.  The multimillionaire has publicly stated that he wants to dismantle unions, and if elected, he will seek to create in Illinois a type of Wisconsin vs. Scott Walker dangerous scenario. Rauner has privately bragged that he will "shut down" state government and his tax plan would result in extreme and radical cuts to education that will lay off one out of every six teachers. The corporate broker was also the mastermind behind bringing Stand for Children to Illinois.

Governor Quinn has a strong record of fighting to improve education in Illinois. Since taking office, he has increased education funding by $2.2 billion, securing revenue in 2011 to protect the classroom from cuts sought by Republicans. Under his leadership, Illinois has increased students taking AP exams and dual credit enrollment, allowing more high school students opportunities to gain college credits, making higher education more accessible and affordable. The governor also has mobilized the state’s education system behind the “60 by 2025” goal—60% of our adult workforce with a degree or career certificate by the year 2025—and has been hitting the targets each year.

Governor Quinn laid out a 5-year blueprint for economic growth that focuses on delivering stronger education to all students, including the largest increase in classroom funding in Illinois history and a game-changing investment in early childhood.

“Governor Quinn will fight for a living wage in Illinois, will stand with organized labor and will champion the voice of everyday citizens who want safe neighborhoods, affordable and safe housing and quality neighborhood schools,” added Gloria Higgins, co-chair of CTU’s PAC/LEG. “Our members agreed we want our state to continue moving forward. Illinois can’t afford to become Bruce Rauner’s financial playpen and some egotistical political experiment. We’re going to encourage every CTU member to turn out for Governor Quinn in November.”

The governor will protect the classroom from cuts sought by Republicans, and proposed the largest increase in classroom funding in Illinois history. Under his leadership, Illinois has increased students taking AP exam and dual credit enrollment, allowing more high school students opportunities to gain college credits, making higher education more accessible and affordable. Gov. Quinn also has mobilized the state’s education system behind the “60 by 2025” goal—60 percent of our adult workforce with a degree or career certificate by the year 2025.

Resolution on CTU Exploratory Political Activity

by ctu communications  |  September 10, 2014

WHEREAS, to more forcefully advocate for the schools and city Chicagoans deserve, the CTU has decided to undertake an increased level of involvement in campaigns for state and local elective office, and

WHEREAS, CTU members from across the city have actively run, are currently running, or are considering running, for elective office, and

WHEREAS, as a general rule, CTU does not formally endorse candidates until they have officially secured a place on the ballot, and

WHEREAS, and CTU members and staff have expertise in the significant campaign work that must occur prior to official ballot recognition therefore be it

RESOLVED, that, in the interest of the Union as a whole, the Executive Board and House of Delegates officially authorize CTU staff to assist members in a reasonable and appropriate manner in accordance with Illinois election laws and past practice to explore campaigns for elective office prior to official candidate or campaign endorsements, and be it further

RESOLVED, that such assistance from CTU staff in no way constitutes an endorsement of a particular candidate or campaign. Official endorsements shall only occur through the process outlined in the CTU constitution, which requires a recommendation from the CTU Political Action Committee and approval by both the CTU Executive Board and the House of Delegates. 

X  Adopted          o Adopted as Amended          o Defeated           o Tabled          o  Other         

Passed Executive Board by unanimous vote.

Passed by House of Delegates 9.3.2014 by majority vote.

SURVEY: Professional Learning Needs

by CTU COMMUNICATIONS  |  September 10, 2014

The CTU Quest Center wants to hear from YOU!

 
 

The CTU Quest Center values your input. Help us to determine the categories of professional learning opportunities that meet your professional development needs. We will analyze the data to determine the courses, workshops and study groups CTU membership would like the Quest Center to provide during this school year so we can plan accordingly.

 
 

Please take a few minutes to click the link below and complete this survey to tell us how we can support you!

 

 
Click Here to Start the Survey

TONIGHT: Karen Lewis in South Shore

by ctu communications  |  September 08, 2014

  

Hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union and
The Planning Coalition

 

You're invited to a "Conversations with Karen" event in South Shore! All CTU members and their families are invited to share their concerns regarding such issues as how to strengthen our neighborhood schools, misguided school reform, the attacks on our pensions, preserving union rights and the upcoming elections.

 

Monday, September 8
6–8pm

The Quarry 75

2423 E. 75th Street
(Admission Free of Charge)

 
 
Click to register and for more info
 
 

Huffington Post: Why This Chicago High School Has Only 12 Students Left

by Joseph Erbentraut  |  September 04, 2014

Once Dyett High School closes, as it is expected to, Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood will be without an open-enrollment high school.Classes began districtwide at Chicago's public schools on Tuesday, and the scene at most of the city's hundreds of schools was one of excitement as groups of students crowded into the campus doors.

This was not the case, however, at Dyett High School in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side. There, only 12 students -- all seniors -- showed up for classes at the school, which is slated to complete its four-year "phaseout" process and close by the end of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Chicago Public Schools voted in 2012 to eventually close Dyett due to low academic performance. The school stopped accepting freshman students but allowed current students to continue there if they wished to do so. At the end of the 2014 term, 25 Dyett juniors transferred to other schools, leaving behind only the dozen who will graduate in 2015, according to NBC Chicago. Others may still transfer before the year's end.

In the meantime, Dyett's staff of three teachers and one principal continue to offer classes to the remaining students. Certain courses -- such as art, gym and music -- are taught online.

CBS Chicago reports the school's budget for the year is $1.085 million.

Critics of the Board of Education's decision to phase out Dyett accused the district of pressuring the school's remaining students to abandon the school, DNAinfo Chicago previously reported.

Please click here to continue reading at HuffingtonPost.com.

Chicago Teachers Union