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'Bus Tour for Fair Funding' builds momentum

by christine geovanis  |  July 21, 2017

In a tour that traversed some of Chicago’s most vibrant—and embattled—neighborhood public schools, participants in today’s “Bus Tour for Fair Funding” renewed the call for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to free up responsible sources of revenue for neighborhood public schools.

Chicago’s public schools have been slammed with more than $2 billion in cuts since Emanuel took office, and the budgets that CPS released to principals on Thursday still reflect a shortfall of more than $500 million for the year. There is no strategy to address the system’s persistent structural deficit. Thursday’s bus tour, sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement and the Chicago Teachers Union, underscored some of the dire consequences of those deep cuts on the ground.

“The bottom line is that our schools need appropriate revenue,” CTU President Karen Lewis said. “It is simply impossible to do more with less, and it is impossible to cut and borrow our way out of CPS’ chronic structural deficit.”

ILLUSTRATION: Karen at Budget press conference

Participants in the tour included state legislators, city aldermen, parents, teachers and advocates. Their first stop: the West Side’s Dett Elementary School, a receiving school in 2013 when CPS shuttered Herbert School. Dett sits inside the Central West tax increment financing (TIF) district, which generates more than $15 million a year in revenue, while two other nearby west side TIF districts generate more than $40 million a year in revenue. Yet CPS has slashed Dett’s budget by more than $900,000 since 2013, forcing the school to cut nine teaching positions—including two special education teachers and five teaching and classroom assistants—while the percentage of students with disabilities at Dett today has risen to 33 percent of the student population.

The nearby Kinzie Corridor TIF took in more than $25 million in 2015—up 34 percent from 2014—and the Central West TIF collected $19.2 million in 2015, up 30 percent from the previous year. Yet those funds are diverted away from school operations at a time when CPS faces a burgeoning—and increasingly unsustainable—debt load, with interest rates on some CPS borrowing as high as 9 percent.

Chicago’s TIFs generated a record $561 million this year—money that has been diverted from public coffers for public needs like education—and advocates renewed their call today for the city to put those TIF funds back into neighborhood public schools.

35th Ward Alderman Carlos Rosa condemned that policy at a stop at National Teachers Academy (NTA) in the South Loop, arguing that Emanuel’s TIF policies put the city’s wealthy elites and their children over African American and Latino students at schools like NTA. “Even if we prevail over Rauner’s attack on Chicago Public Schools (CPS), we are still $244 million in the hole,” Rosa said at NTA. “This crisis is the mayor’s crisis. He engineered it by making sure his corporate donors get TIF largesse while our kids in our schools get cut after cut after cut.”

ILLUSTRATION: Carlos Rosa at NTA

NTA is one of the top elementary schools in the city, with an active and engaged Local School Council and strong parental support. The school served as a receiving school in the wake of Emanuel’s 2013 school closures, with half of its students hailing from the area around the South Loop and the other half coming from Bronzeville—and even as far away as Grand Crossing, South Shore and Woodlawn. Yet city officials have proposed kicking out the overwhelmingly non-white elementary students and turning the building into a high school for new students in the rapidly gentrifying South Loop.  

Rosa, who was joined on the tour by 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas and 10th Ward Alderman and former CPS counselor Sue Garza, is calling on the Chicago City Council to forgo its traditional August vacation and instead convene a special meeting to raise revenue immediately. Garza and Cardenas have proposed a TIF surplus ordinance that has languished in committee for months—as has a corporate head tax ordinance they support, which could raise tens of millions of additional dollars for CPS.

Emanuel’s priorities in the area have been different, with TIF dollars being used instead to shore up local hotel and stadium development—including $50 million in local TIF funds for the 10,000-seat DePaul stadium complex alone. Some of DePaul’s basketball games draw fewer than 600 attendees.

The bus tour also swung by the South Side’s Mollison Elementary and Kenwood High School, two schools that have seen deep budget cuts in recent years—resulting in dangerously dirty schools, overcrowded classrooms, problems with mold, heating and cooling systems that have not been updated in decades, and stalled asbestos abatement efforts. The budget for Kenwood alone has been cut by $1.9 million, or roughly 12 percent, in the last two years alone.

Mollison serves as a receiving school for students at the now-shuttered Overton Elementary, and has been criminally shortchanged of resources. Special education students are receiving services under the stairs. Kindergarteners have class in the gym because there isn’t a room large enough to accommodate them. Test prep takes place in the hallway because classrooms are simply too loud. CPS says it provided funding for seven area schools to reduce class sizes, but almost all parents interviewed said they found their children in classes of 30 or more.

Kenwood runs extended programming every day, sometimes as late as 9 p.m., for its 1,800 students, yet the school has the same number of privatized custodians as schools a sixth its size. More than 70 percent of Kenwood’s students come from outside the community, from as far away as South Shore, Chatham, Grand Boulevard and Woodlawn.

The tour then looped up Lake Shore Drive to Uptown's Uplift High School, which, like Kenwood and Mollison, has been hit hard with cuts. Bus tour participants met many of Uptown's students and parents, including Uplift LSC president Mark Kaplan. "We've had deep budget cuts for years, including $335,000 in cuts in the last two years alone,” Kaplan said. Earlier cuts in 2013 cost the school its certified librarian. Nearby Courtenay and Brennemann schools served as receiving schools when Emanuel shuttered Stewart and Stockton elementary schools, but they, too, have lost more than $1.8 million in school funding since 2015—part of more than $6 million in cuts in recent years to 46th Ward schools.

ILLUSTRATION: Mark Kaplan at Uplift

Meanwhile, the nearby Montrose-Clarendon Luxury Apartments development—which offers virtually no affordable units in the building and priced out the overwhelmingly African-American and Latino working class families whose kids attend Uplift—received a $16 million TIF subsidy for construction. And nearby shuttered Stewart Elementary, which is one of the few North Side schools shut down in Emanuel's wave of 50 school closures four years ago, has been sold to a private developer. The city pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into upgrading Stewart before shutting it down in a boon to the developer, who is converting the former school into luxury apartments.

The CTU is partnering with advocacy groups like the Grassroots Education Movement to support Aldermen Rosa, Garza, Cardenas and their allies to move TIF slush funds into CPS schools and reinstate the corporate head tax.

Click here to view more photos from the "Bus Tour for Fair Funding"

4th Annual Construction Expo

July 19, 2017

Do you want to learn how to become an electrician, carpenter or bricklayer?
Then this Hands-On Expo is for you!

4th Annual Construction Expo

Thursday, August 24, 2016
8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
St. Paul Community Development Ministries
4550 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60653

FREE PARKING - 4526 S. State St. lot

Register Here

Download the flyer

During the Expo you will get a chance to learn first-hand what it takes to become an electrician, carpenter, bricklayer, operating engineer, pipefitter or other union building trades careers.For more information about the building trades, contact Johnetta Ryan, CISCO’s Education-to-Careers Director at (630) 472-9411.

For more details about the Construction Expo, contact Elder Kevin A. Ford, Executive Director, St. Paul Community Development Ministries at (773) 538-5120.

Sponsored by: St. Paul Community Development Ministries; Chicago Teachers Union Foundation; Chicago Teachers Union; Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO); Chicago & Cook County Building Trades; Chicago Federation of Labor; and Chicago Public Schools.

Fight Rauner’s School Funding Veto

by ctu communications  |  July 17, 2017

Gov. Rauner has vowed to “amend" SB1, the bill to channel funds to schools across the state, by eliminating money earmarked for Chicago and bumping up funding for some other school districts. His divide-and-conquer strategy would punish one-third of Illinois’ low income students - Chicago’s overwhelmingly Black and Brown students - to curry favor with the parents of students who don’t have a 606 zip code. For a guy who claims that zip code shouldn’t be destiny, his actions speak louder than words: HIS political interests come ahead of students and families’ educational needs every time.

Fight Back Now

Meanwhile, Chicago’s mayor - who first brought his former boss Rauner to prominence as Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 education advisor - refuses to support responsible sources of city revenue to fund students’ schools. When Rahm claims he can’t “show his hand” in negotiations with the State Legislature, we already see his cards: more borrowing at payday loan interest rates, and even deeper cuts to frontline classrooms.

Chicago forks out $75,000 a day on loan costs, some of which have interest rates as high as 9%. That money is funding banker bonuses instead of trauma counselors, smaller classes for kindergartners and more librarians and social workers. Only new revenue from both the city and the state will solve CPS’s funding challenges. But instead of asking aldermen to support real TIF reform and reinstate the corporate head tax, Emanuel competes with Rauner for headlines on who’s to blame, while their Wall Street banker friends profit from loan shark interest rates.

Who suffers from all of this short-term political posturing? The most vulnerable students in Chicago, who continue to be denied access to a full and rich curriculum, wraparound supports to address trauma and violence, and counseling support for the transition into life after high school. Chicago’s public school students deserve the same educational resources that the children of Rahm and Rauner receive. That requires revenue from those who are most able to pay.

Call and email your state representative and state senator today and DEMAND that they vote to override Rauner’s ‘amendatory’ veto of SB1. And stay tuned for news about the growing effort in Chicago to replace Mayor Emanuel’s payday loan scheme with real sources of fair funding.

Email Springfield

Rahm & Rauner enjoying very expensive wine together

A powerful organizing model to strengthen neighborhood schools

by Stacy Davis Gates - CTU Legislative and Political Director  |  July 13, 2017

Three years ago, delegates from Hubbard High School, Peck and Pasteur elementary schools organized with parents, stakeholders from community groups, Chicago Public Schools and the political power structure—with the full support of the Chicago Teachers Union—to strengthen neighborhood schools.
 
The stakeholders formed the Southwest Education Action Council (SWEAC), a group born from the threat that neighborhood school communities would be undermined by an expansion of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter School Network. Originally, CPS had made funding available to expand UNO in the area, a move that would have hurt neighborhood schools. But the educators in those communities organized for a different outcome, and ultimately those funds were redirected to their schools. 
 
Teacher delegates set the tone. It took real organizing by teachers to make this happen, and that organizing paid off. The delegates committed to collaborating with each other to save and expand their neighborhood school communities. They planned meetings and invited stakeholders. The school leaders controlled the narrative and outlined the principles expressed in their previous interactions with stakeholders in the community.  
 
Parents, educators and community members sat at a table of stakeholders anchored by the political leadership in the area—Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn and 23rd Ward Alderman Michael Zalewski. During the process, delegates benefited significantly from dealing directly with the community. They built real bonds as they canvassed the community, held meetings and spoke to parents directly. Each stakeholder had a seat at the table. The aldermen convened the meetings, everyone worked for consensus and the results of this organizing have been tremendous.
 
In CPS’ original plans, Hubbard High School was to lose its sports fields to a new middle school, which was to be created to relieve overcrowding at Peck and Pasteur elementary schools. After organizing efforts spearheaded by the delegates, SWEAC determined that Hubbard’s athletic programs would not lose their sports fields. Stakeholders decided instead that the school’s sports fields needed upgrading—not elimination. Now the school’s sports fields are in high demand and have helped plug the holes in Hubbard’s operations budget, even as CPS continues to cut the school’s budget.
 
The overcrowding at Peck and Pasteur was relieved when grades 5-8 moved to the brand new Richardson Middle School in December 2016. Aldermen Quinn, with support from the community, decided to push the Chicago Board of Education to open the school in the middle of the school year. This move was enacted to ensure that the school communities would suffer as little upheaval as possible during the transition. Every educator and student from Peck and Pasteur moved into their new middle school during the holiday break. 
 
While there were many challenges throughout this effort, none was more challenging than when the newly hired principal at Richardson decided to not rehire ten of the school’s teachers for the following school year. That decision reactivated the SWEAC team, which organized the members of the community to demand that the teachers be rehired. They phone banked, canvassed neighborhoods, petitioned parents and held meetings. They worked closely with Speaker Madigan and Aldermen Quinn and Zalewski. 
 
The combined efforts of the SWEAC and our delegates at the schools forced CPS to uphold its original agreement and all ten positions were restored.  
 
The SWEAC collaboration is a powerful model for educators, parents and community residents fighting for adequately resourced neighborhood schools across the city. The delegates assumed leadership and collaborated with the stakeholders to provide Southwest Side students and families the school communities they deserve. 
 
This is a model we continue to use to protect our schools’ resources and communities, and it’s a model that can work for educators and parents fighting for better outcomes for neighborhood schools throughout Chicago.

Special ed teacher sues CPS over firing

by Sarah Schulte - ABC 7 Chicago  |  July 11, 2017

Please click here to continue reading at abc7chicago.com

CTU response to IL House override of Rauner budget veto

by Stacy Davis Gates - CTU Legislative and Political Director  |  July 07, 2017

The budget that was finally passed today with bi-partisan support can -- at best -- be described as Rauner's austerity budget. Even after all of the pain that everyday Illinois residents have suffered over the last two years of cutbacks, and all of the hard work that legislators put into this deal, Rauner’s austerity budget still doesn’t include the revenue that our state’s people need. On top of that, unless Rauner signs SB1, the new school funding formula, every school district in Illinois will receive NO STATE FUNDING for the upcoming school year -- making it critical that he sign SB1 immediately.  

We have the governor to thank for the mess our state is in. Rauner drew a ridiculous line in the sand on the campaign trail, driving our state even deeper in debt than before he took office -- while the terms of this final budget are decidedly right-of-center.

While this budget closes some corporate loopholes, eases an income tax hike for low-income families by increasing the state earned income tax credit, and raises taxes on corporations who can well afford to pay more of their fair share, it still falls short of adequately funding frontline human needs like education. Millionaires and billionaires like Rauner must pay their fair share of taxes -- and that means paying more. Today’s budget doesn't close the unfair loophole that lets Wall Street money managers like Rauner’s billionaire hedge fund donor Ken Griffin dodge paying their fair share of taxes, leaving anywhere from a half billion to almost $2 billion dollars on the table. The LaSalle Street Tax alone would be enough to pay the state’s backlog of bills from the last two years!

It is unacceptable for Mayor Emanuel to use Rauner's austerity budget as a political shield to justify playing the same role as the governor -- or, for that matter, “emergency managers” in Flint and Detroit who’ve robbed public services of precious public dollars. Even when SB1 becomes law, it won’t be enough to sustain Chicago’s public schools. It’s time for Mayor Emanuel to work with the City Council to kick in more support to our school communities by reinstating the Corporate Head Tax and putting the dollars stashed in Emanuel’s TIF slush fund back into frontline public education where those dollars belong. Draining the TIF surplus that has robbed our neighborhood public schools for years and reinstating the Corporate Head Tax will help to ameliorate the cuts that Emanuel has already inflicted on our school communities AND will prevent Emanuel from cutting even more from our school communities for this upcoming school year.

Aramark and the case for cleanliness in our schools

by jackson potter - ctu staff coordinator  |  June 30, 2017

The CTU has a number of grievances contending that certain schools are not meeting contractual cleanliness standards, and teachers are being forced to do custodial work just to have clean classrooms—even though our contract promises that teachers shall not have to clean.  

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school Board have refused to arbitrate these grievances, saying that because Aramark is subcontracted to clean those schools, the grievances are about subcontracting. Because subcontracting is a 4.5 subject, the Board claims it does not have to arbitrate grievances about it.

Since the Board refused to arbitrate we had to go to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB). We are happy to report that we prevailed in front of the administrative law judge, who ruled:

  1. These grievances are not about subcontracting at all. They are about how clean the schools are, and not about who does the cleaning.
  2. Even if the grievances were about subcontracting, Section 4.5 only allows the Board of Ed to refuse to have contract terms on Section 4.5 subjects. But if the Board voluntarily agrees to contract terms, it must arbitrate grievances about those terms even if they relate to Section 4.5 subjects.

This is a big win, but not the end of the road. The Board can appeal the judge's decision to an IELRB full of Emanuel and Gov. Rauner appointees, and it probably will. But how willing is the IELRB to overturn the judges decision and keep our schools filthy? 

Please let us know if you or anyone in your school has a story to tell about unclean schools, and if you are willing to testify at a labor board hearing about the matter. If so, please email CTU Staff Coordinator Jackson Potter at jacksonpotter@ctulocal1.com.

Support the Head Start 38

by ctu communications  |  June 27, 2017

Without warning and without reason, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool terminated 38 CPS Head Start Resource Assistants on June 20. Head Start Parent Resource Assistants are 99 percent women of color who serve and support both parents and students in important Head Start programs throughout the city. Without these community workers, children facing homelessness, hunger and poverty will not benefit from networks of resources developed by these workers over more than a dozen years each.

These layoffs aren’t even the result of the Rahm/Rauner budget cuts. Head Start is a federally funded program whose dollars do not depend on state or city government. Rahm and Claypool have simply decided to throw away a wealth of resources in a vicious attack on Black and Brown CPS workers and the families they serve.

ILLUSTRATION: Head Start 38

The Head Start 38 and supporters came together at CTU headquarters June 23 to strategize.

Commentary: How unionized charter schools benefit public education

by Chris Baehrend - ChiACTS president  |  June 22, 2017

When I was hired at my charter school in 2009, there were no computers for classroom use. There was no budget for textbooks. We were taken to an educational materials recycling center, where the only textbooks available for my speech class were published in 1979. There were almost no pictures of Latino students in those books, which is perhaps just as well, because almost all of the faces were marked up with racist comments and features.

As we started using the books, students uncovered so many derogatory markings that I soon had to rely on photocopies. But the photocopier was usually broken or out of toner. Also, the internet was often down.

Resource scarcity was not the most oppressive working condition. At the end of the previous year, every teacher and administrator had been fired. As you might imagine, the teachers walked around on tenterhooks, and no one was eager to share challenges in our classrooms for fear of being let go.

Today in my school, there are carts of new laptops, Smart Boards, new furniture and an abundance of new textbooks. Also, three of the 12 teachers from 2009 are still on staff, and our school has made steady progress on attendance and all other academic measures.

What changed? We formed a union.

Please click here to continue reading at chicagotribune.com

Prep periods and other end-of-year contractual issues

by ctu communications  |  June 16, 2017

As members begin to close out the school year and head out to well-deserved summer breaks, there are a number of items that the CTU Grievance Department want to make sure you are aware of for these final days of the school year.

  • The 2015-19 Contract extends preparation periods through the final instructional day of the school year.
  • Suggestion: print any paystubs you may need before leaving school since CPS has not yet established a secure way this can be done from outside of school. Your 6/23/17 pay stub should be available on 6/20/17 and can be printed prior to leaving school. You can email Payroll Services if you want to request a mailed copy of your 7/8/17 stub. Make sure you have updated your address if necessary.
  • Also, There is a form on the HR4U websIte where you can request duplicates of any back pay stubs after April 2015. You can submit up to five dates per request.
  • Make sure to label and secure anything personal you are leaving in the building and to take home personal items of value for safe storage. if you are transferring, this is especially important.
  • You should receive a tentative schedule for next year no later than this Friday.

Most important: have a great summer!

Chicago Teachers Union