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February 2012 Archive

Press Release: School Closings Are A Crying Shame

February 28, 2012

"There were students with tears streaming down their faces.  Parents and teachers wept," reported Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis about response to the Chicago Board of Education's recent vote to close 10 more schools.  "What a shame their pleas were met with such contempt."

Lewis spoke at a packed education forum and rally hosted February 25 by Rainbow PUSH.  She joined others describing the impact of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to continue denying basic resources to democratically run schools, then completely renovate and re-staff privately managed replacements.

"These kids were crying because they're being torn from teachers they know, love and respect.  They're been uprooted from their communities.  CPS never thought to send grief counselors.  They've given no thought to the emotional toll on the hundreds of teachers being let go, who've been outperforming the turnarounds at a fraction of the cost."  

Three students from nearby Dyett High School described the chaos and demoralization they faced the day after the Board's latest turnaround vote.  "We didn't know what to expect," said sophomore Diamond McCullough.  "Kids were roaming the halls saying, 'We're being phased out.  What's the point of staying?'  Some strange woman appeared.  She didn't say 'hi' or 'my name is'-- just started ordering us around.  Turned out, she was the temporary principal."

Junior Keshaundra Neal called the hearing process a sham.  She and other students had helped develop, with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, an improvement plan predicated on investment in the current school.   "We presented it, but they didn't listen," said Neal.  "The Board and everybody evaluating us are mostly the Mayor's friends.  They knew what they were going to do all along."  

Sophomore Aquila Griffin accused CPS of "putting politics in the school.  They talk about a 'quality education.'  They want to send Dyett students across town to Phillips.  We're way ahead of them in grades and attendance.  How is that better for us?"


Press Release: Educational Injustice Worth Litigation, Legislation and Mass Action

February 28, 2012

"It is time for mass action - litigation, legislation, demonstration," Rev. Jesse Jackson declared at a recent Rainbow/PUSH education forum.  He suggested the situation might even warrant calling upon the Justice Department, which led to Federal intervention to protect Black students' rights over 50 years ago in the South.  
"Look at the data," Jackson advised, referring to several recent reports like the Chicago Teachers Union's The Schools Our Students Deserve.  "There are differences in education outcomes - not just test scores.  There's a vast inequity in terms of crumbling walls.  Children internalize this.  They think, 'I must not be worth more.'"  

Jackson used Roseland's Dunne Technology Academy as one of 33 extremely low-income and poorly resourced schools a Designs for Change study found to be outperforming officially endorsed "turnaround" models advantaged with millions of dollars from CPS. "While this is good," Jackson cautioned, "it should not be a marker, because they deserve more."

Others echoed Jackson's criticisms of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and school officials for perpetuating a strategy that has failed the majority of the 85 percent Black, Latino and low income Chicago Public School population.  They used words like "sabotage" to describe decades of CPS taking over and neglecting neighborhood schools, while lavishly funding alternatives with little local accountability.

 "We've never seen a citywide response like this," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis noted about the diverse response to the city's determination to ram school closings down the throats of protesting parents.  "But our voices are noise, when you've already made the decisions to destabilize our communities. Our schools have been ruled by fear for 17 years.  Fear moves to anger.  Anger moves to action."   

Added businessman-activist Jonathan Jackson, "Equal protection under the law means we need everything the rest of the state is getting.  It's a cruel game being played on our children.  The only thing that's the same is the test they take to get into college."   

"Our kids are ready to fight for their schools," vowed Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and a long-time Local School Council representative for one of the high schools the Board of Education voted to re-staff.  "This is no different than Mississippi in 1967."

Video Interviews from the CTU Member Negotiating Team

February 28, 2012


February 16th session



January 20th session

The Ed Show: War on Education in Chicago

February 27, 2012

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"Change is Hard" by Curtis Black --

February 23, 2012

“People are anxious” because “change is hard,” said Mayor Emanuel the other day, referring to the school closings and turnarounds which his Board of Education approved as expected Wednesday night.

“But,” he added, “watching, year in and year out, children captured in a system that’s failing, is harder.”

Yes, change is hard.  And year in and year out, the system has been failing its students by denying resources to neighborhood schools attended by the vast majority of students, setting them up for failure and then handing them over one by one to private entities, which get all the goodies (and still don’t perform).

That’s the status quo, of course.  And in an achievement Orwell would find remarkable, it’s that the status quo that’s being defended by people like Emanuel and the Chicago Tribune, as they rail about challenging the status quo.

Click here to continue reading. 

CTU Response to Board “Doomsday” Vote

February 22, 2012

CTU President Karen Lewis Statement on Chicago School Board’s Doomsday Decisions

CTU Officers and community partners speak to reporters following the Board of Education’s vote.

“We are not surprised that an unelected, unaccountable school board would vote unanimously to continue the same failed policies that have short-changed Chicago Public Schools students for years.

“We are, however, disappointed that these Board members lacked the moral courage to do the right thing. This is a travesty and a betrayal of democracy.

“They are the status quo.

“The Board refuses to acknowledge its role in undermining our schools. By ignoring hundreds of hours of testimony of parents on how they never received the support they needed to strengthen their schools and increase student performance, they have created a huge gulf of ill will in our city.

“Despite the many protests, letters, demonstrations, testimonies, meetings, and pleas from thousands of parents, teachers, school leaders, activists, and members of the civil rights community, this seven member Board voted in its own self-interest, and not in the interest of over 7,000 school children—most of whom are black, brown, homeless, or poor. They don't care about them or the neighborhoods they come from. All they see are data points and dollar signs.

“The courageous parents and others who have been loud and vocal over the last few weeks are not ‘anxious’ about what happens to their school—as Emanuel has stated—they are angry. They are angry that their community-driven schools are purposely starved of resources; and they are angry that their children are relegated to a second-class education in a school district that can do better.

“This is education apartheid. It seems that certain people in Chicago have no rights that this Board and this administration are bound to respect.

“If members of the Board possess a conscience, then they ought to be ashamed.

“Their unanimous vote will send over 400 teachers to the unemployment line.

“Their unanimous vote will force hundreds of kids to cross dangerous gang boundaries in order to get to school and put them at greater risk of violence.

“Their unanimous vote will disrupt the lives of parents who must now either move to locate a school closer to their home or rearrange their lives in efforts to get their children educated in schools as much as five miles away from home.

“These seven Board members voted unanimously to continue 17 years of failed school reforms that have left our neighborhood schools depleted of resources, depleted of tenured teachers and depleted of morale. It is not the teachers, parents, and community that have failed our students, it is this District.

“This is why Chicago is the epicenter of the nation’s education justice fight.

“The Chicago Teachers Union, Local School Council leaders, parents, education advocates and others will continue our education justice fight. This is why we will do everything we can to ensure State Senator Iris Martinez and State Representative Cynthia Soto’s moratorium legislation passes the IL General Assembly. We are looking forward to have our lawsuit, seeking injunctive relief heard in a court of law.

“We also intend to lead the charge for Chicago to have an elected school board. This District is the ONLY school district in the entire state that does not have an elected school board. This is undemocratic and unfair,” Lewis said.

President Karen GJ Lewis Board of Education Remarks 2/22/12 [VIDEO]

February 22, 2012

Chicago is at the epicenter of the education justice fight in America--and today the nation is watching.  We believe 17 years of CPS’s failed, unjust policies have led to the current crisis we have in our neighborhood schools.  CPS’s polices ARE THE status quo; and because of these force-fed reforms the majority of our students –most of whom are black, brown and poor --are experiencing a form of “education apartheid.”  This is not the type of world-class education our students deserve.


Children who need the most resources get the least. Parents who cry out the loudest have had their voices drowned.  Schools that deserve the most support purposely get little, and according to CPS, this fiscal starvation could last for up to a decade.  Instead, these neighborhood schools are labeled as failing; teachers and school workers are labeled as failures; students are labeled as having been failed; and minority caregivers are labeled as failed and uncaring parents. 

This labeling is done in order to justify the current process of destabilizing black, brown and poor neighborhoods; it is done to trick the public into believing ‘what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right.’ It is done to push a political agenda that seeks to destroy public education and render even more generations of youth into the achievement gap.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, students/parents and community members DO NOT control the policies, purse strings or curriculum of the Chicago Public Schools.  We have no say/no vote in whether or not today the Board will award AUSL nearly $30 million in public resources that could have gone to neighborhood schools in the first place. 

Other than “ritual participation,” we believe the authentic voices of CPS parents, Local School Council leaders, legislators and independent members of Chicago’s faith community have been excluded from the decision-making process.  On the other hand,  we remain disappointed that people affiliated with (and who support) CPS’ agenda have admitted to paying people $25 to $50 to provide false testimony at legal, state-mandated school hearings in an orchestrated effort to silence the real, authentic voices of Chicago’s parents.  We are appalled that CPS vendors, some of who’ve reaped millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, have engaged in this immoral conduct in order to produce an affirmative vote on school actions that will directly benefit their organizations.

We are upset that well-researched, school revitalization plans and other measures proposed by parents, educators and community leaders have been virtually ignored by CPS. This is why over the past several weeks proponents for quality schools, student achievement and successful graduation, as well as professional teachers, have taken to the streets—hoping the Board would hear us. 

As stated in our groundbreaking report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve, we believe that every student deserves a coherent curriculum, high standards, good discipline, parental support, a professional teaching force and well-run schools.  Parents, students, educators, and community leaders must be equal participants in determining how goals and policies are set; how resources are allocated; how curriculum is developed; and how our neighborhood schools operate. 

This is why the Chicago Teachers Union stands in solidarity with these parents, activists and others today, in calling on Members of the Board of Education to do what is just.  Support our schools, do not close them. Do not turn them around. Honor the moratorium.  Take a bold step in the right direction. Reject the status quo.  Prove your independence. Show your moral courage.

And to the thousands of parents, students, community leaders, activists, educators, and clergy who have united in this education justice fight, I leave with you these words:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of the deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena: whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; and who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows the triumph of the high achievement; and who, at the worst; if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

Thank you.

Designs for Change Releases Study Debunking Turnaround Myths

February 21, 2012

From PURE:

On the eve of a potentially catastrophic Board of Education vote to turnaround ten more Chicago schools, the school reform research group Designs for Change has released a reportshowing that school turnarounds are not worth the extra expense, and that the unheralded reforms brought about under the authority of parent-led, democratically-elected local school councils have been far more effective.

9 key conclusions of the report, titled “Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out-Perform Chicago’s ‘Turnaround Schools’ Yet Turnaround Schools Receive Lavish Extra Resources”:

Conclusion 1. The study’s evidence does not justify the continuation of the School Turnaround Strategy in Chicago schools with a concentration of high-poverty students, including the establishment of more Turnaround Schools through February 2012 Chicago School Board Action.

Conclusion 2. Each phase of the School Turnaround effort in Chicago has
been generously supported with extra resources, including teacher pre-
service preparation, school facilities improvement, staff selection, school
leadership, and staff support.

Conclusion 3. School communities have repeatedly sought these same resources
that have been given to the Turnaround Schools, but have been denied. Chicago
must have an equitable transparent process for allocating desperately-needed resources.

Conclusion 4. Given the meager academic progress of Elementary Turnaround
Schools and their high teacher turnover rate, which undermines the basic
culture of the school, the researchers conclude that the resources devoted to
Turnaround Schools can be better spent by supporting alternative research-
based strategies.

Conclusion 5. This study indicated that the high-poverty schools achieving the
highest reading scores were governed by active Local School Councils who chose
their principals, and had experienced unionized teachers. effective elementary schools have dedicated strong Local School Councils, strong but inclusive principal leadership, effective teachers who are engaged in school-wide improvement, active
parents, active community members, and students deeply engaged in learning
and school improvement.

Conclusion 6. Related research indicates that high-poverty schools with
sustained test score improvements tend to carry out a specific set of practices
and methods of organization. These effective elementary schools have dedicated strong Local School Councils, strong but inclusive principal leadership,
effective teachers who are engaged in school-wide improvement, active
parents, active community members, and students deeply engaged in learning
and school improvement.

Conclusion 7. A basic distinction between high-scoring and low-scoring schools
is that high-scoring schools carry out engaging instructional activities
that help students master demanding standards, while low-scoring schools focus on various form of test preparation.

Conclusion 8. In their practice of School-Based Democracy, the school
community functions as a unified team and understands and acts on the close
relationship between the issues facing the school and the community.

Conclusion 9. While even the highest-scoring schools, based on existing
measures, need to improve, the practices and methods of collaboration that
characterize the high-poverty schools that show sustained improvement
are clear. The resources now used for Turnaround Schools need to be shifted
to helping these effective schools become resources for other schools and
to support their own mutual continued improvement.

CPS planning new neighborhood school to replace Crane Tech

by Noreen Ahmed-Ullah and Joel Hood Tribune reporters  |  February 21, 2012

Original story is posted here.

On the eve of Wednesday's board vote on school closings and turnarounds, Chicago Public Schools  has reached a deal with community leaders on the West Side to bring in a new neighborhood high school to replace Crane Tech, which is expected to begin a three-year phase-out next fall, the Tribune has learned.

Crane, a technical high school and athletics powerhouse on West Jackson Boulevard, was one of 17 struggling city schools the district had proposed closing or turning around last fall. It had been one of the locations where faith leaders with CPS contracts and ties to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had paid busloads of protesters to appear at hearings last month. 

At a city council education committee meeting Tuesday morning, CPS' portfolio officer Oliver Sicat said "We still are moving forward on our recommendations for a phase-out at Crane and for Talent Development (Charter School) to come in. Those still exist and have not changed."

Sicat added that CPS is working with the community around Crane on an opportunity to create something "exciting in the building."

Those plans include a new high school with a health science-focused curriculum, perhaps in partnership with nearby Rush University Medical Center and Malcolm X College, the Tribune has learned. The current plans for Crane are to begin diverting its incoming freshmen next fall to Wells High School two miles north and to share the large school building with Talent Development Charter School. The yet-unnamed new high school is tentatively slated to begin in fall 2013.

Though supporters at most schools have voiced strong opposition to closing or turnaround plans, the response at Crane was noteworthy considering its deep ties with the city.

At least five future NBA players have suited up for Crane's storied boys' basketball program, which was a charter member of the Chicago Public League in 1913 and has won 11 league titles. Longtime Chicago Bears owner George Halas attended the school in the early part of the 20th century. After CPS announced plans to phase-out Crane beginning next school year, Halas' grandson, Bears co-owner Patrick McCaskey, reportedly wrote a letter of support for Crane to CPS leaders.

Crane's struggles inside the classroom the last decade put it on the district's watch list. The predominantly African-American school of about 700 students has been on academic probation for the last 10 years. Its school performance rating of 8.7 percent is among the worst for any high school in CPS. Just 57 percent of Crane’s incoming freshmen graduate within five years, according to CPS, and less than one-third of students meet or exceed standards on the Prairie State Achievement Examination.

Dozens of parents and community activists participated in a recent rally outside of Crane to protest its inclusion on the district’s closure list. A majority of Crane’s incoming freshmen next year would have been re-assigned to Wells High School two miles north.

Study Invites Perspectives on ISAT

February 21, 2012

Inviting Teachers’ and Principals’ Perspectives about ISAT

kids testingThe IL Assessment Consequences Evaluation (IACE) is conducting an online survey to learn about the consequences of ISAT testing from teachers’ and principals’ perspectives. Information gathered from this study may contribute to the development of a long-range strategic plan for the IL Assessment and Accountability Program. A randomly selected sample of teachers and principals (grades 3-8) are receiving an email with the survey link and are strongly encouraged to participate.

All survey results are confidential. For more details or any questions, please contact Katherine Ryan, principal investigator, at (217) 333-7177 or email

Five participants will win a $50 gift card!

Parents Promote Tuesday Calls to Save Schools

February 21, 2012

CTU staff received the following appeal in an e-mail from a member of Parents 4 Teachers.


Please call CPS again today, at 1-773-553-1500. Tomorrow at the Board meeting they will announce which schools will be closed and turned around. Please attend the rally tomorrow at Board headquarters before the meeting as well.

These proposed school actions will have a devastating impact on students, families and their communities. CPS should be working to improve schools not close them.Please forward this to everyone you know who may be concerned about this issue.

This appeal continues the effort first begun in January by Parents 4 Teachers.

Piccolo Elem. Parents Occupy AND WIN!

February 18, 2012

Piccolo parents speak to reporters at the window

Piccolo parents speak to reporters at the window of an "occupied" classroom, Saturday afternoon, February 18.

Piccolo Elementary parents and supporters are declaring their occupation a success. After occupying a portion of the west side elementary school for close to 24 hours, parents have received a promise from Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz to meet Monday regarding alternatives to the scorched-earth "Turnaround" plan. That plan would fire every teacher, school clerk, janitor, and even lunchroom worker at the school in order to bring in replacements from the private, politically-connected AUSL (Academy for Urban School Leadership).

The parents held a press conference at 4:00PM to declare victory in their fight to win a meeting with the Board of Education, to thank supporters, and to head home after calling attention to the sabotage of Piccolo School through disinvestment.

Parents, community members and teachers plan events Monday through Wednesday to continue the fight against the failed "Turnaround" strategy the Board of Education has pursued for over decade.

Click here for information about upcoming protests.


A group of Piccolo Elementary parents and members of the Piccolo community have occupied the school starting yesterday afternoon. They slept inside overnight while a group of supporters remained outside the school's entrance to ensure they would not be forcibly removed.

This morning, a press conference was held in which the President of the Piccolo Local School Council and other parents from both Piccolo and Casals schools spoke against the "Turnaround." They called on the Board of Education to abandon its plan to fire all staff and turn the school over to private, politically-connected AUSL (Academy for Urban School Leadership).

The Board has refused to allow food and medicine to get to the parents inside. A group of supporters attempted to deliver supplies around 11:00AM and were prevented by CPS Security.

Parents are asking everyone to come out and show that the entire community supports their fight. So far, Congressman Danny K. Davis and State Senator Annazette Collins have come shown their support, as well as scores of community members.

Children are playing, parents are conferring and supporters are keeping up everyone's spirits. All are determined to stand together in support of students and teachers at the affected schools.

Food and hot drinks are welcome to nourish both the occupiers and the supporters outside, some of whom have been camped out in the cold since yesterday.

Piccolo Elementary is located at 1040 North Keeler.

View Larger Map


Breaking News! Piccolo parents defend their school, children and teachers, protest “Turnaround”

Piccolo Elementary Friday afternoonThis afternoon Piccolo Elementary parents held a Press Conference to defend their school. They announced that they will occupy Piccolo to protest the Board of Education’s plans. The Board plans to vote on Wednesday to turnaround Piccolo and hand over management of the school to AUSL, Academy for Urban School Leadership, a privately connected firm with ties to City Hall. For the time being, you can follow what's happening on Occupy Chicago'sUStream account.

“For months now, Piccolo parents have wanted their voices heard, but the mayor, CPS and members of the Board have given them a deaf ear,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Tonight these courageous parents have decided to dramatize their efforts to save their school by engaging in non-violent protest. We stand in solidarity with them, as well as the thousands of parents and community leaders from other targeted communities, in our ongoing education justice fight. We call on CPS to invest in our under-resourced neighborhood schools and halt its plans to turn them over to AUSL or shut them down all together.”

To support the parents of Piccolo, go to Piccolo School, 1040 N. Keeler. Bring friends, food, blankets, and water. Support Our Schools, Don’t Close Them!

Get text updates from CTU!

Send a text to 69238 (MYAFT) with "CTU1" as the body of the message.

*Your carrier's messaging and data rates may apply

Click here to watch a video from the press conference. 

Follow tbourschoolschi and ctulocal1 on Twitter for updates.

Breaking News! Piccolo parents defend their school, children and teachers, protest “Turnaround”

February 17, 2012

This afternoon Piccolo Elementary parents held a Press Conference to defend their school. They announced that they will occupy Piccolo to protest the Board of Education’s plans. The Board plans to vote on Wednesday to turnaround Piccolo and hand over management of the school to AUSL, Academy for Urban School Leadership, a privately connected firm with ties to City Hall. For the time being, you can follow what's happening on Occupy Chicago'sUStream account.

“For months now, Piccolo parents have wanted their voices heard, but the mayor, CPS and members of the Board have given them a deaf ear,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Tonight these courageous parents have decided to dramatize their efforts to save their school by engaging in non-violent protest. We stand in solidarity with them, as well as the thousands of parents and community leaders from other targeted communities, in our ongoing education justice fight. We call on CPS to invest in our under-resourced neighborhood schools and halt its plans to turn them over to AUSL or shut them down all together.”

To support the parents of Piccolo, go to Piccolo School, 1040 N. Keeler. Bring friends, food, blankets, and water. Support Our Schools, Don’t Close Them!

Get text updates from CTU!

Send a text to 69238 (MYAFT) with "CTU1" as the body of the message.

*Your carrier's messaging and data rates may apply

Click here to watch a video from the press conference. 

Follow tbourschoolschi and ctulocal1 on Twitter for updates. 

Press Release: Thirty-six Teachers Honored with National Board Certification through CTU Quest Center

February 17, 2012

Click here to view photos.

CHICAGO –During an emotion-packed ceremony filled with testimonies, tributes and motivational speeches, more than 300 people crammed the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) headquarters on Jan. 14 to celebrate 36 educators who were honored during a pinning ceremony as new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), the “gold standard” for educators.   

CTU, which produces about 40 percent of Illinois’ professional certifications, runs the rigorous program through its Nurturing Teacher Leadership (NTL) program.   The program’s mission is to increase student learning by improving the quality of teaching in the Chicago Public Schools; to nurture teachers as leaders from within their classrooms, schools, union, and district so that they do not need to leave teaching to be a leader and affect systemic change; to advance school reform initiatives; and to prepare teachers for, and support them through the process of National Board Certification.

Illinois has the second largest number of nationally certified teachers of any major city, a majority of whom are trained through CTU’s Quest Center.

“The Chicago Teachers Union is committed to the national board process,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT. This Union will never look back and say there is something we left on the table that we didn’t try to do to help our members  instill in them the joy and passion for teaching and learning.  This Union will never leave anything on the table when it comes to support of our members because ultimately in the classroom it’s the small things we do here that make big changes elsewhere. There are a variety of ways we can do this but the most exciting way is to have teachers reflect upon what it is they do and how they can become better educators and better education leaders.” 

Lewis, the only nationally board certified educator in the country to lead a teachers union, closed her remarks with admiration for the graduates, “This is about building a professional community. We are all here for the same reason, we care passionately about our students and about their lives and about this work that we do.”

Also addressing the graduates was International Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, IFT President, National Board of Professional Teacher Standards (NBPTS) President D. Ronald Thorpe, and Chicago Public School Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso.

“No one achieves board certification anywhere near the rate of (NTL),” said Thorpe. “In fact, when I’ve heard more and more about what happens at the Quest Center around board certification it feels to me is what’s really happening here is what should be happening with teacher preparation programs across the country.”

NTL has maintained an achievement rate of 96 percent upon the release of results for its 13th cohort.   Of all those who completed the certification process for the 2010/11 school year, including first-time candidates and retake candidates, 80 percent achieved.

“I want to thank the CPS leadership for continued partnership, supporting professional development through NBC, and for funding a large part of the NTL program,” said Lynn Cherkasky-Davis, director of the Quest Center and long-time mentor to hundreds of educators across the country. “If you want school improvement to increase exponentially, continue to invest in NBC and NTL, rethink the roles of our NBCT talent and you will see how fast schools turn around.”

The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve

February 16, 2012

Download the PDF here. 

Flanked by Chicago Public School (CPS) parents, Local School Council leaders, clergy and educators, the Chicago Teachers Union released its vision of what the city's schools should look like for all students to be successful during a news conference at its headquarters today.  The comprehensive report, The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve, offers proven policy recommendations to improve student academic performance and strengthen neighborhood schools.

“This report will quickly become the leading public policy platform for all people truly interested in how to reverse the status quo in our city's public schools,” stated CTU President Karen GJ Lewis.

The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve makes the case for immediate district-wide enforcement of practical and proven solutions to dramatically improve the academic performance of more than 400,000 students in a district of 675 schools. 

“For far too long our students have been short-changed, their teachers have been undermined and their schools have been financially starved of the resources they need,” said Lewis.  “Today we release our vision of what a CPS education should look like for every student, not just those from higher income brackets.  We need fresh and innovative ideas, not the same status quo and failed policies of the past 17 years.”

The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve presents a compelling argument that the education children receive should not depend on zip code, family income, or racial background.  Unfortunately, statistics show that neighborhood, race and socioeconomics are all too often the deciding factors in a student's path to academic excellence.  For example, CPS students are 86 percent low-income and 87 percent African American or Latino.  Few CPS schools provide world language classes and 160 CPS elementary schools do not even have libraries.

“Although we don't control the policies, curriculum or purse strings, educators must be in the forefront of developing education policy not politicians and venture capitalists,” Lewis explained.  “Parents, teachers, paraprofessionals and community leaders cannot longer afford to wait for the Chicago Board of Education to give us educational justice.  We must advocate for the schools our children deserve.  This is our plan.”

Among those joining Lewis to support CTU's proposed education plan were Ms. Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, Dr. Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, Mr. Kevin Kumashiro, University of Illinois at Chicago professor and president-elect of the National Association for Multicultural Education, Dr. Pauline Lipman, UIC education policy professor and Ms. Illiana Espinosa-Krehbiele, education organizer for the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. 

Chicago Teachers Union to unveil comprehensive plan to strengthen the quality of education in Chicago Public Schools

February 15, 2012

Fifteen years of school closings, “turnarounds,” excessive standardized testing and other failed reform experiments have had no positive impact on student learning for a vast majority of Chicago Public School (CPS) students.  Yet the mayor and Board of Education executives insist on implementing the same status quo methods that have contributed to instability in our neighborhood schools.

A new report from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) makes a compelling argument that the education children receive should not depend on zip code, family income, or racial background. Students from all communities deserve a high-quality education with equitable learning experiences and resources tailored to children’s success.

“Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” argues for immediate district-wide implementation of 10 educational solutions to dramatically improve the academic performance of more than 400,000 students in a district of 675 schools. CTU’s proposals are desperately needed and can help Chicago provide the world-class educational system its students deserve.

A news conference to unveil the plan will be held on Thursday, February 16 at 9:30 a.m. at CTU headquarters, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, 4th Floor.  Participants will include Union officials, parents, Local School Council leaders, clergy and educators from across the city.

“For far too long, our students have been short-changed, their teachers have been undermined and their schools have been financially starved of the resources they need,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Today we release our vision of what a CPS education should look like for every student, not just those from higher income brackets.  We need fresh and innovative ideas, not the same old status quo and failed policies of the past 15 years. 

“Although we don’t control the policies, curriculum or purse strings of this District, educators must be in the forefront of developing education policy not politicians and venture capitalists,” she said. “Parents, teachers, paraprofessionals and community leaders can no longer afford to wait for the Board to give us educational justice. We must advocate for the schools our children deserve.  This is our plan.”

After months of analysis and consideration of the city’s education needs, the release of “Schools Chicago’s Student’s Deserve,”  is being released at a time when CTU is in the middle of tense negotiations with CPS for a new contract and at a time when CPS plans to only lengthen the school day without an education plan.

The major policy recommendations in the report call on the Chicago Board of Education to:

Recognize Class Size Matters: Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.

Educate The Whole Child: Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy food offerings, and classes in art, theater, dance, and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.

Create More Robust Wrap-around Services: The Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) is far behind recommended staffing levels suggested by national professional associations. The number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists must increase dramatically to serve Chicago’s population of low-income students. Additionally, students who cannot afford transportation costs need free fares.

Address Inequities in Our System: Students and their families recognize the apartheid-like system managed by CPS. It denies resources to the neediest schools, uses discipline policies with a disproportionate harm on students of color, and enacts policies that increase the concentrations of students in high poverty and racially segregated schools.

Help Students Get Off to a Good Start: We need to provide age-appropriate (not test-driven) education in the early grades. All students should have access to pre-kindergarten and to full day kindergarten.

Respect & Develop the Professionals: Teachers need salaries comparable to others with their education and experience. They need time to adequately plan their lessons and collaborate with colleagues, as well as the autonomy and shared decision-making to encourage professional judgment. CPS should hire more teaching assistants so that no students fall through the cracks.

Teach All Students: We need stronger commitments to address the disparities that exist due to our lack of robust programs for emergent bilingual students and services for students faced with a variety of special needs.

Provide Quality School Facilities: No more leaky roofs, asbestos-lined bathrooms, or windows that refuse to shut. Students need to be taught in facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.

Partner With Parents: Parents are an integral part of a child’s education. They need to be encouraged and helped in that role.

Fully Fund Education: A country and city that can afford to take care of its affluent citizens can afford to take care of those on the other end of the income scale. There is no excuse for denying students the essential services they deserve.

Rally for Neighborhood Schools at Lake View High School

February 15, 2012


Click here to download the flyer

Rally to support IL House Bill 4487: Moratorium on School Closings, Turnarounds and Phase-Outs

February 15, 2012

Click here to download the flyer. 

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Partner on “Speak Truth to Power” Initiative

February 14, 2012

On February 8th, 2012, CTU hosted a presentation outlining a new Speak Truth to Power (STTP) social science curriculum available to CPS teachers. STTP, a project of the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Center for Justice and Human Rights, is a multi-faceted global initiative that uses the experiences of courageous defenders from around the world to educate students and others about human rights, and urge them to take action.

This past November, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the RFK Center launched 32 lessons designed by 14 CPS teachers as part of the STTP human rights curriculum, based on the lives and work of 14 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Issues addressed in these lessons range from slavery and environmental activism to religious self-determination and political participation.

The stories of the 14 heroic individuals – including familiar names like Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Dali Lama and Jody Williams – not only serve as the jumping off point for a larger examination of human rights, but also, through concrete instruction, provide the students with a way to identify as human rights defenders themselves.

The online curriculum is aligned with the Illinois State Standards and the national Common Core State Standards that have been adopted in 46 states. The curriculum is flexible and can be modified to meet the needs of each individual classroom. To access the curriculum visit the web link:

Further professional development (beginning 2/22/2012) will lead up to the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to be held in Chicago, on April 23rd, 2012. To register for this or other STTP professional development opportunities, visit the web link:  and search Speak Truth to Power.

During their time in Chicago, the Nobel Laureates will travel to CPS schools to meet with students who have been learning about their lives, and meet the teachers who are using STTP lessons.

These schools will not be the only lucky ones to benefit from the Nobel Laureates’ visits. Thanks to a partnership with Safari Live, plans are being made for the interaction between the Nobel Laureates and the students to be broadcast to ALL CPS schools and others across the nation, and will feature an interactive question and answer session. In addition, some students and teachers will have the opportunity to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, and participate in other surrounding activities. To have a chance to be invited to the World Summit you must attend the professional development.

For more information on how your class can become involved, please contact:

Chicago Teachers Union Response to new CCSR Study on school Turnarounds

February 14, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union amends Response to new CCSR

Study on school Turnarounds; 15-year-old reform models still

disrupt the lives of students and families


CHICAGO  - The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today amended a recent press statement about a new report on Chicago’s destructive school turnaround policy by the Chicago Consortium on School Reform (CCSR) at the University of Chicago.

The record of Chicago schools that have been closed and replaced with new administrations, one of the four models studied in this report, reveals that these schools wound up serving a new, and generally more advantaged pool of students after the turnaround.

The CTU, parents, and students across the city are concerned about another result of these polices which the CCSR research acknowledges: the tremendous reduction of black teachers in our schools.  The union believes that African American students benefit from having African American teachers as role models.  That is why the CTU has joined with a group of African American teachers to file a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the school board’s 2011 layoff policy has had a disparate impact on black teachers.

The CTU also revisits the statement that “the CCSR report does not acknowledge that only one Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) school isn't on probation despite numerous years under AUSL management.”  For the 2012 school year, 100 percent of AUSL’s turnarounds are currently on probation, per the CPS performance policy data on its website.   It is clear that the jury is still out on efforts to reconstitute, turnaround, and close high schools. However, the CCSR report itself indicates that the 9th grade on-track-to-graduate rate, which CCSR acknowledges is critical, goes unchanged at most of these high schools.

We continue to challenge the re-enrollment data in the CCSR report.  At many of the AUSL schools the figure is 80 percent or less, and our figures show big drops in enrollment.

Finally, we note that 15 years of school closings has had no positive impact on student learning for displaced students, and yet CPS continues to insist on this action.  Overall, the reform experiments we see in Chicago today are untested and provide, at best, marginal results; and, at worst, contribute to segregation and instability in our neighborhood schools.  They are not the kind of true educational reforms – from reduced class size to investing increase resources in schools – that are built to last.  Sadly, what is happening in Chicago schools right now is only radical disruption in the lives of students and their families.

Precious Knowledge: Screening and Discussion

February 14, 2012

PRECIOUS KNOWLEDGE: Screening and Discussion
Film screening of the new documentary film, "Precious Knowledge: Arizona's Battle over Ethnic Studies," followed by a discussion with producer Eren McGinnis and Tucson public-school teacher Jose Gonzales.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
12:00 - 2:00 pm
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
University of Illinois at Chicago
800 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Free and open to the public. DVDs will be available for purchase.
Donations will be accepted to support teachers and students in their legal struggles.
For more information on the film, visit
For more information on the legal struggles, visit
For more information on this event, contact Amina Chaudhri,
Click here to download the flyer.
Event cosponsors:
-UIC Asian American Studies Program
-Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
-Northern Illinois Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education -Chicago Teachers Union -Teachers for Social Justice

Chicago News Cooperative: Turnaround Results Under Fire, CPS Reverts to State Tests

by Rebecca Vevea -- Chicago News Cooperative  |  February 14, 2012

Original article posted here.

In seeking a turnaround of Chicago Public Schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he wants to shift away from state-mandated test scores in assessing school success.

But when  a University of Chicago study last week raised questions about Chicago’s turnaround effort, the Emanuel administration returned to the state test scores as evidence of progress.

The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research issued a new report last week focused on progress of individual students at so-called “turnaround schools” and found that  gains in student achievement were less dramatic than the public had been led to believe.

Consortium researchers analyzed student-level data at 36 schools that experienced some form of dramatic overhaul and found mixed results. Elementary schools saw improved test scores in the first four years of reform, but still lagged behind district averages. High schools showed similar percentages of students considered “on track” toward graduation relative to other poorly performing schools, and attendance rates increased during the first year of reform but returned to previous patterns later on.

The 36 schools in the study had experienced changes ranging from a significant change of curriculum and school leadership to being closed and reopened under a private operator. Consortium researchers picked apart raw data from each student, and their findings differed from the impression left by an examination of the school district’s most widely used measure of success: the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test.

The state’s standardized test scores have been used to measure progress in the district since 2001, when the federal No Child Left Behind Act began using progress on test results as a requirement for continued federal funding. But the way the state results are reported has been criticized by researchers, teachers and even Mayor Rahm Emanuel for exaggerating student achievement, not reflecting student growth and not showing how Chicago students do in comparison to districts nationwide.

Emanuel and the new CPS leadership team have repeatedly said the most closely watched category—the one tabulating the percentage of students who “meets and exceeds standards”—is not a good measure. CPS sought to address the issue earlier this year by switching to new school report cards that do not include ISAT scores. Rather, the new report cards show how students perform on one of two national assessments designed to measure growth.

Even so, on the day the Consortium released its report, district officials quickly cited the dramatic gains made by turnaround schools on the ISAT “meets and exceeds” standard. A fact sheet sent to reporters from the district’s communications office touted results from the privately run Academy for Urban School Leadership. “Eight of the ten (AUSL-run turnaround) schools have seen the largest growth on the ISAT meets/exceeds since it began the turnaround when compared to other schools in their area,”  the release stated.

“I want to be really clear that 35% more kids in these schools are meeting and exceeding standards. How is that not better for kids?” said Noemi Donoso, the district’s chief education officer, during an appearance on public television last Thursday.

The Chicago News Coopearative interviewed both Donoso and Cawley the day the Consortium report was released. When asked about the nominal gains researchers found, both immediately turned to the turnaround schools’ progress on the “meets and exceeds” standard as evidence of success.

District data for schools for AUSL-run schools shows that the percentage of students meeting state standards did indeed increase dramatically from the year before the turnaround to the present. Martin Koldyke, co-founder of AUSL, is a board member of CNC.

But the city’s “meets and exceeds” numbers do not tell the public how many questions a student answered correctly or how much student performance  improved from last year. The Consortium findings–which look at how student-level scores at turnaround schools differ from those at struggling schools that are not the subject of turnaround efforts–indicate that students at turnarounds are answering more questions correctly than students at comparable schools, but they still lag behind the district average.

For example, at Sherman School of Excellence—an elementary school that was turned over to the privately run AUSL in 2006—ISAT results improved from having only 28.9 percent of students meeting standards to 59.6 percent of students meeting standards—a dramatic increase. But the Consortium findings indicate that student scores at Sherman grew only slightly more than at other low-performing schools in the district that were not the target of turnaround efforts.

The nominal gains shown in the Consortium report are promising, district officials said. But opponents of the school district’s turnaround program and the move toward charter schools have lambasted the findings as proof that turnaround schools, the recipients of millions in additional CPS money, are not a cost-effective measure for improving schools.

The study was supported by the Institute of Education Statistics, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, but at the last minute, IES Commissioner Rebecca Maynard decided not to endorse it. The report “attempted to answer more complex questions than was warranted given the available data,” Maynard wrote in an e-mail to the Chicago News Cooperative.

Since the study was released, public discussion of its results have focused attention on the close connection between the Consortium and CPS. The Consortium has long relied on CPS to provide student-level data for its research, and Tim Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, serves as an advisor to both the Consortium and Emanuel.

Tribune: CTU, community members ask court to stop school closings and turnarounds

February 10, 2012

With an assist from the Chicago Teachers Union, local school council members from nine city schools are asking a Cook County judge to block Chicago Public Schools from closing or "turning around" 17 underperforming schools this year.

[Video by Kenzo Shibata -- CTU]

Union attorneys, working on behalf of the community members, filed for injunctive relief Thursday, asking the court to intervene in the closings process. That may not occur before the Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on the issue Feb. 22, union officials said. But the board vote will have no bearing on the legal aspects of the case, said union attorney Tom Geoghegan.

"We're seeking injunctive relief from the actions, not the vote," he said.

Click here to continue reading.

At a tense rally Thursday in the lobby of CPS headquarters, union officials said the district violated state law in its selection and pursuit of school closings and turnarounds, particularly on the city's South Side. The union and several community leaders say the district's closing and turnaround policies are discriminatory and have disproportionately affected low-income African-American students.

Geoghegan said the Illinois School Code requires CPS to work with local school councils, which include elected representatives from the community, to improve learning conditions at struggling schools targeted for closing or for turnaround, a process in which the district replaces school leadership and staff. Geoghegan said that was not done in this case, despite repeated attempts by council members to reach out to CPS.

CTU Endorses 52 Candidates in the March Illinois Primary Races

February 10, 2012

Fifty-two candidates who pledged to work with teachers, parents and school leaders to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve have been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).  The Union’s endorsement was made official Wednesday following an overwhelming vote of its House of Delegates.

“We need strong legislators who support our vision for public education; those that will work with teachers, paraprofessionals, parents and community members to make sure every neighborhood school offers our children the education they deserve,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis.

Added Stacy Davis Gates, CTU’s political director, “Our delegates carefully considered the options and made each endorsement in a democratic way.  This primary season we reduced the number of races we would focus on to ensure we would be able to provide our endorsed candidates with targeted assistance and resources.  We want our endorsed candidates to fully benefit from our 30,000 members’ support.”

CTU’s 2012 Primary Election Endorsements

Illinois Senate
  1.  Antonio Munoz (D)
  2.  William Delgado (D)
  3.  Mattie Hunter (D)
  4.  Kimberly Lightford (D)
  5.  Annazette Collins (D)
  6.  John Cullerton (D)
  8   Ira Silverstein (D)
  9.  Daniel Biss (D)
10.  John Mulroe (D)
11.  Martin Sandoval (D)
12.  Steve Landek (D)
13.  Kwame Raoul (D)
15.  Napoleon Harris (D)
16.  Jacqueline Collins (D)
17.  Donne Trotter (D)
18.  Bill Cunningham (D)
20.  Iris Martinez (D)
28.  Dan Kotowski (D)
39.  Don Harmon (D)

Illinois House of Representatives
  1.  Daniel Burke (D)
  3.  Luis Arroyo (D)
  4.  Cynthia Soto (D)
  5.  Kenneth Dunkin (D)
  6.  Esther Golar (D)
  8.  LaShawn Ford (D)
  9.  Arthur Turner (D)
10.  Derrick Smith (D)
11.  Ann Williams (D)
12.  Sara Feigenholtz (D)
13.  Gregory Harris (D)
15.  John D’Amico (D)
16.  Lou Lang (D)
17.  Laura Fine (D)
18.  Robyn Gabel (D)
19.  Robert Martwick (D)
21.  Rudy Lozano (D)
22.  Michael Madigan (D)
24.  Lisa Hernandez (D)
25.  Barbara Currie (D)
26.  Kenny Johnson (D)
27.  Monique Davis (D)
29.  Thaddeus Jones (D)
30.  Will Davis (D)
31.  Mary Flowers (D)
33.  Marlow Colvin (D)
34.  Elgie Sims (D)
35.  Frances Ann Hurley (D)
38.  Al Riley (D)
39.  Will Guzzardi (D)
78.  Camille Lilly (D)

1st Supreme (Fitzgerald) Joy Virginia Cunningham (D)
Cook County Circuit Court Deidre Baumann

Press Release: CTU files charges on behalf of Black School Teachers Unfairly Laid Off by the Board of Education

February 08, 2012

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union and four tenured teachers today filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that the Board’s 2011 layoff policy has had a disparate impact on black teachers.

In the 2011 school year, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employed 16,716 tenured teachers, of which 47 percent were Caucasian and 29 percent were African American. However, of the tenured teachers affected by the 2011 layoffs, 43 percent were black, 36 percent were white and 21 percent were other minorities. 

“The Board’s lay off policy has had a systemic, class-wide, disparate impact on African American teachers,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “We believe this policy violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and should be prosecuted by the EEOC.”

Though the EEOC charges were filed by teachers Terri Fells, Phyllis Carter, Lillian Edmonds and Josephine Perry, the case seeks restitution for 365 other African American teachers who were laid off pursuant to the Board’s 2011 layoff policy.  

“This unjust lay-off has been the source of much distress for my family. We are at-risk of losing our home and are now trying to obtain means of retaining it. The unavailability of funds has resulted in dire distress and the necessity to procure loans to meet each month’s expenses for our family of four,” Fells said in her EEOC charge.

Fells, was laid-off from Alonzo Stagg Elementary after 28 years of CPS employment, due to a reduction in staff.  With 30 years total teaching experience, a M.S. degree in Curriculum and Instruction/ Early Childhood Education and an endorsement in French, there were many teachers with fewer credentials that should have been chosen to be laid-off.

Carter, a CPS teacher for nine years, was laid off from Miles Davis Magnet due to what the Board called a “reallocation of funds.” Edmonds, a teacher for 18 years, was laid off despite being the most experienced teacher at Henderson Elementary School.  Similarly, Perry worked at CPS for 18 years. She too was laid off from Henry O. Tanner Elementary after the Board declared her position closed due to a “reallocation of funds.”

In addition to the racial disparity in the teacher layoffs, there are disparities regarding the schools from which teachers were laid off. The 930 school-based teachers laid off at the end of the 2010/2011 school year are 4.4 percent of teachers working in schools. However, these layoffs were twice as likely to occur at schools with greater than average concentrations of low-income students or African American students.

The four teachers and the CTU are being represented by Robin Potter & Associates.

Media Advisory: CTU, Parents, LSC Members to file civil rights lawsuit to stop CPS from closings, turning around neighborhood schools

February 08, 2012

Thursday, 11 a.m. news conference planned at the Board of Education


WHO: Officers of the Chicago Teachers Union; Local School Council officials and parents from schools targeted by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for closing, turnaround or phase-out, attorneys, clergy, community leaders and others

WHAT: Will conduct a news conference to announce the filing of a significant lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to stop the Board’s Feb. 22nd approval and implementation of CPS’ plan to close or “turn around” various neighborhood schools.  The suit alleges CPS has violated Illinois School Code; and has violated the civil rights of the plaintiffs under the Illinois Civil Rights Action of 2003 because the proposed actions disproportionately target African American student populations.


WHEN: Thursday, February 9, 2012, 11:00 a.m.


WHERE: Chicago Board of Education/Main Lobby, 125 S. Clark, Chicago


WHY: CPS CEO Jean Claude Brizard and the Board have failed to work with LSC members, parents and other community stakeholders to improve the performance of schools and have also refused to provide adequate funding to help strengthen those campuses. For several weeks, hundreds of parents, teachers, students and community leaders have pleaded with CPS and the Board to give them the resources needed to save their schools from closure or the District’s drastic turnaround model.

A copy of the filed lawsuit will be released on Thursday.

Celebrate African-American History Month in the Classroom

February 08, 2012

In 1926, pioneering American historian Carter G. Woodson first established a weejk to commemorate the achievements and contributions of African-Americans in the U.S. and around the world. President Gerald Ford expanded the event in 1976, designating the month of February each year as a time to celebrate and reflect on the roles of African-Americans in history – and today.

The American Federation of Teachers has identified a variety of resources to help educators celebrate African-American History Month (also known as Black History Month) in their classrooms. Visit the AFT Web site for links to resources that highlight key historical events, influential African-Americans, the AFT’s role in the struggle for civil rights and more.
Additional helpful resources for educators may also be found at the links below.
CNN Black History Month Learning Activities 
Smithsonian Education
U.S. Census Bureau 
National Endowment for the Humanities 
Library of Congress


CBS Chicago: Dozens Of Complaints Filed Against Pilsen Principal

February 08, 2012

Click here for the original post. 

CHICAGO (CBS) – Allegations were coming to light on Tuesday against the principal of a Chicago public school in the Pilsen neighborhood.

As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, Josiah Pickard Elementary School principal Rigo Hernandez has been in charge for five years, during which time dozens of complaints have been filed against him.

Hernandez was eager to talk about the allegations and defend himself against those complaints on Tuesday, but when he arrived at school Tuesday morning, he said his bosses wouldn’t let him discuss the matter publicly.

The teachers who made the allegations and the Chicago Teachers Union, however, had plenty to say.

Some teachers, past and present, have painted an ugly picture of what happens inside the school.

“He was ranting about something and then made a threat to us that, if we went to his supervisor, he was going to cut our throats,” teacher Marlene Chavez said.

Chavez has filed several grievances and complaints with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board against Hernandez.

She’s not alone. According to the Chicago Teachers Union, 31 grievances have been filed against Hernandez since 2008.

“Allegations of threats of physical violence; we have assaults and batteries,” said CTU representative John Kugler.

He also said there are allegations of sexual harassment.

“He tends to make sexual comments about teachers’ cleavage, or their hips. He rates teachers,” Chavez said. “Who’s pretty, who has nice hips.”

She said the harassment makes her apprehensive every day when she heads to work.

“It’s really scary, because I don’t know if he’s going to come out of his office and scream at me, yell at me,” she added.

It’s a fear shared by some of Chavez’s former colleagues.

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was difficult working for Hernandez.

“I wasn’t sure from one day to another if he was going to yell at me,” she said.

When asked if it’s normal for a principal to have the volume of complaints Hernandez has, Kugler replied “Absolutely not.”

CPS officials would only confirm investigating one allegation against Hernandez, and would not say which one.

In a statement CPS said “Chicago Public Schools takes every claim of unsafe and unfair workplace practices seriously and, when appropriate, thoroughly investigates them. We are committed to ensuring fairness and equity for all staff members so that every employee can work in a safe and secure environment. In the case of the allegation against Mr. Hernandez, our investigation found that the allegation was not substantiated by the evidence. Mr. Hernandez met the conditions specified in the resolution and no further action was necessary.”

As for Hernandez, he denied any wrongdoing and, in his words, Chavez is “just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.”

Chavez, who until recently was the union delegate at the school, said Hernandez is trying to fire her because of her complaints. Hernandez said it’s because her work is unsatisfactory.

Parents and Educators Pack Marquette Hearing to Oppose Turnaround

February 08, 2012

On February 2, 2012 Educators, parents, and students packed the Chicago Board of Education headquarters at 125 S. Clark to

demand that CPS reconsider its plan to turnaround Marquette Elementary School (6550 S. Richmond). This was the public hearing for the Marquette turnaround proposal. Turnaround is a program where every employee in a school building is fired and the school’s management is turned over to a private vendor. In this case, the vendor is the politically connected Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).

Over the course of the two-hour meeting, only two speakers spoke in favor of the turnaround. They left abruptly after the meeting and refused to identify where they were from, leading some to attendees to believe they were paid for their time. When CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter gave his testimony at the hearing, he has asked the audience -- almost entirely comprised of members of the Marquette School community -- if they knew who they were and they replied with a resounding, “no.” One activist mentioned that he had seen one of the speakers at another school action hearing earlier in the week.

Marquette has suffered a barrage of Board of Education mandates over the past few years that have led many to believe the school has been sabotaged  to make a case for the school to be turned around.

Speaker after speaker explained to the hearing officer and Board of Education proxies why they should let Marquette School community continue its own program to fix the school, which has already made gains.

Parent Marisol Jimenez said that since the announcement of the turnaround, the school has been given fewer resources. She stated via translator that CPS, “says there’s no money and then [with the turnaround], it appears.”

Marquette’s Parent Advisory Council Chair and alumnus Antonia Hernandez explained her dismay at the decision toturnaround the school. She thanked her Marquette teachers for inspiring her to graduate high school and college. She asked, “Why do you want to experiment on our children? Why weren’t [the parents asked if they wanted the turnaround] before the proposal was announced?” In tears, she explained that she didn’t know how she would explain to her daughter that her teachers might not be at the school next year.

John Simmons of Strategic Learning Initiatives (SLI) explained that if the Board gave Marquette the resources that would have gone into the AUSL turnaround and kept the existing staff, SLI could be used to improve scores and change the school culture.

In her testimony, 20-year veteran Marquette teacher and CTU delegate Marcy Hardaloupas blamed Chicago politics as the reason CPS is so insistent on turning the school over to AUSL, “The mayor appointed AUSL’s David Vitale and Tim Cawley to the Board of Education. Isn’t that a conflict of interest, or is it politics and usual?” 


An Open Letter to the Longer Day Committee

February 07, 2012

Download this petition for staff, parents and community members of your school to demand true participation in decision-making and a better school day, not just a longer one. Click here to download the petition in Spanish. 

Commentary: Every Worker Deserves Sick Days

February 07, 2012

Click here for the original link and to comment.

This weekend, I felt like I had the same conversation every 15 minutes regarding the Chicago Sun-Times and Better Government Association report on CPS employee unused sick days. Knowing that I was a teacher, over and over again, many of my friends and acquaintances told me, "You know, in the private sector, we don't get to roll over our sick days like teachers do."

One problem is that the coverage of this report made the policy seem like it leads to huge windfalls for teachers, which is false. The large payouts highlighted went to administrators. Another problem is more societal; we tend to aim for the lowest common denominator in what we consider proper working conditions.

The CPS sick day policy is quite simple: each year teachers receive 10 sick days. We are discouraged from using them all. Despite the fact we work in an environment that exposes us to colds and flu daily, too many absences can be used against a teacher during a performance evaluation.

When a teacher calls in sick, unlike most jobs, a replacement must be hired for the day, representing an immediate cost to the district. When an employee chooses to roll over the sick day, the district does not have to pay a substitute teacher for the day. The district has the opportunity to invest the money that would have otherwise been used to pay for a sub.

CPS employees have no coverage for catastrophic illness or maternity/paternity leave. The Board of Education and Chicago Teachers Union negotiated a plan where teachers can use banked sick days for that purpose. Many teachers will donate banked sick days to coworkers who are out with a catastrophic illness and have run out of sick days.

It was a plan that made sense. It may not be what others receive, but it was a plan that took in account all scenarios.

Most people understood my point but maintained, "That's not how it is in the private sector."

The use of the term "private sector" is disingenuous. "Private sector" includes everyone who doesn't work for a public entity. Technically, the CEOs who pilfered from their clients, took a public bailout, crashed the economy and rode out golden parachutes were "members of the private sector." Unlike school administrators, the media do not cite them as examples when documenting the abuses in the private sector.

When someone attacks me for the $14,000 I may receive for banked sick days after 20 years of service (or when I reach age 65), should I remind them that General Electric CEO John Welch received over $417 million on his way out? That is "how things are in the private sector."

Let's look at how life is for the rank-and-file workers in the private sector. Let's use Mr. Welch's employees as an example. Mr. Welch laid off thousands of them under his tenure as a means of gaming the market and increasing G.E.'s stock values. Despite billions in government contracts, G.E. paid no taxes in 2010.

Is this the "private sector" model that we should look to as the gold standard for running an organization?

Private-sector workers should not tear down teachers, police and firefighters for some of the benefits received for having fought collectively. They need to organize and demand a fair wage and benefits in their workplaces.

There's money in the private sector, they are just are not getting any of it.

The Republic Windows workers in Chicago showed what can be done in the private sector in the face of corruption and mismanagement. The owners abruptly closed the plant and announced that workers would not receive severance pay and purchased a non-union plant in Iowa to replace the workers. The Republic Windows workers did not allow this to happen. They occupied their plant for nearly a week, forcing Bank of America to negotiate a loan with management to fund their severance.

This fight grabbed national headlines and a new owner bought the company, promising jobs to the laid-off Republic workers.

The Republic Windows workers did not accept this abuse and point a finger at the public workers. They put their differences aside, they organized, and they won.

Let's use their example as the gold standard.

Republic Windows workers in the news:

Substance News: Tilden hearing shows CPS policy is to sabotage schools before 'Turnaround'

February 06, 2012

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Illinois State Representative Esther Golar (D-6th) member of the Chicago Facilities Task Force (CEFTF) warned Chicago Public Schools that the “Fight is On!” She was rebuking Hearing officer Fred Bates during the public hearing held on a Friday night 7:30pm February 3, 2012 at Chicago Board of Education headquarters in downtown, regarding the plan to "turnaround" Tilden High School on Chicago’s South Side. In a dramatic five-minute speech, Rep. Golar first challenges the hearing officer's version of reality, then goes on to describe the impact of CPS sabotage on Tilden over the years. 

Illinois State Rep. Esther Golar speaking at the February 3, 2012 hearing on the proposed "turnaround" of Tilden High School. Substance photo by John Kugler.As the last speaker of the night, Representative Golar had a chance to set the record straight in regards to prior testimony that evening, summed up the feelings of the community and gave a sharp warning to the Board of Education that “We are in the process of putting a moratorium on these school actions, our prior speaker is right, what is happening here is unjust.” She waited patiently during an interruption by hearing officer Fred Bates, who tried to imply that the lack of people at the hearing was some kind of indication that Tilden did not have widespread community support against turnaround. Rep. Golar instead told Bates that the fact that CPS was holding the hearing on a Friday night in winter might have had something to do with it. She then proceeded to discuss her longstanding relationship to Tilden and her views on the proposed turnaround.

One of the loopholes that CPS used with the "turnaround hearings was to deny the hearings in the community that are required under the law for schools facing closing, phase out, and other pure "facilities" decisions. CPS attorneys took the position that since "turnaround" is not about closing the facilitiy, no community hearings were necessary. As a result, the only hearings for the ten schools facing turnaround were held between January 30 and February 3, all downtown at CPS headquarters, and five of them lasting until after 10:00 p.m. on weeknights when working people and school children faced a long trip home and then an early rise.

Representative Golar’s comment referenced the testimony of this reporter (John Kugler), who put the hearing Officer on notice, that the hearings themselves were disenfranchising the community members and violated the law. Public Act 97-474 outlines and mandates the procedures for closing or making changes to public schools in Chicago. On January 12, 2012 the Chicago Facilities Task Force (CEFTF) voted 9-to-1 that the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has violated the law in how it was holding hearings on closing and turning around public schools in the city of Chicago. In earlier testimony, Hearing Officer Bates had a back and forth exchange with Dr. Kugler regarding the semantics of schools being closed or turned around and what the law applied to.

Representative Golar made it clear that CPS did violate Public Act 97-474 and there now would be consequences for this lawlessness. One such action is the push to pass Illinois House Bill HB4487 that Amends the Chicago School District Article of the School Code which would provide that there be a moratorium on school closings, consolidations, and phase-outs in the school district in the 2012-2013 school year.

There was also another plan announced by Representative Golar to make changes to Illinois Senate Bill 630 “…because things don’t seem to be working with CPS.” SB630 has direct consequences on how much power the Chicago Board of Education has to make its decisions.

Representative Golar went on to testify that she has direct knowledge of the sabotage of Tilden High School by the Board of Education. She finished by directly telling CPS officials that the Chicago Facilities Task Force “will continue to put pressure on CPS to do the right thing for our students in this city. We are 410,000 students in public education and I think that CPS is now on a trend to actually abolish public education. So tonight you can put it on record that we will continue to fight. We are against all of the school actions that are taking place across the city in regards to what is happening this evening. Thank you for your time, look forward and stay tuned because the fight is on.”

Turnaround is the policy that fires all the staff in a school — including the lunch ladies and security guards — because of low test scores. The staff is then hired by a private management contractor in this case it would be Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) a clout heavy crony contractor with direct ties to Rahm Emanuel and sitting members on the Board of Education. Turnaround policy has also been cited as one of the factors that lead to the murder of Derrion Albert on September 24, 2009 from Fenger High School a turnaround school. 

BGA's report on 'unused' sick days unfairly characterizes teachers and paraprofessionals

February 03, 2012

The Better Government Association (BGA) report on unused sick day pay offs unfairly characterizes teachers and paraprofessionals as abusing the system.   It is not an abuse.  Teachers are given only 10 sick days per year.  They are not paid for maternity leave and therefore must either accumulate unused sick days or schedule their births during the summer.  Our members only become eligible for this benefit if they work 20 or more years or reach age 65; and, most of them do not get the huge payouts that the top Board officials have received.

It should also be noted that teachers and paraprofessionals who get this ‘deferred compensation,’ are the ones who do all they can to never miss a day of work.  These are the same professionals who come early, stay late and are now being asked to work even longer hours, while their benefits and pensions are under attack.

This policy has existed since 1968.  In the 1980s sick day accumulation was used by the Board of Education as a way of deferring compensation, and was eventually given to teachers and other professional staff in lieu of raises.  

The BGA report puts teachers in a Catch 22—if they use too many sick days they are given low ratings for bad attendance and if they accumulate too many they are falsely characterized as ‘greedy’ and ‘abusing the system.’  You can’t have it both ways.   The Chicago Teachers Union would be very hesitant to change the current system unless there’s some other way to ensure that people who work in our schools can receive paid maternity leave or those who need a surgery can take care of their health without worrying how they will pay their bills.

Media Watch: Senator Martinez sets the record straight on the real concerns with CPS closure plans

February 03, 2012

From the Illinois State Democrats webpage:

The Tribune’s Editorial, “Don’t Protect Failing Schools,” telling lawmakers not to “meddle” in the future of our public schools is astonishingly uninformed about the General Assembly’s Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force and the reform law that Chicago Public Schools has yet to live up to. To be clear, no Chicago legislator serving in the General Assembly – especially not the legislators and other appointees to the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force—are defending the collective failure of so many of Chicago’s schools. Ironically, it was the public outcry to improve all of our public schools that led to the creation of the Task Force. The reforms which are now the law grew out of a year-long process of deliberations at dozens of meetings, input from focus groups and hearings, analysis of CPS’ own data, and a study of national best practices. The Task Force and the public put thousands of hours of work into identifying constructive reform proposals, precisely to ensure that all schools improve.

To characterize “lawmakers in Springfield” as “meddlers” in what “rightly” should be local decisions exposes the Tribune’s fundamental lack of understanding of the General Assembly’s state constitutional obligations to ensure high quality educational opportunities for all our State’s children. It is also a factually inaccurate characterization of the people who are involved.

The Tribune would like the public to think that the legislators on the Task Force are outside intruders in our Chicago Public Schools. The reality is that 11 of the 15 seats on the Task Force are filled by Chicagoans, 4 of whom are elected representatives of Chicagoans. We live and spend the vast majority of our time in Chicago, not in Springfield. Most of us graduated from public schools. We visit the public schools in our Districts; meet with our local principals; and frequently get calls from the teachers, parents, and community groups “on the ground” in our schools, striving to improve them each and every day. We all support expanded funding for education. We documented and publicized the uncomfortable finding that Illinois ranks near the bottom of all states in school facility investment, and recommend increasing it.

Then there are the non-legislators on the Task Force: Does the Tribune regard the 4 non-profit organizations-the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, two community-based organizations deeply involved in their local public schools, and a non-profit that’s worked in Chicago’s public schools for over 30 years—as meddlers and Springfield carpetbaggers? Does the Tribune know that the CTU, the Chicago Principals & Administrators’ Association, and CPS itself are all represented on the Task Force, and have been actively engaged since its inception in 2010? The truth is that the CEFTF reflects and represents the wide spectrum of stakeholders in public education.

The Tribune moreover is clearly uninformed about the reforms passed in the 97th General Assembly (P.A. 97-0474, formerly SB 630). Thus far, CPS has complied with formalities required by the law, but not with the letter or intent of the law. While we praise their efforts thus far, CPS has a lot of work to do to ensure that School Actions occur in an equitable manner and that students’ needs will be met.

A few examples: CPS’ new School Action Guidelines were supposed to establish transparent criteria for determining when a school may be subject to an action. Instead, they are vague, one-size fits all, and non-specific; and sweeping in their reach. CPS did not make a single revision even after public comments and Task Force recommendations were provided, to clarify, quantify and improve them to meet the standard set by the law.

The law requires CPS to maximize public input from each local school in facility-related decisions. But consider the case of Guggenheim, where the public hearing process was nearly pre-empted by an Acting Principal (in place only a few days) over the Winter Recess, who tried to convince parents that the school would close in February. The Acting Principal even discouraged them from having their students return for classes on Jan. 9th, and instead urged them to transfer their children mid-year before the building was shuttered. Parents produced CPS transfer forms they hadn’t requested, already filled out with their student’s name. All this occurred before the public hearings were held. Did the Acting Principal act on his own to convince parents that Guggenheim’s closing was a “done deal”? Perhaps; but CPS is responsible and obligated by law, to carry out the public hearings and maximize local input in the process. After Guggenheim parents complained to members of the Task Force, CPS did intervene and later said it was all an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Clearly CPS could do more to maximize local input. For example, in holding hearings for each proposed School Action, CPS chose to hold 2 of 3 public hearings away from the affected schools; the third was held at CPS’ Central Office. CPS held none of hearings at the proposed Receiving Schools. CPS has not met with the schools that are proposing alternative self-improvement plans. It has even ignored input from “Community Action Councils,” regional planning groups that CPS set up a year ago. CACs presented their school improvement proposals to Mr. Brizard in person last Fall. But the “CACs” are still awaiting his response.

Then there’s the emerging potential scandal that some avowed supporters of CPS’ plans had to pay people with no students or stake in these schools to come to the public hearings. It doesn’t matter who ultimately is culpable for this travesty, the public hearing process now has a terrible cloud hanging over it. While we may never know exactly where the cash to fund these efforts came from, what’s important is that someone was systematically striving to manipulate the outcome of a legally required public participation process.

The Tribune’s characterization of the people asking questions is just wrong. Parents and educators are not blinded by some irrational passion to protect failing neighborhood schools. The parents who are asking questions have the most to gain or lose and they all want better schools for their children. The parents and educators from the schools facing Actions or Turn-Arounds are the first to tell you they need help to succeed and change the direction of their performance. They will also tell you that for years, and yes, even now, help has not arrived.

The Tribune dismisses the idea that CPS could work with the struggling schools and “flood” them with new programs and resources. But why not? Educators and parents have testified there hasn’t even been a trickle to these schools in all the years they’ve been on academic probation. Schools chosen for Actions and Turn-Arounds have shown the CEFTF that CPS has taken away resources and programs from their schools, making their plight worse rather than better. CPS has not provided any hard evidence to the contrary. Yet CPS immediately found $20 Million for proposed Turn-Arounds in its cash-strapped budget, while making no such dollar-specific commitment for schools proposed for Actions or Receiving Schools.

The CEFTF has pointed out CPS failed the new law’s requirement to write evidence-based transparent School Action Guidelines. CPS was to consider its past actions, examine non-academic factors such as student safety, school climate, and current school leadership. CPS provided no data, evidence or analysis for any non-academic criteria. They are mentioned in passing in a single sentence in the Guidelines. CPS has yet to specify what criteria, data, and evidence it considered in selecting these particular schools, for these particular changes. Over 200 struggling schools could have met CPS’ new School Action criteria, and for any type of School Action. Parents and educators are not being unreasonable, given the law’s requirements for transparency, when they ask, “Why these schools now, and not some of the others?” CPS’ own data on school performance shows scores of schools performing as poorly as or even worse than the schools selected. Is this evidence-based, transparent decision making? The law says it is not. But the Tribune calls it a “careful process”.

We all recognize the reality that nearly one in three CPS students attends underperforming schools. But the reality is also that such failure isn’t a matter of stubborn refusal to acknowledge problems, or whole school communities that just don’t want to improve their schools. CPS placed these schools on academic probation, then cut their programs, staff, and resources. Where is the CPS’ data and money trail showing what resources CPS has provided to low-income, predominantly Minority schools to move off probation? CPS’ new Administration has not produced the data, and now isn’t even sure if it has the information. Let that sink in.

Let’s move forward together. CPS must follow the law. The Task Force stands ready to work with them to achieve that. In the meantime, the students, families, educators, and communities directly affected by what the Board of Education decides on February 22nd have every right to a robust dialogue, and opportunities to be heard and supported if and when they propose viable solutions for themselves. If CPS does not have the evidence to back their proposed Actions and “nuclear options,” then maybe it is time to consider a pause so CPS can do its homework, and work with these schools on local improvement strategies the schools propose and will embrace.

CTU applauds pro-teacher legislation; calls lawmakers ‘courageous’ for stance on school closings, class size, and fiscal responsibility

February 02, 2012

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) applauds state lawmakers who, this week, introduced critical pieces of legislation that will benefit thousands of educators, students and taxpayers if turned into law.  The proposals could put a halt to the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) plan to shut down, consolidate or turnaround several neighborhood schools; increase fiscal accountability within the district; and, would significantly reduce swelling class sizes in many elementary and high school classrooms.

“The 30,000 CTU members commend the work of Illinois Representatives Cynthia Soto (4th ),  Marlow Colvin (IL-33rd) and Luis Arroyo (IL-3rd) for joining the fight for education justice in our Chicago,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “All of our students deserve access to high-quality neighborhood schools that offer them a comprehensive, well-rounded curriculum.  These courageous lawmakers are standing up for the families and communities of more than 400,000 public school students in our district.

“These bills come at a time when teachers, paraprofessionals and school leaders are under tremendous assault by anti-public education and anti-labor forces that have used the law and media to attack our profession, our pensions and our schools,” Lewis said.  “We implore the General Assembly to do what is in the best interest of Illinois taxpayers and act judiciously to ensure these bills become law and the moratorium on school actions is enforced.”


CTU Political Director Stacy Davis-Gates explained that the Union’s efforts in Springfield are designed to illustrate through policy our commitment to sound, research-based educational practices that impact students and educators. “Too many times policy is created without the benefit of the practical classroom knowledge of teachers and those who work in our schools,” she said. “Our policy, this session, will emphasize the small “r” reforms that often go unheralded but have sound success in promoting student achievement.  These initiatives will go a long way in narrowing the achievement gap, boosting the graduation rate, and keeping the District accountable to taxpayers.  These are reforms that work.”

Teachers across the nation have increasingly become more active as the coordinated national assault on their unions, benefits, and profession escalate. In Chicago, more than 400 CTU delegates voted to support a slate of “pro teacher/pro public education candidates” seeking office in Illinois’ upcoming primary election.  Thousands vowed to increase their lobbying efforts in order to educate lawmakers about their fight for education justice.

“This year could bring one of the greatest assaults on teacher unions in recent times with Chicago serving as the testing ground,” said Lewis. “We’ve already seen aggressive moves from the Board of Education and the Emanuel administration on our collective bargaining rights and our benefits.  A teacher’s pension or 4 percent cost of living increase is not the reason why a school is under resourced or doesn’t have a library or air conditioning.  When the district will not reason, we need laws that protect students from more of their harmful, failed policies that have stymied public education in Chicago for years.”


Stop CPS School Actions -HB4487 (Rep. Soto): Amends the Chicago School District Article of the Illinois School Code. Provides that there shall be a moratorium on school closings, consolidations, and phase-outs in the school district in the 2012-2013 school year. Provides that any of these actions that are subsequently appropriate must be carried out no sooner than the end of the 2013-2014 school year, subject to any new set of requirements adopted by the General Assembly.

During this moratorium period, the bill requires the district to establish polices that address and remedy the academic performance of schools in which Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) scores reflect students performing at or below 75%. Requires these policies to establish clear criteria, or processes for establishing criteria, for making school facility decisions and include clear criteria for setting priorities with respect to school openings, school closings, school consolidations, school turnarounds, school phase-outs, school construction, school repairs, school modernizations, school boundary changes, and other related school facility decisions, including the encouragement of multiple community uses for school space. Effective immediately.

Smaller Class Sizes - HB4455 (Rep. Colvin): Amends the Chicago School District Article of the Illinois School Code. Provides that each year, on or before the September fall enrollment count, (1) the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher who is teaching courses in public school classrooms for prekindergarten through grade 3 may not exceed 18 students; (2) the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher who is teaching courses in public school classrooms for grades 4 through 8 may not exceed 22 students; and the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher who is teaching courses in public school classrooms for grades 9 through 12 may not exceed 25 students, which maximums must be maintained after the September fall enrollment count. Sets forth exceptions. Requires the State Board of Education to annually calculate class size measures based upon the September fall enrollment count.

Greater CPS Accountability -HB3871 (Rep. Arroyo): Amends the Illinois School Code. Provides that any school district receiving a block grant under the provision concerning block grant funding for districts with more than 500,000 inhabitants shall be required to testify every year before the General Assembly regarding their overall annual budget and their budget request to the General Assembly for the following fiscal year. Provides that the testimony shall include plans to build or repair schools and to close or consolidate schools.

CTU: New Schools Chief Owes Chicago’s Children an Apology

by Sarah Hainds  |  February 01, 2012

Dear Editor:

This weekend, CPS played a vital role in promoting the 5th annual New Schools Expo at Soldier Field. The purpose of the expo is to help parents navigate the complicated process of trying to get their children enrolled in “new” schools, although half of the schools that had booths are over ten years old.

It is clear, CPS does not want to promote enrollment at our neighborhood schools anymore and supports private programs that creep toward the privatization. New Schools for Chicago (NSC) Chief Executive Officer Phyllis Lockett told the Chicago Sun-Times, a student who cannot get into magnet or charter school is “unfortunate” and “relegated to a neighborhood school.” [NSC (formerly the Renaissance School Fund) was started by wealthy members of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club about 10 years ago with the purpose of raising money to help CPS fulfill its vision of 100 new schools through the Renaissance 2010 initiative.]

Ms. Lockett owes the children of Chicago’s neighborhood schools an apology. She knows more than anyone how many resources have been drained from the schools on the West Side and South Side of Chicago because of the proliferation and promotion of charter and contract schools.

The amount of time and energy spent on promoting the one-day school expo alone is just a glimpse into the tremendous disparity in funding and resources that these “new” schools get compared to neighborhood schools. Imagine where our schools could be today if only the New Schools Fund had spent its resources on our neighborhood schools.

And, why do we even need an expo if each of these new schools supposedly has a long waiting list? Why is CPS teasing parents by showing them what they can’t have; and that can’t be ethical or moral.

A public school loses enrollment due to housing and economic factors that push families out of the neighborhood while the school’s attendance boundary continues to limit who is allowed to enroll and aggressively marketed charter schools open nearby. CPS then blames the low-enrollment on the fact that “parents are voting with their feet.”

Our low-performing technical and career high schools no longer have technical and career programs – why would students choose to attend them when instead they can go to the “Bulls” high school academy or to a “college prep” high school, complete with bells and whistles but in the end fare no better than the school they just left?

Sarah Hainds
Chicago Teachers Union

CTU, Grassroots Allies Win Round in Fight to End Chicago's Habit of Shortchanging Neighborhood Schools

February 01, 2012

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement about three corporations that recently refused more than $33 million in tax breaks after a summer-long campaign to expose the misuse of City Hall’s tax increment financing (TIF) program:

“For months now, the CTU, Stand Up Chicago and the Grassroots Collaborative have engaged in a coordinated campaign to educate the public about how TIFs shortchange our neighborhood schools and enrich some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “For far too long these tax revenues have been diverted from struggling neighborhood schools to subsidize private development while 87 percent of public school students are in poverty.

“We are pleased CME Group, CNA and Bank of America finally decided to do the right thing,” she said. “That money can now be re-directed into neighborhood schools where it belongs. This decision is a result of the tremendous pressure from organized labor and our grassroots allies who are engaged in a protracted fight for education justice in our city. We encourage the City to reform its TIF program; so that it becomes one that serves Chicago’s school children and enriches the lives of those who live in economically challenged communities.

“We call on the mayor to return those dollars to those who need them most.”

Chicago Teachers Union