Archives for category: Chicago

This is incomprehensible. Mike Klonsky reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is cutting the budget for special education.

The city and the public schools are in a deep hole, financially.

But the budget can’t be balanced by firing teachers and aides for children with special needs, for two reasons. First, because it is morally wrong to make savings by taking away teachers from the neediest children. Second, because children with disabilities are protected by federal law. As Klonsky says, parents will file lawsuits, and the law is on their side.

Why not raise taxes on the 1%?

This is one of the enduring questions of our age. Arne Duncan attended the University of Chicago Lab School and so do his children, as well as the children of Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel. When he was tapped to be CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, why didn’t he strive to make public schools as rich in curriculum and opportunities as the Lab School? Why didn’t he take what he knew and experienced and carry that knowledge to the U.S. Department of Education? That would have been not just “reform,” it would have been revolutionary.

I earlier posted this article on a Chicago blog about Arne’s decision to send his children to the Lab School. This is a decision that I do not criticize, by the way, as I think parents should choose any school they wish, as long as they are willing to pay the price for a non-public education. But I do wish that Arne had applied or at least tried to apply the Lab School principles to his “reform” agenda.

A reader who followed the comments pointed this one out to me:

“Arne Duncan is a tool, and has been from the
beginning when he was appointed here.

“I don’t know if the Lab School has a legacy
program, but this is the same school from
which (Duncan) graduated. He was appointed
at the time I was still director of the City
Council’s Legislative Reference Bureau, and
I made it a point to meet him in the
hallway before his appointment hearing.

“As I shook his hand, I said I’m glad that,
since he was a Lab School graduate, we
finally got someone who has experienced
what good education should be, and there’s
no real reason that schools like the Lab
School can’t be models for real reform.

“He stared at me as though he’d been shot,
and never spoke another word to me again.”

Rahm Emanuel picked an experienced technocrat to lead the Chicago Public Schools, after misfortunes with out-of-town educators J.C. Brizard and Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Catalyst, the Chicago education publication, says that Emanuel is reverting to “the Daley way” by choosing a non-educator, in this case one who is known for cost cutting.

“Today, Emanuel opted for his own chief of staff and the former president of the Chicago Transit Authority, Forrest Claypool — who has no experience in education and says his first priority will be “making the system as efficient as it can possibly be.”

Rahm Emanuel has made clear that he favors charter schools over public schools, as do many of his campaign contributors. So it should come as no surprise that the city plans to cut $60 million from the budget of the public schools while adding $30 million to the charters.

Public schools are losing enrollment. Charters are gaining. This is the result of the Mayor’s decision to close 50 public schools in a day. Mayor Emanuel is whittling away at the public schools. When all the public schools have been privatized, he can claim victory. The hedge fund managers and equity investors no doubt will throw him a party and pledge more for his next campaign. Rahm compares favorably with Scott Walker as a killer of public schools and unions. I doubt that FDR or Harry Truman or JFK would recognize Rahm Emanuel as a Democrat.

Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago, challenges Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim that he could not avoid layoffs and could not fund educators’ pensions.

Not true, writes LaRaviere.

“However — as I understand it — we do not want to stop at just
being functional. We want to be effective. We want to be excellent.

“For that to happen, we need early at-home interventions for preschool-age children from low-income households, smaller student-to-teacher ratios, thoughtful training for teachers, a competitive compensation and benefits package to attract skilled professionals. We need a rich arts curriculum, exceptional educators whose efforts are focused on the children who come to us less prepared than their peers, a rigorous curriculum tailored to local student needs and the thoughtful use of technology in schools.

“The 2013 budget cuts meant that many of our students lost some of those things — the resources that move a school from being functional to being excellent. The 2015 budget cuts will mean that my students — and students across Chicago — will lose even more.

“Politicians frame this as pension payment vs. classroom investment — as if those were the only two expenses our tax dollars are used for and one of them has to be sacrificed. This is patently false. City Hall has had many opportunities for sacrifice in other areas, but it has refused to make those sacrifices.

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a chance to sacrifice the diversion of $55 million in taxes to a hotel near McCormick Place. He could have invested some of that tax increment financing money in the pension system instead.”

LaRaviere lists other savings that were there for the Mayor, but he never asked business to sacrifice. Only the children.

He writes:

“Emanuel says one thing, but his behavior says another. He has put investor profits over investing in our teachers and their classrooms.

“He wants us to get used to that. I will never get used to that.

“And neither should you.”

By the way, the tag line on Principal LaRaviere’s email is: “You can’t put students first if you put teachers last.”

Mike Klonsky updates us on Rahm’s financial hustle. 

Rahm Emanuel, who learned his creative financing tricks, like “scoop and toss” bond financing while working for Bruce Rauner at GTCR, plans to borrow $500M from the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, one day after paying the Fund $634M in overdue required city contributions.

The real cost of this trickery is felt right in the classroom with 1,400 teachers and staff being hit with lay-off notices yesterday.

That is what is called “chutzpah.” He pays the pension contribution, borrows from the teachers’ pension funds, and lays off 1,400 teachers.

Mike Klonsky writes that Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner have brought the city and state to their knees with their austerity budgets.

“Mayor 1% finally made his long overdue payment to the teachers pension fund, but not without extracting his pound of flesh — 1,400 teachers being laid off and another $1B in borrowing, another windfall for his bankster patrons and another attack on the teachers union and teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

“Aside from the hardship the layoffs will bring to the teachers and their children and families, think about what the loss of so many union jobs means to the community and the continuing destruction of the city’s middle class.

“Think also about spiraling class sizes and program cuts in city schools and what that will mean, especially for the neediest of students who need personalization more than ever. It also makes another teachers strike that much more likely.

“By my figuring, 1,400 teacher jobs lost means minimally, about $84 million in yearly taxable income that won’t be spent in neighborhood groceries, auto dealers, hair salons and shoe stores. That translates to hundreds more lay-offs from local businesses, millions more in lost revenue for the city and state and the further pauperization of the community’s working class and small businesses owners.”

“Likewise for our sociopathic billionaire governor who will shut down the state government, with an even greater civic toll, rather than taxing his corporate and LaSalle St. cronies even one penny more on their speculative windfall profits.”

Mike Klonsky writes a post with one of the best titled ever.

He tries to figure out why reformers don’t care about class size. They say there’s no evidence for smaller classes. Well, there is plenty of evidence, but they brush it aside.

It turns they don’t care about evidence. They are not data-driven. They want to take your funding and your schools. They want to save money, but not to spend it on smaller classes.

Mike Klonsky asks why the Chicago Board of Education intends to approve $50 million tonight to build three new Noble charter schools when the district supposedly has a huge budget deficit.

He posts a letter from a teacher at Kennedy High School, a public high school whose basic needs are not met even as the district finds money to build three shiny new charter schools.

The teacher contrasts the struggles and successes at Kennedy with the favoritism shown to Noble charters:

“We have had the highest growth on the ACT in 2012 in both Composite Gains and Meets/Exceeds Increases. We have been recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education for increases in Student Achievement by being placed on their Honor Roll. We have been authorized as an IB Diploma World School. What more can we do to prove that Kennedy is a great general public high school which services all students from low-incidence to IB, and everything in between.

“When Noble Charter students are asked to leave for minor discipline infractions and lack of academic achievement, they come to Kennedy and we educate them. We don’t have the ability to ask students to leave our school for discipline issues, while at the same time having the Student Code of Conduct rewritten to handcuff our abilities to truly discipline students and hold them accountable for their poor behavior.

“We have achieved the most impressive turnaround in student achievement for a general public high school in all of Chicago. We did not do it through a multi-million dollar school improvement grant. We even managed to work through this with a $1.9 million budget shortfall in 2013. We have done this through collaborative effort, blood, sweat and tears at times. When will be the moment when our voices are heard? We were never asked to submit an RFP for capital improvements at Kennedy. We don’t have the opportunity to request additional resources to improve our building.”

The Noble charter network is the favorite of the city’s power elite; it names each school for rich patrons.

Martin Levine writes in the NonProfit Quarterly about the war between charter schools and public schools in Chicago. Two years ago, Mayor Emanuel closed almost 50 public schools, most of which will be replaced by charters.

Levine writes:

“What is happening in Chicago illustrates well the debate going on nationally between those who believe that the solution to our educational challenges lies in creating a more robust educational marketplace where every parent and child has the ability to choose the school that is best suited to their needs, interests, and talents, and those who believe that ensuring a quality education for all children requires dealing with issues of proper school funding, poverty, race and community. The struggle in Chicago seems to indicate that the advocates for a market-based strategy are winning this tug of war.

“The Chicago Tribune ended an editorial this week with this plea: “This is a war that has to end. It does not serve children.” But with limited school budgets and little data to suggest the marketplace model of education actually outperforms or even matches the public school model, it seems unlikely that their wish will come true.”


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