Archives for category: Chicago

Julie Vassilatos, a parent of children in the Chicago public schools, writes about how she explains the Chicago public schools to her children.


“No, kids, this school district isn’t normal.”


She writes:



But it isn’t so much CPS I feel I need to explain. It isn’t so much the dictatorial leadership, the robotic degree of testing that’s required, the number of librarians who are fired, the unimaginable inequities among schools from neighborhood to neighborhood, a food contract that is so bad students all over the district are boycotting meals.


It’s not the way arts and music have disappeared from curricula, or the constant looming threat of hundreds, or thousands, of teachers being fired. It isn’t the revolving door of leadership and the chaos that ensues, or the dark insinuations from Springfield that our already untenably undemocratic situation could get a lot more North Korea on us.


It isn’t so much the methods we parents must use to communicate to this district, this mayor, and his puppet board–like hunger strikes for weeks and weeks, and occupying libraries so they can’t be demolished, and declaring sit-ins so somebody somewhere will talk to us because they will have to step over us, or sitting in the middle of the road in order to get arrested, or staging press conference after press conference after press conference because maybe the media will listen even if the CEO doesn’t.


I don’t so much feel any of this needs explaining. It is, after all, all my kids have ever known.


Rather, what I sometimes wonder about is just that. I wonder if they know that this isn’t normal.


Oh, I know it’s their normal. I just don’t know how to explain that it isn’t everyone’s normal.


And it shouldn’t be anyone’s normal.


This school district, Chicago Public Schools, fills me with horror and astonishment every day. No–I certainly don’t mean the schools. They do an admirable job of shielding the students from the unending stream of harm and nonsense that comes from central office. Most of our schools are strong communities where so much learning and growth happen. Kids are mostly protected from the drama, the galling contracts, the high stakes chess games that characterize central office.



Superstar principal Troy La Raviere in Chicago steps back to assess the deadlock between the mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union.


He recalls a recent conversation with Paul Vallas. He writes:


“I’m not an admirer of his education policy, but Vallas was the last Chicago Public Schools CEO to leave the district with a structurally balanced long-term budget. He also left CPS with a fully funded pension system, and over $1 billion in reserves. When Vallas returned to Chicago this past August, I was fortunate enough to have an hour-long conversation with him a few days before we both participated in a panel at the City Club of Chicago. During our conversation—and during the panel—Vallas outlined the financial rules that kept CPS budgets balanced during his tenure. Those practices included the following:


“He did not add programs without identifying additional revenue to pay for them.

“He did not borrow for operational expenses.

“He did not spend on new schools when there was declining enrollment. Building new schools should be based on demographics, not school reform ideology.

“He did not redirect funding for pension payments toward other spending projects.

“After Vallas’ departure, the mayor’s appointees to CPS lost all fiscal discipline and consistently violated every one of these sound budgeting practices. As a result of their mismanagement, CPS now claims they need “shared sacrifice” from teachers. Teachers union officials don’t seem to have the kind of consistent and concise messaging the Mayor’s office has, so the average news consumer may not notice that within CTU’s response are the keys to solving CPS’ fiscal crisis. I will take the liberty of fine-tuning CTU’s message and speaking as the Chicago public school teacher and union member I once was, before becoming an administrator nearly a decade ago.”


LaRaviere then describes what is necessary to fix the budget. And he identifies who must share in sacrificing to put the system in a sound financial footing.


Mike Klonsky posts a video of the Chicago Teachers Union march in Chicago.


Also a newspaper article showing that public opinion strongly supports the union over Rahm.

Experienced journalist Sarah Karp here explains what sank the contract negotiations between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union.


“In the recent Chicago Public Schools contract offer, which now lingers in a sort of political purgatory, teachers were offered a pay raise, but there was a big catch: CPS educators would essentially be paying for the salary increase by sacrificing the most experienced members of their teaching force.


“An early-retirement buyout program was the linchpin of the Board of Education’s since-rejected offer – and it’s one of the main reasons why Chicago Teachers Union representatives voted down the deal, according to union officials.


“The board was offering $1,500 per year of service to teachers of retirement age and $750 to support staff to leave, according to the CTU. If at least 1,500 teachers and 700 other staffers took advantage of the buyout offer, the contract would stand, according to the CPS offer.


“But, if not enough employees signed up for early retirement, then CPS could reopen the contract – which union members feared would lead to layoffs.


“With that prospect looming and, among other things, the concern of a brain drain as experienced educators walked out the door, the CTU’s bargaining team of 40 union representatives voted down the deal unanimously on Monday.


“At a press conference on Tuesday, CTU President Karen Lewis said the union voted down the contract offer because, “No. 1 it would have pushed out 2,200 of our seasoned, experienced educators, disproportionately impacting African-American and Latino educators. It will lead to ballooning class sizes and the cuts the board proposed were solely out of our pockets.”


“Fifty-four percent of teachers with more than 20 years experience are black or Latino, whereas only 22 percent of new teachers are, according to a Better Government Association analysis of 2012 state data. New teachers make about $48,000 a year, while those with 20 years or more experience make an average of $88,000



CTU to March and Rally Today for a Fair Contract, City and Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve



CHICAGO—Two days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool declared war on public school educators by threatening $100 million in classroom cuts—roughly 1,000 layoffs—and the removal of teachers’ long-standing pension pick-up, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will continue a series of non-violent direct actions with a mass march and rally from Bank of America (BOA) to City Hall today at 4:30 p.m.



Yesterday, the CTU withdrew nearly $1 million from its BOA account in protest of that bank and other financial institutions that sold CPS toxic interest rate swaps and are demanding a payout of at least $228 million—almost the exact same amount as cuts enacted by the Chicago Board of Education to schools and special education. In total, the City of Chicago and CPS will lose $1.2 billion on these toxic swaps, despite the CTU asking the Board for years to be a partner in challenging these rip-off deals.



Rank-and-file CTU members, CTU officers, parents, students and community organizations, public education supporters and others

March and rally for a fair contract from Bank of America to City Hall

Thursday, February 4, 2016
4:30 p.m.

Bank of America
135 S. LaSalle St.


City Hall
121 N. LaSalle St.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had every opportunity to pursue revenue from his wealthy friends and backers. Instead, he has targeted educators and students to pay for the Board’s mismanagement. Today, Chicago’s educators and public school supporters take to the streets to continue their fight for the city and the schools Chicago’s students deserve.

Phillip Cantor explains why the Chicago Teachers Union rejected Rahm Emanuel’s contract offer.

The offer had some good things in it, but what killed it was a “poison pill” provision:

“The CPS offer basically froze compensation for most teachers for four years. I was OK with that… even though CPS has taken about $2 Billion from teachers in the past five years. I like the idea of getting rid of the pension pick-up, but don’t want teachers to suffer 7% pay cuts to achieve it. Some teachers would have come out with a tiny increase over 4 years, other teachers – longer serving teachers- would have had to take a significant pay cut.

“CPS’s offer also included a requirement – added at the last minute – that over 2000 CTU members take early retirement with the provision that if that number didn’t leave the profession the contract would be re-opened. In other words… the whole thing would be scrapped. To me this seems like a poison pill. How could CTU agree to a contract that forced a 10% reduction in teachers and school staff? How could CTU agree to a contract which had a self-destruct clause in it?”

So, layoffs now or layoffs later.

The CTU bargaining team unanimously rejected the deal. And now the CEO is threatening to impose deep cuts and layoffs without a contract.

CTU will hold a mass rally on Thursday afternoon to protest.

Mike Klonsky reports that Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, reacted to the Chicago Teachers Union’s rejection of his contract offer with a threat of layoffs and cuts.



“A letter sent by Forrest Claypool to the union Tuesday said that within 30 days, CPS would stop paying the teachers’ share of pension contributions (as if they’d been paying them up until now), order school administrators to cut $50 million by laying off 1,000 teachers and “re-shuffle” $50 million that goes toward general education funding to schools. That re-shuffling of Title I and II funds will hit hardest at kids with special needs and English-language learners.


“Claypool says he will drop the threats if the union would only agree to his contract offer which CTU’s bargaining team unanimously rejected. I believe that’s called blackmail. Or maybe — hostage taking.”




Yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union rejected the city’s contract offer. This is the CTU explanation:

CHICAGO – After much deliberation, the Chicago Teachers Union has rejected the Board of Education’s most recent contract proposal because it does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the long-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city. Moreover, educators do not believe the Board will honor its promises because it has lacked the will to join with parents, students, community and others in identifying existing revenue solutions that can stabilize the district.

“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) challenges are a revenue-based problem because two of the three biggest cost drivers are things that have to be paid: pensions and debt service (which includes the swap termination payments),” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “The third biggest cost driver is charter school proliferation—and though they’ve promised to halt charter expansion there is a state commission that can override their decision. There are no guarantees.”

Lewis said CTU members have given more than $2 billion back to the district over the last five years, including $500 million from the 4 percent raise that was rescinded in 2011; $500 million from layoffs over this period, including from the school closings; and $1.2 billion from the three- year partial pension holiday between 2011 to 2013.


“Simply signing a contract with CPS will not bring them a windfall of resources from the state,” Lewis said. “We have to exhaust every option available, which includes terminating those swap deals, returning the TIFs to the schools and a financial transaction tax that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city. Without some real movement on the revenue problems, we can’t trust that they will honor any words offered in a four-year contract deal.”

It should be noted that the CPS bond sale went south last week because investors are skittish about the real financial challenges the district faces. The downgrades came after investors’ concerns about the city’s inability to raise revenue. Also, the district is using short-term credit lines to manage cash flow because its cash flow is so limited. The money from property taxes is already spent – those short-term lines have to be repaid.

“CPS has been living on borrowing for too long,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Now to turn around and blame teachers and staff for that debt while letting bankers off the hook is not acceptable. We think bankruptcy is a bluff, but if it isn’t, the mayor and his handpicked school board need to examine our commitments to progressive revenue.”
CPS’ uses this math to plug its budget hole:

· $200 million from the state for pensions
· $150 million from the state in a school aid formula change
· $170 million from a new local property tax levy for pensions
· $150 to $175 million from eliminating the teacher’s pension pickup and from increased healthcare costs.

“That’s about $700 million of the claimed $800 million deficit,” said Sharkey. “They want us to foot two chunks of that through property tax increases and classrooms cuts. We need a big fix to school funding at the state level through progressive taxes on wealthy people. The Board cannot continue to balance its budget on teachers and students by cutting our compensation and eliminating vital education services such as special education.”


Today, CTU took action to protest the city’s actions:

Feb. 2, 2016 312-329-6250


CTU to close Bank of America account and challenge City of Chicago and CPS to do the same

News conference and action at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday


CHICAGO – The day after the Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool declared war on public school educators by threatening another $100 million in classroom cuts and the snatching of their pension pick-up benefit, the Chicago Teachers Union will engage in a series of non-violent direct actions to call attention to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s refusal to explore every revenue option available to him to stabilize the school district. Instead of working with the CTU to return toxic swap payments, tax the wealthy and restore the TIFS to the school district, the mayor would rather have Governor Bruce Rauner send in the Illinois National Guard to take over CPS.

CTU Officers; toxic swap experts; community allies and others
Will close its account with Bank of America in the amount of over $700,000 and redirect those monies to Amalgamated Bank
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
10:00 a.m.
Bank of America

35 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago
Bank of America and other financial institutions that sold CPS toxic interest rate swaps are demanding a payout of at least $228 million, which is almost the exact same amount as the recent cuts enacted by the Board to our schools and special education at the same time. In total, the City and CPS is expecting to lose $1.2 billion on the swaps. CTU has asked the Board to be a partner in challenging these rip off, toxic swap deals for years.





Reports from Chicago sound like reports from the front lines (as they do when they come from Detroit).


Mike Klonsky tells us that the new CEO, Forrest Claypool, was brought in to lay off employees. He has surrounded himself with administrators from his previous position at the Chicago Transit Authority. And now he begins the cuts. Here is more about Claypool. 


Rahm Emanuel knew what he was doing when he brought educational know-nothing, Forrest Claypool over from the CTA to run the schools. Claypool, who like Rahm, sends his kids to private school, didn’t come to CPS to lead an educational transformation. With apologies to Shakespeare, he came to bury public ed, not to praise it.


While stalling contract negotiations with the CTU, he’s contracted (no-bid of course) with his old firing squad from CTA to help him engineer the mass firings of thousands of teachers and staff.


Carol Rubin was chief administrative officer at the CTA and the Park District while Claypool ran those entities for Daley and Rahm. Rubin has been working with Sally Csontos, another former CTA and Parks staffer who’s married to John Filan, once a budget director for former Gov. Rob Blagojevich and another longtime Claypool associate.


This is the same way Claypool ran the CTA. Readers may remember back in 2014 when he hired Jimmy D’Amico to help “manage the CTA’s rail maintenance” even though D’Amico has no railroad experience.


I’m anticipating that one day, Claypool may even share a cell with Blago.


This week’s layoffs of 227 central office staffers was billed by Claypool as a way of avoiding classroom cuts. But most of those laid-off were the very staffers (lower-paid) who deliver direct services to schools, many in the area of special education. His central office is stocked with high-paid patronage hires or former CTA cronies. They were untouched by the lay-offs.

One of Chicago’s most celebrated charter schools–Urban Prep–has been fighting its teachers’ effort to form a union. Mike Klonsky reports that UP even had professional development about the evils of unions.


It failed. UP fired 17 teachers–mostly African American–for their union activities. They complained to the NLRB, which ordered UP to rehire them and pay back wages.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167,163 other followers