Archives for category: Chicago

A dozen protestors are engaged in a hunger strike in Chicago, on behalf of a proposal to reconstitute a closed neighborhood high school. The hunger strike is now in its fourth day. The Walter Dyett high school is the only four-year high school in the Bronzeville section of Chicago. The group is led by Jitu Brown, a civil rights leader in Chicago who heads the Journey to Justice Alliance, which has helped to organize grassroots community action in other cities. In a city where the leadership has promoted choice, the one choice it seems unwilling to recognize is the choice of the local residents. “Choice” is honored, apparently, only when it is imposed by entrepreneurs, charter chains, and politicians.

The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, which created the plan to re-open Dyett as a global leadership and green technology school, spearheaded the hunger strike. The 12 hunger strikers, including community and faith leaders, education activists and public school parents, held their protest outside the now-closed school, located in the Washington Park neighborhood at 555 E. 51st St.

“We are tired of our voices not being heard,” said hunger striker Jitu Brown with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, one of many groups behind the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School. “There has to be accountability to the public for the destabilizing of schools in our community and the sabotage of our children’s education.”

Brown said the hunger strikers will only drink water and “light liquids” and are prepared to remain outside Dyett “as long as the creator allows us to be out here.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis have endorsed the Dyett protestors.

Show your support with the Twitter Hashtag: #fightfordyett

“Liberty produces wealth, and wealth destroys liberty”
Henry Demarest Lloyd

News that teacher shortages exist in many states is not surprising to the nation’s educators.

Many, if not most, teachers in the United States today do not feel as though they are respected. Public school teachers feel as though their profession is under assault in a country that seems to be abandoning the idea of public education.

Those who seek to defund public education and replace it with a corporate model that makes use of market mechanisms to serve “strivers” and their families sound very well intended.

Education “reformers” typically target takeovers of inner city schools by managers who see charter school networks as assets in stock portfolios. Much as investment firms have bought up distressed mortgages, investors in charter schools envision long-term investment and risk leading to long-term dividends. These fledgling education capitalists sing a confident song of win-win: their schools will close the “achievement gap” between inner city and suburban youth and display the data proving it in “real-time.” They proof will be displayed in the “data,” lighting the path for the disruption of public schools and relieving tax-payers of school pension debt as the corporate school model displaces public control of schooling. The key source of profit for this privatization scheme, the real target of education capitalists, is the destruction of teacher unions. Investors will benefit by profit margins derived at the expense of teachers and their families. With the institution of work to order regimes that pay charter schoolteachers lower salaries, fewer benefits, and that offer virtually no workplace protections; investors will be able to realize more value in their portfolios.

That the Obama administration made a Faustian bargain with Republicans on public education is blindingly obvious. Long before Obama considered a run for the presidency, his best friend, Marty Nesbitt, along with Rahm Emanuel and the major Chicago developer clans: the Rauners, the Crowns, and the Pritzkers guided the creation of public-private partnerships to build housing to replace the city’s decaying and crime-ridden behemoth public housing projects under the Clinton era Hope Acts.

These same individuals, not surprisingly, turned to public-private initiatives in education, by founding and funding the Noble Charter chain. These schools cater to the city’s inner-city “strivers.” While the resources provided by the Pritzkers, Crowns, and Rauners to these schools and their students represent a sterling display of civic investment, what they give they hope will be multiplied by more investment in similar charter enterprises. Mr. Nesbitt predictably has started an investment firm, the Vistria Group, that seeks to attract investors into the charter school education business. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, has expressed great confidence in Mr. Nesbitt and the Vistria Group.

The direction of Obama education policy was thus built on two factors: the focus on building public-private partnerships in education modeled on the dismantling of the Chicago Housing authority and the need to attract Silicon Valley and tech sector billionaires, most prominently, Bill Gates. The tech billionaires also wanted more access to school markets and the privatization of public schools could free up money that would otherwise go to teacher salaries and benefits. When the Obama transition team chose Arne Duncan as Education secretary over arguably the most knowledgeable and able education researcher in the country, Linda Darling-Hammond, the die was cast.

Mr. Duncan was never a teacher and thus has little empathy for teachers or teaching. His favorite teacher, a University of Chicago Laboratory High School English teacher, has expressed “concern for the future of her profession” in the wake of attacks on teachers coming from Bill Gates and his foundation, Michael Bloomberg, Republican governors, representatives of the Bush and Obama administrations, and most prominently, her former student.

Many teachers view Mr. Duncan’s Race to the Top Initiative as a failure and the recent revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as a necessary corrective to out of control Federal, state, and local testing mandates that turn teaching into a nightmare.

We have reached an Education tipping point in the United States. We can either reverse course and end our romance with the privatization of Education and our obsession with standardized testing regimes, or our resourced starved public schools will simply collapse, trapped as they are in a zero-sum game of diminishing resources.

The editorial pages and publishers of the New York Times and the Tribune Company have served as the praetorian guard of education reform movement sponsored by well-intentioned plutocrats who have little or no first hand knowledge about the everyday challenges that face most public school teachers, students, and parents.

Our political leaders need to begin to listen to parents who opt their kids out of invalid and ridiculous tests, teachers who are quitting or fleeing teacher hostile states like Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Arizona, and potentially excellent candidates for teaching who decide that teaching is not a rewarding profession.

Disruption is leading us down the wrong road.

Paul Horton teaches history at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. His views in no way reflect the views of the board or the administration of the Laboratory Schools (several former members of this board are mentioned in this article)

EduShyster here tells the sad story of the teachers at Urban Prep Academy in Chicago. They voted to form a union, and most of those who did were fired. Period.

This is the same charter school that Arne Duncan praised at the 20th anniversary celebration of Teach for America, where he claimed that replacing the entire staff had produced dramatically different results. Gary Rubinstein wrote about that speech here, and it turned out to be a defining moment for Gary, who turned against the “reform” charade.

EduShyster writes that

the teachers decided to form a union to redress what they saw as a serious problem: Urban Prep administrators’ lack of accountability to, well, anyone. So on June 3rd, a majority of teachers voted *yes* to having a union in a secret-ballot election. But instead of our story ending here, this is the point at which we stumble onto the treacherous shoals of labor law. You see, it took the Labor Board weeks to certify the results of the election due to large number of ballots that school administrators were contesting. And during this *grey area* period when the new union wasn’t yet officially official, Urban Prep fired sixteen teachers. Hows come? Well, because they could. Administrators are arguing that until the exact moment that the union becomes official, they are allowed to do whatever it is they feel like doing. Which would seem to be an example of exactly the kind of asshole-ish behavior that prompted teachers at the charter network to form a union in the first place.

In short order, 16 teachers were fired. 80% of them are African-American. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which now represents teachers at Urban Prep, has filed unfair labor practices over the firings of all 16 teachers.

Incidents like this one reminds us of why workers formed unions long ago, and why corporate America is so eager to crush the last of them.

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.”


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