Archives for category: Chicago

EduShyster’s guest blogger Patrick Hayes, a fifth-grade teacher from Charleston, South Carolina, asks a simple question: “If you could ask Arne Duncan just one question what would it be?”

Try this one: “what would you get Bill gates for Boss’s Day? The man has everything.”

But he actually has a bunch more questions, which Duncan can answer with pre-packaged non-responsive answers.

Like: why do you push states to adopt value-added measurement, when your own department shows it has a failure rate of 36%?

Or, why do you promote merit pay, when it has failed everywhere?

Or, why do you keep bragging about Tennessee and D.C. when the other 11 states “using the same playbook… had below-average, flat, or negative growth?”

Lots more good questions to ask Arne, but Patrick does give us the answer to his first question:

“So Arne…whaddya’ get Bill Gates for Boss’s Day? Maybe you could ask your chief of staff and deputy secretary.

They used to work for him.”

Patrick, by the way, is the Director of EdFirstSC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group working to empower people who care about public schools. If you live in South Carolina or care about it, join EdFirstSC.

Michael Klonsky covered the crucial Board of Education meeting about the budget for Chicago schools and says it demonstrated why mayoral control is a failure.

The board decided that one way to deal with the fiscal crisis is to hire more press secretaries!

“The budget once again cuts funding for neighborhood schools and programs serving kids with special needs, while funneling millions more into the pockets of privately-run charter school operators. It was passed by the mayor’s hand-picked minions (at least by those who showed up) of bobble-heads despite loud protests from the gallery of angry parents and school activists.”

Mike quotes George Schmidt, who wrote:

“George Schmidt does a good job of calling out no-show board members.
Considering that they only have to perform that public duty one day a month, and at a location conventient to their downtown offices, the seven members of the Board have seemed since the year began to be alternating “days off” so that they don’t have to listen to the public criticisms of their hypocrisies and craven subservience to the mayor’s privatization programs. And so it was on what is arguably the most important meeting of the year, July 23, 2014. That was the meeting at which the Board was to approve its annual budget. Deborah Quazzo, the millionaire financial planner, was missing, just as Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen and Mahalia Hines had been during the previous months.”

Mayoral control makes a mockery of democracy, especially when the Board is run by the mayor’s pals and parents are disregarded.

Federal law enforcement agencies, armed with search warrants, raided the offices of Concept Schools in Illinois.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
“The recent FBI raid at the Des Plaines headquarters of Concept Schools focused on many of the politically connected charter-school operator’s top administrators and companies with close ties to Concept, according to federal documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

“Authorities last month said FBI agents carried out raids at 19 Concept locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as part of an “ongoing white-collar crime matter” but declined to provide further details of their investigation.

 

“Copies of the search warrants that FBI agents served in Des Plaines and a subpoena seeking records show investigators went hunting for a wide range of documents pertaining to Concept president Sedat Duman, founder Taner Ertekin and other current and former executives of the fast-growing charter network.

 

“The investigators also sought documents about companies that were hired by Concept to perform work under the federal “E-Rate” program, which pays for schools to expand telecommunications and Internet access.

 

“Concept is linked to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, and has developed strong relationships with many local politicians, including state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

 

“Four of Concept’s 30 publicly financed schools are in Illinois, including the 600-student Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park and two campuses that opened a year ago in the Austin and McKinley Park neighborhoods. Chicago Public Schools officials approved another two Concept schools on the South Side for the 2014-15 school year.

 

“For one of the two newest Concept sites, in Chatham, more than $528,000 in public funding was earmarked to pay rent for the coming school year to an arm of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Charles Jenkins, gave the invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 swearing-in and served on Emanuel’s transition team….

 

“The federal documents obtained by the Sun-Times, however, reveal that the FBI is taking a close look at the operations of Concept.

 

“Federal law enforcement authorities in Cleveland, who are leading the probe, sent a grand-jury subpoena to Concept on May 30. The subpoena gave the charter chain’s administrators until June 17 to provide a long list of records…

 

“The warrant gave agents the right to take any documents relating to Concept’s involvement in the E-Rate program as well as “all bank records,” “all general ledgers,” “all calendars,” “all documents related to employee travel” and “all telephone records, telephone lists and contact lists.”

 

“Concept officials have said they were cooperating with the investigation and would not make any further comment.

 

At a public hearing, Chicago parents and teachers demanded to know why the city closed 50 public schools while opening charter schools.

“How could CPS continue to cut budgets at neighborhood schools while opening new charter and contract schools — even after shutting down a record number of schools just a year ago?

“We need to pull the money from the plan of expanding charter schools, reinvest in neighborhood schools in our communities,” said Scott Hiley, a special education teacher at Lincoln Park High School whose classes have so many desks jammed in that he has little room to move around.

“Still, “my school is fortunate. We’re still open. Kids don’t have to bring their own toilet paper,” he said at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, the West Side location of one of three simultaneous two-hour meetings held throughout the city Wednesday night on the proposed $5.76 billion spending plan.”

“That plan, to be approved on July 23 by the Board of Education, includes about $67 million in cuts to district-run neighborhood schools and $62 million in increases for charter schools over last year, including to the scandal-ridden UNO Charter Network, and the Concept Charter schools that are under federal investigation. Neighborhood high schools have suffered the largest cuts, according to budget documents. CPS links the cuts and raises to enrollment shifts.”

The audience erupted in laughter and derision at some of the officials’ efforts to justify cutting public schools while opening charter schools.

A recent poll shows that if Chicago’s mayoral election were held now, union leader Karen Lewis would beat Rahm Emanuel.

“If the mayoral election were held today, the lightning rod union leader who was the architect behind a 2012 teachers’ strike would beat Emanuel by 9 percentage points in a head-to-head contest, the survey found.

“Lewis was leading Emanuel 45 percent to 36 percent with 18 percent of the likely voters undecided.

“And Emanuel could face an even steeper hill if he faces Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, long considered his most formidable challenger.

“A head-to-head contest found Preckwinkle romping Emanuel by a stunning 24 points.

“Preckwinkle dominated with 55 percent of those surveyed. Emanuel notched just under 31 percent.”

Smart politicians understand that the appearance of reform is even better than real reform. Chicago Democrats have learned that lesson and turned it into an art form.

Here is an article from the Chicago Tribune that makes the point–not about schools but about crime and police. In education,”reform” means closing schools, shutting down libraries, and replacing experienced teachers with newcomers.

“Chicago Democrats a protected species on the national stage”

John Kass

July 9, 2014

Prominent Chicago Democrats have had an easy time with the national media for decades — as easy as shaking a ring of keys to distract an anxious child in church.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley rode a bicycle in photo ops and put a few plants on the roof of City Hall, leading the national news networks to cast him as the “green” mayor, not as the absolute boss of a broken and corrupt political system that piled debt on the city and drained its future for the benefit of the insiders.

President Barack Obama appeared on the late-night talk shows as the mystical healer of America’s broken politics, not as some untested suit who held the hand of now-imprisoned bagman Tony Rezko while learning to cross Chicago’s political streets.

And Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff?

He hangs with Jimmy Fallon and they tell jokes about jumping into a freezing Lake Michigan. Emanuel is as cool and practiced a media manipulator as the fictional Frank Underwood in “House of Cards.”

But a headline of 82 people shot in Chicago in 84 hours is embarrassing to the mayor, particularly for a mayor who sees the fifth floor of City Hall as a mere stop on the road to his national political destiny.

So he held a news conference on the Far South Side this week, a familiar exercise, full of the necessary archetypes:

Wise neighborhood matrons flanking the mayor and nodding their heads in agreement. Grieving families in support, better there at his side than out on the street asking angry questions.

They talked of the need for everyone to step up to face the crisis, from community leaders to parents, federal officials, judges — everyone except, of course, the mayor of Chicago.

And he avoided the overriding question, again and again: When are we going to hire more police officers?

“Now, a lot of people will say, ‘Where were the police? What were the police doing?’ That’s a fair question, but not the only question,” the mayor said.

“Where are the parents? Where is the community? Where are the gun laws? Where are the national leaders, so we don’t have the guns of Cook County, Indiana and downstate Illinois flowing into the city?”

Rattle those keys, Mr. Mayor.

A TV reporter asked him about tired police officers who’ve been working overtime because he won’t hire more. Another reporter asked why New York and Los Angeles have lower homicide rates than Chicago.

“Well, thank you (for) your question,” Rahm said, launching into a diatribe on gun laws, rather than on police staffing.

He’s good at shaking keys. And some analysts bought his talking points, agreeing with City Hall that talking of police manpower was just too easy.

Too easy? What else is left? A miracle?

According to city data, overall Police Department staffing was about 12,250 at the start of this year, down almost 900 officers from the end of 2009. The Rahmfather has been hiring police, but not at a fast enough rate to keep up with attrition.

Just about every police officer I’ve talked to feels overworked and tired. They’re worn thin. Morale is down. That’s what month after month of overtime can do.

On Wednesday, Pat Camden, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, wasn’t receptive to the mayor’s policies during an interview with me and Lauren Cohn on WLS-AM 890.

“It would have been nice to hear the mayor saying, ‘Where were the police? The police are out there doing their job, and if I had more police maybe we wouldn’t have had so many shootings.’ But that’s not the way he operates,” Camden said.

There’s always money to be found when the politicians want to find it.

Some $50 million has been set aside for yet another monument to a Daley, a park named for the former mayor’s late wife. And there’s about $600 million or so for a lakefront project that includes a new athletic venue for DePaul University, although the Bulls and Blackhawks offered the use of the United Center rent-free.

And just before his last election, Gov. Pat Quinn found $54.5 million in state cash for a violence-reduction program now being investigated by the feds as a possible political slush fund.

There are not enough good-paying jobs on the predominantly African-American South and West sides. But there seems to be plenty of political cash to toss around.

Meanwhile, Democrats are encouraging waves of unskilled labor from south of the border to compete for what few low-skilled jobs still exist.

Families already savaged by decades of dependency on government programs continue to dissolve. Violence reigns. The giant street gangs have broken up into small and viperous neighborhood cliques.

Many children aren’t allowed outside. I remember a detective telling me that for such children, it’s like the “Hunger Games” out there.

But the political class in charge for decade after decade after decade — the Chicago Democrats — isn’t ever held to account nationally.

When seen in the national news, they’re about as green as forest ferns. Or they’re all about soothing old political scars and healing divisions.

Or they’re hip and they know Hollywood and can jump into icy lakes with late-night TV personalities.

All they have to do is rattle the keys, misdirect, smile and turn on the charm.

jskass@tribune.com

A few years ago,I wrote an article in The New YorkTimes about “miracle schools” that weren’t. I called out Mayor Bloomberg, as well as Arne Duncan and President Obama for making grandiose claims about schools that allegedly graduated 100% of their students or saw dramatic test score gains. On closer inspection, none of the miracles was true. In the schools where the scores jumped by 50 points, they mysteriously fell in a year or two by fifty points. In the schools with amazing graduation rates, what was not disclosed was their high attrition rates, that is, the large number of kids who left before senior year. In my research, I was aided by the detective work of Gary Rubinstein in New York City and Noel Hammatt in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Gary subsequently created a wiki site to keep track of miracle schools. So far, he has not found one that holds up to close scrutiny.

But NPR just ran a story about one of the schools that I debunked in 2011. Noel Hammatt again tracked down the data and showed how many students drop out before graduation.

After NPR described Urban Academy as a charter school where 100% graduate and 100% are accepted into four-year colleges, Noel Hammatt wrote this comment:

“−

Noel Hammatt •

I wrote about Urban Prep years ago (see http://bit.ly/Noel9 for my article that appeared at Harvard’s Nieman Center.) and Dr. Diane Ravitch used some of my research in an Op-Ed in the New York Times ( http://bit.ly/Noel91 )to point out that the story of Urban Prep is a marketing story, not a balanced story or a “miracle school” by any means. In the year that I wrote about Urban Prep their graduation rate was nothing to brag about. It is not unusual for UP to start with 155 students in the 9th grade, and four years later graduates around 55 Seniors. What is so startling in the story line in this story was the set up… where the story line says “and barely half [of African-American males] will graduate from high school.” Then the story immediately goes into data about Urban Prep, where suddenly the focus is NOT on graduation rate at all, but on the % of graduating seniors who are accepted into a four year college. No other high school looks at these numbers, and Urban Prep does it because it is the easiest to focus on while ignoring more damaging data.

What of this less stellar data? Here is what I wrote about Urban Prep in the Harvard piece. “The use of anecdotal data to promote a certain ideological version of “school reform” is only effective when the media are too lazy to dig behind a “press release” version of the news. In fact, it reminds me of the hype over a Chicago charter school highlighted for achieving 100 percent acceptance of its graduates in colleges. In spite of news outlets across the country reporting that this all-male, all African-American charter high school had beaten the odds (I in no way minimize the importance of the students being accepted into college), not one noted that only 17.2 percent of the students had passed the Reading and Mathematics portion of the Prairie State Achievement Examination, a key high school test in Illinois. Out of 1139 schools in the state taking this exam, Urban Prep Charter High School ranked 1067.”

“A year after I reported the data above, ALL of the scores for Urban Prep had gone even lower. Their average passage rate on the Prairie State Achievement Examination went from 17.2% to 14.7%, making it again one of the lowest performing schools in the state. The average composite score on the ACT was a paltry 16.5, which is lower than the average score for ALL African American students in the country.

“To look at the achievement another way, not one student in the 2011 PSAE scored at a level 4 (the highest level) in either Mathematics or in Science in the entire school.

“In my article at the Nieman Center for Journalism I was basically asking journalists to dig a bit deeper into the data before creating a story based on self-reported “hype.” Apparently no one at NPR read or appreciated my work. It would be nice to think that NPR is capable of digging deeper than a headline or a schools marketing report.

“(The statement about barely half graduating from high school is misleading as well. According to the Schott Foundation the number of African American males graduating IN FOUR YEARS is 52%. This is quite different from suggesting they NEVER graduate high school. See http://thegrio.com/2012/09/20/… for more.”

Why does the media fall for these stories? Well, they are dramatic even if untrue. Then, to the simpleminded listener, they show that privately managed schools are better than public schools. And they satisfy a basic human longing to believe in miracles. Reading or hearing this story on NPR leads to the conclusion that there are simple solutions to difficult problems. There are not.

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
June 26, 2014 312/329-6250

EMANUEL CONTINUES ASSAULT ON CITY’S TEACHERS

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis released the following statement regarding today’s announcement of 1,150 teacher and school support staff layoffs by Chicago Public Schools (CPS):

“The decision by the mayor and his handpicked Board of Education to lay off 1,150 teachers and school support staff today in yet another brutal attack on public education in Chicago is bitterly disappointing and an example of the continued destruction and decimation of neighborhood schools. In a little over a year, CPS student-based budgeting has led to the removal of close to 5,000 teachers, teacher assistants, librarians, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs), technology coordinators and instructional aides from classrooms as severe cuts cause principals to make the difficult decisions that the district cannot. This loss of teachers and staff will directly impact the quality of instruction offered in our schools, and is unnecessary and shameful for a district that claims to provide a high-quality education for its students.

“With this latest round of layoffs— the fourth time in the past five years in which we have seen summer layoffs in excess of 1,000—and the hundreds of positions lost at the three schools slated for turnaround this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Board continue their war on our educators by doing nothing to salvage school budgets other than forcing principals to terminate valued teachers and staff.

“Of the 1,150 layoffs announced today, 550 are teachers and 600 are Educational Support Personnel (ESP). Approximately 250 of these ESPs are Chicago Teachers Union PSRPs. The layoffs stem from the low level of per-pupil funding which CPS Central Office set for schools, meaning that all over the city, principals are being forced, for example, to choose between keeping a veteran teacher and keeping a program library. Current budgets are so low that schools can’t keep both.

“While the district claims that most of the cuts are due to drops in enrollment, there are an ever-increasing number of charter schools siphoning students out of public schools and contributing to a system of dysfunction and instability that leads parents to seek other options for their children. The situation serves to underscore the unacceptably low level of funding that Chicago’s neighborhood schools receive, as every time teachers and other staff are cut, it is harder for schools to serve communities, and the teachers who remain have to shoulder more and more of the burden.

“This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked Board. Do we want “Star Wars” museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?”

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The Chicago Teachers Union reacts to the Vergara decision in California. Here is the key quote:

“If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.”

CTU Statement on California Tenure Decision

It must be nice to be a wealthy tech mogul like David Welch. When you want to “prove” a theory, you just go get someone else’s kids to be the guinea pigs. When you want to “prove” a theory, you conveniently omit the most relevant and direct causes of harm. Such was the case in this week’s California lawsuit decision against tenure for teachers. Fortunately, our Constitution and legal system have clear protections for speech and structured processes for appeal so that we non-billionaires have an opportunity to air the facts.

Teacher laws vary from state to state, and so the ruling in California is not automatically a blueprint for changes in states like Illinois. Despite a recent law that makes tenure much more difficult to acquire in Illinois, the myth that tenure equals a permanent job persists. In fact, teacher tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure provides protection from capricious dismissal and a process for improving unsatisfactory practice, but as in any job, teachers can be dismissed for serious misconduct. Further, as we have seen in California and Illinois, persistent budget “crises” stemming from insufficient revenue generation have decimated the teaching profession.

Contrary to popular belief, the school boards routinely dismiss teachers. Deep budget cuts have savaged the teaching corps, either through probationary teacher non-renewals or tenured teacher lay-offs. Fully half of all teachers leave the profession within their first five years, either because of the difficulty of the work or job insecurity. And for those who do stay, lay-offs are a constant threat, even to the most highly decorated, talented, and dedicated teachers. One Chicago Public School teacher was laid-off three times in a little more than a year. A holder of National Board Certification, the highest certification a teacher can have, he left the profession because of the tumult, and his students at multiple South Side high schools lost out on the opportunity to work with a highly qualified and dedicated public servant. Far from “obtaining and retaining permanent employment”, in the words of Judge Rolf Treu, tenure provided my colleague with no long-term job protection.

Judge Treu also misinterpreted the real causes of discrimination against low-income students of color. Teacher tenure does not cause low student achievement. Rather, the root causes of differences in student performance have to do with structural differences in schools. Omitted from his decision are the impacts of concentrated poverty, intense segregation, skeletal budgets, and so-called “disruptive innovation” that have been at the heart of urban school districts for decades. Scripted curricula, overuse and misuse of standardized testing, school closures and school turnarounds, and the calculated deprivation of resources are the real reasons low-income students of color face discrimination. So-called reformers like David Welch and Arne Duncan push those policies. In other words, the new “reform” status quo has made worse the problem it purports to fix.

If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.

A statement from the Chicago Teachers Union:

STATEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
June 9, 2014 312/329-6250

CTU on SB1922 signing: “Emanuel’s Law is another slap in the face to the citizens who put the governor and mayor in office.”

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is greatly disappointed at the signing today by Gov. Pat Quinn of Senate Bill 1922, a proposal by the mayor of Chicago that will cut the retirement savings of thousands of city workers and school employees, and a slap in the face to the citizens who put the governor in office. The Union maintains that this short-sighted proposal does not, in any way, solve Chicago’s pension problem, and is just another attack on communities and citizens who continue to be victims of draconian policies out of Springfield and the fifth floor of City Hall.

The worker retiring today under this “Emanuel’s Law,” earning an average of $23,000 a year will lose nearly $10,000 in earning power within twenty years. In 2034, this retiree’s pension 20 years from now will only be worth $15,982 per year in today’s dollars – a pension in 2034 that is worth $7,018 less than the retiree’s pension today. She will lose more than 18 percent of her total pension over 20 years.

This is nothing more than continued disinvestment in our city, neglect of public employees and the straddling of taxpayers who must bear the brunt of this so-called pension crisis instead of those who crippled our economic system in the first place. CTU members do not receive social security benefits and therefore must absorb the expense of all future health care costs.

“We have to call this what it is—which is theft—because these people are stealing from dedicated city workers like the paraprofessionals in our schools,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “Instead of any accountability for those who actually caused this problem, Emanuel’s Law brutally attacks the people who are most vulnerable, our seniors and municipal employees who remain on the frontlines in our city.”

The CTU has called for various revenue proposals to not only eliminate the pension debt but also provide critical resources for neighborhood schools, including a LaSalle Street Tax of $1 per financial transactions such as stocks, bonds, currency, futures and credit default swaps. In addition, the Union supports a 1 percent commuter tax which could draw $350 million every year; and, changes to the city’s controversial TIF program.

Under “Emanuel’s Law, school clerks, teachers’ aides and support services staff will join nurses, cafeteria workers and librarians in losing a third of their retirement life savings. “It is time public employees stop shouldering the burden of a shortfall created by politicians, corporations and the elites in Illinois who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes,” Lewis said. “This was an opportunity for Pat Quinn to stand up for everyday citizens instead of standing in the gap for the mayor and his well-funded pension reform allies.”

The CTU represents 4,000 active members and thousands of retired members in the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (MEABF), and was not part of any negotiation with the City of Chicago in the creation of SB1922. The Union will continue to vigorously fight this attempt at pension heist as part of the We Are One Chicago coalition and will support litigation to challenge the new law.

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at http://www.ctunet.com

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