Archives for category: Chicago

This post by Ken Previti directed me to a hugely important story that I had missed.

David Sirota of Pando and Ben Joravsky of The Chicago Reader unearthed a story of money, politics , and greed that is startling.

The headline is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top donor bought a big bloc of stock in Marriott hotels shortly before Marriott won a very lucrative contract from the city. The deeper story is about the web of money and contracts that makes buddies of all the movers and shakers in Chicago. This is a city that claimed it had to close 50 public schools and that pensions were too much to bear.

Yet Chicago has a program called TIF (Tax Increment Financing) that allows the mayor to spend vast amounts of money: “As previously reported by Pando and the Reader, TIF is a program in which Chicago annually diverts roughly $500 million in property taxes–paid in the name of schools, parks, police, etc.–into bank accounts largely controlled by the mayor. The money is supposed to be used to subsidize development in blighted communities that are so poor they would receive no development—but for the TIF.”

This, Emanuel was able to award a coveted contract to Marriott. “After all, the company will be running one of America’s largest hotels next to America’s largest convention center – and doing so with massive taxpayer subsidies, but without having to pay to construct the hotel and without having to pay property taxes.”

“Keep in mind–TIFs divert property tax dollars from public schools that are so dead broke many of them can’t afford to buy basic supplies, like toilet paper. Moreover, the mayor is earmarking money to build the Marriott at the very moment he says he has to jack up property taxes and cut payments to pensioners because the city can’t afford to make good on its pension obligations.

“In short, the city claims it doesn’t have money for its school children or retirees, but it somehow has plenty of cash to enrich a hotel corporation – one that just so happens to be part owned by the hedge fund of the mayor’s largest contributors.”

So is this a story about schools? Yes, indeed. When a city closes public schools because it has a deficit but gives generously to finance a luxury hotel that won’t have to pay taxes, this is a story about public officials who don’t care about schools, education, or children.

NEWS RELEASE
FOR EMBARGOED RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
Midnight, May 21, 2014 312/329-6250

New CTU report analyzes massive public school closings on one-year anniversary
“Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago” examines myriad of CPS’s Broken Promises

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released today a report on the state of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) one year after the Board of Education (BOE) voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program, the largest, one-time school closing action in U.S. history and a decision made in the wake of massive opposition and protests throughout the city of Chicago.

The study, titled “Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago,” looks at what happened as a result of the mass school closings of 2013, and answers such questions as: Were CPS promises for receiving schools kept? How much money was saved? Did resources increase at affected schools? Have services increased for special education students at consolidated schools.

On May 22, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked BOE shuttered 50 neighborhood school communities, “turned around” five schools and co-located 17 others. Faced with widespread opposition to this action, CPS promised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvements and transition supports for schools receiving students from closed schools. CTU examination of the evidence has found, however, that promises made to receiving schools were hollow in many cases and only partially fulfilled in others. Among the findings:

· Receiving schools are still disproportionately under-resourced compared to other elementary schools.
· Students were moved to schools with libraries, but funds weren’t available to hire librarians. Just 38% of receiving schools have librarians on staff, whereas across CPS, 55% of elementary schools have librarians.
· Computer labs were upgraded at receiving schools but only one-fifth of these schools have technology teachers.
· CPS touted iPads for all receiving-school students, but included few related professional learning opportunities for teachers.
· CPS spent millions on large-scale programmatic changes at 30 elementary schools, but the success and continued funding of STEM and IB programs remain to be seen.

“Shuttering our schools was touted as a hard and difficult choice by the mayor and the Board, but this was the easy, draconian choice,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Parents, teachers, and the public demanded resources and supports for these education communities. Sadly, by making promises that remain unfulfilled, these schools and the students they serve have been dealt yet another blow—from failed policy to broken promises.”

For this report, the CTU interviewed teachers from seven of the receiving schools to gather information about the fulfilment of CPS promises. Additionally, researchers reviewed CPS material on the school closures, operating and capital budget documents, position files, vacancy reports, class size data, and other public data.

###

Grassroots community groups in Néw Orleans, Newark, and Chicago filed complaints of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. They seek an investigation of racially discriminatory school closings in their communities.

They wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan:

“Journey for Justice is a coalition of grassroots organizations in twenty-two cities across the country. The coalition has come together because, across our communities, education “reformers” and privatizers are targeting neighborhood schools filled with children of color, and leaving behind devastation. By stealth, seizure, and sabotage, these corporate profiteers are closing and privatizing our schools, keeping public education for children of color, not only separate, not only unequal, but increasingly not public at all.

“Adding insult to injury, the perpetrators of this injustice have cloaked themselves in the language of the Civil Rights Movement. But too many of the charter and privately-managed schools that have multiplied as replacements for our beloved neighborhood schools are test prep mills that promote prison-like environments, and seem to be geared at keeping young people of color controlled, undereducated, and dehumanized. Children of color are not collateral damage. Our communities are not collateral damage.

“Thus, we stand in solidarity, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago, Coalition for Community Schools and Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes in New Orleans, New Jersey’s Parents Unified for Local School Education in Newark, and Journey for Justice member organizations across the country, to shed light on the racial injustice of school closings.

“Neighborhood schools are the hearts of our communities, and the harm caused by just one school closure is deep and devastating. This is death by a thousand cuts.”

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these community groups are appealing for justice even as the nation commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision striking down legal segregation.

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these complaints are filed to the administration of the nation’s first black president.

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these complaints are directed at the policies not of racist governors but of the Obama administration itself.

Secretary Duncan has encouraged and funded the school closings that are at the heart of the complaints. He has applauded and funded the privatization of schools in black communities. He openly admires the “no excuses” charter schools that emphasize control over education and that teach strict conformity to arbitrary rules, not the habits of mind and dispositions of a free people.

In effect, the Obama administration is being asked to overrule its own education policies. How sad. How ironic.

Troy LaRavierre, principal of Blaine Elementary school, one of the highest performing schools in the city, decided he had had enough. He wrote a candid letter to the Chicago Sun-Times blasting the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose political interference and disrespect were unprecedented in his career.

This is a man of courage. He won’t be silenced, not by Rahm Emanuel or anyone else who demands that he betray the best interests of the children in his care. No, he is not a “hero” like the billionaires pumping millions into the destruction of public education. He is the real thing.

He wrote to the Chicago Sun-Times:

#################

“Since 2011, CPS principals and teachers have experienced unprecedented political burdens. Early on, teachers felt publicly maligned and disrespected by the mayor, leading to the historic strike of 2012.

“While publicly praising principals in speeches and with awards, behind the scenes this administration has disregarded principals’ knowledge and experience. They have ignored and even suppressed principals’ voices in order to push City Hall’s political agenda for Chicago’s schools.

“The administration’s interaction with principals is often insulting. During the debate over the longer school day, some principals questioned its merits. CPS officials were then dispatched to tell the principals their opinions didn’t matter. “You are Board employees,” a central office official told a room full of principals at a meeting, “and when you speak, your comments must be in line with the Board’s agenda.” He instructed us to have an “elevator speech” supporting the longer day ready at a moment’s notice. We were told that if Emanuel and the press walked into our schools, we’d better be prepared to list the benefits of his longer day. In a move that further humiliated principals, they were called on at random to give their elevator speeches at subsequent principal meetings.

“Shortly afterward, CPS slashed school budgets, voted to close 50 schools and made disingenuous statements about the slashed budget giving more “autonomy” to principals. They insinuated these cuts would have little effect on classrooms. I spoke up to give Chicagoans a factual assessment of the effects of these cuts. A reporter from WBEZ Radio recorded a statement I delivered at City Hall in July 2013 and posted it on the station’s website. It became one of the station’s most downloaded audio files.

“Several months later, I spoke about overcrowded schools on WYCC television. A few hours before filming, I emailed CPS officials to inform them. Later that afternoon — unaware the show had already been taped — those officials told me not to appear because I did not have permission. On the subject of whether I had the right to speak as a private citizen, CPS said I should wait to receive clarity. After more than two months I’m still waiting for “clarity” from CPS on my right to speak.

“Recently, during a break at a training session, a few principals gathered to discuss what they could not say publicly. They expressed concerns about the impact of Emanuel’s effort to cut teacher pensions on our ability to recruit talented people into the teaching profession. They questioned unfunded mandates that pull resources from classrooms, and condemned CPS’ expenditure of over $20 million on Supes Academy — an organization the CEO of CPS once worked for — to provide principal training, a training that principals agreed was among the worst they’d experienced.

“Principal after principal expressed legitimate concerns that none felt safe expressing publicly. Finally, I spoke.

“This administration gets away with this because we let them. We are the professionals. Yet, we allow political interests to dominate the public conversation about what’s good for the children in our schools. Every time these officials misinform the public about the impact of their policies, we need to follow them with a press conference of our own to set the record straight.”

“Those who responded expressed concerns about being harassed, fired or receiving a poor evaluation. Principals sat paralyzed by fear of what might happen if they simply voiced the truth. One of them asked me plainly, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job?” The question awakened a memory:

“General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!”

“In 1989, when I was in the Navy, I was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier and accustomed to hearing the “General Quarters” battle readiness exercise. However, on January 4 of that year, it came with a sobering declaration: “This is not a drill.”

“Our ship had entered the Gulf of Sidra near Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and crossed Gaddafi’s “Line of Death.” Two Libyan warplanes were headed our way. Fortunately, our F-14 fighter jet pilots were able to shoot the warplanes down. Our captain later praised the pilots and ship’s crew for our willingness to risk our lives to preserve American freedoms.

“So when people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job if you speak out?” this is my answer: I did not travel across an ocean and risk my life to defend American freedoms only to return and relinquish those freedoms to an elected official and his appointed board of education.”

Anthony Cody hails the Chicago Teachers Union for its unanimous vote to reject Common Core.

This vote is important for many reasons. First, it undermines the repeated (and false) claim that almost all teachers favor CC.

Second, it recognizes that CTU is worried about the standardization and double-duty testing, as well as the loss of creativity that CC will bring.

Third, Cody believes that the CTU vote will encourage other locals to speak out and voice their concerns, not only about the problems of CC, but the diversion if billions of taxpayer dollars to corporations and vendors.

Cody believes that Randi Weingarten’s recent statements indicate that she is growing skeptical about the CC.

The issue is likely to be hotly debated when the AFT holds its national convention in Los Angeles this summer. California has not yet suffered the CCSS testing, but LA lost thousands if teachers while Superintendent Deasy committed $1 billion to buy iPads for Common Core testing.

The Chicago Teachers Union adopted a resolution opposing the Common Core.

This is big news because the parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, accepted millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to support and promote the Common Core.

Fred Klonsky posted the following account of the CTU action:

Chicago Teachers Union adopts resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards.

MAY 7, 2014

Today the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates passed a resolution opposing the Common Core standards.

A similar New Business Item was not permitted to be voted on at the recent Illinois Education Association state convention. It was ruled out of order by IEA President Cinda Klickna. The NBI had been introduced by veteran Park Ridge fifth grade teacher and delegate, Jerry Mulvihill.

From CTUnet:

Today, members of the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) passed the following resolution that enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.

Now that the resolution has passed, the CTU will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core for teaching and assessment; and be it further and will work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.

Common Core’s origins can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus Bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core with the added incentive that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.

“I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher. “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”

The official text of the resolution follows:

Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that –teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.

John Thompson raises a provocative and important question: who is inflicting more damage on teachers and students? Tea Party extremists like North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory or Secretary of Education Arne Duncan?

Thompson, a teacher and historian, describes the assault on teachers in North Carolina, whose governor and Legislature seem determined to destroy public education by expanding vouchers and charters and to dismantle the teaching profession by eliminating tenure, laying off teacher aides, and keeping salaries stagnant.

Thompson writes:

“Which sets of school reforms are inflicting the most damage on teachers and students? Has the right wing Tea Party’s most extreme assaults on public education hurt schools the most? Or, has the Duncan administration’s ill-conceived corporate reforms done the most harm?

“North Carolina was once touted as an exemplar of standards based reforms, and Wake County was praised for its socio-economic integration. Tea Party Governor Pat McCrory and Republicans are phasing out tenure and gutting salaries. As a result, mid-year teacher resignations in Wake schools have increased by an “alarming” 41% this school year. The number of resigning teachers who said they are moving to other North Carolina schools dropped, as there was an increase in teachers leaving for other states. Early retirements have tripled.

“The problem is so extreme that Doug Thilman, Wake’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said at a press conference, “Good teachers are having to make hard decisions to leave our classrooms for a better future somewhere else or in another line of work, in another profession – not in our public schools and not in our state.”

But then there is Arne Duncan’s mad idea that the way to “fix” schools is to fire half or all the staff.

Thompson writes:

“The mirror image of Wakes’ crisis is found in Chicago “turnaround schools.” Chicago’s Catalyst quotes Michael Hansen, senior researcher for the American Institutes for Research, who explains that the Duncan administration’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) are “under-researched.” High attrition following a turnaround has the potential to produce “more harm than help.” (emphasis by the Catalyst)

Ignoring educational research, these expensive turnaround campaigns begin with the mass dismissal of teachers. This immediately reduces the number of African-American teachers serving African-American communities, as well as reducing the experience levels of teachers. Catalyst reports, however, that “large chunks of the new staff–teachers who were hand-picked and spent weeks over the summer getting to know each other, becoming a team and learning how to spark improvement when the school reopened–leave within a few years.”

Catalyst reports “At 16 of the 17 schools that underwent a turnaround between 2007 and 2011, more than half of teachers hired in the first year of the turnaround left by the third year.” Moreover, “Among all turnarounds, an average of two-thirds of new teachers left by year three.” (emphasis in the original)

As the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) explains, such high levels of attrition is problematic because, “It can produce a range of organizational problems at schools, such as discontinuity in professional development, shortages in key subjects and loss of teacher leadership.”

I say that the answer to Thompson’s question is clear. McCrory is gutting public education in his state, and only in his state. Duncan’s idiotic idea of “turnaround” is harming schools and communities across the nation, laying off veteran teachers, reducing the number of African-American teachers, and generating harmful turmoil.

Let’s face it. Duncan has inflicted incalculable harm on public education, especially in urban districts. He became Secretary of Education after eight unsuccessful years as superintendent of schools in Chicago, which was and remains a low-performing district. He was unqualified to be Secretary of Education. In the past, we have had governors with no education credentials, but they at least had the good sense to recognize the reality of federalism, the limitations on their powers, and fact that control of education is a state and local function. Duncan has recognized none of these factors and has used federal funding to impose his will and his bad ideas on districts across the nation. It seems he won’t be satisfied until every teacher is inexperienced (preferably certified by Teach for America), every public school has been turned over to private management, every decision is tightly tied to test scores, and every teacher education institution is run by charter school teachers who grant advanced degrees to one another.

Duncan is a terrific basketball payer but a disastrous Secretary of Education. The real test of public education is whether it can survive two more years of his failed and harmful policies.

Bill Ruthhart, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, reviewed hundreds of emails about CNN’s “Chicagoland” and discovered that the “documentary” was an infomercial for controversial Mayor Rahm Emanuel. CNN honored him at the very time that he took the historically unprecedented step of closing 50 public schools. CNN has no shame.

He writes:

“If it seemed as though some scenes of CNN’s documentary series “Chicagoland” were coordinated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall and the show’s producers, that’s because they were.

“More than 700 emails reviewed by the Tribune reveal that the production team worked hand in hand with the mayor’s advisers to develop storylines, arrange specific camera shots and review news releases officially announcing the show.

“Producers asked the mayor’s office to help them set up key interactions in what the cable network has billed as a nonscripted eight-part series, including Emanuel’s visits with the school principal who emerged as a star of the show, emails show.

“City Hall’s frequent correspondence with the producers illustrates how senior aides to a mayor known for shaping his media image managed how their boss would be portrayed on CNN to a prime time national audience.

“The production team for the series, whose final episode aired Thursday night, told Emanuel’s staff that particular scenes would present the mayor in a positive light, with one of the producers expressing a desire to showcase the mayor “as the star that he really is.”

“Creator and executive producer Marc Levin made a pitch to the mayor’s office last May as Emanuel’s hand-picked school board was two days away from a vote to close nearly 50 schools.”

The Noble Network of charters in Chicago has come under criticism on this blog and elsewhere for various reasons. The network collected $400,000 in fines from low-income families, who are required to pay a $5 fine for disciplinary infractions. Noble network charters are named for the super-rich people who endow them, like billionaire heiress Penny Pritzker, now U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and billionaire hedge fund manager (and Republican gubernatorial candidate) Bruce Rauner. Some get high scores, others do not.

 

This letter comes from a former teacher at a Noble charter who is now teaching in a Chicago public school. She does not explain the reason she changed jobs. What do you think of her description of the two systems? What could CPS do to address the problems she describes?

 

I am a former Noble teacher and a current CPS teacher. Diane, I really have to say, you are wrong on this one. There are some things Noble needs to grow in, sure. But I could actually teach my children at Noble. I can’t at my current school. So much misbehaving, cursing, on phones during class, acting out, disrespect for everyone (teachers, staff and their peers). It is horrible. I am at my school because I believe all kids deserve a great education, but this is ridiculous. I have a teacher in the room next to me that cusses at her kids, and I mean the F word! I walked into a class and saw a kid watching porn on his phone. I almost threw up. This was a normal class period. Parents don’t understand how bad it is. They have an idealized memory of school and not a real understanding of what is being robbed from their kids simply because of a lack of empowerment of teachers to DO anything. Decide what to teach in your class (nope). Discipline your students (nope). Put in extra hours (nope).
Noble may have been picky, but parents were involved and addresses their kids behavior to avoid that $5 fine. AND students have to earn four demerits within two weeks to get a fine. A simple mistake here and there is no problem.
CPS better wake up. Charters are not the answer, but if CPS is too afraid to see what they are doing right and get on board it will be their undoing.
Not to mention Noble has a feeling of family that I don’t see at my current CPS school. As soon as the bell rings teachers are GONE. At Noble teachers would stay until 6pm almost everyday meeting with kids to make sure they knew the material. At my current school they actually TELL me to leave when the bell rings.
Maybe if you teach in a selective-enrollment school or in a privileged neighborhood, but you can’t go to Humboldt Park, Englewood or Back of The Yards and tell me Noble isn’t a better way to go. Just go visit Gary Comer High School (Noble school in Englewood) and THEN let’s talk.

 

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