Archives for category: Chicago

Last week, I had a whirlwind visit to Chicago to talk about my new book. Fortunately before my flight to Charleston, West Virginia, I had time in the morning to visit Karen Lewis at an assisted living facility where the care is excellent.

Karen is a brilliant charismatic woman who taught science in the Chicago public schools for more than 20 years. In 2010, Karen led a faction of the Chicago Teachers Union called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which swept to victory in the union elections. She became president of the CTU. She was a strategic organizer who worked to build alliances with parent and community groups. In 2012, the CTU voted to strike. The legislature, egged on by Gates-funded Stand for Children, passed a law that they thought would make a strike impossible by requiring a vote of 75% of the membership. Karen and her team won the approval of about 90% of the members and led a successful strike that had the support of parents and communities because they understood that teachers were striking for their children.

Karen was an articulate and greatly admired visionary. She planned to run for mayor against Rahm Emanuel in 2015, and her own polling suggested that she would beat him handily.

Tragically, Karen was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October 2014. Since then, she has had a series of setbacks, including a stroke. Life is so unfair. Karen is only 66.

When I saw her, she was happy that I visited. As I expected, she is disabled and has limited mobility. But despite the terrible blows that life has dealt her, she is spirited, still has a sense of humor, and is interested in what’s happening in the world. I told her that wherever I go, people remember her as the Mother of the Resistance. They remember that she stood up to a bully and won. I showed her the photo of her in my book and told her that her legacy is there whenever teachers stand together and demand better conditions for teaching and learning. I told her she was the spark that lit the fire by her example and the powerful union she created. I told her she will never be forgotten.

She was a strong labor leader, a saucy woman who was fearless, wise, and funny.

I was glad I saw her but sad to see the tragedy she endured when she was at the peak of her promise. Her beloved husband John sees her every day and has been by her side through the best of times and the worst of times.

I wrote a note in the book I gave her. Simply, “Karen, I love you. Diane.”

While in Chicago, I was interviewed about SLAYING GOLIATH by Justin Kaufman of WGN Radio, who is one of the best interviewers I have met. We had enough time to go into depth and he asked smart questions.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch: “What you are basically measuring with standardized tests is family income and family education”

This is a really great podcast that I enjoyed taping with brothers Mike and Fred Klonsky on their podcast “Hitting Left” while I was in Chicago. We borrowed time from our host Mario Smith, because the show occurred while Mario was on the air. Start with the photograph of the four of us holding baseball bats, the better to hit left with. Mike and Fred are veteran activists. While Mike was a leader of Students for a Democratic Society decades ago, I was a budding neoconservative. I remember reading about this fiery radical and never imagined that one day we would be friends. Fred and Mike asked some interesting questions, and it’s a wide-ranging discussion. Mario, a former art teacher in the Chicago Public Schools joined in. He referred to the”illustrious” Klonsky brothers, and so they shall remain.  We had fun.

Last night I spoke at the conference hall of the Chicago Teachers Union. Today began with an interview at WGN-TV.

It’s a short segment but I said what I needed to day about the condition of education. 

Enjoy!

Jesse Sharkey is president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

 

Diane-

Last week, schools across the country sat through the most recent episode of a show that jumped the shark years ago: “Test Score Blues.” This particular episode featured the release of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores showing that the U.S. wasn’t at the top (again) of national rankings. Of course, the test itself doesn’t matter. The performative outrage that follows is the main event, headlined by predictable hand-wringing editorials about how schools need to do better.

Those editorials don’t address the massive increase in student poverty across the country, or discuss any history since the Coleman Report in 1966 showed that poverty and segregation have horrific negative impacts. They also don’t examine the more recent history of constant educational social experiments in places like Englewood’s Hope High School, which Chicago Public Schools plans to close after years of neglect.

CPS has, in fact, been ground zero for testing mania. The district labels schools according to those tests via the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP), the so-called standard of school comparisons that is the basis for principal evaluations and is two-thirds based on test scores in elementary schools. Poverty isn’t included. A school’s suite of art offerings isn’t included. A school’s curriculum, debate program or robotics team isn’t included. Faulty school “quality” metrics like the SQRP reinforce continued tests through perverse incentives that legitimize gaming of the system to goose test scores, but lose focus on things that matter.

It’s clear why teachers across the country have gone on strike after strike after strike, and that’s to save one of our country’s hallmark institutions: public education. The way forward is to invest in public education. Ensure that schools have sufficient revenue and distribute it to those most in need; ensure that every school has a social worker and a nurse; ensure that students with special needs have appropriate staff to meet those needs; ensure that class sizes are developmentally appropriate; and ensure that students have arts curriculum and sports and other extracurricular programs that teach creativity and collaboration.

Teaching to the test does not work. Well-rounded curriculum, hands-on experiential learning, proper nutrition and exercise, and positive and loving schools do work, but they aren’t counted so they don’t count, according to CPS. The district instead looks to SQRP, which relies on metrics like test scores, attendance and school culture surveys that directly harm our most vulnerable students—including students in poverty, students in unstable housing arrangements, students with disabilities and students learning English as a second language.

The fact that test scores are stagnant, or growing in some places, is incredible given that students—especially those in Chicago—come to school with more challenges: language, trauma, malnutrition, and a lack of physical and mental health care. We accept sports teams that intentionally lose so they can improve in the future, but schools that give their all for students in the face of great obstacles are punished for not churning out the same student “product” as schools with fewer challenges. This is backwards, and presents an obstacle to school districts making better decisions.

Our union will continue to push the district to abolish the SQRP system, and abolish all measures that have adverse affects on students in high-poverty school communities, special education students, homeless students and refugee/recent immigrant students.

In the end, why does any of this matter? How does an analysis of our PISA scores explain anything? Why is a test score the barometer as opposed to the elimination of illiteracy and poverty, eradication of communicable diseases, and an end to sexual and physical violence?What is this country really doing to help lower-achieving students?

Educators have the answers. Fortunately, for those who get tired of the same old tropes, we are actually good at facilitating learning, and many people—from parents to presidential candidates—are joining us in standing up for what truly matters.

In solidarity,


Jesse Sharkey
CTU President

Sent via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from Chicago Teachers Union, please click here.

Rahm Emanuel is gone. The boosters of privatization are out of power in Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has committed to improving the public schools that the vast majority of students attend.

No new applications to open charter schools this year in the city of Chicago.

It is a new day in Chicago, with new leadership.

Yana Kunichoff writes in Chalkbeat:

No new charter schools are applying this year to expand or open in Chicago, a sign of the shifting environment for the independently run, publicly funded schools in Chicago and at the state level.

Last summer Illinois abolished the state agency hearing appeals of charter school denials. Chicago schools, both district- and charter-run, are experiencing an ongoing drop in enrollment, leaving schools competing for fewer students. 

A charter school operator named Destiny STREAM Academy for Girls Charter School initially applied to open a new charter, focused on math and technology education for girls, but then withdrew its application. 

Chicago has more than 120 charter schools; the school district runs more than 500 schools. The number of charter school applications has diminished by half over the past three years, according to a Chalkbeat analysis. 

After more than two decades of expansion in Chicago, charter school growth has tapered off.

Last year, the district denied three new charter proposals.

In 2017, nine schools sent in proposals. One was approved, one denied, and seven schools withdrew their applications. In 2016, there were 10 submissions, one of which was incomplete, and the rest were withdrawn. 

That’s a wildly different landscape to just a few years before, when more than 16 schools threw their hat in the ring for a new charter or expansion in 2014-2015 school year (the majority later withdrew their proposals). 

The district is also recommending that two charter schools be closed: Chicago Virtual Charter School, which offers primarily online classes for elementary and high school grades, and Frazier Preparatory Academy Charter School, a K-8 school in North Lawndale that shares a building with a district-run school.

The virtual school is under investigation by the district’s Office of Inspector General and has “the lowest School Quality Rating Policy score, used to rate how schools are performing, of any charter high school, the lowest Freshman OnTrack rate, and one of the lowest graduation rates in the district,” according to the district. Last year, it received a rating of 2, the second-lowest possible. 

Chicago Virtual Charter School has held a charter with the district since 2006. The district renewed its charter in 2015 for five years. 

The district is recommending that the board revoke the Frazier Preparatory Academy charter because it hasn’t been able to get off the academic warning list, which is for schools who received a low school rating three years in a row. During the 2017-18 school year the board proposed the school’s charter be renewed for three years, with conditions. The board approved a co-location with Theodore Herzl Elementary School in 2014. 

 

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter

Jeff Bryant reports here about the recent strike in Oakland. Teachers won concessions from the school board but they were fighting for much more than higher pay. Like their peers in Chicago and other districts, they were striking to fend off the Modern Disruption/Corporate Reform Narrative of failing schools, closing schools, and privatization.

Even after the strike ends, the struggle continues.

He writes:

Teachers and public school advocates in Oakland and elsewhere are showing that strikes don’t end systemic forces undermining public education as much as they signal the next phase in the struggle.

When their recent strike concluded, Oakland teachers had won a salary increase and bonus, more school support staff, a pause on school closures and consolidations, and a resolution from the board president to call on the state to stop the growth of charter schools in the city.

While those were significant accomplishments, the core problem remaining is that policy leaders in the city continue to take actions that “hurt students,” Oakland Education Association president Keith Brown told me in a phone conversation.

“Students continue to experience pain and trauma in our schools due to lack of resources, over-policing, and continuing threats of school closures,” Brown said.

Despite gains from the recent strike, teachers and public education advocates have continued to show up at school board meetings to press their cause.

The coalition recently formed the group Oakland Is Not for Sale, which seeks to extend the moratorium on school closures and consolidations to summer 2022, institute financial transparency in the district, end the district’s policy of expanding charter schools, and redirect money for school police and planned construction of a probation camp for juveniles to pay for a rollout of restorative discipline practices in schools.

The board’s recent announcement to close higher-performing Kaiser Elementary and merge the students and teachers into an under-enrolled and struggling Sankofa Academy raised yet more agitation in the community, especially when news emerged that students from Kaiser would receive an “opportunity ticket” giving them priority to attend schools ahead of neighborhood students not already enrolled in those schools. In other words, the district’s rationale for merging the two campuses for the sake of fiscal efficiency was being undermined by its own proposal to make transferring to Sankofa optional and, thus—as Zach Norris, a parent leader of Kaiser parents resisting the move, told California-based news outlet EdSource—keep Sankofa under-enrolled and thereby also an eventual target for closure.

 

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union adopted the agreement reached with the Mayor that provides significant new benefits for students. This is now known as “Bargaining for the Common Good.”

Chicago Teachers Union

STATEMENT:
For Immediate Release| ctulocal1.org

CONTACT: Chris Geovanis, 312-329-6250, 312-446-4939 (m), ChrisGeovanis@ctulocal1.org

CTU members vote overwhelmingly to accept tentative agreement

New contract includes historic language to cut class sizes, put nurse and social worker in every school.

CHICAGO, Nov. 15, 2019—Chicago Teachers Union members voted today to accept the tentative agreement they won in the wake of their historic eleven day strike.

With eighty percent of schools reporting, members have voted 81 percent yes to ratify the new contract with CPS.

The union won powerful gains for students and their school communities.

Those gains include mandatory class size caps and enforcement, language forcing CPS to comply with special education laws and regulations, sanctuary school protections for immigrant and refugee students, and supports for thousands of homeless students. While today most schools have a nurse barely one day a week, the contract will provide schools with a nurse and a social worker in every school every day. The union also won another freeze on charter expansion, and additional funding for staff that include librarians and counselors, who now must be allowed to serve only as counselors, not recess supervisors, test proctors or substitute teachers.

The contract will also, at last, lift up teaching assistants, school clerks and other paraprofessionals out of poverty.

“This contract is a powerful advance for our city and our movement for real equity and educational justice for our school communities and the children we serve,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. We live in one of the richest cities in the wealthiest nation in the world, and finally Chicago must start investing in the future of our city—our children.”

Moving forward, the union has put some of CPS’ most harmful and inequitable education policies squarely in its sights—including ending CPS’ discriminatory ‘student-based budgeting’ formula and the district’s racist school ranking system called SQRP. That includes the union’s effort to win passage in Springfield for an elected, representative school board, a bill that the House and Senate leadership have vowed to move this spring and the governor has promised to sign, restoring to Chicagoans the same democratic rights that voters in every other school district in the state possess. The union is also pushing legislation to restore CTU members’ bargaining rights, which were stripped away in 1995 with the imposition of mayoral control over CPS.

“Our contract fight was about the larger movement to shift values and priorities in Chicago,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “Working class taxpayers in Chicago have paid for skyscrapers that most will never visit—but a school nurse is someone their child in need can see on any day. In a city with immense wealth, corporations have the ability to pay to support the common good.”

###

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctunet.com.

Craig’s Chicago Business acknowledges that the children in Chicago public schools need what the Chicago Teachers Union won in their contract negotiations. But still, they wonder, are taxpayers willing to pay the price? 

Now that financial details of the pact are starting to trickle out, it’s clear that the mayor was telling the truth—that is, for the teachers. And that truth raises a very significant question of whether the unprecedented, potentially $1.5 billion mayoral bet will be worth the cost to already struggling Chicago taxpayers.

That $1.5 billion figure comes from the Chicago Public Schools’ budget office. It’s at the high range of what officials say the new CTU deal will cost over the next five years cumulatively…

“The union won the strike. They absolutely won,” says Paul Vallas, a former CPS CEO who was one of Lightfoot’s rivals in the February mayoral election. “It’s going to be impossible for them to come up with that much dough without major tax increases if (Gov. J.B.) Pritzker does not fully fund the state’s new school-aid formula.”

Pritzker is working on that. But as Vallas noted, doing so likely depends on voters next year enacting the governor’s proposed graduated income tax amendment, and that’s no sure thing.

Overall, there is little dissent that putting increased staff resources into particularly needy schools—as the contract requires—is the right thing to do. Eventually, that should result in higher graduation rates and kids better prepared to enter the job market.

It is always good to get Vallas’ views, since he privatized schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans as his budget solution and ran unsuccessfully for mayor, governor, and lieutenant governor.

Are the voters in Illinois willing to pay higher taxes to improve conditions of learning, to assure smaller class sizes, and to get better prepared youth?

The Chicago teachers’ strike represents a change in Chicago, for sure. The harsh policies of Daley, Duncan, and Emanuel are over. A new day has dawned, with national implications.

It’s a definitive shift in the entire landscape, not just in Chicago, but throughout the U.S., away from privatization, school closures, charter schools, and the kind of Koch Brother-funding of private schools instead of public schools, a threat we’ve been fending off for the last 30 years,” said Jackson Potter, a high school teacher and union bargaining member in Chicago.

Potter continued, “This contract really represents advances—and not just trying to preserve what we had or prevent the annihilation of the public system—but how to expand it, fortify it, and have a considerable [investment] in low income students of color and their communities that starts to look more [like] what we see in wealthy white suburbs.”

The contract dealt a blow to the charter industry, with “hard caps on charter school expansion and enrollment growth.” The rightwing Heartland Institute called the settlement “a death blow to charter schools in the Windy City.”

Alas, the sustained efforts of the Disrupters foiled by one powerful teachers’ strike, joined by Chicago’s progressive new mayor!  Their policies of austerity and privatization undone. Calling the world’s smallest violin.

Thanks to the invaluable organization “In the Public Interest” for assembling these sources in one place.