Archives for category: Chicago

Dora Taylor, parent activist in Seattle, describes that city’s battle to prevent the mayor from taking control of the public schools. She notes that the reason for mayoral control is to avoid the messy business of democracy, where parents and ordinary citizens get the opportunity to influence decisions about their schools and their children. Mayoral control and the establishment of state or local “emergency managers” are flimsy but powerful means of eliminating democracy and allowing politicians and elites to exert total control of decisions. Mayoral control and emergency managers clear the way for school closings and privatization. Parents don’t like school closings, but under mayoral control, schools are easily closed and replaced by charter schools.

Philadelphia, under the autocratic School Reform Commission, is constantly teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse, as the SRC closes schools, fires teachers, cuts costs, and opens charters. Its attempt to void the union contract was recently tossed out by the state supreme court. Philadelphia’s public schools have been stripped bare, while its charters are thriving (except the ones led by people who have been indicted).

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made history in an invidious way by closing 50 public schools in one day, claiming they were under enrolled, at the same time that he continued to open new charter schools.

One of the worst examples of the autocratic seizure of control occurred in Michigan under Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. She led the way to the establishment of an emergency financial manager for Detroit, under whose watch the district’s deficit tripled and charter schools proliferated. Detroit is now a worst case scenario, where there is plenty of choice, but none of them are good choices. The recent New York Times article about Detroit schools was titled, “A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift.”

Dora Taylor writes in The Progressive:

The most egregious example of a politician’s undemocratic control of public schools can be seen in the state of Michigan with the decision by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to hire Emergency Financial Managers. The emergency managers have the power to take control of a city’s government, reduce pay, outsource work, reorganize departments and modify employee contracts. Emergency managers can also deem school districts “failing,” close public schools and convert them into charter schools.

The first appointed emergency manager, Robert Bobb, took over the Detroit Public School system in 2009. The County Circuit Court in 2011 found this takeover illegal but soon after, emergency managers were appointed in mostly minority communities around the state, including the city of Flint. In several of these towns, such as Highland Park, Michigan the public schools were closed and taken over by charter operators.

Darnell Earley, the unelected manager of Flint, presided over the devastating decision to switch the city’s water supply to the Detroit River resulting in lead poisoning of residents throughout the city. After the water disaster, Mr. Earley was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to become the CEO of Detroit Public Schools.

Now the Emergency Managers are being named CEOs, as in Chicago, and given tremendous powers. These CEOs can:

Assume the financial and academic authority over multiple schools;

Assume the role of the locally elected school board for those schools they have been assigned;

Control school funds without the consent of the locally elected board;

Permanently close a school without the consent of the locally elected board;

Sell closed school buildings without the consent of the locally elected board; and

Convert schools into charter schools without the consent of the locally elected board.

The people have no voice or control over how their children are educated or by whom. The same holds true for mayoral control. That’s why, in Seattle, people are fighting back.

This is the kind of nondemocratic governance that organizations like ALEC love. Governor Rick Snyder loved it too, since it gave him control of so many districts. The emergency manager gambit blew up in his face when his own appointee, Darnell Early, was responsible for the decision to switch the water in Flint from a safe source to one that was not safe.

All of this matters because the fight for democracy is being waged in state after state. Georgia, for example, will decide in November, whether to allow a state commission to open charter schools against the wishes of the local community.

Let’s hope that former Governor Granholm recognizes that her decision to allow the appointment of emergency financial managers was a disaster. She is a member of Hillary Clinton’s transition team.

Xian Franzinger Barrett is a passionate teacher of middle school students in Chicago. He just received his layoff notice, the third in six years. He is one of more than 1,000 educators who were laid off. As a teacher, he does his best, but the people who run the school system–namely, Mayor Rahm Emanuel–seem to be incapable of stabilizing its finances. This doesn’t happen in affluent suburbs. It happens all too often in big-city districts, where the kids are mostly black and brown, and their parents lack political power.

Xian is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, and I have gotten to know him since we launched in 2012. I can attest to his love for his profession and his students. Mayor Emanuel wants to put a stop to that.

Friends tried to console him but Xian writes:

But oppression is not an accident; it is a centuries-long design.

That is the only explanation for a Chicago where my students who have already lost parents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement have to persevere through more cuts in school funding, and the mayor who covered up the murder of one of their peers before he was re-elected sits comfortably in office. It’s the only way to explain a Chicago where an eighteen-year-old lies dead and those who were paid to protect him revel in paid administrative leave.

Oppression is the only way to describe the reason why I sit jobless, surrounded by piles of published student work from brilliant teaching and learning in a class I was asked to teach, while those who mismanaged the funds of the district collect their checks and continue to wield power over our students. We can’t shrug this off and persevere. To paraphrase Angela Davis, we cannot continue to accept what we cannot change, we must change what we cannot accept.

Xian is a fighter. He won’t quit. He will be there long after Rahm Emanuel has gone and been forgotten.

The Chicago Teachers Union spoke out against the draconian layoffs and budget cuts imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

STATEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Stephanie Gadlin
August 9, 2016 312/329-6250 (office)

CTU President Karen Lewis warns of inevitable strike should CPS enforce cuts to wages and benefits of public school educators

CHICAGO—The following is a partial transcript of CTU President Karen Lewis’ remarks from Monday’s news conference in response to the new Chicago Public Schools budget:

“I am Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. I am joined by fellow officers, Vice President Jesse Sharkey and Financial Secretary Maria Moreno. We are also joined by a group of rank and file teachers—all who are obtaining their national board certification, which is one of the highest distinctions in the nation for our profession. And contrary to the governor’s beliefs, all of whom can read, write, add, think…and vote him out of office.

“On Monday, August 29th, CTU members—teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians—will report to their schools and classrooms. They will be returning to work without a labor agreement amidst severe budget cuts and threats to their profession, income and benefits.

“Our members are returning to more than 500 school buildings that are filthy due to bad CPS outsourcing; with contaminated pipes that may have exposed children and employees to lead poisoning; and in a climate where random gun violence and neighborhood conflicts have gripped significant parts of our city in fear.

“Our members are returning to campuses where their colleagues have disappeared, by no fault of their own, but because of mandates from the Board that principals reduce positions and cut school budgets to the marrow. Fewer employees—including teachers’ aides—mean enormous class sizes. The more students in a classroom mean fewer minutes of personalized instruction for each student.

“And, though educators have already returned about $2 billion in salary and benefits to the district, with $100 million being returned this year alone, we are being asked to give more when there is nothing left to give. Understand that budget cuts impact students; they include cuts to programming, staffing and services.

“Our special needs students have been hit the hardest, and CPS continues to gut special education at record speed. Even as children are impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder due to rampant violence and death—including police shootings caught on video—CPS reduces social workers, school psychologists and nurses.

“Veteran educators, many of whom are nationally board certified, have been driven out of the district, out of our city, and some, out of the state. Just as highly skilled public university professors are being driven to smaller school districts in Florida and elsewhere, we are seeing teachers and good principals leaving CPS in record numbers. People go where they can engage in their profession, have significant impact on students and where their careers aren’t threatened at every turn.

“The Chicago Teachers Union has been clear. If the Board of Education imposes a 7 percent slash in our salaries, we will move to strike. Cutting our pay is unacceptable, and for years, the ‘pension pickup’ as the Board has called it, was part of our compensation package. This was not a perk. This was negotiated compensation with the Board of Education.

“The CTU has also been very clear—CPS is broke on purpose. Instead of chasing phantom revenue in Springfield and in between the seat cushions of Chicago taxpayers, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago City Council can show true leadership and guts by reinstating the corporate head tax, declaring a TIF surplus and fighting for progressive taxation that would pull in revenue from the uber-wealthy in our city and state. The rich must pay their fair share.

“Chicago’s teachers are required to live in the city of Chicago. This means the mayor is telling us that even though he has stolen our raises, cut our benefits such as steps and lanes, and now threatens an even further pay cut of 7 percent, as taxpayers we must pay more and more and more for everything under the sun. None of that new revenue, however, will even go toward schools. This is absurd thinking.

“That is why the Chicago Teachers Union will attend all CPS budget hearings and call for truthful and fair taxation for CPS schools. Our members will do what they do best—educate the public, including parents, about the lies within CPS’ funding formula, the Board’s budgeting process and why the school district continues to cry broke.

“Cuts to our pay and benefits must be negotiated. We have been bargaining in good faith since the middle of last year and we have yet to come to an agreement. At some point a line has to be drawn in the sand.

“Chicago teachers do not seek to go on strike. We want to return to clean, safe, resourced schools. We want a fair contract. We will continue to partner with parents and community residents in fighting for the schools our students deserve.

“But we will not accept an imposed pay cut.

“To parents, play close attention to what is going on over the next few weeks so you can be prepared should CPS force educators back on the picket line. To CTU members, we’ve been telling you for months now to save as much money as you can.

“We do not know if Mayor Emanuel can stand another teachers strike, especially at a time when confidence in his leadership is at an all-time low, and when the city is in an uproar over another police shooting of an unarmed African-American youth.

“Do not force our hand.”

Mike Klonsky updates readers on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ongoing efforts to destroy public education in Chicago.

There is plenty of money for “network leaders,” who oversee principals. There is plenty of money for charter school expansion.

But the Mayor and his hand-picked board have ordered layoffs of 1,000 public school staff, including nearly 500 teachers, many of them tenured.

Last week, we learned that CPS chief Forrest Claypool was funneling big contracts to his Jenner & Block law firm pals.

On Wednesday, CPS announced it was maintaining and expanding it’s network of high-paid, mid-level regional managers called network chiefs. They’re the enforcers who give school principals marching orders and ride herd over clusters of neighborhood schools.

On Thursday, we learned that more privately run charter schools will be opening, including a new $27 million charter that’s part of the development around the newly-planned Obama Library in Kenwood. The goal is to give a boost to the real estate market and promote gentrification on the city’s south side.

Today, Rahm/Claypool pulled the trigger on nearly 1,000 CPS teachers and staff. That includes 494 teachers — including 256 tenured teachers. The layoffs broke down this way: 302 high school teachers and 192 elementary school teachers for a total of 494; and 352 high school support personnel and 140 elementary school support personnel, for a total of 492.

Obviously, charter schools are NOT public schools. Only teachers in public schools were laid off.

What a disgrace!

A high school teacher in Chicago writes a guest post for EduShyster about a charming, charismatic student she calls Darrell.

Darrell was far behind in his school work. His attention was elsewhere. Darrell was murdered.

If Darrell had been born White and privileged, he would have been in the twelfth grade, ready to graduate from high school and move on to college. He would have been an entrepreneur, a politician. He was that charismatic, that magnetic. Peers gathered around him like steam over coffee. He had a sharp wit. He cracked up everyone he met, including his teachers. But because he was poor, lived in the hood, couldn’t read, and didn’t have the patience or inclination for formal education, Darrell used his talents in the ways that he could. Ways his teachers vainly protested, seeing the basic sweetness and goodness in this giant who seemed to us strangely vulnerable, despite his hulking frame and the $1000 in twenty dollar bills he regularly displayed, like a fan, when he couldn’t focus in class.

We, his teachers, knew how he got his money. We called his mother, expressing concern. But Darrell was caught up in something bigger than his block, more sinister than his gang and his guns and his drugs. He was stuck in the purgatory of hopeless, helpless poverty, whose victims know they’ll eventually end up in hell, but plan to enjoy the party while it lasts.

It’s a different thing, teaching the living dead. It’s a different thing to understand that you will likely outlive your students, praying that they’ll be jailed, just so they’ll still be drawing breath. It’s a different thing to see your students rocking guns and bags of drugs on their Facebook pages, the ones you stalk after they die. It’s a different thing to call and call and call and call a parent, and never get an answer, or to hear the parent kicking the crap out of the kid as you listen on the other end, or to hear the parent tell you, as a parent told me earlier this year, that she had no idea where her child even was—a young man in a similar situation to Darrell. Not for that moment or that hour, but for six months.

It’s a different thing when your own peers don’t get why you teach students like these, why you love their infectious enthusiasm, their humor, their undying spirits, the respect they show you when you treat them like human beings.

Do reformers understand hopelessness? They certainly don’t understand teachers like this one. They blame her for Darrell’s poverty and his academic failure. Why?

Fred Klonsky reports on emails sent from Governor Bruce Rauner, when he was a private citizen, to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel fought in court to keep the emails under lock and key, but was eventually forced to release them by court order.

Citizen Rauner expressed his unedited views of educators in Chicago:

Gov. Bruce Rauner once told some of Chicago’s wealthiest and most influential civic leaders that half of the Chicago Public Schools teachers “are virtually illiterate” and half of the city’s principals are “incompetent,” according to emails Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration released Thursday under a court order.

Rauner made the assertion five years ago when he was a wealthy private equity executive and an active participant in Chicago school reform. His emails were part of a discussion with affluent education reform activists connected to the Chicago Public Education Fund, including Penny Pritzker, now U.S. commerce secretary; billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin; Chicago investment executive Mellody Hobson; and Helen Zell, the wife of billionaire real estate magnate Sam Zell.

“Teacher evaluation is critically important, but in a massive bureaucracy with a hostile union, where 50% of principals are managerially incompetent and half of teachers are virtually illiterate, a complete multi-dimensional evaluation system with huge subjectivity in it will be attacked, manipulated and marginalized – the status quo will prevail,” Rauner wrote in a December 2011 email arguing for a strong system of teacher and principal evaluations in the district. “It’s much more critical that we develop a consistent, rigorous, objective, understandable measure and reporting system for student growth upon which all further evaluation of performance will depend.”

We know that Governor Rauner loves charter schools, especially those that do not have unions, where the teachers are young college graduates with little or no experience.

Now we have a clue about why he has been unwilling to fund Chicago public schools.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Chicago is experiencing an exodus of experienced principals.

Forty-two Chicago Public Schools principals resigned this year, the most since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office.

And 23 principals, out of about 515 total, decided to retire, a number somewhat higher than the last several years. The 65 school leaders departing this past school year saw more budget cuts, including unprecedented cuts midyear. Since 2011, the next highest number was 37 resignations in 2014. In 2012, only 13 departed, but 96 retired that year.

Mayor Emanuel has made his contempt for public schools clear, as well as his preference for privately managed, non-union charter schools.

CPS’ chief education officer Janice Jackson acknowledged the financial pressures, saying, “Our principals and teachers are leaving for jobs where their district doesn’t have to take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the classroom to fund their pensions.”

Ousted CPS principal Troy LaRaviere, who recently took office as head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said the pressure has been building for years.

“It’s the cumulative effects of being consistently under the weight of a district that finds one way after another to undermine the efforts [principals] put forth on behalf of their students,” he said. “Our ability to do our job depends on resources, and they take more of them away every year impairing our ability to do our job more and more.”

Until Thursday, when a temporary state budget was finally approved, principals were bracing themselves for cuts to their school budget of 26 percent on average. That was on top of cuts earlier in the school year to special education and warnings to stockpile cash so CPS could afford $676 million toward teacher pensions. They still don’t have budgets for September — and won’t for at least another week.

In recent years, the district privatized school cleaning, taking away principals’ power to manage janitors in their buildings. CPS shuttered a record 50 neighborhood schools. Budgets were cut sharply the same summer that former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pushed a $20 million no-bid contract for principal training that participants immediately denounced as shoddy.

Mayor Emanuel is effectively driving the public schools and their personnel into the ground. He is a poor steward of public education. What public responsibility is greater than the education of the city’s children?

The death by a thousand cuts, that is the story of “school reform” in Chicago. It seems that no one in the Mayor’s office cares about the children in the public schools.

Mike Klonsky tells the sad story of the shutdown of the Children and Family Benefits Unit, a small group that drew in more money than it spent, all to help the neediest children.

Does society have a more sacred trust than the care, feeding, and education of children?

What are Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner thinking?

They should be called out, every day, for their neglect of their greatest responsibility.

Juan Rangel, a political activist in Chicago, created the city’s largest charter chain, called UNO. Rangel was co-chairman of Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign in 2011, when he first ran for mayor. UNO was an amazing cash cow. It collected $280 million over five years from the state. Governor Pat Quinn and House Speaker Mike Madigan took care of UNO, giving it a grant of $98 million to expand, a staggering amount for a single charter chain. Meanwhile, UNO fired its for-profit management firm and took charge of its operations, claiming 10% of all revenues for itself. None of UNO’s activities were monitored by anyone. Conflict of interest rules covered public schools, but not UNO.

Here is the ultimate nonpartisan article summing up the rise and fall of UNO and Juan Rangel. Here is my short summary of that brilliant article.

Once UNO won $98 million from the state, many friends and relatives got a piece of the action:

As the Sun-Times would reveal in February 2013, a long line of contractors, plumbers, electricians, security firms, and consultants tied to many of the VIPs on UNO’s organizational chart got a piece of the action. Rangel spelled out in tax documents and in later bond disclosures that the construction firm d’Escoto Inc.—owned by former UNO board member Federico d’Escoto, the brother of Miguel d’Escoto—was the owner’s representative on three projects funded by the grant. Another d’Escoto brother, Rodrigo, was paid $10 million for glass subcontracts for UNO’s two Soccer Academies and a third school in the Northwest Side neighborhood of Halewood.

The vendor lists were peppered with other familiar names: a $101,000 plumbing contract awarded to the sister of Victor Reyes, UNO’s lobbyist, who helped secure the state grant; a $1.7 million electrical contract given to a firm co-owned by one of Ed Burke’s precinct captains; tens of thousands in security contracts to Citywide Security, a firm that had given money to Danny Solis, and to Aguila Security, managed by the brother of Rep. Edward Acevedo, who voted for the $98 million for UNO.

As the scandals broke into public view, thanks to the enterprising reporting of the Chicago Sun-Times, Rangel resigned in December 2013.

Fred Klonsky writes about the consequences for Rangel. The SEC fined Rangel $10,000 while he admitted no wrong-doing. He is allowed to pay it off at $2,500 per quarter.

Klonsky writes in incredulity:

When he resigned from UNO he received a severance package of nearly a quarter million bucks.

$2500 a quarter?

That probably equals his lunch tab.

When Rangel ran UNO it was reported by the Sun-Times as having spent more than $60,000 for restaurants on his American Express “business platinum” card including thousand dollar tabs at Gene & Georgetti, the Chicago steak house.

A credulous reporter, Rebeka Lowin, wrote a glowing article about the miraculous charter school in Chicago that sends 100% of its graduates to four-year colleges.

Urban Prep, she writes, “boasts a whopping college acceptance rate of 100%. That’s right: Each graduate has been accepted to a four-year university.”

“Boasts” is the right verb, to be sure.

According to Mike Klonsky, referring (https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?Search=1&InstName=urban+prep&SchoolType=1&SchoolType=2&SchoolType=3&SchoolType=4&SpecificSchlTypes=all&IncGrade=-1&LoGrade=-1&HiGrade=-1&ID=170993005884) to US Department of Education data, “This class started with 154 freshman. 67 made it to 12th grade.”

The point of stories like this is to imply that every neighborhood could achieve the same success if they did what this school does. But Urban Prep does not have a 100% graduation rate. It is not a neighborhood school. It is not a model.

Urban Prep is noted for its amazing attrition rate. This year, less than half its first-year students made it to graduation. The graduation rate is not 100%.

Klonsky, who lives in Chicago, congratulates those who did make it to graduation, but he adds some caveats.


Once you cut through all the hype, Urban Prep is anything but a miracle. For one thing, only about half of its students even make it to their senior year. This high attrition rate is typical of charter schools and neighborhood schools alike. For another, despite its strong emphasis on test scores, UP’s reading and math scores are among the lowest in the district and usually fall below the CPS average for African-American male students.

Last year the school had its charter renewed even though it failed to meet most of its own accountability targets. Only 17 percent of Urban Prep juniors passed their state exams a year ago, far lower than the district average of 29 percent. On the positive side, that beats the 8.4 percent passing rate in many neighboring high schools. But nevertheless, nothing to write home about.

As I pointed out last year, the school’s entire graduating class has been accepted to four-year universities even though only 12% of them met the college readiness benchmark in reading and only 36% met the benchmark in English on the ACT exam. And while UP’s composite ACT score is a few (3) points higher than nearby high schools, it’s important to remember that Urban Prep ISN’T a neighborhood school. It draws its students from 31 different zip-codes in the city.

As it happened, I first debunked the claim of “miracle schools” in the New York Times five years ago. When NPR lauded this very same miracle school, I wrote another commentary, this time noting the work of Gary Rubinstein and Noel Hammatt.

Note to reporters: Before you believe the press release, please google the name of the school. Be sure to check the attrition rate. If anyone knows Rebeka Lowin, please send her this post.

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