Archives for category: Illinois

The expose published by ProPublic and the Chicago Tribune about the isolation of students with disabilities in locked “quiet rooms” got immediate response from the Governor and the State Board of Education in Illinois.

This is known as seclusion.

The governor said he will introduce legislation to end and prohibit the barbaric practice. 

The Illinois State Board of Education announced Wednesday that it will take emergency action to end the seclusion of children alone behind locked doors at schools, saying the practice has been “misused and overused to a shocking extent.”

Responding to a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation published a day earlier, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the isolation of children in the state “appalling” and said he directed the education agency to make emergency rules for schools. He will then work with legislators to make the rules into law, he said.

The rules would not totally ban the use of timeout rooms but would end isolation. The state board said children would be put in timeout only if a “trained adult” is in the room and the door is unlocked. Timeouts also must be used only for therapeutic reasons or to protect the safety of students and staff, the board said.

The board also said it will begin collecting data on all instances of timeout and physical restraint in Illinois schools and will investigate “known cases of isolated seclusion to take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action.” State officials had not previously monitored these practices.

H/T to Laura Chapman for alerting me to this important news.

ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune collaborated to produce this shocking investigation of the mistreatment and abuse of students with special needs in Illinois.

This is a story of shameful cruelty to children. Read it and weep.

THE SPACES have gentle names: The reflection room. The cool-down room. The calming room. The quiet room.

But shut inside them, in public schools across the state, children as young as 5 wail for their parents, scream in anger and beg to be let out.

The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. They throw their bodies against locked doors. They wet their pants. Some children spend hours inside these rooms, missing class time. Through it all, adults stay outside the door, writing down what happens.

In Illinois, it’s legal for school employees to seclude students in a separate space — to put them in “isolated timeout” — if the students pose a safety threat to themselves or others. Yet every school day, workers isolate children for reasons that violate the law, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois has found.

Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos. School employees use isolated timeout for convenience, out of frustration or as punishment, sometimes referring to it as “serving time.”

For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.

Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion…

No federal law regulates the use of seclusion, and Congress has debated off and on for years whether that should change. Last fall, a bill was introduced that would prohibit seclusion in public schools that receive federal funding. A U.S. House committee held a hearing on the issue in January, but there’s been no movement since.

Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1.

The story contains stories of children locked in small rooms, where they urinate on themselves, bang on the walls and doors and scratch them. Some of the children have serious mental or emotional disorders. Some are disobedient. None deserves to be treated with such inhumanity. Experts say that punitive “seclusion” is not only cruel but ineffective.

After reading this report, I asked ProPublica where seclusion has been banned.

This was the answer:

These four states ban any type of seclusion (Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, Pennsylvania) and that these are the remaining 15 you’re looking for: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming (with varying levels of exceptions).

Thanks to ProPublica for shedding light on this horrible practice.

 

Mike Klonsky, veteran activist in Chicago, reports that Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill abolishing the state Charter School Commission.

As Mike says, “We count our victories one by one,” and this is a big one. It spells the end to the reckless charter expansion encouraged by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, concentrated in Chicago. Rauner and Rahm believed in the magic of privatization.

No doubt about it, the glow is off the charter school hoax. The bloom is off the rose, or as we said in years past in New York City, the bloom is off the berg.

Since 2011, when the Commission was established and signed into law by former Gov. Pat Quinn (yes a Democrat), I’ve worked with several struggling school districts around the state when they’ve had to go before the Commission to plead their case. Together we built a research base which was used to debunk the false claims of the charter operators in an effort to stop invasions by powerful, charter school networks. In some cases we were successful and others we weren’t.

I found the decisions by commission members to be be completely arbitrary and biased. Keep in mind that the commission was originally the dream of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and that the money for the commission’s original staffing and other expenses came from the pro-charter Walton Foundation. The Commission has been riddled with conflicts of interest from the start.

Commission members have been generally charter-friendly political appointees chosen by the governor and approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). In the eight years prior to Pritzker’s election, commission members were handpicked by Rauner, a right-wing governor hellbent on starving and ultimately taking over local school systems, including CPS, using charters and school vouchers as weapons.

But Rauner wasn’t the only problem. You might remember when the Commission, acting under pressure from House Speaker Mike Madigan, reversed CPS’s rejection of Concept (Gulen) charter schools’ application at a time when the FBI was investigating Concept’s operations. Records show that the Commission’s Springfield lobbyist, Liz Brown-Reeves, a former Madigan aide, accompanied him on his Gulen sponsored trip to Turkey in 2012….

Currently, there are 140 charter schools in Illinois, 126 of which operate within Chicago Public Schools diverting money, students and teachers away from regular CPS schools. So far there is no evidence that these charters outperform the CPS schools they are trying to replace. In the CPS budget for next year, the district expects to receive $4 million less funding than expected from the state this past school year because “diversions to schools approved by the Illinois State Charter School Commission (SCSC) were higher than expected.”

The power to overrule the decisions of local districts now goes to the state board, which is appointed by the governor.

 

The Chicago Teachers Union reports on some gains. Most notable is that individual school districts will be able to limit charter school expansion into their districts, a battle now being fought in California. The issue is whether the wishes of charter entrepreneurs should outweigh democratic local control of schools. Illinois says no.

 

While some gains have been made, equity agenda in Springfield requires real leadership from Lightfoot

The CTU is calling on Chicago’s new mayor to ‘Keep the Promise’ for education equity by supporting the restoration of our bargaining rights—and an elected, representative school board.

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union made some powerful gains in this spring’s Springfield legislative session. The union won passage of legislation to reign in and reform the charter industry—including the right of individual school districts to control charter expansion in their districts. Until both houses passed the legislation, the Illinois State Charter School Commission had unilateral power to ignore school districts’ attempts to close down bad operators in their regions. Now, that power is ended.

Legislators also increased the number of days that retired teachers and support staff can serve as substitute teachers by 20 percent without sacrificing their pension benefits. The bill is designed to help alleviate an acute shortage of substitute teachers, and put retired veteran educators back in the classroom. Before the legislation was passed, retirees could be forced to forfeit their entire pension if they substituted for more than 100 days per year, roughly twenty weeks out of a full school year.

And the legislature has sent a bill to the governor’s office that would suspend a teacher test that was widely decried as of dubious value—and a dangerous driver of the state’s acute teacher shortage.

Two other CTU initiatives—a bill to restore the CTU’s right to bargain over critical issues like class size and staff shortages, and a bill to create an elected, representative school board—both stalled in the senate, where Senate President John Cullerton sandbagged that legislation at the request of Chicago’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot. The earliest the effort could be taken up again by the state legislature is this October.

“The mayor ran on her support of an elected representative school board and on an agenda of real equity for neighborhood public schools,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Cullerton has, unfortunately, a long track record of carrying the water for the previous mayor on some terrible legislative initiatives. The new mayor should reverse that practice, respect the platform on which voters elected her, and move to get both of these initiatives passed.”

Chicagoans are the only residents in the state denied the right to elect their school board. The bill would have created distinct, walkable districts that ensure that every neighborhood in the city is represented on the school board. The 21-member board is about 40% the size of the City Council, and on par with the number of state representatives who are elected by Chicagoans to serve in Springfield.

For more than a quarter of a century, Chicago’s public school educators have also been denied the right—unlike educators across the state—to bargain over so-called ‘non-economic’ issues like class size and outsourcing. Those restrictions have allowed Chicago’s mayor to push massive privatization of school services—from health services for special needs students to janitorial services. That privatiziation agenda has driven deep deficiencies in health services for special education services and chronic cleanliness and maintenance issues in the public schools, at the same time that class sizes have exploded and the district confronts sweeping shortages of critical frontline staff like school nurses and social workers.

“We’ll continue to work to introduce and fight for passage of this legislation until we get it done,” said Sharkey. “Mayoral control of the board of education has been a dismal failure. It’s time for the mayor to fulfill her promises to Chicagoans, get behind these initiatives and start the hard work of building a school district built on real equity for our students. We elect our mayor, our aldermen, our state legislators—and Chicagoans should have the same right when it comes to our public schools that every other part of the state has the right to exercise.”

J.B. Pritzker, Democrat billionaire, beat Governor Bruce Rauner, Republican billionaire.

Rauner, who served for four years, is a hard-right Republican.

Will Pritzker find a new path and act like a liberal Democrat or will he be Rauner-lite?

Here are Fred Klonsky’s wishes for J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic controlled Legislature of Illinois:

I am providing a list of new year’s resolutions for the new governor and the old legislative leaders.

An elected representative school board for Chicago.

The voters of Chicago have made their views clear that we want one. Every other school district in the state has the right to elect their school leaders. No hybrids. No ifs. No buts.

Pass a plan for a graduated income tax, leading to a constitutional amendment, and put it on the ballot.

The state’s revenue supply is not enough to pay the state’s bills with a system in which the richest and the poorest working people in the state pay the same income tax rate.

Repeal the 3% cap on pensionable teacher salaries.

Contract bargaining should return to a collective bargaining process between local school boards and teacher representatives.

Get rid of the Charter Commission.

The Charter Commission’s sole job is to overturn the decisions of local communities whether to have a charter school or not. Legislative attempts to restrict its power have failed. Now is the time to just get rid of it.

Repeal the private school tax credit.

As part of the budget deal with Governor Rauner, the Democrats agreed to a dollar for dollar tax credit for private and parochial schools. This was a deal hatched by Mayor Rahm, Rauner and Cardinal Cupich. In 2019 it should be unhatched.

Open the link and read them all!

I wish Governor Cuomo would read Fred Klonsky and follow his sound advice for New York!

Chalkbeat reports that two veterans of the disgraced Families for Excellent schools are heading for Chicago.

Since there is so much money available to launch new charters, someone has to do it.

Families for Excellent Schools was a front for tycoons and billionaires who despise public schools and advocate for privately managed charter schools. When Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to rein in zeta Moskowitz’s power grab (she wanted to open 14 new charters, he approved only eight), FES unleashed a $6 million TV blitz attacking de Blasio for trying to ruin the lives of black and brown children, who would be thrown out of schools that did not yet exist. Cuomo was showered with money by FES supporters, and he announced himself to be the charter industry’s champion, even appearing at their lavish rally. Cuomo persuaded the legislature to give NYC charters whatever they wanted, including free public space.

In 2016, FES became the lead financier of the pro-charter coalition in the Massachusetts refendum on whether to expand the number of charters. FES raised at least $15 million and tried to hide the names of its donors. Despite heavy spending, Question 2 was overwhelmingly defeated. After the election, the state’s political ethics office demanded that FES release the names of donors, which it did. The donors were super-rich and included both Democrats and Republicans. The state fined FES $426,000 (all the money on hand) and banned it from Massachusetts for the next four years. Soon after, the FES executive director was accused of sexual misconduct at a Reformer retreat (Camp Philos) in DC. He was fired, and FES closed its doors.

Professor Maurice Cipunningham of the University of Massschusetts chronicled the role of FES and Dark Money in the 2016 election. Google his 2016 and 2017 articles about FES.

Now, of course, not everyone went down with the ship. There’s lots of millions out there for ambitious young people who want to undermine and privatize public schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues his crusade to push public schools out of Chicago.

In a wave of closings and consolidation, the mayor found room for a new charter school run by a megachurch and a hip hop artist. The mother of the hip hop artist serves on the zchicago Board of Education.

“Chicago Public Schools on Friday moved ahead with school closing and merger proposals that would affect thousands of kids next school year.

“Under a previously announced plan, four South Side schools would close over the summer and the district would send hundreds of displaced students to surrounding schools. One building would be demolished to make way for a new high school, and privately operated charter schools would take over two other sites, under the district’s plan.

“Students at two predominantly African-American elementary schools near downtown would merge with more diverse campuses. One of those buildings, in the growing South Loop area, would gradually convert into a new high school.

“In addition, Hirsch, one of the city’s lowest-enrolled high schools, would share space for a privately run charter school program that’s backed by a local megachurch and a foundation headed by hip-hop artist Common…

“Hirsch, one of the city’s most underenrolled neighborhood high schools, would open its campus to the Art In Motion charter school next fall. CPS said the charter program, which is backed in part by the New Life Covenant Church and Common Ground Foundation, would first open to seventh- and eighth-graders before expanding to include a high school program.

“Mahalia Hines, a member of the Chicago Board of Education and mother of the hip-hop performer Common, also serves on the board of her son’s foundation.”

Does Illinois have conflict of interest laws?

Maurice Cunningham, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, is an expert on the infusion of Dark Money into education.

He wrote several articles about the millions of dollars that poured into Massachusetts to promote the referendum to increase the number of charter schools in November 2016.

This article is about a Dark Money passthrough called Stand for Children, which began its life as a pro-public school group but turned into a pro-Privatization, anti-union, anti-teacher organization. It highlights the role of Stand for Children in Massachusetts. It does not explore its national activities, where it plays a pernicious part in the attack on public schools, unions, and teachers.

http://blogs.wgbh.org/masspoliticsprofs/2017/10/6/your-dark-money-reader-special-edition-stand-children/

Those who remember the early days of SFC now call it “Stand ON Children.”

It has funneled money to corporate reform candidates in cities from Nashville to Denver. It tried to squelch the Chicago Teachers Union by buying up all the top lobbyists in Illinois. It has funded anti-union, anti-teacher campaigns.

It pretends to be a “civil rights” organization. It is not.

Kari Lydersen explains the story behind the Illinois tax-credit program, in this article.

In exchange for sending more money to Chicago, the Illinois legislature (controlled by Democrats) included a $75 million provision for tax credits for private school scholarships.

This is a voucher by another name.

It is the way to enact vouchers in a state where the state constitution bars them.

The nation’s best known tax credit program is in Florida, where Jeb Bush tried and failed to convince voters or the state supreme court to roll back the state constitutional ban on vouchers.

Betsy DeVos wants a national tax credit program, to drain students and resources from public schools.

Learn about it.

It is another way to privatize public education without public consent.

The allegedly bluestate of Illinois, the one with a Republican governor (who hates public schools) and a Democratic legislature (which is supposed to support public schools) passed a school funding deal with a generous voucher package.

According to the script, everyone was supposed to declare the deal a “bipartisan compromise,” not a victory for Betsy Dezvos and privatization.

But Peter Greene points out that DeVos didn’t get the memo. She celebrated her victory.

“Oh, no, Secretary! You forgot to call this a compromise. You forgot to say that these “savings accounts” aren’t really back door vouchers! You forgot to say what a great funding victory this was for public schools! You forgot to pretend that this bill helped ALL schools through its awesome compromisiness. You could have called it a victory on many sides… on many sides.

“Part of the deal in Illinois was supposed to be that voucher fans (of all parties) would refrain from doing a victorious happy dance, that they would avoid saying out loud “We are one step closer to replacing public schools.” But no– there’s DeVos, down in the end zone, doing her victory dance and spiking the ball and hollering, “In your FACE, public schools!!” Next time someone better make sure she gets the memo.”