CPS – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Ames parent mobilize http://www.newstips.org/2013/11/ames-parent-mobilize/ Fri, 01 Nov 2013 22:36:10 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7915 Parents and supporters of Ames Middle School are ramping up efforts to defend the community school from political interference.

Dozens of Ames parents are set to canvas the neighborhood Saturday morning to register voters and spread the word about community meetings being held by the LSC on Tuesday.  They’ll hold a press conference at 11 a.m. at Ames, 1920 N. Hamlin.

Days after parents protested an announcement by Mayor Emanuel that the Marine Academy would take over Ames, CPS appeared to be backtracking, saying the Marine Academy will stay in its current facility but Ames will become “Marine affiliated.”

The mayor’s office told DNA Info that the earlier announcement was “misworded.”

Meanwhile, Ames’s Local School Council has heard nothing from CPS about what is planned for the school, according to an organizer for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.  The LSC will meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, with a community meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. that day.

As a community partner for Ames, LSNA coordinates a range of academic, social, and health support programming for students as well as activities for parents and community members, including ESL, literacy and math-science workshops.  LSNA is nationally acclaimed for the success of its community learning center model.

Ames far outperforms Marine academically, according to LSNA, which calls Marine Academy a “pushout factory,” graduating just 56.5 percent of its freshman class four years later.

Mark Brown reported last December that enrollment declined at Ames when CPS removed two local elementary schools as feeders for the middle school.   Brown suggested that Ald. Robert Maldonado, the main proponent of moving the Marine Academy into the Ames building, ought to “suck it up” and meet with Ames parents.

And Raise Your Hand notes in its weekly update that the Ames plan (whatever it is) is one of a slew of newly-announced projects — incuding a $17 million upgrade of Walter Payton High School and a new Noble charter high school across the street from Prosser High — that are nowhere mentioned in the district’s brand-new facilities plan.

“What was the point of the ten-year master facilities plan?” they ask.

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1963 school boycott http://www.newstips.org/2013/10/1963-school-boycott/ Mon, 21 Oct 2013 20:18:17 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7847 Tuesday is the 50th aniversary of the 1963 Chicago school boycott, and a commemoration at DuSable Museum features a panel discussion and a screening of highlights from Kartenquin Films’ documentary-in-progress, 63 Boycott

The panel — on “Lessons from the 1963 Boycott – The Struggle for Quality Education in Chicago Then and Now” – features Rosie Simpson and Fannie Rushing, leaders of the ’63 boycott, along with CTU president Karen Lewis, historian Elizabeth Todd-Breland of UIC, and Jasson Perez of the Black Youth Project.

The free event takes place Tuesday, October 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Place.

On October 22, 1963, 250,000 CPS students boycotted school and thousands marched downtown.  They targetted the segregationist policies of CPS superintendent Ben Willis, under which students in black schools were crammed into classrooms and mobile units and taught in split shits, while nearby white schools had empty classrooms.  Spending on white schools was 50 percent higher than black schools.

In May, Ben Joravsky wrote about the documentary, giving some background on filmmaker Gordon Quinn’s involvement — and drawing some parallels with public education struggles today.

The People’s World has a retrospective that highlights the role of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations and the Congress of Racial Equality.  NewsOne credits the Chicago Area Friends of SNCC — a group which held its own commemoration two years ago.

At the time Newstips noted:

“The boycott and a demonstration by thousands of students and supporters in the Loop was a huge success.  The outcome was somewhat limited, though:  Willis was forced to resign, but school segregation continues to this day, [Sylvia] Fischer [of Chicago SNCC] said.

“In 1980 a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice resulted in a court ordered desegregation plan, but by then many white familes had moved to the suburbs, and many others had moved their children to private and parochial schools.  By the 1990s, two-thirds of Chicago’s white students were in private schools.   Today the city has a majority black public school system and a majority white private school system.

“The court order was lifted in 2009 over the objections of civil rights groups and students, who pointed to continuing inequities in Chicago schools.  In a blow to school desegregation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007, in a 5-to-4 decision, that using race as a factor in public school admissions is unconstitutional.”

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No celebration: Chicagoans protest police, schools http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/no-celebration-chicagoans-protest-police-schools/ Tue, 27 Aug 2013 23:44:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7638 Two dovetailing protests will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Chicago on Wednesday — a march on the Board of Education by a citywide coalition of community groups at 10 a.m., and a march on City Hall demanding accountability for police killings directly afterward.

Both protests emphasize how far we still have to go to address racial inequality, and both call for the creation of elected bodies to oversee local agencies — an elected school board and an elected civilian police accountability council.

***

A dozen community organizations have called for a one-day school boycott and will march on the Board of Education at 10 a.m. demanding an end to the destabilization of neighborhood schools and recognition of the human right to a safe, quality education for every child.

They are calling for an elected school board and reallocation of TIF funds to stop budget cuts.

“Our schools are still very segregated and very unequal,” said Sarah Simmons of Parents For Teachers.  Suburban and selective enrollment schools have a full range of programs while students at Dyett High School in Washington Park are forced to take art and phys ed classes online, she said.

After heavy budget cuts, Kelly High School has two art teachers for 2,700 students and no library, said Israel Munoz, a recent Kelly grad who helped organize the new Chicago Students Union and is now headed to college.

Adolphous McDowell, a longtime school activist with KOCO, places Mayor Emanuel’s educational policies in the context of the backlash against the civil rights movement — noting that we’re still struggling to fulfill the promises of Reconstruction, when newly enfranchised black legislators created public education systems in southern states where they’d never existed.

One reaction to school desegregation in the 1950s and ’60s was the shift of public funding to white-only private schools in the South; later President Reagan pushed vouchers as a way to shift public funds to private school operators, McDowell said.

All those efforts “are coming to pass with charter schools,” he said.

Wednesday’s protest is the kickoff of a 25-city campaign to stop school closings and charter expansions.

Working with the national coalition Journey for Justice, Chicago students and parents have filed civil rights complaints against CPS and testified this January at a hearing on school closings at the U.S. Department of Education.

***

The local chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is leading a Peoples March on City Hall for Peace and Justice, highlighting the call for police accountability.  After gathering at the Federal Plaza at 11 a.m., they’ll march to City Hall for a 12 noon rally.

Since 2009, 70 Chicagoans have been killed by police, often in very questionable circumstances, said Ted Pearson of NAARPR.    Many police victims are shot in the back, he said.

Not a single officer has been charged for these killings, he said.

Investigations by the Independent Police Review Authority are “ineffective,” he said.  IPRA can only make recommendations to the Police Board or turn over evidence to the State’s Attorney.  “Anita Alvarez does nothing with these cases,” he said.  “She just sits on them.”

He points to the case of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old shot by an off-duty detective in Douglas Park in March 2012.  The officer claimed a young man pointed a gun at him, but he was holding a cellphone, said Pearson.  Alvarez charged the young man — who was shot in the hand by Detective Dante Servin — with aggravated assault.  Charges were dropped when Servin failed to appear for a hearing.

Servin has not been charged and remains on the police force. This spring the City Council approved a $4.5 million settlement with Boyd’s family.

Pearson said the issue of police killings gets little mainstream attention “but in the black community it’s a hot-button issue.”

“It’s common to hear people say the police are just a gang like any other gang, the only difference is they get away with it,” he said.  “They take the law into their own hands.”

The alliance’s legislative proposal to establish an elected civilian police control board is modeled on a measure that was enacted by Berkeley, California, in the 1980s, he said.

Buses are bringing protestors from Englewood, Washington Park, Woodlawn, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Austin, Pilsen, Little Village, Hegewisch, Humboldt Park, and Rogers Park.

***
Gary Younge has a new book from Chicago’s Haymarket Press on The Speech, about the background of Martin Luther King’s famous oration fifty years ago.  “The speech was profoundly and willfully misunderstood,” theologian Vincent Harding, a colleague of King’s tells Younge in an adaptation published in the Nation.

Younge points to one sentence often overlooked today — and which could serve as a rejoinder to Emanuel’s austerity agenda:  while blacks remain “on a lonely island of poverty,” King said, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.”

Don Rose, one of the Chicago organizers of the March on Washington, underscores this point in his latest Chicago Daily Observer column.  But given Wednesday’s agenda, last week’s column is also germane:

“There are so many twists and turns in Rahm Emanuel’s school plans it’s hard to figure out exactly what he has in mind—apart from wrecking the Chicago Teachers Union. He sure doesn’t seem to be helping the kids, which should be his first order of business.”

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At Whittier, CPS demolishes a library http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/at-whittier-cps-demolishes-a-library/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/08/at-whittier-cps-demolishes-a-library/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 18:49:27 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7619 Despite Mayor Emanuel’s rhetoric about a “21st century education” for every student, his school budget cuts have resulted in the layoff of librarians at 50 elementary schools; at nearly all of them, that means they won’t have functioning library.

Now CPS has gone a step further, demolishing the library built by parents at Whittier Elementary.

Despite the rhetoric about parent empowerment and community involvement — despite Barbara Byrd Bennett’s high-sounding promises about “restoring trust” — the demolition was ordered and carried out with no communication with the parents who had created and fought for the library and community center they called La Casita.

Promises

A little history:  after a 43-day occupation of the fieldhouse at Whittier in the fall of 2010, then-CPS chief Ron Huberman promised not to demolish the building and agreed to work with Whittier parents and elected officials to find funding to improve La Casita, to be operated by the parents committee as a community center.

In the summer of 2011, then-CPS chief Jean Claude Brizard tried to demolish La Casita, but when demolition crews showed unannounced, parents reoccupied the building.  In the aftermath, Brizard acknowledged the Huberman agreement and expressed his “eagerness to formalize a lease agreement and turn the fieldhouse over to the Whittier Parents Committee” in a letter to the parents.

CPS says an August 12 engineering inspection found the structure unsafe, requiring immediate demolition, with no time to consult with the parents group.  But the Sun Times reports that “an almost identical report” by the same engineering firm issued in May “call[s] into question the rational [CPS spokesperson Becky] Carroll gave for the hurried destruction this weekend.”

Carroll also said the Whittier Parents never signed a lease.  But Gema Gaete of the parents committee said they’d proposed changes to onerous provisions in the lease offered by CPS, and that letters from lawyers for the parents seeking to iron out issues were never answered.

In a final show of bad faith, CPS offered to meet with parents at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.  By that time, demolition was underway.

On his Facebook page, Ald. Danny Solis said he would be meeting with CPS and Whittier parents on Saturday morning.  But at a back-to-school fair he sponsored Saturday morning — where Whittier supporters showed up to confront him — a staffer told the Sun Times Solis was “out of town, on vacation.”

CPS promises to build an artificial-turf field, raising the question of whether the deal pushed by Solis for a soccer field for Cristo Rey, a nearby Jesuit high school, is back on track.  According to DNAInfo, it the new facilities will be built with TIF funds.

Schools without libraries

During the 2010 occupation, Whittier emerged as a symbol of a widespread problem in CPS — schools without libraries.   Before La Casita, Whittier was one of over 160 CPS schools that don’t have a library.*  A few are being installed in schools receiving students from closing schools, but at the same time, 43 elementary schools are losing their librarians, according to Raise Your Hand.

Another seven are losing some library staffing, according to the group.  In addition, 26 high schools are losing librarians.

So under Mayor Emanuel, CPS schools without functioning libraries are headed toward the 200 mark, possibly topping it.  And now Whittier is again without a library.

CPS seized about 2,000 books, many of them brand new, from the library in La Casita, said Lisa Angonese, a former Whittier parent who’s continued to run the library.  After the 2010 sit-in, books were donated from all over the world, she said.

Also seized were the library’s iPads, Kindles, and computers.  “These were resources that the community was using as of yesterday,” she said.

La Casita featured readings by neighborhood authors, documentary film screenings, and programs on topics like domestic violence, foreclosure prevention and immigration rights, along with ESL and GED classes, she said.  It also provided a safe haven for children during dangerous after-school hours.

These are services the community needs, and it was all provided at no cost to the public, she said.

Maybe CPS will go forward with its long-delayed promise to install a library in Whittier, but Angonese doesn’t know where.  The last proposal was to put up a divider in a small room now used as a resource room for special education students, she said.

The Whittier parents are now demanding that Emanuel and Solis restore the services and resources that have been snatched away.  They’re calling for a new fieldhouse to replace La Casita.

After an all-night vigil and a march to Solis’s school fair and back, the Whittier mothers and their supporters formed a circle in the middle of the street and held hands.  One leader thanked God for La Casita and for bringing the community together.  We have not been defeated, she promised.

Today, Whittier symbolizes something beyond the lack of libraries:  hardworking parents doing everything they can to support their children’s education, and being undercut and disrespected by CPS.

Meanwhile, a new volunteer group is collecting books for CPS elementary schools that have no library, focusing on schools with high rates of poverty and homelessness.  So far Books First Chicago has set up libraries in Deneen, McCutcheon, and Parker Elementary.

At Parker, the group reports on its Facebook page, the principal had planned to start a library, but funding was withdrawn by CPS.

 

* As Matt Farmer reported at the time, it was Whittier mothers who obtained and released the list of 160 schools without libraries — overwhelmingly concentrated on the South and West Sides.

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Teach For America alumni organize ‘resistance’ http://www.newstips.org/2013/07/teach-for-america-alumni-organize-resistance/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/07/teach-for-america-alumni-organize-resistance/#comments Sat, 13 Jul 2013 01:42:23 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7562 In a major step for a growing “countermovement,” Teach For America alumni and teachers are meeting at a conference here this weekend to organize “resistance to TFA’s efforts to promote corporate education reform.”

Meanwhile  CPS, which is laying off hundreds of teachers, is stepping up its financial support for the controversial organization, which provides graduates of top colleges with cursory educational training and places them in classrooms in low-income urban and rural areas.

An assembly on Organizing Resistance to Teach For America takes place Sunday, July 14, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Uplift Community High School, 900 W. Wilson.  It’s part of the national Free Minds, Free People conference, aimed at “promot[ing] education as a tool for liberation.”

Among the organizers is a group of New Orleans TFAers who formed a Teachers Roundtable to foster community discussions after they realized their training hadn’t prepared them for issues of racial justice and community displacement, according to the American Prospect.

The Sunday event aims to focus the efforts of an emerging group of TFA alumni and others who are critical of the organization’s role backing privatization and the charter school movement, said Kerry Kretchmar, an assistant professor of education at Carroll University in Wisconsin.  Kretchmar was a TFA teacher-intern in New York City from 2004 to 2006.

Contributing to inequality

While TFA “uses the language of the civil rights movement” and talks about ending educational inequities, the group “perpetuates systemic inequalities”  including the lack of certified teachers in low-income urban schools, Kretchmar said.  And while it started out a quarter century ago filling teacher shortages in poor districts, today its “corps members” are replacing veteran teachers.

TFA spokesperson Becky O’Neill said in an e-mail that research “shows that corps members’ impact on student achievement exceeds that of other teachers in the same high-needs schools, even when compared with veteran and fully certified teachers.”  According to Kretchmar, peer-reviewed research doesn’t back up that claim.  (More on the question here.)

It’s a sensitive subject in Chicago, where hundreds of teachers were displaced when Mayor Emanuel closed 50 schools recently, and hundreds more are expected to lose their jobs with cuts to school budgets now under consideration.

Meanwhile, Substance reports, CPS has increased its contract for TFA to refer teacher-interns to the district from $600,000 to $1.59 million, raising the number of first-year TFAers to 325, up from 200 two years ago.

That money is for referrals (some call it a “finder’s fee”) and for on-going support; CPS also pays TFA teacher-interns the full salary of a starting teacher.  (CPS did not respond immediately to a request for comment.)

It’s not like it’s particularly hard to find available teachers in Chicago.

No teacher shortage

“In Chicago, we don’t have a teacher shortage; we have a huge population of veteran teachers who’ve been thrown out of their jobs,” CTU president Karen Lewis told Newstips.  “It’s primarily middle-aged black women.  And it’s very difficult for them to find open positions.”

Chicago is not the only place that’s happening, either.

O’Neill argues that in Chicago, hiring decisions are made by principals, who “continue to hire our corps members based on the impact they make in the classroom.”

But Lewis point out that with the district’s shift to per-pupil funding, principals have a strong financial incentive to favor lower-salaried first-year teachers over those with experience — even though research shows that teachers with five or more years of experience are far more effective than novices.

She adds that TFA has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from pro-privatization foundations; the group’s total assets in 2011 topped $350 million, according to the Prospect.  “So why is CPS subsidizing them?  It’s ridiculous.”

Targeting communities

In May, local teacher/blogger Katie Osgood raised alarms about a TFA statement that “by 2017, we aim to create a network of eight or more neighborhoods with exceptional levels of student achievement….

“Through a focused influx of corps members and alumni, we will reach critical mass in the Near West Side, East/West Garfield Park, North/South Lawndale, Archer Heights, Brighton Park, Gage Park, and Englewood.”  The statement was included in materials for a gala, $10,000-a-table fundraiser at the Drake Hotel.

Osgood wrote that TFA was targeting “the very same communities being traumatized” by massive school closings.

“And TFA wants to go into those communities after mass layoffs — where many quality veteran teachers will be displaced and many may not be rehired,” among them many teachers with deep roots in the community – “and offer them uncertified, poorly-trained novices, many of whom have never even been to the Midwest, much less know the varied individual neighborhoods of Chicago.

“It’s like TFA is kicking these communities while they are down.”

Commented O’Neill, “Based on the success that our corps members have had teaching in some of our highest-need communities and feedback from principals in these areas, we’re open to the idea that it might be worth increasing the number of corps members we recruit, train, and support to partner with kids and families in these communities in particular.”

Since up to 70 percent of Chicago TFAers work in charter schools, including the politically-connected Nobel and UNO chains, it could be yet another sign that the school closings weren’t about “underutilization” or saving money after all — they were to lay the ground for charter expansion.

Guinea pigs

More recently, Osgood has scored TFA for using CPS summer school classes — for students who failed courses during the school year — as training sites for their interns.

“These are the children most in need of expert teaching and support; many may have or eventually may need special education services,” she wrote. “Instead, TFA partners with certain schools where students are used as practice tools the entire day, as novices have their very first experiences working with a group of children.”

According to Osgood, a veteran teacher she knows reported his class was taken over, and he “was told to sit silently in the back of the classroom” as “five novice TFAers fumbled their way through lessons for four whole weeks of a five-week summer term.”

“They are using my kids as guinea pigs,” he told Osgood.

“The organization is working to deprofessionalize teaching,” charges T. Jameson Brewer, a former TFAer who’s now a PhD candidate at Univerity of Illinois at Urbana-Champagn

“The assumption is that anybody can teach — that if you went to a good school and got good grades, then you can teach,” he said.  “I can assure you that’s not the case.”

Brewer took a curious route into TFA.  After university training he was certified as a secondary school history teacher in Georgia — but at the height of the recession, a two-year job search was fruitless.  He joined TFA thinking, “anything to get in a classroom,” he said.

Burnout

He took notes and even volunteered as a staffer for summer training institute his second year to gain more insight.  (TFA trainers are not a whole lot more experienced than their trainees.)   His account of his experience will be published in a forthcoming issue of Critical Education devoted to TFA.

He’s also written on burnout among TFAers: he thinks the combination of minimal training and the ideology that every student failure is solely the teachers’ fault is a powerful factor, and contributes to low retention rates for the organization.

Brewer recalls witnessing a TFA adviser yelling at an intern who’d sought his guidance regarding a student who consistently failed to bring a pencil to class.

The adviser excoriated the intern, according to Brewer, “insisting that if the corps member had properly ‘invested her students in their learning’ that the student would bring a pencil.  The corps member was brought to tears and quit three days later.”

Time to fold?

Another local blogger who’s a TFA alum has suggested it’s time for the organization to fold.  A recent TFAer in Colorado, Matt Barnum is now a student at University of Chicago Law School; he seems generally supportive of mainstream “reform” goals.

But he argues that TFA is now replacing veteran teachers, and points to the “wasted investment schools make in teachers who leave within a few years.”  He questions TFA’s cost-effectiveness, pointing out that the group’s annual budget in 2009 amounted to $38,000 per intern, more than double what it cost in 2005.

Barnum says his five-week training was “close to useless” and the support he received through the school year was perfunctory and “little help.”  Considering the group spends over $200 million a year, perhaps there is a better use for that money, he writes.

Osgood has called on TFA members to quit, saying the organization claims to fight inequality but in fact contributes to char it.

“I have nothing against the corps members,” says Lewis.  “They’re young people who have a lot of empathy and want to do something, want to give something back.”

In fact, she says, “I came into teaching like they did” — graduating from an Ivy League school and going through an alternative certification program.  “I didn’t know I was going to make a commitment to teach, but I got the teaching bug.”

“I know that you are trying to help, but you are becoming part of a system that is destabilizing children’s lives,” she says.  “Realize that you’ve been sold a bill of goods.”

What should they do?  “Make a commitment, learn how to teach, check your egos at the door.”  By this she means questioning the organization’s Super Teacher fantasy, the notion that an elite education gives you special powers that mere mortals lack.

“And don’t buy into the finger-pointing at veteran teachers.  We have to do this together.”

***

CTU is a sponsor of Free Minds, Free People, along with Northeastern Illinois University, the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education, and a number of national groups, including the Alliance for Eeducation Justice, Rethinking Schools, and the Brown University Department of Education.

Karen Lewis will speak as part of the plenary town hall meeting, Saturday, July 13 at 2:15 p.m.

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Alternatives to school cuts http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/alternatives-to-school-cuts/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 22:32:17 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7539 Just a month ago — when they were intent on closing 50 schools — the watchword at CPS was “quality education.”

“What we must do is ensure that the resources that some kids get, all kids get,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett in an internet ad funded by the right-wing Walton Family Foundation.  “And these resources include libraries and access to technology and science labs and art classrooms….

“And with our consolidations we’re able to guarantee that our children will get what they need and what they deserve.”

That was then.

Raise Your Hand has released a very partial list of budget cuts faced by schools under the district’s new per-pupil funding system, and it’s impressive:

Goethe, Jamieson, Kozmisky, Sutherland, each will lose between $250,000 and $300,000.  Audobon, Belden, Gale, Grimes Fleming, and Ray, between $400,000 and $500,000.  Bell, Darwin Mitchell, Murphy, Suder, Sullivan High, betweeen $700,000 and $800,000.  Gage Park High, Lincoln Park High, Mather Elementary, Roosevelt High, $1 million or thereabouts.  Foreman High, $1.7 million.

CTU reports that Taft High School faces a $3 million cut.

According to Wendy Katten of RYH, every school they’ve contacted faces budget cuts.  So far they have figures from about 10 percent of CPS schools, and the cuts total about $45 million, she said.  (CTU budget analyst Kurt Hilgendorf said the union has requested district-wide figures on cuts but CPS has declined to supply them.)

“It’s horrific,” she said.  “There are terrible losses.”

It also clearly contravene’s Byrd-Bennett’s promise about what school consolidations would accomplish.

Losing library access

Two high schools,Von Steuben and Lincoln Park,  are reported to be considering laying off librarians — at Von Steuben it would mean no open-access library; at Lincoln Park, the library would remain open part of the school day but not after school — but many more principals are being forced to choose between staffing their libraries and having enough teachers.

At many schools it will mean  eliminating art or music.  At Katten’s son’s school, it looks like art will be eliminated and physical education will be staffed by a part-time teacher — which means gym just twice a week, far below the state requirement.

Funding for enrichment programming as part of the longer school day trumpeted by Emanuel last year is being eliminated.  At many schools, “the longer day is not going to be very enriching,” Katten said.

And many schools will be forced to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.  Audubon Elementary, losing $400,000, is considering laying off as many as six teachers, which will raise class sizes to 37 to 45, according to DNA Info.  Sullivan High is considering laying off seven teachers; Kelly High could lose ten or fifteen.

CPS’s per-pupil funding system, touted as a boon to principal autonomy, has turned out to be yet another way to remove resources from neighborhood schools.

It’s as if Emanuel thought he could cut his way to better schools.

TIF squads

And while the city’s elite clearly prefers budget cuts and layoffs to deal with CPS’s financial troubles, parents and teachers see another way.

Raise Your Hand is organizing “TIF squads” in every ward to compile the details of how schools are being affected.  They’ll use the information to impress individual aldermen with the necessity of declaring a TIF surplus and returning funds to CPS.

“We need a long-term sustainable solution at the state level, but parents refuse to accept these cuts now while the city is simultaneously handing out property tax money for projects like a $55-million DePaul stadium,” Katten said.

The group is holding an All South Side Schools meeting Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn, to continue organizing.  Friday, June 21 at 10 a.m., they’re holding a parent rally against cuts at the State of Illinois buildling, Randolph and Clark.

In the next year they’re among many groups planning a serious drive to fix Illinois’s regressive tax structure — a desperately needed reform to address school funding as well as the state’s fiscal crisis.  Will Emanuel and the school board join in?

Where the money is

In her City Club address Tuesday, CTU president Karen Lewis outlined a series of revenue measures that would tap into the vast wealth generated by the financial sector and restore a measure of balance to the tax system — and financial stability to governing bodies.

“The CTU wants to work with our leaders in City Hall, Springfield and at the board to solve these sorts of problems,” she said. “We can’t work together on these issues because they keep creating new problems.”

Instead of sharply dividing the city with his campaign of school closings — which had virtually no impact on CPS’s fiscal problems — Emanuel could “take a holistic approach” and work with all stakeholders for basic changes that would really make a difference, Hilgendorf said.

One example:  CTU backed legislation in the spring session that would close three corporate tax loopholes that bring no economic benefit and cost the state $445 million a year.  It died in committee.

And while everyone’s attention and energy was absorbed by school closings, nothing got done on CPS’s pension crisis.

But at least we’re seeing progress on building a new stadium for DePaul.

***

At the Campaign for America’s Future, Richard Eskow promotes the new Education Declaration — which spells out what might be called real education reform — and provides an apt rundown of the modus operandus of “Michelle Rhee and Rahm Emanuel and the rest of their ilk, using the same playbook that’s been deployed against Social Security, Medicare and other vital government services. It goes like this:

1. Pretend that “budgets” are the real crisis – but never mention that corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes than ever before in modern history.

2. Make scapegoats of innocent people to draw attention away from yourselves. For Social Security they’ve attacked “greedy geezers,” but it’s hard to come up with a catchy equivalent for kids. (“Insatiable imps”? “Avaricious anklebiters”?) So they vilify teachers instead.

3. Sell a fantasy which says that the private sector can do more, with less money, than government can.  (Never, never mention that private insurance provides far less healthcare than public insurance, at much higher cost. And don’t bring up the mess privatization’s made of prisons and other government services.)

4. Find a name that doesn’t use words like “money-making.” How about “charter schools”?

5. Describe yourselves as “reformers” – rather than, say, “demolishers.” That’s why “entitlement reform” is used as a euphemism for cutting Social Security and Medicare. (Michelle Rhee even called her autobiography “Radical.” Apparently “Shameless” was taken.)

6. Employ the political and media elite’s fascination with (and poor understanding of) numbers. Suggest that “standardized” and “data-driven” programs will solve everything – without ever mentioning that the truly ideological decisions are made when you decide what it is you’re measuring.

7. Co-opt the elite media into supporting your artificial description of the problem, as well as your entirely self-serving solution.

8. Use your money to co-opt politicians from both parties so you can present your agenda as “bipartisan” – a word which means you can “buy” a few “partisans” from both sides.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that all these attacks share a common playbook. The money’s coming from the same pockets, and for the same reasons: so they can keep their own taxes low – and make money from the privatization schemes.”

 

Updated: A sentence with an inaccurate statement regarding the impact on selective enrollment schools was removed.

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PURE, UNO, David and Goliath http://www.newstips.org/2013/06/pure-uno-david-and-goliath/ Tue, 18 Jun 2013 22:24:51 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7523 Ben Joravsky gives deserved kudos to Dan Mihalopoulos for his work exposing financial shenanigans at UNO Charter Schools (though after a decent interval, the state dollars are again flowing).

The Sun-Times has also taken credit for a state probe of UNO finances.

But we shouldn’t forget what got this ball rolling — a demand back in January by Parents United for Responsible Education, joined by parents in Pilsen, that the state inspector general investigate UNO finances.  (Here’s the press release.)

PURE emphasized UNO’s reliance on financing by tax-exempt bonds — and the growing debt-per-student costs that resulted.  It looks a bit like a pyramid scheme, like a house of cards that would collapse if UNO failed to keep expanding.

Which is a question that should be considered — if one of these operators goes belly-up, who picks up the pieces?

PURE is a small, scrappy advocacy group with a long history.  In the last couple years it’s taken on the two most politically connected charter schools with impressive results.  Last year, a report by PURE and Voices of Youth in Chicago Education got the Noble Network on the front pages for harsh discipline policies involving extensive fines and pushing students out.

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After the school closing vote http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/after-the-school-closing-vote/ Thu, 23 May 2013 03:52:59 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7243 With the school board voting to close 50 neighborhood schools — to nobody’s surprise — the movement that sprang up in opposition moves to a new phase.

One indication: while the board was meeting, eight activists were arrested in Springfield blocking the entrance of legislative chambers, demanding the General Assembly pass a moratorium blocking the closings.

Participating were members of Action Now, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and the Chicago Teachers Union.

“We’re going to keep up the momentum to stop school closings,” said Aileen Kelleher of Action Now.  “There will definitely be more large-scale actions.”

“There’s a legislative strategy and a street strategy,” said Jitu Brown of KOCO.  “We are organizing in our communities to stand up for our children, to stand against disinvestment — which is what this is.”

Said Brown: “They are expecting people to scurry back into survival mode, but they’ve got that wrong.  People want to send their children to their neighborhood schools.”

He promised a “full-court press” for an elected school board over the next year.

Raise Your Hand called on the legislature to pass a moratorium on school closings “so CPS can modify its utilization formula to incorporate special education populations along with…community-based programs.”  The district’s utilization formula “is significantly flawed” and “results in overcrowded classrooms across CPS,” said Wendy Katten.

Along with a moratorium, RYH urged legislators to order an audit of safety, factility conditions, and overcrowding in closing and receiving schools, as well as the costs of school closings.

“I don’t think anybody thinks this is the end,” said Erica Clark of Parents For Teachers.

“Parents in some of the schools are not going to take this lying down,” she said.  “For months they’ve been saying we’re not leaving our school, we’re not going to that school, it’s not safe and it’s not a better school; we’re just not going.”

After months of effort, “a lot more people are engaged,” said Xian Barrett, a high school history teacher and activist with the Caucus of Rank and File Educators in CTU.  Keeping them engaged is the challenge organizers face.

The union is providing one avenue for continued activism — training hundreds of voter registrars with the goal of  registering 100,000 new voters.  Two hundred teachers and community members have registered for the first training sessions, conducted by the County Clerk’s office, Thursday, May 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Bethel AME Church, 4440 S. Michigan.

CTU president Karen Lewis will speak about the failings of mayoral control of Chicago schools and the need for an elected school board.

“It’s really a biggger fight to get community control of our city and our schools, and it won’t be over until it’s won,” Barrett said.

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