Archive | February, 2013

Six Charter Schools Get Put on Academic Warning List

28 Feb

ImageI didn’t find this very convincing on the part of CPS, but they did put six charter schools on an academic watch list for poor performance.   I think this is more a result of angry parents complaining at school utilization hearings and fallout from the UNO scandal than it is due to CPS suddenly discovering a half dozen nonperforming charter schools.  It’s amazing how much of an impact the CTU strike had on labor unions world wide.  I found an article today from the Times of India

UNO Charter Teachers and Students Deserve Better

“At UNO, I’ve heard of teachers working average of 10 hours a day with minimal preparatory periods and only three 25 minute duty-free lunches a week at pay that is 20% less than the average teacher in Chicago. They have few protections on the job and teachers have reported being fired for breathing a hint of criticism at UNO’s CEO Juan Rangel. He, in contrast, is paid many times his average teacher, making over $200,000 a year for running 13 schools, while Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett makes nearly as much for operating an entire district of over 600 schools.”

Rahm on the Ropes

“What Emanuel had planned as his marquee accomplishment—corporate-style “school reform”—has been cracking like a pane of glass. His attempt to game state law to make it virtually impossible for Chicago public school teachers to strike backfired last year when they not only struck the hell out of him but ended up undermining the core rhetorical underpinning of the “reform movement”—that teachers unions are the enemies—when Chicago Public School parents sided overwhelmingly with the strikers. That hardly held back Phase Two of Emanuel’s scheme, set to roll out this year: planned massive school closings, based on dubious and opaque statistical arguments about “underutilized” buildings. Activists point out that the rationale for school closings shift from year to year, and never seem to accomplish the policy aims that supposedly justify them; so threadbare have the city’s explanations become by now,”

Why isn’t Closing 129 Chicago Public Schools National News

It’s not news because school closings and school privatization, the end game of the bipartisan policies the Obama administration, Wall Street, the US Chamber of Commerce, a host of right wing foundations and deep pockets and hordes of politicians in both parties from the president down are pushing down the throats of communities across the country, are deeply unpopular. The American people, and especially the parents, teachers, grandparents, and other residents of poorer neighborhoods where closings and privatization are happening emphatically don’t want these things.


Decisions in a Vacuum

27 Feb


I’ve had a little push back on my complaints about full day kindergarten coming to my school.  I don’t look at full day kindergarten as evil or anything.  The problem is, to have it at our school requires something else to go.  We need 4 more classrooms.  We could lose the music room and the art room.  I think the library gets saved because we have computers in there for testing and close it for 1/4 the year already.   The other thing we can do is increase class size and have one less teacher at every grade level.  This will drive classes up from 32 to 38 per room.   Either way, we lose something and that’s what I’m not happy about.

School Closure Guide

This guide was put out a few years ago by the Broad Foundation.  It’s the basic script that CPS is following to close schools.

Aspira Charter Expanding as One School Closes

“Even as CPS announced last week that it was phasing out ASPIRA’s Mirta Ramirez Computer Science High School campus for poor performance, plans were under way to approve a new campus for the charter operator.”

Michelle Rhee: Wrong Again

“For instance, at the behest of corporate education “reformers,” more and more cities are moving to eliminate the democratic process of electing school boards, effectively telling students, parents and the larger community that republican democracy cannot be trusted to manage fundamentally public institutions. Similarly, corporate “reformers” are constantly demonizing teachers’ unions, effectively telling students and parents that the major vestige of workplace democracy in schools must be crushed.”

Full Day Kindergarten is Another Brilliant CPS Plan

26 Feb


I read in disbelief as CPS announced that they were mandating full day kindergarten at all schools.   At my school that means that we need to find at least 4 extra rooms.  We’re going to make classes larger and probably lose the music and art rooms, and possibly the library for good measure.  When they mandate things for all schools, they fail to take every school’s unique circumstances into account and this is a great example.

Mayor Expands Full Day Kindergarten to All Chicago Public Schools

“When you talk to the teachers, every one of them will tell you the different between what a child can get in three hours versus seven hours,” Emanuel said. “Identifying the letters, identifying their numbers, the shapes, the colors, how the numbers go together. And that is essential so when a child gets to first grade they are ready to do first grade work.”

Another Chicago Charter School with Clout? Why We’re Suspicious of the School Closing Process

“Anyone who’s spent any time around power, politics and clout in Chicago knows, however, that you don’t have to get caught breaking the rules to profit from your position in this city. And Jeannie Kim’s employment with CPS and her involvement with a group that’s planning on winning a contract from CPS to operate a school in a neighborhood with schools listed as “underutilized” raises many of the questions that typically come up when clout in Chicago is discussed. What are their motives? Who stands to profit? How does Kim’s employment in the CPS administration benefit Be the Change, and what connections and inside knowledge has she been sharing with this charter school? What edge do they have thanks to her involvement? And finally, what economic interest does Jeannie Kim have in the Be the Change charter school?”

Congressman Kimble Introduces Freedom to Commute Bill

“Opponents of transportation choice, say that such a program will take needed funding away from public transportation, making the system worse for those who will still be dependent on it because of age or infirmity.  There are no easy answers here.   Would you deny a commuter the right to better transportation simply because other people may be impacted by his decision?”

[Note: This seems to be satire on school vouchers]

Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Takes Unexpected Dip

“The fiscal cliff facing Chicago Public Schools got significantly larger today, with the release of a report disclosing that the cash-strapped system will have to come up with an extra $400 million next year — $70 million more than had been expected — to pay teacher pensions unless something changes.”

Chicago Style Disaster Capitalism

24 Feb


Charter Schools and Disaster Capitalism

“In Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine, she explains how immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Friedman used the decimation of New Orleans’ infrastructure to push for charter schools, a market-based policy preference of Friedman acolytes. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools at the time, and later described Hurricane Katrina as “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” Duncan is of the liberal wing of the free market project and a major supporter of charter schools.

There aren’t any hurricanes in the Midwest, so how can proponents of privatization like Mayor Rahm Emanuel sell off schools to the highest bidder?

They create a crisis.”

Who is Eli Broad and Why Does He Want to Destroy Public Education

“The historically unprecedented explosion of wealth in recent decades for the top one percent of the American populace is leading to a reshaping of the American economy in the interests of this one percent. Having more wealth than they know what to do with, many of the corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and bankers are putting their wealth into “venture philanthropies”. They hope to advance an unregulated, free market economy which requires the destruction of the advances towards social equality made in American society during the 20th century due to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the sixties and the labor movement in the thirties. Incubated in the economic Wild West days of the G. W. Bush administration until the financial crisis of 2008, these venture philanthropies continue to seek to bring the business practices of the banking, corporate, and hedge fund manager world to all sectors of the U.S. economy through privatization.”

Harper High School, Part Two

Heartbreaking and all too familiar to some of us.  I can’t recommend these two radio programs enough.


Only Thing Lower than Teacher Job Satisfaction is Rahm’s Approval Rating

22 Feb

ImagePoll data is the big story right now.  Rahm Emanuel’s approval ratings are in the toilet, but so is nationwide teacher job satisfaction.  I can’t say that either of these results particularly surprises me. There is also a brand new site tracking the UNO scandals.  I am so ready for the weekend.  I’ll be curious just to find out how bad Snowmageddon is tonight. 

Teacher Survey Shows Record Low Job Satisfaction in 2012

“Teachers’ job satisfaction has declined 23 percentage points in the five years since 2008, according to the long-running survey of educators and principals. Only 39 percent of teachers reported they were very satisfied, the least since 1987, the survey showed. The percentage of teachers who said they were very satisfied dropped five percentage points in 2012.”

Amid Scandal and a Violence Epidemic, Rahm Emanuel’s Rating Drops

“Specifically, just 2 percent of Chicagoans surveyed said they strongly approve of the mayor’s job performance, with 12 percent somewhat approving and 5 percent leaning that way. At the opposite end, 13 percent strongly disapprove, 9 percent somewhat disapprove and 13 percent lean toward disapproval.”

UNO Must Change

“UNO CEO Juan Rangel has been in the news lately trying to defend against recent reports
of patronage and questionable business practices under his leadership. Turns out defending patronage is a long standing hobby of his!”

Report from the ISBE Meeting on Special Education Class Size Limits

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) voted 5
to 1 (Vinni Hall voted no) to put out for public comment
rules that would completely eliminate limits on special
education class size.

The proposed rules would mean there would be NO state limit
on the number of students a special education teacher
is required to serve.

Also there would be NO state limit on the number of students
with disabilities a general education teacher has in their classroom.

School Leaders Recommend Closing Two Charters

“CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is recommending that all twelve charter school operators up for renewal, including Aspira and Shabazz, be granted new contracts. If approved by the board next week, most of those contracts will run for five years. Two schools, ACE Tech and Community Services West Academy, are being recommended for three-year contracts.”

Wendy Katten Decimates CPS Arguments on Chicago Tonight

21 Feb

ImageWendy Katten is the Director of Illinois Raise Your Hand and she is one of the parent activists like Matt Farmer and Jitu Brown that Chicago’s teachers and students are so lucky to have.   Watch her just go through Jesse Ruiz like a hot knife through butter. 

I am getting a kick out of the coverage of the PACT/UPC group that’s running for the CTU executive board.   The media is making it sound like CTU is splintering.   When was the last union election that PACT and UPC didn’t participate in?  This isn’t a rebellion, it’s part of having a Democratic union.  Anybody who thinks CORE always gets their way hasn’t been paying much attention to the House of Delegates meetings.  I expect CORE to win this election handily, but I also would have been shocked if nobody tried to run against them.

Ruiz Gets an F, Katten an A+ on Chicago Tonight

:”I almost felt bad for Jesse Ruiz last night as I watched him play the fool to Wendy Katten on Chicago Tonight. Armed only with an embarrassed grin, a pocket full of cliches (“it’s for the kids”… “it’s about teaching and learning”…”all hands on deck”…) and a bag full of half-truths and misinformation, Rahm’s hand-picked board V.P Ruiz was sent out to face the Raise Your Hand’s Wendy Katten and Catalyst’s Rebecca Harris to try and defend the indefensible — CPS’s list of 129 “underutilized” schools slated for closure.”

“New” Caucus Challenges Lewis, Core

“Members of the “coalition” slate told reporters that many teachers and other union members weren’t in favor of the contract negotiated by the Lewis team during the seven-day strike in September, but only voted for it to get back to the classroom. Saunders-Wolffe and Ochoa at the time were part of the union’s negotiating team, the so-called “big bargaining team” assembled by Karen Lewis and the union’s officers for the first time in union history. The “big bargaining team” was present for most of the key negotiations during the summer and strike so that the union’s four officers and attorneys had access to the direct rank-and-file experience of the members. The “big bargaining team” was assembled with Lewis and the union’s officers on the night of September 9, 2012, when Lewis announced that negotiations had failed to reach a contract and that the first CTU strike in 25 years would begin at midnight that night.”

Shortage of Substitute Teachers Hits Hard

“The amount of time I am spending either plugging the holes or tag-teaming can be between an hour and two hours, almost every single day,” Witzl says. “It is extremely stressful. Day-to-day operations are being disrupted. We don’t have any subs coming out to the schools, and we don’t know why.”

PSAT for 2-19-13: Thank Your Alderman

“We spend a lot of time criticizing our elected officials for the bad decisions they make, or for wimping out when we want them to stick up for us.

But it may be even more important to thank them when they are right. The 35 Chicago aldermen who signed on in support of a moratorium on new charter schools are going up against Mayor Emanuel and his charter-cheerleader hedge fund cronies, along with all so many others in power across the nation from Arne Duncan on down.”



Karen Lewis Faces Opposition in Union Election

20 Feb

ImageSo, I see that Karen Lewis will face opposition in the CTU election made up of the remnants of the last two caucuses to run the union.   It’s great to see Democracy in action, but I wonder if they should be going after the contract in their campaign with their Vice President candidate Mark Ochoa was part of the contract team that negotiated the contract and voted to accept the Board’s offer.  I’ll keep an open mind, but I sure don’t want a return to the era of Marilyn Stewart and the huge public fight with Ted Dallas over who was ripping off the union more.  I’d hate to think what would have happened if Stewart had to face off against Rahm.

Karen Lewis to Face Opposition in May CTU Election

“We did our part. We spent weeks on the street, rallied and gave Lewis all the power she needed,” said Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, potential candidate for union president. “What did we get? Firings, closings, lower pay; her leadership is one without backbone or foresight. It’s time for a change. Our leadership is one that cannot only get headlines but results.”

The City Council’s Rules Committee: Where Good Legislation Goes to Die

“In most instances, it’s clear which committee should handle the proposal—zoning matters go to the zoning committee, for instance.

Logic similarly dictated that the charter school resolution—introduced by aldermen Matt O’Shea (19th), Pat Dowell (3rd), Rick Munoz (22nd), and Bob Fioretti (2nd)—would end up with the education committee.

But when O’Shea introduced the resolution at the council meeting last week, Alderman Danny Solis (25th) immediately moved to send it to rules.

And why does Solis have such authority? Because an unwritten rule in the council gives any alderman the authority to direct any proposal to any committee—which of course lets them dump shit they don’t want into a committee whose chairman will make sure it never gets heard.”

How the Waltons Could Contribute to Real Improvements to Kids’ Educations

“In 2006, Walmart director and Walton family member Greg Penner contributed $250,000 to an effort opposing a universal pre-kindergarten program in California. (It would take the average full-time Walmart worker 14 years to earn as much money as Penner dropped on this one race.) The program would have been funded through an additional income tax on the state’s very wealthiest people—individuals making individuals making more than $400,000 a year, and couples making in excess of $800,000.”