Archive | July, 2013

TFA Teacher Bumps 10 Year Vet in Absurd Musical Chairs

31 Jul

shutterstock_19853341_crop380w[First, I want to apologize for my lack of updates.  I’ve been under the weather.  It seems that every time I can’t update, a whole lot happens.  Today is no different.]

I received a call this afternoon from a teacher at a South Side elementary school.  I can’t verify everything she told me.  The reason that I can’t verify it is that the program that allows you to track teacher credentials in CPS (ELIS) has been down for maintenance since the CPS budget cuts were announced over a month ago.  Coincidence?

Anyway, I’ve known this teacher for awhile and she is not one to engage in idle speculation.   She told me that one of the school’s absolute best teachers received a pink slip after 10 years of service at the school.

Last year, the principal redefined their upper grade special education teacher position as bilingual/special education.   There are maybe a handful of people in the state who have these two credentials.  For one thing, bilingual has sort of been pushed out in favor of ESL.

Now the principal has a second year TFA teacher who by seniority should be gone.  Before joining TFA, she taught in Japan for a year.  The principal has decided that this gives her the bilingual qualification to teach the school’s population of Spanish speaking bilingual students.  She placed the TFAer into the special education position and bumped the current special education teacher who has taught special education for 19 years and assigned the special education teacher to 3rd grade, where she never taught before.  In doing so, she was able to pink slip the third grade teacher.

TFA swears that they aren’t taking the job of laid off Chicago Public School teachers.   it is very clear, that they are.

CPS Starving Its Schools to Justify Privatization

“The formula for privatizing districts is the same all over the country: Open charters operated by private organizations. Simultaneously defund neighborhood schools, declare them “failing,” and then close them. Fire certified professional teachers and replace them with temporary, unskilled TFA recruits.”

The Intentional Impoverishment of CPS Schools by CPS

“This is not some conspiracy there is historical precedent for the actions of limiting educational opportunities in lower income communities of color around the world. What this city is attempting to do is a human rights violation. If what was going on here in Chicago was happening in a different country we would easily classify the actions of this city as a human rights travesty.”

$20 Million No-Bid Contact Raises Questions About SUPES Academy

““A $20 million no-bid contract … is a questionable use of funds at a time when our students have 94 less art positions, 58 less [physical education] positions, and 54 less music positions for the fall, and CEO Byrd-Bennett is in the press discussing online courses for these programs,” she says. “We have to ask where the priorities of this district are right now.”

Should Teach for America Pack Its Bags

“CPS did have a teacher shortage about a decade ago, but that’s no longer the case, although some school principals have noted a shortage specifically in special education and substitute teachers.”

Rahm’s Civic Committee Pals Pushed Moody and S&P to Lower Chicago’s Bond Rating

“Now we learn that Moody’s and S&P didn’t just lower the state’s bond rating. They were pressured to do so by Rahm’s patrons over at the Civic Committee. In Chicago, the mayor runs the schools. But the mayor doesn’t say, “boo” without a nod from the powerful Civic Committee.”


CPS Increases Charter Funding by $85 Million, Students Outraged

25 Jul


[In the initial report, I listed the amount the charters school funding was increased incorrectly as $33,000,000.   As parents poured over the budget, they have accounted for an increase of just under $85,000,000]

CPS is quite fond of calling for shared sacrifice, but sacrifice is certainly not being shared evenly in the new budget.  Selective enrollment schools have had their budgets raised by $7,390,000 and charters find themselves $33,000,000 richer.  Meanwhile, neighborhood schools find themselves gutted.

The one thing today is I saw and heard students speak up like never before.  They were militant, but even more importantly they were passionate and they were eloquent.  As usual, Asean Johnson dropped some truth on the Board, but there was a lot more than just him.  2 years ago, we saw the teachers beginning to fight back. Last year, we saw the parents.  Now, I think we’re seeing the students.  I have to say, if this is the quality of graduate that CPS is producing, we’ve done something right.

Alderman Maldonado’s Office Makes Robocall Calling Ames Gang-Infested

“Here is a copy of the voicemail I received tonight from someone from Alderman Maldonado’s office offering a poll about having a military school at Ames School in the Humboldt Park / Logan Square area of Chicago.”

What is Malicious Reassignment

“This is a tactic that can be labeled as “malicious re-assignment.” It is used to give a not so gentle signal to a veteran teacher that it is time to leave. We see it happen on several occasions. First, when a principal or administrator believes someone’s teaching methods are “too old-fashioned” and their years of experience and craft knowledge are not valued. Another is when an educator is considered too expensive and the administration would like to them to retire early. Or last, when a tenured teacher becomes too vocal about union or social justice issues. It’s an attempt to silence.”

CPS Budget Cuts: Rahm Rejects Ordinance to Divert TIF Funds Back to Schools

“The ordinance cites the $457 million TIFs skimmed off property tax revenues in 2012 — money that would have gone to the schools and other public bodies — and says any leftover funds should be used to address the “deep and unsustainable cuts in virtually every neighborhood elementary school and high schools.”

Chicago Students Disrupt Board of Education Meeting

Students are not going to take it anymore.

Letter of Allegation Regarding the Closing of 49 Elementary Schools to United Nations

“The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (on behalf of itself and the undersigned organizations and individuals) requests that you investigate and take preventative measures to address the potential domestic and international human rights violations that may result from these school closings.”

Detroit Should Be a Warning for Public Education

23 Jul

A few days ago, we heard that Detroit’s Emergency Manager had attempted to avoid Detroit’s financial obligations by filing for bankruptcy.  What followed was glee by right wing conservatives who looked at Detroit as proof that socialism doesn’t work.  I really don’t get how the city of Henry Ford became a socialist icon, but whatever.

However, a very smart former Detroit resident was then posting his thoughts about why Detroit hit such hard times and he said Detroit was a victim of it’s own success.   Detroit died because the surrounding suburbs thrived.  The wealthy and even the middle class residents left the city for Birmingham, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, etc.   The result was the city not only shrunk depriving it of needed tax revenues, but those who stayed behind were those who most needed help.  This taxed Detroit as the most prosperous residents were gone and the ones who needed the most city services remained.

Certainly, there is a lesson from Chicago here as what they are doing to the schools is really ramping up not only “white flight”, but the mores successful people of all races are leaving the city in droves.  Chicago will never thrive as a beautiful downtown commercial district, trendy neighborhoods for young singles on the North Side, and slums on the West and South Side. 

However, the connection that I make is to our nation’s public schools.  If charters schools are allowed to cherry pick our best and brightest and those that can’t handle that environment are left for the public schools to take care of, we will be left with all the most expensive students.  When you then give charters equal funding per student, there is no way to sustain this model.  Make no mistake, charters will erode our public schools the way the suburbs eroded Detroit, if we don’t draw the line before it’s too late.

Dip Into TIF Surplus to Help Schools, Progressive Caucus Tells Mayor

“The public sentiment citywide is `stop doing what you’re doing.’ Reverse the layoffs of these teachers so that their kids have gym teachers, they have math teachers and they have art teachers,” Waguespack told a City Hall news conference.”

What in the World are You Doing CPS?

:”People often ask me how I want to be a teacher when I see what’s happening to public education and the profession. It’s teachers like Xian who show me reasons why. When you see something you love getting attacked, you don’t run away and hide in fear. No, you stand up and fight like hell to protect it.”

CPS Math

“Now, let’s be clear.  We added above and subtracted above that.  This means that according to CPS,
$1 billion + ($750 million – $550 million) = $1 billion
I bet you said that last one right with me.  You’re catching on, aren’t you?”

Yes, I was Fired and We Still Will Win

“And as it happens again and again, the message that the district sends to our students is clear, “You are uncared for. Even those you thought loved you dearly have abandoned you, and it’s your own fault.”  Again, this is not just a happenstance; it is a regular matter of practice. When I was let go in 2010, my principal first told students that I simply left, (He didn’t care about you) and later told them that “There wasn’t enough interest in Japanese” (You didn’t care enough). Both were lies—lies that made students feel worse about themselves.”


Rahm Dances While CPS Burns

19 Jul

ImageToday, CPS is in the process of laying off over 1,000 teachers and 1,000 support personnel.  This, after spending months saying that their budget cutting would be kept far away from the classroom.  Class sizes will be increasing, programs like art and music will be cut, and the only thing that will save the schools from absolute disaster will be a corps of dedicated teachers and PSRPs who are constantly being asked to do more with less.

It’s kind of a frowned upon to talk about teaching as a job.  There are 2,000 people who have sacrificed for the children of this city who are now being told that they have to find work elsewhere.  They’re being told one month before the start of the school year.  It’s already next to impossible for an experienced teacher to find a job.  Now, they’re being laid off after most of the jobs out there have been filled.

Even worse, they’re mucking up the layoff notices in true CPS fashion.  A friend of mine, who is an outstanding teacher, posted on Twitter that instead of calling him, they called his mother to tell her that he was being laid off.  They must have got her phone number off of his emergency contact information.  As he put it, “My mom doesn’t need that burden. I should get to cushion the blow to her.”

CPS Layoffs: More than 1,000 Teachers, 1,000 Others to Get Axed Friday

“It’s unconscionable for a mayor who has found creative ways to create new bike lanes, a bike share program, lure white collar jobs and massive investment to the Loop and Gold Coast — but blames Springfield and teachers for CPS’s budget crisis— to lay off over 3,000 educators in the nation’s third-largest school district,” the union said.

CPS Releases ISAT Scores, Rahm Credits Longer Day for Gains

“CPS released data from the 2013 Illinois State Achievement Test. When compared to last year’s numbers — adjusted to the changing way of scoring students — this year’s results showed a modest 1.8 percent increase in students who meet or exceed state standards for their grade level.”

Chicago Principal Rips School Budgets, Emanuel

“When people ask me, ‘How did you achieve the results that you did?’ I give them a list. And almost everything on that list has been decimated by this budget,” LaRaviere said from the podium of a press conference held at City Hall by a coalition of labor and school activists.”

Chicago Public Schools Begin to Trickle Out the Hush Money

18 Jul

ImageAs hearing continue on the school closings, CPS has begun to trickle out hush money to North Side Schools who have been complaining loudly about the budget cuts they’re getting hit with.  Of course it wouldn’t be a normal day in CPS without somebody who knows something warning about the dangerous situation CPS is creating.

Expert: Chicago School Closings Will Endanger Kids

In response to such concerns, the district has said it will expand its Safe Passage program, which stations adults to stand watch along key school routes and then alert police of any problems.

But Hagedorn said he didn’t believe that would eliminate the risk to students.

“There is no way someone walking with them will protect them from a bullet,” he said.

Mayor Rahm to North-Side Parents: Hush Your Mouths and You’ll Get Your Money

“And now, out of nowhere, it turns out he’s got enough money on hand to give three north-side schools $100,000 each—if they just shut up about all the other cuts in town.”

Court Hears from CPS Parents

This is an ABC-7 report on the hearings going on over the CPS school closings

What You Need to Know About CPS Budget Cuts

To think of it another way, CPS has lowered total budget expenses at least 22% by making cuts to central office. Central office accounts for only about 5% of the overall CPS budget.

Or, think of it like this: in the last six years CPS has completely eliminated central office 5 times over.”

Institutional Racism Take 2

14 Jul

ImageI can’t help, but feel that the Trayvon Martin verdict and the school closings were related.  Too many people couldn’t get it. How can school closings be racist?  Of course more African-American students were impacted because of the neighborhoods that the closings happened in. 

The same is true of the miscarriage of justice in Florida.   Again, people don’t get it.  How can that verdict be racist?  Are you saying the jurors were racists?  The prosecution didn’t do a very good job of presenting their case you know.

Of course the difference is the difference between institutional racism and individual racism.  Banks don’t wear hoods or burn crosses on lawns.  Liquor stores don’t go out of their way to sell alcohol to Native Americans.   It is both possible and rational to believe that the jurors in the Zimmerman trial did the best they could and acted for all the right reasons, without denying the racism of the process.

In a state with a 35% black population, how is not one member of the jury the same race as the victim?  In a state where an African-American woman gets 20 years for firing warning shots at an abusive husband and tries the same stand your ground defense, are we really saying that a black life has less value than dry wall?

When the daughter of the prosecutor tweets disparaging remarks about a witness who had to go through the trauma of hearing her friend shot over the phone and then reliving it in court, you can’t deny there is an undercurrent of race to the whole thing.  Individual racism is not institutional racism and as a white person, I refuse to believe that most white people are racist, but if we don’t challenge and fight to bring justice to the systems that are in place that protect privilege, we are guilty of aiding and abetting racism.  We can’t allow ourselves to be cogs in a racist machine.

I was going to post today about CPS’s fuzzy math.   I will be doing that soon.  It’s almost comical in it’s brazen incompetence and deception.

CPS Claim of Central Office Cuts Defies Earthbound Mathematics, Physics

“I hope someone who isn’t me goes back and adds up all the claimed cuts, because I’m certain it won’t take long until we’re dealing with negative numbers. In other words, all the claims of Central Office cuts over the years probably trump the entire CPS budget pretty quickly.”

Ravenswood Elementary Principal Resigns, Cites ‘Constant Turmoil’ in CPS

“My family has often taken a back seat to the needs of Ravenswood, and our family life has suffered,” said Connolly, the mother of two young children. “I believe this move will allow my children and my husband to be my top priority again.”

At Chicago’s Excel, a Shorter Path to a Diploma

“The Chicago district paid Camelot $3.1 million this fiscal year, but Camelot also runs a therapeutic school and it is not clear how much goes to the alternative school and how much to the therapeutic school. Contract schools get $7,587 per student.”

I Wandered Lonely as a Teacher

“The site just presents a mish-mash of lessons that have been floating around for decades. Any relation to the Common Core precepts seems coincidental. . . actually antithetical to David Coleman’s strictures.”

Letter Writing Campaign Opposes Budget Cuts at Schools

Courtney Sinisi, a member of the 19th Ward Parents and Cassell’s LSC, said the proposed budget at Cassell is $500,000 less than last year.

“When I heard the numbers, it was like a kick in the face,” Sinisi said. “We were anticipating cuts, but never in a million years did I think it would be so extreme.”

The Politics of Destroying Our Schools

10 Jul

ImageI find myself straddling two different worlds lately.  There are those who say that Republicans are out to destroy public education and that’s why we have to vote for Democratic candidates.  There are other people who say that there is absolutely no difference between the two parties,  I’ve been seeing it lately in the Bad Ass Teachers Union where the two schools of thought duke it out and I’ve also seen it on social media.

The answer, which will be unpopular with a lot of people who I really respect is that the Democrats are better for public education.  There was a pretty decent report in The New Republic about Michelle Rhee and Students First.  In the article the mentioned that Students First in Tennessee gave money to 57 Republicans and only 7 Democrats.  That’s not unusual.   One you look at the politicians who are defending public schools, you’ll find that they’re largely Democrats.

Unfortunately, there’s another side to that coin.  When people attack the Republicans for going after public education, they tend to overlook Mayors like Nutter, Emanuel, and until this past election Villaraigosa in Los Angeles.

There are Democrats all over this country who have either been bought or have fundamentally flawed views on education.  You can’t simply look at party affiliation,  We do not have a public education advocate in the Obama administration, for example.  

The only thing that works is for teachers to make sure they educate themselves.  President Obama made his views on public education known before he took office as did Mayor Emanuel.  Of course, there are always third parties, but I have no interest in putting in the worst possible candidate because I chose not to vote for the lesser of two evils and instead voted so that some candidate could get to 3% of the vote.  The time to support third parties has to start well before election day.

Teach for America’s Civil War

“Despite the endless outcry, no one has ever staged a coordinated, national effort to overhaul, or put the brakes on, TFA—let alone anyone from within the TFA rank-and-file. On July 14, in a summit at the annual Free Minds/Free People education conference in Chicago, a group of alumni and corps members will be the first to do so.”

Chicago Rising!

“To many national observers, this rebirth of the city’s militant protest culture seemingly came out of nowhere. But it didn’t. It’s the product of years of organizing from sources both expected and surprising. And while the radicalized CTU under the leadership of Karen Lewis has deservedly received much of the credit, the teachers union is just the current tip of the spear in a long and potentially transformative movement.”

As Schools Starve, Mayor Emanuel Finds $5 million for Hot Dogs

“That’s a compelling point—and exactly the opposite of what will happen with the mayor’s biggest TIF project, the DePaul basketball arena/hotel deal. In that case, Mayor Emanuel is planning to reduce the tax base by spending $55 million to buy taxable land and build a facility that’s tax exempt.”

Chicago Activists Speak Out Against Public Service Cuts, Offer Alternatives

“Every time we want to do anything good for people, they say there’s no money,” he said. “They said that about closing human service offices. They said that about closing mental health offices. They say that about just about everything else, and yet there always seems to be money for tax cuts for wealthy corporations.”