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Monday, June 28, 2010

Huberman: CPS school class size to return to normal levels

Chicago's public school elementary class sizes are expected to be restored to normal levels and high school classes will increase to only 33 instead of 35, thanks to a bump of new state money, Chicago Schools CEO Ron Huberman said today.

Huberman combined the good news with a full court press calling for teachers and other unions to voluntarily forgo scheduled 4 percent pay raises amounting to a total $135 million.

That sacrifice would fill more than a third of the system's remaining deficit of $370 million, Huberman said.
I wonder how he is able to afford smaller class sizes if allowing that only costs more money, especially if you have to staff these small-classes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CPS chief wants to lay off worst teachers first

This is a good step, but I wonder what the Chicago Teacher's Union is saying about this?
The resolution presented at a board meeting allows Huberman to fire the roughly 200 lowest performers first, rather than basing firing solely on seniority. The measure drew immediate fire from union leadership, who said it would circumvent the contract, in place since 2007.

The board policy allows for the dismissal of teachers who are already under remediation or whose last evaluation was "unsatisfactory." It would cover layoffs that result from drops in student enrollment, too.

While layoffs are not a certainty, the school district has an estimated half-billion-dollar budget deficit.

Huberman is using the Illinois school code as his rationale for the last-minute switch. Under the code, "performance ratings or evaluations" is one of several criteria to be considered in layoffs.

But that conflicts with the contract, which calls for layoffs based on tenure. Huberman and his legal team believe that the school code supersedes the contract.

"The Illinois school code takes precedence here," explained Huberman.
Well not so fast!
While the board may have discretion under the state law, they have already exercised their choice by agreeing to a teacher contract, said Terry Smith, a law professor at DePaul University.

Further, tenure can be considered a property right, which means teachers are entitled to a due process hearing if it is going to be revoked, he said.

And finally, there is precedent for using the contract as a guidepost for layoffs.

"It's very important that they've adhered to seniority over the years because it indicates a mutual understanding of what the contract means," Smith said.
OK and reading this article the teacher's union has a problem with this. So Huberman may be picking an unfortunate fight, but ridding the schools of unsatisfactory teachers isn't a bad move in any way!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Children are pawns in CPS plans to increase class size

The decision by Mayor Daley and Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman to close their budget gap on the backs of Chicago's schoolchildren is a travesty that Daley should pay for in his upcoming re-election campaign.

Chicago Public Schools staff know, and Huberman himself knows, that there were many other places he could have cut other than making our children suffer, literally suffer, through a year (who knows how many more) of their precious education.

[The Chicago Board of Education on Tuesday voted to give school officials the authority to raise class size up to 35 and lay off teachers if necessary to balance the CPS budget.]

Let's look at my school, Gage Park High School, a neglected high-poverty neighborhood high school that has already been set up for failure by past policies.

As a non-magnet, non-selective enrollment, neighborhood high school, we are unfortunately a school of last resort. The highest-achieving students with good parental support don't come here, leaving us with very few top students who could be role models. We must take everyone else. And we do. We also must take students expelled from our neighborhood charter schools, private schools and jail schools.

We are overcrowded, have one social worker for 1,700 students, have four board-funded security guards to control those 1700 students and -- no surprise -- are on probation. But according to CPS, the media and the business community, we are the problem, and CPS continues to close schools like ours and be lauded for it.
Read the whole thing!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teachers to picket School Board vote

Not long after the election of a new union president we see the teacher's union engaged in some picketing already!
The president-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union planned an "emergency picket'' today protesting a special Chicago School Board vote to raise class sizes and lay off up to 2,700 teachers.

"It's an emergency board meeting, so we're having an emergency picket,'' explained King College Prep teacher Karen Lewis, who takes over as head of the nation's third-largest teachers union on July 1.

Meanwhile, attorneys hired by current CTU President Marilyn Stewart said the board's layoff plans seem unusually onerous, as Board officials are contending that tenured teachers who lose their jobs due to rising class sizes will not be entitled to the 10-month pay cushion their displaced colleagues have received in the past.

"The board is putting them [tenured teachers] out on the street,'' said CTU attorney Jennifer Poltrock. "The only thing we can do about it is file a grievance ... which is the slow-boat-to-China route.''

Under the current contract, teachers displaced due to school closures are sent into a "reassigned teacher pool'' from which they can substitute-teach for four days a week, look for a job the fifth day of the week and continue to earn their usual pay for 10 months.
Speaking of teachers, we see that they haven't fared very well under a new evaluation system:
Far more Chicago schoolteachers received the worst rating under a new evaluation system intended to measure how educators connect with students, new research shows.

Eight percent of teachers got at least one unsatisfactory rating — defined as doing academic harm to students — under the new system, piloted in 44 Chicago elementary schools. By comparison, just 0.4 percent of teachers in the same schools were deemed subpar when they were evaluated using the traditional checklist one year earlier, according to the report released Tuesday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

The report offers a first look at Chicago's efforts to revamp how it measures teacher effectiveness. The findings come amid a national push to reward good teachers, train struggling teachers and remove bad ones from the country's classrooms.

Illinois lawmakers, for instance, recently backed legislation to require that student learning be a significant factor in teacher evaluations.

But classroom observations also play a role when judging a teacher's effectiveness, said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

"A system that relies only on test scores would not be accurate or appropriate," she said.
Via CapFax morning shorts!

Monday, June 14, 2010

CPS to borrow $800M, boost teacher pay 4%

CPS announced plans for a special School Board meeting Tuesday to take up the borrowing, teacher raises and a controversial plan to raise class size for the first time since Mayor Daley's 1995 city school takeover.

One resolution at the meeting will indicate that the system "will be unable to balance its budget'' unless it increases class size from, on average, 30 students to "up to 35.'' About 2,700 teachers would be laid off as a result, at a savings of $125 million.

However, in another resolution, CPS officials say they expect to have the money to pay promised 4 percent raises to teachers and seven other unions, for a cost of $100 million.

If School Board members do not pass such a resolution by June 15, the teachers union could open talks that might lead to a strike.

"We can't risk the uncertainty of putting our kids in a situation where they may not be able to go back to school because there's a strike," a CPS official said. "You take that off the table by saying, 'We're going to fund the 4 percent [raise].'"

The union has not struck since Daley's school takeover. One CPS official said many parents still remember "how many strikes there used to be. ... We can't put our students through this."

Also Tuesday, board members are expected to approve a resolution allowing them to borrow up to $800 million to cover late payments from the state. A CPS official said the line of credit is intended to help pay bills in the face of $437 million in late state payments this school year and the possibility of similar problems next school year.
This was news before the Chicago Teacher's Union voted to elect their new President this weekend.

Via Progress Illinois!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New CTU president is a fierce foe of Daley's agenda

Well I missed this one in recent days:
Karen Lewis, a high school chemistry teacher who has been a fierce opponent of Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 program to shake up and rejuvenate public schools, handily defeated two-term president Marilyn Stewart for the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union early Saturday.

Lewis and her Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) slate won in a virtual sweep against Stewart's United Progressive Caucus team that has been in power for 37 of the last 40 years, with Lewis trouncing Stewart by a 3-2 margin.

The change in CTU leadership -- Lewis takes the reins July 1 -- could put Mayor Daley in a political pinch through demands for the city to return tax-increment financing (TIF) funds to each school taxing district.

Lewis has organized protests against the Renaissance 2010 program, which has closed schools and displaced hundreds of teachers. Closed schools have reopened as charters that use non-CTU teachers. She inherits a hornet's nest of troubles as the Chicago Public Schools system struggles with an estimated deficit of $437 million, plus another $420 million in late state payments.

One elementary school teacher who voted for Lewis said teachers at her school "were really fed up with Marilyn Stewart. . . . They feel like she's in bed with Mayor Daley and [schools CEO] Ron Huberman, and she's not standing up to them," said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

Up to 2,700 teachers and 300 non-teaching union members could lose their jobs if class sizes rise from an average of 30 to 35, which has been proposed as a budget-balancing measure by CPS officials. This would infuriate parents, who have protested against larger class sizes.
Well not so sure Ms. Lewis would be much more of an improvement over Marilyn Stewart who was on record as not wanting to give in to any conncessions. Not sure that makes her an effective stooge of Mayor Daley, but hey it sure made for great theater. Besides that kind of talk in terms of unions having to give something in terms of whats going on currently in public finance is not something the public wants to hear right now.