WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Corruption arraignment Tuesday for ex-Chicago schools CEO http://www.wbez.org/news/corruption-arraignment-tuesday-ex-chicago-schools-ceo-113265 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_323436447909.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The former CEO of&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools will be arraigned Tuesday in federal court on corruption charges.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://trib.in/1NuXFIq" target="_blank">Chicago&nbsp;Tribune reports</a>&nbsp;that court records show Barbara Byrd-Bennett will make her first court appearance before U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang.</p><p>She was indicted Thursday and her lawyer says she plans to plead guilty. Charges allege Byrd-Bennett helped steer more than $23 million worth of no-bid contracts to education companies in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett resigned earlier this year as leader of the nation&#39;s third-largest school district. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-public-schools-leader-charged-corruption-113246" target="_blank">The 66-year-old is charged with several counts of mail and wire fraud</a>; each count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.</p></p> Fri, 09 Oct 2015 11:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/corruption-arraignment-tuesday-ex-chicago-schools-ceo-113265 The Latest: Chicago Public Schools mum on indictment http://www.wbez.org/news/latest-chicago-public-schools-mum-indictment-113251 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_902919343426.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The latest on the indictment of former<br />Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract (all times local):</p><div><p><strong>3:55 p.m.</strong></p><p>Officials with&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools have declined to discuss the indictment of the district&#39;s former CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett.</p><p>A statement Thursday from CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner doesn&#39;t mention the charges against the former schools chief.</p><p>The statement says the district is focused, &quot;as always,&quot; on its roughly 400,000 students.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett, a longtime educator, was chosen by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take over the nation&#39;s third-largest school district in 2012. She left earlier this year amid a federal investigation.</p><p>In July, Emanuel named the city&#39;s former transit chief, Forrest Claypool, as a replacement.</p><hr /><p><strong>3:40 p.m.</strong></p><p>Chicago&nbsp;Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he was &quot;saddened and disappointed&quot; to learn of the criminal activity alleged in a federal indictment charging his hand-picked former schools chief.</p><p>In a statement Thursday, Emanuel said students, parents, teachers and principals in the nation&#39;s third-largest school district &quot;deserve better.&quot;</p><p>Emanuel chose longtime educator Barbara Byrd-Bennett to lead&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools in 2012. He spent much of his hard-fought re-election bid earlier this year defending his controversial schools decisions and Bennett&#39;s hiring.</p><p>Prosecutors announced the indictment earlier Thursday. It accuses Byrd-Bennett of steering $20 million in no-bid contracts to an education company where she used to be a consultant.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett&#39;s attorney says the former schools chief plans to plead guilty.</p><hr /><p><strong>3:10 p.m.</strong></p><p>An attorney for former&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett confirms that his client will plead guilty to charges in a federal indictment alleging public corruption.</p><p>Chicago-based lawyer Michael Scudder released a statement Thursday saying Byrd-Bennett accepts &quot;full responsibility for her conduct.&quot; The statement says she plans to plead guilty to charges in the indictment.</p><p>Scudder also says Byrd-Bennett will continue to cooperate with the government, including testifying if called upon to do so.</p><hr /><p><strong>3 p.m.</strong></p><p>Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;top federal prosecutor says the former CEO ofChicago&nbsp;Public Schools plans to plead guilty in a corruption case linked to a $20 million no-bid contract.</p><p>U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said Thursday that he was authorized by an attorney for Barbara Byrd-Bennett to announce her plans to plead guilty. Fardon didn&#39;t specify what charges would be involved.</p><p>His office announced earlier Thursday that Byrd-Bennett had been indicted on several counts of mail fraud and wire fraud following an investigation into a no-bid contract with SUPES Academy, where she once worked as a consultant.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett stepped down as the city&#39;s top school official earlier this year.</p><hr /><p><strong>2:15 p.m.</strong></p><p>Chicago&nbsp;Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says the indictment on corruption charges involving&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools&#39; former CEO marks a &quot;sad day&quot; for the district&#39;s leadership.</p><p>In a statement released Thursday, Lewis says the union wishes former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett &quot;well in her legal battles.&quot; Lewis says the union is now focused on securing a new contract.</p><p>The union and school district are locked in a tense contract negotiation. During the last round of negotiations, teachers inChicago&nbsp;went on strike for the first time in 25 years.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/latest-chicago-public-schools-mum-indictment-113251 Ex-Chicago Public Schools leader charged with corruption http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-public-schools-leader-charged-corruption-113246 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Barbara%20Byrd-Bennett%20003%20By%20Bill%20Healy.jpg" style="height: 406px; width: 610px;" title="Barbara Byrd-Bennet. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" /></div><p><em>Updated Oct. 9, 8:12 a.m.</em></p><p>The former head of Chicago Public Schools is facing federal corruption charges for her alleged role in a kickback scheme involving millions of taxpayer dollars.</p><p>The Department of Justice <a href="http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/file/782216/download">alleges</a> Barbara Byrd-Bennett, 66, steered $23 million worth of no-bid contracts to her former employer, the SUPES Academy, and a subsidiary company, called Synesi Associates.</p><p>The indictment outlines a secret scheme in which the co-owners of SUPES and Synesi &mdash; Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas &mdash; promised to funnel money into accounts set up under the names of two of Byrd-Bennett&rsquo;s relatives.</p><p>&ldquo;They entered a scheme to secretly profit from the schools,&rdquo; said U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#document"><strong>DOCUMENT: Read the full indictment&nbsp;</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>The alleged scheme also included an agreement that Byrd-Bennett would get part of the money from the CPS contracts in the form of a &lsquo;signing bonus&rsquo; when she left the district&rsquo;s top job and returned to SUPES.</p><p>&ldquo;If you only join for the day, you will be the highest paid person on the planet for that day,&rdquo; Solomon wrote to Byrd-Bennett. &ldquo;Regardless, it will be paid out on day one.&rdquo;</p><p>Solomon, 47, and Vranas, 34 are also charged with multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, as well as bribery and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Byrd-Bennett is charged with multiple counts of mail and wire fraud.</p><p>The alleged scheme dates back to before Byrd-Bennett took over the helm of the nation&rsquo;s third largest school district in late 2012. Records obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice detail how Solomon and Byrd-Bennett conspired to get SUPES business with the district.</p><p>&ldquo;When this stint at CPS is done and you are ready to &hellip; retire, we have your spot waiting for you,&rdquo; Solomon wrote to Byrd-Bennett in 2012. &ldquo;In the meantime, if we can figure a way to do deep principals (professional development) at CPS, I can find a good home for [friends of Byrd-Bennett&rsquo;s] and others, and make sure principals in CPS get kick ass training with kick ass teachers and kick ass coaching.&rdquo;</p><p>The first two contracts between SUPES and CPS were awarded in 2011 and 2012 under a leadership training initiative, called the Chicago Executive Leadership Academy.</p><p>That initiative was initially funded by the Chicago Public Education Fund, a politically connected venture fund started by top civic and corporate leaders. The Fund&rsquo;s board has included many top political leaders, including Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who also served on the Chicago Board of Education before her appointment to the president&rsquo;s cabinet. The Fund decided not to renew funding for that initiative in 2012.</p><p>In June 2013, amid millions in school budget cuts and one month after the district decided to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-votes-close-50-schools-107294">close 50 public schools</a>, the Chicago Board of Education voted to approve a $20.5 million no-bid contract to SUPES for principal training. There were no questions and no discussion before the unanimous vote. One board member, Carlos Azcoitia, was absent.</p><p>Shortly after, <em>Catalyst Chicago</em> raised <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2013/07/20-million-no-bid-contract-raises-questions-about-supes-academy/">questions</a> about the no-bid nature of the contract and reported on the principal training provided by SUPES. Principals interviewed by <em>Catalyst</em> said the sessions were too basic and led by people who knew little about Chicago. Six months later, the CPS Inspector General <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2013/12/supes-academy-contract-under-scrutiny-inspector-general/">opened an investigation</a>.</p><p>Multiple CPS Board members repeatedly defended their votes on the contract until this year, when the U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed the district, seeking interviews with people who worked with the ex-CEO and records related to SUPES and Synesi Associates.</p><p>After taking a two-month leave of absence amid the scrutiny, Byrd-Bennett <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-chief-resigns-amid-federal-probe-112114">resigned from the top job</a> at CPS in June.</p><p>The corruption scandal comes as the district continues to face a $500 million budget hole that could force more layoffs by Thanksgiving. Current CPS CEO Forrest Claypool <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740">wants state lawmakers to come through with a bailout</a>.</p><p>Claypool tried to distance himself from the scandal at a conference of suburban and downstate school districts this afternoon.</p><p>&ldquo;This is in the past,&rdquo; Claypool said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not reflective of our administration. It&rsquo;s not reflective of the current leadership.&rdquo;</p><p>Claypool, who has been on the job since mid-July, said the district has fully cooperated with federal investigators, and has instituted &ldquo;controls.&rdquo;</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel also distanced himself &mdash; both physically and figuratively &mdash; from the controversy by having his office issue an emailed statement while he talked about public-private partnerships at a conference in Washington D.C.</p><p>&ldquo;I am saddened and disappointed to learn about the criminal activity that led to today&#39;s indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett,&rdquo; the statement read. &ldquo;Our students, parents, teachers and principals deserve better.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><h3><strong><a name="document"></a>Read the indictment</strong></h3><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.7729220222793488" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="800" id="doc_39642" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/284088055/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;access_key=key-C9KRlEQTJ9HQWAEtPcxU&amp;show_recommendations=false" width="600"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 12:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-public-schools-leader-charged-corruption-113246 Mayor to CPS on graduation rates: ‘Go back and be accurate.’ http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-cps-graduation-rates-%E2%80%98go-back-and-be-accurate%E2%80%99-113166 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/4626481280_3e71045657_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he told Chicago school officials to go back and fix the errors in the graduation rate that were first reported in June by WBEZ and the Better Government Association.</p><p>&ldquo;Soon as there were questions raised, I said, &lsquo;Go back, and analyze what&rsquo;s going on and be accurate,&rsquo;&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s exactly what they did.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago Public Schools officials announced late Thursday it would <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-lowers-graduation-rate-after-errors-found-113148">revise the past four years of graduation rates</a> and make sure to include students who dropped out but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163">were misclassified as having transferred</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;There was an error pointed out,&rdquo; said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. &ldquo;We studied that information. We had to wait until the end of the summer schools to have all the data. And then we corrected it.&rdquo;</p><p>Claypool said the errors &ldquo;shouldn&rsquo;t deflect from the fact that the trendline is up.&rdquo;</p><p>The trendline is up -- officials also announced late Thursday that the new 2015 graduation rate is 69.9 percent.</p><p>But the errors raise questions about how well the district is accounting for students who are still dropping out. Under Emanuel, CPS nearly doubled the number of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665">alternative schools in the city</a> and opened r<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/how-do-you-find-high-school-dropouts-110816">e-engagement centers</a> to do the work of tracking down kids who are listed as dropouts. But the students who were misclassified wouldn&rsquo;t have been officially listed as dropouts and no one would have known to track them down.</p><p>Emanuel agreed that&rsquo;s cause for concern.</p><p>&ldquo;If we missed a dropout, they&rsquo;re not only dropping out of high school, they&rsquo;re dropping out of life, and their ability to earn a (living),&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So of course I&rsquo;m concerned. I&rsquo;m concerned (about) what it means for the rest of life, not just the system and its data gathering.&rdquo;</p><p>When the errors were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163">first reported in June</a>, officials admitted there was a problem, but said they didn&rsquo;t plan to go back to fix the publicly-reported statistics.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-cps-graduation-rates-%E2%80%98go-back-and-be-accurate%E2%80%99-113166 CPS lowers graduation rate after errors found http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-lowers-graduation-rate-after-errors-found-113148 <p><p dir="ltr">The official graduation numbers that Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted throughout his first term and his re-election campaign were wrong.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools is revising its official graduation rate after WBEZ and the Better Government Association&nbsp;found thousands of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163">dropouts were being misclassified</a> as transfers.</p><p dir="ltr">The official graduation rate for 2014 was actually 66.3 percent, not 69.4 percent, officials said late Thursday. Every year dating back to 2011, the year Emanuel took office, was revised down two to three percentage points.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, records obtained by WBEZ and the Better Government Association under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act revealed that since 2011, at least 2,200 students across 25 district high schools were counted as having transferred out of the district, when in reality, they were dropouts.</p><p dir="ltr">At just those 25 CPS high schools, more than 1,000 of the dropouts were mislabeled as moving out of town or going to private schools, but were actually attending CPS alternative schools. More than 600 of the mislabeled dropouts were listed as getting a GED, when state law is clear that students who leave school to enroll in GED programs or attend alternative schools are dropouts.</p><p dir="ltr">One school, Curie Metropolitan High School, labeled more than 100 dropouts every year as leaving to be homeschooled. Another 1,300 of the so-called transfers had no explanation of what school they were supposedly transferring to or were vaguely listed as going to different states or countries.</p><p dir="ltr">When asked in June, district officials acknowledged problems with the system&rsquo;s accounting, but said they had no plan to go back and adjust the numbers.</p><p dir="ltr">John Barker, the district&rsquo;s chief of accountability, said all of those students, plus similar misclassifications at all of the district&rsquo;s 100-plus high schools were put back into <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786">the calculation</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So what you&rsquo;re seeing is an adjusted rate that&rsquo;s a little bit lower because you have more students in the denominator,&rdquo; Barker said. To understand how CPS calculates its graduation rate, watch this animated video.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i0EibDr47gc" width="620"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said the errors were concerning, but she&rsquo;s still encouraged that the number of students graduating is increasing.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The fact that more students have graduated did not change,&rdquo; said Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson. &ldquo;Even with the adjusted rate, we have more students as far as the number.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson said some of recent gains are due to the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-alternative-schools-some-run-profit-companies-come-hefty-price-tag-110239">aggressive expansion</a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665">of for-profit alternative schools</a> in the city, many which provide half day, mostly online programs that allow students to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">earn their high school diploma in a fraction of the time</a>. She said the district won&rsquo;t be opening any more of those schools because CPS is in a financial crunch, not because some existing operators have questionable business practices.</p><p dir="ltr">But the raw number of graduates from 2014 to 2015 increased by just 84 students, from 20,232 to 20,316, for a 2015 rate of 69.9 percent, according to district data provided late Thursday. Barker could not immediately say how many dropouts had to be reclassified in the new rate.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Capture_1.JPG" title="Source: Chicago Public Schools" /></div><p>Jackson acknowledged that principals and other staff could feel pressure to improve their school&rsquo;s public reputation. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t doubt that there are some principals who feel a great degree of pressure,&rdquo; Jackson said, adding that she wants to provide more support instead of just layer on more accountability.</p><p dir="ltr">Barker said the district is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-acknowledges-errors-takes-steps-count-dropouts-correctly-112180">still planning to train school clerks</a> and has developed an internal system to flag misclassifications sooner.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 22:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-lowers-graduation-rate-after-errors-found-113148 CPS: No additional for-profit alternative schools for dropouts http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-no-additional-profit-alternative-schools-dropouts-113144 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/18143111338_bb57a0915e_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools will not open any new <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665">for-profit alternative schools</a> this year.</p><p>The move comes after a historic expansion of schools for dropouts, part of an aggressive push to increase <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786">graduation rates</a>. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-alternative-schools-some-run-profit-companies-come-hefty-price-tag-110239">nearly doubled the number of schools</a> for dropouts over the last three years.</p><p>A WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago/Better Government Association investigation earlier this year found many of the new for-profit alternative school providers were giving teenagers a new way to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">earn their high school diploma in a fraction of the time</a>, by offering half-day sessions and online courses that allowed students to earn credits quickly, sometimes in a matter of weeks.</p><p>The new schools -- deemed Alternative Learning Opportunities Programs, or ALOP -- primarily serve low-income black and Latino teenagers. They also grant graduates a diploma from either the last school they attended or the neighborhood school where they live. Students could also participate in sports and attend dances at traditional schools.</p><p>Two new companies -- Acceleration Academies and Catapult Learning -- applied to run 11 new schools serving more than 2,000 students.</p><p>Former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett listed <a href="http://www.catapultlearning.com/">Catapult Learning</a> as one of her former employers on her resume. There is an ongoing investigation into Byrd-Bennett&rsquo;s connections to a no-bid contract awarded to another former employer, SUPES Academy.</p><p>It was recently announced that part of the SUPES model was acquired by the Chicago-based National Superintendents Academy, which is run by Atlantic Research Partners. <a href="http://atlanticresearchpartners.org/executive-team-1/">Atlantic</a> and <a href="http://www.accelerationacademy.org/our-executive-team/">Acceleration Academies</a> executive teams include many of the same people. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Mark Graves, chief operating officer for Acceleration Academies, told WBEZ that CPS&rsquo;s head of alternative schools called him in mid-July to tell him CPS wouldn&rsquo;t be opening any new schools.</p><p>&ldquo;I was told that we would not be considered for ALOP funding because our program receiving ALOP funding would pull dollars from existing ALOP programs,&rdquo; Graves said. &ldquo;They thought that wouldn&rsquo;t be a smart move politically for them.&rdquo;</p><p>District spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement that the move does not represent a departure away from helping dropouts.</p><p>&ldquo;Because we continue to work on our budget challenges with Springfield, we will not be funding any new Alternative Learning Opportunities Programs in 2016,&rdquo; Bittner wrote. &ldquo;We will continue to serve these students through our existing portfolio of options schools and programs.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 14:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-no-additional-profit-alternative-schools-dropouts-113144 Special education cuts get focus at CPS board meeting http://www.wbez.org/news/special-education-cuts-get-focus-cps-board-meeting-113108 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/boardofed_lutton_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p></p><p>The head of special education at Chicago Public Schools said schools rely too heavily on aides and aren&rsquo;t scheduling staff who help students with special needs efficiently.</p><p>Markay Winston, the Chief of the Office of Diverse Learners and Support Services, said her office is trying to deliver special education services in a &ldquo;fiscally responsible&rdquo; manner. Since summer, the district has cut nearly 600 special education teachers and aides.</p><p>Winston said the cuts should not affect the ability to meet students&rsquo; individualized education plans, or IEPs, which are legally binding documents that outline what help an individual &nbsp;child needs in order to learn.</p><p>Principals found out over the weekend that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/principals-blindsided-more-cuts-special-needs-113096">more special needs staff would be eliminated</a>. CPS has never before cut special education staff after the first day of school. Officials said it was due to enrollment, but there was no correlation between enrollment declines and special education staffing cuts.</p><p dir="ltr">Those cuts came in addition to 500 positions that were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512">eliminated over the summer</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Presenting at the Chicago Board of Education on Tuesday, Winston said that historically, only 5 percent of students with IEPs ever transition out of special education in CPS.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Winston not satisfied only 5% of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/sped?src=hash">#sped</a> students exit out, but it&#39;s higher than other urban districts. Must exit them appropriately <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cpsboard?src=hash">#cpsboard</a></p>&mdash; Catalyst Chicago Mag (@CatalystChicago) <a href="https://twitter.com/CatalystChicago/status/648895867823521793">September 29, 2015</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz asked Winston how many students with IEPs simply left the district.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Sharkey likens CPS deals with banks to getting ripped off with ATM fees. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cpsboard?src=hash">#cpsboard</a></p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/648903726820929537">September 29, 2015</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">President of SEIU Local 73 says Winston is incorrect about what is happening in schools. More than 300 sped aides laid off. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cpsboard?src=hash">#cpsboard</a></p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/648904291969843200">September 29, 2015</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Sarah Chambers, special ed teacher, says one of her students signed up online to speak &amp; was told she&#39;d be expelled if she did. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cpsboard?src=hash">#cpsboard</a></p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/648912690749022208">September 29, 2015</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Crowd is upset today that <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cpsboard?src=hash">#cpsboard</a> is reducing groups of speakers down to two representatives.</p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/648906858393149440">September 29, 2015</a></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 12:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/special-education-cuts-get-focus-cps-board-meeting-113108 Charter schools looking to expand http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-29/charter-schools-looking-expand-113104 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/charter schools Flickr Lucy Gray.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Charter schools in Chicago have been around for nearly two decades and while they continue to expand, some people are still strongly opposed to the education model.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools is holding public hearings Wednesday night about charter schools. Seven charters want to open a dozen new campuses across the city, including the Noble Network, which wants to build its 17th high school on the Southwest Side. Of all the proposals, it&rsquo;s this one from the Noble Network of Charters that has stirred up the most controversy.</p><p>Why is that and what does this mean moving forward? <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">WBEZ Education</a> Reporter Linda Lutton helps us sift through those questions.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 29 Sep 2015 12:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-29/charter-schools-looking-expand-113104 Principals blindsided by more cuts to special needs http://www.wbez.org/news/principals-blindsided-more-cuts-special-needs-113096 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Terrapin Flyer-flickr.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>In an unprecedented move, Chicago Public Schools plans to cut another $12 million from special education based on official enrollment numbers released late last week.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Typically, special education staffing is left alone once the school year begins.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Principals were first told they would have until the end of the day Tuesday to file appeals, but after fielding complaints, CPS officials moved the deadline back to November 2.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Special education took<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512" target="_blank"> a deep cut over the summer</a> after district officials did a review of how students with special learning needs were being supported. That audit led to the elimination of 500 positions, roughly 200 of which were supposedly vacant.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The move saved $42.3 million, but led to outcry from some schools who worried the cuts would jeopardize their ability to comply with federal law. The cuts announced late Friday would mean another roughly 70 teachers and aides at more than 400 schools would be laid off.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;No one told principals this was happening,&rdquo; said Nathan Pietrini, principal of Hawthorne Scholastic Academy in Lakeview. &ldquo;All the sudden, I had five special ed teachers. Now, I&rsquo;ve got three.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said the cuts are connected to enrollment, but district figures show that Hawthorne only lost two students. Nearby Hamilton Elementary actually enrolled about 20 more students. Principal James Gray said they also had a handful more students with special learning needs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I did not expect any special ed cuts,&rdquo; Gray said Monday. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just simply not possible to cut my staff with the inclusion model that we&rsquo;re using and cover the needs of our kids. Without our five teachers, we would be out of compliance.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Special education is costly for CPS, but advocates, teachers and principals say there&rsquo;s a reason for that. Federal law requires public schools to meet the needs of all students with learning difficulties and to do so without isolating them from other children.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a letter to principals Sunday afternoon obtained by WBEZ, the head of special education Markay Winston said CPS is &ldquo;undertaking a transformation of the way we deliver services&rdquo; to students with special needs.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It is both our obligation and our responsibility to ensure that our children receive their services,&rdquo; Winston wrote.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Gray and Pietrini both said the changes are more <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByfeeewUV9usR09DdWFjYnIxNEE/view?usp=sharing" target="_blank">numbers-focused than they are student-focused.&nbsp;</a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Special education is so much more complicated than everything else,&rdquo; Pietrini said. &ldquo;Special education staffing can&rsquo;t be reduced to a formula. It can&rsquo;t be you&rsquo;ve got this many kids, or that many minutes, so you get this many teachers.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rod Estvan, education policy analyst at the disability-rights group Access Living, said there will be fewer special education teachers to support the regular classroom teachers, which could lead to more students in isolated classrooms. If that&rsquo;s the case, the district could end up out of compliance with federal law.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ll be penalized by the federal government on next year&rsquo;s allocation for federal dollars for &nbsp;(special education),&rdquo; Estvan said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ll have even less money to function.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>CPS is in a budget crunch. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740" target="_blank">The Board of Education passed a budget last month</a> that relies on imaginary money and a gamble that state lawmakers will give the district $480 million. The cuts to special education could put more pressure on Springfield, but Estvan isn&rsquo;t convinced it will be enough.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think that the idea that Chicago has to lay off a bunch of people is going to make them suddenly pony up the money they haven&rsquo;t ponied up so far,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation.</a></em></div></p> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 17:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/principals-blindsided-more-cuts-special-needs-113096 Dyett high school hunger strike ends after 34 days http://www.wbez.org/news/dyett-high-school-hunger-strike-ends-after-34-days-113000 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.24.46 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated Sept. 22, 10:42 a.m.</em></p><p>Protesters demanding Dyett High School reopen as a neighborhood school with a green technology curriculum have ended their hunger strike after 34 days. The end of the strike comes after protesters won a number of key demands but never declared victory.</p><p>A news conference with the hunger strikers and their supporters is set for Monday afternoon at Rainbow P.U.S.H. headquarters.</p><p>On August 17, a group of 12 parents and school activists began a liquids-only diet to protest what they said is the destruction of neighborhood schools, especially in African American neighborhoods, and the &ldquo;privatization of public education.&rdquo; The group and supporters gathered daily on the grounds of Dyett High School on the city&rsquo;s south side. They also took their protest to Chicago Public Schools headquarters, City Hall, President Barack Obama&rsquo;s home in Kenwood, U.S. Education Secretary and former CPS CEO Arne Duncan, and a town hall budget meeting in which their protest forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/923198/emanuel-meets-dyett-hunger-strikers-town-hall-budget-session">whisked from the stage</a>.</p><p>On September 3 &mdash; Day 18 of the hunger strike &mdash; CPS announced it would reopen Dyett as a district-run school with an arts curriculum, a move that would honor the school&rsquo;s namesake, music teacher Walter H. Dyett. The CPS plan ceded to a number of demands made by the hunger strikers. First, Dyett would reopen as a school, which was not initially contemplated. It would have a neighborhood boundary, meaning all children in the attendance-area could attend without having to first meet minimum test-score requirements or go through a lottery (nearly all Chicago high schools opened in the past decade have had citywide boundaries and require students to apply; no one is guaranteed admission). And it would include a technology component, which hunger strikers had demanded.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:</strong>&nbsp;<strong><a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/who-was-walter-h-dyett">Who was Walter Dyett?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>CPS billed the plan as a &ldquo;<a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/932146/dyett-compromise-reaction-rejected-praised">compromise</a>,&rdquo; but it reached the agreement not with the hunger strikers or KOCO (Kenwood Oakland Community Organization) but with a separate set of community leaders. The protesters declared their hunger strike would continue.</p><p>While the hunger strike began about a month ago, the roots of the fight began years ago, when CPS shook up the local schools in the Bronzeville-Kenwood-Washington Park area by turning the high school, King, into a test-in school. Dyett became the default attendance-area high school for the area--it had been a middle school until then--and activists say it was never properly funded. The school board voted in 2012 to <a href="http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=3258">phase Dyett out</a>; the <a href="http://hpherald.com/2015/06/10/end-of-an-era-at-dyett-high-school/">last class graduated in June with 13 students</a>.</p><p>KOCO pushed for a new high school to replace Dyett as it was being phased out, and the district eventually agreed to ask for proposals. Three were submitted: one for an arts school to be run by nonprofit Little Black Pearl Arts and Design Center; one for a sports school submitted by Dyett&rsquo;s last principal; and a KOCO proposal for a &ldquo;Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.&rdquo; A vote on the proposals was slated for August. When CPS leadership changes put off the vote, the hunger strike began.</p><p>The hunger strikers received local and national support from aldermen, state lawmakers, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.</p><p>As the weeks went on, the stress of going without solid food began to take its toll. At least two hunger strikers required medical attention, one was hospitalized and another was carried out of a CPS meeting by paramedics. Last week, four dropped out, citing health concerns. The group says five new people offered and began to take their places in the hunger strike.</p><p>Flanked by hunger strikers and their supporters, &nbsp;the Reverend Jesse Jackson congratulated the group&rsquo;s efforts at Rainbow P.U.S.H headquarters, about a mile away from Dyett High School. He said the group accomplished a great deal. The Reverend Janette Wilson of Rainbow P.U.S.H. is talking to CPS on behalf of the hunger strikers.</p><p>&ldquo;We were not negotiating in a labor sense,&rdquo; said Wilson. &ldquo;The school is going to be open enrollment. It&rsquo;s a neighborhood school, it&rsquo;s a community school. We&rsquo;re trying to celebrate that victory right now. And as we continue conversations going forward, more things will be agreed to.&rdquo;</p><p>Another person who&rsquo;s had conversations with CPS is Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D). &ldquo;Certainly one in person and a little bit on the phone,&rdquo; said Raoul. &ldquo; I don&rsquo;t want to pump it up to be more than it is. As community stakeholders, we&rsquo;re concerned with all parties involved, not just the coalition.&rdquo;</p><p>Brown says they&rsquo;re not finished and as they plan for another phase, they have a list of demands to be fulfilled. Some include using the words &ldquo;green technology&rdquo; in the school name, appointing ex-CPS teacher Duane Turner as principal, and keeping the name &ldquo;Dyett.&rdquo; Walter Dyett, the famed Chicago public schools music director, taught high school music to future jazz greats Gene Ammons, Von Freeman, Dinah Washington and Nat &ldquo;King&rdquo; Cole.</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Linda Lutton contributed to this story.</em></p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews"><em>@yolandanews</em></a></p></p> Sun, 20 Sep 2015 11:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/dyett-high-school-hunger-strike-ends-after-34-days-113000