WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Forrest Claypool on CTU Contract and CPS Cuts http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-03/forrest-claypool-ctu-contract-and-cps-cuts-114690 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CPS-Chief-Flickr-WBEZ.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Things are not going well between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools. The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-announce-cuts-after-union-rejects-offer-114680">union rejected the latest contract offer </a>the other day after it looked like both sides were close to an agreement after more than a year of contract talks.</p><p>On February 2, the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-announce-cuts-after-union-rejects-offer-114680">announced plans to cut 100 million dollars</a> in staff and spending to help address its long-term one billion dollar shortfall.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool joins the show to shed some light on the proposed cuts.</p></p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-03/forrest-claypool-ctu-contract-and-cps-cuts-114690 Classroom Cuts Move Ahead, Absent a New Chicago Teachers' Contract http://www.wbez.org/news/classroom-cuts-move-ahead-absent-new-chicago-teachers-contract-114692 <p><div><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is going to slash money from school budgets -- in a move that&rsquo;s escalating tensions with the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>It comes as the district is also trying to borrow more money from bond markets.</p><p>District chief Forrest Claypool sent a letter to union president Karen Lewis that said CPS would begin cutting $100 million from schools and would stop picking up part of the teachers&rsquo; pension contribution. He wrote that the changes could take effect in 30 days. &nbsp;</p><p>The union fired back, calling the move retaliatory.</p><p>&ldquo;This is clearly a retaliatory message because we didn&rsquo;t agree with what they came up with,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not going to be bullied. We have provisions in our contract against bullying. We don&rsquo;t tolerate it in our schools with our kids.&rdquo;</p><p>Claypool said the cuts -- which could mean one position per school, on average -- could still be avoided if the two parties reach an agreement soon.</p><p>&ldquo;I would be the happiest guy around if next week we had an agreement with the teachers union and we could rescind the process on these steps,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We do not want to take these steps.&rdquo;</p><p>School budget cuts in the middle of the school year has been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-plan-c-chicago-schools-brace-budget-cuts-114118">Claypool&rsquo;s Plan B</a> since last fall--as the district looked for ways to close its $480 million budget deficit. &nbsp;</p><p>Claypool&rsquo;s Plan A was to get help from other sources, including state lawmakers and teachers. Both have now clearly said no.</p><p>State lawmakers have made it clear there&rsquo;s no extra money coming from them, and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-vision-chicago-public-schools-future-114545"> Gov. Bruce Rauner has continued to advocate for a state takeover and potential bankruptcy for CPS</a>. He even directed the state board of education to begin looking for Claypool&rsquo;s replacement.</p><p>&ldquo;The state should be able to take over the schools and manage those contracts properly,&rdquo; Rauner said.</p><p>State law would have to change in order for the state to legally take over Chicago schools.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Union rejects district proposal of a four-year contract deal. <a href="https://t.co/flEwutRcdp">pic.twitter.com/flEwutRcdp</a></p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/694272840162480130">February 1, 2016</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>On Monday,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-rejects-serious-offer-district-114679"> teachers rejected</a> what both the district and union leadership considered a &ldquo;serious&rdquo; contract offer. It would have saved the district millions by having teachers pay more toward their health care and pensions, but it also promised to cap charter school expansion and give teachers more &ldquo;autonomy in the classroom.&rdquo;</p><p>But members of the union&rsquo;s 40-person big bargaining team, citing a lack of trust and what union president Lewis called &ldquo;weasel language&rdquo; on things like paperwork and standardized testing, unanimously rejected the offer.</p><p>The proposal also included a phase out of the district&rsquo;s pick-up of the teachers&rsquo; pension contribution. Typically, the district has picked up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee contribution.</p><p>Absent a compromise agreement, Claypool is now planning to do away with that pension pick-up in the next 30 days. Lewis said that move is against the law and the union could take the district to court over it and immediately call a strike.</p><p>Robert Bruno, a professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois, called Claypool&rsquo;s move an escalation, and explained that it could be what&rsquo;s known in bargaining as a gambit.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a kind of end move where you try to shake up the bargaining and you come up with a big play,&rdquo; Bruno said. &ldquo;It comes with high risk, but it can come with high reward.&rdquo;</p><p>The risk? A teachers strike.</p><p>The reward? An agreement in the next 30 days.</p><p>Or there could be an entirely different reward that could come from slashing school budgets right now.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CTUBigBargainingTeam.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago Teachers Union Big Bargaining Team (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" /></p><p>Claypool hinted that the budget cuts could also be sending a signal to Wall Street. On Wednesday, the district planned to borrow millions of dollars on the bond market.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re sending a very strong signal here that we are going to right the fiscal ship and we are going to do whatever it takes,&rdquo; he said, when asked what if any role the borrowing played in making the cuts.</p><p>CPS had delayed a $875 million bond sale last week, saying they wanted more time to &ldquo;build the book,&rdquo; &nbsp;which is basically finding more investors willing to buy the district&rsquo;s junk bonds.</p><p>The abrupt move came shortly after Gov. Rauner first raised the question of bankruptcy.</p><p>Matt Fabian with &nbsp;Municipal Market Analytics said &nbsp;the governor&rsquo;s earlier statements definitely spooked the markets. I asked if that could be Rauner&rsquo;s purpose.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s just a big step, to say that he&rsquo;s actually trying to disrupt the bond deal. &nbsp;But&hellip; it could be,&rdquo; Fabian said. &ldquo;It is starting to look that way, isn&rsquo;t it?&rdquo;</p><p>CPS plans to use some of the borrowed money to make a payment on other debts, due February 15. Absent that money, the district may have to make more budget cuts.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not something either CPS or CTU would want, labor expert Robert Bruno noted.</p><p>&ldquo;Both parties are obviously invested in the ability to sell bonds,&rdquo; he added. But on the other hand, the cuts could push teachers to the picket lines.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a lot of our members that have already bought red, thermal jackets,&rdquo; Lewis said.</p><p>But she added that the union remains at the table with CPS, bargaining around the clock.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Dan Weissmann contributed to this report.</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 12:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/classroom-cuts-move-ahead-absent-new-chicago-teachers-contract-114692 Chicago Teachers Union Rejects 'Serious Offer' from District http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-rejects-serious-offer-district-114679 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CaPIDeuWcAAjziV.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>The Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s bargaining team has rejected a contract proposal from Chicago Public Schools, citing the district&rsquo;s financial woes and an overall lack of trust.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Teachers union president Karen Lewis said the 40-member team went through every single article line by line and unanimously voted down the proposal midday Monday.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;What we are looking for is sustainable funding...which means serious revenue,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;That is not in this contract. There&rsquo;s no guarantee that the promises that are made are promises that can be kept.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The exact details were not made public, but CPS officials said the deal included teachers raises for seniority and experience and a commitment to slow charter school expansion and give teachers more &ldquo;classroom autonomy.&rdquo; But it also included a phase out of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-president-karen-lewis-calls-potential-pension-payment-increase-strike-worthy-112598">pension pick-up</a>&nbsp;and increases in health care premiums.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a statement, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said he was disappointed in the decision, but remains committed to reaching an agreement. &nbsp; &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The two sides now begin a formal mediation process known as fact-finding that by law could take 75 days. The soonest teachers could walk off the job would be May 23.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the two sides have agreed to keep bargaining. A spokeswoman for the union confirmed that negotiations continued Tuesday morning.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The rejection of a possible deal comes at a time of instability in CPS.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At the start of the school year, Claypool proposed a deficit budget -- that<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740">&nbsp;the Board ultimately approved&nbsp;</a>-- that left a gaping $480 million gap between projected revenues and projected expenses. Initially, Claypool sought revenue from state lawmakers to avoid what he said would be&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-plan-c-chicago-schools-brace-budget-cuts-114118">massive budget cuts</a>&nbsp;in the middle of the school year.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The district continued to ask Springfield for help through the&nbsp;fall,&nbsp;until it became very clear that it wasn&rsquo;t going to happen. Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner and republican leaders<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-vision-chicago-public-schools-future-114545">&nbsp;proposed a state takeover of CPS and a path to bankruptcy for the district.&nbsp;</a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>With the second semester starting on Feb. 8, CPS officials have been frantically working to close this year&rsquo;s deficit by getting a contract signed with the Chicago Teachers Union and borrowing money through bond markets.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Last week, the district<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/chicago-education-bonds-idUSL2N15B2L3">&nbsp;delayed a bond sale&nbsp;</a>worth $875 million. The next day Moody&rsquo;s downgraded CPS&rsquo;s bond rating&nbsp;<a href="http://cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/CreditRatings.aspx">further into junk status.&nbsp;</a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @WBEZeducation.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-rejects-serious-offer-district-114679 Chicago Public Schools Announces 227 Layoffs http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-announces-227-layoffs-114570 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Alvin Rider is one of hundreds laid off by <a href="https://twitter.com/ChiPubSchools">@ChiPubSchools</a> today. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CPS?src=hash">#CPS</a> says it has a 480M budget gap. <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZ">@WBEZ</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y2dqExQz0f">pic.twitter.com/Y2dqExQz0f</a></p>&mdash; Yolanda Perdomo (@yolandanews) <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews/status/690631188864765953">January 22, 2016</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>More than 200 administrative employees with&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools are being laid off and another 180 already-vacant positions will be closed, changes officials say will help save the nation&#39;s third-largest district $45.1 million a year as it grapples with deep financial problems.</p><p>The 227 layoffs announced Friday are in the central office and district officials say 57 of the workers affected will be eligible to reapply for 35 jobs. After the changes, the district will have cut 433 central office jobs overall since August through layoffs or closings of positions.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s no doubt that these cuts are painful,&quot; schools CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement Friday. &quot;However, with limited resources and a budget crisis not just this year but into the foreseeable future, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-plan-c-chicago-schools-brace-budget-cuts-114118">we had no choice.&quot;</a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/claypool-city-club.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 275px; width: 400px;" title="Forrest Claypool is pictured following a speech he gave at a City Club of Chicago luncheon. This year, the district has a $480 million hole to fill in its current budget. Claypool says there will be no magical solution this year. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" /></p><p>Claypool&#39;s announcement comes the same week top <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-republicans-mull-cps-bankruptcy-plan-114531" target="_blank">Illinois Republicans called for a state takeover of the district</a>, a plan Democrats blasted. It&#39;s also&nbsp;a difficult time for the district: roughly 400,000 students with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, and the potential of midyear teacher layoffs.</p><p>The&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Teachers Union says layoffs in the middle of the year are a step in the wrong direction. The&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;district also is in the midst of contentious negotiations with the teachers <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-take-strike-vote-114117">on a new contract</a>.</p><div id="content-titles" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Georgia, serif; vertical-align: baseline;"><h1 style="margin: 0px 0px 4px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 16px; line-height: 21px; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-20/could-chicago-public-schools-be-run-state-114536" target="_blank">â–ºCould CPS Be Run by the State?</a></h1></div><p>Tough contract negotiations with the&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Teachers Union, which went on strike in 2012, are ongoing. Earlier this week, top Illinois Republicans called for a state takeover of the district because of the fiscal crisis, a plan Democrats and&nbsp;Chicagoschool officials blasted.</p><p>Claypool continued his criticism of the state&#39;s school funding formula, saying Friday that it&#39;s unfair to CPS. Attempts to get legislative help for the budget crisis have faltered.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he wants to &quot;protect the classrooms&quot; from such cuts, but the teachers&#39; union said layoffs, even if they don&#39;t involve teachers, are a step in the wrong direction.</p></p> Fri, 22 Jan 2016 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-announces-227-layoffs-114570 Rauner's Vision For Chicago Public Schools' Future http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-vision-chicago-public-schools-future-114545 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/rauner_cps.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The rhetoric over the future of Chicago Public Schools ramped up Wednesday.</p><p>Leaders at the school district have been asking Illinois lawmakers to help them fix the district&rsquo;s serious financial problems.</p><p>On Wednesday, Illinois Republicans put forward two radical answers: The state takes over Chicago Public Schools, and the state allows CPS to declare bankruptcy. Neither option is what city leaders want to hear.</p><p>City officials and top state Democrats say both proposals are essentially dead on arrival.</p><p><strong>How CPS got here</strong></p><p>CPS has been spending outside its means for the last decade or so. The district owes billions of dollars that it does not have to both banks and the teachers pension fund.</p><p>With $6.2 billion in outstanding debt and an annual operating budget of around $5.7 billion, CPS has faced serious cash flow problems the last two years. Budget officials have used one-time windfalls of cash, like federal stimulus money and a surplus of special taxing money from the city, to make ends meet.</p><p>This year, despite all the the uncertainty around its finances, the Chicago Board of Education approved a budget with a $500 million hole in hopes that would pressure state lawmakers to do something to fill it.</p><p>That gamble has not come through. Republican leaders, including Gov. Bruce Rauner, made it clear Wednesday that they would not be giving CPS state money to avoid potential layoffs.</p><p><strong>Bankruptcy</strong></p><p>Rauner recognizes that the term<em> bankruptcy</em> has negative connotations, but he told reporters that allowing Chicago Public Schools to go to a bankruptcy judge would be good for a school system that he says hasn&rsquo;t helped itself in years.</p><p>&ldquo;Bankruptcy law is designed to protect an organization that has too much debt, that has too many liabilities. It gives court protection to an organization that files bankruptcy while it reorganizes its liabilities, its debts, its contracts, its obligations and reorganizes it in a way that&rsquo;s more affordable and sustainable over time,&rdquo; Rauner said.</p><p>Rauner said he believes bankruptcy could allow Chicago Public Schools to avoid layoffs.</p><p>Democrats wholly rejected Rauner&rsquo;s idea, much like they have for Rauner&rsquo;s proposals for state government.</p><p>&ldquo;This is not going to happen,&rdquo; said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, in a written statement.</p><p>&ldquo;Republicans&rsquo; ultimate plans include allowing cities throughout the state to file for bankruptcy protection, which they admitted today would permit cities and school districts to end their contracts with teachers and workers &ndash; stripping thousands of their hard-earned retirement security and the middle-class living they have worked years to achieve,&rdquo; House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said in a statement.</p><p><strong>State takeover</strong></p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t long ago that CPS found itself in a similar position. In 1980, the state appointed a School Finance Authority to oversee the financially beleaguered school system. That governing body took a back seat in 1995 when the state handed control of the schools to then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. In 2010, the School Finance Authority was officially dissolved.</p><p>Rauner said Wednesday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has failed at running the school system. Senate minority leader Christine Radogno noted the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-public-schools-leader-charged-corruption-113246">corruption scandal</a> of former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-lowers-graduation-rate-after-errors-found-113148">fudged graduation rates</a> as examples of Emanuel&rsquo;s mismanagement.</p><p>But state takeovers across the country have had mixed results. A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts&rsquo; Philadelphia Research Initiative found little consensus among researchers over which model of school governance is best for improving academic and financial outcomes.</p><p>&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t guarantee anything,&rdquo; Radogno said of the state takeover model proposed Wednesday. &nbsp;&ldquo;But what it does do is it opens up the Chicago Public Schools for a much more transparent view of what&rsquo;s going on. Right now, the same people that control the state, control the city, appoint the school board, appoint the bureaucrats that run it, and that has <em>certainly </em>not been working out so well for the schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s current schools chief, Forrest Claypool, said the Republican proposals are missing the real problem facing the school district. Claypool argued that the state government has never adequately funded Chicago&rsquo;s schools. In large part, the underfunding he&rsquo;s talking about is driven by the state not paying into the Chicago teachers&rsquo; pension fund. &nbsp;</p><p>Emanuel criticized Rauner&rsquo;s state takeover idea in a written statement, saying it makes zero sense to give control of CPS &ldquo;to a governor who can&rsquo;t pass his own budget,&rdquo; referring to the seven months Illinois government has now gone without a budget.</p><p><strong>Contract negotiations</strong></p><p>The district is currently working with the Chicago Teachers Union to lock in a new contract that could avoid mass layoffs in the middle of the school year.</p><p>After years of public disputes, the Chicago Teachers Union echoed CPS in a rare moment of consensus, saying it would make no sense to give control of CPS to the state. The union also took a jab at Rauner, likening his leadership style to a &ldquo;bull in a china shop.&rdquo;</p><p>Both the union and CPS positioned themselves as the &ldquo;grown-ups&rdquo; in disputing Rauner&rsquo;s plan.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to see how what he&rsquo;s doing helps add pressure to anybody,&rdquo; said CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just the kind of interference which gets in the way of grown-up work.&rdquo;</p><p>The two sides met over the holiday weekend and are meeting almost daily this week to negotiate a new contract for teachers that would help avoid mid-year layoffs.</p><p>&ldquo;While Republican leaders choreograph this distraction, CPS is taking steps to fix everything within our fiscal control and keep as much money in our classrooms as we can,&rdquo; Claypool said in a statement. &ldquo;Instead of offering a reckless smokescreen that distracts from the real financial problems facing CPS, the Governor should pass a state budget that treats CPS students equally with the rest of the state.&rdquo;</p><p>But all this talk about bankruptcy might speed up more action in contract negotiations, because bankruptcy protection would give the district the ability to cancel any collective bargaining agreements it holds.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea covers education for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezeducation"><em>@wbezeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 21 Jan 2016 08:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-vision-chicago-public-schools-future-114545 Could Chicago Public Schools Be Run by the State? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-20/could-chicago-public-schools-be-run-state-114536 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/17630326518_1d222d29e8_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>Republican lawmakers announced a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-republicans-mull-cps-bankruptcy-plan-114531" target="_blank">proposal to let the state of Illinois take control of Chicago Public Schools</a> in order to get the district&rsquo;s finances in order.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The move would reportedly pave the way for the district -- and possibly even the city of Chicago itself -- to declare bankruptcy. WBEZ&rsquo;s state politics reporter Tony Arnold explains.</div></p> Wed, 20 Jan 2016 14:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-20/could-chicago-public-schools-be-run-state-114536 Illinois Republicans Mull CPS Bankruptcy Plan http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-republicans-mull-cps-bankruptcy-plan-114531 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/APPHOTO.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO (AP) &mdash; Backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, top&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;Republicans called Wednesday for a state <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-20/could-cps-be-run-state-114536">takeover of the financially troubled Chicago Public Schools, </a>which faces a nearly $1 billion budget deficit that could lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and a possible strike in a matter of months.</p><p>Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno called the plan a &quot;lifeline&quot; for CPS and Rauner said it&#39;s a way to protect children and taxpayers, though Democrats quickly shot down the idea.</p><p>Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the legislation would give theIllinois&nbsp;State Board of Education control over the nation&#39;s third-largest school district. They also noted that GOP lawmakers may reveal a bankruptcy plan for CPS and the city of Chicago in the coming weeks, but didn&#39;t offer many details.</p><p>&quot;What we&#39;re proposing is a lifeline,&quot; Radogno said of CPS, which has a massive unfunded pension liability. &quot;We didn&#39;t come to this lightly, but the track record of Chicago and its public school system is abysmal.&quot;</p><p>The plan calls for the state schools superintendent, who is chosen by a governor-appointed board, to name up to seven members of an independent authority that would essentially replace Chicago&#39;s school board, which is chosen by the mayor. They would also negotiate teacher contracts, though Republicans said the authority wouldn&#39;t be able to &quot;unilaterally cancel or modify&quot; existing agreements.</p><p>At least seven districts in&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;have come under state management since 2003, including East St. Louis in 2012, which was fought hard by people in the struggling St. Louis suburb.</p><p>Rauner announced his support for the takeover not long after Radogno and Durkin&#39;s news conference, saying a new board and superintendent would &quot;stand up for children and stand up for taxpayers the way the current administration has failed to do.&quot; He also said that would include standing firm in negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union on a new contract rather than using state money to help CPS, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has requested.</p><p>But Democrats &mdash; who hold big majorities in both chambers of the&nbsp;IllinoisLegislature, are close allies of Emanuel and are locked with Rauner on a long-overdue state budget &mdash; blasted the plan almost immediately.</p><p>&quot;This is not going to happen,&quot; Senate President John Cullerton said, calling the idea and a distraction from the state&#39;s other problems.</p><p>The mayor was at a conference in Washington, D.C., but his spokeswoman said Emanuel is &quot;100 percent opposed to Gov. Rauner&#39;s &#39;plan&#39;&quot; and accused Republicans of &quot;trying desperately to distract from their own failures.&quot;</p><p>&quot;If the governor was serious about helping Chicago students, he should start by proposing &mdash; and passing &mdash; a budget that fully funds education and treats CPS students like every other child in the state,&quot; Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said.</p><p>For years, Emanuel has called for a change in state law regarding how pensions are funded. Currently, Chicago taxpayers cover the cost of city teachers&#39; pensions, while taxpayers statewide contribute to retirement funds for teachers outside Chicago &mdash; a system Emanuel argues is unfair because Chicago residents pay twice.</p><p>But Rauner has repeatedly said he won&#39;t approve any help for Chicago until Emanuel gets behind legislative measures that the former businessman says will make&nbsp;Illinois more competitive. Those include allowing local governments to curb labor unions&#39; bargaining rights and making changes to workers&#39; compensation insurance. Emanuel has opposed those efforts, saying they would hurt the middle class.</p><p>Rauner noted the Democrat-led Legislature passed a measure in 2014 that allowedIllinois&nbsp;to take over districts other than CPS, and called their opposition to the latest plan unfair.</p><p>Emanuel already has dealt with stern criticism over allegations that his administration kept a video of a white officer shooting a black teenager under wraps until after he won a second term; protesters have repeatedly called him to step down.</p><p>CPS also is in the midst of contentious negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union on a new contract. Union members last month overwhelmingly authorized their leaders to call a strike if needed, which was an attempt to pressure the district to avoid layoffs or severe cuts. The union, which went on strike in 2012, says a walkout would still be months away.</p><p>CTU officials called the plan an example where Rauner &quot;clumsily attempts to lead&quot; and that the plan is a &quot;non-starter when state government has so far been unable to assume responsibility for its own budget.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 20 Jan 2016 11:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-republicans-mull-cps-bankruptcy-plan-114531 More Arts in Chicago Schools Last Year http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/more-arts-chicago-schools-last-year-114493 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/16351705110_19c40c060d_k.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res463134690" previewtitle="Final candidate speaking times at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate on Thursday in North Charleston, S.C."><div data-crop-type=""><p>A <a href="http://www.ingenuity-inc.org/filebin/SotA_FullReport_web_FINAL.pdf">new report</a> shows an increase in the number of art teachers across Chicago Public Schools -- from 1,278 in 2013-14 to 1,322 last school year.</p><p><a href="http://www.ingenuity-inc.org/">Ingenuity Inc</a>.has been tracking the state of the arts in CPS for three years.</p><p>&ldquo;The whole idea behind these reports is to communicate what the playing field is and to create the kind of supports that are necessary for change,&rdquo; said Paul Sznewajs, executive director of Ingenuity.</p><p>Sznewajs says he was pleasantly surprised to see an increase in the number of art teachers. But the report notes the increase includes 84 arts positions funded by the mayor&rsquo;s office using special tax dollars, known as TIF funds. &nbsp;</p><p>The report also said more cultural institutions and local artists are getting involved at schools.</p><p>For example, Sznewajs said, at Prosser High School, a music teacher, a French teacher and a history teacher collaborated to study the migration of creole music up the Mississippi River to Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;They worked with Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic,&rdquo; Sznewajs said. &ldquo;Then the children created their own original works of music and performed them at the end.&rdquo;</p><p>Evan Plummer, director of arts instruction at CPS, said the report shows the impact that the district&rsquo;s arts plan has had so far. Designed three years ago, the <a href="http://www.cpsarts.org/arts-education-plan/">arts education plan</a> was an extension of the city&rsquo;s broader <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/cultural_plan.html/">cultural plan</a>. Among other changes, CPS added art to the required core curriculum.</p><p>But some schools still struggle to provide arts programming or can&rsquo;t afford a certified art teacher.</p><p>&ldquo;I have not met a principal who said, &lsquo;I don&rsquo;t want the arts in my school,&rsquo;&rdquo; Plummer said. &ldquo;Of course principals want arts in their school. The question is, how can they do that given the other challenges and the demands that schools encounter every day?&rdquo;</p><p>Plummer said his department tries to work with principals to come up with creative solutions in the face of budget cuts. CPS may be <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-plan-c-chicago-schools-brace-budget-cuts-114118">laying off thousands of staff</a> in February if it can&rsquo;t close a $480 million budget hole.</p><p>&ldquo;What are the untapped resources in the school that are more or less cost neutral -- if that&rsquo;s the concern of the principal -- that will also increase the arts,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Maybe there&rsquo;s an English teacher who has an endorsement in Drama or Theater who could teach a drama class.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Ingenuity&rsquo;s report, about 100 schools did not report any data and another two dozen reported that they did not have a certified art teacher on staff.</p><p>Tom Bunting, a data analyst at Ingenuity Inc. said people can look up their school or schools near their home using the <a href="http://www.artlookmap.com/">Artlook map</a>.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 15 Jan 2016 11:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/more-arts-chicago-schools-last-year-114493 Emanuel Brings Back High School Program He Cut During First Term http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-brings-back-high-school-program-he-cut-during-first-term-114449 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flickrUSDEPTofEDU.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is bringing back a successful freshman orientation program he cut during his first term.</p><p>The roughly $6 million price tag for what&rsquo;s called Freshman Connection will be paid for with money from new taxes on tobacco products, including cigars and chewing tobacco. The mayor&rsquo;s office estimates prices will increase $2 to $4 on those products.</p><p>The Freshman Connection program was eliminated in 2011, the first year Emanuel took office. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-cut-positions-free-cash-principals-98625">In 2012</a>, 100 coordinators for the program were eliminated to free up money for principal discretion. Some principals decided to use their discretionary money to keep it going.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson was the principal of Westinghouse College Prep at the time.</p><p>&ldquo;I found it extremely valuable,&rdquo; Jackson said of Freshman Connection. &ldquo;There was one year when we didn&rsquo;t offer it and we saw a big difference in the students.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, Jackson said, writing was a focus of the week-long summer orientation at Westinghouse and you could see a &ldquo;tremendous difference&rdquo; in the writing skills of students who had attended the summer program and those who had not.</p><p>Studies have shown that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-16/surprising-power-ninth-grade-113374">freshman year is an important factor</a> in determining whether a student will graduate from high school. &nbsp;</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s office says the tobacco tax also will help CPS target students who are at risk of dropping out before they even reach high school.</p><p>A press release from the mayor&rsquo;s office says the programs &ldquo;are part of a larger menu of efforts that will help CPS reach a graduation rate of 85 percent by 2019.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ has reported on the district&rsquo;s aggressive efforts to improve graduation rates -- including with Freshman Connection.</p><p>Those efforts include individual <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/luring-chicago-dropouts-back-school-one-doorstep-time-91009">principals going door-to-door</a> to re-enroll students, to the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-alternative-schools-some-run-profit-companies-come-hefty-price-tag-110239">rapid expansion of for-profit, online alternative schools</a> where students can <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">earn a regular high school diploma in half the time</a>.</p><p>Perhaps most troubling, WBEZ and the Better Government Association found many high schools intentionally <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163">mislabeled hundreds of dropouts</a> over the past four years to make their graduation rates look better. Months later, the district officially <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-lowers-graduation-rate-after-errors-found-113148">lowered its graduation rates</a> from the last four years.</p><p>Even so, Emanuel is promising to boost graduation rates another 15 percent over the next four years -- <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366">to 85 percent by the end of his second term</a>.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Mon, 11 Jan 2016 09:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-brings-back-high-school-program-he-cut-during-first-term-114449 Some Families Lie To Get Their Kids Into Top CPS Schools http://www.wbez.org/news/some-families-lie-get-their-kids-top-cps-schools-114373 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/NorthSidePrep.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Families who lie to get their kids into elite Chicago public schools face minimal penalties. This is one of the main contentions of <a href="http://www.cpsoig.org/uploads/3/6/1/7/3617112/cps_oig_fy_2015_annual_report.pdf">CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler&rsquo;s 2015</a> report, released Monday.</p><p>The report cites more than a dozen cases of families using false city addresses to gain access to selective schools this year. Some were found to live in suburbs &mdash; including a Des Plaines family with a student at Walter Payton College Prep and an Elmwood Park family with a student at Whitney Young Magnet. This violates requirements that all CPS students &mdash; with rare exceptions &mdash; live in the city.</p><p>Others who did live in the city gave fake addresses, saying they resided in low-income neighborhoods to gain easier admission to selective enrollment schools. One family who lived in Beverly, for example, claimed an address in Englewood. One North Center family gave an address in Bronzeville.</p><p>Enrollment shenanigans at CPS aren&rsquo;t new. What made this investigation novel was its look at the outcomes of these fraud discoveries. Schuler&rsquo;s team found that, in about half the fraud cases, the students who had been kicked out were allowed to re-enroll in that or another CPS selective school soon after. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The Board of Education has, in the past, allowed certain students to remain in school and graduate despite clear cut evidence that enrollment or admissions fraud had occurred,&rdquo; Schuler writes in the report.</p><p>Schuler says he thinks this makes it too tempting for families to try to fake their addresses.</p><p>&ldquo;People are doing this with little fear of getting caught,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, in our view, the simplest way to solve that is to put in place a clear robust policy stating, upfront, what the penalties are going to be so that the families known what happens when they get caught.&rdquo;</p><p>Schuler suggests that fraudulently enrolled students be banned from selective enrollment schools for four years. He also proposes $10,000 to $25,000 penalties for each year a student was fraudulently enrolled &mdash; and not just for those who live in the suburbs. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We think there should be an upfront penalty that applies to all these cases, regardless of whether they&rsquo;re tier fraud [giving a false address in a lower income area] or suburban residency cases,&rdquo; Schuler said.</p><p>For its part, CPS said in a statement &nbsp;that it &ldquo;welcomes the annual recommendations of the Inspector General. Taxpayers and parents deserve accountability at every level &ndash; which is why the District began top-to-bottom audits under the leadership of new CEO Forrest Claypool, sharing relevant findings with the Inspector General. We are working and will work to address the findings of this report.&rdquo;</p><p>The district didn&rsquo;t say if the audit specifically dealt with selective enrollment fraud. But Schuler says CPS officials have recently shared new potential cases for him to investigate. Those cases were not included in this year&rsquo;s report but, Schuler says &ldquo;if they&rsquo;re completed and sustained&rdquo; they&rsquo;ll be included in next year&rsquo;s report. &nbsp;</p><p>The IG says he doesn&rsquo;t know what percentage of actual CPS enrollment fraud is reflected in his current report. But he believes &nbsp;it&rsquo;s bigger than what they&rsquo;ve found so far.</p><p>&ldquo;A good indication is that, in a few of the cases that we were working on this year involving suburban residency fraud, we actually found that parents picking up other students from other suburban households on the way to school and dropping them off at CPS schools,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So based on that alone it&rsquo;s safe to say that there is more.&rdquo;</p><p>In some cases, the new report names schools, but it generally does not name people involved in fraud. One person who is clearly named, however, is former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. She resigned last year in the wake of a contract kickback scandal investigated by Schuler, among others. The IG report summarizes the events of Bryd-Bennett&rsquo;s case so far, but offers no new details or comments citing its ongoing investigation.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Jan 2016 08:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-families-lie-get-their-kids-top-cps-schools-114373