WBEZ | Karen Lewis http://www.wbez.org/tags/karen-lewis Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Teachers Union votes to oppose Common Core http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-teachers-union-votes-oppose-common-core-110152 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr bill selak.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated with additional information at 5:30pm, 5/8/14</em></p><p>In a vote that seemed to take <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2014/05/chicago_union_passes_resolutio.html" target="_blank">education observers</a>, school district officials, and even many teachers by surprise, delegates to the Chicago Teachers Union passed <a href="http://www.ctunet.com/media/press-releases/chicago-teachers-union-joins-opposition-to-common-core" target="_blank">a resolution </a>Wednesday evening saying the union formally opposes the <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/" target="_blank">Common Core State Standards</a>, which are being implemented in schools across Chicago, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-math-and-reading-standards-trickle-chicago-area-classrooms-102014" target="_blank">Illinois </a>and some 44 other states.&nbsp;</p><p>In a statement released to the media, the union said the resolution &ldquo;enjoins the city&rsquo;s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.&rdquo;</p><p>Teacher Michelle Gunderson, who heads the union&#39;s education committee, says the CTU has &quot;philosophical&quot; issues with the Common Core.</p><p>&quot;Those who wrote the Common Core standards believe the purpose of education is to prepare children to be college and career ready. Now that in and of itself is not a bad thing. We want people to have jobs, we want people to be productive in their lives. But we don&#39;t believe that&#39;s the sole purpose of education. We want our students to become critical thinkers and people who can lead good and purpose-filled lives,&quot; Gunderson said. &quot;We believe our students are more than just cogs in the wheel of the machinery of our workforce.&quot;</p><p>Gunderson also said the standards involve &quot;a misuse and over-abuse of testing.&quot;</p><p>The resolution says the union will lobby the Illinois State Board of Education to abandon the Common Core, and &ldquo;will organize other (union) members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards.&rdquo;</p><p>The union&rsquo;s House of Delegates is made up of teacher representatives from every district school in the city.</p><p>The CTU resolution also declares that:<br /><br />&bull; &ldquo;instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students&rdquo; and &ldquo;the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice.&rdquo;<br /><br />&bull; Common Core standards were developed by &ldquo;non-practitioners&rdquo; including &ldquo;test and curriculum publishers&rdquo; and &ldquo;education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations.&rdquo; It says that &ldquo;as a result the [standards] better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students.&rdquo;<br /><br />&bull; &ldquo;the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards &ndash; including the political manipulation of test scores &ndash; are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois quietly adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, with little opposition. But the standards have become a political football in the last year, and have faced opposition from both the left and the right. Indiana <a href="http://http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/29/us/indiana-common-core-replaced-with-state-standards.html" target="_blank">dumped </a>the Common Core standards last month.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union vote represents a blow to the standards, which are just getting off the ground in many schools, and raises questions about their viability.</p><p>President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have argued that the new standards raise the bar on what American students need to know, and create uniform standards across states. Duncan has called the standards &ldquo;a sea-change in education. Not only do they set the bar high, they give teachers the space and opportunity to go deep, emphasizing problem-solving, analysis, and critical thinking, as well as creativity and teamwork. They give teachers room to innovate.&rdquo;</p><p>The standards themselves are simply <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/" target="_blank">a list of what students should know and be able to do in reading and math, grade by grade</a>. They replace the <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/ILS/" target="_blank">Illinois Learning Standards</a>, which guided teaching and curriculum in the state from 1997 to 2010. The new standards are being billed as more rigorous. They push students to read more complex texts and expand their academic vocabulary. In math, the goal is to move away from a &ldquo;mile-wide, inch-deep&rdquo; approach&mdash;in which students cover many topics in little depth&mdash;in favor of deeper understanding of key math concepts.</p><p>The union&#39;s vote came the same day that the &quot;nation&#39;s report card,&quot; or the National Association of Educational Progress, released new results showing <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2014/05/no_change_in_12th_grade_perfor.html" target="_blank">test scores for American 12th graders have stagnated in math and reading</a> over the past four years. On that test, just 26 percent of high school seniors are considered proficient in math; 37 percent scored &quot;proficient&quot; in reading.</p><p>The resolution was not on the House of Delegates&rsquo; monthly <a href="http://www.ctunet.com/delegates/text/House-of-Delegates-Agenda-4-2-2014.pdf." target="_blank">agenda. </a>Reporters are typically not allowed inside House of Delegates meetings.</p><p>The union&rsquo;s vote may prove unpopular with rank-and-file teachers. Polls have shown that teachers generally <a href="http://www.edutopia.org/blog/recent-polls-common-core-teachers-in-favor-anne-obrien" target="_blank">like </a>the Common Core standards. Chicago Public Schools officials gave WBEZ the results of a survey it conducted in February (attached below). It emailed 18,000 teachers; just over 40 percent responded. Of those, 82 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the Common Core standards are more rigorous that previous standards; 69 percent said they believed the new standards would lead to improved learning for the majority of their students.</p><p>Even the Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, has been supportive of the Common Core standards.</p><p>&quot;Absolutely our parent union pushed the Common Core. I don&#39;t believe when that push happened we realized the harm that it was going to do. I also don&#39;t think we realized how difficult and unfair the testing was going to be,&quot; Gunderson said.</p><p>In other states, teachers and their unions have complained about the implementation of the standards, and their timing. Many states are adopting the new standards just as test scores are being used to evaluate teachers. Scores have dropped precipitously in states, including Illinois, where some or all of the state standardized test questions are aligned to the Common Core standards.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools has spent millions shifting to the new standards; last year the district issued bonds to buy $40 million in textbooks it said were aligned to the Common Core. The state piloted new tests this spring, and will roll out entirely new Common Core exam next spring, replacing the ISAT.</p><p>The Chicago teachers&rsquo; vote puts the union, controlled by political progressives, in strange company. Take conservative radio host Glenn Beck for instance.&nbsp; &ldquo;Besides being dumber, our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology,&rdquo; Beck has <a href="http://www.glennbeck.com/2013/03/14/exposing-common-core-kids-are-being-indoctrinated-with-extreme-leftist-ideology/" target="_blank">warned</a>. He has called the Common Core an &ldquo;<a href="http://www.glennbeck.com/2013/04/08/the-whole-story-on-common-core/" target="_blank">insidious menace</a> to our children and to our families.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;This is top-down education from the federal government, dictating to local schools what they must teach and how they must teach it,&rdquo; Beck says. &ldquo;Local control is out the window with Common Core.&rdquo;</p><p>In a statement oddly out of sync with the union&rsquo;s typical political thinking, CTU president Karen Lewis said she agrees with &ldquo;educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy.&rdquo;</p><p>Gunderson agreed it was an unusual argument for the union to make.</p><p>&quot;It is odd that we have a convergent interest with libertarians right now. We do not align with them but we know that there should be local and professional, independent control of what happens inside our classrooms.&quot;</p><p>Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education, <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/27301978-418/chicago-teachers-union-votes-to-oppose-common-core-standards.html#.U2skwFfN6M4" target="_blank">told the <em>Sun-Times</em></a>, &ldquo;these are really standards that not only ensure that students understand the concepts but can apply them to everyday life and to their careers and in the workforce.&quot; Fergus also told the newspaper, &ldquo;Anyone who reads the standards knows they really raise the bar for student learning.&rdquo;</p><p>Freeda Pirillis, a first-grade teacher at Agassiz Elementary, said she was shocked to hear that union delegates had voted to oppose the Common Core. She&#39;s been part of a union effort to develop exemplary Common Core lessons. Most of those lessons are being field tested this year, including one she came up with to teach primary-grade students to read informational texts.</p><p>&quot;As a whole class we read lots and lots of books about frogs. I was modeling for my students how to pick apart a text, how to do research.&quot;&nbsp; At the same time, her students investigated an animal of their choice and made their own books.</p><p>&quot;They loved it,&quot; says Pirillis. &quot;I think for the first time they called themselves &#39;researchers&#39; and said, &#39;I love doing research!&#39;&quot; Pirillis says with the proper support, even six- and seven-year-olds can make progress toward standards, which she calls &quot;end goals.&quot; She says expecting mastery of the standards is where they may fall short.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith contributed to this story.</em></p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 08 May 2014 05:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-teachers-union-votes-oppose-common-core-110152 Chicago Teachers Union: New taxes to fix pensions--but not higher property taxes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-new-taxes-fix-pensions-not-higher-property-taxes-110120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/karen lewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union is rolling out a plan they say will help solve the teachers pension crisis. CTU leaders say their proposals would raise much-needed money for the cash-strapped retirement fund that covers the city&#39;s educators. The fund is just under 50 percent funded.</p><p>Speaking to WBEZ Thursday, CTU head Karen Lewis said cutting benefits for retired schoolteachers is &quot;unconscionable,&quot; and that cannot be the answer to pension woes. Instead, she said, the union is suggesting ways to raise more revenue. A Chicago Public Schools spokesman called those ideas &quot;not a responsible solution.&quot; &nbsp;</p><p>CTU wants the city and state to adopt three proposals that it says could bring in billions of dollars that could be devoted toward retirement accounts:</p><ul><li>A so-called<strong> &ldquo;LaSalle Street Tax&rdquo;</strong> would impose new taxes on financial transactions at the CME Group and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The Chicago Teachers Union wants a dollar tax on the trading of agriculture futures and two dollars on other derivatives. In addition to raising money, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the tax could help curb high-frequency trading, which has come under fire lately. &ldquo;Derivative trading is a problem at its current level,&rdquo; Sharkey said. &ldquo;These are trades that don&rsquo;t produce value. These are not long-term investments of the kind your grandmother might have in her stock portfolio.&rdquo; Sharkey estimates the new tax could bring in $10-$12 billion a year.</li><li>A <strong>commuter tax</strong> on those who work in Chicago but live outside the city. Sharkey suggested the tax could be administered through the payrolls of companies in Chicago with employees who live outside the city. Sharkey said an alternative way to implement the tax would be as a regional income tax surcharge affecting cities surrounding Chicago. He said the cash generated from this plan could be shared between Chicago and the communities affected. Sharkey did not have an estimate for how much money this tax could generate.</li><li>A delay on the expiration of some <strong>tax increment financing (TIF) districts</strong>. TIF districts are special zones of the city that divert tax money into economic development projects. Critics, including those in the Chicago Teachers Union, have ridiculed the mayor&rsquo;s use of TIF districts, saying they amount to personal slush funds. &ldquo;You could take a lot of bad debt off the books by making a bond that would put the school system in better shape financially by using TIF money that would actually help serve the intended purposes of the taxation authority the schools have,&rdquo; Sharkey said. The teachers union estimates more than a billion dollars in bonds could be generated from this idea</li></ul><p>The Chicago Teachers Union said Chicago should inject $5 billion into the pension fund immediately by floating municipal or pension obligation bonds. The new &quot;LaSalle Street&quot; tax, commuter tax, and TIF revenues would then go to pay off those bonds. The refinancing scheme would save $3 billion by 2059, said a consultant for the union. Sharkey says the money from the TIF districts could be used to pay off bonds, which would be used to pay down the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund&rsquo;s $9 billion in unfunded liabilities.The union also opposed any more property tax increases to help fund the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.</p><p>Last year, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation that would cut teacher pension benefits as a way to help reduce the state&rsquo;s $100 billion pension obligation. The legislation is the subject of a lawsuit filed by unions representing state workers.</p><p>Now, lawmakers have turned their attention toward Chicago city workers. Last month, they passed a bill changing the pension benefits of city municipal and laborers. That legislation still needs the approval of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who hasn&rsquo;t said whether he&rsquo;ll sign the bill or not.</p><p>Lewis said she&rsquo;d oppose a similar pension plan that would affect teachers, if one were to be proposed.</p><p>&ldquo;If we&rsquo;re talking about benefit changes without some sort of revenue, then we are just basically cutting our own throats and we will not do that at this moment,&rdquo; Lewis said.</p><p>Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s hesitance to sign the legislation affecting the retirements of city laborers and municipal workers comes in part from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has said he&rsquo;d pay for those pension bills by increasing property taxes in the city.</p><p>Lewis made a point to say the teachers pension fund&rsquo;s financial problems stem from the Chicago Board of Education&rsquo;s refusal to put money into the system for years, not from exorbitant benefits for teachers. She said she&rsquo;s not convinced raising retirement ages, increasing employee contributions to the retirement fund or reducing cost of living adjustments would fix the hole in the pension fund.</p><p>&ldquo;We are concerned that they&rsquo;re not done,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;If we continue to give, give, give and make huge concessions, when does it all end? Til when we have no pensions?&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman dismissed the union&#39;s proposals.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re glad that CTU is putting forth ideas on how to solve our pension crisis, but borrowing $5 billion and raising taxes by a record amount to prop up the pension fund is not a responsible solution,&quot; said CPS spokesman Joel Hood. &quot;Any conversation about pension reform must start with legislative action in Springfield, moving toward reforms similar to those which now apply to 80 percent of teachers in Illinois.&quot; &nbsp;</p><p><em>WBEZ&#39;s Linda Lutton and Alex Keefe contributed to this story.</em></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-4a3f3ef8-b99a-c33a-1cd4-5c280d4472d9"><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Linda Lutton covers education for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezeducation">@wbezeducation</a>.</em></p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 01 May 2014 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-new-taxes-fix-pensions-not-higher-property-taxes-110120 CPS approves seven new charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BoardOfEd1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s Board of Education voted Wednesday afternoon to approve seven new charter schools.</p><p>The controversial move comes less than a year after board members voted to close 50 traditional public schools for low enrollment.</p><p>Board members followed district officials&rsquo; recommendations, made public for the first time at the meeting Wednesday, and approved charters for the following schools:</p><ul><li><strong>Great Lakes Academy Charter School</strong> (location TBD in South Shore, serving grades 1-2 in 2014, eventually serving 576 students grades K-8). Approved 5-1, with board member Carlos Azcoitia voting no.</li><li><strong>Noble Street Charter School- ITW David Speer Campus</strong> (To be permanently located at 5321 W. Grand Ave. in Belmont-Cragin, serving grade 9 in 2014 and eventually serving 900 students in grades 9-12. This will be the 15th Noble Street campus in Chicago). Approved 6-0.</li></ul><p>Jack Elsey, CPS chief of innovation and incubation, said before the vote that the district wanted &nbsp;&ldquo;conditional approval&rdquo; for five of the seven campuses. The board followed those recommendations and gave &quot;conditional approval&quot; to five schools. That means, the board will vote again to determine if the conditions have been met.</p><p>For instance, Instrinsic Schools will have to post high academic marks at its first campus, which just opened in September 2013. Elsey said Intrinsic&rsquo;s first campus must obtain a Tier 1 or Tier 2 rating, the highest of five tiers, this year in order to open a second campus.&nbsp;</p><p>The idea of &quot;conditional approval&quot; is cloudy. In previous years, conditions were established in the writing of the charter&#39;s contract. In a departure from past practice, the board will vote again on these proposals and whether the conditions have been met before they are approved to open. Elsey said another vote will likely be held in May. The following schools recieved conditional approval yesterday:&nbsp;</p><ul><li><strong>Chicago Education Partnership</strong> (&ldquo;By the Hand&rdquo;) (K-6 campus to be located at 400 N. Leamington in Austin, grades 7-8 to be located at 415 N. Laramie in Austin. Opening in 2015, serving grades K-1. Eventually serving 810 students in grades K-8). Approved 5-1, with board member Carlos Azcoitia voting no.&nbsp;<em>Conditions: Chicago Education Partnership has to re-submit a portion of the initial application--dealing primarily with academics--in the next round of approvals.</em></li><li><strong>Concept Schools--Horizon Science Academy- Chatham Charter School</strong> (8522 S. Lafayette in Chatham, serving grades K-8 in 2014, eventually serving 725 students K-12. This will be Concept Schools&rsquo; third campus in Chicago). Approved 6-0.&nbsp;<em>Conditions: Concept must find principals for both campuses and submit clear facility plans.</em></li><li><strong>Concept Schools--Horizon Science Academy- Chicago Lawn Charter School </strong>(5401 S. Western in Gage Park, serving grades K-8 in 2014, eventually serving 725 students K-12. This will be Concept Schools&rsquo; fourth campus in Chicago). Approved 5-1, with board member Carlos Azcoitia voting no.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Intrinsic Charter School 2</strong> (temporarily located at 4540 W. Belmont in the Kilbourn Park neighborhood), eventually moving to a location TBD on the Northwest Side, opening fall 2015 with grade 9, eventually serving 959 students grades 7-12. This will be Intrinsic&rsquo;s second charter school in Chicago). Approved 6-0.&nbsp;<em>Conditions: Intrinsic&#39;s first campus must post high test scores this year. The school must also find a building and outline how it will evaluate school leaders.</em></li><li><strong>Noble Street Charter School- Noble Exeter Academy Campus</strong> (To be temporarily located at 17 N. State St. in the Loop, serving grade 9 in 2014 and eventually serving 900 students in grades 9-12. This will be the 16th Noble Street campus in Chicago. The network will be authorized to educate 13,875 students). Approved 4-2, with board members Carlos Azcoitia and Andrea Zopp voting no. <em>Conditions: Noble must submit more information about parent and community engagement and its curriculum, and must find a building and a principal.</em></li></ul><p>The school board considered a total of 17 proposals for new charter school campuses Wednesday. Five of them, the Connected Futures Academies, would have exclusively served dropouts.</p><p>District officials recommended that the school board deny the following charter proposals. They were voted down unanimously:</p><ul><li><strong>Be the Change Charter School</strong> (Location TBD in McKinley Park, serving grades K-2 in 2014, eventually serving 475 students grades K-8)</li><li><strong>Connected Futures Academies Options Charter Schools</strong> (five campuses, all TBD, each serving 165 re-enrolled drop-outs ages 15-21 in 2014).</li><li><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 1</strong> (location TBD but according to founder tentatively at 7939 S. Western in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood), serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</li><li><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 2 </strong>(location TBD but according to founder, tentatively at 87th and Kedzie in the Ashburn neighborhood), serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</li><li><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 3</strong> (location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</li><li><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 4 </strong>(location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8)</li></ul><p>State law now allows any charter school denied by a local district to appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission. Since its creation, the commission has overturned CPS decisions on two schools run by the politically connected group called Concept Schools.</p><p><strong>State appeals process adds new twist</strong></p><p>Several aldermen spoke Wednesday and asked the board not to approve any new schools this year or delay approvals until they could analyze the potential impact on the district&rsquo;s existing schools.</p><p>&ldquo;I encourage you to delay your decision today and undertake a real study of academic performance of charters and evaluate them together with a real master facilities plan,&rdquo; said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32rd).</p><p>But delaying a vote or denying all proposals this year could backfire on CPS.</p><p>The Illinois Charter School Commission can and already has overturned CPS decisions if it deems a charter proposal high quality.</p><p>Or as Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz put it Wednesday, &ldquo;If we don&rsquo;t, Springfield will.&rdquo;</p><p>Elsey, the district official, said schools that are approved by the state commission operate &ldquo;inside CPS boundaries, but outside of our control.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922753&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;We lose the ability to hold these schools accountable and ensure they are delivering a high quality education to Chicago&rsquo;s children,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the union and CPS should team up to eliminate the commission. In an uncharacteristic agreement with the union, Board President David Vitale agreed.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922506&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>But Greg Richmond, chair of the Illinois Charter School Commission, said the appeals process is nothing new. Charter applicants have been able to appeal local decisions to the state since the charter school law was passed in 1996. The Illinois State Board of Education used to deal with appeals, but in 2011, the commission was created to handle appeals.</p><p>Since the commission was created, Richmond says, they&#39;ve only overturned two local decisions.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Anyone looking at the numbers would say that this commission has not been overly generous,&quot; Richmond said.</p><p><strong>Will new charters help alleviate overcrowding?</strong></p><p>The most recent request for proposals for new charter schools asked that applicants look to open in areas that CPS officials deemed &ldquo;priority areas.&rdquo; These are neighborhoods where schools are overcrowded based on the district&rsquo;s utilization standards.</p><p>One board member, Carlos Azcoitia, voted down four of the seven schools that were ultimately approved for that very reason.</p><p>&ldquo;I wanted to target the schools that were overcrowded,&rdquo; Azcoitia said. &ldquo;Of course, we didn&rsquo;t want to go into areas where we had closed schools.&rdquo;<br /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922299&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Andrea Zopp also said she &ldquo;struggles significantly&rdquo; with approving new schools in the wake of closing so many.</p><p>One school approved Wednesday that will be opening in a so-called &ldquo;priority area&rdquo; is the Noble Street-ITW David Speer Campus. CPS says the school will alleviate overcrowding at Taft High School.</p><p>Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), however, pointed out that Taft and the future Noble school would actually be miles apart.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re building a high school six and a half miles away from a crowded high school,&rdquo; Sposato said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand the thinking on that.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922950&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Kerry Murphy, a parent of two children at Dever Elementary, said the community does not need more high schools. Its overcrowding issues are at the local grammar schools.</p><p>But CPS officials say demographic data indicate that many high school-aged students who live in the Belmont-Cragin area travel to Noble schools in other neighborhood.</p><p><strong>More new schools on the horizon&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Not all seven of the schools approved Wednesday will open in September. Two are planning to open in September 2015 and the ones with &quot;conditional approval&quot; will have to jump through a few hoops before their schools become reality.</p><p>Nine others had been approved in previous years to open this fall, but Elsey says not all are on track to do so. For example, the UNO Charter School Network, <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/23185796-452/sec-probes-uno-financing.html">which is dealing with an SEC investigation right now</a>, &nbsp;has two campuses that were approved in previous years, but are not yet open. CPS and UNO officials say they do not plan to open any new UNO schools this fall.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, the expansion of privately run, publicly funded charter schools may not slow down anytime soon.</p><p>After the board meeting, Elsey told WBEZ the district will open its next Request for Proposals sometime this spring, likely in March or April. He said the district wants to shift the timeline so that the board will vote on new schools in the fall, rather than January. That will give schools more time to plan for a September opening.</p></p> Wed, 22 Jan 2014 13:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558 Lewis: Loyalty to public schools should rival that of Cubs fans http://www.wbez.org/news/lewis-loyalty-public-schools-should-rival-cubs-fans-107765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lewis_ap_file.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis wants people to rally around the city&rsquo;s public schools like loyal Chicago Cubs fans.</p><p>Lewis made the analogy in a speech titled &ldquo;On Baseball and Budgets&rdquo; that she delivered at a City Club luncheon Tuesday.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When the Cubs lose a game, they don&rsquo;t call for Wrigley Field to close down,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t want the entire team dismantled. And despite some empty seats, the stadium isn&rsquo;t accused of being underutilized.&rdquo;</p><p>Last month, Chicago Public Schools announced it would close 50 schools officials considered &ldquo;underutilized,&rdquo; or in other words, did not have enough students enrolled.</p><p>&ldquo;Despite game losses and near wins, the fans continue to show up,&rdquo; Lewis continued. &ldquo;We keep cheering for our Cubbies. We know they are winners. We believe. We don&rsquo;t let the statistics drive our beliefs. But do the same for our children. Cheer them on, invest in them, love them, support their parents, support their teachers, and support their schools.&rdquo;</p><p>But a large part of Lewis&rsquo;s speech focused on ways the district could increase revenue&mdash;like ending corporate loopholes, a progressive tax, and re-negotiating interest rates with big banks. Lewis claimed such moves could generate as much as $600 million.</p><p>CPS spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said re-negotiating interest rates could actually cost CPS money.</p><p>The speech Tuesday comes on the heels of mass layoffs late last week. CPS issued more than 800 pink slips (link) to employees at closing schools. But more layoffs could come as other schools across the district grapple with budget cuts at the school level. (link)</p><p>CPS has said it is facing a $1 billion deficit next year,&nbsp; which includes about $400 million in increased pension payments.&nbsp; But when asked about how that contributed to cuts being made at schools, Lewis blamed the tight budgets on the district&rsquo;s new way of funding schools.</p><p>This year, principals are being given a set amount of money per student, rather than being allocated teaching positions and money for specific programs.</p><p>Like she has repeatedly over the last two years, Lewis again brought up the issue of race and inequality in public education, noting that the poor and minority students end up with worse learning conditions than their more affluent peers.</p><p>Lewis also took aim at corporate education reformers saying, &ldquo;There&rsquo;s something about these folks that use little black and brown children as stage props at one press conference, while announcing they want to fire, layoff or lock up their parents at another press conference.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite her fiery rhetoric at times, Lewis repeatedly said she hoped to collaborate more with CPS and City Hall.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>. Aaron Atchison is an intern on the WBEZ education desk.</em></p></p> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 09:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lewis-loyalty-public-schools-should-rival-cubs-fans-107765 Chicago Teachers Union vows to make school closings political http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-vows-make-school-closings-political-106661 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS6345_AP765841686009-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Angry over school <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202" target="_blank">a proposal</a> that would close down an unprecedented number of schools, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis Monday vowed to launch a &ldquo;comprehensive and aggressive political action campaign&rdquo; with the ultimate goal of defeating Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other local elected officials supportive of school closings.<br /><br />&ldquo;If the mayor and his hand-picked corporate school board will not listen to us, we must find those who will,&rdquo; Lewis said.<br /><br />Lewis said union members would continue to oppose the closings through hearings and protests &ldquo;until the board rubber stamps this plan on May 22, and on May 23 we&rsquo;re going right back in the streets.&rdquo;<br /><br />The union says it wants to put a minimum of 100,000 new voters on Chicago&rsquo;s rolls. Lewis says union organizers will go door to door in neighborhoods where schools are closing and where teachers are losing jobs &ldquo;due to this administration.&rdquo;<br /><br />The union also plans to increase donations to its political action committee and vet potential candidates.<br /><br />Lewis called the dozens of public hearings being held by the district&nbsp; &ldquo;most likely sham events&rdquo; and said they&rsquo;re &ldquo;designed to provide therapy to people impacted by their decisions.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;<br />The union released an analysis today &mdash; Lewis referred to it as an &ldquo;autopsy&rdquo; &mdash; of Guggenheim Elementary, which was closed last year.<br /><br />The union says Guggenheim was neglected, with overcrowded classrooms and just two working computers in the library. Advocates say once the proposal to shut down the school was announced, the principal improperly tried to push homeless children to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/parents-school-slated-closure-tried-move-students-out" target="_blank">transfer</a>. Once Guggenheim was closed, only 37 percent of students went to the designated CPS receiving school. Catalyst-Chicago has <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2013/04/03/20943/losing-track" target="_blank">reported</a> that CPS has lost track of 23 Guggenheim kids, and cannot say where they ended up.</p><p>The union says other schools live in fear of being shut down. It says the district had trouble closing four schools last year, now it&rsquo;s trying to close 54.<br /><br />Chicago Public Schools spokesman Dave Miranda says the district is taking a new approach this year.</p><p>&ldquo;Unlike in the past, CPS will work aggressively and proactively to reach parents at all sending schools to encourage them to enroll their children in their dedicated higher-performing welcoming schools,&quot; he said. &quot;We want to ensure that students can benefit from the additional investments that will be made in welcoming schools for the fall.&rdquo;<br /><br />A spokeswoman for the mayor said this is &quot;simply not the time for politics.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Barbara Byrd-Bennett has proposed a plan for Chicago Public Schools, with Mayor Emanuel&#39;s support, that finally puts our children first,&quot; the spokeswoman said.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Apr 2013 17:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-vows-make-school-closings-political-106661 Chicago teachers to vote on contract http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-vote-contract-102823 <p><p>Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are scheduled to vote on the proposed contract reached after a seven-day strike last month.</p><p>The strike left more than 350,000 students out of class across Chicago. The teachers walked out Sept. 10 after months of tense contract talks in their first strike in 25 years.</p><p>The union represents 30,000 teachers and support personnel in the nation&#39;s third largest school district.</p><p>Union officials said they&#39;ll release results of Tuesday&#39;s vote on Thursday.</p></p> Tue, 02 Oct 2012 09:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-vote-contract-102823 CTU President Karen Lewis unpacks the strike authorization vote http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/ctu-president-karen-lewis-talks-strike-authorization-vote-99844 <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/7259549260_8d22138d98_z.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 465px; " title="Members of the Chicago Teacher's Union at a rally in downtown Chicago on May 23, 2012. (Flickr/Bartosz Brzezinski)" /></div><p>The Chicago Teachers Union <a href="http://www.wbez.org/teachers-union-leaders-announce-strike-authorization-vote-next-wednesday-99762">holds a strike authorization vote Wednesday</a>. If 75 percent of members vote yes, the union would be able to potentially move forward with an actual strike later this year.</p><p>The CTU and the Chicago Board of Education remain far apart on many issues, including pay raises. And critics say that holding an authorization vote right now is jumping the gun. After all, an official fact-finding panel won&rsquo;t present its recommendations until next month.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis joins us on <em>Eight Forty-Eight </em>Wednesday morning to discuss the authorization vote and why she thinks it&rsquo;s appropriate this early. Here are some of her thoughts:</p><p><em>On the details of the strike authorization vote:</em></p><p>&ldquo;Because we have a new law, there are different kinds of issues that we have to address. And if someone doesn&rsquo;t vote, it actually counts as a no. So if someone is absent today, that vote would not be able to be cast&hellip;So we will continue to have the polls open.&quot;</p><p><em>On what being able to strike would bring the teachers:</em></p><p>&ldquo;We need to bring the power of our 30,000 members actually into the negotiating system with us.&quot;</p><p>&quot;[Requiring 75 percent] was a blessing in disguise for us....Any union that attempts to do any kind of work action without 75 percent of its members&hellip;will have trouble..&quot;</p><p><em>On Chicago Public Schools&#39; administration:</em></p><p>&quot;Quite frankly, we don&rsquo;t have a lot of faith in management and they make very bad decisions. [But] people all over the system are starting to feel empowered now...We have a system of people that are oppressed.&quot;</p><p>&quot;They always want us to play the game with their playbook.&quot;</p><p>For a timeline on contract negotiations from <em>Catalyst-Chicago</em>, click <a href="http://www.dipity.com/CatalystChicago/CPS-negotiations-with-Chicago-Teachers-Union-A-timeline/">here</a>.</p></p> Wed, 06 Jun 2012 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/ctu-president-karen-lewis-talks-strike-authorization-vote-99844 Board votes unanimously to close, restaff schools http://www.wbez.org/story/school-closure-fight-continues-board-ed-96635 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-22/IMG_1873.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-23/jackson and lewis_lutton.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="Rev. Jesse Jackson (left) attended Wednesday's board meeting with teachers union head Karen Lewis (right). (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)"></p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size: 10px;">Listen to Linda Lutton discussing Wednesday's meeting on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></span></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332738958-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-february/2012-02-23/848-120223-seg.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p></div></div><p>Chicago’s school board voted unanimously late Wednesday to close seven schools and completely re-staff 10 others. The vote comes after months of protests from parents, teachers and activists and a spate of final pleas to board members to save the schools.</p><p>People began lining up at CPS headquarters 4 a.m. for a chance to address board members, and the school district stopped allowing the public in at one point, saying board chambers and an overflow room were at capacity.</p><p>Nearly eight hours after the meeting began, board members cast their votes and were immediately boo'd, protesters shouting, "Shame on you!" Votes were not taken on each school individually; instead, board members voted on closing 7 schools, then on dismissing all staff at 10 schools; then on handing 6 of the 10 schools to an outside nonprofit to run.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis called the vote a "travesty," with no board member dissenting on even one school.</p><p>Earlier in the day, Lewis kicked off three hours of public testimony before the board, warning that Chicago is at the "epicenter of the education justice fight in America." She said the nation is watching.</p><p>"Children who need the most resources get the least. Parents who cry out the loudest have their voices drowned. Schools that deserve the most support purposely get little," she told them.</p><p>Lewis said closing schools and turning them over to nonprofits to manage is part of a broader political agenda to destroy public schools. Lewis was joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who blasted inequities in the school system and a lack of resources.</p><p>"This is Little Rock, 1957," Jackson told the board. "This is apartheid."</p><p>A string of speakers criticized CPS for disregarding community concerns and failing to . Several predicted spikes in violence as students make their way to new schools across gang lines. "The Board of Education needs to work and help pay for some of these funerals that the families will have to go through, said Rev. Paul Jakes.</p><p>School district CEO Jean-Claude Brizard characterized the school closings process is the most respectful he's ever seen.</p><p>Brizard also said the district has listened to community concerns. He said he’s charged with carrying the voices of nearly a half million students, and sometimes difficult decisions must be made on their behalf. He said students are suffering, with many in the "academic emergency room."</p><p>Chicago Public Schools says 7,500 students will get a better education next year thanks to the board's vote.</p><p>Two board members spoke after the meeting about their decisions. Board member Mahalia Hines said she considered information from the district, then went to the schools and community herself before voting. "While the decision I made was a tough one—you probably can hear it in my voice—it was an informed one," she said.</p><p>Vice president Jesse Ruiz said he saw the vote as "an opportunity today to do something for those children."</p><p>"There’s been a record of these schools not performing and not serving our students as well as they should for years," said Ruiz. "And that’s unfortunate. It’s also unfortunate there are more schools like them. The worst thing I felt bad about today is that we couldn’t do this for more kids."</p><p>Local school council members at the affected schools have filed a lawsuit to keep the closings from going through. A bill that would place a moratorium on school closings is currently in the Illinios General Assembly. Asked if there might be more sit-ins or "occupied" schools in the future, community organizer Jitu Brown said, "Stay tuned."</p></p> Wed, 22 Feb 2012 21:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/school-closure-fight-continues-board-ed-96635 Longer CPS school day to get state hearing http://www.wbez.org/story/longer-cps-school-day-get-state-hearing-93142 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100914_llutton_730396_In C_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>An unfair labor practices complaint filed by the Chicago Teachers Union is moving forward. It challenges the district’s school-by-school push for a longer school day.</p><p>The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board determined late Thursday that a violation of labor laws may have occurred. It’s calling for a December hearing and will consider next week whether a preliminary injunction should be granted to stop the district’s “Longer Day Pioneer Program.”</p><p>The union nixed the idea of moving to a longer school day district-wide in late summer, saying a longer day required planning. Shortly thereafter, CPS began offering incentives to individual schools to adopt a longer day.</p><p>The CTU complaint, filed last month, said that’s circumventing the union. And it said the incentives—including money for schools, cash payments to teachers, and allegedly iPads and extra days off–constitute illegal bribes. The complaint also alleges teachers were told their schools could close or there could be layoffs if they didn’t vote for the longer day.</p><p>“This is really about protecting the collective bargaining rights,” said CTU president Karen Lewis. “We have to do this. Because if it was up to the board they would do whatever they wanted, when they wanted, without having to deal with us.”</p><p>CPS predicted the district will prevail in the upcoming hearings—and all students with an extra 90 minutes of class time will keep it.</p><p>“This 90 minutes of additional instructional time is critical,” said district spokeswoman Becky Carroll. “It’s helping to get some students here in Chicago on par with the rest of their peers across the country.”</p><p>The union contract does allow for waivers to be voted on school by school. But CTU argues those are intended only for special cases.</p><p>Thirteen schools voted to lengthen their day under the Pioneer Schools program; some have already begun, others are slated to start with longer hours in January.</p><p>The union said it hasn’t decided yet whether it will ask the IELRB to undo those 13 votes during next week’s injunctive relief hearing. The union says it wants to talk to teachers at the 13 schools first.</p><p>A 2007 National Council on Teacher Quality report found Chicago Public Schools has the shortest school day among the nation's 50 largest districts and one of the shortest school years.</p><p>The union held a press conference Friday that also included two parents. Sarah Simmons has a seventh grader at Talcott Elementary.</p><p>“This smacks of union busting, and as part of the CPS community—even though I’m just a parent, I don’t think that’s good for the children,” Simmons said.</p><p>Lewis acknowledged CPS will adopt a longer school day districtwide next fall. She reiterated a call to make that a better day, with art, music, languages and recess.</p></p> Fri, 14 Oct 2011 11:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/longer-cps-school-day-get-state-hearing-93142 Chicago Teachers' Union president Karen Lewis discusses teachers' side of education debate http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-01/chicago-teachers-union-president-karen-lewis-discusses-teachers-side-edu <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-01/124- Bill Healy for WBEZ - Chicago Board of Education meeting - 6-22-11 copy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The president of the Chicago Teachers Union continued to criticize Mayor Emanuel's approach to implementing a longer school day at Chicago's public schools.</p><p>Speaking Thursday on WBEZ's <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, Lewis said an advisory committee formed to make recommendations about the specific shape of a longer school day is biased against public education and that the composition of the committee is "unpalatable".</p><p>“This committee is composed of people who believe in the destruction of general public - traditional public -&nbsp; schools and I don’t want to be a party to that because that's something that doesn't interest me," Lewis told WBEZ's Alison Cuddy.</p><p>Members of the Longer School Day Advisory Committee include Phyllis Lockett of New Schools for Chicago, Brian Brady of Mikva Challenge, Dr. Byron Brazier of the Apolistic Church of God, Celine Coggins of Teach Plus, Sarah Cobb of Neighborhood Parents Network, Guillermo Gomez of The Healthy Schools Campaign, Timothy Knowles of the Urban Education Institute, Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina’s Church, Juan Soto of Pilsen Neighbors Community Council , Alderman Latasha Thomas, Robin Steans of Advance Illinois, and Illinois Senator Kimberly Lightford, among others.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><h3>Schools on the Line</h3><p><span style="font-size: 11px; line-height: 1;">Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard will appear Thursday night on WBEZ at 7pm for a live monthly call-in program called&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/schools-line" target="_blank"><em>Schools on the Line</em></a>, where he'll take listener questions.&nbsp; Listeners can participate live or can submit questions in advance via email at&nbsp;<strong><a href="mailto:Schoolsontheline@wbez.org">Schoolsontheline@wbez.org</a></strong>&nbsp;or voicemail at&nbsp;<strong>312-948-4886</strong>.</span></p></div></div><p>The proposal to extend Chicago's public school day was one of the key items discussed during the interview on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, which also touched on the prospect for a strike, negotiations over a vote to rescind a four percent pay raise, and Lewis' relationship with schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard.&nbsp; Brizard will appear Thursday night on WBEZ at 7pm for a live monthly call-in program called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/schools-line" target="_blank"><em>Schools on the Line</em></a>.</p><p>Here are some highlights from the interview with Lewis:</p><p><strong>On the Longer School Day Advisory Committee:</strong></p><p>“There are people I don’t wish to work with because they don’t have our best interests at heart. I'm not going to sit across the table and pretend that's ok.&nbsp; It's not.&nbsp; It's just not.&nbsp; So, if you want to sit across the table and stab me into little pieces, OK. I understand that.&nbsp; But I am not going to sit down and allow you to do it to me. So what I am saying is I will have my discussions with the CEO because I think that's important and they can have their discussions and I'm sure he'll bring to me some of the ideas they have.&nbsp; I am not sitting at the table with those folks."</p><p><strong>On a longer school day:</strong></p><p>"We want to make sure that a longer school day is not simply elongating the day we already have, because adding minutes to the day without adding quality to the curriculum is absolutely not going to see any fundamental change."</p><p>"We want to make sure that our students have a very broad curriculum and that that curriculum is not only broad, but that there is time for depth in the curriculum. But what we don’t want is an elongated day that is spent on test prep because that's what we've been seeing. And this is obviously not working."</p><p><strong>On her priorities for a better school day:</strong></p><p>"What we want to make sure is that we have art, music, P.E., social studies and science involved in [the] school day on a regular basis.”</p><p>"We’re working on bringing lunch to the middle of the day and also adding recess to make sure that our children have the opportunity to get a chance to work out a lot of energy and not feel so cooped up and so stressed."</p><p><strong>On prospects for a teachers strike this year:</strong></p><p>“To strike or not to strike is, quite frankly, a decision of our membership. Our membership has been extremely upset about the rescinding of the raises. However, they have also said we would like to keep this contract until the end because they do not want a longer school day imposed without proper planning and an opportunity to say how that looks."</p><p><strong>On her relationship with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard:</strong></p><p>“We haven’t had as substantive conversations as I’d like.&nbsp; We are very new in our relationship.&nbsp; But I will tell you there is no hostility, there's no animosity and I’m looking forward to working him.”</p></p> Thu, 01 Sep 2011 13:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-01/chicago-teachers-union-president-karen-lewis-discusses-teachers-side-edu