WBEZ | Karen Lewis http://www.wbez.org/tags/karen-lewis Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Karen Lewis not running for mayor http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-not-running-mayor-110932 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/620-lewis_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, seen as Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s most high-profile re-election challenger, won&#39;t run in 2015, a spokeswoman announced Monday.</p><p>Lewis, who often tussled with the mayor during the 2012 Chicago Public Schools teachers&#39; strike, didn&#39;t specify her reasons and a statement released on behalf of her exploratory committee made no mention of a recent illness she disclosed publicly.</p><p>&quot;Karen Lewis has decided to not pursue a mayoral bid,&quot; said a statement from committee spokeswoman Jhatayn Travis. &quot;Yet she charges us to continue fighting for strong neighborhood schools, safe communities and good jobs for everyone.&quot;</p><p>Lewis had been seen as the best shot so far to unseat Emanuel, who won his first term in 2011. For months, she had been circulating petitions and raising her profile at parades and political events, often harshly criticizing Emanuel and his policies. She even dubbed him the &quot;murder mayor&quot; because of the city&#39;s violence problem.</p><p>Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-hands-over-leadership-chicago-teachers-union-110919" target="_blank">last week</a> said that Lewis has a &quot;serious illness&quot; and underwent successful surgery. Sharkey also said he had taken over Lewis&#39; tasks as president, but did not provide additional details on her illness.</p><p>Emanuel issued a statement after Lewis&#39; announcement Monday wishing her a quick recovery.</p><p>&quot;I have always respected and admired Karen&#39;s willingness to step up and be part of the conversation about our city&#39;s future,&quot; said Emanuel, a former congressman and White House chief of staff.</p><p>Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who announced his bid to run last month, said he was praying for Lewis&#39; health.</p><p>&quot;For Chicago&#39;s sake, I hope this is not the last we see of Karen Lewis,&quot; he said in a statement. &quot;I can understand the battle with illness, and how it can change the best thought out plans. But I also know that Karen is resilient and strong and will be back advocating for educators, students and Chicagoans in no time.&quot;</p><p>Political experts said only a handful of credible candidates would be able to mount a serious challenge at this point ahead of the Feb. 24 contest. Names floated in Chicago political circles included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has already said she planned to keep her current job and faces re-election, and Cook County Clerk David Orr.</p><p>Any candidate would have to be able to raise big funds and already have name recognition. Emanuel has banked more than $8 million, while campaign finance filings show Fioretti had about $325,000 as of June. Also, Emanuel&#39;s implied support from President Barack Obama as a former aide would be hard to counter in Obama&#39;s hometown.</p><p>However, political watchers said Emanuel&#39;s approval ratings have been low.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a mixed bag,&quot; said Chicago political consultant Don Rose. &quot;Many people feel he&#39;s ripe for the picking.&quot;</p><p>The February election is nonpartisan. If no candidate receives more than half of the ballots cast, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held in April.</p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-not-running-mayor-110932 Karen Lewis hands over leadership of Chicago Teachers Union http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-hands-over-leadership-chicago-teachers-union-110919 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/620-lewis_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is suffering from an undisclosed &ldquo;serious illness&rdquo; and will step aside as head of the organization, the union&rsquo;s vice president announced Thursday.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s still no word on how that might affect a possible mayoral run against Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>At a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Vice President Jesse Sharkey announced that Lewis underwent a successful surgery on Wednesday, but declined to name Lewis&rsquo; condition, citing her family&rsquo;s privacy.</p><p>Lewis, 61, has been seriously considering a run for mayor. Sharkey said he will take over Lewis&rsquo; duties at the CTU, but wouldn&rsquo;t get into the possible political impact of Lewis&rsquo; health.</p><p>&ldquo;I understand that many people in this room and many people in the city want to know about Karen Lewis&rsquo;s health status because they care about the mayoral election in this city,&rdquo; Sharkey told reporters. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a question that I can&rsquo;t answer.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis was hospitalized Sunday night after experiencing discomfort, but the union and representatives with her exploratory campaign refused to say why or give any details on the status of her condition.<br /><br />On Monday, CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement that she was &ldquo;in good spirits--and still thinking of creative ways to secure the future and city our students and their families deserve.&rdquo;<br /><br />On Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for Lewis&rsquo; mayoral exploratory committee declined to comment on the details of Lewis&rsquo;condition, but said the &ldquo;exploratory process is moving forward.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite contentious relations in the past, Emanuel praised Lewis late Thursday afternoon in an emailed statement, though he steered clear of mentioning politics.</p><p>&ldquo;Karen Lewis is a passionate advocate for her beliefs and has always been willing to speak up for her view of what&#39;s best -- not only for the teachers that she represents, but also for issues critical to the future of our city,&quot; Emanuel was quoted as saying. &quot;Along with all Chicagoans, we will keep Karen and her family in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope to see her on her feet very soon.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis has not officially announced whether she plans to challenge Emanuel in February&rsquo;s city election. But there has been widespread speculation and encouragement from some progressives for her to run.</p><p>In recent weeks, the once-fiery critic of Emanuel who led Chicago teachers on their first strike in 25 years has sought to rebrand herself as a consensus-builder, holding several community events around the city dubbed &ldquo;Conversations with Karen.&rdquo; Lewis has also started fundraising for a possible campaign, though she has conceded it will be difficult to top Emanuel&rsquo;s political machine, which has already netted him at least $8.3 million for his re-election bid.</p><p>Mayoral candidates have until Nov. 24 to file their nominating papers in order to get on the ballot for the Feb. 24 election. Emanuel already faces several declared challengers, including his vocal critic in the City Council, Ald. Bob Fioretti; Dr. Amara Enyia, an urban development consultant; former Chicago Ald. Robert Shaw; Chicago police officer Frederick Collins; and conservative activist William J. Kelly.</p><p>&quot;She is a fighter and I know that she will bounce back, stronger than ever,&quot; Fioretti said of Lewis in an emailed statement. &quot;Her voice adds to the debate in Chicago and we all get better results when there is a full and spirited dialogue.&nbsp; But right now, we should all respect Karen&rsquo;s privacy and give her the space she needs to get better.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p><em>WBEZ political reporter Alex Keefe contributed to this story.</em></p><p><o:p></o:p></p></p> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/karen-lewis-hands-over-leadership-chicago-teachers-union-110919 Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis hospitalized http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-head-karen-lewis-hospitalized-110902 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/620-lewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis has been hospitalized after experiencing discomfort over the weekend.</p><p>CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin on Monday denied rumors Lewis suffered a stroke. Lewis recently underwent surgery designed to reduce her absorption of food calories.</p><p>In a statement, Gadlin wrote that Lewis&#39; privacy is being respected and she will determine &quot;whether or not another public statement is warranted.&quot;</p><p>Gadlin added Lewis is resting well, in good spirits and is &quot;thinking of creative ways to secure the future and city our students and their families deserve.&quot;</p><p>Lewis, who tangled with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a 2012 teacher strike, is circulating petitions and raising money for a challenge of the mayor next year. Lewis hasn&#39;t yet announced whether she&#39;ll run.</p></p> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 17:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-head-karen-lewis-hospitalized-110902 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