WBEZ | CPS http://www.wbez.org/tags/cps Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Teachers Union unhappy with Claypool's appointment to head of CPS http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-17/chicago-teachers-union-unhappy-claypools-appointment-head-cps <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/classroom Bryan McDonald.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/215157800&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Chicago Public Schools has a new top dog. Forrest Claypool is a longtime city official. He ran the Parks District in the 1990s, oversaw the CTA during Mayor Emanuel&#39;s first term, and in April, became the mayor&#39;s latest chief of staff. Now Claypool will take on what he calls the biggest challenge of his career &mdash; running the schools during a time of serious financial hardship. The district faces a $1.1 billion budget gap. So, what do teachers think about the changes at the top? We speak with Jesse Sharkey, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union.</span></p></p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 12:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-17/chicago-teachers-union-unhappy-claypools-appointment-head-cps Mayor Emanuel chooses Forrest Claypool to lead Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-16/mayor-emanuel-chooses-forrest-claypool-lead-chicago-public-schools <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Logo-Chicago-Public-Schools.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/215012653&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Last night, news reports began swirling that Mayor Emanuel has tapped his new chief of staff Forrest Claypool to lead the Chicago Public Schools. CPS board member Jesse Ruiz has been filling in as CEO after Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigned when federal authorities began investigating a $20 million no-bid contract that went to Byrd-Bennett&#39;s former employer SUPES Academy. We speak with WBEZ political reporter Lauren Choolijan.</span></p></p> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-16/mayor-emanuel-chooses-forrest-claypool-lead-chicago-public-schools Morning Shift: July 14, 2015 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-14/morning-shift-july-14-2015-112380 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/214693887&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">What the Chicago Public Schools budget will mean for kids, and classrooms. Plus the New Horizons spacecraft gets up close and personal with Pluto. Remembering the deadly heat wave in Chicago 20 years on. And new music in our performance studio from Eleventh Dream Day.</span></p></p> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-14/morning-shift-july-14-2015-112380 CPS releases budgets for schools http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-14/cps-releases-budgets-schools-112379 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/9549882898_9274fea9bf_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/214693141&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Chicago Public Schools officials delivered bad news to principals Monday. Two-thirds of the city&rsquo;s public schools will see their budgets slashed. The cuts are driven, in large part, by declining enrollment. But are also driven by debt payments and pension obligations that are devouring the revenues that would otherwise be spent in the classroom. Joining us to sort through what schools are hardest hit is WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporter Becky Vevea.&nbsp;</span></p></p> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-14/cps-releases-budgets-schools-112379 CPS: School budgets reflect dire finances http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-school-budgets-reflect-dire-finances-112364 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chicagoboardeducationseal.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools released budget information to principals today and it isn&rsquo;t pretty.</p><p dir="ltr">There are 654 schools in CPS and 416 will deal with smaller budgets, district officials said Monday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;These are not the budgets we would like to be presenting, but they reflect the reality of where we are today,&rdquo; said interim schools chief Jesse Ruiz.</p><p dir="ltr">The cuts are driven almost exclusively by declining enrollment.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS is projecting it will enroll 812 fewer students this fall, as compared to last fall. Overall, that translates to $31 million less going directly to schools. But the cuts are not spread equally because enrollment patterns vary by neighborhood and school type.</p><p dir="ltr">The enrollment changes translate into money lost or gained. That&rsquo;s because CPS uses a &ldquo;student-based budgeting&rdquo; formula where money follows students.</p><p dir="ltr">Those amounts are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-accounting-adjustment-will-increase-funding-schools-slightly-watchdog-warns-its">unchanged from last year</a>. Schools will get $4,697 for every kindergarten through third grade student; $4,390 for every fourth through eighth grade student; and $5,444 for every high school student. According to CPS officials, 238 schools will get more money.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents provided to reporters show overall spending is up in charter schools and alternative schools, and down in district-run schools. Much of that is due to the nature of how charter schools are approved and opened, adding new grades every year. A school-by-school breakdown of the budget cuts is <a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/School%20By%20School%20budgets.xlsx">available to download</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">All of the numbers released today, however, are just a small portion of the district&rsquo;s overall budget&mdash;$2.647 billion of a budget that in recent years, has been hovering around $6 billion.</p><p dir="ltr">Much of the remaining money&mdash;roughly $3.5 billion&mdash;is used on administration and other city-wide departments that still impact schools directly, like food service, cleaning services, college and career programs, school nurses and special education.</p><p dir="ltr">But a good chunk is spent paying down the district&rsquo;s ballooning debt payments and pension obligations. Those payments are devouring the revenues normally spent on running schools every day. Last year, CPS spent $1.24 billion on debt and pension payments&mdash;$603.8 million and $638 million, respectively.</p><p dir="ltr">Those debts will only continue to grow into the future.</p><p>&ldquo;In order to hold the student-based budgeting numbers steady, the overall school budget, which we will release later this summer, relies on either $500 million in pension relief from Springfield,&rdquo; Ruiz said. &ldquo;Or a mix of more borrowing or more cuts the second half of the coming school year.&rdquo;</p><p>Ruiz added that if Springfield fails to act, CPS schools could see additional cuts in the middle of the school year.</p><p><em>This story is developing.</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Jul 2015 12:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-school-budgets-reflect-dire-finances-112364 Mayor Emanuel borrows to pay massive CPS pension obligation http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-02/mayor-emanuel-borrows-pay-massive-cps-pension-obligation-112308 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/payment got credit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212961209&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: 22px;">One day after the Chicago Public Schools made its 634 million dollar teachers&rsquo; pension payment on time...the city asked if it could borrow 500 million dollars from the pension fund. The city&rsquo;s Chief Financial Officer says the five month loan is needed to avoid more cuts. Ralph Martire, Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, joins us with his take, and what he thinks this means going forward.&nbsp;</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="http://www.ctbaonline.org/about/ctba-staff">Ralph Martire</a> is the Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability</p></p> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-02/mayor-emanuel-borrows-pay-massive-cps-pension-obligation-112308 CPS, Emanuel warn of deep cuts, layoffs to school district http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahmap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing &ldquo;a grand bargain&rdquo; to fix the financial woes of Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>The proposal cuts $200 million from schools, raises property taxes, asks teachers to pay more into their pensions, and pushes Springfield to increase overall school funding.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody would have to give up something, and nobody would have to give up everything,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposal came as state lawmakers were entertaining a bill from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton that would freeze property taxes and eliminate grants currently promised to CPS in exchange for picking up about $200 million of the cash-strapped school district&rsquo;s &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension costs over the next two years.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union doesn&rsquo;t support Emanuel&rsquo;s plan and also scoffed at his longstanding push to consolidate the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund with the Teachers Retirement System, which includes all suburban and downstate teachers, and is equally underfunded. Currently, Chicago taxpayers pay into both CTPF and TRS, something Emanuel calls &ldquo;inequitable.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Cuts will hit classrooms, special education and start times</span></p><p>Emanuel and CPS officials said schools will start on time this fall, but not without deep cuts.&nbsp;</p><p>District officials are still in the process of developing the budget for next school year, but CPS Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/270216697/CPS-reducing-expenses-by-200-Million" target="_blank">outlined</a> the following cuts they&rsquo;ve already determined they&rsquo;ll make:</p><ul><li>Eliminate 5,300 coaching stipends for elementary school sports. ($3.2 million);</li><li>Change magnet school transportation by having students report to local attendance area school to be picked up. ($2.3 million);</li><li>Shift start times for some high schools back 45 minutes. ($9.2 million);</li><li>Eliminate 200 vacant special education positions. ($14 million);</li><li>Cut startup funding for charters and alternative schools. ($15.8 million);</li><li>Reduce professional development in turnaround schools run by AUSL ($11.6 million).</li></ul><p>&ldquo;In my view, they&rsquo;re intolerable, they&rsquo;re unacceptable and they&rsquo;re totally unconscionable,&rdquo; Emanuel said of the cuts. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re a result of a political system that sprung a leak and now it&rsquo;s a geyser.&rdquo;</p><p>The cuts do not solve the district&rsquo;s pension problems. Late Tuesday, just before the deadline, the school district paid its full pension payment, a hefty sum of $634 million, for 2015. But that payment was only to close out last year&rsquo;s budget. The Emanuel administration has already asked the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to push $500 million of the required 2016 payment to 2017.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Where will the revenue come from?</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools officials and Emanuel find themselves in the middle of a delicate dance with Springfield: They take every opportunity to blame Springfield for the financial mess the district is in, but at the same time look for lawmakers to bail them out.</p><p>If Springfield doesn&rsquo;t go along with Emanuel&rsquo;s idea to merge all teacher pensions into a single fund, he wants them to contribute the &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension cost, which amounts to about $200 million annually.</p><p>This portion of his plan coincides with a <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09900SB0316sam001&amp;GA=99&amp;SessionId=88&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=84277&amp;DocNum=0316&amp;GAID=13&amp;Session=" target="_blank">bill</a> that&rsquo;s currently floating around Springfield. Senate President John Cullerton sponsored an amendment that would kick in that annual &ldquo;normal cost,&rdquo; and also freezes property taxes for two years. Cullerton says it&rsquo;s his attempt to compromise with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who&rsquo;s advocated freezing property taxes. The bill would also require the state to create a task force to overhaul Illinois&rsquo; school funding formula.</p><p>Cullerton&rsquo;s bill made it through its first legislative hurdle with only Democratic support, but Cullerton said he&rsquo;d continue working with Republicans to get bipartisan support.</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s that thing Chicagoans have been waiting to hear details about: A property tax hike. Emanuel said without Springfield&rsquo;s help on teacher pension funding, he will restore the CPS pension levy to the pre-1995 tax rate of .26 percent. Emanuel estimates that would bring in around $175 million.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t easily go to taxpayers, but part of a solution is you&rsquo;re willing to give up things you don&rsquo;t support, in an effort to get other things you think are essential to a solution,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel said he will also ask teachers to contribute the full 9 percent to cover their own pension costs. He said he will also put the city&rsquo;s block grants on the table, in exchange for the state to increase education funding by up to 25 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">How we got here</span></p><p>These pension problems stem from 15 years of neglect and mismanagement at CPS and the city.</p><p>From 1995 to 2004, CPS did not make a single payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and instead used revenues to pay for operations. From 2011 to 2013, the school district got a &ldquo;pension holiday&rdquo; that temporarily shrunk payments, but didn&rsquo;t make a dent in the unfunded liabilities.</p><p>Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the district should be &ldquo;front and center taking blame&rdquo; for &ldquo;using the pension system very much like a credit card, running up debt and deferring payment of it until now.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The City of Chicago has known that more money was going to have to go into the pension systems in 2015,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They had four and a half years to plan for it and they did nothing.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel disputes that he&rsquo;s been putting the pension problem off, telling reporters Wednesday that over the past few years, &ldquo;we negotiated with the laborers and municipal fund, we negotiated with police and fire and we negotiated with park district employees and reached pension agreements and passed a number of them...so I would slightly beg to differ the characterization that we were passive.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Martire didn&rsquo;t place all of the blame at the mayor&rsquo;s feet. He said state lawmakers are equally at fault for not contributing to Chicago teachers&rsquo; pensions, like they once promised and by generally underfunding public schools.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you have such significant underfunding from the state, the mayoral administrations and the administrations of the CPS are going to look to beg, borrow and steal,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And just simply write an IOU into the system saying, &lsquo;We&rsquo;ll pay you back someday at compounded interest.&rsquo; And someday has arrived.&rdquo;</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Tony Arnold contributed to this story from Springfield.</em></p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">A timeline of CPS pension problems</span></p><p><strong>1981</strong> &ndash; Chicago Board of Education starts picking up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee pension contribution, in exchange for no salary raises.</p><p><strong>1995</strong> &ndash; Illinois General Assembly gives control of the city&rsquo;s public schools to Chicago&rsquo;s mayor and agrees to let CPS manage the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The dedicated pension levy is eliminated and for 10 years, CPS doesn&rsquo;t pay anything into the Fund, instead using revenue that should have been earmarked for pensions on other things, like operations, new school expansion and staff raises.</p><p><strong>2005</strong> &ndash; Chicago Teachers Pension Fund &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 79 percent.</p><p><strong>2006</strong> &ndash; Board starts making payments into CTPF again.</p><p><strong>2008</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; Stock market crashes, dropping the Fund&rsquo;s &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; even further.</p><p><strong>2010</strong> &ndash; CPS CEO Ron Huberman gets a pension holiday from Springfield. From 2011-2013, CPS is only required to pay $200 million year &ndash; instead of $600 million &ndash; pushing ballooning payments to 2014.</p><p><strong>2012</strong> &ndash; The &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 53.9 percent.</p><p><strong>2014</strong> - $612.7 million payment</p><p><strong>2015</strong> - $634 million payment</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_76159" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/270216697/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 Contract talks break down between Chicago teachers and city http://www.wbez.org/news/contract-talks-break-down-between-chicago-teachers-and-city-112257 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_2459.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Contract talks between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education ended Thursday with no agreement in sight, union officials say.</p><p>CTU President Karen Lewis said the union&rsquo;s latest proposal was cost neutral&mdash;no annual raises, no cost-of-living increases&mdash;but did ask the Board to continue picking up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee pension contribution.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re very clear that they have a serious fiscal issue,&rdquo; Lewis told reporters. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re willing to work within that.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis said the proposal would&rsquo;ve been a one-year deal that would have eliminated some paperwork and excessive standardized tests.</p><p>But the Board apparently didn&rsquo;t bite.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement that he&rsquo;s encouraged &ldquo;both sides finally acknowledge that CPS is in a fiscal crisis and lacks the resources to provide additional compensation.&rdquo;</p><p>He urged CTU leadership to come back to the bargaining table.</p><p>According to the union&rsquo;s lawyer, Robert Bloch, there are no bargaining meetings scheduled.</p><p>CPS officials could not be immediately reached to comment on the latest proposals, but the district has so far not commented on the most recent round of negotiations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The current teachers&rsquo; contract is set to expire next Tuesday.</p></p> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 17:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/contract-talks-break-down-between-chicago-teachers-and-city-112257 Emanuel touts bogus graduation rate http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CurieHighSchool.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been talking proudly about something that is really a bit of a miracle: Even during a time of tight budgets and leadership chaos, Chicago Public Schools graduation rates have climbed to a record 69.4 percent.</p><p>But new data obtained by WBEZ and the Better Government Association shows that number is wrong.</p><p>CPS records recently obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act show at least 2,200 students from 25 Chicago high schools were counted as having transferred out of the district between 2011 and 2014. In reality, they were dropouts. The transfers aren&rsquo;t factored into CPS graduation rates, while dropouts are.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-acknowledges-errors-takes-steps-count-dropouts-correctly-112180"><strong>More on this story: CPS acknowledges errors, takes steps to count dropouts correctly</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>More than half of the 2,200 labeled as moving out of town or going to private schools actually went to alternative schools. Those students should stay in the graduation rate.&nbsp;</p><p>Another 610 of the so-called transfers were listed as getting a GED. State law and policy dictate that students who leave districts to go to GED programs are dropouts.<br /><br />An additional 1,300 had no explanation of what school they were supposedly transferring to or were vaguely listed as going to different states or countries.</p><p>Asked about all this by WBEZ and the BGA, district officials acknowledged problems with the system&rsquo;s accounting, but said they had no plan to go back and adjust the numbers. They insisted the numbers weren&rsquo;t purposely skewed to help Emanuel look better to potential voters.<br /><br />&ldquo;The mayor is absolutely interested in making sure we have accurate data,&rdquo; said John Barker, CPS&rsquo; chief accountability officer.</p><p>Emanuel released a statement late Tuesday that said in part: &ldquo;No one questions the facts: more CPS students are graduating than ever before, those students are more prepared for their futures and we&rsquo;re making huge strides in helping struggling kids graduate.&quot;</p><p>It is unclear when the practice started, but the CPS inspector general found problems at one school, Farragut Career Academy, dating back to 2009. School district officials said they did not know how widespread the problem was until contacted by reporters.<br /><br />Barker said now the district is doing a systemwide audit of what are called verified transfers. He also said school staff has been trained on how to enter information into the system, but as of Tuesday, CPS officials could provide no evidence of such trainings or audits.<br /><br />WBEZ and the BGA attempted to contact several of the principals of the schools whose data we looked at. We tried to reach them through phone calls, e-mails and stops by the schools, but each declined our request for interviews on the subject. CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey also refused to make any principals available to talk about this story.<br /><br />It&#39;s not just about graduation rates, said Sheila Venson, executive director of Youth Connection Charter School, a network of more than 20 alternative schools in CPS.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have to get a better handle on (the dropout problem),&rdquo; Venson said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t get a better handle on it if you&rsquo;re hiding it. If you&rsquo;re not looking at it, you&rsquo;re not even looking at who these kids are.&rdquo;</p><p>Once a student is classified as a transfer, school staff have no reason to try to re-enroll him or her in school or to hand their information to a district re-enrollment center. But Venson points out that schools have no incentive to be honest about the numbers because they are under so much pressure to improve their performance on school rating systems that take into account the graduation rate.<br /><br />McCaffrey acknowledged that the district has a problem, but said officials don&#39;t plan to go back and adjust the rates because of the &ldquo;billion dollar deficit.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Obvious red flags and past problems</span></p><p>For decades, CPS has used a number system to identify where and when students are enrolled. The information is used to determine school funding, and also to track students from grade school to graduation.<br /><br />In examining high school records, WBEZ and the BGA found a number of red flags.</p><p>At Curie Metropolitan High School, the third largest high school in the city, more than 100 students every year since 2011 supposedly transferred out to be homeschooled. Homeschooled students are removed from the graduation rate. But annually, most high schools only listed a handful of students as being homeschooled.<br /><br />Curie Principal Phillip Perry did not respond to phone calls or emails. When reporters stopped by his school, they were not allowed past the front foyer and escorted out by a security guard and a woman who identified herself as a police officer, though she did not have her badge evident and was not in uniform.<br /><br />Students and teachers, however, scoffed at the idea that hundreds of high schoolers were being homeschooled on the Southwest Side of the city.<br /><br />Teacher Marina Kalic said that in her four years at the school she has never once heard of a student leaving to be homeschooled. She points out that most students at the school are low-income.<br /><br />&ldquo;Parents don&rsquo;t have the sources and the funds to homeschool their kids,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They have to go to work. I&rsquo;ve never heard that.&rdquo;<br /><br />CPS&#39; John Barker said that having so many students labeled as homeschooled raises questions.<br /><br />&ldquo;Is that a concern to us? Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Are we interested in following up? Yes. What we are going to need to do is that we are going to intervene as far as take a look at these a lot more seriously.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite having access to this information for years, district officials said they only just became aware of the misclassifications when CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler started looking into it last year at a particular school. In the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fcps.edu%2FAbout_CPS%2FDepartments%2FDocuments%2FOIG_FY_2014_AnnualReport.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGOKs9u4POI5co9tNLmACTi40_URg" target="_blank">annual report</a> released in January, in a section entitled &ldquo;High School Dropouts Masked as &ldquo;Transfers,&rdquo; Schuler found that an unnamed high school &ldquo;systemically and improperly&rdquo; recorded nearly 300 students over five year as transfers, although internal records show they went to GED programs. That school was later identified as Farragut.<br /><br />&ldquo;Illinois law and policy, however, make it clear that students who leave school to attend a GED program are dropouts and not transfers,&rdquo; Schuler wrote.<br /><br />Another 123 students at this school were labeled as verified transfers, many of them labeled as transferred to Mexico, but student records show the transfer was verified in less than 5 percent of the cases.&nbsp;<br /><br />Schuler then took CPS to task for not disciplining the five employees involved and promoting one of them.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;One of the most complicated, debated and discussed statistics&rsquo;</span><br /><br />The concept of a graduation rate seems pretty simple, but in reality, it is complicated. The state and federal government calculate their rates differently, though based on the same premise as CPS.<br /><br />Barker pointed out that it gets even more complicated in a system of choice like Chicago&rsquo;s. A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786" target="_blank">WBEZ analysis of CPS data</a> shows that in the Class of 2013, about 16,000 of the districts more than 20,000 graduates started and finished in the same place. More than 4,000 switched schools and still graduated, while more than 12,000 dropped out, died, or were labeled &ldquo;out-of-district transfers.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The graduation rate is one of the most complicated, debated and discussed statistics in all of K-12 education,&rdquo; Barker said. &ldquo;Go in for four years, get out with a diploma, doesn&rsquo;t take into account all of the complicated factors of student mobility in a district like ours.&rdquo;<br /><br />In Illinois, the issue became even more complex when state lawmakers changed the compulsory age from 16 to 17 in 2004.&nbsp; The idea was that schools would have to hang onto students for longer.<br /><br />Some time around then, the CPS system changed so that students were no longer labeled in the computer system as dropouts. Instead, they are supposed to be labeled as &ldquo;unable to locate&rdquo; or &ldquo;consent to withdraw.&rdquo;<br /><br />Venson said this creates all sorts of confusion: &ldquo;What&rsquo;s a dropout? Is it a chronic truant? Is it someone with 20 or more absences? 30 or 40 more absences? Is that a dropout? Is a dropout somebody who formally withdraws?&rdquo;<br /><br />When WBEZ and the BGA asked about the questionable practices around the graduation rate, McCaffrey and Barker continued to point to the future. They said this year, CPS is going to completely redo the way it calculates graduation rates. As of Tuesday, they had not yet provided any details about the new formula. But McCaffrey says district officials are confident that it will result in an even higher graduation rate than in the past.<br /><br />Barker said the district may also reformat the computer system to prevent clerks from entering in transfer codes unless they have documentation.</p><p>This is not the first time Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has come under fire for doctoring figures. <em>Chicago Magazine</em> found that <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/" target="_blank">dozens of crimes were misclassified</a> or made to vanish altogether.</p><p>Larry Lesser, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Texas-El Paso, noted that statistics can easily be manipulated to say what people want. In cases where the underlying information is wrong, the agency needs to make sure that people understand how they should report things, mathematicians need to be on review committees and standards need to be enforced.<br /><br />&ldquo;Ultimately,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo; it becomes a question of politics.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>. Sarah Karp is a reporter for the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a>. You can follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/sskedreporter" target="_blank">@SSKedreporter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163 Parents bond over closing of a Chicago public school http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/parents-bond-over-closing-chicago-public-school-112075 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 150521 Jeanette Angela bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In 2013, Chicago Public Schools closed fifty schools as part of a restructuring. When Angela Ross found out her kids&rsquo; elementary school was closing, she could hardly believe it. Then Jeanette Ramann and other parents from a nearby Bronzeville school came to help with the transition. Today, Ross and Ramann are friends and fellow education advocates.</p><p><em>StoryCorps&rsquo; mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. These excerpts, edited by WBEZ, present some of our favorites from the current visit, as well as from previous trips.</em></p><p><em>This story was recorded as part of a collaboration between StoryCorps Chicago and <a href="http://schoolprojectfilm.com">The School Project</a> </em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 22 May 2015 09:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/parents-bond-over-closing-chicago-public-school-112075