WBEZ | charters http://www.wbez.org/tags/charters Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en UNO charter school teachers unionize http://www.wbez.org/news/uno-charter-school-teachers-unionize-106943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/untitled shoot-012.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Teachers and school staff at one of Chicago&rsquo;s largest charter school networks have voted to unionize.<br /><br />Eighty-seven percent of teachers at UNO charter schools signed union cards in the past weeks, according to both the union and the school. An independent arbitrator counted union cards Wednesday at UNO&rsquo;s high school on the Southwest Side.<br /><br />UNO immediately recognized the union. Some 415 teachers and school staff at 13 campuses are affected.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a big deal. It&rsquo;s May Day in Chicago and you can&rsquo;t think of a better labor story, can you?&rdquo; said Phil Mullins, longtime organizer and now chief strategy officer with the United Neighborhood Organization, a 29-year-old community organization focused on Latino empowerment that holds the charter for the schools.<br /><br />Also a big deal is the fact that UNO swung open its doors to the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, allowing the union access to teachers and the opportunity to organize openly in schools.<br /><br />Mullins says UNO has been in contact with union representatives for more than a year. He said the recent agreement to allow teachers to organize is not related to an ongoing investigation of UNO schools for potential misuse of a state construction grant.<br /><br />The idea behind charter schools, which are privately operated with public dollars, is that they would be free from most school district rules and regulations, and also labor agreements. Advocates say schools unhindered by teachers contracts can create student-centered school calendars and practices.<br /><br />The proportion of teachers represented by a union is falling precipitously in Chicago as the district closes union schools and opens charters. Chicago ACTS has made an organizing push into charters across the city.&nbsp; With the UNO vote, the size of the fledgling union more than doubles. Charter school teachers are not allowed to join the Chicago Teachers Union; Chicago ACTS is a sister union.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very, very high approval across all campuses. I think we had three campuses with 100 percent of the teachers saying yes, so it&rsquo;s overwhelming approval,&rdquo; said UNO-Garcia High technology teacher Alvin Colon. Colon says a union will be good for education at UNO.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it will have great, positive impact. A number of my colleagues are passionate teachers. They want to continue improving at what they do. The union is going help solidify the team and make for considerably less turnover.&rdquo;<br /><br />Reached on his way to a union meeting, Colon said teachers were motivated to bring in the union because they want a say in things like their evaluations, which he called &ldquo;unfair.&rdquo; He described aspects of a new incentive pay program as &ldquo;unrealistic.&rdquo;<br /><br />Colon says what makes a charter school a charter school is not whether the teachers are unionized, but the element of parental choice involved, the fact that students can choose the school in lieu of a neighborhood school they&rsquo;re assigned to.<br /><br />Mullins of UNO says something similar: &ldquo;Our schools when established were never established with the idea that a labor agreement&mdash;or the absence of a labor agreement&mdash;was a critical part of what makes our schools work. We don&rsquo;t think organized labor is the critical variable in whether schools are successful or not. It has more to do with mission and a vibrant relationship with the community that makes that difference.&ldquo;<br /><br />UNO has come under attack from opponents of charter schools, including the Chicago Teachers Union, and the heat has intensified in recent weeks amidst reports that UNO improperly handed contracts to insiders. It&rsquo;s unclear how the unionization vote will affect the attacks leveled at UNO going forward.<br /><br />The unionization vote attracted national attention. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement that UNO represents a &ldquo;turning point&rdquo; and &ldquo;an example of another charter school operator recognizing that it can&rsquo;t succeed without the voices of those who work most closely with students.&rdquo;<br /><br />President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers Dan Montgomery says the vote to unionize sends another message.<br /><br />&ldquo;If people think that somehow charters are a path to getting around teachers unions or getting away from teachers unions, I think that puts the lie to that.&rdquo; Montgomery also said when employers make clear they are willing to let workers unionize, nearly all will choose to do so.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton covers education for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZEducation" target="_blank">@WBEZEducation</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 02 May 2013 07:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/uno-charter-school-teachers-unionize-106943 School leaders recommend closing two charters http://www.wbez.org/news/school-leaders-recommend-closing-two-charters-105669 <p><div><em>Updated 9 p.m.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Chicago Public Schools officials plan to shut down two charter schools over the next few years.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Aspira - Mirta Ramirez campus and Betty Shabazz - DuSable campus will be phased out &mdash; meaning current students will be allowed to graduate, but no new students will be added next year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The move comes as the district decides which of its district-run public schools will close at the end of the year. There are 129 schools currently under consideration.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Both Aspira and Betty Shabazz operate other schools, which will remain open. District leaders may also grant Aspira an additional campus.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said that&rsquo;s because the charter school group has &ldquo;taken steps to improve overall performance &hellip; and would like to open a campus in an area with overcrowding.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The charter school closures are part of a regular process for renewing contracts with the privately-run, publicly-funded schools. The process is separate from other the school closings.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is recommending that all 12 charter school operators up for renewal, including Aspira and Shabazz, be granted new contracts. In total, the 12 operators run 30 schools. If approved by the board next week, most of those contracts will run for five years. Two schools, ACE Tech and Community Services West Academy, are being recommended for three-year contracts.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At a hearing for these recommendations Wednesday night, members of the Chicago Teachers Union called for just a one-year renewal for the UNO charter school network, citing recent allegations of financial misconduct. They want an independent investigation of the network&rsquo;s financial practices.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ziegler said CPS&rsquo;s review determined that UNO &ldquo;overall has a substantial financial plan and met all requirements within its contract.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Betty Shabazz-DuSable closure came as a surprise to founder and Board President Carol Lee. She said the network found out Monday that CPS wanted to close their high school. Lee said rather than begin phasing out grades, the school should be given that same three-year time period to operate normally and turn themselves around.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;In the long run, to address the kinds of challenges our high schools face, as opposed to closing schools down, we need to talk about how we build capacity,&rdquo;&nbsp; Lee said. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>She was also disappointed that CPS did not follow its own recommendation not to close any district-run high schools for safety reasons.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Chicago Board of&nbsp; Education will vote on the charter renewals and closures next Wednesday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;<br /><br />&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 21 Feb 2013 17:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-leaders-recommend-closing-two-charters-105669 Interim CPS CEO Terry Mazany discusses the district's 'free fall' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-08/interim-cps-ceo-terry-mazany-discusses-districts-free-fall-83423 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Terry Mazany Flickr Knight Foundation_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a target="_blank" href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/At-a-glance/Pages/TerryMazany.aspx">Terry Mazany</a> of the Chicago Public Schools recently described the district as being in &quot;free fall&quot; after the departure of his predecessor Ron Huberman last November. The interim CEO added that he plans to break with many of the policies put in place by Huberman, such as the expansion of <a target="_blank" href="http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Elementary_schools/Pages/Charter.aspx">charter schools</a>.</p><p>Mazany joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight </em>to discuss these recent comments.</p></p> Tue, 08 Mar 2011 13:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-08/interim-cps-ceo-terry-mazany-discusses-districts-free-fall-83423