WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: GirlForward expanding help for refugees http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-girlforward-expanding-help-refugees-112767 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/221173867&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a9877e70-7627-fa5f-613f-21d5dde24703">Blair Brettschneider, founder of <a href="http://www.girlforward.org">GirlForward</a>, returns for our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> series. &nbsp;GirlForward mentors refugee girls and provides &ldquo;educational programs and leadership opportunities, creating a community of support that serves as a resource and empowers girls to be strong, confident and independent.&rdquo;<span id="docs-internal-guid-a9877e70-7627-fa5f-613f-21d5dde24703">Since 2011, Brett has expanded her work helping refugee girls find new lives in America from just one Tanzanian girl, to scores around the world.&nbsp;</span>Blair will talk about her latest group of refugee girls, especially her work with Syrian refugees.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://https://publicgood.com/org/girlforward/donate/girl-jam-2015"><strong><span>GirlFoward&rsquo;s annual celebration, &ldquo;Girl Jam:</span></strong></a></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a9877e70-762e-0b6f-dddb-51d225d1455e">Sunday, September 20, 4 - 7 PM</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a9877e70-762e-0b6f-dddb-51d225d1455e">Firehouse Chicago, 1545 W. Rosemont Ave.</span></p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-girlforward-expanding-help-refugees-112767 Chicago Board of Education passes budget, banks on imaginary money http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/boardofed_lutton.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Board of Education unanimously approved a multibillion dollar budget that relies on imaginary money on Wednesday.</p><p>District officials admitted the $5.7 billion operating budget will need to be amended after the school year starts.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We recognize this is a budget that is far from ideal,&rdquo; said Ginger Ostro, Chicago Public Schools Chief Financial Officer.</p><p>The budget relies on almost $500 million from Springfield, even though the Illinois General Assembly hasn&rsquo;t agreed to send the district any additional money. CPS leaders are in conversations with top state lawmakers.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS will also rely on a $1 billion short-term line of credit to make all of its payments on time. Ostro outlined the cash flow problems it keeps running into in February and June thanks to large debt and pension payments the district is required to make.</p><p>&ldquo;You can see that it comes very close,&rdquo; Ostro said, pointing to a chart showing revenues and expenses over the course of the school year. &ldquo;Unfortunately, those payments are due right before we get those big boosts in revenue (from property taxes).&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Legally, CPS and all districts in Illinois must pass a budget before the school year starts, and amendments made later on aren&rsquo;t unprecedented. CPS amended its operating budget for the 2012-13 school year in October, after the district settled its contract fight with the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz asked district budget officials to brief Board members every month until the budget is truly finalized.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">More high level departures</span></p><p>Two top officials announced Wednesday they&rsquo;d be leaving CPS, continuing a flurry of leadership changes for the district.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS General Counsel James Bebley announced his retirement from the Board of Education during Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting and later in the day, Aarti Dhupelia, told WBEZ she would leave her post for a new opportunity at National Louis University.</p><p>Dhupelia led the district&rsquo;s Office of College and Career Success for the past two years, overseeing college counseling, attendance and truancy, student discipline and the expansion of STEM and International Baccalaureate programs in many of the district&rsquo;s high schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Her last day will be Tuesday, September 1 and later next month she will take over as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the downtown Chicago university.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s really an extension of the work I&rsquo;ve been doing in CPS, because I&rsquo;ve really been focused on how do we prepare students to be successful in college, career and life,&rdquo; Dhupelia told WBEZ over the phone late Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">One key initiative Dhupelia will be tasked with overseeing is the Harrison Professional Pathways Program at NLU, which allows eligible students to earn their bachelor&rsquo;s degree at a reduced tuition rate of $10,000 per year.</p><p>NLU President Nivine Megahed said the first group of about 85 students start the program next week and will also receive counseling and other help that will prevent them from dropping out. Megahed first met Dhupelia working on an initiative CPS launched to improve the number of public school graduates who finish college.</p><p dir="ltr">Dhupelia said the choice to leave had nothing to do with leadership change at the top of CPS.&nbsp; Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed close confidant and government fixer Forrest Claypool.</p><p>&ldquo;I know you joked when we got on the phone that I should be smiling because I&rsquo;m leaving CPS, but I&rsquo;ve loved it here,&rdquo; Dhupelia said.</p><p dir="ltr">The district&rsquo;s General Counsel James Bebley will retire from the Board after 22 years. He served as the district&rsquo;s top attorney since 2012 and most recently dealt with federal subpoenas related to an investigation by the FBI into former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and a no-bid $20.5 million contract awarded to her former employer, SUPES Academy.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Dyett hunger strike in Day 10</span></p><p dir="ltr">A group of 12 parents and community activists from Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood continued their hunger strike over the re-opening of Dyett High School.</p><p>Several people involved in that fight made the trip downtown to speak to the Board. Jeanette Taylor Ramann was one of them. She took the mic after Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) ceded her time at the beginning of the public comment period.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I should not be hungry in 2015 over a neighborhood high school that is supposed to belong to the community,&rdquo; Taylor Ramann said, shortly before she tried to leave the Board chambers and nearly collapsed. District officials called an ambulance and a paramedic treated her as the meeting continued. One board member, Jesse Ruiz, got up from his seat briefly to check on what was happening. It is unclear what Taylor Ramann&rsquo;s status was as of publication.</p><p>The struggle over Dyett High School goes back to the rapid loss of enrollment the school experienced when the Chicago Housing Authority tore down high-rise public housing in Bronzeville. In 2011, CPS put it on the list of schools it planned to close, and stopped adding new grades in fall of 2012.</p><p dir="ltr">The group that&rsquo;s now on a hunger strike fought the closure and in 2013, created a plan to open a new neighborhood high school, called the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. After about a year and a half of trying to get the Board&rsquo;s attention, former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett agreed to reopen the school, but put out a request for proposals instead of picking up the group&rsquo;s plan.</p><p>The coalition submitted their plan in the RFP process, which was supposed to end with a voteat Wednesday&rsquo;s board meeting, but the change in leadership at CPS prompted officials to push a decision out to September.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can reach her at bvevea@wbez.org and follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740 Chicagoans sound off on school district budget at public hearings http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-sound-school-district-budget-public-hearings-112680 <p><p>Parents, teachers, and activists gave Chicago Public Schools officials an earful last night over its proposed budget for next school year.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-releases-budget-money-really-there-112606">budget</a> relies on a gamble that state lawmakers in Springfield will come through with almost $500 million in pension help. It also guts services from schools and programs that serve some of the district&rsquo;s neediest students.</p><p>The district&rsquo;s plan to scale back special education did not sit well with parents who showed up to speak at a public hearing at Schurz High School. District officials are slashing <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512">special education</a>, by about $30 million, laying off teachers, leaving 200 vacant positions unfilled, and closing a school, though CPS officials <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2015/08/montefiore-now-a-school-without-students-but-says-cps-it-is-not-closed/">refuse to call it a closure</a>, <em>Catalyst Chicago</em> reports.</p><p>&ldquo;Usually, I feel that these budget and policy initiatives forget about our kids with special needs, but strangely, with this one, it seems like our kids with special needs have been targeted by this budget,&rdquo; said parent Joshua Radinsky, a parent of a 17 year old who attends Jackie Vaughn Occupational High School, one of the few schools serving students with severe needs.</p><p>Vaughn will lose about $1.7 million, which amounts to 23 aides and five certified special education teachers.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems short-sighted to me, unwise, immoral and illegal to try to balance this budget by going after special ed as a way to save money,&rdquo; he added.</p><p>Drew Heiserman, a teacher and parent of a child with special needs, noted that CPS increased the Law Department&rsquo;s budget by almost as much as it&rsquo;s cutting from special education.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems to me that CPS is inviting a class action lawsuit,&rdquo; Heiserman said.</p><p>District officials did not comment on the testimony and CPS did not immediately respond to questions about the budget cuts at Vaughn, but district spokeswoman Emily Bittner said after the draft budget went out, &ldquo;CPS worked with individual schools to ensure they have the appropriate resources to meet students&#39; needs.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Further cuts to schools on life support</span></p><p>In addition to special education cuts, CPS is cutting half of the funding to a group of 23 high-need schools that were saved from closure in 2013. Then-CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett <a href="http://cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/PR2_07_24_2013.aspx">created the network</a>, called the Office of Strategic School Support Services, or OS4, that existed for a little over a year and provided schools with intensive support.</p><p>The OS4 budget will downsize from $34.2 million to $16.1 million. Budget documents said the office will continue to serve the same number of schools, but when asked about the cuts, Bittner said all schools that do not have federal &ldquo;school improvement&rdquo; grants will go back to being part of the regular school networks. Principals will get $25,000 for the transition, she added. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;After assessing OS4&rsquo;s mixed results and speaking with principals in the OS4 Network, CPS officials determined that a new strategic approach is needed,&rdquo; Bittner wrote in an email.</p><p>Kyle Hillman is a community representative on the local school council of Gale Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park, which asked to be in OS4 last year. He said the school has been put back in Network 2.</p><p>&ldquo;The added resources, the extra professional development, the in-school assistants, the technology, those things are all gone,&rdquo; Hillman said.</p><p>Hillman said in the short time Gale was part of OS4, it moved up a level from the district&rsquo;s lowest performance rating. The move also comes with a projected decline in enrollment that will mean $362,000 less in the budget. Hillman said the school is being set up to fail.</p><p>&ldquo;When you cut the programs, kids leave, and when the kids leave, you cut my programs because I don&rsquo;t have enough resources,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no way for a school that is in this downward cycle to come back out of it, because you can&rsquo;t return the programs that make kids want to stay in school.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Revenue solutions</span></p><p>This year&rsquo;s budget includes a $676 million pension payment that eats up about 12 percent of the district&rsquo;s operating budget. CPS officials also plan to make a debt payment of $538 million and restructure the rest out into the future.</p><p>The dire financial situation was not lost on many of those who spoke at Tuesday night&rsquo;s hearings. But several people said the answer is not starving schools, but rather raising revenue.</p><p>&ldquo;We support more revenue, we&rsquo;ve been in Springfield,&rdquo; said Wendy Katten, &ldquo;But when and if you get more revenue, it has to go into our neighborhood schools.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS CEO Forrest Claypool is pushing for a fix from Springfield that would change how much the state kick in to the Chicago Teachers&rsquo; Pension Fund. Right now, it gives a small amount, and CPS pays the lion&rsquo;s share.</p><p>The district is limited on how much money it can raise locally through property taxes, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel already gave CPS the go-ahead to raise them for the fourth year in a row. But state law caps how much property taxes are allowed to increase, which limits how much revenue can be raised for classrooms.</p><p>Unless you ask voters.</p><p>Rod Estvan, education policy analyst at the disability-rights group Access Living, said the district needs to consider asking voters to lift the property tax cap.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to have this referendum to get the attention of the state as a whole that does not believe that the citizens of Chicago support this district,&rdquo; Estvan said.</p><p>The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget next Wednesday.</p></p> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 08:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-sound-school-district-budget-public-hearings-112680 CPS invites citizens to weigh in on district budget http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-invites-citizens-weigh-district-budget-112679 <p><p>Chicago Public Schools held three public hearings Tuesday evening on its proposed budget for next school year.</p><p>That budget relies on money that doesn&rsquo;t yet exist and guts services from programs for some of the district&rsquo;s neediest students.</p><p>CPS CEO Forrest Claypool <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-releases-budget-money-really-there-112606">presented a budget last week</a> that relies on state lawmakers to help fill a $480 million hole in the school system&rsquo;s budget. This year&rsquo;s $676 million pension payment eats up about 12 percent of the district&rsquo;s operating budget. CPS officials plan to make a debt payment of $538 million and restructure the rest out into the future.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave CPS the go-ahead to raise property taxes for the fourth year in a row, but a cap on how much property taxes are allowed to increase will limit how much revenue can be raised for classrooms.</p><p>Given all of that, the amount of money making it to schools is roughly the same as it was three years ago. Major cuts are taking place in departments that serve the neediest students. In <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512">special education</a>, district officials are slashing about $30 million, laying off teachers, leaving 200 vacant positions unfilled, and closing a school, though CPS officials <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2015/08/montefiore-now-a-school-without-students-but-says-cps-it-is-not-closed/">refuse to call it a closure</a>, <em>Catalyst Chicago</em> reports.</p><p>Another significant, but unmentioned move is the district&rsquo;s decision to cut funding for a group of 23 schools that were saved from closure in 2013. Then-CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett <a href="http://cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/PR2_07_24_2013.aspx">created the network</a>, called the Office of Strategic School Support Services, or OS4, that existed for a little over a year and provided schools with intensive support.</p><p>OS4 will lose half its budget, going from $34.2 million to $16.1 million. Budget documents say the office will continue to serve the same number of schools, but Kyle Hillman, a community representative on the local school council of Gale Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park, said the school has been removed from OS4 and put back in Network 2.</p><p>Hillman said in the short time Gale was part of OS4, it moved up a level from the district&rsquo;s lowest performance rating.</p><p>&ldquo;The added resources, the extra professional development, the in-school assistants, the technology, those things are all gone,&rdquo; Hillman said.</p><p>Hillman said Gale lost OS4 funding and also saw a decline in enrollment that will mean $362,000 less in the budget. He said the logic behind tying funding to enrollment sets up schools to fail.</p><p>&ldquo;When you cut the programs, kids leave, and when the kids leave, you cut my programs because I don&rsquo;t have enough resources,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no way for a school that is in this downward cycle to come back out of it, because you can&rsquo;t return the programs that make kids want to stay in school.&rdquo;</p><p>An analysis of budget documents also shows $5 million less will go to many of the district&rsquo;s specialty programs for students who are academically advanced. The extra money that goes to classical schools, magnet programs, gifted centers and selective enrollment high schools will see cuts between $500,000 and $1.3 million.</p><p>The public hearings on the proposed budget were held simultaneously from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Schurz High School, Malcolm X College, and Olive-Harvey College. The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget on Wednesday, August 26.</p></p> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 15:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-invites-citizens-weigh-district-budget-112679 CPS releases budget, but is the money really there? http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-releases-budget-money-really-there-112606 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/chicagoboardeducationseal_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools is balancing a <a href="http://t.co/Xrwjk4pnYq">$6.4 billion budget </a>for next school year on money it might not get.</p><p dir="ltr">The budget, presented to the public at the last possible minute allowed by law, includes a $178 million capital budget to do only the most needed building repairs, $538.6 in debt payments, and a $5.7 billion operating budget. Added together, it&rsquo;s about $400 million less than last year&rsquo;s total budget. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS is on the hook to pay $676 million -- or 12 percent of its operating budget -- into the Chicago Teachers&rsquo; Pension Fund. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool is counting on Springfield to kick in $480 million to help make that pension payment.</p><p dir="ltr">But that money hasn&rsquo;t come through yet, and Claypool admitted Monday it&rsquo;s a move that, &ldquo;essentially bought time through the first semester.&rdquo; If it doesn&rsquo;t happen, there will be more cost cuts come January. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Rod Estvan, education policy analyst with the disability rights group Access Living, annually reviews CPS&rsquo;s budget and says banking on Springfield is a risky move.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I understand not wanting to make an additional $480 million in cuts,&rdquo; Estvan said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s a risky proposition and if they make those cuts mid-year it&#39;ll be worse than doing it now. It&#39;s kind of like laying a trump card to the (Illinois) General Assembly and the governor.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/99/PDF/099-0005.pdf">bill</a> that <a href="http://www.pionline.com/article/20150805/ONLINE/150809932/illinois-senate-passes-bill-to-aid-chicago-public-schools-in-pension-fund-contributions">passed the Illinois Senate</a> last week includes some pension help for CPS, but it&rsquo;s not clear if it will be a full $480 million.</p><p dir="ltr">As it stands now, the city schools&rsquo; budget includes $42.3 million in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512">cuts to special education</a>, <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/861065/claypool-cps-budget-sacrifice">$1 million cut from top executive salaries</a>, and $15.8 million in cuts to charter schools. More than 400 of the district&rsquo;s 600-plus schools are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-school-budgets-reflect-dire-finances-112364">seeing reductions</a> in their individual school budgets.</p><p dir="ltr">There will be an additional 1,500 layoffs, including 225 tenured teachers. CPS officials estimate there are 1,450-some vacant teaching positions. They plan to hold a job fair this Friday, August 14.</p><p dir="ltr">News about various cost-saving measures have been trickling out over the last several weeks. One such change was adjusting the bell times at dozens of district schools to save $9 million. Today, district officials said they would be restoring the bell times of 34 schools, leaving 48 schools with new start and end times. The change will still save $5 million, the news release said. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS is also relying on $80 million in additional property tax revenue and $87.2 million in money collected through special taxing districts, known as TIF districts. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has the power to declare a surplus on those funds. Another $250 million in savings will come after the district restructures its debt, pushing payments out into the future, a move known as &ldquo;scoop and toss.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">District officials are budgeting to pick up 7 percent of the employee pension contribution, but haven&rsquo;t set aside any money for salary increases.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said if CPS took away the pension pick-up it would amount to a 7 percent pay cut for teachers, something she considers &ldquo;strike-worthy.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">By law, CPS must hold public hearings on the budget. They will be held simultaneously next Tuesday night, August 18th, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Schurz High School, Malcolm X College, and Olive-Harvey College. Registration to speak starts at 5:00 p.m. The Board of Education will vote on the proposed budget on Wednesday, August 26.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can reach her at bvevea@wbez.org and follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 10 Aug 2015 10:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-releases-budget-money-really-there-112606 The Life And Death Of The Summer Job http://www.wbez.org/news/life-and-death-summer-job-112604 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/empty-wallet-final-web_slide-e6cbc124ad2fed52d0bfc86a10e8bd8ca4b15ed5-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Summertime means summer jobs for many college students. But a summer job just doesn&#39;t have the purchasing power it used to, especially when you compare it with the cost of college.</p><p>Let&#39;s take the example of a working-class student at a four-year public university who&#39;s getting no help from Mom and Dad. In 1981-82, the average&nbsp;<a href="https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fee-and-room-and-board-charges-over-time-1973-74-through-2013-14-selected-years">full cost to attend</a>&nbsp;was $2,870. That&#39;s for tuition, fees and room and board.</p><p>The maximum Pell Grant award back then for free tuition help from the government was $1,800. That leaves our hypothetical student on the hook for just about $1,000. Add in a little pocket money, too &mdash; say $35 a week. That makes an extra $1,820 for the year on top of the $1,000 tuition shortfall.</p><p>Now, $3.35 an hour was the minimum wage back then. So, to make $2,820 meant working 842 hours. That&#39;s 16 hours a week year-round &mdash; a decent part-time job. It&#39;s also about nine hours a day for three straight months &mdash; a full-time, seven-day-a-week summer job. Or, more likely, a combination of both. In short: not impossible. Far from it.</p><p>For today&#39;s public university student, the numbers have all changed in the wrong direction.</p><p>Here&#39;s what we calculated based on last year&#39;s numbers.</p><blockquote><div><p>&quot;The minimum wage has also gone up more slowly than the cost of college. It&#39;s $7.25 an hour. At that rate, a student would have to work 1,771 hours to get by. That&#39;s 34 hours a week, every week of the year. To cover today&#39;s costs with just a summer job, a student would have to lose a little sleep, working almost 20 hours a day for three straight months. And that would still leave no money for books, travel home, pizza or a trip to the movies.&quot;</p></div></blockquote><p>This year, based on the new full cost of attendance, things are even worse.</p><p>In 2014-2015, the school year just ended, the total of tuition, fees and room and board for in-state students at four-year public universities&nbsp;<a href="http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-room-board-time">was $18,943</a>. The maximum Pell Grant didn&#39;t keep pace with that:&nbsp;<a href="http://trends.collegeboard.org/student-aid/figures-tables/federal-pell-grant-awards-current-and-constant-dollars-over-time">It was $5,730</a>. That left our hypothetical student on the hook for $13,313.</p><p>A student would now have to work 35 hours a week, every week of the year, to get by. To cover today&#39;s costs with a low-skilled, minimum wage summer job? Over 90 days, a student would need to work 20.24 hours a day.</p><p>Plus side: if you&#39;re working that much, you don&#39;t need to pay rent because you&#39;re hardly sleeping.</p><p>There&#39;s also this: Research shows that when college students work&nbsp;<a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/08/work#sthash.p0fjaNPG.dpbs">more than 20 hours a week</a>&nbsp;their studies suffer. If they&#39;re working full time, many will take longer to finish ... and end up paying even more.</p><p>No wonder students are borrowing so much these days.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Sun, 09 Aug 2015 22:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/life-and-death-summer-job-112604 CTU president Karen Lewis calls potential pension payment increase 'strike-worthy' http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-president-karen-lewis-calls-potential-pension-payment-increase-strike-worthy-112598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IMG_5569_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-9eb84d3e-0a32-ff51-29b2-baa4734a89e3">Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is sounding the alarm: Ongoing contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools, and says the notion that teachers should pay more into Chicago&rsquo;s severely underfunded teachers pension fund is &ldquo;strike-worthy.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Union representatives told reporters Friday that public school teachers would likely start the school year without a contract. Their latest contract expired on June 30th, and CTU and the school district began negotiating a new one last November.</p><p dir="ltr">But now, Lewis says CPS is withdrawing its proposal for a one-year collective bargaining agreement, which in her words &ldquo;resets the clock&rdquo; on those discussions.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They could have been the heroes in this. But instead, Sheriff Claypool has decided just blow things up and show us just how tough he can be,&rdquo; Lewis said, referring to the newly-appointed CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.</p><p dir="ltr">Both Claypool and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have said teachers should pay more into the severely underfunded Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. As part of the mayor&rsquo;s so-called &ldquo;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301">grand bargain</a>&rdquo; regarding the pension crisis, Emanuel wants teachers to pay the full 9 percent cost of pensions, rather than the 2 percent they currently contribute. On Friday, Lewis said she considers that proposal &ldquo;strike worthy.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whether or not a flip-flop or breach of trust will lead to a work stoppage this school year will be decided by our members at the appropriate time,&rdquo; she said. Technically, there are a few legal and bureaucratic hoops the union would have to jump through in order to officially walk out of the classroom; so if they did vote to strike, union members suggested that likely wouldn&rsquo;t happen until winter.</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement, a CPS spokesperson said that the district &ldquo;remains dedicated to reaching a multi-year agreement with our teachers&rdquo; and, &ldquo;will continue to negotiate in good faith at the bargaining table to reach an agreement on a broader and longer contract that is beneficial for our children, their teachers, the taxpayers and the entire system.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The two sides are expected to meet again next week.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ politics reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 07 Aug 2015 16:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-president-karen-lewis-calls-potential-pension-payment-increase-strike-worthy-112598 Study: School districts don't know how to help teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/study-school-districts-dont-know-how-help-teachers-112559 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/9771112155_d57838aed4_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new report out today finds school systems don&rsquo;t really know how to help teachers improve, despite a huge financial investment in training.</p><p>The report, titled <a href="http://tntp.org/assets/documents/TNTP-Mirage_2015.pdf">The Mirage</a>, is being released by <a href="http://tntp.org/">TNTP</a>, a non-profit focused on effective teaching.</p><p>The findings show that nearly seven of 10 teachers in the districts studied showed no improvement on their evaluation ratings -- or even declined -- over the last few years. Where there was improvement, researchers could find no link to specific training or development strategies</p><p>The report surveyed teachers in three large school districts and one charter school network, but does not name them. However, the findings <a href="http://www.educators4excellence.org/ChicagoPD">echo those</a> of <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2015/06/teachers-call-for-better-professional-development-report/">a local study released in June</a> by the Chicago chapter of <a href="http://chicago.educators4excellence.org/">Educators for Excellence</a>.</p><p>Dejernet Farder, a first grade teacher at Morton School of Excellence on the West Side of Chicago, is part of Educators for Excellence and said, although her school does a pretty good job with development, many of the districtwide trainings are not helpful.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to many that just kind of feel like a powerpoint slide, it&rsquo;s just an adult talking at us,&rdquo; Farder said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no room for discussion, no room for exploration. And just like kids don&rsquo;t learn that way, adults don&rsquo;t learn that way either.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS has an online professional development tool, called Learning Hub, that allows teachers to give &ldquo;Yelp-like&rdquo; reviews, Farder said. But nine of 10 teachers surveyed by Educators for Excellence said they rarely or never used it.</p><p>The misalignment of professional development and improving teacher practice is not new. But concern is growing, now that CPS has overhauled teacher evaluations.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, I&rsquo;m getting feedback from a principal and then basically left with, &lsquo;How do I fix this?&rsquo;&rdquo; Farder said.</p><p>She said she hopes CPS will take a close look at what it&rsquo;s already doing and figure out how trainings can be more useful to classroom teachers.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can reach her at <a href="mailto:bvevea@wbez.org">bvevea@wbez.org</a> and follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 17:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-school-districts-dont-know-how-help-teachers-112559 Pell grants for prisoners: An old argument revisited http://www.wbez.org/news/pell-grants-prisoners-old-argument-revisited-112533 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/19407321_h38274460_slide-f233a67d0018562a34b055551e5caa2a8c778feb-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&#39;s an old and controversial question: Should federal Pell grants be used to help prisoners pay for college?</p><p>Tomorrow, at a prison in Jessup, Md., Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch are expected to unveil a program to do just that. The new plan would create a limited pilot program allowing some students in prison to use Pell grants to pay for college classes.</p><p>The key word there is &quot;limited&quot; &mdash; because there&#39;s only so much the administration can do. To understand why, we have to go back to November 1993.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><strong>The Crime Bill</strong></span></p><p>The era of Three Strikes had begun, and lawmakers in Washington were in a bipartisan race to prove they were tough on crime.</p><p>U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, introduced an amendment that would ultimately ban prisoners from receiving Pell grants. Her argument then: &quot;Because prisoners have zero income, they have been able to step to the front of the line and push law-abiding citizens out of the way,&quot; she said on the Senate floor (though Pell grants go to any and all who apply and meet the criteria).</p><p>Letting prisoners use federal dollars to pay for college, Hutchison insisted, just isn&#39;t fair. &quot;It is not fair to taxpayers. It is not fair to law-abiding citizens. It is not fair to the victims of crime.&quot;</p><p>Two decades later, Hutchison wants to be clear: She&#39;s not opposed to prison education. She just doesn&#39;t think federal Pell grants should pay for it.</p><p>&quot;I think it should be a state priority and a state initiative,&quot; she says.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;"><strong>&#39;Guys Were Having Study Groups&#39;</strong></span></p><p>Tyrone Werts says he watched lawmakers debate the crime bill on TV from his prison cell.</p><p>Werts had been convicted of second-degree murder for his role in a deadly robbery. At the age of 23, he arrived at Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania.</p><p>&quot;My reading scores was like second grade. My math skills was second, third grade,&quot; he says.</p><p>Behind bars, Werts studied. He earned his GED, then his bachelor&#39;s through a prison education program with Villanova University. It was paid for with Pell grants.</p><p>&quot;Graterford, when we had Pell grants, was actually like a college or university,&quot; he says. &quot;The arts flourished. Guys were having study groups. They were at the table, writing papers.&quot;</p><p>But Werts says that stopped when the money dried up.</p><p>After nearly 37 years in prison, Werts&#39; sentence was commuted. Now, he works for Temple University&#39;s Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and helps released prisoners re-enter society.</p><p>&quot;I see a marked difference between those guys who went to college in prison and those guys who didn&#39;t go to school,&quot; he says. &quot;They think totally different.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html">A 2013 study by the RAND Corp. </a>found that education behind bars greatly reduces the likelihood of a former prisoner committing another crime.</p><p>But federal law still prohibits Pell grants for prisoners. Only Congress can roll back the law.</p><p>That said, the Education Department does have one option: It can waive certain rules for <a href="https://experimentalsites.ed.gov/exp/index.html">research purposes</a> and, thus, extend Pell grants to a small number of prisoners.</p><p>Think of it as an exception to the rule &mdash; not rewriting the rule itself.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/07/30/427450422/pell-grants-for-prisoners-an-old-argument-revisited?ft=nprml&amp;f=427450422">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/pell-grants-prisoners-old-argument-revisited-112533 CPS budget cuts hit special education students http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512 <p><p dir="ltr">Phillip Cantor got called into an emergency meeting last week at the school where he teaches&mdash;North-Grand High School on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side. The district&rsquo;s central office had just sent over the budget for the coming school year.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We had some cuts at our school, but seemed to be doing better than other schools in our area,&rdquo; Cantor, who&#39;s chair of the Science Department, said. &ldquo;And then we realized when we got further into the budget, we were losing $318,000 specifically for special ed services.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">It would mean the school would have to cut about three special education teachers or six full-time aides.</p><p dir="ltr">Cantor said there&rsquo;s no way it would work.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re barely meeting the kids&rsquo; requirements now,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Jesse Ruiz, the vice president of the School Board who at the time was leading the district interim CPS CEO, announced that more than 500 special education teachers would be laid off districtwide. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the cuts, which included special ed, &ldquo;unconscionable and intolerable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The move, he said, came after Chicago Public Schools conducted an 18-month review of services and staffing for students with special needs and found that even as enrollment in special ed was declining, the number of staff was increasing.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The long-term goal is for more students with unique learning needs to be able to receive services at their neighborhood schools,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">But the district has kept pretty quiet about how it&rsquo;s going about making changes to how special education is delivered.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When we looked more closely, there was a line in the budget that said All Means All pilot,&rdquo; Cantorsaid. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">If you haven&rsquo;t heard of All Means All, you&rsquo;re not alone. The district made no formal announcement about it and some of the 102 schools now in the pilot didn&rsquo;t know they would be part of it until their budgets came. Last year, about two dozen schools were part of the program.</p><p dir="ltr">Internal district documents provided to WBEZ outline how the All Means All program is designed, and it&rsquo;s complicated, but boils down to what some call &ldquo;student-based budgeting for special education.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Principals get a lump sum amount for special needs students instead of specific staff positions. If that sounds familiar, it&rsquo;s because that&rsquo;s the way the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-principals-get-more-flexibility-likely-less-money-budget-107560">rest of Chicago schools have been funded</a> for the last few years. &nbsp;Principals get a lump sum for each student and then they decide what to do with it.</p><p>The internal document about All Means All did not list the actual per pupil amounts for students with special needs. CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner provided the following chart to WBEZ.</p><div><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202015-07-30%20at%2012.11.46%20AM.png" style="width: 100%;" title="" /></div><div><p dir="ltr"><em>*CPS refers to students with special needs as &ldquo;diverse learners&rdquo;. They get a base amount under the main student-based budgeting formula, reflected in the Column 2. Column 1 includes the flat amounts per student for additional special education services under &ldquo;All Means All.&rdquo; Added together, in Column 3, is the total amount a school will get for a student with special needs in each category. These amounts are being used at just 102 schools this year. The remaining 500-plus schools will continue to be staffed under the old formula, where the Board provides positions based on enrollment and need.</em></p><p dir="ltr">The system is meant to give principals more flexibility and bring the funding formula for special education in line with the formula for all students in CPS. Student-based budgeting is something many urban districts are using now. In theory, money follows students, creating a more equitable formula.</p><p dir="ltr">But its roll out in Chicago was not well-received, in part because it came at a time of financial crisis and at many schools, the total amount of funding has not been enough to cover existing programs and staff.</p><p dir="ltr">But having money follow students gets more complicated with special education, Cantor points out. That&rsquo;s because you can&rsquo;t easily change a student&rsquo;s schedule. It&rsquo;s dictated by a legal document called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a process for changing IEPs, you can&rsquo;t just change it,&rdquo; Cantor said. &ldquo;It has to be done at a meeting with the parents with parent&rsquo;s permission.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Rod Estvan, education policy analyst with the disability-rights group Access Living, said there&rsquo;s a reason special education is expensive. Those IEPs outline, down to the minute, when students should be working with trained adults, like social workers, speech therapists, and certified teachers. The students may be deaf or dyslexic or have one of many conditions that make it harder for them to learn.</p><p dir="ltr">Federal law dictates students in special education must also be spending as much time as possible in regular classrooms. Creating schedules that fulfill both requirements can be a nightmare for principals.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;These are not easy choices that are being thrown down on principals to make,&rdquo; Estvan said, noting that many principals do not have any background in special education.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;CPS will, over the course of the school year, be forced to reallocate additional staff to schools and open positions,&rdquo; Estvan predicts. &ldquo;Whether or not they can fill them or not is another question that late in the year.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">District spokeswoman Emily Bittner said the district is working closely with principals at these 102 schools on scheduling special needs students most efficiently. She said an 18-month review of special education found that the number of students with special needs in district-run schools declined 3.4 percent over the last five years, but staff serving them increased 13 percent.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>LISTEN</strong><em>:CPS Cheif Education Officer Janice Jackson&nbsp;special education cuts won&#39;t hurt students</em></p><p dir="ltr"><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/217623452&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, in announcing the cuts, then CEO Ruiz said the changes coming with All Means All would save $42.3 million.</p><p dir="ltr">Bittner said CPS would make sure schools have enough staff to work with special needs students and will absolutely meet all students&rsquo; IEP requirements, as outlined by law. She said the overall funding for special education is decreasing by five percent and still remains 14 percent of the district&rsquo;s total budget.</p><p dir="ltr">But some still are worried that the shift in the formula could still give principals and staff mostly bad choices.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s going to lead to a lot of pressure on principals and teachers to do the wrong thing in order to get services for their kids,&rdquo; said Kristine Mayle, financial secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union and a former special education teacher. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re already hearing they&rsquo;re trying to take kids out of self-contained classrooms and put them into regular ed classrooms. I fear that across the district, kids are going to be moved into placements that are not appropriate.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The All Means All program also includes a financial bonus for schools who successfully transition students out of special education or move more kids into mainstream classrooms. Bittner said the intent is to better prepare special needs students for life beyond school, when the same services aren&rsquo;t guaranteed.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS is in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301">a financial crisis</a> and it&rsquo;s looking everywhere to cut costs. Nothing is off-limits. Not even special education.</p><p dir="ltr">But Cantor, the teacher at North-Grand, thinks that&rsquo;s a big legal risk that could cost the district in the long run.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to become more expensive when they do this because parents are going to sue,&rdquo; Cantor said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s going to be massive lawsuits. There&rsquo;s going to be massive settlements. We&rsquo;ve seen this over and over in the city. It&rsquo;s this short-term managerial thinking that&rsquo;s going lead to long term costs for the city.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Right now, CPS can&rsquo;t really afford any more unexpected costs.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-budget-cuts-hit-special-education-students-112512