WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en CPS chief backs the mayor's $13-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Board of Ed at Westinghouse.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is making a political statement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ahead of February&rsquo;s municipal elections.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett told the Board of Education Wednesday that the district wants to move to a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The statement falls in line with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-minimum-wage-hike-push-20140930-story.html" target="_blank">other city agencies</a>, like the Chicago Park District.</p><p>The budget implications of a $13-per-hour minimum wage for CPS workers and contract employees would still need to be worked out internally, CPS officials said.</p><p>Alderman Jason Ervin, of the 28th Ward, urged board members to consider the $15-an-hour wage he and other aldermen are pushing. The meeting was in Ervin&rsquo;s ward, at Westinghouse College Prep, making it the first board meeting held in a community since 2004, when the board met at Orr Academy. It was also the first time in several years the board has met in the evening. Typically, board meetings start at 10 a.m. at CPS&rsquo;s downtown headquarters.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said they moved the meeting into a community and held it in the evening in order to give more people the opportunity to come. The district is also in the process of moving its offices to a new building downtown.</p><p>The meeting, which took place in Westinghouse&rsquo;s auditorium, had a larger crowd than usual and frequent interruptions from audience members. One of the biggest gripes had to do with a recent Chicago Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/cpsbonds/" target="_blank">investigation into CPS&rsquo;s debt payments</a> on risky interest rate swap deals. Those deals were entered into when now-Board President David Vitale was the district&rsquo;s chief financial officer.</p><p>Tara Stamps, a teacher at Jenner Elementary in Old Town, spoke about a lack of funding for the school&rsquo;s arts program, even though the school is designated as a fine arts school.</p><p>&ldquo;How is it that you can say you want this kind of student, but you don&rsquo;t want to make that kind of investment?&rdquo; Stamps asked. &ldquo;You&rsquo;d rather not renegotiate these toxic deals and squander what could be hundreds of millions of dollars that could go into classrooms that could create well-rounded classrooms where children are appreciated and they learn and they thrive. But you don&rsquo;t. You refuse. You will not arbitrate. You will not renegotiate. You will not do any of the initial steps to get some of that money back.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union first sounded the alarm on the bank deals in 2011, but board members and CPS officials repeatedly dismissed the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Three years we&rsquo;ve been coming here and being told that our facts are wrong, that we just don&rsquo;t understand, and being dismissed by Mr. Vitale,&rdquo; said Matthew Luskin, a CPS parent and organizer for the CTU. &ldquo;A full week of Trib headlines tell a very different story.&rdquo;</p><p>Luskin said he understands that CPS cannot just cancel the contracts with the banks, but he pushed the board to file for arbitration to renegotiate the contracts, and &ldquo;take a stand.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They could call these banks out, blame them for the cuts and closings that have happened, instead of blaming retirees and parents and children who take up too many resources,&rdquo; Luskin said. &ldquo;They could announce that CPS won&rsquo;t do business with these banks anymore if they refuse to renegotiate.&rdquo;</p><p>McCaffrey with CPS said the district is monitoring the risks of its swap portfolio closely, &ldquo;including the possibility of termination.&rdquo; But he also said, by the district&rsquo;s calculation, the deals saved more than $30 million in interest costs compared to the costs of fixed-rate bonds.</p><p>The debt payments and the minimum wage weren&rsquo;t the only issues raised at the meeting. Two librarians came to speak about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547" target="_blank">reassignments and layoffs of full-time librarians</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The loss of school librarians is especially alarming in CPS high schools where there are now only 38 high schools with librarians,&rdquo; said Nora Wiltse, a school librarian at Coonley Elementary.</p><p>A student and a teacher from Kelly High School came to sound the alarm on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">cleanliness at their school since Aramark</a> took over CPS&rsquo;s janitorial services.</p><p>The Board also approved <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cps-changes-school-ratingsagain-111118" target="_blank">a new school rating policy</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177839305&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> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 Why so few white kids land in CPS — and why it matters http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 <p><p>Legal segregation may be over in Chicago, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/segregated-education-k-12-100456" target="_blank">racial isolation is well documented</a> in Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp;</p><p>CPS can <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/MagnetSchoolsConsentDecree.aspx" target="_blank">no longer use race</a> as an admittance factor and more and more students are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/more-chicago-kids-say-no-their-neighborhood-grammar-school-110604" target="_blank">eschewing their neighborhood schools</a> for other options. Education watchers argue there&rsquo;s a two-tier system in the district, and that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-25/chicagos-middle-class-not-interested-hidden-gem-high-schools-98519" target="_blank">attracting middle-class families</a> is a Sisyphean task.</p><p>Our segregated school system compelled the following Curious City question from a woman who wanted to remain anonymous:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What percentage of white Chicago school age children attend public school?</em></p><p>Well, the short answer is 51 percent... according to the Census.</p><p>So roughly half of all white children who <em>could </em>go to CPS do, while the other half gets their education somewhere else. By comparison, the number of African-American school-age children who attend CPS is higher than 80 percent.&nbsp;</p><p>Part of this can be explained by a huge gap in the total number of eligible students based on race. More on that later, but first, let&rsquo;s take a closer look at how white parents decide where to send their kids to school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where should our kids go to school?</span></p><p>Of course, choosing where to enroll your child in school is an intense and private family decision. Some parents want their children to get a religious education, others want better resources, and sometimes where to go to school is simply a matter of logistics.</p><p>Alice DuBose lives in Andersonville and says she never had a problem with the neighborhood public school. But she did have a problem with its location relative to her job.</p><p>When her children were in elementary school, DuBose worked at the University of Chicago. She enrolled her three children in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;I could drop the kids off in the morning and go on to work and it was really great when I was working here because then I could just go over and see my daughters, participate in classroom activities to it was absolutely fantastic in that way,&quot; DuBose said.&nbsp;&quot;It was more convenient. If we had gone to a neighborhood school, I could&rsquo;ve never participated in classroom activities.&quot;</p><p>It also didn&rsquo;t hurt that Laboratory is a well-regarded private school with lots of resources. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s children go there.</p><p>&ldquo;Lab&rsquo;s terrific,&rdquo; DuBose continued. &ldquo;Great teaching, smaller classrooms. All the things that we all want for our children.&rdquo;</p><p>DuBose&rsquo;s daughters attended there until 8th grade and then went on to attend Whitney Young &ndash; a CPS selective enrollment school. Now DuBose hopes her son follows in their footsteps.</p><p>The reality is many middle-class parents, including those not initially in CPS, jockey to get their children in selective public high schools like Whitney Young.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools&rsquo;</span></p><p>Not far from Lab in Hyde Park, is a white family who was committed to CPS from the very beginning.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/joy%20clendenning%20michael%20scott%20hyde%20park.jpg" title="Joy Clendenning, left, and Michael Scott, right, live in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. All four of their children have enrolled or graduated from a Chicago public school. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></div><p>Joy Clendenning and Michael Scott live in Hyde Park. They didn&rsquo;t choose the neighborhood because of the schools. Scott grew up there and has strong family ties and Clendenning loves the quirky intellectualism of the area. The couple say they believe in public education and always knew their children would attend CPS. A sign in their window says &lsquo;Support Neighborhood Public Schools.&rsquo;</p><p>All four of their children attended Ray Elementary through sixth grade. The oldest went to Kenwood Academy&rsquo;s 7th and 8th grade academic center and stayed for high school. He&rsquo;s now a freshman at Occidental College. The second oldest is a sophomore at Whitney Young and started in its academic center. Their twins are currently in 8th grade at Kenwood. &nbsp;</p><p>Ray is a neighborhood school that also accepts students outside its attendance boundary through a lottery. 20 percent of its students are white and 55 percent black. Kenwood is the neighborhood high school and is 86 percent black. Their son was one of only a couple of white students in his graduating class.</p><p>&ldquo;Kenwood was a very good place for Sam and we never thought &#39;this was too black,&#39;&rdquo; Scott said.</p><p>Clendenning says they&#39;re concerned about how many schools and neighborhoods are segregated.</p><p>&quot;And we definitely think it&rsquo;s a problem that people in our neighborhood don&rsquo;t give the public schools a serious try,&quot; she added.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yearbookphoto1.png" title="Sam Clendenning was one of only a handful of white students in his graduating class at Kenwood Academy. (Photo courtesy of Joy Clendenning) " /></div><p>Our Curious City question asker &ndash; who again wants to remain anonymous &ndash; raised a similar point in a follow-up email:</p><blockquote><p><em>I asked this question because I&#39;ve noticed in my small sampling of visiting public schools, other than a few of the magnet schools, it seems that we have a segregated school system along race lines.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few school-age white children in the city</span></p><p>We know Chicago is almost equal parts black, Latino and white, but that&rsquo;s not the case when it comes to the city&rsquo;s youth. So while roughly a third of Chicago&rsquo;s total population is white, most of those numbers skew older. That means there aren&rsquo;t that many white school-age children to begin with.</p><p>Of the some 400,000 students enrolled in CPS K-12, 180,274 are Hispanic, 163,595 are black and just 33,659 are white. Even if all 65,259 eligible white students in the city went to CPS, they&rsquo;d still be far outnumbered by students who are black and brown.</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/school%20age%20eligibility1.png" title="Data measures K-12 enrollment. Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago Public Schools " /></div><p>Why does any of this matter?</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, when you look at the data, it&rsquo;s very disturbing,&rdquo; Elaine Allensworth told WBEZ. Allensworth is the director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I do think we think of ourselves as a multi-ethnic city, a city of racial diversity. But then when you look at the numbers and you see how many schools are one-race schools and how segregated schools are based on race, I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s where we want to be as a society,&quot; she said.</p><p>Segregation is made worse by the low number of white students overall.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a lot of neighborhoods in the city that are 90 percent or more African American or less than 10 percent African American. In fact, the vast majority of the city has that degree of racial segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.</p><p>In other words, if we don&rsquo;t live together, we don&rsquo;t tend to learn together.</p><p><a href="http://ec2-23-22-21-132.compute-1.amazonaws.com/chicagoschools" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchoolsPromo1_0_0.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Click to launch 2010 map. " /></a><span style="font-size:22px;">Segregated neighborhoods, segregated schools</span></p><p>Take Mt. Greenwood, for example, on the Southwest Side. 82 percent of the student body is white &ndash;&nbsp;the highest percentage in all of CPS. And that makes sense. Mt. Greenwood, the neighborhood, is a majority white community.</p><p>The same holds true for many majority black communities.</p><p>As a result, the schools that serve the neighborhoods are also highly segregated based on race,&rdquo; Allensworth continued. &ldquo;So we have many many schools in the district that are close to 100 percent African American.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Finteractive.wbez.org%2Fschools%2Fthe-big-sort.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEk2nK5oAwUsugvrZs7E0f7b8ZPzQ" target="_blank">Those poor-performing schools are typically in poor, black communities</a>&nbsp;that are suffering from substantial unemployment and lack of resources.</p><p>&ldquo;When we look at which schools are struggling the most, they are in the absolutely poorest neighborhoods in the city. &nbsp;We&rsquo;re talking about economic segregation,&rdquo; Allensworth said.&ldquo;There are other schools in affluent African-American communities that do not face the same kind of problems.&rdquo;</p><p>Segregated schools have always been an issue in Chicago, but it <em>looked </em>different back in the day.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1964%20to%202013%20draft3.png" title="Sources: Chicago Public Schools Racial Ethnic Surveys and Stats and Facts" /></div></div><p>In the 1960s, CPS&rsquo;s student body was roughly 50 percent white and 50 percent black. Over time white students in the district steadily disappeared. Many neighborhoods transitioned from white to black. Depopulation also played a role.</p><p><span style="text-align: center;">In 1975, whites made up about 25 percent of the student body. By 2013 only 9 percent of CPS students were white.</span></p><p>WBEZ asked CPS officials to weigh in on these numbers. They failed to address the segregation issue and emailed some boilerplate language about &ldquo;serving a diverse population.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS 2013 pie chart3.png" style="height: 361px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Source: Chicago Public Schools Race/Ethnic Report School Year 2013-2014" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Where are the white students in CPS?</span></p><p>Again, we know half of white school-age children in Chicago attend CPS. But the question of where they go in CPS is also something that piqued the curiosity of our question asker.</p><p>She wondered if they are disproportionately attending magnet and other selective enrollment schools.</p><p>The answer appears to be, yes.</p><p>Overall, 9 percent of the CPS student population is white. But it&rsquo;s more than double that at magnet, gifted and classical elementary schools. And in the eight selective enrollment high schools &ndash; like Whitney Young &ndash; nearly a quarter of students are white.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very small number of students though because those schools don&rsquo;t serve a large number of students,&rdquo; according to Elaine Allensworth. &ldquo;We really haven&rsquo;t seen that much of a shift in terms of attracting more white students [overall].&rdquo;</p><p>Although our question asker focused on white students, there&rsquo;s another racial shift worth mentioning.</p><p>Beyond black and white, the real story of CPS today may be that it&rsquo;s becoming more Latino.&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the requirements for attending Ray Elementary. It is a neighborhood school that accepts students outside its attendance boundaries through a lottery, not testing.</em></p></p> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 15:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-so-few-white-kids-land-cps-%E2%80%94-and-why-it-matters-111094 Global Activism: Bhuvana Foundation aids children in India's Tamil Nadu State http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Vidya Vanam.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-94ea7097-81b5-8895-dc12-376c8631483d">Statistics show that India&rsquo;s school drop-out rate is very high. Children and their families, marginalized by society and culture, include people from the tribal, lower social strata in the hill regions of India. <a href="http://www.bhuvanafoundation.org/">Bhuvana Foundation</a> was created &ldquo;to provide three nutritious meals, timely and regular primary care and a well rounded education&rdquo; for children in India, especially in Tamil Nadu State. For Global Activism, we speak with neurologist Subramaniam Sriram, founder/president of Bhuvana Foundation and Mridu Sekhar, a </span>Bhuvana trustee, about their work that began with Sriram&rsquo;s vision - &ldquo;to create a fear-free environment of learning so people are nurtured and cherished.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175679848&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>Mridu Sekhar feels Bhuvana Foundation&rsquo;s work with Vidya Vanam is a calling:</p><p style="margin-left:76.5pt;">I am on the board and just as passionate to give these kids the choices my grandchildren have at Lab School! I feel that we have all lost our way in educating our young. We are not trying to educate them to be good human beings and good citizens capable of thoughtful relationships with a dynamic and fast paced society! Vidya Vanam is sister schools with Pershing East here on the south side. I feel that mostly all the kids of Vidya Vanam will &quot;make it&quot;, &nbsp;while I can&#39;t say the same with confidence for the kids at Pershing East! Vidya Vanam also has about 30 kids to a class and the live in mud huts with parents who are very violent and alcoholic and can&#39;t read or write and often not enough to eat except in school! Catching them at preschool age ( 3-4) and giving them this nurturing environment for 7-9 hours a day is the key to changing the paradigm.</p></p> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state High school students play Election Day role http://www.wbez.org/news/high-school-students-play-election-day-role-111059 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Andy Connen schools.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In second period AP Government at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, there are just four students eligible to vote today.</p><p>Daniel Mortge is one of them.</p><p>&ldquo;My dad wants to take a picture of me, but I told him, &lsquo;No, you can&rsquo;t do that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Mortge says.</p><p>But the rest of the students in this class defy just about every stereotype you&rsquo;ve likely heard about teenagers and politics.</p><p>The class is taught by Andy Conneen and Dan Larsen, who are somewhat famous locally for getting high school kids involved in the political process. The two worked with past groups of students to get Illinois&rsquo; &ldquo;Suffrage at 17&rdquo; law passed. It allows 17-year-olds to vote in the primaries if they&rsquo;ll be 18 by Election Day.</p><p>On the day I visit, the day before Election Day, one student is sharing a stack of political mail with the other students at his table, three others are preparing for their live election night broadcast, others are debriefing with the teachers about the last-minute push for the campaigns they&rsquo;ve been working on.</p><p>And a handful are getting ready to work in jobs that are pivotal on the first Tuesday in November.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to be an election judge tomorrow in Lake Zurich,&rdquo; says Fathma Rahman, a 17-year-old student.</p><p>Rahman is one of about 50 Stevenson students serving as an election judge this year. Across the Chicago region, about 2,000 students are working as election judges. In Chicago, the Chicago Board of Elections and Mikva Challenge have teamed up for the past 15 years to get students working as judges.This year, nearly 1,500 students will work at city precincts.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175370854&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>All received the necessary training, but Rahman said she&rsquo;s still nervous.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just kind of a big deal, you&rsquo;re helping people, you&rsquo;re putting through their votes,&rdquo; Rahman says. &ldquo;For them, they&rsquo;re just filling it out and giving it to you. But then for you, it&rsquo;s like &lsquo;What if I mess up?&rsquo;&rdquo;<br /><br />Students do have an academic incentive to get involved: five hours of what Conneen calls &ldquo;political service&rdquo; in exchange for a take-home essay for a portion of the final exam.</p><p>But Conneen says the class is more than just a class.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We try to make Civics a lifestyle,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />He says many young people dismiss political participation altogether because they don&rsquo;t see a party that they&rsquo;d fit into.<br /><br />&ldquo;Both parties have become so polarized because those independents and moderates have left the parties, because they&rsquo;re upset with how polarized the parties have become,&rdquo; Conneen explains. &ldquo;So it actually makes the problem worse.&rdquo;</p><p>He says he thinks the solution to that polarization lies with young people, who tend to be moderates.</p><p>&ldquo;We feel strongly about connecting students with the political parties,&rdquo; Conneen says. &ldquo;They tend to have a lot of common sense solutions to policy conflicts. We hear it all the time when we&rsquo;re talking policy in class. And those voices should be heard by the parties.&rdquo;<br /><br />Conneen says students volunteer for both Republicans and Democrats, and the teachers try to keep a pretty even split. It isn&rsquo;t too hard in Lake County, he says.<br /><br />&ldquo;Lake County voters will be pivotal in deciding who wins Governor,&rdquo; Conneen says. &ldquo;Lake County voters will be pivotal in deciding who wins the 10th Congressional District, and so these are two of the most watched, highly contested contests in the country.&rdquo;<br /><br />Most of these Stevenson students may not get to cast a ballot in those contests, but living in an area with races that are a toss-up can be a good backdrop for teaching democracy.</p><p>Before the bell rings, Conneen reminds students who are election judging to bring both food and extra work.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hey Election Judges! For the first time ever in Lake County, they actually expect that more voters will vote early (rather) than on election day, which means there might be some down time tomorrow. Bring a little homework. Bring a little homework,&rdquo; Conneen tells them.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-de9644bd-7c90-a7f4-a511-d796c83d826a"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 14:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/high-school-students-play-election-day-role-111059 Half of all public school students in Illinois now considered low-income http://www.wbez.org/news/half-all-public-school-students-illinois-now-considered-low-income-111044 <p><p>Illinois has hit a milestone it was not trying for.</p><p>Numbers <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/state-releases-school-test-scores-other-new-data-111029">released</a> by the Illinois State Board of Education in its <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/">annual school report card</a> show that&mdash;for the first time ever&mdash;low-income children now outnumber middle-class students in the state&rsquo;s public schools. It&rsquo;s a trend that could affect everything from the state&rsquo;s economic competitiveness to college-going rates to concerns over upward economic mobility in a time of increasing income inequality.</p><p>Around 1.05 million kids qualified for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-14 school year.</p><p>&ldquo;Does that create challenges? Absolutely,&rdquo; says Illinois state school superintendent Christopher Koch. &ldquo;Students are coming with more needs to schools and this is at a time when of course we&rsquo;ve been having all the financial stresses in funding education&hellip;. There&rsquo;s a lot of lines in our budget that serve needy students that have taken significant reductions and we have not been able to get those back to 2009 levels.&rdquo;</p><p>The percentage of Illinois students who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch&mdash;long used by schools as a rough proxy for family income&mdash;has <a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/Classic/State.aspx?source=About_Students&amp;source2=Educational_Environment">climbed steadily since 2000</a>. In that year, 36.7 percent of Illinois public school students were considered low-income. Today, 51.5 percent are.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/Classic/State.aspx?source=About_Students&amp;source2=Educational_Environment"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/POVERTY-2-percentage-of-low-income-students-in-Illinois-public-schools-over-time.png" title="" /></a></div><p><em>In the 1999-2000 school year, 36.7 percent of Illinois public schoolchildren qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Today, 51.5 percent qualify. All the increase has occurred in suburban and downstate school districts. &nbsp;</em></p><p>According to <a href="http://www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/data.htm">federal guidelines</a>, which are adjusted for cost-of-living increases each year, a family of four earning less than about $31,000 annually would qualify for a free lunch at school; kids whose parents earn less than $44,000 would get a reduced-price lunch. &nbsp;</p><p>Illinois joins at least <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/10/study-almost-half-of-public-school-students-are-now-low-income/280664/">17 other states</a> in the dubious distinction of having a majority of its public school students considered low-income. Both Texas and California have topped 50 percent in recent years, and a majority of public school students are low-income across the entire South and West. Nationwide, the figure is 48 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;This has tremendous implications,&rdquo; said Michael Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University and the attorney who successfully sued the state of New York for more school funding for city kids. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have an education crisis in the United States, we have a poverty crisis.&rdquo;</p><p>Rebell says poor students need services&mdash;from before- and after-school opportunities to summer programs to health care and preschool&mdash;and all of it costs more. He says &ldquo;irrational funding systems&rdquo; for education in the U.S. mean affluent kids attend schools that spend more per pupil than schools serving poor kids.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Growth in poverty hits suburbs, downstate districts hardest</span></p><p>In Illinois, nearly all the increase in low-income students since 2000 has taken place outside Chicago. The percentage of students in Chicago Public Schools who are considered low-income has remained relatively stable since 2000, at about 86 percent. Two-thirds of the state&rsquo;s low-income kids now live outside the city.</p><p>In Community Consolidated School District 62 in Des Plaines, 57 percent of children in that 11-school district are now low-income&mdash; a 250 percent increase since 2000.</p><p>&ldquo;Every year we have been adding Title I schools. Even our schools that have typically been the more affluent schools in our neighborhoods are now also seeing that they qualify for Title I (federal poverty) funding,&rdquo; says District 62 superintendent Jane Westerhold.</p><p>Des Plaines schools have also become more Latino, another statewide trend. For the first time this year, white students dipped under 50 percent of the public school population as a whole.</p><p>Westerhold says she believes that much more than students&rsquo; racial or ethnic backgrounds, it is poverty that is challenging schools.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about our subgroups of students that are Hispanic students or Asian students or black students. It&rsquo;s really not about that. It&rsquo;s about poverty--that is where the achievement gap is.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/naeptools.aspx"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/POVERTY-3-achievement-gaps.png" title="" /></a></div><p>Advocates for low-income students believe states like Illinois must examine how well schools are doing with low-income kids. Daria Hall, the K-12 policy director at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., says Illinois is behind the national average both in terms of how low-income students perform, and the rate at which they are improving.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois is going to have to take a very serious look at what kind of supports and opportunities it&rsquo;s giving to low-income students. These students are no longer the minority. They are our public school population,&rdquo; says Hall. And she takes issue with another gap as well: &ldquo;When you look at the dollars that are spent per pupil in high-poverty versus low-poverty districts within Illinois, the gap is glaring. If Illinois is in fact committed to providing low-income kids with an equitable educational opportunity, they need to address that gap.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Challenging the numbers, looking beyond schools</span></p><p>Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think tank, says it&rsquo;s possible that free and reduced-price lunch counts may be inflated (<a href="http://educationnext.org/fraud-in-the-lunchroom/">http://educationnext.org/fraud-in-the-lunchroom/</a>). The lunch counts have risen faster than child poverty rates, and Petrilli notes they include both students living in poverty and children just above it.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of (this) almost certainly reflects what&rsquo;s been happening under the recession. It also reflects that a growing number of our students are coming from immigrant families that tend to be much poorer than the families that were going to the public schools 10 or 20 or 30 years ago,&rdquo; says Petrilli.</p><p>He says the country needs a better strategy for getting kids into the middle class. &ldquo;Right now I worry that too many of our reform efforts and our policies are focused on college as the only pathway to the middle class. We&rsquo;re not having much success getting low-income kids all the way through college.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.russellsage.org/blog/growing-college-graduation-income-gap">Studies </a>have shown that half of all higher income Americans have a college degree by age 25, while just 10 percent of low-income individuals do.</p><p>&ldquo;We have got to make sure that we have strategies for all the other kids as well,&rdquo; says Petrilli. He says that includes vocational programs that put high school graduates in the workforce right away and allow them to &ldquo;climb the ladder that way. That absolutely is still a good way to the middle class,&rdquo; says Petrilli.</p><p>Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and author of the book <em>Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black&ndash;White Achievement Gap</em>, says poverty wreaks its damage long before students ever show up at school. &ldquo;The best way to raise achievement with Illinois children would be to ensure that their parents had more secure employment, the unemployment rate was lower, they had a higher minimum wage, they &nbsp;could afford to live in stable housing--where children can flourish (and) where they had access to good health care. Those are the policy responses that are called for by these kinds of data. There is very little schools can do once children come to school unprepared to take advantage of what schools can offer.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, Steve Suitts, the vice president of the Southern Education Foundation, authored a report showing<a href="http://www.southerneducation.org/getattachment/0bc70ce1-d375-4ff6-8340-f9b3452ee088/A-New-Majority-Low-Income-Students-in-the-South-an.aspx"> the majority of all students in the South and West of the United States are now considered low-income</a>. He says growing inequality in the nation isn&rsquo;t produced in the short-term by schools, &ldquo;but if our education systems don&rsquo;t perform better in educating low-income students, it will in fact sustain, perpetuate, and grow the inequality.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Suitts says he worries about a society of the haves and the have-nots.</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;m not sure that we can ask educators to tackle the problems of poverty in America on their own. There&#39;s got to be a broader community of people focused on this central question. If we continue to grow low-income students and we don&#39;t grow their achievement, then that is simply going to affect everybody&#39;s well-being in the future.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/llutton-0"><em>Linda Lutton</em></a><em> is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 08:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/half-all-public-school-students-illinois-now-considered-low-income-111044 State releases school test scores, other new data http://www.wbez.org/news/state-releases-school-test-scores-other-new-data-111029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/7674804806_7bd5ff8688_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s 2014&mdash;the year when No Child Left Behind stated 100 percent of public school children in America were to be proficient in math and reading.</p><p>Spoiler alert: that didn&rsquo;t happen. Not here and not in any other state.</p><p>Scores released today by the Illinois State Board of Education show the percentage of grammar school children considered proficient in reading dipped to 56.8 percent from 58.5 percent, while the percentage of students meeting state standards in math inched up to 58.9 percent from 57.9 percent.</p><p>The percentage of high school juniors meeting standards in reading and math rose from 53.3 percent to 54.3 percent. The average ACT score increased slightly, from 20.3 to 20.4.</p><p>Next year, Illinois will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, for grammar school children and the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE, for high school juniors with the PARCC exam, a computer-based test aligned to the Common Core.</p><p>But in a conference call with reporters, State Superintendent Christopher Koch said looking at only reading and math scores to measure a school&rsquo;s success isn&rsquo;t really healthy.</p><p>&ldquo;That was far too crude,&rdquo; Koch said. &ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have been doing that as a measure to indicate whether a school was good or bad. It&rsquo;s just not that simple or straightforward.&rdquo;</p><p>Koch pointed to the new data added to the report card this year&mdash;like how many students are enrolling in college within a year of graduation and how many teachers stay at a school each year. Statewide, 66.3 percent of high school graduates are enrolled in college within 12 months of graduation and overall, 85.6 percent of teachers stayed teaching in the same school they taught in last year. A school-by-school breakdown is available at <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com">illinoisreportcard.com</a>.</p><p>That information&mdash;and a lot more&mdash;was added this year after the federal government granted Illinois, and many other states, flexibility from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which focused almost entirely on test scores.</p><p>In order to get flexibility, states had to outline a specific plan for measuring school performance that would replace the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The federal government granted waivers to 41 states and the District of Columbia.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 06:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-releases-school-test-scores-other-new-data-111029 State government could take over a school district near you http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000080958261-4swa0x-original.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>UPDATED Nov. 7, 2014</em></p><p>Ask Illinois residents what&rsquo;s most important to them and their families, and education is likely to be right up there&mdash;often at the top of the list.</p><p>So it&rsquo;s no surprise that citizens expect high educational standards from government (and solid financing). But most prefer their state involvement at arms length.</p><p>But the fact is Illinois, has the power to take over local schools. They can fire elected school board members and put a new superintendent in place.</p><p>Two years ago, it did just that. The state took over two school districts, one in East Saint Louis and the other in North Chicago, a low income and racially mixed suburb wedged between more the tony North Shore and Waukegan.</p><p>Chris Koch is the superintendent of all Illinois schools, and he explains it this way:&nbsp; &ldquo;You have to take actions when kids aren&rsquo;t getting the basics. And that&rsquo;s certainly what&rsquo;s happening here.&rdquo;</p><p>The school district in North Chicago had problems that read like a Dickens novel: 80 percent of kids not meeting state learning standards, burdensome debt, and school board meetings that sometimes collapsed into chaotic screaming matches.</p><p>State intervention has helped North Chicago reduce its debt. But the district is still operating on a deficit. The district superintendent there says he expects to run out of cash in four years.</p><p>But overall, education policy watchers say the takeover has been a win so far, with some private money is coming in and state superintendent Koch taking a personal interest in the people there.</p><p>But even with those positives, there is no endgame in sight.</p><p>That&rsquo;s something that worries Kenneth Wong, a professor at Brown University who&rsquo;s been watching school takeovers across the country. He says North Chicago is typical of school takeovers by state government.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;m seeing also is the absence of an exit strategy,&rdquo; Wong says. &ldquo;That is, they rush into direct intervention, but then oftentimes there is a lack of details.&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Koch doesn&rsquo;t seem worried about an exit strategy in North Chicago just yet. The finances and academics are still too bad.</p><p>&ldquo;We really have to be there, I think, for the longer duration,&rdquo; Koch says. &ldquo;Because you don&rsquo;t want it to go back into its prior state and that could easily happen particularly with the precarious financial situation they&rsquo;re currently in.&rdquo;</p><p>Koch is also turning his attention to other failing districts around the state.</p><p>He&rsquo;s pushing legislation that would lay out the steps needed for Illinois to intervene in failing districts.</p><p>House Bill 5537 singles out districts on state academic watch, which means they have to show better test scores, and higher attendance and graduation rates.</p><p>Ben Schwarm lobbies in Springfield on behalf of school boards and he&rsquo;s going up against Koch when it comes to state takeovers.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of anyone, especially an appointed body, having the authority to remove from office elected officials based on the decisions they made certainly isn&rsquo;t generally the way democracy works in Illinois or in our country,&rdquo; Schwarm says.</p><p>Koch&rsquo;s bill is moving in an election year in which the candidates for governor have been campaigning mostly about how best to finance education instead of education policy.<br /><br />Koch&rsquo;s actions in North Chicago provide a window into incumbent Democratic Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s strategy for failing schools.<br /><br />Republican candidate Bruce Rauner hasn&rsquo;t talked specifically about state takeovers. But he advocates for more charter schools statewide, especially for failing districts.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not fair for parents to be stuck in a school that is failing and not fitting their kids&rsquo; needs,&quot; Rauner says. &quot;We need to create options and choice, especially for lower income families that can&rsquo;t afford to move.&rdquo;</p><p><em>This story has been updated: The districts that legislation the Illinois State Board of Education supports are located all over Illinois &ndash; not just in Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs. A spokeswoman for ISBE emphasizes that the state does not intend to take over all school boards in districts that are failing in the state, and says the legislation is not intended to make it easier for the state to take over failing schools. Instead, it&rsquo;s meant to spell out steps that the state would have to take in order to remove the school board of a failing district.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-government-could-take-over-school-district-near-you-110943 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