WBEZ | Education http://www.wbez.org/news/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Here's What People are Saying About Barbie's Diversity Makeover http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/heres-what-people-are-saying-about-barbies-diversity-makeover-114739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/barbie.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="The latest Mattel Barbie dolls created to increase representation and diversity." class="img" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/02/04/showimage-dcba5ca0711a65fdb56c1d308ff0470d707434c2-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="The latest Mattel Barbie dolls created to increase representation and diversity. (Courtesy of Mattel)" /></p><p>Last week, Mattel announced that Barbie is getting a makeover. A whole bunch of them, in fact. As last week,&nbsp;33 new Barbie dolls are available for purchase through the website, in three new body types &mdash; petite, tall, and curvy &mdash; and seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 14 &quot;face sculpts.&quot; We rounded up some sharp thoughts on this news, ranging from what this means for Mattel&#39;s bottom line to whether an widely hyped debut of Barbie&#39;s new looks is really a step forward.</p><p>Over at&nbsp;<em>The Atlantic, </em>Megan Garber&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/barbies-hips-dont-lie/432741/">says</a>&nbsp;the move is smart business strategy on Mattel&#39;s part, given its past&nbsp;<a href="http://nypost.com/2016/02/01/barbie-sales-strong-for-toymaker-mattel/">four years of sales declines</a>. Given that the company&#39;s 2015 line of racially diverse dolls, called the Fashionistas,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.morningstar.com/news/dow-jones/TDJNDN_2016020112545/mattel-revenue-grows-as-barbie-sales-increase.html">seemed to help</a>, this latest move seems like a good bet. Here&#39;s Garber:</p><blockquote><div><p>Mattel&#39;s expansion of Barbie&#39;s look...represents the basic, hopeful idea that diversity is valuable not just for diversity&#39;s sake (or,&nbsp;<a data-omni-click="r'article',r'link',r'14',r'432741'" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/magazine/has-diversity-lost-its-meaning.html?_r=0">as Anna Holmes recently put it</a>, as a kind of grudging obligation). Diversity is&mdash;much more pragmatically, much more transformatively &mdash; good business. If consumers can see themselves in their dolls, Mattel has calculated, they will be more likely to purchase those dolls.</p></div></blockquote><p>As essay by Bene Viera of&nbsp;Fusion&nbsp;suggests that for a lot of families, the politics of playtime are real, and deserve to be taken seriously. She&nbsp;<a href="http://fusion.net/story/262148/new-barbie-curvy-curly-hair/">recalls</a>&nbsp;the lengths her mother went through to pick out her toys:</p><blockquote><div><p>Although the original waifish, blonde hair blue-eyed Barbie reigned supreme on toy store shelves, I only had black Barbies. This was very important to my mother, so important that if a store didn&#39;t have any black Barbies she would drive to another that did. She never explained why &mdash; and I never asked &mdash; but as an adult I understand that she knew it was crucial for me, a black girl coming of age in the 90s, to own dolls that looked like me. I am thankful she was proactive in making sure I saw myself reflected in the dolls I played with. Because whether people want to admit it or not, toys do shape how children view themselves.</p></div></blockquote><p>Over at Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth&nbsp;<a href="http://jezebel.com/mattel-cant-update-barbie-without-running-into-updated-1755665384">brings up</a>&nbsp;an interesting point: what if giving a curvy Barbie to a chubby child ends up doing more harm than good?</p><blockquote><div><p>It&#39;s unquestionably positive for girls to see a wider array of skin colors and body types represented positively. A more diverse Barbie is a good thing. But it&#39;s impossible to separate my personal response to this development from the fact that I was a Barbie-loving chubby child, and &mdash; as&nbsp;<em>Time&nbsp;</em>alludes to &mdash; my reaction to being singled out with a gift of the &quot;curvy&quot; Barbie might very well have been absolute devastation.</p></div></blockquote><p>Following Eliana Docketerman&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/barbie-new-body-cover-story/">exclusive interview</a>&nbsp;with Mattel in&nbsp;<em>Time&nbsp;</em>on the new Barbies,&nbsp;Jill Filipovic, also at&nbsp;<em>Time</em>, steps back to&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/4196777/barbie-feminist-filipovic/">ask</a>&nbsp;a bigger picture question &mdash; whether the dolls are skinny or curvy, white or brown, are we really okay with what the Barbie brand represents?</p><blockquote><div><p>One pointy-toed step forward, though, is hardly a giant leap for womankind. Barbie is a literally objectified woman, not a superhero or an action figure but a plastic lady notable because she&#39;s pretty. And she remains a quintessential &#39;girls&#39; toy,&#39; Patient Zero in the pinkification pandemic that has infected toy stores for two generations and now prominently segregates &#39;girls&#39; toys&#39; (Dolls, Arts &amp; Crafts and Bath, Beauty &amp; Accessories on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.toysrus.com/shop/index.jsp?categoryId=2255956">ToysRUs.com</a>, for example) from &#39;boys&#39; toys&#39; (Action Figures, Video Games, Bikes &amp; Ride-ons).</p></div></blockquote><p>Speaking of representation and toys, Lego also took steps towards increased diversity last week, unveiling a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/jan/27/lego-unveils-disabled-minifigure-promobricks-nuremberg-toy-fair">new figurine that uses a wheelchair</a>. Unlike the hoopla around Barbie&#39;s new look, Lego was pretty low-key about its new toy, and Morwenna Jones at<em>The&nbsp;Independent</em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/with-their-new-disabled-figure-lego-has-approached-diversity-issues-in-a-very-different-way-to-a6848846.html">compares</a>&nbsp;the two approaches:</p><blockquote><div><p>But unlike Barbie&#39;s new range, unveiled with an exclusive in&nbsp;<em>TIME&nbsp;</em>magazine and more press embargoes than Barbie has convertibles, Lego&#39;s latest character was simply placed in the middle of a busy park scene, sitting in his wheelchair as if it were the most natural thing in the world.</p><p>As other companies make grand, sweeping gestures towards their commitment to diversity, it&#39;s this that might just be the biggest step forwards.</p></div></blockquote><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/02/05/465317939/roundup-heres-what-people-are-saying-about-barbies-diversity-makeover?ft=nprml&amp;f=465317939"><em>&mdash; via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/heres-what-people-are-saying-about-barbies-diversity-makeover-114739 What it Means That the High School Diploma is Now a Moving Target http://www.wbez.org/news/what-it-means-high-school-diploma-now-moving-target-114722 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/movingtarget.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>About three months ago, Bill Nelson got an unusual phone call.</p><p>Nelson oversees data and assessment for the Agua Fria Union High School District in southwest Phoenix, Ariz. The call was from a former student, who left the district back in 2011.</p><p>He was &quot;not quite a graduate,&quot; Nelson recalls. At the time, the young man had failed part of Arizona&#39;s high school exit exam, called the AIMS.</p><p>But in 2015, Arizona rescinded the AIMS requirement, and made that retroactive. So this former student was in luck.</p><p>After Nelson looked up his records, he was able to issue a new transcript and diploma, making the young man eligible for a steady, relatively well-paying job as a miner in Colorado. &quot;He was really very happy,&quot; Nelson says.</p><p>Which raises&nbsp;<a href="http://apps.npr.org/grad-rates/">a question NPR Ed has been exploring</a>&nbsp;for some time: What does it mean to graduate from high school?</p><p>The answer used to be fairly straightforward: Pass a given number of classes in a few core subjects, and you&#39;re good. Or if you didn&#39;t make it, you could take a test called the GED for a second chance.</p><p>That simplicity has more recently been replaced by a whole lot of confusion. The GED has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/01/27/464418078/lowering-the-bar-for-the-new-ged-test">two competing high school equivalency tests now,</a>&nbsp;for example.</p><p>And in the past decade, high school exit exams have passed quickly in and out of vogue. Half of states required them in 2012. This year? Only 13.</p><p>As&nbsp;Education Week&nbsp;<a href="http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/01/27/states-move-to-issue-high-school-diplomas.html">reported last week</a>, when states get rid of these exams, the question naturally arises: Why leave students without a diploma, when the test they failed is no longer required?</p><p>The newspaper reported that Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, California and Alaska, along with Arizona, have so far passed laws to allow students who failed some of these tests to get their diplomas anyway.</p><p>The change could profoundly affect the lives of tens of thousands of people. The difference between a high school graduate and a high school dropout is a<a href="http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/median-weekly-earnings-by-education-gender-race-and-ethnicity-in-2014.htm">&nbsp;37 percent increase in weekly earnings on average</a>.</p><div id="con465054803" previewtitle="Related NPR Stories"><p>But making the switch is resource-intensive. In Georgia, some of these students&nbsp;<a href="http://getschooled.blog.myajc.com/2015/03/30/governor-signs-bill-today-enabling-8000-georgians-to-receive-high-school-diploma/">should have graduated up to 20 years ago</a>. In California, reports say, schools and districts are<a href="http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/11/09/55511/thousands-stopped-by-exit-exam-may-qualify-for-dip/">responding unevenly</a>&nbsp;to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_28948354/state-exit-exam-suspension-gives-hope-thousands-seeking">logistical nightmare</a>&nbsp;of tracking down former students who have long since gone on with their lives. In Texas, the state education agency had to rule on the eligibility of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Wylie-Senior-Deemed-Ineligible-for-Graduation-Based-on-Texas-Senate-Bill-305935721.html">just one student.</a></p></div><p>In Agua Fria, Bill Nelson&nbsp;<a href="http://kjzz.org/content/139559/former-arizona-high-school-students-who-failed-aims-getting-retroactive-diplomas">set up a hotline&nbsp;</a>for students to call and dug into student records going back five years. He did it all on his own initiative, with no extra resources from the state. He mailed 40 diplomas out just three months after the change in the law.</p><p>The issue is clearly complicated. As we&#39;ve reported,<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/12/15/459821708/u-s-high-school-graduation-rate-hits-new-record-high">&nbsp;increasing high school graduation rates</a>&nbsp;is a national priority, reinforced by federal law. At the same time, the Common Core is supposed to be enforcing higher &quot;college and career ready&quot; standards. But constantly changing requirements make it harder to believe that any consistent standard is being maintained.</p><p>&quot;The requirements for a high school diploma vary from state to state and even from district to district,&quot; says Russell Rumberger, a professor of education at UC Santa Barbara who has studied the high school diploma extensively. &quot;This means that the knowledge and skills students possess when graduating, and hence their level of preparedness for college and careers, also vary.&quot;</p><h3>More On High School Graduation</h3><div><div class="bucketwrap image medium" id="res465055600" previewtitle="NPR Ed Grad Rates Project" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px 0px 40px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; position: relative; float: none; width: auto; clear: left; overflow: hidden; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><div class="imagewrap" data-crop-type="" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; position: relative; text-align: center;"><a href="http://apps.npr.org/grad-rates/" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(109, 138, 196); -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; text-decoration: none;"><img alt="NPR Ed Grad Rates Project: apps.npr.org/grad-rates/" class="img" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/31/screen-shot-2016-01-31-at-12.42.10-pm-f6ca9141e512437c30f99971b4c69a728484c893-s300-c85.png" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 10px solid; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; max-width: none; display: block; width: 310px; height: 231px; float: left;" title="NPR Ed Grad Rates Project" /></a></div><div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/02/01/464850639/what-it-means-that-the-high-school-diploma-is-now-a-moving-target?ft=nprml&amp;f=464850639"><em>&mdash; via NPR</em></a></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what-it-means-high-school-diploma-now-moving-target-114722 City Colleges Faculty Votes No Confidence in Chancellor http://www.wbez.org/news/city-colleges-faculty-votes-no-confidence-chancellor-114713 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/8006733896_fa7542b739_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Faculty at the City Colleges of Chicago are saying they have no confidence in Chancellor Cheryl Hyman.</p><p>Faculty Council President Jennifer Alexander, an early childhood development instructor at Richard J. Daley College, presented the declaration of no confidence at a board meeting Thursday morning.</p><p>&ldquo;We are exceptionally concerned that our chancellor&rsquo;s actions are destroying our mission, the values and the integrity of the City Colleges,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Alexander said faculty discontent has been brewing for some time, largely in response to sweeping changes that have been part of the school&rsquo;s &ldquo;Reinvention&rdquo; initiative. That effort, launched under Hyman six years ago, aims to increase the number of degrees attained, strengthen job placement and promote career advancement for students.</p><p>Under the Reinvention plan, the system of seven community colleges has relocated academic programs, changed tuition incentives and undertaken significant capital investments. In public comments at the meeting today, faculty said they were especially concerned about the recent decisions to raise tuition for international and part-time students, and to shorten the registration period for classes.</p><p>&ldquo;Both of these actions limit student and community access to high-quality programs, and violate the mission of the City Colleges of Chicago,&rdquo; said Alexander.</p><p>Early in the meeting, Hyman addressed the Board of Trustees, laying out the school&rsquo;s successes and saying that when she was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2010, the network was suffering a &ldquo;crisis of confidence.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Six years later I am pleased to report our metrics are up across the district and City Colleges has been hailed as a national model,&rdquo; said Hyman. &ldquo;A City Colleges of Chicago credential equips our graduates with the skills to succeed.&rdquo;</p><p>Regular attendees of board meetings said the gathering was atypical, as dozens of leaders spanning civic, political, higher education and community organizations -- including Congressman Bobby Rush -- turned out to speak pointedly in support of Hyman. Several students, too, shared their comments, including a foreign student who said he supported the decision to raise tuition disproportionately for international students like himself.</p><p>Melanny Buitron, a student at Wright College, said a personal meeting with Hyman in 2011 compelled her to attend City Colleges after graduating from high school. &ldquo;She told us (her) story, about how she attended City Colleges and how she got to where she is now, which I respect a lot,&rdquo; said Buitron, &ldquo;because at a young age, as an undocumented student, I said &lsquo;If she could do it, so could I.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>But faculty members say that other students have been affected adversely by decisions that Hyman and the City Colleges board made.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re closing vibrant programs at certain colleges and only going to offer them at certain colleges,&rdquo; said Alexander. &ldquo;So nursing was taken away from Daley College -- it was closed. And now they&rsquo;re saying they&rsquo;re going to close child development at Daley College, and that those students would have to go to the North Side...My concern is that my students are not going to be able to do that, and I don&rsquo;t want to lose my students.&rdquo;</p><p>Alexander said she already did lose some of her students as a result of a sudden and unexpected tuition hike that the school announced over the summer.</p><p>Kim Knutson, an associate professor of English at Wright College, says the consolidation of academic programs to certain campuses will further reinforce the city&rsquo;s existing patterns of segregation. She points to the decision to move transportation programs to Olive-Harvey College, and Culinary and Hospitality services to Kennedy-King College, both on the South Side.</p><p>&ldquo;So, you live on the South and Southwest side, you can be a truck driver, you can be a cook, you can work in a factory. That&rsquo;s pretty much it. They kind of decided that&rsquo;s what you&rsquo;re destined for,&rdquo; said Knutson. &ldquo;And Harold Washington gets all the business and professional services. Great, but why can&rsquo;t you now take accounting if you grew up in one of the more impoverished areas? We&rsquo;re already talking about populations that are not privileged to begin with and now they&rsquo;re further parsing it and acting like they don&rsquo;t know&hellip; It&rsquo;s really unconscionable.&rdquo;</p><p>Faculty members delivered a copy of their resolution to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office after presenting it to the Board. A statement from that office praises higher graduation rates under Hyman&rsquo;s leadership, and says:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The Mayor is committed to working with the Chancellor as CCC continues to provide an affordable pathway to a four-year degree while also expanding industry-aligned opportunities that provide great value to both our students, as well as to top employers seeking highly qualified candidates for the jobs of today.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>A statement from City Colleges&rsquo; Board said trustees remain &ldquo;impressed with the significant accomplishments demonstrated by Chancellor Cheryl Hyman and her unwavering commitment to preparing Chicagoans for the workforce and further higher education.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-colleges-faculty-votes-no-confidence-chancellor-114713 Chicago State Declares Financial Emergency, Eyes Job Cuts http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-state-declares-financial-emergency-eyes-job-cuts-114702 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CSU-Zol87-flickr_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO&nbsp;(AP) &mdash;&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;State&nbsp;University trustees have declared a financial emergency at the troubled school that could make it easier to lay off employees.</p><p>According to the&nbsp;<a href="http://trib.in/1PlcXf2"><em>Chicago&nbsp;Tribune</em></a>, trustees at the predominantly black university on Thursday declared a type of emergency that in the academic world means the school faces an imminent threat to its survival that could require measures such as cutting faculty jobs.</p><p>The board also created a committee to decide on actions that could include layoffs and pay cuts.</p><p>Chicago&nbsp;State&nbsp;officials say the school will run out of money in March.</p><p>Public universities in Illinois have not received&nbsp;state&nbsp;funding since last summer because of the budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who control the General Assembly.</p></p> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 13:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-state-declares-financial-emergency-eyes-job-cuts-114702 Forrest Claypool on CTU Contract and CPS Cuts http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-03/forrest-claypool-ctu-contract-and-cps-cuts-114690 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CPS-Chief-Flickr-WBEZ.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Things are not going well between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools. The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-announce-cuts-after-union-rejects-offer-114680">union rejected the latest contract offer </a>the other day after it looked like both sides were close to an agreement after more than a year of contract talks.</p><p>On February 2, the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-announce-cuts-after-union-rejects-offer-114680">announced plans to cut 100 million dollars</a> in staff and spending to help address its long-term one billion dollar shortfall.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool joins the show to shed some light on the proposed cuts.</p></p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-02-03/forrest-claypool-ctu-contract-and-cps-cuts-114690 Classroom Cuts Move Ahead, Absent a New Chicago Teachers' Contract http://www.wbez.org/news/classroom-cuts-move-ahead-absent-new-chicago-teachers-contract-114692 <p><div><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is going to slash money from school budgets -- in a move that&rsquo;s escalating tensions with the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>It comes as the district is also trying to borrow more money from bond markets.</p><p>District chief Forrest Claypool sent a letter to union president Karen Lewis that said CPS would begin cutting $100 million from schools and would stop picking up part of the teachers&rsquo; pension contribution. He wrote that the changes could take effect in 30 days. &nbsp;</p><p>The union fired back, calling the move retaliatory.</p><p>&ldquo;This is clearly a retaliatory message because we didn&rsquo;t agree with what they came up with,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not going to be bullied. We have provisions in our contract against bullying. We don&rsquo;t tolerate it in our schools with our kids.&rdquo;</p><p>Claypool said the cuts -- which could mean one position per school, on average -- could still be avoided if the two parties reach an agreement soon.</p><p>&ldquo;I would be the happiest guy around if next week we had an agreement with the teachers union and we could rescind the process on these steps,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We do not want to take these steps.&rdquo;</p><p>School budget cuts in the middle of the school year has been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-plan-c-chicago-schools-brace-budget-cuts-114118">Claypool&rsquo;s Plan B</a> since last fall--as the district looked for ways to close its $480 million budget deficit. &nbsp;</p><p>Claypool&rsquo;s Plan A was to get help from other sources, including state lawmakers and teachers. Both have now clearly said no.</p><p>State lawmakers have made it clear there&rsquo;s no extra money coming from them, and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-vision-chicago-public-schools-future-114545"> Gov. Bruce Rauner has continued to advocate for a state takeover and potential bankruptcy for CPS</a>. He even directed the state board of education to begin looking for Claypool&rsquo;s replacement.</p><p>&ldquo;The state should be able to take over the schools and manage those contracts properly,&rdquo; Rauner said.</p><p>State law would have to change in order for the state to legally take over Chicago schools.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Union rejects district proposal of a four-year contract deal. <a href="https://t.co/flEwutRcdp">pic.twitter.com/flEwutRcdp</a></p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/694272840162480130">February 1, 2016</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>On Monday,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-rejects-serious-offer-district-114679"> teachers rejected</a> what both the district and union leadership considered a &ldquo;serious&rdquo; contract offer. It would have saved the district millions by having teachers pay more toward their health care and pensions, but it also promised to cap charter school expansion and give teachers more &ldquo;autonomy in the classroom.&rdquo;</p><p>But members of the union&rsquo;s 40-person big bargaining team, citing a lack of trust and what union president Lewis called &ldquo;weasel language&rdquo; on things like paperwork and standardized testing, unanimously rejected the offer.</p><p>The proposal also included a phase out of the district&rsquo;s pick-up of the teachers&rsquo; pension contribution. Typically, the district has picked up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee contribution.</p><p>Absent a compromise agreement, Claypool is now planning to do away with that pension pick-up in the next 30 days. Lewis said that move is against the law and the union could take the district to court over it and immediately call a strike.</p><p>Robert Bruno, a professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois, called Claypool&rsquo;s move an escalation, and explained that it could be what&rsquo;s known in bargaining as a gambit.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a kind of end move where you try to shake up the bargaining and you come up with a big play,&rdquo; Bruno said. &ldquo;It comes with high risk, but it can come with high reward.&rdquo;</p><p>The risk? A teachers strike.</p><p>The reward? An agreement in the next 30 days.</p><p>Or there could be an entirely different reward that could come from slashing school budgets right now.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CTUBigBargainingTeam.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago Teachers Union Big Bargaining Team (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" /></p><p>Claypool hinted that the budget cuts could also be sending a signal to Wall Street. On Wednesday, the district planned to borrow millions of dollars on the bond market.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re sending a very strong signal here that we are going to right the fiscal ship and we are going to do whatever it takes,&rdquo; he said, when asked what if any role the borrowing played in making the cuts.</p><p>CPS had delayed a $875 million bond sale last week, saying they wanted more time to &ldquo;build the book,&rdquo; &nbsp;which is basically finding more investors willing to buy the district&rsquo;s junk bonds.</p><p>The abrupt move came shortly after Gov. Rauner first raised the question of bankruptcy.</p><p>Matt Fabian with &nbsp;Municipal Market Analytics said &nbsp;the governor&rsquo;s earlier statements definitely spooked the markets. I asked if that could be Rauner&rsquo;s purpose.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s just a big step, to say that he&rsquo;s actually trying to disrupt the bond deal. &nbsp;But&hellip; it could be,&rdquo; Fabian said. &ldquo;It is starting to look that way, isn&rsquo;t it?&rdquo;</p><p>CPS plans to use some of the borrowed money to make a payment on other debts, due February 15. Absent that money, the district may have to make more budget cuts.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not something either CPS or CTU would want, labor expert Robert Bruno noted.</p><p>&ldquo;Both parties are obviously invested in the ability to sell bonds,&rdquo; he added. But on the other hand, the cuts could push teachers to the picket lines.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a lot of our members that have already bought red, thermal jackets,&rdquo; Lewis said.</p><p>But she added that the union remains at the table with CPS, bargaining around the clock.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Dan Weissmann contributed to this report.</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 12:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/classroom-cuts-move-ahead-absent-new-chicago-teachers-contract-114692 Chicago Schools Announce Cuts After Union Rejects Offer http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-announce-cuts-after-union-rejects-offer-114680 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">President of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cpsboard?src=hash">#cpsboard</a> Frank Clark says everyone is disappointed in the events of the past day.</p>&mdash; WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation/status/694610378953789440">February 2, 2016</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p>CHICAGO&nbsp;(AP) &mdash; Officials with&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public&nbsp;Schools&nbsp;said Tuesday they&#39;re ready to cut $100 million from&nbsp;school&nbsp;budgets and force teachers to pay more pension costs after their union rejected the latest contract offer, ratcheting up the tone of contentious negotiations that have lasted over a year.</p><p>Schools&nbsp;CEO Forrest Claypool called the union&#39;s rejection &quot;disheartening&quot; and cost-cutting efforts &mdash; including potential layoffs of support staff like teachers&#39; aides &mdash; necessary without a deal.&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Teachers Union President Karen Lewis shot back, calling the announcement the &quot;latest act of war&quot; and saying teachers in the nation&#39;s third-largest district would protest this week.</p><p>During the last round of negotiations in 2012,&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;teachers went on strike, the first such walkout in 25 years. The union has again authorized a possible strike, but legal hurdles remain. Union officials said the earliest that one could take place is May.</p><p>The latest flare-up followed an offer a CTU bargaining team rejected Monday, after both sides had deemed it &quot;serious.&quot; The proposal included pay raises and job security, but union officials said it didn&#39;t address&nbsp;school&nbsp;conditions or a lack of services.</p><p>The union said in a statement that the district&#39;s announcement Tuesday was an &quot;intimidation tactic.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We are certain everyone who works in our&nbsp;public&nbsp;schools&nbsp;is facing a clear and present danger,&quot; Lewis said during a news conference. &quot;Forcing someone to agree to a bad deal by threatening them, we&#39;re not going to be bullied.&quot;</p><p>District officials said &quot;drastic&quot; steps were necessary.</p><p>The&nbsp;school&nbsp;district faces a roughly $1 billion long-term deficit and is seeking $480 million in state aid. It already has laid off hundreds of central office employees.</p><p>Claypool estimated all the reductions would save the district $320 million over a fiscal year. He said since the teachers&#39; contract expired in June, he has authority to make the pension changes and took steps to make teachers pick up 7 percent more toward pension costs the district currently pays.</p><p>He also said he&#39;ll ask principals to trim budgets but try to avoid teacher layoffs.</p><p>&quot;These are very tough and drastic choices that were not made lightly. In fact, these are not changes we want to make,&quot; Claypool said during a news conference. &quot;But we must do so without an agreement.&quot;</p><p>He added that bargaining would continue. He wouldn&#39;t give a timeline for when the cuts would take place.</p><p>The new semester for the district of roughly 400,000 students starts next week.</p><p>The negotiations come as top Illinois Republicans have floated a plan for a state takeover of CPS, something Democrats who control the House and Senate have dismissed. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday revived the idea &mdash; which Claypool called a &quot;nonstarter&quot; &mdash; during a Springfield news conference.</p></p> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-announce-cuts-after-union-rejects-offer-114680 Chicago Teachers Union Rejects 'Serious Offer' from District http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-rejects-serious-offer-district-114679 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CaPIDeuWcAAjziV.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>The Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s bargaining team has rejected a contract proposal from Chicago Public Schools, citing the district&rsquo;s financial woes and an overall lack of trust.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Teachers union president Karen Lewis said the 40-member team went through every single article line by line and unanimously voted down the proposal midday Monday.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;What we are looking for is sustainable funding...which means serious revenue,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;That is not in this contract. There&rsquo;s no guarantee that the promises that are made are promises that can be kept.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The exact details were not made public, but CPS officials said the deal included teachers raises for seniority and experience and a commitment to slow charter school expansion and give teachers more &ldquo;classroom autonomy.&rdquo; But it also included a phase out of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-president-karen-lewis-calls-potential-pension-payment-increase-strike-worthy-112598">pension pick-up</a>&nbsp;and increases in health care premiums.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a statement, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said he was disappointed in the decision, but remains committed to reaching an agreement. &nbsp; &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The two sides now begin a formal mediation process known as fact-finding that by law could take 75 days. The soonest teachers could walk off the job would be May 23.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the two sides have agreed to keep bargaining. A spokeswoman for the union confirmed that negotiations continued Tuesday morning.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The rejection of a possible deal comes at a time of instability in CPS.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At the start of the school year, Claypool proposed a deficit budget -- that<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740">&nbsp;the Board ultimately approved&nbsp;</a>-- that left a gaping $480 million gap between projected revenues and projected expenses. Initially, Claypool sought revenue from state lawmakers to avoid what he said would be&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-plan-c-chicago-schools-brace-budget-cuts-114118">massive budget cuts</a>&nbsp;in the middle of the school year.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The district continued to ask Springfield for help through the&nbsp;fall,&nbsp;until it became very clear that it wasn&rsquo;t going to happen. Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner and republican leaders<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-vision-chicago-public-schools-future-114545">&nbsp;proposed a state takeover of CPS and a path to bankruptcy for the district.&nbsp;</a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>With the second semester starting on Feb. 8, CPS officials have been frantically working to close this year&rsquo;s deficit by getting a contract signed with the Chicago Teachers Union and borrowing money through bond markets.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Last week, the district<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/chicago-education-bonds-idUSL2N15B2L3">&nbsp;delayed a bond sale&nbsp;</a>worth $875 million. The next day Moody&rsquo;s downgraded CPS&rsquo;s bond rating&nbsp;<a href="http://cps.edu/About_CPS/Financial_information/Pages/CreditRatings.aspx">further into junk status.&nbsp;</a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @WBEZeducation.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-rejects-serious-offer-district-114679 Is School Food Too Healthful? http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 <p><p>If you&rsquo;re tuned into the fights in Washington over school food these days, you might think students are eating nothing but lentils and kale.</p><p>Last week, the Senate agricultural committee voted to ease 2010 standards (limiting salt and requiring more whole grains) backed by Michelle Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s Move&rdquo; campaign. And later this year, the House of Representatives is expected to propose similar changes.</p><p>So that got me wondering: Have the new rules really changed school food that much?&nbsp; And what do the most popular entrees look like here in Obama&rsquo;s home district?</p><p>Despite six months of requests, Chicago Public Schools officials have refused to let me see a cafeteria. But I&rsquo;ve talked to lots of students about what they&rsquo;re eating, and then I went the official route with a Freedom of Information Act request to CPS for the top entreés it serves.</p><p>Turns out both efforts got the same answer. The top three dishes served in the district are--by far--highly processed, heat and serve chicken patties, cheeseburgers, and pizza.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s under the nutrition rules considered overly strict by a lot of Washington lawmakers.&nbsp;</p><p>I also FOIAd ingredients for each item. They didn&rsquo;t look overly strict and healthful to me, but I wanted to be sure. So I took them to Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician and author.&nbsp; Blatner said she was impressed by the partial use of whole grain flour in the buns and chicken patty. She also approved of the fat grams in the burger and chicken dish. But that&rsquo;s pretty much where her admiration ended. Blatner didn&#39;t like the meat fillers (soy protein concentrate) in the &quot;chicken&quot; and &quot;beef.&quot; And, generally, she said the foods violated a rule she calls &ldquo;cut the CRAP.&rdquo;</p><p>CRAP&rsquo;s an acronym for Chemicals you don&rsquo;t cook with at home, Refined sugars, Artificial flavors and sweeteners and Preservatives.</p><p>&ldquo;So do I see CRAP in all of this?&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Absolutely. Those are, to me, red flags that this is processed foods and definitely not something that should be an everyday occasion for anybody of any age.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Yet most of those entrees are being served every day to high schoolers and several times a week to grade school kids.</p><p>Chicago chef Sam Kass led the First Lady&rsquo;s Let&rsquo;s Move health and nutrition campaign that championed the 2010 rules.<br /><br />I asked if Chicago&rsquo;s Top 3 list of chicken patties, pizza and cheeseburgers surprise him:</p><p>&ldquo;No that doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp; &ldquo;I think what we know about that cheese pizza is that the crust is whole grain and the same with the bun of the burger. There is a lot less sodium and fat in the cheese and pizza.&rdquo;<br /><br />Still, these aren&rsquo;t the dishes Kass was dreaming of when he pushed for the rules six&nbsp; years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously the goal is to get our kids foods that are minimally processed and that are really healthy for them. So yes would I love to see just a chicken breast as opposed to a highly processed patty with lots of stuff in it. Of course. And a lot of districts are already doing it.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />These other districts are in places like Washington DC,&nbsp; New York and Oakland, Cal.,&nbsp; where pilot programs are helping kids swap processed meals for freshly cooked food.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s worth noting that Chicago schools also do some fresh cooking. Local cooks make things like broccoli and other vegetables. But, as part of a weird district rule, they&rsquo;re forbidden from ever using even a crystal of salt on that food. Intentionally or not, this ends up leaving a lot more room for salt in the processed foods--without blowing the federal limits on sodium per meal.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />I asked Kass if he thought this was a bad use of salt overall?<br /><br />&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;For the love of God, salt the broccoli! I think this shows what can come when we do more of the cooking ourselves&hellip; We can dramatically reduce the amount of salt in the burger patty and make sure that broccoli tastes good.&rdquo;</p><p>But moving from processed foods to more scratch cooking isn&rsquo;t easy. Most school food watchers agree it requires, at least, three important elements: school kitchens outfitted with the right equipment, a staff of trained cooks and a strong directive from the top to make the change. In a cash-strapped district like CPS, scratch cooking advocates are unlikely to find those elements.&nbsp;</p><p>While there is some federal funding available for kitchen equipment--including loans and grants specified in the Senate proposal--most agree it&rsquo;s not enough. National funds designated for 2016 school kitchen improvements add up to a mere $30 million. A recent Pew study estimated that it would take $200 million to outfit kitchens for healthier cooking in Illinois alone.</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/sodium.jpg" style="height: 367px; width: 620px;" title="Buried in Chicago Public School’s 900 page contract with Aramark is this provision that forbids the use of salt in any meal preparation. Some believe this puts the salt-free vegetables at a disadvantage against the salty highly processed foods that dominate the menu. It also allows the processed food to be served without exceeding federal salt limits for the whole meal. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" /></div><p>While rural districts are often able to pull off freshly cooked meals, Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association says it&rsquo;s tougher in city schools.</p><p>&ldquo;Quite often--especially in urban areas where the cost of labor is high and infrastructure can be old--schools simply don&rsquo;t have the labor or equipment to scratch prepare,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So they are required to serve pre-prepared items.&rdquo;</p><p>Heavner&rsquo;s group is leading the charge against current rules. The SNA represents school food service managers and is sponsored by big food companies, which she says are there to help.</p><p>&ldquo;Food companies are really working to try to develop cleaner label items and to help schools meet these standards,&rdquo; she said noting that many of the items the companies develop to meet school food rules end up in grocery stores. These include the &ldquo;better for you&rdquo; whole grain, reduced fat Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />Where Congress will eventually come down on salt levels, whole grain percentages and vegetable frequency remains unclear. But what does seem clear is that the current debates are unlikely to get processed foods off the center of the plate in Chicago Public Schools any time soon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food reporter. Email her at meng@wbez.org Follower her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 Global Activism: Peru's Life and Leadership Initiative http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-perus-life-and-leadership-initiative-114717 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/GA-light and life leadership.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-9463f438-b22b-f3e7-94e3-0c009850f5e1">It&#39;s Thursday and time for our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a>&nbsp;</em>series, when we feature people who want to make the world a better place. Today, we catch up with Global Activist, Lara DeVries. She left her childhood town of Tinley Park, Illinois and moved to Peru&rsquo;s Huaycan community to help impoverished families. DeVries is founder and executive director of <a href="http://www.lightandleadership.org/">The Light and Leadership Initiative</a>. Her group assists mothers and children in their struggle out of extreme poverty by improving access to quality education. DeVries will update us on her work in Peru.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/244441159&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, 28 Jan 2016 09:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-perus-life-and-leadership-initiative-114717