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Damn kids. Stop painting on my lawn.

October 22, 2014

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Rahm’s Race to the Art. The winners get a paint brush and a tray of water colors.

A month ago I posted information about a music teacher who had gone to Donor’s Choose to raise money for a class set of ukuleles.

And I was glad to publicize it. Four days later the money had been raised and the ukes were ordered.

I have mixed emotions about these fund-raising efforts. As a retired Art teacher I am always glad to help raise money for the Arts in public schools. And for this cause, my own pockets are deep as they can be.

It seems as though Rahm is going this route to fund what was his unfunded promise to increase Arts education in the Chicago Public Schools.

A prolific fundraiser with nearly $9 million in his campaign warchest, Emanuel has set a goal of raising $38 million to elevate music and the arts to the level he believes is needed to inspire academic performance and keep students motivated and involved.

I will not even get into a long discussion in this post about Rahm’s view of Arts education as inspiring academic performance. I have no idea what he means by that. As widely understood, it is a dubious concept, unsupported by research. If Rahm thinks math scores will improve if students have access to the Arts, I believe he will be disappointed. The Arts are domains of knowledge, valuable in their own right.

But Rahm is unable or unwilling to fund the Arts in the schools through public funds. So he promises to raise private funds to do it. He has made those promises before. His primary success at raising money, however, is for his own campaign war chest.

Whatever happened to the Infrastructure Trust, where private funds would be raised to pay for bridge and road repairs?

Tangent: It pisses me off that Rahm puts Building a New Chicago sign everywhere some City crews are working. Resurfacing Fullerton is not building a new Chicago. It is fixing stuff that is broken. Having a plumber come to my house and repair a leaking pipe is not building a new house. Streets and San is filling pot holes that were deep enough to go swimming in when it rains. Finally. But it is not Building a New Chicago.

Anyway.

The promise of private funds for Art in the public schools comes with strings.

Doesn’t it always?

School Board President David Vitale said the private donations, $11 million of them already in the bank, will be used to purchase musical instruments, cameras and scripts and fund “new assessment systems to track student learning in the arts.”

New assessment systems to track students. What will that cost? And what will be learned?

Individual schools that excel in the arts also will continue to compete for challenge grants — ranging from $10,000-to-$40,000 — in the arts education equivalent of the federal “Race-to-the-top” program, the school board president said.

Good lord! A Race to the Top for Arts funding.

Maybe we can have first graders thrown into a ring, gladiator style, with the winner getting a paint brush and a tray of water colors.

Vitale said he views the private fund as a “transitional step or bridge” to full public funding of the arts education plan — even in a school system grappling with a crippling budget deficit driven by a pension crisis.

Ah! You knew they can’t address any problem without blaming it on teacher pensions.

The lack of Art in CPS is because of us old folks.

Damn kids. Stop painting on my lawn!

Waukegan’s school board president speaks. Crazy talk.

October 21, 2014

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A communication from the Waukegan board president:

I have not received an email from you, the vast number of petitions have knocked many emails out of the inbox. I do apologize!

First, let me say that no one wants our students out of school. The Board is committed to reaching a fair agreement and getting our students back into the classroom. I personally do not understand the community’s hostility towards the BOE, when we are simply trying to do what is best for students, taxpayers and teachers (who just received raises in May 2014, retroactive to July 2013 when the Union threatened to strike on  April 16). If the community wants to cripple our School District…

I cannot speak to what the Teachers Union is feeling at this point. As you know we have been negotiating in good faith with the Union. We were as surprised as everyone when the Union told us they were walking away from the table. Recently, we have made progress on a number of issues, including healthcare, duration of school year and employment conditions. Including conceding to full release time for the Union President at $90,000 with no teaching duties. The remaining issue is yearly salary increases. We want a fair contract, but it cannot come at the expense of all the other investments we must make to sustain educational quality in our schools.

In regards to the Board using expert negotiators to represent it in the mediation sessions, we believe this is the best course because they represent the school system without emotions. The collective bargaining process requires objectivity, which our representatives have. We never thought the Union would take this drastic measure to interrupt student’s education. Further, all expenses are paid out of the Ed. Fund. I not sure what the issue is. We requested a 2 week postponement to the strike, in order for talks to happen while students were in school, they refused!

Speaking for myself, I have been running children programs in Waukegan for 30 years. I am passionate about theses issues. It saddens me that individuals that don’t know me, can name call, defame me as uncaring, even stupid, when my life’s work has been for children. Whether on the BOE or not I will continue to to what I have been called to do, work on behalf of children and my hometown.

Please know we are doing everything we can without sacrificing our school system’s future. We cannot negotiate with ourselves. We hope that dedicated residents, such as yourself, will help us bring the Teachers back to the table so we can get our students back in class.

God bless you

Anita Hanna

The vast number of petitions Anita Hanna is referring to is the Moveon petition demanding the Board come to the table.

She mentions that she doesn’t understand the community’s hostility towards her.

Perhaps she is not listening to the vast numbers who signed the petition.

Hanna is totally confused about her proposals.

The union is quoted about the proposals in an article in the News Sun.

“The Board has said that we have settled on the issue of health insurance and that’s incorrect.” (union spokesmen Kenzo) Shibata said.

A proposal that would have the Board continue to pay 100 percent for single coverage insurance has a salary increase percentage that the Union has not agreed to.

Another proposal from the District offers a bigger salary raise but would have the teachers pay a percentage into their insurance coverage. The union has also not agreed to that.

Shibata said that conflicting proposals are confusing and that’s why the negotiating teams and leaders will continue to hit the streets and go door-to-door explaining the issues to those who want to listen.

Hanna admits that the $275 per hour that the board is handing over to the lawyer who is bargaining on the board’s behalf is paid for out of the district Education Fund.

The Education Fund is where teacher salaries come from.

But Hanna doesn’t see what the issue is?

The Waukegan board is out to lunch.

October 21, 2014
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Striking Waukegan teachers have a “working lunch” on the picket lines. The Waukegan board has lunch instead of bargaining.

From: Waukegan Teachers Council

40 minutes ago

Background….In an effort to give the board time to review our latest counter proposal, we emailed them yesterday at 3:15pm in anticipation of them being prepared for today’s meeting.

Today was scheduled to begin at 9am.  The district remained in caucus until 11:09am when they finally presented their counter proposal.

The union caucused at 11:21am and returned to the negotiations room at 11:40am to find the entire district team had left for lunch and was not prepared to receive the counter.

As neither the union, nor the federal mediator were notified it is uncertain as to the time they will return. At any rate we are ready and waiting on them.

The team finds it alarming that they are more concerned with running out for lunch than negotiating.

The district attorney claims “simple miscommunication.” We ask how many simple “miscommunications” can there be during such an important time?

Teresa ‘T’ Hansen:  How rude! They should have ordered Jimmy Johns Box Lunches for everyone and worked through lunch! #Waukegannegotiationsteamhungry
Like · Reply · 4 · 28 minutes ago

Dorothy Joyce:  Do they even care about the kids? I know the teachers do.  But does the board really even wonder about them?
Like · Reply · 1 · 11 minutes ago

Lin Waggener:  SMH!!! They never cease to amaze me. Hang in there! #waukeganstrong
Like · Reply · 1 · 17 minutes ago

Bud Hicks:  Don’t take the bait. Keep calm.
Like · Reply · 1 · 21 minutes ago

Jenny Alexander:  Wow! This is incredibly frustrating. I am so sorry they are behaving this way. I’m in Chicago in full solidarity
Like · Reply · 1 · 29 minutes ago

Tom Tavernier:  Stay strong teachers.
Like · Reply · 2 minutes ago

Dana Gothelf-Lerner:  They obviously want this dragged out.
Like · Reply · 25 minutes ago

Gabriela Bustamante: In good faith???? Waukegan slapped again.
Like · Reply ·

School to prison pipeline.

October 21, 2014

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Waukegan gets smacked by a #WaukeganStrong Twitter storm.

October 21, 2014

Waukegan, an hour north of Chicago, got hit by a storm last night.

Starting at about 7PM and lasting until past 9PM, tens of thousands of people went on Twitter to announce their support for Waukegan teachers. Members of the Waukegan Teachers Council are on strike for a third week.

Kenzo Shibata of the Illinois Federation of Teachers posted the results last night on Facebook.

Including a Tweet from rocker Tom Morello who comes from Lake County where Waukegan is located.

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Why you should care about Hinsdale. Tea Party loses the vote on a new contract.

October 21, 2014

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The Hinsdale community finally had enough of the Tea Party and demanded the board bargain in good faith.

Yesterday the board of education in Chicago suburban District 86 approved a tentative agreement with the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association (an IEA/NEA affiliate) by a 4-3 vote.

The board vote to approve the two-year deal followed, as is protocol, the vote of the HHSTA members to ratify last week.

From the HHSTA:

 HHSTA at http://www.hhsta.org on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hhsta.org and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/hhstad86

October 17, 2014 – Hinsdale, IL – The District 86 School Board voted to approve the tentative agreement reached with the teachers last week.  

John Bowman, president of the teachers’ association, was not surprised that the board approved the contract. “The school board met many of their goals in this negotiation, including pension reforms, reduced health-care costs, and structural changes to the salary schedule.”              

“The board’s approval marks the end of the most contentious negotiation in my memory,” said Jeff Waterman, chief negotiator for the teachers.

The school board voted 4-3 to approve the contract. Mr. Kuhn, Ms. Gallo, Ms. Planson and Mr. Casini voted to approve.

Each year there are difficult negotiations in Illinois. Usually they concern salary and health care costs.

What is unique about Hinsdale is that the issue became the right to collective bargaining, the right to have a union contract and the union itself.

That is because a low turnout election put radical right-wing extremists on the Hinsdale board.

The goal of these extremists was not to bargain and reach agreement through negotiations.

The goal was to destroy the teachers union and collective bargaining.

It took some time, but eventually the community saw through the Tea Party smoke screen. They demanded genuine bargaining.

Following a board meeting a few weeks ago in which over a thousand people showed up, the radicals were removed from the bargaining table and an agreement was reached.

You can bet that when the next election for school board in Hinsdale, people will be paying closer attention.

We should all learn that lesson.

Glen Brown. Colorado Supreme Court rules against pension rights. It’s not Illinois.

October 20, 2014

Glen Brown

- Glen Brown blogs at Teacher/Poet/Musician. Glen is a retired teacher, current college instructor, pension activist, S.O.R.E IEA R member and candidate for IEA Retired delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly.

“Earlier this morning the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case Gary R. Justus v. PERA and the State of Colorado, filed in February 2010 soon after Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 10-001 into law. You may view the court’s 32 page decision here.

“Rich Allen, President of Save PERA COLA, a Colorado non-profit corporation, has issued the following statement warning public employees of the problem that this decision has for them:

“The Supreme Court has spoken. Needless to say we are disappointed in the decision. It seems to us to be a major departure from the rule of law to allow a public entity to unilaterally abrogate an agreement to which they willingly and legally entered merely because they don’t feel like paying the costs anymore. But there are other issues here that directly affect the financial security of public retirees and employees.

“PERA throughout the legal process adopted a scorched earthed policy by denying that there ever was any contract regarding the annual benefit increases (aka cost-of-living adjustments or COLA) even though they had previously and often stated there was a contractual agreement in both their verbal and written messages.

“This victory for PERA leaves it in the legal position of being able in the future to reduce the remaining COLA of 2% (maximum) to zero, assuming the legislature’s permission. There is little reason to think that creative minds could not come up with further reductions as well. This does not bode well for Colorado public employees, or for public employers who use PERA benefits to attract the best applicants to their employ.

“We believe that the many employee organizations that supported SB1 will regret that decision in the future. Colorado no longer has a defined benefit plan (DB). It instead has a gratuity plan where the benefits for all members, even for the already retired, are entirely defined by the whim of the legislature.

“Further, incentives have been created for the legislature to continue to underfund the pension system which will lead to future PERA Trust Fund fiscal crises and further cuts. Based on past behavior, it is hard to understand how PERA will demand adequate funding to support even the severely reduced funding benefit levels that SB1 has set. They have bought into the false notion that we are just ‘greedy geezers.’ We are in fact simply asking for what we have earned and were promised.

“While we cannot predict the timing of any of this, we would urge all retirees to have a ‘Plan B’ to support themselves. For current and future employees, we recommend looking closely at total compensation and the actual security of it in making career decisions.”

Richard Allen
Save PERA COLA
Visit our website
Commentary:

“In Colorado, the judge found that the plaintiffs had no vested contract right to a specific COLA amount for life without change and that the plaintiffs could have no reasonable expectation to a specific COLA given that the Colorado General Assembly changed the COLA formula numerous times over the previous 40 years” (Alicia Munnell, State and Local Pensions: What Now?).

The legal basis for protection of public pension rights in Colorado is “Contract” for past and (maybe) future accruals. The legal basis for protection of public pension rights in Illinois is the “State Constitution” for both past and future accruals.

For detailed information about the Illinois COLA, Click Here.

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