Random thoughts. Compromise.

RANDOM

I don’t know Elizabeth Scalia.

From the short description at the bottom of her Trib op-ed piece I know she is a 22-year veteran teacher at Chicago’s Oscar Meyer. She teaches 6-8 Language Arts.

That is not an easy job. I was a K-5 teacher and the few times I taught middle school I wasn’t very good at it. I’m almost sure that enjoying being around 13-year olds all day needs a specific and unique DNA. I don’t have it.

Ms Scalia is also a National Board Certified Teacher. That is no easy process to go through.

So I have no intention of smacking Ms Scalia as a teacher.

But the op-ed? It is nonsense.

I have no doubt that Ms Scalia knows her stuff when it comes to leading her classes in explorations of great books.

But her Trib post demonstrates she knows nothing about unions and bargaining. That may be why the anti-union Trib printed her opinion. She writes that her union, the Chicago Teachers Union, “must compromise.”

There is this misconception about collective bargaining and collective bargaining agreements. Many people – Ms Scalia being one – view the process and the agreement as a union thing. As in “a union contract.”

I once had a principal who kept referring to our CBA as “the union contract,” as if it was something imposed on her by us.

Writing that the union bargaining team must compromise is wasting paper. Compromise is the process both sides are already engaged in. It is called “bargaining.”

Look at the bottom of any collective bargaining agreement and you will see two columns of signatures. One side has the signatures of the  members of the union bargaining team. The other column has the signatures of the board.

The union “must compromise” stuff is just silly. Bargaining is nothing if it is not the act of compromise.

The old agreement expired over a year ago, and while from all reports the CPS board has not really started bargaining until recently, there has already been plenty of compromise.

Ms Scalia should be joining the rest of her members in calling for a fair contract.

I don’t want to be pushed out.

image

Annie Tan at Wednesday’s Chicago Teacher Union march through the Loop.

-By Annie Tan. Annie is a CPS teacher who writes on her blog, An Angry Teacher.

It’s been very hard for me to write about teaching as of late. I think most of my friends and family know I’ve had a rough year stemming from work-related issues as well as just life stuff. I changed schools- this is my fourth school in 4.5 years. I moved twice within 7 months. I found out about my Tier II pension plan just a few months ago. And all of it, alongside the current budget crisis in Chicago Public Schools, is making me seriously consider leaving Chicago.

I love teaching. I love my current school. I have a great staff, and wonderful students. We work together not just on academics but so much social-emotional building. I finally feel like, in my fourth year, I sort of know what I’m doing. And it’s showing. (When I get to teach, anyway. Don’t get me started on the 3+ weeks of MAP/NWEA and ACCESS testing I and my students have just gone through, or the long teacher evaluation cycles, or the mounds of IEPs I have to write in the next few weeks).

What is pushing me out of Chicago right now is, really, not teaching and the stresses of it. I feel okay about that. Rather, it’s a combination of two things:

  1. The instability that is Chicago Public Schools.
  2. The Tier II Illinois pension plan I’m under.

Point #1: The hot mess that is CPS.

As y’all may know, Chicago Public Schools is going through its own crises- caused by years of pension holidays, spending of assets it should have been holding onto, funds like TIFs being spent on things other than schools, underfunding from Illinois state government (which hasn’t passed a budget in almost a year), and corrupt contracts (like the one that got our former schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, federally indicted), among other things.

In response, CPS is trying to cut promised teacher salaries and benefits alongside threatening layoffs. My union, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), rightfully rejected a contract that would have had 2,000 educators, or 1/10 of our workforce, early retire for some bonus money, OR reopen the contract if not enough teachers early retired.

And now Chicago Public Schools, a day after that rejection, announced it would cut a 7% pension pickup 26 days from now, meaning I lose 7% of my paycheck soon.

More importantly, 1,000 educators will likely be laid off in the next two weeks, according to CPS budgets and principal discretion (of course CPS tosses the hard decisions to the principals). This is on top of layoffs that just happened summer 2015, and on top of the closure of 50 public schools in Chicago June 2013 and the subsequent pushout of teachers. I, as always, could be one of those layoffs, as an untenured teacher.

I can deal with layoffs, as I’m a young special education teacher with 3+ years experience and would probably find a job quickly. But I’m so tired of saying goodbye to yet another group of students, another school, another set of staff. I’m so tired of crying over this. I’m so tired of the tears shed when I think of all the students I’ve had to leave. I’m so tired of living in fear that I could lose my job any minute. I hate living in fear.

Of course, we’re going to fight this. 88% of voting members of CTU voted to authorize a strike when CTU was ready. We had 5,000 people blocking Congress Parkway and the entrance to the Eisenhower Expressway Thursday night.

But ugh, how demoralizing is this? How defeating?

Multiple veteran teachers who’ve taught 20+ years have told me it’s never been this bad in Chicago Public Schools. “If I were you, I would run.” I’ve been given this advice over the past 4 years by too many people.

Point #2: how young teachers get screwed under Tier II of Illinois’ pension plan:

Here is a chart of the differences between Tier I and II of Illinois’ current pension plan. 

image1

I’m sure I’m missing something, but here’s what I see with these plans:

  • Tier I candidates are teachers who paid into teacher pensions before Jan. 1st, 2011. Tier II candidates are teachers who paid in after Jan. 1st, 2011.
  • Tier 1 candidates could theoretically retire at 55, if they put in all their years. For a full pension, Tier II retire at 67. A TWELVE-YEAR difference.
  • Caps for earnings for Tier I employees are higher than Tier II. By a LOT.

Now, I have always, ALWAYS meant to be a lifelong teacher.  I graduated from Columbia in May 2011, at 22 years old, and started at CPS in August 2011. 

I missed Tier I by a few months. Looking at this chart, literally, if I had finished college a year earlier, or I was born a year earlier, I would be at Tier I. I could retire with a pension at 55. After working 33.95 years, meaning I could retire at 56.

Under Tier II? I would get a full pension at 67. After working 44 years. FORTY-FOUR YEARS. I would have to work 12 more years, just because I happened to be born a year later. Moreover, I wouldn’t get half my pension at 62. After working 39 years, THIRTY-NINE YEARS, I wouldn’t get HALF my pension.

I get that pensions are political and the cause of our debt crisis in Illinois, and I get that compromises have to be made to get this together. But I CANNOT help but be extremely resentful. The economic crises of Illinois are being carried on young teachers’ backs.

When a financial guy in charge of my 403(b) retirement plan tells me, “Annie, go to ANY OTHER STATE than Illinois. The pensions are the most poorly funded in all of the United States. Literally any other state would be better than Illinois,” that’s when I need to seriously consider leaving Chicago and Illinois.

Someone at CTU told me they’re filing a lawsuit because we would get less under Tier II of a pension than we would under social security. Mind you, teachers do NOT pay into social security. I don’t know if I can wait for that lawsuit, or for laws to change. I frankly don’t think there will be a pension for any of us moving forward if funding solutions don’t come into place.

——————————-

I still want to teach. I still want to be with students. I just don’t know if Chicago is the place to do it. I am tired of feeling crazy in this system when I know I’m not the crazy one. I’m not the only teacher feeling this.

I haven’t made my decision yet. I do want to be closer to NYC, where my parents are, but I have lots of things to consider. The logical choice would be Philadelphia, where I could still afford housing, where there’s an active social justice unionism and public education movement happening, and where my brother is.

A lot of me still wants to fight this system. Some of me thinks it’s masochistic to keep fighting to teach. Most of me know I can’t keep crying all the time about this system that so disrespects teachers. And I don’t want to continually be shattered by the chaos here in Chicago Public Schools. But who knows? It could be worse somewhere else.

The sad part is that this is exactly what Chicago Public Schools wants. To push teachers out before they get experienced- experienced teachers cost more. To privatize education because it’s cheaper and no longer the responsibility of the government.

“Every child, every school” is printed on my CPS ID card. What a joke.

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Breaking. Action to stop the co-location of Spry, Saucedo and Telphochcalli.

12472405_10105858023091580_8159755615102852066_n

Parents and community members occupy Saucedo in protest of co-location.

The CPS board announced last month that they would be moving Spry Community High School from its present rented location into the Little Village facilities currently occupied by Saucedo Academy and Telphochcalli Elementary School.

There is no room for the three schools in the same location.

Nobody in the three schools were consulted in CPS the board decision.

Last night parents and community members occupied the Saucedo auditorium following a meeting with CPS.

8494_10209287980303441_621560193610541844_n

Police were called.

12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas, normally a toady of the Mayor, was not present at the meeting, but sent a letter calling on the board to delay a decision on the matter.

Late in the evening, the occupiers left the building and will be holding a press conference at 8:30 this morning.

CPS corruption in high and low places. Bruce Rauner and the Three Stooges.

In the fall of 2008, Bruce Rauner changed his voting residence from Winnetka, where his wife continued to live, to a condominium on East Randolph Street.

Because billionaire Bruce Rauner could afford buy a condo in the city, it provided him with the right to send his daughter to a CPS school. But not just any school. Living in Winnetka she could have gone to New Trier. He liked selective admission Walter Payton better. If Bruce Rauner likes something, he thinks he is entitled to buy it.

Like the state of Illinois, for example.

Never mind that Miss Rauner’s test scores and academic record  weren’t good enough to get her into Payton.

Her application was denied.  So Bruce called his pal, CPS boss (at the time) Arne Duncan. A Duncan aide called the Payton principal, and Rauner’s kid was admitted. She later graduated from Payton.

According to a just-released report from CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler, Governor Rauner set a fine example.

Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office found numerous instances of suburban families using fake addresses to get their children into the city’s best high schools. And families in the city were found to have provided false addresses to give their kids a leg up in an admissions process that takes into consideration a student’s socioeconomic background.

Apparently some white families on the north side were claiming to live in Englewood.

Unlike the Governor, not all of the suburbanites could buy a condo and call up the CEO and clout their kid into a selective admission slot.

The report also contains some genuinely disturbing information.

Officials including the principal of a high school conspired to bar 15 eligible special-needs students from the school’s fine arts program. The principal told a colleague to lower the scores of the 15 students so they wouldn’t be eligible for admission. Some parents asked questions, and four of the 15 students were admitted. Several people at the school said the principal used intimidation “so as to prevent anyone from implicating her.”

Still, the report seems to focus on corruption in pretty low places.

Thirteen CPS employees improperly used the district’s tax-exempt status to purchase electronics and personal items worth $4,000 to nearly $23,000. The purchases included video game systems, appliances, big-screen televisions and a “Three Stooges” DVD collection.

They saved a couple of bucks in taxes. They are so busted! 

Somehow a Three Stooges DVD collection seems minor compared to the dirty dealings of Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the conflicting interests of former board of education member Deborah Quazzo.

In a city as corrupt as Chicago we always seem to be able to bust the guy at Streets and San for sleeping in the van.

The big boys rarely get caught by an inspector general.

Nikki Giovanni. A Poem for my librarian, Mrs. Long.

images

A POEM FOR MY LIBRARIAN, MRS. LONG
(You never know what troubled little girl needs a book)

At a time when there was not tv before 3:00 P.M.
And on Sunday none until 5:00
We sat on the front porches watching
The jfg sign go on and off greeting
The neighbors, discussion the political
Situation congratulating the preacher
On his sermon
There was always the radio which brought us
Songs from wlac in nashville and what we would now call
Easy listening or smooth jazz but when I listened
Late at night with my portable (that I was so proud of)
Tucked under my pillow
I heard nat king cole and matt dennis, june christy and ella fitzgerald
And sometimes sarah vaughan sing black coffee
Which I now drink
It was just called music

There was a bookstore uptown on gay street
Which I visited and inhaled that wonderful odor
Of new books
Even today I read hardcover as a preference paperback only
As a last resort

And up the hill on vine street
(The main black corridor) sat our carnegie library
Mrs. Long always glad to see you
The stereoscope always ready to show you faraway
Places to dream about

Mrs. Long asking what are you looking for today
When I wanted Leaves of Grass or alfred north whitehead
She would go to the big library uptown and I now know
Hat in hand to ask to borrow so that I might borrow

Probably they said something humiliating since southern
Whites like to humiliate southern blacks

But she nonetheless brought the books
Back and I held them to my chest
Close to my heart
And happily skipped back to grandmother’s house
Where I would sit on the front porch
In a gray glider and dream of a world
Far away

I love the world where I was
I was safe and warm and grandmother gave me neck kissed
When I was on my way to bed

But there was a world
Somewhere
Out there
And Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe
But no lions or witches scared me
I went through
Knowing there would be
Spring

Brainpickings

CPS school co-location would only save the cost of one CPS area position.

IMG_1138

Maybe they thought nobody would notice with all the attention being given to Rahm’s firing of Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Tuesday CPS released their school list of school closings , consolidations and co-locations for next year.

The two schools scheduled for closing have already been emptied of students: Moses Montefiore Special Elementary School and  Marine Military Math and Science Academy’s campus on the south side.

Consolidations will take place at schools housed in the old Austin High School.

CPS wants to co-locate John Spry Community High School into the same old Harrison High School building that is currently home to Saucedo Academy and Telpochcalli. Telpochcalli is a unique dual language school with a national reputation. For Saucedo, the consolidation would mean closing the library, soaring class sizes “and other horrible things for students,” according to Saucedo teachers I have spoken with.

Xian Franzinger Barrett,  a CPS teacher and community member: “I think this is a direct attack on three strong neighborhood schools in proud Latino community by a mayor and leadership team that is disturbingly unwelcoming to Latino leadership.”

“Can you all please have your blog readers contact Alderman Cardenas (@aldcardenas) on Twitter and demand that he tell the CPS Board of Education to stop the co-location of Spry moving into Saucedo and Telpochcalli because it hurts our students?” asked a teacher.

CPS is saying that the co-location of Spry, Saucedo and Telpochcalli is for cost savings.

What is the cost savings provided by the co-location of Spry with Saucedo and Telpochcalli? Spry is currently housed in a Chicago Boys and Girls Club, with CPS paying rent for the use of the building.

According to a Spry teacher, “CPS is stating that the co-location is to save rent money, so Spry doesn’t have to rent out the boys and girls club.  The principal stated that the boys and girls club costs $90,000.”

 They could cut one network position to save the same amount of money.

Here is the latest lease I could find. In 2011, CPS was paying $65,000 in rent.

Zerlina Smith, former Saucedo LSC parent representative and current Saucedo parent said,  “This co-location is a safety risk when you bring in teenagers with pre-teens and pre-schoolers.  High school students shouldn’t be interacting with elementary students at school. There is too much that can happen with not enough room.  This could cause parents to leave the schools.  They should take the money from the expensive downtown and network spaces.  They can find the money.” 

 A special education teacher at Saucedo Academy told me, “CPS is going to force a co-location on a community that does not want it.  They are only saving $90,000 in rent to cause chaos and instability for our students. They could cut one network position who works in a CPS area office, and who has no student interaction, and save over $100,000.  CPS could take a sliver of the $200 million in toxic swaps swaps CPS has with Bank of America.  Once again, CPS is choosing banks over our students.  CPS board of education, CEO Forrest Claypool and Rahm Emanuel, need to prepare for a fight because they don’t know who they are messing with.  #ThisisWAR!”

LSC teacher representative for Saucedo, Martha Arriaga: “Are they really being fair to our kids?  They will be taking our kindergarten classrooms and I’m a kindergarten teacher.  Saucedo is a safe environment in our school, and now we won’t have control.  Having high schoolers in here with our kindergarteners won’t be safe for them.  We worked hard for our reputation and CPS is trying to hurt our reputation and our students.  We are also a literacy a school, yet they are taking our library away from us?! CPS is also doing this so parents want to leave the public schools, so they can open more charters.  CPS wants to cause chaos.”  

CPS’ Pay for Success. Putting a face on it. Sadie Stockdale.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 9.15.09 PM

Chicago Public School has adopted the Pay for Success program funded with Social Impact Bonds.

As I have written here before, Social Impact Bonds partner investors and corporate philanthropies in profit-making ventures in the public sector.

In a post written for this blog, special education advocate and activist Bev Johns wrote:

Pay for Success has been used in Utah to prevent 99 percent of children supposedly headed for special education from actually being identified for special education, and paid Goldman Sachs and other investors for each child NOT placed in special education. This is a huge financial incentive to NOT identify children as needing special education, and there is absolutely no research stating 99 percent of students in special education should not be there.

In Chicago, Pay for Success may allow Goldman Sachs to double its investment, depending on how many students are NOT identified for special education.

And Catalyst reported:

When the first cohort of students enters kindergarten, CPS will begin paying the lenders for each fewer child who needs special education services when compared to the control group. CPS will pay $9,100 per child annually, an amount that increases by 1 percent each year.

Just to be clear: Goldman Sachs, a giant Wall Street investment firm, will receive over $9000 every year for each identified child that does not receive special education services at CPS.

When Sadie Stockdale came to CPS from her previous work at Teach for America where she was Director of Recruitment she came to do Goldman Sachs’ work.

From Sadie’s Linked In resume:

CSh9YMuUAAAQd65

I thought you might want to see the name and face and past of the current education policy advisor to the Mayor.

Chicago students walk out. “This is your building. They can’t do this to you,” says their teacher, Tim Meegan.

Roosevelt teacher Tim Meegan teaches democracy to his students on the street. Roosevelt students teach democracy to CPS.

Most of Roosevelt students are categorized as low-income.

But they know how to use social media.

They know how to organize themselves brilliantly.

And they know what democracy looks like.

CPS took nearly a million dollars from the school last July.

Last week the principal announced more staffing cuts.

Yesterday the Roosevelt students walked out.

Though Roosevelt had been on probation for several years, students said the school was on an upswing.

“Everything is improving,” said junior Gabriel Virella. “It’s worth fighting for.”

Senior Katya Borja, who participated in the walkout, said she and her classmates collectively achieved the highest ACT score Roosevelt had received in six years.

“We’re showing support for our teachers,” said Borja. “They don’t deserve this.”

The students also had another audience in mind when they staged their walkout: the mayor.

“This is more for Rahm [Emanuel] to see what he’s doing to the schools,” said student protester Erik Hernandez.

“This is a board that truly listens.” Open meetings with a Q and A can be so pesky.

CHARTERS100115-CLARK-1

Newly unelected CPS board president Frank Clark.

If the bully boys on the CPS board are going to shut up former acting board president Jesse Ruiz, why would we expect anything different from them when parents try to speak?

This un-elected group normally displays less internal dissension than the NEA board of directors voting on a presidential endorsement.

At a recent board meeting Ruiz had the temerity to quietly ask a question about the state’s charter commission. “I don’t know what our position is, in trying to reform, or frankly eliminate it.”

Newly unelected board president Frank Clark shot Ruiz a glance.

“With respect to this particular organization, Jesse, the more appropriate response I could give is not focused specifically on a particular type of school, selective enrollment, open enrollment,” Clark said. “The policy position that I advocate instead for this board favors quality schools. It’s a complex issue. We’re here to listen, to learn and ultimately decide.”

“Frank, that’s not my question,” Ruiz quickly responded. “My question is what is our position on the Illinois Charter Commission.”

For a school board discussion, that might be called nuclear war.

Whoa!

I guess Jesse Ruiz is still pissed about being so compliant to the Mayor’s wishes all these years and then getting passed over when the Mayor chose Clark to run the board.

I would be careful about talking stuff to Clark, Mr. Ruiz. I hear the Mayor’s got people.

The latest news is that President Clark has changed the rules about parents testifying at CPS board meetings.

Open meetings with a Q and A can be so pesky.

Araceli Escobedo approached the Board of Education last week, as she had before, to talk about options on the Southwest Side where she and her five children live.

She knew she had just two minutes to say her piece, and brought an interpreter so she could speak more comfortably in her native Spanish.

 But just over two minutes into the speech and interpretation, Escobedo was cut off by board secretary Estella Beltran.

“Ms. Escobedo, Ms. Escobedo, thank you for your comments,” Beltran said. “It’s past your two minutes. . . . Our next speaker, please.”

Escobedo was caught by surprise. She was not alone. Complaints erupted about how public speakers were treated at the monthly meeting Tuesday as parents and teachers lamented a sudden change of public participation rules:

  • Each registered group was told Tuesday morning they had to choose just one designated speaker, though at past meetings, they could name two or more.
  • Right at the time limit, a security guard bent the microphone away and escorted the speaker from the podium, a new strictness that did not go unnoticed.
  • And no extra time was allotted for anyone needing English interpretation.

The Sun-Times reported that when CPS board president Frank Clark told those who had just been cut off from speaking, “This is a board that truly listen,” laughter broke out.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,181 other followers