Jersey Jazzman. Inequality in Chicago.

While on the road I will posting from other bloggers.

-By Jersey Jazzman

How much more abuse can Chicago’s schools take?

Chicago Public Schools students protested Monday the “racist and discriminatory” firing of district teachers and staff, which they said disproportionately affect low-income schools.
At a rally held outside the Thompson Center, about a dozen young protesters called for quality education and funding to be provided in all schools. The district fired 508 teachers and 521 support staff earlier this month. [emphasis mine]

Before we take a data dive, let’s acknowledge something important: every number in a staff cut represents an actual person. As Xian Barrett writes in The Progressive, the students who have developed personal connections to their teachers suffer the most when a teacher is laid off. So while I think there’s value in the analysis I present below, let’s not forget that we are talking about children and educators — real people who are going through real hell.

The layoffs took place in an atmosphere of continuing friction between the Chicago Teachers Union and district leadership, who can count on the editorial board of theChicago Tribune, among others, to lay the blame for the district’s continuing fiscal problems at the feet of the union:

The district is a candidate for bankruptcy. Chicago taxes already are rising, but CTU wants more. A CPS contract offer on the table since January is a sweet deal for educators; district CEO Forrest Claypool tells us it won’t — can’t — get sweeter.

CPS’ proposal offers teachers a generous raise and keeps paying them for added seniority and education. It does make a significant ask: Teachers would have to pay a 7 percent pension tab that CPS now pays but no longer can afford. CPS still would pick up the employer’s share of pension costs but asks employees to pay their share. Most Chicagoans, most Americans, understand that, since they too have to save for their own retirement.

Note the framing here: the funding of Chicago’s schools is an issue of teacher compensation, which is negotiated by the CTU. And the union just doesn’t understand how “sweet” of a deal they’ve been offered (of course, that “sweet” deal only apples to the teachers who haven’t been laid off). Sure, the teachers have to take a pay cut to fund their own pensions… but The Trib knows there really isn’t any other choice:

“Reality can’t be altered,” [Chicago schools CEO Forrest] Claypool tells us. “The reality is we do not have more to give than was offered in January. … There is not a dollar surplus to this budget.” Unless, he adds, the union wants to “cut classrooms and jeopardize not only teacher jobs but more important, the academic progress of our kids.”
Teachers who strike wouldn’t only jeopardize the education of their students, they would set a lousy example for the children: When what you want is impossible, toss a tantrum. [emphasis mine]

See, more money for Chicago’s schools is “impossible” — I mean, everyone knows that, right? Clearly, Chicago’s schools have all they could ever need to provide an adequate and equitable education for the city’s children! Everybody just needs to sacrifice a bit more — and by “everyone,” The Trib means Chicago’s teachers — and only the teachers — who have to understand the gravy train just can’t keep chugging along…

When you look at the issue of school funding through the lens of teacher pay, it’s easy to ignore some inconvenient facts. Here’s one: when Bruce Baker* and the good folks at the Education Law Center put together a list of America’s most fiscally disadvantaged school districts, they found: “Chicago and Philadelphia are, year after year, the two most fiscally disadvantaged large urban districts in the nation.

This is the story that The Trib, and everyone else who tut-tuts at the CTU, will not tell you:Chicago’s schools, which serve proportionally many more at-risk students than their neighboring districts, are chronically underfunded. This reality, more than any perceived greed on behalf of Chicago’s teachers, is what drives the fiscal “crisis” the district faces today.

Let’s go to the data.

CPS students rally for fired teachers and staff.

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CHICAGO 8/15 — In response to the recent firing of one thousand teachers and staff employed by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Chicago students are holding a rally and demonstration outside the Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St., on Monday, August 15th, at 3:00 PM.

The event will show solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union in their contract negotiations and will bring students from across the city together to stand in solidarity with their schools, communities, and teachers. This CTU Solidarity Rally is a means by which student voices can be amplified to send a message to legislators and CPS.

Starting at 3:00 PM, there will be speakers, speaking about the ongoing education crisis in Chicago, what it means to them and how it impacts their day-to-day life. The speeches will be followed by a march around the Thompson center. The rally will conclude at 5:00 PM.

Link to facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/174985926253507/

 

The radical Red-baiting of the Trib’s Kristen “Hurricane” McQueary.

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My cartoon from 2015.

“But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.”

That’s what Kristen McQueary wrote in a Trib column in 2015 causing a journalistic storm of hurricane strength.

Yesterday Kristen “Hurricane” McQueary was back at it.

First there was the Red-baiting finger waving at Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, lecturing the respected union leader to get control over her “radical faction.”

This kind of stuff is not new to the Tribune which has a reputation for Communist witch huntery that goes back decades to their “enthusiastic support for Joe McCarthy.”

I’d like to believe reasonable rank-and-file teachers …would understand it more clearly if Lewis stepped off her soapbox, stood up to the radical wing within her union and quit the red meat-slinging.

The Chicago Teachers Union is a democratic organization. Thanks to Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children and the Illinois legislature, Chicago Teachers Union members, unlike every other teacher bargaining unit in the state of Illinois must vote to strike by a 75% majority – not a simple 50%.

No radical faction decides anything.

What bout the 7% pension pick-up by CPS.

It was the result of collective bargaining and both sides agreed. It was compensation in lieu of a salary increase. Other school district do the same thing. McQueary admits this when she writes, “And many teachers in the suburbs and downstate pay 9 percent toward their pensions without their school districts picking up a portion of that.”

“Many teachers” means that other teachers down state don’t pay the full 9% as a result of collective bargaining. McQueary knows this.

To say exactly how many I would have to go and read every collective bargaining agreement in the state, but I have been told by those that know that upwards of 40% of contracts include a full or partial pension pick-up by the boards of education.

Pension pick-ups are a part of a bargained compensation agreement. Some years an agreement will result in a 2% raise. Other years it may be 4%. Forrest Claypool and Rahm’s demand that the CTU give back the 7% pension pick-up would be like Claypool and Rahm saying, “You know that 4% we gave you several years ago. We now think that was too much. Give it back.”

Wait! They already did that.

The cost to teachers of giving the 7%  is huge.

Since this year’s salary is the base for any percentage raise next year – and the year after that and so on – the 7% compounds and will cost a teacher thousands and thousands of dollars over the course of their career.

You don’t need a radical faction to see how wrong that is without getting something in return.

$1300 per student of the budget going to CPS pensions? Nope. It’s going to the banks.

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CPS released the details of its 2017 budget today.

You can find a copy of the budget here.

Raise Your Hand, More than a Score and WBEZ have been tweeting and posting some details.

 

In case you missed it, WBEZ is reporting that $1300 dollars per student is going to pay the debt on borrowed money.

All together, Chicago school officials proposed a $6.3 billion spending plan for the 2016-2017 school year. That includes $5.4 billion for operations, $522 million to pay down a growing debt load, and $338 million for new school construction.

The total budget is slightly smaller than last year’s $6.4 billion, but District Chief Forrest Claypool says there will be more new construction announced at a later time this fall.

Claypool insisted that this budget does not rely on gimmicks, as did past budgets. He also noted that the district is not doing any long-term borrowing for operating expenses.

However, the district has $6.7 billion of outstanding long-term debt and plans to spend $522 million this year on debt payments–that’s about $1,300 per student.

When CPS CEO Forrest Claypool complained yesterday that everybody has sacrificed except the teachers, it was a lie.

Teachers have sacrificed plenty.

But the banks and the bond holders?

 

Labor law.

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Chicago Magazine 2013.

Back in the day (“Oh, dad. Are you going to tell another story about the old days?”) when I sat on the union bargaining team, attorney Ted Clark sat on the other side of the table with the board.

Our little suburban Chicago school district was arguing against a 2% raise for teachers, for us to pay more for health insurance, and meanwhile they were paying Ted Clark’s law firm, Seyfarth Shaw, gobs of money. Seyfarth Shaw is one of the largest anti-labor law firms in the United States. They are like something out of The Good Wife. They have hundreds of attorneys and something like seven floors in the sleek office tower at 131 South Dearborn.

In 1947, the firms’ founder, Lee Shaw helped draft the Taft-Hartley Act. That same year, the firm filed the first strike damage suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against the United Steelworkers . In the 1960s Seyfarth represented the Las Vegas casinos during their labor negotiations. In the 1970s Sayfarth worked for the growers against  Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.  In the late 1970s, Seyfarth worked to break the walkout of United Steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding and the pressmen’s strike at the Washington Post. More recently the were hired by Yale University  to break the clerical union.

Ted was a character. I can remember that he never stopped talking about how much he loved his collection of old rhythm and blues 45s. And he was a slick negotiator. His main role in bargaining was to distract our side by saying something so outrageous that the real issues would get lost. Part of our bargaining training consisted of telling the new members of the bargaining team not to respond to Ted no matter what he said.

Even after Ted retired to shoot birds in Texas, he would still come up just to represent our board and to bargain with us.

The Chicago Public Schools has James Franczek as their Ted Clark.

CPS claims that Friday’s one-day walk-out by the CTU is illegal. CTU lawyers and leaders say that Friday’s Day of Action is perfectly legal since it is in response to existing unfair labor practices by CPS and not to the current state of bargaining.

CPS’ James Franczek argues otherwise. And attorney James Franszek wrote the law.

“Strikes are illegal, they’re prohibited except under very specific circumstances,” said Franczek, who helped write the state law that makes it harder for teachers to strike. “The only way you can strike at CPS is if you comply with that (state) statute.”

That’s the way it works. Who writes labor law? Management’s lawyers.

In a 2012 Sun-Times post, reporter Dan Mihalopoulos wrote:

James Franczek is the chief labor lawyer for City Hall, the city’s public schools, the parks system, City Colleges and the city-state agency that runs Navy Pier and McCormick Place — units of government that collectively have paid his firm, Franczek Radelet, $16.47 million since Jan. 1, 2005, records show. Here’s a breakdown:

◆ Chicago Public Schools — $6.74 million

◆ City of Chicago — $5.10 million

◆ Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority — $2.41 million

◆ City Colleges — $1.20 million

◆ Chicago Park District — $1.01 million

As one of the key people Mayor Rahm Emanuel turns to in many of his toughest spots, James Franczek played a major role in the deal that ended the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years.

At the heart of the current negotiations, the City claims it is broke.

James Franczek ain’t broke.

How to run for CPS LSC.

Contact: Dan Kleinman, Dan.kleinman@me.com

Guide How To Run For Local School Council As Deadline Nears gets over 100 shares on Facebook.

“I am encouraged by the response.   Schools are investments that communities make together.  By running for Local school Council, parents, teachers, and community members make that shared commitment to better their schools and their neighborhood,” says Dan Kleinman, former Local School Council activist and author of the guide.

“My goal with this How To Run For Local School Council guide is simple: promote participation– that is the only thing that ensures our democracy functions.”

Candidates have until Friday, February 19, to file at CPS central offices. Necessary forms are included in the guide.

The free guide can be downloaded at : http://dankleinman.org/lsc/

Random thoughts. Compromise.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.