Surfing in Brooklyn.

troy-for-mayor (1)

It is about more than just opposing the Confederate flag. 

Alabama is currently celebrating Confederate Heritage Month with a state-wide holiday and a series of public events aimed at remembering and honoring those who fought on the side of southern, slave-owning states during the Civil War. At one such event this week, organized by the Ladies’ Memorial Association, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill lamented recent calls to remove Confederate symbols from government buildings.

“The next question that has to be asked is so what’s the next thing you are going to do,”he asked, “are you going to take a bulldozer to the monument and forget what people fought for to preserve a way of life that makes us special and unique?”



Supporters of outspoken Blaine Elementary Principal Troy LaRaviere suspect that the district’s ‘reassignment’ of him last week was a politically motivated effort to keep him out of the public spotlight and out of the running for a bigger role as head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.

If so, that plan may well have backfired.

LaRaviere, a vocal critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education agenda, is still running for the presidency of the principals group. And there’s nothing in the organization’s constitution to keep him from doing so, despite the reassignment and the district’s charges against him, which include “insubordination” and “ethics violations.”

If LaRaviere is elected, he will have to leave his post at Blaine anyway—taking him out of CPS’ disciplinary jurisdiction while simultaneously giving him a more powerful public role. Catalyst



Guggenheim protests.


Imagine my surprise when I discovered an unlikely ally in my criticism of Charlotte Danielson’s much lauded approach: Charlotte Danielson herself. The founder of the Danielson Framework published an article in Education Week (April 18 online) that called for the “Rethinking of Teacher Evaluation,” and I found myself agreeing with almost all of it — or, more accurately and more egocentrically, I found Charlotte Danielson agreeing with me, for she is the one who has changed her tune. Ted Morrisey

Q&A about the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.


Teacher Jay Rehak is chairs the CTPF board of trustees.

-From CTUnet

What is Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF)?

The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund was established by the Illinois state legislature in 1895 as The Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago (CTPF) is the administrator of a multi-employer defined benefit public employee retirement system providing retirement, survivor, and disability benefits for certain certified teachers and employees of the Chicago Public Schools.

Currently, CTPF is governed by a 12-member Board of Trustees; six are elected by the teacher contributors (current teachers), three are elected by the annuitants (retired teachers), one is elected by the principal contributors, and two are appointed by the employer (Chicago Board of Education).

Why is there a problem with pension funding?

The Chicago Board of Education has dodged payment.  In 1995 Illinois law placed the responsibility with the Chicago Public Schools to make sure that the CTPF was 90% funded by 2045. The pension fund was already close to 100% funded at the time. The only reason that the CTPF went from nearly 100% funded in 1995 to 58% funded now is because CPS took successive pension holidays and paid nothing for 10 years into the pension and asked for pension relief in April of 2010 in the amounts of $400 million per year until 2013.

The underfunding of the pension was not a result of excessive pension benefits or inadequate employee contributions — teachers and paraprofessionals have dutifully paid our fair share for over 100 years. Between 1995-2005 CPS collected more than $2 billion in pension tax revenue and contributed zero to the pension fund. However, within 40 years it is fully possible to increase the funding of the pension to the required 90% level without any change in the benefit structure.

The State of Illinois also has failed Chicago’s teachers. While the suburban and downstate pension system will receive over $2.5 billion in annual support for 2011, CTPF will receive no state funding.  The state has not provided CTPF with 20-30% of the funding it provides to the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS).

Do teachers contribute to their pension?

Yes.  Teachers contribute 9 percent of their salary toward retirement.   A bill being considered in Springfield (SB512) would increase teacher contributions from 9 percent to 12.75 percent.

Do teachers get social security on top of their pensions? 

No.  Teachers do not contribute to or receive Social Security retirement benefits. Instead, teachers contribute 9 percent of their salary toward retirement. By comparison, Social Security benefits are based upon a 6 percent contribution. While many have complained that teachers’ pensions are too generous, these individuals should recognize that teachers contribute 50 percent more to their retirement than the average Social Security member.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to put teachers into Social Security?

Under Social Security, a teacher would pay 6.2 percent of salary; the district would pay a matching 6.2 percent. Currently, a teacher pays more: 9.4 percent and the district pays less: .58 percent. A 2007 study showed that moving teachers into social security would cost the school districts an additional $3 billion in the first 10 years (2008-2018).  If Social Security had been implemented in 2004, the additional cost would have been more than $900 million a year.  This lack of Social Security coverage saves taxpayers billions of dollars in payroll costs each year.

What about moving teachers into a defined contribution plan (AKA 401k)?

This plan would not address the fact that our pension system is underfunded.  In addition, new teachers who were put into a defined contribution plan would bear all the risk.  For example, if you only had a defined contribution plan and retired in the middle of the financial crisis, you would have, through no fault of your own, been unable to afford retirement.

Aren’t pension benefits high?

The average Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF) retiree earns $42,000 per year. Of the 87,000 retired teachers in Illinois, almost 1 in 5 (17,269) receive a pension that’s less than $20,000.   Remember that people receiving a pension have spent up to 35 years educating students and are reliant on the pension promised to them many years ago by the state.  Yet teachers have wrongly become the scapegoat for the Chicago Board of Education and State of Illinois’ financial woes.

Random thoughts. Creative insubordination.


I love it when a drawing or a cartoon of mine generates as much, or more, discussion than my words.

There was some discussion yesterday following the posting of my drawing of Deborah Meier. Meier started the ground-breaking small public school, Central Park East in New York and is still a voice for good schools and against corporate reform.

Each of my teacher drawings includes a quote. There is a problem when you characterize a person by picking out a line or a sentence from all that they have said. There is no context. No nuance.

In this case there was some concern with the words “only secretly” in the quote I chose: “Only secretly rebellious teachers have ever done right by our least advantaged kids.”

I, frankly, have always loved this quote along with Debbie’s phrase “creative insubordination.”

I have always thought that good teaching was an act of rebellion.

Yes. I was a teacher in a public school system with a union and a contract that provided me with some protections. It was without a doubt more protection than I would have received in a non-union charter.

Yet, as much as some in administration and the union-haters talked about our collective bargaining agreement as if it was a union document, that was never true.

Our CBA was an agreement between the system and the teachers. It didn’t always protect me when I did the right thing because it had stuff in it that was for them and not for me or my students.

I was a union president. But I had no release time. I was always a full-time teacher in the classroom.

Some times I made a stink. Some times I kept it quiet, although my colleagues and administrators would probably be surprised to read that.

My email was subject to a FOIA request by right-wingers.

My personnel file as well.

Letters of reprimand placed in my file.

I was good at bringing a crowd.

But I often worked, as many must do, as a secret rebel in a system that is often difficult if not hostile. 

The obliteration of the least empowered and the most marginalized of our citizens. “Do unto others” was not a suggestion; it was a command.


-John Dillon. John blogs at Pension Vocabulary.

My blogger friend and I went to Benedictine College the other night to listen to three members of the General Assembly and the currently appointed State Comptroller explain their perspectives on Illinois’ current budget morass.

We had to fill out questions beforehand on small cards and submit them for approval before the program really began.

Governor Rauner appointed Leslie Munger to her current position as State Comptroller after the death of Judy Baar Topinka.  Munger will be running against Democratic Representative Susanna Mendoza (1st District) in November to retain the office.

Senator Michael Connelly and Representatives Ronald Sandack and Grant Wehrli were also present; Sandack sitting in for Jeanne Ives who was unable to attend.

The opening and ending of the program was telling for anyone who happened to be a retired state worker there.

It began with a question of how to reform pensions and ended with a general question of “If you ruled the State?” – a variation on Toney Bennett’s song but without the “Every man would say the world was his friend/ There’d be happiness that no man could end”.

Nope.  Not in their world.

Pension reform is a must – especially for those who might be coming aboard to work in the public sector.  “We’ll need opt outs, buy outs, 401k’s, choices between, options moving forward, reductions in costs, curtailments according to actuarial adjustments…”, they all affirmed.

Good answer.  But, serious question:

If the income of new workers is gone from the necessary investments in TRS and the state continues to make insufficient payments into the public pensions, might the pension system become broken?  And if, according to the Illinois Supreme Court, the state still owes that money, won’t the people of Illinois be obliged to pay for it by sale of state owned property or higher taxes?

Yet, they all confessed one way or another the Illinois Supreme Court had made lucidly clear that current Tier One and Tier Two public sector workers and teachers are guaranteed what they were promised once the began their employment.

Representative Sandack described how the conversations in the Capitol Building had undergone a unreserved shift from an ever present concern for pension-reform-now to a subdued notion no longer discussed.

In the end of the evening’s program as petty “philosophical” dictators, not one of them thought to attack the strength of the current Pension Protection Clause.  Lots of other bullet points, but not the Pensions.

During the evening, Comptroller Munger warned the audience that the current payment for pensions and pension debt would balloon next year to eat up even more of the state revenue – if there actually was a budget and any state revenue.

Serious question: My friend had sent a note asking about re-amortizing the debt like a sensible household in order to eventually reduce annual debt payments rather than pay out more and more.  It must have been lost on the way to the podium.

Read the entire post here.

The impact of the ESSA 1% cap on students of color.

Yesterday, I posted Bev Johns’ article on the ESSA’s 1% cap on testing waivers for students identified as special needs or with disabilities.

“What impact,” I asked Bev, “would this have on students of color? Is there data on whether students of color have been over-identified or under-identified as needing or receiving special education services?”

While there are several studies, the most prominent one is by Paul Morgan from 2015.

The current proposed rule-making on disproportionality (NPRM) put forward by USDOE includes this research (even though the Department continues to claim that overrepresentation is so great that almost 1/2 of school districts must take away 15 percent of current Federal spending on special ed for students ages 6 to 21 to spend it on early intervening – although the Department offers NO proof whatsoever that that would correct the supposed problems), quoted below.

The Department states the following in the NPRM –

(1)  However, research that investigates whether overrepresentation and under-identification of children of color in special education co-occur at the local level is inconclusive.

(2) The Department has included a directed question to specifically request public comment on strategies to prevent the under-identification of children of color in special education.

(3) The rate of identification of children as children with disabilities varies across racial and ethnic groups both nationally and locally.

However, as noted by numerous researchers, various racial and ethnic groups may have differential exposure to a number of other risk factors for disability including, but not limited to, low socioeconomic status, low birth weight, and lack of health insurance.

(Morgan, P.L., et al., 2015.)

Morgan, et al., (2015) compared Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and other children of color to their White peers with respect to identification for one of five impairments (learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, health impairments, and emotional disturbance).

After controlling for a number of covariates, the authors found that children of color were LESS likely than otherwise similar White, English-speaking children to be identified as having disabilities (in some cases, by up to 75 percent).

(emphasis added)

(4) A separate study examined the influence of school- and district-level characteristics – specifically racial and ethnic composition and economic disadvantage – on the likelihood of special education identification for Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino children. (Ramey, 2015.)

The author found that, on average, schools and districts with larger Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino populations had LOWER RATES of Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino children receiving services under IDEA for emotional disturbances or other health impairment.

Further, the author found that, in less disadvantaged districts, there is a NEGATIVE CORRELATION between the percentage of Black/African-American children in a school and receipt of IDEA services.

On average, Black/African-American children in these more affluent school districts were LESS LIKELY to receive IDEA services as the percentage enrollment of Black/African-American children’ increases.

(emphasis added in these paragraphs)

(5) The Department’s review of research found that overrepresentation and under-identification by race and ethnicity are both influenced by factors such as racial isolation and poverty.

(6) While decades of research, Congress, and GAO have found that the overrepresentation of children of color among children with disabilities is a significant problem, some experts and respondents to the June 2014 RFI  have noted that under-identification in special education is a problem for children of color in a number of communities.

These experts and respondents highlight the possibility that policies and practices intended to reduce overrepresentation may exacerbate inequity in special education by reducing access to special education and related services for children of color.

(Morgan, P.L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M.M., Mattison, R., Maczuga, S., Li, H. & Cook, M., 2015.) .

Bev added: You can provide input directly to the U.S. Department of Education by making a Comment, and read the Comments made so far,at (enter in the Search box: ED-2015-OSERS-0132-0001)