#Not illiterate #Stupid governor #Let teachers teach

Emails released yesterday have Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner calling Chicago teachers illiterate and Chicago principals incompetent.

Today Chicago teachers responded.



Chicago teachers reading books outside the Governor’s office.


Chicago teachers with raised books at a Rauner press conference.

Karen Lewis on sharing the pain.

karen lewis crop


Let me count the ways we’ve already given.

2010 – 1200 educators laid off.

$1.2B heist from our pension fund.

2011 – 4% raise, stolen when they had a surplus.

2012 – 20% increase in school day/year without commensurate compensation.

2013 – 52 schools closed, hundreds laid off.

2015 – 100s of special educators laid off. No raises, no steps/lanes.

I’d say we’ve given a lot, not to mention a brutalizing evaluation culture based on voodoo VAM, incessant paperwork and a system so corrupt and vicious, principals and teachers at “good” schools are fleeing the system in droves let alone the so-called crumbling prisons. STOP THE FALSE EQUIVALENCY. CTU MEMBERS HAVE ALREADY GIVEN AND WE GOT OUR TAX BILLS TOO.

-Karen Lewis

Rahm is Stranger Danger.


There is no need to warn teachers about Stranger Danger.

Parents and teachers know to tell their kids and our students never to get in a car with a stranger. If they offer you candy, run away as fast as you can.

Mayor Rahm, who was the bullyboy that provoked a strike in 2012, is now Stranger Danger. He is asking to hold hands with the CTU.

Who is this creepy guy?

“Look, we all want the same thing,” the Sun-Times quotes the Mayor as saying in response to the teachers union call for a practice strike vote to take place tomorrow.

My friend Ben Joravsky nailed it when he wrote the Mayor and the Governor were having a fake fight.

The threat to fire 5,000 teachers for Christmas is hardly the flavor of candy to lure teachers into your van, Mr. Mayor.

In fact, that threat sounds like the Mayor sending the Governor a public message that he is on board with the union-busting turnaround agenda, just in a different box tied up in a different color ribbon.

Remember the story I reported in 2011 about Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman coming to Illinois and working out a deal with Madigan and the state’s public employee union leaders, particularly the Illinois Education Association’s Executive Director, Audrey Soglin. The deal became Senate Bill 7. Among its many anti-teacher features was a rule only applicable to Chicago teachers. In order to strike, SB7 said, the union must get over 75% – not 50% – strike authorization from its membership.

They got over 90%.

Anybody running a pool on what the practice vote tomorrow will be? I will buy any box that has a nine as the first of two digits.

Meanwhile Rahm’s approval numbers make Jeb Bush look good.

Which makes me wonder why once again the state and city unions are not already running against this guy.

Once again they leave it to the CTU to do all the heavy lifting.

Rahm has gone from the F word to the B word.


Ben Joravsky is right, of course.

My guess is that somewhere in the back of their minds Rahm and Rauner and Walker have concluded it’s easier to fight a union of women than it is to take on a union of men.

You could say that Rahm started out as mayor screaming the F word at CTU President Karen Lewis. This time in these negotiations he is adding the B word. Teacher pension threats and underfunding at both the city and state level have always have their greatest impact on women. In the city, a huge percentage of retired teachers are African American women.

Teacher contracts and teacher pensions are women’s issues.

Teacher pension rights are women’s rights.

Not only women. But a significant number.

Before I retired I worked as a K-5 art teacher in Park Ridge District 64. The high school district that included Maine South was a separate district with a separate union local, separate school board, separate collective bargaining agreement with a separate salary schedule.

When we sat down to bargain with our board the first thing we would do is draw up a list of comparable districts to compare salaries.

The board always fought us on including the high school districts.

Maine South’s salary schedule was much higher than ours.

Same town. Same tax base.

More male employees in the high school district.

Rahm’s response to the Chicago Teachers Union’s  one year CBA offer is “F*#k you B#*%H.”

Same as its ever been.

Jesse Sharkey: Illinois is not broke. It is flush.


– Jesse Sharkey is Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union. This is a letter to the editor of the Sun-Times.

In a classic case of buyer’s remorse, the Sun-Times bends over backward to justify its unabashed cheerleading of Bruce Rauner as the right governor for Illinois. This is despite his insistence on savage cuts to heat aid, essential housing and health services for the elderly, toddlers and the poor. Despite Rauner’s radical attacks upon working people, their unions, their retirement security and the essential services they rely upon, the Sun-Times continues to trumpet his credentials as a reformer.

We cannot forget who Rauner really is. He is a rich stock trader who specialized in corporate takeovers.

Illinois is not broke. Illinois is flush. The problem is that those who can pay, don’t. The effective state income-tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of earners in the state is double what the wealthiest 1 percent of people pay.

If Rauner and his friends on Wall Street were truly serious about providing a high standard of living to the people of Illinois, they would join their fellow billionaire Warren Buffett and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. If Illinois were to sue banks for toxic swaps and predatory fees, restore progressive elements of the state corporate and income tax, properly tax La Salle Street and profits that are sequestered in off-shore tax-free accounts, and tax luxury services, we would have state surpluses instead of deficits.

The new governor would do better to solve our budget woes by using his bully pulpit to demand tax fairness and put Illinois on the path to fiscal recovery.

Jesse Sharkey, Vice President
Chicago Teachers Union

#BlackTeachersMatter. U.S. Judge Milton Shadur calls CPS response to teachers discrimination lawsuit, “totally irresponsible.”


Judge Milton Shadur.

In 2011 the Chicago school board carried out large-scale layoffs of teachers and paraprofessionals.

African American board employees bore the brunt of the layoffs just as the board’s closing of neighborhood public schools two years ago mainly impacted African American communities.

As a result of the layoffs in 2011 the Chicago Teachers Union and three impacted teachers filed suit.

As I understand it, a law suit like this has three components.  First, the plaintiffs must show that they represent a class of people by a preponderance of the evidence. They were not just individual victims. It was not a coincidence that they were mostly African American. The judge is asked to certify that it is a class action before the case can move on to trial and a ruling of damages.

On Friday, Senior U.S. Judge Milton Shadur ruled in favor of the CTU and the three teachers.

However Judge Shadur didn’t just rule in the plaintiff’s favor.

The Judge was scathing in his rebuke of the CPS board.

“What does Board say on the critical issue of disparate impact in this critical case? Here are Amended Complaint 7 and 8 and Board’s “responses”:

7. In June, 2011, the Board terminated the employment of 931 classroom teachers through a round of layoffs. 480 of these teachers were tenured. African Americans made up 42% of the tenure teachers terminated, although constituting less than 29% of all CPS tenured teachers.

ANSWER: The Board denies the allegations of paragraph 7.

8. Defendant’s pattern and practice of targeting schools with high African American teaching populations for layoffs has a disparate impact on African American tenured teachers and staff.

ANSWER: The Board denies the allegations of paragraph 8 and further states that the Board does not “target” schools, or any demographic of teachers or staff, for layoffs under any circumstance.

And that’s it — the sum total of Board’s purported input on the subject of disparate impact, which is of course the essential linchpin for class certification purposes. Board has said not a word, then or since then, about the claimed basis for its unsupported ipse dixit “denial.”

In candor, that is totally irresponsible. This action has been pending for just short of 2-1/2 years: Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint on December 26, 2012, and Board has known from day one about plaintiffs’ disparate impact contention and about the asserted numbers upon which those contentions rely.”

Judge Shadur’s ruling and order then proceeded through each requirement for certification as a class and sided with the teachers on each one.

He concluded:

Board’s only challenge to certification under Rule 23(b)(3) is its broken-record-type reassertion that individual principals fired plaintiffs, so that common questions do not predominate on that skewed premise. And that means Board has simply failed to raise any substantial challenge at all to plaintiffs’ arguments.

The case now will proceed to trial and damages.

2015.5.22 Memo Order Granting Class Cert

Chicago Teachers Union: The bond rating downgrade is meant to induce panic.


CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement regarding Moody’s downgrade of the Chicago Public Schools bond rating:

“The downgrade is an example of how the rating agencies work in concert with bond holders in pushing our city and schools to the brink by recklessly increasing termination fees and costs of borrowing. Today’s action by Moody’s induces further political panic to force the city to implement even more misguided fiscal decisions that will hurt our students and public schools,” said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin.

“Mayor Emanuel and his handpicked school board have refused to challenge big banks like Loop Capital and Bank of America for misrepresenting the risks of toxic swap deals or take responsibility for market conditions in the 2008 collapse that have greatly increased Chicago’s liabilities. Additionally, rating agencies have consistently argued that the mayor must get more revenue and repair a rocky relationship with the CTU in order to improve Chicago’s ratings.

“Instead of heeding this advice, the mayor has provoked more labor discord by demanding a 7 percent reduction in compensation for teachers and paraprofessionals while promulgating a fiscal ‘crisis’ of the Board’s own making. He has also refused to support progressive revenue options like a LaSalle St. Tax, releasing the TIF surplus, suing the banks for toxic swaps, advocating for a Millionaires Tax and other revenue options.”

The CPS demand of a 7% pay cut is a retaliatory move in the face of the union’s political success against Rahm.


I have always made it a rule never to tell other teachers what to do when it comes to their contracts. But I am breaking that rule today.

Not that they need my advice, but I would recommend a no to CPS’ demand for a 7% pay cut.

Here is the CTU response:

The Chicago Board of Education (BOE) has rejected nearly every education- and student-based contract proposal offered by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), even when those recommendations had little to no costs associated with them. In addition, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hand-picked board is demanding the city’s public school teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians agree to a whopping 7 percent pay reduction and sporadic increases in health insurance premiums.

The CTU is insulted by the BOE’s demand and maintains the city of Chicago has created a $1.5 billion fiscal crisis in order to justify the ongoing neglect and its failure to address critical needs of students. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is “broke on purpose” said CTU President Karen Lewis, and the mayor is “lying in wait” to raise property taxes and implement regressive taxes on vital services to working families.

In the meantime, Mayor Emanuel refuses to explore revenue proposals that hold LaSalle Street and banks accountable for the $1.2 billion in toxic swap liabilities they have siphoned from the city. Instead of calling for more revenue by demanding the wealthy pay more in taxes, he seeks to saddle present and future generations of Chicagoans with even more debt.

CPS officials are negotiating the new labor agreement under the cloud of a federal investigation into a $20.5 million no-bid contract that appears to be expanding to other agreements. The district also plans to expand privately owned charter schools at taxpayer expense, spends $290 million annually on interest payments on debt and wastes $10 million annually on excessive high stakes testing.

The BOE’s move to reduce teachers’ take home pay appears retaliatory against the union in the face of the CTU’s work to weaken Emanuel’s stronghold over the Chicago City Council, which resulted in the first runoff election in decades. In order to avoid pushing for necessary revenue before and during the mayor’s re-election campaign, CPS tanked its upcoming budget last year when they closed the FY15 budget by using 14 months of revenue and drawing down virtually all reserves.

“Once again, the Board has created a fiscal crisis in order to justify its continued attack on our classrooms and communities. CPS is broke on purpose,” said President Lewis. “By citing its so-called $1.5 billion deficit, the mayor is proposing a reduction in teaching staff which will result in larger class sizes and the loss of teaching positions.

“The BOE has rejected even our most modest proposals which establish best practices in various areas of our profession that would cost nothing at all,” Lewis explained. “How do you reject having librarians do their job as opposed to serving as subs most of the day? How do you reject proposals to strengthen special education instruction or strengthen the implementation of restorative justice programs to reduce conflict in our schools? This makes no sense—they are penny wise and pound foolish.”

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey added, “In addition, they want us to take a 7 percent reduction in take home pay because they do not want to honor the pension pick-up. With rising housing, health care and food costs, we can’t afford such a big hit in our paychecks. On top of that they expect us to pay more for health insurance and work longer hours in classrooms that are overcrowded and with fewer resources.  That will not happen.”

The drop of CPS’s pension pick-up, established through a 1981 labor agreement, means that for the average teacher earning around $70,000 annually in base pay, the cut amounts to roughly $5,000 annually. For a newly starting teacher at $50,000 annually, the pay cut would be roughly $3,500. Across paraprofessional positions, the average salary is around $40,000 annually, and the cut is roughly $2,800. The 7 percent was included in the CTU contract 30 years ago in place of a raise the Board reportedly “couldn’t afford” back then.

For the past decade, the BOE has spun a web of lies about the state of its fiscal health. While adding in its pension payments to its overall deficit press release claim, the city rarely cites the year-end surplus it sees at the close of each calendar year. It continues to break its own piggy bank, siphon off funds and cry broke when it’s time to provide crucial supports for its students.


In the meantime, teachers are hopeful an agreement can be reached before the start of the next school year. The CTU’s current contract demands reflect the urgent need to recognize the basic truths that the BOE has consistently short-changed students and their families. Education-based proposals seek to establish:

1. Educators are Professional Experts and Role Models

Chicago public school educators are trained professionals who use their expertise daily to better the lives of their students. They set high expectations for their students but recognize that their role is not always solely as an academic or instructional leader. Our educators strive to be role models for Chicago’s young people so that they are empowered and prepared for the next stages of their lives.

  • To that end, the CTU will bargain to increase the professional autonomy of teachers and other educators to prepare relevant, engaging and appropriate lessons for students, to minimize redundant and unnecessary paperwork, and to assess student learning using grading practices that respect the students as learners.
  • The CTU will bargain to ensure that educators and support personnel have the adequate preparation and planning time and professional development support to be able to engage students in rich, well-rounded, curriculum-based learning opportunities.
  • The CTU will bargain to ensure that students are taught by trained professionals invested in a career in education by demanding that CPS end practices that privatize instructional positions as well as ending all contracts with Teach for America (TFA) and transfer any such investments from TFA to Grow Your Own, which prepares local people of color to be role models and teachers for our students in CPS.
  • The CTU will bargain to support the efforts of our brothers and sisters in charter schools to be able to unionize without interference so that they can be protected as professionals and be the best possible advocates for the students they serve.

2. The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve

Chicago public schools are vital facilities and each school must be intentionally designed and staffed to provide safe and educationally responsible environments in which students can learn. Dirty, hot, overcrowded and understaffed classrooms and learning settings are not what Chicago’s students deserve. As it stands, many CPS students do not have access to adequate housing or health care outside of school, so it is imperative that our schools are nurturing and healthy places to learn that are staffed to provide the highest possible quality of education for all students.

  • To that end, the CTU will bargain to increase sanitation standards, improve cleaning and vermin control procedures and to ensure that all schools are completely air conditioned by the 2019-2020 school year.
  • The CTU will bargain to significantly reduce class sizes and make a class size maximum enforceable for all grades, but particularly for students in the early childhood and elementary grades and in special education classroom settings.
  • The CTU will also bargain to ensure that all schools are staffed with full time, fully licensed art, music and physical education teachers, to return the staffing of playground teachers and to guarantee that every school has a fully resourced and operational school library staffed by a full time, fully licensed school librarian.

3. Schools are Anchors of the Community

Extensive research continues to show that Chicago is a deeply segregated city where families living in different neighborhoods have significantly different assets and access to resources. Entrenched poverty, the erosion of stable, well-paying jobs and a lack of investment in many poor and working class neighborhoods, particularly Black and Latino neighborhoods, continue to cause students and their parents to experience vastly different life opportunities than Chicagoans living in more affluent communities. It will take investing in more than schools to address this inequity, but schools that are fully resourced can and should serve as anchors in each community in Chicago.

  • To that end, the CTU will bargain for policies that strive to achieve increasing integration of student populations in schools and to invest significant and substantial resources into a least 50 sustainable community schools within CPS.
  • The CTU will bargain to halt charter school proliferation, school closings and turnarounds and other school actions which destabilize communities and increase student mobility.
  • The CTU will bargain to ensure that all CPS employees and all employees subcontracting for CPS receive a living, minimum wage of at least $15 per hour for their work related to our schools.
  • The CTU will bargain to provide all workers in the city and state with a defined benefit pension plan.

4. Students are Human Beings

All too often, the realities that Chicago’s students face are ignored and the only criteria used to ascertain whether students and schools are succeeding are test scores. Students in CPS come to school with immediate human needs that must first be addressed before they can be truly ready to learn. And when their immediate needs are met, the learning that students engage in should be meaningful, relevant to their lives and developmentally appropriate. In school, all children should be treated as dignified and creative learners whose presence, identity and experiences are valuable to the entire school community.

  • To that end, the CTU will bargain to significantly reduce the amount of time each student must spend taking standardized tests to no more than 6 school hours per school year or restrict mandated standardized testing to only state required tests. The CTU will bargain to prohibit standardized testing for students in pre-K through 2nd grade entirely. The CTU will bargain for schools in the lowest quartile on standardized tests to receive additional resources, staff and supports to address the learning needs of the students.
  • The CTU will bargain for true access to full day early childhood education and kindergarten including free pre-K for students whose family income is up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or to families receiving Alkyds (excluding premium level 2-8).
  • The CTU will bargain to ensure that schools with the highest numbers of homeless students (or students in temporary living situations) have full time staff working to address their needs both inside and outside of the school.
  • The CTU will bargain to mandate that school counselors and clinicians are staffed at levels that respect the recommendations of their professional organizations and that counselors in particular are not assigned additional duties (such as case management) that cause them to be unable to do actual counseling work with students. The CTU will bargain to guarantee that each school is staffed with a full time, fully licensed school nurse whose role is to address the health needs of all students.
  • The CTU will bargain to staff a full time restorative justice coordinator for every school and to limit the ability of CPS to staff police officers in schools to ensure that student discipline policies do not contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. The CTU will bargain to return staffing of truancy officers whose work centers around helping families remove barriers and solve problems that keep students from attending school.
  • The CTU will bargain for students to have increased access to curriculum materials that are multi-cultural and multi-racial and reflect their identities and experiences.

5. Educators cannot achieve equity alone

Educators who are members of the CTU have demonstrated through their words, actions and work that they are dedicated to fighting for real school equity and social justice for our students and their families; however, it will take the political will of more than just educators to achieve the schools and the city that Chicago’s students deserve. Board and city leaders must become true partners of the educators of the CTU in seeking policies and legislative actions that will resource our schools, increase democracy in their governance and address statues that disproportionately target the already disadvantaged residents of the city.

  • To that end, the CTU will bargain to partner with the Board to secure needed revenue for our schools from a tax on financial transactions, a progressive state income tax and the return of TIF funds.
  • The CTU will bargain to ensure that the Board ends all current contracts and seeks no further contracts with financial institutions engaging in predatory financial deals such as toxic interest rate swaps, auction-rate securities, capital appreciation bonds, high-interest loans and bonds, bid rigging, manipulating interest rates, inadequate disclosure of risks, overuse of fees and overcharging for financial services.
  • The CTU will bargain to partner with the Board to secure legislation that will establish an elected representative school board in Chicago and additional legislation that will repeal section 4.5 of the school code of the ILELRA in order to return the right of both parties to bargain on all subjects.
  • The CTU will bargain to partner with the Board to secure legislation that will make at least six low-level non-violent felony crimes into misdemeanors and redistribute funds saved from the elimination of legal costs and costs related to incarceration to fund schools, drug rehabilitation centers and other community services.

Keeping retirement weird. Putting a face to pension theft.


Unless you read Jeff Johnson’s guest post on this site yesterday (and several thousand of you did based on my count) you may not know that there is a trial going on in Chicago to enjoin Rahm Emanuel from stealing city retiree pensions.

Last year the Mayor went to his pal Michael Madigan and got the slime down in Springfield to allow him to cut and freeze pension benefits. They wouldn’t wait for the Illinois Supreme Court to rule on their earlier pension grab called Senate Bill 1.

Some city union leaders put their stamp of approval on theft. But not the CTU or AFSCME.

Four unions went to court on behalf of retirees and two retirees testified yesterday.

Mark Brown writes a column for the Chicago Sun-Times.

He drank Rahm’s Kool-Aid that pension theft is needed to balance the city budget.

But even Brown cannot turn away from the faces of real retirees and what pension theft means to them.

Today he writes:

City of Chicago retirees Mary J. Jones and Barbara Lomax took turns hobbling to the witness stand Friday in a Daley Center courtroom to help make the case against reducing city pension benefits.

Jones, 62, and Lomax, 65, are among thousands of retirees whose annual cost-of-living increases took a trim Jan. 1 under a new state law intended to rescue two struggling city pension funds.

Their pensions continue to grow, mind you, just not by as much as they were promised when they retired.

Because of that broken commitment, their lawyers say the legislation negotiated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel with some city unions should be declared unconstitutional.

In the meantime, the retirees want its provisions set aside temporarily until the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled on a similar challenge to a new state pension law.

The Emanuel Administration counters that the law is sound and halting its implementation would risk a financially disastrous negative reaction from credit ratings agencies that want the city to fix its pension problems.

The examples of Jones and Lomax are reminders that, despite what we know to be the bloated pensions of many city workers, little people also will get hurt in the process of cleaning up the mess — although arguably not as badly as they might if the pension funds were allowed to continue on their previous path to insolvency.

But the two grandmothers’ pensions also are a reminder of the foolish mistakes that got us into this jam in the first place.

Jones and Lomax were both beneficiaries of early retirement programs, magical deals in which city workers were allowed to retire early with full benefits.

City officials touted such programs as resulting in an overall taxpayer savings as older workers were replaced by less-costly new hires.

The savings was a mirage, resulting only from the fact the city wasn’t legally required to pay enough money into the pension funds to support the benefits that would eventually have to be paid. It was just one of many such short-sighted decisions now coming home to roost.

Jones was 51 and Lomax 54 when the city offered them what they saw as an attractive retirement package in 2004. They’ve been drawing a pension ever since.

Under the 3 percent annual compounded cost-of-living adjustments applicable under the previous law, those pensions are now some 34 percent greater than when the women retired.

Jones, who spent 33 years working for Chicago Public Library, is scheduled to receive a pension of $42,163 this year. That’s $360 more than she got last year, but $900 less she would have received under the old law. She does not receive Social Security.

Lomax, who worked 19 years in various city clerical jobs, is due a $27,922 pension in 2015 — $235 more than last year but $600 less than previously scheduled. She also gets $56 a month in Social Security.

As you can see, neither woman is on easy street. Jones lives with her mother and two grandchildren and says she is their primary financial support. Lomax lives alone with her chihuahua and two birds and takes 10 medications daily for her blood pressure, congestive heart failure and asthma. Both women tell me they never worked politics.

The new cost-of-living adjustment will pay retirees only 0.85 percent more this year and does not compound. Retirees will receive no adjustment at all in 2017, 2019 and 2025.

Depending on the size of future adjustments, someone with even a relatively modest pension benefit such as Jones and Lomax will lose tens of thousands of dollars over a 20-year period. That’s why the small change results in a huge savings to taxpayers.

Lomax, for one, doesn’t seem so sure she’ll live that long if the city doesn’t restore the full increase, which she calls a “life-or-death situation” because she can’t afford to pay for all her medication.

Retirees emphasize the reduced pension payments are coming at the same time the city is phasing out their subsidized health insurance, which means their net pay is lower than it was last year.

If you’ve followed my coverage of this issue, then you know I’m sympathetic to the needs of state and local governments to pare back the pensions, and I believe Emanuel has struck a reasonable approach.

But we should never lose sight of what a lousy thing it is to take away pension benefits from people who are already retired and were counting on the promises made to them by the people we elected to represent us.

And then there is the question of why we keep electing those people when they don’t represent us?

Thursday morning announcements.

My friend Diane Horowitz at De Paul wants you to know about their program marking the 40th anniversary of IDEA, the ground breaking federal special education law.

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And my friend and neighbor Robin Potter wants you to know about this labor ed program, funded in part in the memory of her late husband, Peter Camarata. Peter was a nationally known rank-and-file union activist and reformer inside the Teamsters.

“We can only take 20 registrations, so it is first come first serve for CTU members only (pilot program, then we will expand depending on success).  Will be a worthy education – the Fund pays the tuition & lunch. Member only pays $20.  Thank you my fav blogger,” wrote Robin.

Please contact Maria Dokes mdokes@illinois.edu for registration inquiries.

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