200,000 (Black) Seats Too Many

Lots about the excess supply of schools and the coming down-sizing in today's news, plus some tidbits about who might (or might not) to help fix low-performing schools.  (Look for a great / horrifying quote from Tim Knowles comparing the recent labor unrest with the coming wave of closings.)  There's also a slew of stories about the budget Emanuel is rolling out via press rounds.  Plus Lincoln Park Elementary wants - and may get - a middle school building.


Emanuel on ‘consolidating’ under-used schools: ‘We know we have to do it’ Sun Times: Chicago Public Schools have 600,000 seats and only 400,000 kids, underscoring the need to “consolidate” under-utilized schools that should been closed over the last decade, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday.

CPS asks charter networks to consider turnarounds Tribune: Because so many underenrolled schools are in black neighborhoods, "the decisions that the district makes to close or consolidate schools are incredibly difficult ones," said Tim Knowles. "No matter whether the district closes or consolidates 60 or 100 or let alone 120 schools, it's going to be at a scale Chicago has never seen before... "The strike will seem like a walk in the park."BUDGET PRESS

Speed-camera revenues figure in Mayor Emanuel’s ‘children first’ budget Sun Times: Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he’s counting on up to $30 million in fines from speed cameras installed at roughly 40 schools and parks to help bankroll his “children first” budget. The fast roll-out of a speed camera plan delayed by legal and technical complications helps to explain how Emanuel was able to keep his hands out of taxpayers’ pockets for 2013 and still make a big investment in kids.

Emanuel meets with Trib editorial board Tribune: The Chicago Tribune editorial board met with Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday and asked him about all kinds of challenges facing the city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel WTTW:  Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2013 budget signals relative calm before a coming fiscal storm. The mayor joins Carol Marin for a one-on-one conversation.

Emanuel budget speech: No tax hikes, but pension woes loom Tribune: Mayor Rahm Emanuel today unveiled a new budget that he says doesn't include new tax, fine or fee increases but contains a warning about the financial havoc the city's looming government worker pension problem could wreak.


Lincoln Park school pushing cash-strapped CPS for new facility Sun-Times: On its face, a “demand” from the Lincoln Elementary School LSC that the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools build a $30 million middle school is ridiculous. The school district is facing a $1 billion deficit, and we still aren't clear on how it ...

Should Chicago have an elected school board? Austin Weekly News: About 15,000 people in 26 wards signed a petition to put this question on ballots: Should the Chicago Public Schools have an elected school board? The general election is on Nov.



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  • Speaking of low performing schools, Prosser Hs is having their homecoming today atHanson Stadium, 4:15 PM. I suggest everyone try to avoid the area around Grand and Central Aves. In the past, prosser homecomings have been the Billiken Parade, Bulls Championship, and Puerto Rican Day Parade all rolled up into one...A REAL MESS....There's plenty of subs around school today as most teachers don't want tobe forced to go to the game. Our principal Ken Hunter lets things spin way out of control, plus, the football team isn't too good and things wil be wild in the stands. Hell, Hunter normally leaves early from the game.

  • Crane med school gets leader
    10/10/2012 10:00 PM
    By Ben Meyerson
    Crane High School, the Near West Side institution that was pulled back from the brink of elimination earlier this year, is getting ready to revive itself — and the school has a new leader to do it.

    Eight months after Chicago Public Schools officials opted to give the school another chance as a medically focused academy, the school has a new principal, Fareeda Shabazz.

    Shabazz comes from Collins Academy High School in Douglas Park, where she was assistant principal. After being hired only within the last few weeks, she now faces the daunting task of quarterbacking the development of an entirely new school and curriculum for its launch next fall.

    If that wasn’t enough, she also needs to be far enough along to convince kids to come to the school before Christmas, when students must apply for special schools like Crane.

    It’s a lot to take on, but Shabazz isn’t working by herself. She’s working with a task force made up of current Crane teachers, community activists and CPS officials. Together, they’re pushing to prepare a plan they hope will leverage the school’s proximity to the Illinois Medical District.

    More at http://www.chicagojournal.com/News/10-10-2012/Crane_med_school_gets_leader

  • Sometimes I am baffled by what CPS is thinking. As always Noreen Ahmed-Ullah over at the Tribune breaks some amazing stories and today's story that Alexander linked "Charter networks being urged to take over troubled schools in city" is yet another example of her good journalism.

    Here is what is puzzling: (1) CPS wants to close under enrolled schools to save money; (2) CPS wants to convert some possibly several dozen of these school into charters that will also most likely be under enrolled based on the buildings' design capacities; (3) Charter Schools are currently under fiscal stress and are asking for additional funding but are willing to take on apparently entire schools with low enrollments some of which have what are called low incidence students with significant disabilities in self contained setting that cost in some case three times what it costs to educate the average non-disabled poor students.

    Opening a charter school at these sites will in no way save the district much money even if the per pupil funding is less than the traditional school it replaces. You still will have large buildings with relatively few students in them and that costs money. Moreover, there is no way that the charter school operators are going to pay a square foot rental rate for space they don't need, so inevitably it's a cash drain for CPS. Even if some of these charter schools become higher performing it is unlikely they will become a magnet to attract out of boundary area students because so many will be located in communities that are deeply poor, filled with abandoned/foreclosed buildings in many cases, and again in some cases locations for various drug dealing crews.

    Expanding charter schools does nothing to address CPS' fiscal illness the dimensions of which are legitimately an area of dispute. Henry Bienen who is a CPS Board member at the August meeting opined on the need for CPS to take decisive action in the near future to address the district's declining fiscal fortunes, I doubt opening dozens of charter schools that will themselves be under enrolled will meet a reasonable standard for taking decisive action. Mr. Rangel in the Tribune article was reported to be arguing for CPS to do all 100 or so school closings at one time stating: "Is it easy? No. Is it pain-free? No. Is it worth it all? Yes."

    Mr. Rangel apparently is part of the blow up CPS group whose leader is without question Bruce Rauner. But what if CPS forces UNO in a redrawn charter contract to take very severely disabled students who require nursing services, specialized equipment, and numerous aides including those required for toileting? What if as usual CPS does not provide the necessary funding for these students and his charter network is forced to use its poverty funds, and UNO fund raising dollars just to meet the basic needs of these children? What if CPS takes a big hit in federal special education funding due to seismic impact of sequestration. Under a deal made between President Obama's administration and Congress to raise the nation's borrowing capacity last year, leaders agreed to implement $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board reductions over the next decade if a broader debt reduction solution is not achieved. Under that deal special ed funding to the states will be cut by $1 billion relatively fast costing CPS probably millions unless an agreement is reached.

    The state is also faced with a funding crisis that is well known and additional cuts could be coming. CPS will not be able to insulate charters from these cuts. So why Mr. Milkie and Rangel are so willing to stick their heads in the lion's mouth I don't know, maybe they believe CPS will keep their promises. But lack of money has a real way of making keeping promises difficult. I thought Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools was right to be cautious about this take over offer given the fiscal situation of CPS.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    So true Rod....
    I don't know if people realize that most neighborhood schools are now well above the imaginary (but known) 10%. This is because the charter schools siphon off the higher scoring students and leave us with those who require more service (nurse, SW, PSY). Closing 80-100 neighborhood schools will be the tip of the Titanic iceberg. From what I can see, Charters will be challenged to handle with the kids we (neighborhood schools) deal w/everyday. I would love to see how they handle our 300lb EBD student who is in full inclusion and explodes w/o notice.

  • Rod, as usual you are the voice of common sense. CPS is like a viper with its head cut off-no focus, no direction but still spewing forth venom. I do worry about students with disabilities on the west and east side most of whom do not have strong parent advocates. The children on the northwest and southwest side usually have strong parents who know enough to at least threaten due process. Many of the vocal special education teachers who would fight for services for children with disabilities have retired. Many of these children are wards of the state, being raised by grandparents or have parents who are barely putting food on the table-not only does CPS know this but it counts on it and reduces the delivery of services.


  • I found the Tribune article on charters doing turnarounds a bit of a "head scratcher" too.

    But consider the position of aldermen in tier 1/2 wards. They're looking for options for the average students. Perhaps some feel that the option of leaving the school and name intact is more acceptable to the community than closures.

    Noble is phasing out the Ford Powerhouse charter high school in Homan Square. Perhaps that seems to be working, which may be what is encouraging CPS to consider this path.

    By simple growth numbers Ford Powerhouse is/was the lowest performing high school in Chicago. If Noble can alter the trajectory of that student body, perhaps there's some thought that their system doesn't need a completely new school.

    The Trib article indicating that eight Nobles will be added over the next four years isn't new news. Noble potentially phasing out a CTU school is a new twist which should get some people worked up. Perhaps that threat is just intended to make AUSL turnarounds seem more acceptable to CTU supporters.

    As far as SPED, I don't think it matters budget-wise where the classrooms are located. A well run school will manage the staff and students effectively.

    Rod said "Even if some of these charter schools become higher performing it is unlikely they will become a magnet to attract out of boundary area students because so many will be located in communities that are deeply poor......"

    I'm told Noble Chicago Bulls is 3/4 out of boundary students. Look where that school is located. It's only in it's forth year, and I believe now over one thousand students. There is a large demand for academically rigorous, safe high schools for average students. Which CTA lines are close to the school may be as important as neighborhood.

    As far as Rangel, I doubt he's interested in taking over a black school. It doesn't seem to me that UNO is part of improving the big problem of providing better schools for many black families.

  • So why can't presently underutilized schools be consolidated into a number of optimally utilized charter schools? Then we are not talking about replacing one underutilized neighborhood school with another equally underutilized charter school. This would result in the consolidation of neighborhood schools with expansion of charters.

  • Far, far away, in another large city in another state, we had high schools called "Comprehensive Magnet Schools" that fit almost identically Donn's oft-sited reason for loving charters -- i.e. "There is a large demand for academically rigorous, safe high schools for average students." There was no academic testing-in, but students and their parents had to sign a very strict contract regarding behavior. It was pretty much a three strikes and you're out system that was quite popular. They offered a general college prep track. We still had the academic selective enrollment schools as well as "neighborhood" schools so that everyone had a choice. It worked well. I'm not sure why we have to go the charter route to make schools like these. I'm guessing it's all more about union-busting at this point.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Over the last decade the CTU has vigorously avoided the increased instructional hours necessary to run a school like Noble or Urban Prep.
    There's no reason a strict disciplinary environment couldn't be implemented in a CTU schools. But the high growth wouldn't happen with the relatively short instructional day available under the CTU contract.
    Can't catch up moving at the same pace.
    The "low hanging fruit" in CPS are the large number of capable students entering high school with mid teen EPAS scores.

  • It is rather difficult to enforce the UDC when the principal calls in the non-licensed counseling neighborhood group and they sit around on the gym floor in a "Peace Circle" singing "Kumbaya" Thankfully, no one was put on a cross....So there is a reason discipline can not be enforced in many schools and it is on the principal not the teachers. If you look at the schools with a high rate of teacher turnover due to a new principal, student discipline is a huge issue.

  • Donn writes: "There's no reason a strict disciplinary environment couldn't be implemented in a CTU schools." WRONG!
    That environment is set by CPS and Rahm's Board, not CTU, and not principals, who are not listened to either. Charters throw out students, sending them to CPS neighborhood schools, who MUST take them. So Donn, give us facts on HOW a strict disciplinary environment could be implemented in what you call CTU schools...

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I wasn't referring to current CTU neighborhood high schools.
    I'm aware that a very strict disciplinary environment applied to current high schools would increase dropouts substantially. Which is why I'm confused about the tribune article implying Noble taking over neighborhood schools.
    There's no reason a new type of CTU school couldn't follow a high discipline/ high expectations model. But as I said, It wouldn't produce exceptionally high growth without the extra time.

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    In reply to Donn:

    Donn, there are no CTU elementary or high schools. They are CPS schools staffed by CTU members. Now that we have that straight, the idea of CPS opening a "new" type of schools following the Noble model is great! Oh, wait a minute, what happens to the students that can't or won't follow the rules? They just get sent back to the old regular school? You know, the ones that are understaffed and underresourced - the ones that have all the "bad" teachers, etc. How does this help to bring a quality education to EVERY child in the city? Your idea would just continue to add to the dispariity we already see in schools. Schools in neighborhoods with high poverty, violence, and little parental support will continue to be failing or underperforming. What's your next idea, we just pull out all the "good" kids and put a fence around the 'hood to keep the less desirables inside? As far as charters, turnarounds, etc. unless they are willing to take on the job of providing instruction for students who are functioning at the bottom of the bell curve, the disruptive students, students who have been diagnosed with more than a mild learning disability and have an IEP, they aren't really anything special. When they can deal with those types of issues, the ones what most teachers in CPS deal with on a daily basis in an "underperforming" school and show better outcomes, maybe I'll think a little more highly of them.

  • In reply to 1togoplease:

    Society has no intention of ensuring that every poor student has a quality education. The CTU's plan is to ensure that as few students as possible escape the neighborhood high school. I favor letting the many average students that can excel in the right environment move ahead.

    The only major levers realistically available to CPS are discipline and school culture. No one knows how to satisfactorily change a traditional low income HS when a major goal of that institution must be to keep as many students in school as possible.

    Phrases like "How does this help to bring a quality education to EVERY child in the city?" simply continue the convenient myth that Rahm is big daddy and that the under resourcing of poor children is a choice controllable by the school board and local officials.

    There is a way under current financial constraints to allow many students to escape their disorganized and more violent peers.

  • In reply to Donn:

    At what point, what age, do these peers become "disorganized and more violent" and why?

  • In reply to Donn:

    It's unacceptable to say that those kids whose parents are illiterate and unable to work through the charter process, or those kids whose parents are alcoholics or drug addicted and unable to care, aren't entitled to the same publicly funded education as other kids in their district. It's un-American. And I think under the laws of this country we may be depriving those children of their civil rights. Isn't requiring parents to be literate in order to apply for publicly paid for charter school similar to requiring literacy in order to vote? Isn't requiring families to pay extra fees to attend the supposedly better publicly funded charter schools similar to a poll tax? It makes sense to screen kids from more rigorous classes if they can't meet the grades and test scores required, but segregating kids based on their family background isn't something we've openly made a part of public policy up to this time. Is that about to change?

  • In reply to Zee299:

    Giving the large number of charters that will be opened in Chicago a district of their own would make it legal for them to exclude students because of their family background. Because for example those kids whose parents are illiterate and can't navigate the charter application process would technically be in another district. I have white middle class neighbors who want to move their kids out to the suburbs but can't because of the current housing market. They're not mapped to the mostly white neighborhood elementary school, they're mapped to the mostly black elementary school that's performing as well as the average Chicago charter elementary and hasn't reported any crimes on site since the public reporting process began 6 years ago. But they won't send their kids to that school - they want to send their kids to a charter. We're getting on a slippery slope here with the white middle class trapped in Chicago by the poor housing market demanding schools that will separate their kids from those with less desirable family backgrounds. It would be a mistake to give those charters a district of their own because any legal leverage on issues of segregation would be lost.

  • In reply to Zee299:

    As far as less literate parents, the application process for all CPS schools was suppose to be unified for the next school year. That hasn't happened, but I assume it's still the goal. In future years it won't be any harder to apply to an optional school than to register for the local school.

    The many students entering HS charters with a 2-3 grade reading level indicates that some families with poor literacy are currently navigating the application process.

    The prospects of a student who has a caring sober parent is always going to be much better than those in deep poverty. Clearly a parent who needs to be repeatedly reminded that schools starts at the end of summer is unlikely to do anything but show up at the closest school.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn you seem to look at some academic growth data based on your various posts, so could you give me a reference that would document "many students entering HS charters" with only a reading level of second and third grade? And does many mean 5%, 20%, or even 30%?

    As readers of this blog are aware I have represented a few disabled students and their families in the IEP process at least ten different charter high schools over the last five years. As part of that process I review the academic and psychological records of these students. The only students I saw with freshman scores in either math or reading in the grade range of 2-3 grade were those with at least moderate cognitive disabilities or more involved forms of autism (IQ ranges generally in the low 60s). I did see several students identified with learning disabilities and emotional disturbance with normal intelligence measurements reading at the fifth grade level, which while horrendous is not uncommon.

    Now I will grant that I do not see the records of many non-disabled students, except in the rare situation that initial special education identification takes place at the high school level. I have heard stories from CICS special ed staff of a few students who they believed had very severe LD reading at the levels you are discussing who were not identified by CPS and they were required to do the staffing. But it seems relatively rare.

    So Donn I would like to look at your information source on this issue, please give me an idea where you got your information from.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Donn:

    I'm not quite sure what "society" you are currently existing in or speaking of, and I'm not sure exactly what your point is. Do you really think that not all children are entitled to a quality education? How is it decided who does qualify and who does not? What is your plan for the students who can't "escape" from the neighborhood schools?

    You talk of changing the "culture" of a school and implementing a more rigid discipline code than CPS imposes on schools. As far as that goes, I certainly hope that when you speak of "culture", you are not referring to race or ethnicity, because I have to say, you seem to be saying that some children simply don't warrant anything better than what they have. Maybe if the limited money CPS has could be directed more to early intervention programs, smaller class sizes in the early grades, partnering with outside agencies to help at risk students at an early age, it might make a difference. As far as discipline codes, CPS has one, but it is not adhered to consistently and has gotten weaker over the years. Talk to CPS about that.

    The society that I live and function in believes that every child deserves a quality education, we might not be delivering it at this point, but we as a society, recognize it as something that we need to strive for instead of turn away and give up on that belief. Frankly, I find your thinking and your society a little scary.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Donn says:

    "Society has no intention of ensuring that every poor student has a quality education. The CTU's plan is to ensure that as few students as possible escape the neighborhood high school. I favor letting the many average students that can excel in the right environment move ahead"

    This is my interpretation of Donn's statement:

    The taxpayers (society) are not interested in fixing CPS. It will take lots of additional funding, primarily for smaller class sizes and wrap around services. Donn himself may or may not be willing to contribute more $$$- he doesn't reveal that.

    Because of the CTU's opposition to anything that breaks the equal pay, equal class size, equal equal equal etc. paradigm and opposition to competition (charters) results all students to be "stuck" together in "neighborhood" schools.

    Donn favors splitting those students who have the inclination to achieve into other schools into a similarly inclined cohort. Charters come to mind but are not necessarily the only alternative (IB, STEM school) but Donn doesn't reveal his preference.

    This is all predicated on the notion that "society" is not going to care enough to "fix" the "neighborhood" schools anytime soon, if ever.

    What say you, Donn?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I don't believe a more rigid disciplinary code can be implemented at most CPS high schools. Plenty of smart, experienced school leaders have worked for years trying to find the right balance. It seems that the better run low income HS are at the state of the art for their diverse student populations.

  • http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/15699019-418/chicago-public-schools-ceo-jean-claude-brizard-out-by-mutual-agreement.html

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