What's Next, "New" CPS?

Today's education news is a grab-bag of post-election tidbits, random CPS news, and a couple of stories about the nonbinding elected school board referendum (get over it). What's not in the news is what the next steps are on getting approval to delay closings -- what the legislators are saying, what the mechanics would look like, or -- even better -- what other kind of initiatives the "new" team in charge of CPS is planning to take. The new Board meeting signup could be great, but we need more. 

School bus driver charged with DUI Chicago Tribune: A school bus driver taking children to a public elementary school on Chicago's North Side was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol this ...

Chicago, Emanuel won along with Obama, mayor's allies say Chicago Sun-Times: Add to that the increased likelihood for federal “Race to the Top” funding for Chicago Public Schools and federal funding to make government buildings more energy-efficient, they said. “To the extent that it positions President Obama to have four years without ...

Voters approve referenda on elected board, teacher pensions Catalyst: Two advisory ballot measures on education passed as voters went to the polls on Tuesday, but the measures aren’t binding.

Elected school board referendum results give supporters a boost WBEZ: The campaign for an elected school board has been going for months and after unsuccessfully getting the measure on the ballot in several wards, supporters went precinct by precinct to get the question on the ballot.

Does Using An iPad Hinder Kids’ Other Basic Skills? CBS2: There are more than 28,000 iPads being used in Chicago Public Schools, and some of the students who use them each day are as young as three years old. Is all that screen time good for toddlers, and their little hands? CBS 2’s Chris Martinez went to a Chicago classroom to find out.

No more illusions  Chicago Tribune Editorial – Illinois education officials reported last week that more than eight in 10 elementary school students met or exceeded standards in math and reading in the latest round of state achievement tests. That’s up from about six in 10 a decade ago. That might sound reassuring, as though we’re making progress. It’s not.

City To Hold Job Fair To Fill Vacant Positions CBS2 Chicago: The job fair will be conducted in partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, and Chicago Housing Authority.

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  • What do you mean "Get over it?" What a rude, dismissive comment. You may not agree with it (from NY) but who tells people to get over it when the results came back at 86%?

  • In reply to WendyKatten:

    I think an elected School Board would be a disaster for Chicago's children and most citizens. While I'm not crazy about the current set up, I don't think anyone wants to go back to what CPS was like in the '80s.

    I'd like to see three elected seats, and then four appointed by the Mayor. I'd even live with CTU appointing one Board member, Springfield appointing a second, and the third seat being appointed by CPS principals.

  • In reply to Mike:

    DO you know what CPS was like in the 1980s? Here is a short list of high schools that were in much better shape during that decade:
    Kennedy, Curie, Kelly, Hubbard, Bogan, Fenger, Morgan Park, Julian, Taft... need I go on? The idea that CPS is somehow markedly better than it was when it had an elected school board is ignorant.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "DO you know what CPS was like in the 1980s? "
    No, I didn't move to Illinois until 1990, although I do remember ED Secretary Bennett saying Chicago was the worst school district in the nation.

    I do take exception, however, to your including Taft among a list of high schools that were much better then. It simply isn't true. Taft is a much better school today than it was in 1993 when I first started teaching there. (My colleagues at that time--long since retired--told me how turbulent the 1980s had been.)

    Further, I believe CPS is a much better system today than it was in those days before mayoral control. The era of Argie Johnson as general superintendent of schools and D. Sharon Grant as tax-evading school board president are hardly what one would pine for as "golden years."

    I'm wth Mike on this. Let's not go back.

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    The best study on this issue can be found at: http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/publications/trends-chicagos-schools-across-three-eras-reform-summary-report

    It would not agree that the school district is much better today than before the General Assembly gave greater authority to the Mayor. To put the conclusion of the report in its simplest term it would argue CPS is somewhat better.

    But lets also be clear about something, prior to the General Assembly action the Mayor of Chicago still had vast influence over the CPS Board and shared appointment power with the City Council. So the history is somewhat more complex than Danaidh presents it I think.

    Rod Estvan

  • If you grow up white and attend the best private schools, it's easier to think you are the smartest person in any room and you have a right to disrespect others' hard work.

    Alexander really believes he knows better than 99% of the people. He does it as a political game that also helps him make money by representing his employers.

    He doesn't really understand most of the issues he is commenting on., but the ignorance is a shield to protect the political agenda he is contracted to advance.

    It's the way it is. You can ignore him, or engage him, but don't expect him to be anything inspiring.

  • so i disagree with you on the mayoral control thing, both strategically and substantively i don't think it's going to work or help -- and i haven't gotten any real sense that it's moving forwards towards reality.

    tell me how it's going to happen, tell me how it's worked in other places. tell me how you're going to, i don't know, get delvalle elected on a platform of elected school board control.

    attacking where i live or what i do just tells me you don't have anything substantive to say and don't like being disagreed with.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    I too do not like the attacks on Alexander for the fact that he went to FW Parker. If he had gone to Latin, well then maybe I would join the mob, but Parker has a history of producing liberals at least. Although, some of Alexander's quips can put serious people over the top, I am not always sure those comments need to be taken seriously - although some have driven me crazy too.

    But in response to Alexander's challenge I believe it is to lay out a legislative strategy to amend the current school code. The easy way is to void sections of Article 34, specifically Sec. 34-3 (b) that hands the Mayor of the City of Chicago total and absolute power to appoint the Board at the Mayor's determination. This section could easily be replaced with existing language from Article 9 of the school code. This is not a very difficult task for any competent lobbyist with the help of the legislative reference bureau in Springfield.

    But the process of getting such a bill passed is far more complex and would take I believe several years of consistent hard lobbying both on the grass roots level and higher levels of deal making. I personally also would like to see charter schools within the city given separate status as a school district, with a separate elected school Board. It would be a charter district that receives and distributes to charters a proportional share of CPS property taxes, along with state and federal funds. It would be legally responsible for those funds and charter supervision.

    I believe that the pathway to both a separate democratically controlled district for charters and an elected school Board for CPS lies in the developing fiscal crisis of CPS.
    Historically, significant change in relation to CPS has been driven by fiscal and administrative crisis. The ISBE does not have the ability in terms of resources to place CPS into receivership in the situation of effective default. Federal Bankruptcy Code provides a method for a local government or a school district to file for bankruptcy; however, court interpretation of Illinois state law has made the actual filing up to now impossible.

    So over the long run there is in my opinion the possibility for the Illinois General Assembly to hand over CPS to an elected school board if the Mayoral controlled board leads CPS over the proverbial cliff, but then an elected school board would have to enforce a Greek type austerity plan for the district. At any rate it will take somewhere near a decade for CPS to descend into the abyss as CPS cannibalizes its self to stay afloat. The only pathway out of this crisis is significantly shifting funding for CPS away from property taxes to state funding, but in order for that to happen the Illinois Consititution will have to be amended to allow for graduated income taxes. Even with the powerful Democratic majority in Illinois that possibility does not right now seem likely so an eventual descent into the abyss for CPS is over the long term the most likely outcome.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Dear Rod

    I would like to point out that this quote of yours:

    "The only pathway out of this crisis is significantly shifting funding for CPS away from property taxes to state funding,"

    is not true.CPS with about 20% of the states students already gets
    63% of its total funding from outside sources.Compare this to Suburban Districts that get as little as 14% from outside sources.
    Chicago has an artificially low tax rate for schools.If anything
    Chicago property taxes should be higher to keep them in line with the rest of the state.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Springfield, currently, will never take away full Mayoral control... it's a $6 billion budget! Does anyone think Madigan or City Hall wants to let anyone else get even a little piece of the pie? The best hope is three seats which are appointed/elected. Mayor still controls the Board, but it would change the conversation.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    I don't mind disagreement at all - I mind your rude dismissive words, "Get over it." Hardly an invitation for debate or dialogue on the issue. You're just telling people to move on. I don't care where you went to school, private or public, my comment about NY is that I don't think you're in touch w/ the landscape of education advocacy from such a distance.

    This was a first step - a non-binding referendum. The next step is to engage legislators on the issue, something that takes time. No one said this was going to happen overnight. It was a first step.

    I am happy to engage in civil debate with anyone but not when I'm told to "get over it."

    To Mike - we never had an elected school board in Chicago. 95% of all school boards in the country are elected so not sure why we act as if this would destroy a wonderful system. Las Vegas is a good example of a large urban district w/ an elected representative school board that has vigorous public debate and doesn't rubber stamp every single policy but doesn't have total gridlock.

    We don't think this would be a panacea in any way but what we have now is not working.

  • In reply to WendyKatten:

    The work of the advocacy groups are at the very least bringing much light to the current board structure. In my many years teaching in a neighborhood school, it is only recently that I have had parents remark on the appointed individuals who make decisions that will impact their child and their child's school. This is a first. For no other reason then to have an honest dialogue among community as to the choices made by our mayoral controlled board, this is a good thing.I say keep pulling the curtain back on OZ.

  • Alex's mood and affect have really taken a turn for the worse over the past year. What's up, man?!

  • Responding to Rbush first: The current CPS operating budget is composed of $2,555.4 million in local funds of which $2,106.0 million comes directly from property taxes (CPS amended budget at page 23). Total revenue coming from the state is $1,851.4 million.

    Total revenue for CPS is about $5,344.5 million, so the property tax share of this total would be 47.81% and the state's current share is about 34.6%. I agree that higher income suburbs recieve even less state dollars and I would add that really poor school districts like Ford Heights District 169 actually get a higher percentage than CPS.

    Responding to Mike: The General Assembly will not see the CPS budget of $6 billion as being worth too much if the potential liability due to default is much higher. Hence, like in the fiscal collapse in 1979 the Assembly will likely seek to pass the buck. Part of passing the buck and forcing radical spending reductions could be an elected school board, the other part would be some type of oversight body like CPS had for year after the 1979 collapse.

    Rod Estvan

  • Dear Rod

    According to the state report card for 2011 here is a tale of two districts
    in this way.these are all in percentages
    Chicago Dist 230 Palos Orland
    local Tax 40.9 80.1
    Local other. 7.7 5.1
    General state aid 19.3 6.3
    other state sources 9.9 4.9
    Federal sources 22.3 5.1

    That means 52.1 of Chicago's revenue comes from outside
    Dist 230 gets 14.9 from outside.I will not dispute your numbers
    but we must consider the source.I was wrong about the 63%
    but look at how much Chicago gets in outside aid as opposed to the
    suburbs. School taxes are a bargain in Chicago

  • The ISBE report is always one full year behind and its gets its data from the CPS annual audited report. So the 2012 report card has CPS revenue data from 2010-11. In that report it listed property tax revenues as $2,134,417,013 which is more than CPS is projecting for FY13 and it forms 38.6% of CPS revenues. But those property tax revenues include money from prior years not paid then because of tax appeals. But other local sources including taxes, replacement tax in particular, pushes it up to 45.4% of all revenues in the 2010-11 school year. At that time all state revenues made up 34.4% of CPS revenues.

    The percentage of revenue coming from property taxes and other local sources is increasing and state/federal dollars are declining. This is due to the fiscal crisis of the state. Because of the fiscal crisis of the state CPS will be forced gradually to depend more on local revenue, most of which are property taxes. Because of the tax cap in Cook county CPS can not raise the property taxes fast enough to keep up with the decline in state/federal dollars. Also the public will not support ever increasing property taxes on homes with declining or stagnate values and commerical property in the city is beat up big time too.

    The trend lines are clear and that is why all the bond rating agencies are cutting CPS debt ratings. It's not a pretty picture, the good times for CPS getting massive poverty dollars and large pots of ELL and special ed money are ending fast. Things are actually much worse for really poor south suburban districts, but CPS is the monster in the room and it has fiscally collapased twice now. Once during the Great Depression and then in 1979 when the state took indirect fiscal control by creating the School Finance Authority.

    So the possibility of it happening again in a few years is real and it is these types of crisis situations where radical changes in district governance can take place. The population will likely accept austerity better from an elected Board that has public disputs, fights, etc, than from an unelected one, so a change in how the district is controlled is possible. By the time we get an elected school board, if we do, things will be ugly.

    The only way out in the long run is to increase income taxes on the highest earners in the state and shift those funds to education state wide to reduce the pressure on local funds for all districts. But this can not be done with the Illinois flat tax, and Chicagoans with median household incomes of around $46,350 can't take another state income tax increase and no Chicago politican will vote for it.

    Rod Estvan

  • A new job: Robert Otter has joined the staff at the research and advocacy organization, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, as an education and fiscal policy analyst. Previously, he worked in the CPS communications office, where he was responsible for research and policy on the budget, labor negotiations, the longer school day and other CPS education policy initiatives. http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2012/11/09/20601/comings-goings-otter-national-louis-university

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