Principal Ratings, Pension Battles*

Principal Ratings, Pension Battles*

Today's news (besides the cold) includes a story from Catlalyst that the new principal evaluation results are out, plus looming pension fights when the debate turns to Chicago teachers, plus (national) growth in charters, and lots of national news (parents speak out in favor of Common Core in NYC, among other items). Check it out -- let me know what I'm missing. [*Added SUPES training stories from Catalyst]


Few principals earn top, bottom rating under new evaluation Catalyst: Fewer than 1 percent of principals received the lowest rating of “unsatisfactory.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, just 18 percent of elementary principals and fewer than 7 percent of high school principals were rated “excellent.” This is the first year that principal ratings include student achievement as a factor, a change mandated by state law. Achievement growth among students from “priority groups”— English learners, special education students, Latinos and African Americans—is a separate factor.

SUPES Academy contract under scrutiny of inspector general Catalyst: The IG is investigating the circumstances surrounding the $20 million contract to SUPES, the largest no-bid contract in at least five years. Barbara Byrd-Bennett has previous ties to SUPES, while education administrators who work as consultants for the for-profit business have similar entangled relationships.

SUPES  principal training under fire Catalyst: After much grumbling by principals that the expensive training was not worthwhile, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told principals they could opt out of training, asked a committee of principals for suggestions and hired a former colleague from Ohio to oversee the project.


Chicago's Own Pension Crisis Endangers City's Future Huff Post: Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the union fully expects a bill that will solve the problem "on the backs of working people."

Chicago Pursues Deal to Change Pension Funding NYT: This article looks at the City of Chicago’s underfunded pension system following the Illinois General Assembly’s December 3 action on pension reform for the State funds. The Civic Federation said without pension reform, City of Chicago property taxes would need to more than double to accommodate steep increases in the City’s required contributions to its Police, Fire, Municipal and Laborers’ pension funds.


CPS is MIA for Canter meeting Hyde Park Herald: Hamilton-Doyle said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel have said they don't believe in the need for middle schools but Emmanuel sends his children to the University of Chicago Laboratory's middle school

Brutal cold, snow could snarl Wednesday morning commute Sun Times: It’s going to remain cold. Brutally cold, with wind chills of 8 below zero Wednesday. A winter weather advisory was issued for a storm expected to dump two to four inches just in time to potentially snarl your morning rush hour commute


Computers in CPS Tribune: Chicago Public Schools has announced a focus on computer science after getting rid of almost all computer teachers and computers over the last decade since. Bogan High School was a computer tech academy and the computer labs were dismantled.

More kids died from abuse, neglect than DCFS reported, agency says WBEZ: The number of kids who died from abuse or neglect over the past five years in Illinois is higher than the state’s child-welfare agency has reported, according to new figures Tuesday from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The number of deaths in that time is 455, DCFS officials said — which is 11 more than the agency previously reported.

The movie that brought Naperville face to face with its teens' drug use WBEZ: During the 2011-2012 school year, three students from one public high school in west suburban Naperville died from drugs. Kelly McCutcheon was a senior at Neuqua Valley High School at the time, and she started asking her classmates questions about their drug use. The project turned into a documentary that stunned the well-to-do, family-focused community.


Charter Schools Continue Dramatic Growth Despite Controversies HuffPost:The growth is large, percentage-wise, but since some of the numbers started low, the statistics may be overstating the reality. For example, the report found that the number of districts with more than one-fifth of students in a charter school has increased by 350 percent over the last eight years -- but only seven districts had that level of enrollment eight years ago.

New Orleans leads nation in percentage of public charter school enrollment Washington Post: New Orleans led the nation last year as the city with the greatest percentage of students enrolled in public charter schools, followed by Detroit and the District of Columbia, according to a new survey.


Supporters of the Common Core Speak Out WNYC: State education commissioner John King faced a highly supportive audience Tuesday night at his first forum on the Common Core learning standards in New York City. Parents at the Brooklyn forum spoke emotionally about the need for improved instruction and at times recalled their own stories of performing well in high school, only to get to college to need remedial classes or tutoring.

As testing anxiety peaks, student media campaign urges calm Chalkbeat NY: While student aversion to tests is nothing new, the Hudson students’ campaign comes at a moment of high anxiety about testing in New York: grade 3-8 state exams tied to tougher standards caused scores to plummet this year, a new evaluation system for city teachers factors in test scores, and a rule change requiring higher Regents scores to graduate is now fully in effect. Last week, a group of teachers in Brooklyn held a public forum to vent their frustrations.

D.C. teachers event turns raucous, with mayoral candidates drowned out Washington Post: The main point of the whole raucous evening was spelled out on the blue-and-white sign given center stage at Eastern High School on Monday night: ‘Our voices matter,’ it said. Teachers’ voices, it meant.

Budget Deal Could Offer School Districts Relief from Sequestration PoliticsK12: It's unclear at this point what the agreement, if approved by Congress, will mean for individual programs. Congress has until Jan. 15 to craft a final spending bill for fiscal year 2014, which will help school districts set spending levels next fall.

After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought NYT: Large-scale online courses, hailed as a way to democratize higher education, have so far been plagued by very high attrition rates.

To Get Kids Exercising, Schools Are Becoming Creative NPR: An NPR poll finds that most elementary school kids have physical education classes just one or two days a week. In response, parents and educators are getting kids to squeeze in walks, jogs and jumping jacks before, after and even during school.

Parents Worry Schools Overlook Girls Who Aren't College-Bound NPR: In a new poll, parents of girls were more likely to say no when asked if schools were sufficiently preparing students for the world of work. And with many well-paying trades still dominated by men, girls may have a harder time succeeding in the workplace without some kind of higher education.

Walcott Admits Charter School Rollout Could've Been Better WNYC: Walcott pointed to the increase in school options as one of his biggest accomplishments. There are now more than 1,800 public schools, a 50 percent increase since Bloomberg took office.

Two options for L.A. school board in filling Marguerite LaMotte's seat LA Times: The death this week of Los Angeles school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte will have immediate pragmatic and political implications for L.A. Unified, including the challenge of how to fill her vacant seat.

In A Small Missouri Town, Immigrants Turn To Schools For Help NPR: The once-sleepy tourist town of Noel, Mo., in the heart of the Ozark mountains, is now home to hundreds of immigrants and newly arrived refugees, thanks largely to the huge Tyson Food, Inc., poultry plant. And since the town lacks the infrastructure to serve these new residents, schools have become the de facto safety net.

Missouri School Busing Causes ''Crippling'' Fallout NBC News: School choice law cripples already devastated school districts as students flock to better performing schools.

Filed under: Daily News Roundup


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    John King is pathetic. Just like Rahm, he brought in paid ringers to support him. Look closely at the supposedly "hand made" signs. Sorry, he will not be able to manufacture support from parents.

  • Can Illinois Schools Crack Their Property Tax Addiction? | Heartlander Magazine

  • Bad news, Illinois: Pension deal didn't actually solve anything - Opinion - Crain's Chicago Business [Ralph Martire]

  • Again Alexander provides his readers with interesting stuff. I had not read the NY Times article on the Chicago City pensions. Rick Lyman who wrote the article has been with the Times for 16 years, but never as a business reporter. He has covered national issues, media, books and Theater, but not economics and business. As of late he has done a few articles about pension issues across the USA.

    But like so many journalists Lyman seems mathematically challenged and therefore does not do much of a deep dive into the underlying math of what he is writing about. Case in point from his article is when he discussed property taxes.

    Property taxes and pensions. Lyman writes "One credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings, estimated that if there is no deal to reduce pension benefits for city workers and no cuts in services, the city will have to increase property taxes by 35 percent. Actually, the situation is even worse, said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a government watchdog group. The Fitch study looked only at police and firefighter pensions. If you include pensions for teachers, laborers and other municipal employees, property taxes in that situation would have to more than double, he said. "

    Not mentioned in the discussion at all is the issue of Chicago's low property tax rate which a journalist should do in order to put the proposed rate increase discussion into context. There is also no understanding of the complexity of equalized assessed value (EAV) of property in the article. Nor is the complex issues relating to residential property for which the homeowner qualifies for one or more exemptions discussed.

    Clearly not everything can be taken into consideration when writing such a general article, but Chicago's property tax rate relative to suburban Cook county really should have been examined when writing about big increases and by extension the equity of such an increase was subtlety raised also by Layman's article.

    Currently what is called the composite property tax rate for the City of Chicago is 6.396. This includes all taxing bodies including the Chicago Public Schools (3.442 or 53.5% of the total rate). Chicago's rate is the lowest in Cook County. For example a home in the City of Blue Island would have a rate between 14.271 and 14.407 depending on which elementary school district the house was in. The town of Cicero has a composite rate of 14.038. The village of Mount Prospect's rate is between 9.181 and 8.813 depending on the school district. The City of Evanston has a composite rate of around 8.537. ( go to to see all the data).

    So if the City of Chicago's rate went up by 35% the rate would be about 8.63, a little higher than Evanston's 2012 rate, but still considerably lower than Mount Prospect's rate or far lower than the rate for a town like Cicero. Even if we took Mr Msall's worse case analysis and the rate were doubled it would be about 12.79 which is still lower than Cicero's rate.

    I am not advocating for Chicago to jack up its property tax rate to cover the entire cost of pensions, but clearly given Chicago's very low rate increasing the rate and allowing from a multiple year wavier to the Property Tax Extension Law (PTELL) to allow for an increase needs to be put on the table as part of the solution.

    Unfortunately Rick Lyman does not even situate property taxes in Chicago appropriately in his article and he raises the specter of a City bankruptcy using the Detroit prescient. Detroit has historically had high property taxes relative to those towns around it, but because the collection rate of those taxes has been so low the rate has been meaningless ( here is a good article about that aspect of Detroit's bankruptcy ).

    Comparing Chicago to Detroit in this context is most inappropriate and I think that Lyman's article is unbalanced.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod, I appreciate what you are saying. But from a personal perspective, it doesn't feel like our property taxes are low. True, they may be proportionately lower than the suburbs, but at some point you make the suburbs look extremely appealing if you increase the property taxes in the city well beyond the total amount paid by an individual homeowner out in the suburbs. We own a small home (roughly 1500 sq. ft.). Our property taxes are currently around 15K (disproportionally higher because its brick). If they go up to 30K to pay for the pensions we will be forced to leave the city. I am NOT going to pay 30K a year in property taxes to live in a tiny house on a tiny lot and send my child to a school that can no longer afford to fund art and music. All of a sudden, my distain for the suburbs is waning!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Where do you live-which neighborhood. No one I know is paying more than 5,000 in property taxes in Chicago(excludes downtown)

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I admit we are paying considerably more than $5,000 a year in property taxes on our Andersonville home. I guess I am part of the ruling class - good god!

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to district299reader:

    We live in the St.Ben's/North Center neighborhood, and the property taxes we pay on a SFH are not out of the norm for the neighborhood. Rod you are right, selling our house would not be a problem (at least not right now). And commuting into the city isn't a concern for us, as we both telecommute for the most part. But the larger issue still holds true. You say comparatively speaking your house in Andersonville is a bargain compared to the taxes paid in Evanston. But, if your projected increases came to fruition, that wouldn't be the case for us and Evanston would be an appealing cheaper option. Outside of Cook County wouldn't be out of the question either. The biggest question is what is the tipping point at which the city becomes not worth the cost? Having lived for many years in Massachusetts, I am no stranger to paying high taxes. But I am also accustomed to receiving adequate services for those taxes. I can't say that is the case right now in Chicago.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If we go back to the NYT article there is no recognition how amazingly low the property tax rate in Chicago is relative to the average town in Cook county. That is a problem and it is based in sloppy journalism.

    I would also add that there are lot of suburbs with double the tax rate of the city that don't have even one elementary school that could academically compare to Bell School.

    I totally agree that there is a limit ti how high a city can raise its property taxes. Chicago is no where near that limit. If it were we would not be seeing on the north side two flats being torn down and single family homes being built with full bathrooms for every bedroom costing $2 million and more.

    Chicago isn't Cleveland, it is a world class city with a large population of higher income white collar workers. But our property tax rate is geared to a relatively lower paid working class family with homes in the 40-50 thousand range. With the existing EAV system those homes are taxed very lightly, in fact far, far lower than similarly vaulted homes in rural towns in either Illinois or Wisconsin.

    The reason for this system is to protect the voting base of Chicago's Democratic Party machine. Effectively it was a reward for keeping in power politicians that have repeatedly been jailed for political corruption for the last 50 years.

    Our Mayor while not being a born and raised Chicago machine boy understands this political dynamic, plus both he and his neighbors are getting a great property tax deal on very nice homes in Ravenswood.

    Rod Estvan

  • district299reader a rate increase needs to be examined as part of any solution to the pension issues the article discusses, it wasn't in the article by Lyman.

    If you want a really good deal on property taxes, quality of homes, and schools you will need to be outside of Cook County and in the extreme collar suburbs. Then unless you work a reasonable distance from your home you have to add on travel expenses, particularly if you work in the city. There is no free lunch in today's America.

    Threatening to leave the city is meaningless in terms of property values in this town. The turn over rate here is already significant and in middle class and upper income communities homes are selling for a good buck. Right now in Lake View there are 19 homes for sale with an average price of $494,815, if you look at Lincoln Park or DePaul the numbers are far higher. So for the market district299reader is in based on the comment relating to paid taxes there is no problem selling the home and finding a buyer. At least right now.

    In communities largely populated by families with lower incomes the EAV of homes are so depressed an increase in the rate does not add up to much money out of the home owners pockets.

    So in reality if the City was to include even a 35% increase in property tax rates we would not see abandoned property all over town, nor would it devastate our real estate market. Chicago is a bargain compared to NYC, ask Alexander. Or how about San Francisco, or LA?

    I personally would prefer not to see a 35% rate increase on my home in Andersonville believe me, but I know when I look at what people are paying in Evanston in property taxes for similar Victorian homes with coach houses I am getting a very good deal.

    Rod Estvan

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