Budgets, Pensions, Charters (Oh, My)

Budgets, Pensions, Charters (Oh, My)

Today's news mostly comes from yesterday's Board meeting: The start of the new budget and pension debates, continued concerns about charter expulsions (see dueling editorials from the Sun Times and Tribune), plus more about testing protests. Oh, and the calendar for next year has been changed. Meantime, great comments on recent posts -- about Rham, CTU, and me.  ALL CAPS!

PENSION REFORM

How to rescue pensions for Chicago's City Hall and CPS Tribune (editorial): In any rising crisis, there's efficiency in proposing the most devastating, least workable solutions as early as possible: That allows discussions to migrate quickly toward more reasonable fixes before the crisis — here it's the threatened implosion of public pensions for Chicago police, firefighters, teachers and other workers — reaches a terrible climax.

CPS, CTU to take another stab at pension overhaul Tribune: After months of stalled negotiations over pension reform, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union officials said Wednesday that both sides will meet next month to try once more for a solution to the district's biggest financial problem.

CPS chief wants same pension reform state passed for other teachers Sun Times:  Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett made her position on the looming pension overhaul crystal clear — and she’s echoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “CPS is seeking the same changes recently made by the state of Illinois to their pension system,” she told the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday. “

BUDGET CUTS

CPS "fiscal crisis" takes center stage Catalyst:  Imposing the changes made to the state employee pension system on CPS would save the school district $250 million, Byrd-Bennett said. The declaration that the district is in financial trouble is an annual ritual. This year, however, the alarm is louder because schools were hit hard with budget cuts last year—a point reiterated numerous times by parents at Wednesday’s School Board meeting.

CPS Per-Pupil Funding Should Be Increased, Parents Say DNAinfo: CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett fell back on pension woes as an excuse. She said that long-overdue pension payments required this year would cost the district $613 million, more than $400 million more than last year, and would climb to...

CHARTER EXPULSIONS

Charter school students 11 times more likely to be expelled: CPS Chicago Sun-Times: ... if teachers refused to do so. CPS officials declined to comment. When asked Wednesday whether teachers who refuse to administer the ISAT should be punished, Emanuel said: “Barbara's going to address that,” referring to CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Interactive map here.

Do charters expel too many students? Chicago Tribune: But few will argue this: The vast majority of teachers and principals don't expel students comfortably or capriciously. Expulsion signals multiple failures. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is dismantling the district's much-maligned zero-tolerance

Editorial: Why do charter schools expel more students? Chicago Sun-Times: That work remains in its infancy and CPS, under CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett's leadership, has pledged to do more. She's assembled a task force, including charter school leadership, that is expected to recommend further changes to the student discipline...

TESTING

Teachers at Saucedo say "No" to state tests Catalyst: With nearly 40 percent of their students already opting out of the ISAT, teachers at Saucedo Scholastic Academy—a high-achieving magnet school—took the bold step on Tuesday of voting to refuse to administer it.

Some CPS Teachers Boycotting ISAT Chicago Tonight: CPS Chief Accountability Officer John Barker says though the ISAT is not being used as it has been in the past, it is still critical for the district. Barker says teachers do not have the right to opt out of giving the ISAT without facing disciplinary measures.

MISC

Are Chicago's elite private schools as diverse as they claim to be? Reader: The socioeconomic makeup of the city's elite private schools is a public policy issue—or should be one. University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park, the Latin School of Chicago in the Gold Coast, and the Francis Parker School in Lincoln Park are expensive and private, but they believe deeply in diversity—racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic.…

CPS school year to start after Labor Day CLTV: Chicago Public Schools students will begin their school year after Labor Day next fall. CPS changed the master calendar Wednesday, approving a start date of Tuesday, September 2. Officials say they pushed back the start of the school year after getting feedback from parents and the teachers union. One other change the district reinstated Presidents ‘Day as a holiday instead of Lincoln’s birthday.

Parents rallying to keep Beverly school principal Chicago Sun-Times: The LSC contends that Gannon's work “does not meet expectations” — even though Sutherland's test scores have remained high and Gannon won a $10,000 merit award from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

More transparency from Mayor Rahm and CPS Reader: My recent opus on the saga at Ames Middle School was so complicated that I never got around to telling you one of my favorite parts: the so-called FOIAgate angle. So allow me to eat some hummus for fortification—ah, delicious—take a deep breath, and proceed .

NATIONAL

Teachers Unions Mobilize To Delay The Common Core NPR: The president of the largest U.S. teachers union is calling on school districts to delay adopting the Common Core education standards.

Chris Christie faces new uproar in state’s largest city Politico: On Wednesday evening, teachers unions ratcheted up the pressure as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent Christie a letter demanding that he relinquish control over the troubled school district, which the state has run since 1994.

Five Points from Secretary Arne Duncan on Latinos and Education NBC: On Thursday President Barack Obama will launch an initiative geared toward young men and boys of color to improve their chances for success.

Fed Up With Zero Tolerance In Schools, Advocates Push For Change NPR: Studies show that harsh policies, including criminalization, don't help the students who are removed from the classroom — and that schools punish black, Latino and disabled students more harshly.

Ban on junk food marketing in schools? MSNBC: Schools across the country will soon have to eliminate any posters or billboards advertising unhealthy snacks on campus. The White House is banning junk food ads to build on new regulations setting sugar and fat limits for any food sold in schools.

OTHER CITIES

At school closings meetings, school choice groups learn the lay of the land in Memphis Chalkbeat Memphis: A table set up at a screening of a documentary about the parent trigger act. The school district auditorium in midtown Memphis was crowded Tuesday.

From Ravitch to the Ritz: SXSWedu highlights Austin Chronicle: Reign of Error: The Danger of Privatizing Schools":Diane Ravitch, America's leading researcher on educational policy and the danger of the...

School Boards Association rises to challenge, proposes teacher dismissal bill EdSource: Picking up pieces from two failed attempts to rewrite the law on teacher dismissals, the California School Boards Association will lead this year’s attempt to make it easier and less expensive to fire teachers accused of serious misconduct and sex crimes against children.

5 lessons from Chalkbeat’s event on teacher evaluations by video ChalkbeatNY: Our first two guests, a teacher and assistant principal from a middle school in the South Bronx, discussed quirks of the Danielson Framework, the way a subtle classroom command can derail a lesson and when technology trumps person.

Chancellor Recommends Book to Calm Test Nerves WNYC: As city teachers prepare for the second year of more difficult state exams, Chancellor Carmen Fariña urged them to lighten up a little. "A good way to ease these concerns, especially for younger students, is to share Judith Finchler’s book, Testing Miss Malarkey (Walker Children, reprint 2003), which offers a humorous take on the world of standardized testing.

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  • For those who flamed me the other day, there is a Tribune article that S&P says that Chicago is not Detroit yet, but only if it uses its tools to deal with the pension and debt problems. I don't know if the headlines cited above mean that something is actually going to be done.

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    In reply to jack:

    Chicago has an A bond rating. Detroit has a D bond rating. So when is Chicago going bankrupt Jack? You never did answer my question.

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    In reply to jack:

    "We saw ... a comparison people were making (but) our criteria made it look starkly different," Ridley said. "People wanted to draw comparisons, where we didn't necessarily think there were comparisons that made sense from a credit standpoint."

    The report notes that Chicago has a much higher median per-capita income, higher housing values, a lower unemployment rate and a much slower rate of population decrease over the past six decades. It also points to the 22-year tenure of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the city's long-range financial plans, which it lists as signs of stronger management than the Motor City, where the entrance to the mayor's office has been something of a revolving door in recent years.

    Chicago also set more money aside for financial rainy days, has more cash on hand and has a far greater ability to meet its debt obligations despite a reluctance to increase taxes"

  • What's notably missing from the recent news on expulsions and suspensions is that most parents and taxpayers probably overwhelmingly approve of strict but fair disciplinary policies.

    Does anyone doubt that the #1 motivator of 70% of students not attending their attendance boundary high school is avoidance of the most troublesome students?

    Perhaps traditional schools should match charter schools' expulsion rates. In the last ten years high schools on average have become more strict. Many more students in Noble. AUSL "turn around' schools are considerably different from the old institution.

    What's the evidence that a policy of fewer expulsions and suspension is more ethical and effective?

  • Donn charter schools do not exist in a vacuum, they are part of the city and of our state. The reality is even a minimal 11 day expulsion from a charter school for gross disobedience equals removal from the charter school for ever. Legally those students expelled students have an entitlement to an education at the expense of the tax payers of Chicago and they will return to neighborhood high schools or in some cases alternative schools like Youth Connections Charter Schools.

    Since charter schools are using my property tax dollars to operate in addition to my state income tax dollars, I want them to effectively educate as many students as possible. Including gang members or suspected gang members, including disruptive students, and including students with mental illness who do not require a therapeutic setting.

    If we operate, as many traditional schools have in Chicago for years, by trying to save only those who will be reasonably orderly and whose families have some control over their children then we are writing off many students. Charter schools are not the only schools that have done this, but the data CPS released indicates charters are doing it more frequently than most traditional schools. Several years ago I saw up close Orr H. S. expelling and repeatedly suspending dozens of kids in a failed attempt to maintain order. Never once during this period of madness at Orr did CPS provide additional social workers to this school, or provide comprehensive behavioral interventions for students, they did however provide additional security which led to additional suspensions and expulsions.

    Andrews and Bonta (2010) reported the results of eight different met-analyses that calculated the correlation between various factors and criminal behavior. These researchers found that four factors that were consistently more correlated to criminal behavior than others. They call these factors the “big four”, and they have correlation coefficients averaging .26.

    The first of the “big four” is a history of antisocial behavior. This factor includes the number of times that a criminal defendant was involved in antisocial behavior such as, expulsion and suspension from school, arrests, convictions, probation violations, rule violations within prison; the different types of antisocial behavior; and early onset of that behavior. The severity of the offenses is not part of this factor.

    Those students written off will more likely become our future prisoners and the cost of those individuals for society are enormous. The total cost of Illinois’s prisons—to incarcerate an average daily population of 45,551—is more than $1.7 billion. More than half (51.8 percent) of all inmates released in Illinois are back behind bars within three years.

    All told at the county and state level, it costs an average of $129.04 a day to house an inmate in the prison system. That is around $47,000 a year for the average inmate. Charter schools like traditional schools need to do their part to keep students from entering the school to prison pipe line.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Dang. You can go to college for less than that. Interesting investment our society is making.

  • Do more expulsions and suspensions produce more dropouts? Total district disciplinary actions have probably increased over the last ten years, and so have graduation rates.
    !0% of total freshmen currently attend Noble in part because their parents want a school with considerably stronger disciplinary policies than what are typical in CPS.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn from my professional experience working with parents of students with disabilities, a good number.of whom have emotional behavior disorders, I agree that the parents applying in particular to Noble are looking for order, safety, and structure. I advise them not to put their children in Noble because their children are likely to have discipline problems and I go through the school's handbook with them.

    Many still enroll their kids and some come back and want to litigate over repeated discipline actions. Donn if you don't believe me contact the organization Equip for Equality that litigates or settles these cases, if you contact me at restvan@accessliving.org I can provide additional information.

    Basically your argument is the same as our Dean of Discipline used to make at Calumet High when I taught there. His position was very clear the gang members who were openly disruptive had to be removed in order for us to teach the kids "who want to learn." That strategy failed and Calumet was closed and converted into a less than successful Perspectives charter school.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    I'm certainly not suggesting what an individual school should do in regards to suspensions and expulsions. I support the strategy the district is essentially following, which is a two tier neighborhood high school system in high need neighborhoods.

    Why the disciplinary standards of low growth, high drama schools should be deemed the preferable standard for all schools is beyond my comprehension.

  • "Total district disciplinary actions have probably increased over the last ten years, and so have graduation rates."- That is a pretty big assumption. If you work in CPS, you know the opposite is likely true.

    It took CPS years to release the damning evidence against charters. Do you think they'll ever release annual data going back decades.

    "!0% of total freshmen currently attend Noble in part because their parents want a school with considerably stronger disciplinary policies than what are typical in CPS."

    Do you mean 0%, 10%, or 100%? If the only innovation charters have that appeal to parents is kicking out the bad boys and girls, then they aren't innovative at all. Charters can't handle violent kids, but even worse they have no tolerance for any but the most compliant. You can get expelled for charters for relatively minor actions that real public schools have to tolerate.

  • Why is higher expulsion and suspension rates "damning evidence against charters"? If you don't like the schools that have these policies, don't teach in these schools and don't send your children.

    All you need to do is to convince parents that these schools are undesirable and they will all rapidly close.

    Considering Rahm's school choice position, perhaps he should set up neighborhood schools with no testing and a short day where no one is ever suspended or expelled. Chemistry is replaced by drum circle, and every student enrolled is automatically a vice president in the social justice club. He will agree to whatever the CTU wants in their contract, but with the stipulation that these schools receive equal per student funding. Nirvana.

  • Donn, your beloved charters have hid this data for YEARS. It proves they are incapable of educating many children. A so-called public school should not mask it's ineptitude as zero tolerance discipline. Real public schools serve all. Charter discipline policies are absurd and designed to deselect students. Charters shouldn't be funded with my tax dollars.

    In your charter world, your charter police would only deal with non-violent crimes, your charter fire department would only put out small fires, and your charter mayor would only acknowledge successes while ignoring failures.

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