All About Karen (In 2015)

All About Karen (In 2015)

Lots of coverage and commentary about Karen Lewis's campaign pronouncements. Catalyst gets a cash infusion.  They're upset at Benito Juarez. Plus new national polls showing support for tests and standards.


CTU chief Lewis is campaigning all right — against the mayor: Brown Sun Times: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has ruled herself out of a 2015 mayoral campaign against Rahm Emanuel so often that nobody even bothered to ask her again Monday after a big City Club speech in which she threatened to “send him into early retirement.”

CTU President Lewis Intends To Play Spoiler Role In Next Year's Election Chicagoist: Since CTU and the School Board agreed on that contract all Emanuel, the board and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara-Byrd-Bennett have done

CTU's Karen Lewis Promises 2015 City Election Will be 'Contentious' DNAinfo: CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett responded, "My team and I are focused on finishing this school year strong for our students, parents, teachers and administrators, and we are not yet focused on contract negotiations for next year."

Lewis should tone down rhetoric Chicago Sun-Times: ... as one way fix state's pensicrisis shore up. Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, supports a financial transaction tax as one way to fix the state's pension crisis and shore up the Chicago Public Schools budget.

Traders would be 'heroes' if new tax saves pensions: CTU chief
Chicago Sun-Times: A tax that financial traders in Chicago would pay on each transaction could solve the pension crisis, generate revenue and “make heroes” out of the wealthy men and women who work on LaSalle Street, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told...


SXU to host speakers for annual commencement The Beverly Review: St. Xavier University (SXU) recently announced that former Mercy Housing chief executive officer (CEO) Sr. Lillian Murphy, RSM, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief executive officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett will speak and receive honorary degrees...

New  national grants Catalyst:  Catalyst is pleased to report that the Knight Foundation has awarded Catalyst a two-year, $100,000 grant to help grow its audience, community engagement and revenue. In addition, the Ford Foundation has approved a grant of $375,000 to support reporting on expanded learning time by Catalyst and six other local, nonprofit news organizations: EdSource Today (in Oakland, CA), the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and the ChalkBeat publications in Denver, Indianapolis, Memphis and New York City.

Benito Juarez Teachers Feel 'Harassed' After Criticizing Attendance Policy DNAinfo: PILSEN — Teachers at Benito Juarez Community Academy — whose attendance policy is under investigation by the Chicago Public Schoolswatchdog — said Tuesday they felt "harassed" after a school official sent an email accusing them of "libel" ...


Teachers, students and adult public more supportive of school testing than you might think Hechinger: Two different opinion polls show a surprising level of support for bubbling in circles with number 2 pencils... It seems that teachers are softening their resistance to testing.

UFT releases details about proposed changes to teacher evals, Absent Teacher Reserve Chalkbeat: Severance pay will be offered to excessed teachers based on how many years they’ve been in the system: One week of pay for ATRs with three to four years of work, and two weeks pay for four to six years of work. The top cash-out would be 10 weeks of pay for 20 years of service.

Unions Picket N.Y. Advocacy-Group Meeting TeacherBeat: Teachers' union members are protesting an meeting staged by the advocacy organization Education Reform Now, which they depict as an example of big-money interests trying to profit off of public schools.

Teacher-Evaluation Bid in Texas Gets Poor Union Reception Teacher Beat: The Texas AFT doesn't like a plan submitted by the Lone Star State as part of its NCLB waiver.

Last year, 25 hedge fund managers earned more than double every kindergarten teacher combined Vox: It's about 0.13 percent of total national income for 2013 being earned by something like 0.00000008 percent of the American population.

Controversy Over Title IX Protecting Transgender Students NPR: The Department of Education declared that transgender students are protected under Title IX. But there are questions about how that will work on campuses, and what the legal complications might be.

Samuel Halperin, Education Policy Leader of Great Society Era, Dies PK12: In 1993, Mr. Halperin founded the American Youth Policy Forum, a professional-development program for federal policy aides that provides information and field experiences related to youth development.

Tests That Educators Want to Have, but Can’t NYT: A state order prevents teachers and principals from disclosing the contents of three days of standardized English tests given in April, though 37 principals have sounded the alarm about the design and quality of the tests.

Why some schools still insist on lessons in elegant cursive PBS NewsHour: For centuries, cursive was a pillar of elementary education and a crucial tool for recording and preserving history. But the slow, yet steady decline of this handwriting technique can be traced to the 1970s. Since then, school budgets have gotten smaller and more emphasis has been placed on both standardized testing and technology in the classroom.

City Council Flexes (Limited) Authority Over Charter Schools WNYC: At a Council hearing on Tuesday, Education Committee Chairman Daniel Dromm and his colleagues pressed Department of Education officials and charter school representatives about enrollment patterns, co-locations, private fundraising and disciplinary practices. The hearing — which lasted from the morning to late afternoon — was a chance for council members to vent their frustrations at a charter system that grew to 183 schools under the previous administration with little legislative oversight.

D.C. Council to hold hearings on school boundaries Washington Post: D.C. Council Education Committee Chairman David A. Catania (I-At Large) said he plans to hold hearings in June on the city’s controversial proposals to overhaul school boundaries and student-assignment policies, giving parents and others another public venue to air opinions and concerns.

16-Year-Old Graduates From High School AND College In Same Week HuffPost: “I started when I was 13 at Broward College and I also took my classes throughout the summer, so I was able to finish it before four years,” Bush, who received her degree from Florida Atlantic University, told CBS Miami.

Draft accountability plans raise concerns about usefulness to parents EdSource Today:California school districts are in the process of drafting plans detailing how they intend to spend state education dollars and, so far, most of the documents are dense with education jargon, acronyms and legalese. And in many cases, they don’t provide a clear picture of how districts will use state funds to improve the academic performance of “high-needs” students.



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    According to the Sun Times both Karen Lewis and Bruce Rauner are guilty of ad hominem attacks and inflammatory rhetoric. But they only give one somewhat weak example for Lewis. Rauner is the one running for governor of Illinois. Why is it that the Sun Times wants Karen Lewis to shut up, and writes a full page editorial telling her to tone down the rhetoric, yet lets Rauner off with a meek little "oh, and him too."

    Can someone give a recent example of something she said that is so inflammatory that the Sun Times editorial board needs a fainting couch?

  • The Sun Times editorial in relation to President Lewis’ speech at the City Club was fascinating in many respects, but not worth the time it took to write it. It also missed a major component of her speech that in my opinion was the most problematic aspect of it. That problem is President Lewis in her speech argued that there is no fiscal crisis in CPS that it is a “management tool” and it is manufactured. This is an idea that I would say is prevalent in the CTU CORE union caucus. I have never agreed with this perspective.

    The logic here is if the crisis was reality based the CPS would not close down schools and then spend money opening more prep-schools. Here is what President Lewis said in her City Club speech: “With a billion dollar deficit the Board somehow found a way to authorize 13 new charter operations; to fund three new turnarounds with costs that could trend in upwards of $21 million; to spend $10 million for new furniture; to announce new air conditioning for every school; to unveil surprise plans for a $60 million Barak Obama High School on the North Side in honor of a South Side trailblazer; and the list goes on and on and on.”

    The logic of this argument made by many CORE members and the former Occupy Chicago activists goes on to the critiques of the use of TIFs, supported not just by Chicago’s Mayors but also by the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL–CIO (BCTD) by the way, and that if all the money went to schools there would be no problem. It goes further, if corporate entities weren’t given tax breaks there would also be money for education. Some CORE activists even argue that the national defense budget should be cut and the savings used for education.

    I don’t disagree that there might be no structural imbalance for education in Chicago if there weren’t any TIFs, and if corporate tax breaks weren’t handed out, if the US didn’t have the biggest defense budget in the world – but this is capitalist America and these things are part of that reality. A populist revolution, or a social democratic government in Chicago and the nation is not on the horizon, so this is where we sit.

    The biggest immediate reason for the structural deficit is Mayor Daley the 1st and the 2nd believed deeply in the good politics of low property taxes within the city and they did everything they could to keep the rates down, including pressuring CPS to contain rate increases even before the property tax cap was in place.
    Apparently the Sun Times editorial writers to some degree, like President Lewis, question the new CPS expenditures.

    But the problem with both the editorial writers for the Sun Times and President Lewis is an assumption that public expenditures are somehow based on rationality. Chicago and our nation has a long history of pork barrel spending and patronage spending. So while the CPS budget is actually structurally imbalanced to revenues and has been probably since the time of Big Bill Thompson, CPS just has slid along fiscally collapsing fully just two times. Once during the Great Depression and again in 1979.

    Why exactly the Sun Times wants President Lewis to tone it down really isn’t clear to me. Somehow they believe it would be good for children, but exactly why is unclear. I mean it is pretty hard to have a common legislative agenda for the “kids” when the Mayor wants to contain pension costs and limit bargaining rights by use of the provisions of SB7. Similarly the Mayor believes the union was obstructing education progress by requesting payments for the longer school day he believe was essential in order to make progress. Clearly the Mayor also thought the teachers strike was an attack on the children of Chicago. I just don’t see Mayor Emanuel and President Lewis marching into the sunset together arm and arm for the children. Overall the editorial was a waste of print space in the ever contracting Chicago Sun Times.

    Rod Estvan

  • So well said Mr. Estvan.
    Consortium on Chicago School Research and Juarez (Comment here copied from Substance)
    If this investigation proves that the allegations are correct one of the biggest losers in all of this will be the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research. Just last month the Consortium released its report "PREVENTABLE FAILURE: IMPROVEMENTS IN LONG-TERM OUTCOMES WHEN HIGH SCHOOLS FOCUSED ON THE NINTH GRADE YEAR"
    The report holds up Juarez as one of the most improved high school's in the city. Stating:
    "The dramatic improvements in on-track rates in Chicago provide an opportunity to answer these questions. A subset of 20 high schools showed substantial improvements in on-track rates as early as 2008 and 2009, so that sufficient time has elapsed to allow us to explore whether increases in ninth grade on-track rates have produced increases in high school graduation rates downstream. The report separately examines two groups of schools: 1) primary movers, three schools (Juarez, Kenwood, and Steinmetz) that showed large improvements in on-track rates in 2008. . ."
    Mark Twain (among others) is reported to have used this phrase "there are Lies, damned lies, and statistics." Data is not worth much if it turns out to be falsified. But researchers including those at the University of Chicago have to by nature be skeptical of significant improvements occurring over a relatively short period of time at any school.
    Part of that process is being on the ground and talking with staff, students, and parents at schools on a confidential basis to verify the integrity of data to the extent a researcher can. I know when I was a court appointed monitor looking at special education data for schools I attempted to do this whenever possible, which was not as frequently as it should have been done.
    After the scandal in Atlanta it would seem that some level of on the ground data verification needs to be done by all researchers.
    Rod Estvan

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