Houston Lawsuit, NYC Contract, & SE Admissions Hearings

Houston Lawsuit, NYC Contract, & SE Admissions Hearings

Lots of education news -- but the biggest might be from Houston (where they're suing to stop evaluation) and NYC (where they just got a 18 percent/9 year deal).  Locally, there are going to be some hearings about SE high schools (as there should be, right?) and there's another proposal from CTU to raise some taxes but not property taxes. Take a look -it's all below.

Aldermen seek hearings on selective high schools' admissions process Chicago Sun-Times: ... federal judge's 2009 decision to lift a 1980 consent decree that had required Chicago Public Schools to be desegregated with no school being more...

For Blacks, the Class Ladder Is Much Steeper Chicago Magazine: A Chicago Fed study suggests that to go up the income ladder (and avoid falling), blacks require more educational attainment than whites.

Chicago Teachers Union: New taxes to fix pensions--but not higher property taxes WBEZ: The Chicago Teachers Union is rolling out a plan they say will help solve the teachers pension crisis. CTU leaders say their proposals would raise much-needed money for the cash-strapped retirement fund that covers the city's educators. The fund is just under 50 percent funded. A Chicago Public Schools spokesman called those ideas "not a responsible solution."

Man shot along Safe Passage route in Englewood, 2 others shot in West Pullman Chicago Tribune: Safe Passage routes, the streets identified by the Chicago Public Schools as the safest paths to and from schools for students, are supervised around

How Chicago is using psychotherapy to fight crime — and winning Vox: BAM consists of weekly hour-long sessions with groups of no more than 15 high school boys (the average instructor-student ratio is 1 to 8).

Canty Elementary School to Get Annex DNAinfo: Funds for the 16-room annex, which will include a lunchroom that will also serve as a multipurpose room, were included Chicago Public Schools' ...


Houston Teachers' Union Is Latest to Turn to the Courts to Fight Evaluation ... Wall Street Journal: Unions in Florida, New York, New Mexico, Colorado and Tennessee have also filed.

Houston Union Sues District Over 'Value Added' Evaluations TeacherBeat: A federal suit against the Houston district's use of "value added" highlights the increasing pushback against new evaluation system--raising tough questions for districts, researchers, and unions alike.

Ending 5-Year Dispute, New York Reaches Deal With Teachers Union NPR: Teachers in the largest public school system in the country had been working without a contract since 2009. Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a "landmark" labor deal. See also EdWeekChalkbeatNYTWNYC.

New York parents opt out of high stakes tests Marketplace: Parents’ groups estimate about 1,000 kids in New York City won’t be taking the Common Core assessments this year. Statewide, it’s about 35,000. Those numbers are hard to verify and they represent just  a tiny fraction of the total number of kids sitting down for the math tests this week.

D.C. charter school board releases data on waiting lists, open slots Washington Post: There are still more than 2,000 spots open at D.C. charter schools for the 2014-2015 school year, but most of the available seats are in low-and mid-performing schools, according to data that the D.C. Public Charter School Board released Thursday.

At Success Academy schools, high-octane test prep leaves nothing to chance ChalkBeat: Teachers had been taught the proper way to hand out tissues during the test (pass the student a new sheet first, then use a second sheet to grab the used tissue). They knew to set their classroom temperatures to between 66 and 70 degrees, and to call each student’s family every evening before a test to remind them of the next morning’s exam.


Federal Waivers, an Advocacy Group, and Teacher Evaluations: A Michigan Story State EdWatch: Michigan lawmakers are upset with an advocacy group for invoking NCLB waivers in discussions about teacher-evaluation bills under consideration.

Obama Taps Former OMB Aide for Key K-12 Policy Post PK12: Gordon is currently a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.  But from 2009 to 2013, Gordon wore a number of different hats at the Office of Management and Budget, including acting deputy director, executive associate director, and associate director for human resources.

Florida Advances Tuition Aid for Children Brought to U.S. Illegally NYT: The legislation’s passage is a sign that Florida’s conservative Legislature and Republican governor are intensifying efforts to woo Hispanic voters.

Dept. of Education names 55 colleges facing sexual assault investigations PBS NewsHour: The release came two days after a White House task force promised greater government transparency on sexual assault in higher education. Going forward, the department said, it will keep an updated list of schools facing such an investigation and make it available upon request.

Textbook Rental Company Turns To Late-Night Food Orders To Sell Investors BuzzFeed: Not unlike many old school media companies that are preaching a gospel of digital first, Rosensweig wants to do the same for Chegg, lately referring to his company as a "student-first connected learning platform." In addition to rented textbooks, the company is now offering study materials, internships, college match programs, and, yes, even a discount food-ordering service.

A computer program to write your essays Marketplace: A writing professor at MIT has developed a computer program that writes a college essay in one second, after you input a few key words and it actually scores pretty well on an online grading system meant for actual human student writing.

Police: Teen plotted to kill family, bomb schools Seattle Times: Authorities said Thursday that they prevented an "unimaginable tragedy" by foiling a teenager's elaborate plot to kill his family and bomb the junior and senior high school in the southern Minnesota city of Waseca.


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    Great ideas from the CTU on a transaction tax and commuter tax to fix the pensions. High time we taxed the "haves" rather than the "have-nots."

  • In reply to Ed Dziedzic:

    Ed, while your war cry of fairness may get the union base on board, it has enormous implications on the already abysmal state of Illinois finances. While the "LaSalle street tax" is a catchy name, your union is not thinking through the dire impact this would have on the state. Unless all exchanges across the country impose the same tax at the same time, the exchange will move to another state that does not impose taxes. That will have a huge impact on Illinois and "poof" your "solution" will be gone.

    The commuter tax is just silly. What business would ever move to Illinois with such prohibitive fragmentation of the workforce.

    What you will end up with is a state of "have nots" as defined by you. BTW, what are the matching concessions CTU is proposing?

    I am sure you cannot reply because you are working and not blogging, so I will check back later for your reply.

  • I don’t think the CTU’s proposals for alternatives to property tax increases should be first dismissed out of hand by either CPS or the City of Chicago. But there are problems with the proposals and let me explain in some detail what these problems might be.

    The idea of floating TIF based bonds to pay down existing CPS debt and then using the freed CPS credit capability to float bonds which would be used to pay down at least some of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund’s $9 billion in unfunded liabilities is creative. However, 65 ILCS 5/11-74.4-1 through 11-74.4-11 which allows Chicago and other Municipalities to create TIF districts does not explicitly allow these funds to be used to pay down existing debt of any municipal entity including school district debt for capital projects.

    The Illinois TIF Act generally authorizes that TIF funds may be used for: The administration of a TIF redevelopment project. Property acquisition. Rehabilitation or renovation of existing public or private buildings. Construction of public works or improvements. Job training. Relocation. Financing costs, including interest assistance, studies, surveys and plans. Marketing sites within the TIF. Professional services, such as architectural, engineering, legal and financial planning. Demolition and site preparation.
    Because of the many vested interests involved in TIF financing, including from the construction trade unions I suspect the proposal would be challenged in Court if it were to happen.

    The “LaSalle Street Tax” the CTU discusses would impose new taxes on financial transactions at the CME Group and the Chicago Board Options Exchange is now too late to impose. Why because the shift to electronic trading in the futures market reached a milestone back in October 2007 as “screen” trading constituted for the first time more than 80 percent of total volume, according to the CME group. Pat Arbor a former chairman of the CBOT has said: “The floors will eventually be relics of the past, and the pits will be closed down, I’m saddened by it. But technology’s changing; we have to change with it.”

    So for the CME or CBOT to change the legal location of where the computer is that clears these trades is simple. Effectively this entire operation could be transferred to London fairly rapidly which is now a real possibility. As some of you may know I was once an officer of a futures trading firm here in the City, and I do believe both the CME group and Board of Options would pack up and leave if this tax were imposed. Many of my former associates in the business have retired and many others trade from their homes which might be in Big Sur or where ever.

    A commuter tax on those who work in Chicago but live outside the city is a possibility, but it would require action from the Illinois General Assembly in my opinion. Because the existing taxation powers of Illinois school districts does not include the power to create such a commuter tax, nor is it clear municipalities have such powers under the Illinois Constitution. I don’t believe the Chicago delegation to the General Assembly would have the votes to allow Chicago to impose a suburban commuter tax.

    In New York the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax (MCTMT) is a tax imposed on certain employers and self-employed individuals engaging in business within the metropolitan commuter transportation district (MCTD). This department administers the tax for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MCTD includes the counties of New York (Manhattan), Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Rockland, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester. This is explicitly provided for in New York State law. Until 1999, New York City had a commuter tax, when it was repealed. A commuter tax in New York City would have to have support from the State Legislature in order for reinstatement, and since the majority of state legislators represent people who do not live in New York City, that is not going to happen. Washington, D.C., has sought to enact a commuter tax to recover costs of providing city services to the approximately 300,000 people who commute to the city from suburban Maryland and Virginia. However, in the 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act, the U.S. Congress barred the city from enacting such a tax.

    Now to the crux of the issue as to why the CTU is opposed to an increase in the City property taxes. On this blog I have in the past presented extensive comparative property tax information and all of it shows Chicago’s property taxes are just about the lowest in Cook County. Even the Civic Federation admits this. I think there may be three basic reasons the CTU is opposed an increase in property taxes in the city.

    First, is that the property tax is regressive because everyone rich or poor pays at the same rate. But with rare exceptions in this town those of us with more money have higher valued homes and property which will cause the rich to pay more property taxes. Property values in some communities in the city with high concentrations of poverty are very low and so are property taxes in terms of what the residents have to pay. It is also a problem for retired citizens who want to hold on to their property, but there are at least some exemptions for retired folks.

    Second, is that the property-poor communities must tax at exorbitant rates in order to provide the same level of services as the wealthy communities. And of course there is a direct correlation between tax revenues and level of services. But within Chicago that is less of an issue than it is between poor vs wealthy towns, or the absurd rates some poor south suburban townships have.

    Third property taxation involves the lack of uniformity in setting property values and the corresponding differences in rates among communities. This is a real problem, since the assessor is county wide. But market value is considered as a big part of the formula.

    But the beautiful thing about the CTU proposal is that even though it is unlikely to be implemented the union can say when property taxes in the City are increased to keep the pension funds from collapsing they were opposed to the increase and presented another plan. As far as PR goes it’s a good strategy.

    Rod Estvan

  • fb_avatar

    Thank you Rod. That was extremely insightful.

    I would still call the Traders bluff on moving myself. They pay so little now, I'm not sure it would be much of a loss.

    And the commuter tax is worth a shot. You are absolutely correct, however, about these suggestions at least having good pr value.

  • The way I understand it, the CTU has no official role to play in the pension situation.

    On the other hand, why do we not hear from the CTPF? Is it not their job to publicly advocate via all avenues for the well being of the fund? Why is the CTPF's leadership not heard from?

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Actually the CTU plays a role in the pension fund because there are active teachers who are also union members on the Board of Trustees. CTPF is governed by a 12-member Board of Trustees; six are elected by the teacher contributors, three are elected by the annuitants, one is elected by the principal contributors, and two are appointed by the employer, Board of Education. CTPF Board of Trustees President Jay C. Rehak has been very active, he has appeared on several news programs. He posts frequently on the Substance News web site.

    While the Union itself does not have a slot on the CTPF Board it's members do serve on the Board. By Kevin B. Huber, executive director, Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund is also active and he has testified before legislative committees about reform proposals being presented. The CTPF has one idea on stabilizing the Fund that
    Is the same as the CTU's whose position I have critiqued. Their thinking is as follows which comes from their website:

    "First, if the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) made monthly instead of annual contributions - Chicago's taxpayers would save about $29 million per year. This is the equivalent of asking teachers to increase their pension contribution to 10 percent from the current 9 percent.
    Second, the General Assembly must restore CTPF's dedicated tax levy. By allowing CTPF to resume collecting funds directly from Chicago taxpayers, it prevents the BOE (or anyone else) from ever again diverting pension monies to other uses.
    Third, the BOE should refinance its unfunded liability. This debt currently accrues interest at 7.75 percent per year, compounded. Refinancing the debt to 6 percent could save Chicagoans tens of millions of dollars in interest payments."

    The refinance idea is the same as the CTU's but it does not explicitly propose some type of use of TIF money. The idea of a futures trading transaction tax or a suburban commuter tax has as far as I know never been proposed by the CTPF.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Thanks Rod

    So the CTU is involved since their members are teachers. I suppose it is possible that the specific teachers who are part of the CTPF leadership could technically be dues paying teachers but not actually members of the union (agency fee payers) - would that be true?

    My point stands though - why isn't the CTPF more actively and publicly involved in forcing a solution to a monumental problem for it's beneficiaries?

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    typo "its" not "it's"

    If Rehak's idea of being active is posting/contributing to Substance News of alI possibilities, I seriously doubt his leadership skills. I certainly don't see a skill-set on his resume that would be needed to lead the CTFP through this crises.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Under Rehak's leadership, the CTPF has outperformed most others- wise management and investment on his behalf. The problem lies with the powers that be that have not made the contributions that they agreed to.

    The mainstream media doesn't fully report the details of the pension problem- teachers DO NOT get social security, government has not made it's required contributions, and millions if not billions of dollars are either lost to corruption, to prop up charter schools, or given away to corporate welfare recipients ala TIF funds.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    I totally agree. I retired in 2012. I called the CTPF more than once regarding pension issues in my role as the school's pension representative. I stopped calling when one of the downtown reps/counselors/employees in a very condescending manner told me that it is not the role of the CTPF to advocate for its members because that was the role of our union. I still don't understand why my spouse has to pay $1500.00 a month for his insurance in order to be covered under my medical plan. Who else is paying this high of a premium to cover a spouse or dependent child when they retire? When I asked this question to a pension rep I was told that I shouldn't retire until all children were 22 (law is now 26) The CTPF personnel are paid for with our pension funds yet seem to have little accountability to members and advocacy seems to be low on the priority list.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If you attended one of the CTPF meeting prior to retirement you would have known that your spouse is not covered under the subsidized plan for insurance. Just as you paid much higher premiums when you were in active employment for a family coverage you pay higher premiums for your spouse when you retire. If indeed your spouse is paying $1500 per month for insurance why on earth didn't they sign up for the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) before the first of the year? That makes no sense to me.

  • Really, with no federal subsidy the health care plans are still only about $500/month. Not cheap, but not $1500 either. I suppose some people insist on not changing anything about their health insurance. That's fine, but in this case that apparently costs $12K/year.

  • I turned down the CTPF insurance and stayed on my spouse's insurance. My spouse retired from the city. He pays $500.00 a month for my BCBS plan. When I retired I was told the coverage for my spouse would be $1200.00 a month if I chose to add him to the CTPF insurance. Why the disparity?

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