A commenter on a previous post pointed out to me that the Chicago Teachers Union released a document in February 2012 listing their plan for improving Chicago Public Schools.
Since I was the one who lambasted the CTU for not releasing a plan of their own, I was very curious to read the contents of the plan.
After thoroughly reviewing the 55 page document, I stand by my criticism. The document in question makes some good points, but is a fiscally unrealistic list of proposals meant to funnel huge sums of money to the already powerful teachers union.
This CTU document can be read in it's entirety here: http://www.ctunet.com/blog/text/SCSD_Report-02-16-2012-1.pdf
It is nothing more than a politically charged complain-a-thon.
First, I agree that our goal should be smaller class sizes, preserving arts education and eliminating the vast inequalities that our current system sets up.
However, this proposal is 100% silent on evaluating teachers performance. It is silent on a disciplinary policy for teachers who under-perform or are deemed dangerous to children. It is silent on eliminating tenure, that shields teachers from any discipline and ensures a job for life no matter how atrocious they grow to become in the classroom.
There are no teacher accountability provisions in their "plan." Not one.
Instead, the plan calls for a wide variety of other ideas:
1) A vast increase in the hiring of teachers, teacher assistants, counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
2) The plan suggests that the entire CPS system is fundamentally racist and runs an "apartheid." Ironically, the plan itself is racist because it assumes minority students can't perform at the level of other races, and thus testing should not be used as a performance metric. The CTU thinks that black and Hispanic students are simply not biologically capable of scoring as high as Caucasian students. This is "the soft bigotry of low standards" that former President George W. Bush talked about. It puts the blame for poor performance on students and suggests they have no hope for achievement, so society must lower the bar for them.
3) Encourages bilingual students not to master English by offering their coursework in their native language. English is the key to success in America, and while we want bi-lingual speakers, anything that discourages English learning will hold back those students from the full potential of this country.
4) CPS should stop hiring Caucasian teachers, and hire more minority teachers. There is no mention of qualifications, just that black students should be taught by black teachers and Hispanic students by Hispanic teachers. Apparently race matters more than quality for CTU in looking for teachers. I thought we were supposed to live in a world where we are not judged by the color of our skin, but the content of our character. CTU leadership needs to re-read Dr. King's most famous speech.
5) Teachers should be highly paid based exclusively on their own educational achievement level and longevity in the system, not their contribution to students learning. CTU believes teacher pay should not be attached to their work in the classroom or their contributions to student achievement. In other words, a disinterested 7th grade teacher with 35 years experience whose students show no measurable progress should be paid more than a highly motivated 7th grade teacher with 8 years experience whose students test results rapidly improve over the course of a year in their classroom.
6) Proposed $713 million a year in new spending to achieve some of the listed objectives (this number vastly underestimates the cost of such improvements, and does not factor in the annual increases the city will face to pay raises, and increasing health insurance and pension costs for new and existing employees.)
7) Proposes to pay for a portion of the new spending measures through tax increases. They want most of the unallocated TIF money redirected to schools, which in some cases makes sense but otherwise eliminates private investment to aid the development of chronically poor neighborhoods and commercial strips. There is a typical liberal, class-warfare section on how awful companies are and they need to pay their employees less so they can pay more taxes. This is not an issue local governments can resolve so it's not relevant for a local school district plan. They propose a crushing capital gains tax increase in Illinois, which they claim will generate more than $360 million a year...but they forget that many investors will simply change their address to a different state and avoid such a tax hit. They also assume that every single dollar for a new capital gains tax scheme will go to public schools. No one believes that would happen.
So to recap, the CTU wants hundreds of millions in new spending on a system that is failing to graduate half of its high school students and is already deeply in debt. Its proposal to pay for such new spending is woefully short and thus would exacerbate the existing schools debt crisis. A massive property tax increase would be required from every resident (wealthy or not) to try and stem the crisis for a little while.
So aside from being fiscal suicide, there are no offers for salary or benefit adjustments. CTU also seeks to avoid accountability for its members.
This is not a reasonable plan. There are a handful of legitimate proposals wrapped in a giant liberal fantasy. Even if there was an overabundance of money floating around to fund the CTU's concepts, there are real doubts about any positive impact on student outcomes. If poor performing teachers are not held accountable, disciplinary codes are further loosened, school safety remains questionable and parents are denied choices, why would we think the outcomes would improve?
So I once again call on the CTU to put forward a plan for:
- Teacher evaluations
- A teacher disciplinary code
- Health insurance and pension reform
- Ways to give parents more choices
Let's see those proposals and cut the cranky, liberal rhetoric.