Karen Lewis, Person Of The Year?

President Obama may be TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year but the right-leaning folks at the Washington DC think tank called the Fordham Institute have named CTU president Karen Lewis it’s 2012 Education Person of the Year, dubbing Lewis the “Anti-Education-Reform Idol” and citing the resurgence of teachers unions and especially CTU:  “First there were the skirmishes over an extended day in the Second City (resulting in a longer day for the students, not theteachers). A lengthy run-up to the strike ensued, followed by the strike itself—which, as others have noted, surprised many of us by being a public relations success for the union and a galvanizing event for teachers nationwide. Lewis ended the year with in-your-face comments about the Newtown tragedy and a fresh lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the shuttering of Chicago schools.” What do you think?


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  • This is merely a title of an article. From what I can tell the Fordham Institute doesn't have an annual person of the year.

    Karen obviously intimidates them. I'm surprised they are giving her such publicity.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If intimidation is the measure, she certainly wins. She stared down Emanuel and got Brizard run out of town. Now, whether she can do something about the supposed 160 schools to close, that's another question.

  • In reply to jack:

    If Emanuel actually closes 160 schools that will be the final nail in his mayoral coffin. He will negatively affect too many black neighborhoods while doing nothing to address overcrowding in Latino neighborhoods. Sure, he has his comfortable neo-liberal Northside base, but make no mistake it was the black vote that got him elected.

    The only way this tiny creep gets reelected is if the Democratic Party convinces viable candidates not to run against him.

  • Karen has to be considered by those who give this award.
    She can impact the closings if BBB involves enough folks who can help make the inevitable closings acceptable. It's not Frank Clark or the black preacher Brazier. The larger key moving forward is BBB putting folks in place who know what they're doing. Don't put folks over departments they know nothing about. This creates layers of BS, and has been the mistake of 3 past administrations. The revised calendar is wrecked and has half days that impact major events. PDs have become rare due to this calendar, but I learned a Phys Ed. PD is being run by folks in health and wellness who have no P.E. background or credentials. These are examples of problems BBB can get straightened out easily by simply removing those without credentials knowledge or experience to run the programs they are over.

  • In reply to sammy:

    Bx3's job is not to restore order and develop a strong educational environment. Her job per Emanuel is to bust the union and help him pay off his sponsors by foisting charters on the children of the city. Disorder at CPS is a crisis, and you know what the WIlmette ballerina says about crises.

  • President Lewis may or may not qualify as the education person of the year. But there is simply no question that she went outside of the established paradigm for either leaders of the AFT or NEA. That paradigm is inclusive of being part of a process that continually promises a brighter day for our nation’s poorest kids and for most can’t deliver the goods because schools are part of a larger society that is heavily stacked up against these kids. But to face reality the relative fortunes of our nation state are in a decline and to accept that both standards of living and the quality of public education may take a hit is bit too much for even President Lewis to come to grips with I think. To come to grips with that reality given the social class structure of our nation means trying to figure out where to draw the line on cuts and picking battles that can be won, not just opposing all cuts.

    Mayor Emanuel and the entire CPS administration has to continually portray the situation of education for our city’s poorest children as one way or another getting better if only a few improvements are made without breaking the tax payers pockets. Charter schools or traditional public schools cost money. Schools for poorer children require greater resources than schools that educate children from even somewhat even more wealthy families, and will likely based on standardized test scores get weaker results. The CTU under President Lewis has correctly raised the issue of public funding for our city’s poorest kids, but it is continually looking for magic fixes like TIFs and salary reductions for administrators. Even if the TIF pot didn’t exist CPS eventually would face funding issues simply based on the long-term costs of pensions and other forms of debt. Chicagoans pay relatively lower property taxes and commercial property is not excessively taxed. So with our State’s flat income tax system guaranteed by our Constitution here we sit.

    Chicago and Illinois are getting the public education they are paying for. It is unlikely that property taxpayers in Chicago are going to willingly agree to increased taxes for educating children whose families in their majority are likely not to own property in the city. Californians did agree to increasing their own taxes by popular vote, but it seems clear that the increase taxes are designed to put off further cuts not return that state’s public education system to where it was ten or fifteen years ago. But there is no momentum in Illinois for a similar large tax increase.

    Down scaling the Chicago school district will save limited money, opening additional charters will not save any money for years because of start up costs. The charters themselves are faced with inflation even if they hold the line on their teachers’ salaries by bringing in relatively new teachers frequently and are asking for more money from CPS.

    The truly wealthy in America are becoming more and more distant from the fiscal reality of public education. Real power house school districts like those on the north shore of Chicago or Newtown Conn, or like I just saw in Aspen Co have created fiscal fortresses that charge very high property taxes for education that also serve the purpose of keeping those who may be able to afford the $800,000 home but not the never ending high property taxes out of the district. There are no simple solutions to the problems we are faced with, but President Lewis at least has walked outside of the game plan and told her members and the public at large that all is not well with where urban education is going right now.

    Rod Estvan

  • You're right D299R. I guess I'm thinking about doing what is right for the system (wishful thinking). No one has done that in a while, and BBB did semi-bust the union in at least one of her past positions. Those who can weather the next 2 years may be in a better position after the election. Rahm did ride the black vote in. The closings will likely bond groups who will create strong opposition for him.

  • The Mayor.
    Everyone seems to forget that Rahm won with 54% of the 44%
    of voters who bothered to vote.That means he actually got about
    25% of the total voters to vote for him.When the other 75%
    show up it might be a different story.
    He has no mandate nor real power base.

  • I read all these comments and decided to do a little research to see how they held up, because we know we're all in it for the greater good.
    The United States spends more money per child on education than any other country, while only ranking 17th in quality.

    Finland and S. Korea lead in education. Finland concentrates on small classrooms while S. Korea concentrates on large classrooms with excellent teachers.

    Illinois just raised income taxes 67% on individuals and has one of the highest business taxes rates in the country at 9.5%.

    Illinois has the most debt of any state in the union and just had their debt down graded again in November to a negative outlook.

    Illinois owes the state pensions 275 billion dollars, that's $60,000 per household or a little over $21,000 per man/woman/child.

    Chicago has the highest gas prices and the highest sales tax in the country, and now the highest parking prices due to the city's decision to sale off yet another public asset.

    Chicago public teachers are the highest paid public teachers in the country. A recent study found 80% of Chicago 8th graders were not grade proficient in math or reading.

    How about all the new intersection cameras to give us tickets for the greater good. Taxes in your phone and utility bills. Hopefully your not a smoker, drinker of alcohol, car or hotel renter, nasty taxes on those items. Even a special tax on pop downtown.

    Well this was put together rather quickly and I may have omitted some info or misunderstood something, so feel free to do some research. I just wanted add a little to the discussion, like the individual who stated 'we have relatively low property taxes'.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    "Chicago public teachers are the highest paid public teachers in the country."

    That depends on where you get the numbers. CPS released numbers that are questionable. CPS is the only place I know of that state teachers are salaried, yet pay the teachers hourly. CPS is the only place I know of that charges health insurance at a percentage of that stated yearly salary not a base price.

    'If you want to take home Illinois’ top dollar in teacher pay over time, don’t head to Chicago, where beginning salaries start out strong but fade in the stretch. Head straight to the near southwest suburbs. Blue-collar Burbank. Working-class Summit. Middle-class Oak Lawn.' Quoted from the Chicago SunTimes, August 7, 2012.

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    In reply to 4zen:

    Where did you get these numbers, the Tea Party hotline? They seem highly questionable and you don't cite any sources.

  • In reply to Ed Dziedzic:

    Ed, I used google after I read the earlier comments. I explained that it was done quickly so I could add to the discussion. I also invited anyone to research those numbers. I'm a Chicago resident of 20 years, home owner and life long illinoisan. I would never personally identify with a single party and I am genuinely concerned for our state for my entire family lives here. I've been watching those numbers for a long time and decided to check them before commenting. Do you have anything to add or you just here to take? People who use the Tea Party barb to boost themselves are usually uninformed, I will choose to listen to all our voices. Thanks for commenting.

  • Chicago does have relatively low property tax rates, this has been discussed repeatedly on this blog. CPS gets no money from red light cameras, from utility bills, phone bills, or from the bad parking deal that the City cut. The primary source of funds for CPS are federal payments, state payments generated from income and sales taxes, and property taxes.

    The combined effect however of all of the taxes that 4ren has cited do have a big impact and that impact is that CPS will get no additional funding for either traditional or charter schools over the next few years. It makes it politically impossible to increase property taxes especially since or a minority of property owners in the city have children in CPS. So the reality is the situation will deteriorate for public education inside of the city, even for charter schools. The base inflation factor for charter schools is about 2% a year even with relatively few teachers being awarded salary increases. This is taking a toll, in fact several charter schools are now behind in their payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension fund even though the money was deducted from charter school teachers checks.

    Because of the flat income tax, the tax increase cited by 4ren will automatically be rolled back unless action is taken by the General Assembly. None of the funds from the state income tax increase led to an increase in money going to schools, it has gone to pay back debt, money owed pension funds, and over due bills which still have not been fully paid up.

    The reason high quality school districts in places like Illinois like the north shore are what they are because of the very high property taxes that are being paid in those school districts combined with more highly educated families living in those districts. All the talk about closing schools to help fix this problem is just that talk. CPS will continue float from crisis to crisis, even cutting teachers wages by 10% or laying off 10 or 15% of teachers will only hold back the problems for a short period of time. There is no reason to dance around the issue.

    Rod Estvan

  • Karen was not groomed for politicking. While I have never questioned her motive or her intelligence, sometimes "delivery" has been her Achilles heel. Whatever your position on the vast arguments of public education and its funding, there is no question that she embodies what union leadership has been in the distant past and what is desperately needed in the present.

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    I admit that Karen Lewis and her team have created quite a stir when it comes to making people believe that something good happened in Chicago in regards to teachers. Unfortunately CORE is about preserving the integrity of the union and not individual teachers. So for that initiative I give them an A. The march was great and the CTU enhanced the power of the union.
    Unfortunately the strike and all the other initiatives have not helped individual teachers but have actually made their working lives more difficult. Many will be fired as a result of the strike according to Emanuel, 40 million went to make concessions to the union so many schools had to close. On the other hand, teachers did not actually see a raise and 160 schools may close. Teachers will have to .decide in May if they feel this leadership team deserves a second chance. It really doesn't matter how many awards others give Lewis, if the teachers aren't happy then will be looking for new leadership.

  • I can't see any other slate coming close to unseating Karen and co. She is very popular with teachers. Who is going to unseat her?

    One major issue with CTU that is starting to snowball is grievances. Many have gone unresolved, seemingly falling into a black hole. There are more than a few out-of-control principals who are treating the contract like it is worthless. A number of field reps are asleep at the wheel as well. Time for Lewis to get this in order, otherwise teachers will begin to see her as out-of-touch and negligent of basic union responsibilities.

  • CTU’s Kristine Mayle Demands Honesty from School Board


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