Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why Tentative Agreement?

Why CTU Leadership Deal Last Minute?
By Jim Vail

The question that has to be on many Chicago Teacher Union members' minds is why have their leaders suddenly shifted course so quickly?

The CTU said they would strike over the pension pickup issue, but now they say they have a "tentative deal" with the Chicago Public Schools in which they have agreed to phase out the pension pickup that CPS has been paying into, resulting in a 7% pay cut.

Sources say that many bargaining committee members did not like this deal, because it accepts CPS reality that the teachers need to make big cuts to help plug the budget deficit rather than focus on the banks, and rich to pay their fair share. 

Not to mention, the CTU is bargaining with a disgraced mayor who the democratic machine has dropped like a hot potato. 

Now the teachers, who led an invigorating strike three years ago that galvanized the country, look like a defeated dog after the teachers had rallied to fight the cutbacks on a frigid November night in Grant Park, and authorized a whopping 96% strike vote.

The fact is the CTU leadership decided to threaten a strike, organized around the issue to help the bargaining process and now have decided to make a deal and give up the pension pickup, which the teachers had once gone on strike for back in 1987. 

The union is stating that they will get certain job protections that may be questionable. For example, no more charter schools during the duration of the tentative four-year deal? A Core member, the leadership caucus, said one union official at a recent emergency meeting acknowledged this can be circumvented via the state charter commission that can override CPS decisions on allowing charter schools into the city.

No more economic layoffs? That doesn't mean eliminating positions when there is a drop in enrollment, and we know CPS is all about dropping enrollment. This contract will not stop that.

Reach evaluations? Sources state the evaluations will go from 4 to 3 per year. But is the unreliable value added-metrics for tying test scores to teacher evaluations eliminated? Will there be less standardized tests?

Many questions remain, and the details are just trickling in.

This really looked like a deal between the leadership, namely the CTU President Karen Lewis and the city powers that be, to accept the bosses' reality that the teachers have to give up part of their pension payments and take a big salary cut.

The theatrics involving a big bargaining committee with 40 members, rallies and walk-ins and strike votes appear to have been more theatrics than real substance. Although, one could argue that they gave the union more bargaining strength.

But this was a deal orchestrated from the top.

Now the teacher delegates must vote on this contract at the Wednesday, Feb. 3 House of Delegates meeting.

There is no organized opposition caucus to lead a fight against this major contract concession.

The new contract will pass, and life for teachers will continue to diminish along with the rest of the working people in this country. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

No CTU Strike?

CTU and CPS Make Deal to Avoid Strike?
By Jim Vail

Did the CTU just make a concessionary contract deal with a mayor on the ropes? 

An email went out to all Chicago Teacher Union members today from President Karen Lewis that read:  

"After a period of intense and difficult bargaining, the CTU has received a serious off from CPS."

The question is how serious is this offer?

Lewis wrote that the "basic framework calls for economic concessions in exchange for enforceable protections of education quality and job security."

According to a source close to the "Big Bargaining Team," - a 40-member committee of teachers, teacher aides and clinicians (nurses, social workers, clerks, etc.), here are some details that the union is keeping mum on so far:

1) Step and lane changes with automatic salary increase based on experience and advanced degrees is reinstated (it currently is not being honored this year);

2) Layed-off teachers will received regular teacher pay and not drastically reduced cadre-substitute pay for a year while subbing and trying to find another job;

3) More autonomy for grading papers (some teachers are upset the networks demand a certain number of grades per week);

4) Pension pickup is phased out - NO MORE!;

5) A four or five-year contract will require the teachers to take a pay cut the first two years, but raises in the later part will make up and give the teachers a slight raise over the course of the contract.

The source said that the bargaining members will go to their schools and ask their teachers what they think about the possible deal.

A bigger question to ask is, how different is it than the one Chicago Public Schools Forrest Claypool recently offered and the CTU turned him down, ridiculing the offer.

The CTU leadership has stated that they will strike over eliminating the pension pickup. The democrats, with whom the CTU is closely aligned, may have forced the union's hand to give concessions to Springfield so that the state monies will be released and a state takeover of the schools avoided.

CTU said more details will be released very shortly. Stay tuned! 

Dear James:
After a period of intense and difficult bargaining, the Chicago Teachers Union has received a serious offer from CPS. The CTU requires that any Tentative Agreements be made by its Big Bargaining Team—a 40 member committee of teachers, PSRPs and clinicians—which will convene, deliberate, and vote on Monday. While the Union will not release details of the offer without Big Bargaining Team approval, the basic framework calls for economic concessions in exchange for enforceable protections of education quality and job security. If the Union is able to reach a Tentative Agreement, delegates will be apprised of details shortly.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Victory in Little Village!

Little Village Community Fights Back to Victory Against CPS!
By Jim Vail

ILLUSTRATION: Saucedo sit-in
The Saucedo and Telpochcalli communities raise their fists in victory after defeating CPS and its crazy plan to co-locate another high school inside its building.

The valiant teachers, parents and students at Saucedo and Telpochcalli fought back hard to defeat the Chicago Public Schools' proposal to co-locate Spry High School into the Saucedo building.

The Little Village community held rallies, distributed flyers, spoke to the media, and even occupied the Saucedo school before CPS officials agreed to postpone co-locating the school and give the community one year to come up with a better idea. reported that hundreds of parents, teachers, students and other community members attended two community hearings CPS held at Saucedo where they all said no to the district's proposal to co-locate.

The CPS officials, including Area 7 Network Chief Minerva Garcia-Sanchez and James Dispensa from the office of demographics and planning who designed the plan, agreed the vote will not come up at the Feb. board of education meeting and will be postponed for one year, community organizations and stakeholders will be involved in a "community-run, community-driven process" to come up with proposals for "Marshall Square schools," and one CPS Board of Education member will do a walk-through while the school is in session at Saucedo to confirm that in fact there is not enough room for a third school, reported. 

Dispensa is notorious for planning the many school closings over the years by configuring school plans that some argued dated back to the 1920s when every room in the building was supposed to house 30 kids, thus negating the need for any special education, art, computer or other classrooms necessary for the 21st century.

Several politicians joined the activists in their fight, including Ald. George Cardenas, who at first did not support them, but like any good politician, he could see which way the wind was blowing. State rep Silvana Tabares also supported the activists, CTU reported. Tabares, who received election money from pro-education reform groups like Stand for Children, won her election against a CTU endorsed candidate.

The victory perhaps comes in the wake of the valiant efforts of the Dyet hunger strikers whose hunger strike kept the Bronzeville high school open.

However, CPS did not listen to the hunger strikers who had proposed to open a green high school focused on training the students for a future in environmentally-friendly work projects.

Therefore, Little Village activists beware: celebrate your victory now, but do not rest. The masters of the city still have their plans that usually do not meet eye to eye with the community.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Russian Ruble Plunge

By Stephen Wilson

The Russian Ruble lost 25% of its value to the dollar in the last few weeks due to the falling oil prices.

(Moscow, Russia) --  Against all expectations that the worst of the crisis had passed, the price of a barrel of oil plunged to an abysmal price of 32 dollars which in turn, sent the ruble into free-fall. Over the past two weeks the ruble fell from around 60 rubles to 70,74, 76, 84 ......Some experts believe that worse news is on the way - the barrel of oil might drop to as low as twenty or ten dollars a barrel... The  Russian government has now had to revise its whole economic strategy and may resort to extreme measures - imposing more unpopular taxes, an intensification of yet more unpopular austerity measures, thousands of redundancies in the state sector, refusing to pay workers on time, more publicized corruption scandals to take the heat off incompetent politicians and, possibly printing money which would lead to hyperinflation. Second City Teachers looked at how some Russians are responding to the situation.

              'Only a fool tries to predict what will happen in Russia,'  goes an old dictum. The recent dramatic turn of events vindicates this saying as few people anticipated that the price of oil would fall to an all-time low of approximately 30 dollars and perhaps lower. Instead, President Putin had made a speech in December 2014, stating the worst of the crisis had passed, that things in the economy would start to pick up around 2016 and other economists stated the price of oil would in fact rise.

              They were possibly banking on a miracle of some sort. The vast majority of ministers  and economists failed to anticipate such a steep fall and one bullish banker even thought the barrel of oil might soar to 80 dollars a barrel. One of Russians leading and respected economists did not rule out the possibility the barrel of oil might fall to 20 dollars but stated it would be only a temporarily dip. Even that hope now seems illusionary as the world market is flooded with a glut of oil from Texas, Iran and other countries. Could it get even worse?

              How might we gauge the mood of the country? While the government ministers look as if they are on the verge of a nervous break-down, and could panic, most
ordinary Russians I have encountered remain calm. Perhaps they have developed some solid immunity system over the years. Some local Russians I spoke to were unaware of events. Instead, they were more concerned about travelling through the endless snow storms and whether they had to cancel private lessons to attend a parent teacher meeting.

              My wife informed me, 'You see, Stephen I was right to covert some of our savings into euros. You can never trust government statements about the ruble stabilising and things getting better.'

              Many Russians have seen their salaries cut by over 50% if they are lucky enough to hold on their jobs. Many journalists, doctors and bankers have lost their jobs. Most still have not found new ones. Although most Russians are not panic striken, they are cutting back on spending. Even relatively well-off Russians are flocking to the cheaper supermarkets to purchase food. If one wants to avoid an unpleasantly long queue of people, you should go just when the supermarket first opens. Russians are also
cutting back on trips to Egypt, Turkey and Europe. So more and more Russians are saving up for a rainy day. However, this reluctance to spend money will mean companies can sell less goods and therefore be forced to lay off more workers. Saving up for a rainy day might make a rainy day more, rather than less likely.

              Much is being made about rising protests brought about by wage arrears, an unpopular tax being imposed on truckers , and the strikes of doctors and teachers. Apart from the effective  protest of truckers most of those protests appear to be small scale, isolated and lacking at least active
support if not sympathy of the masses. This could abruptly change in the coming months. The opinion polls which put Putin's popularity beyond the 90% level have always been questioned by opposition figures  who would put it at a much lower estimate. In deed, some surveys suggest that 74 % meets the mark. Nevertheless, even this rating far surpasses the average popularity of so many American
and European politicians. Given the deepening of the crisis, one wonders how long this popularity can be sustained. The Russian government claims to have three reserve funds which should support them over the next few years. The state claims to have gold reserves amounting to 340 billion in the central bank plus two government reserve funds of 70 milliard and 80 billion dollars. Theortically, those reserves should allow the economy to get through at least three or
four years. However, critics state that the government has already spent the last two reserve funds and that the long term security of those reserves is based on the price of oil not falling to as low as 30 dollars a barrel. Now, the reserve fund may run out within the short space of a year or less. A huge amount of money has been flittered away on an on-going war in Syria and pensions are no longer indexed to the rate of inflation.

              Under those stark circumstances the government might attempt to try and spend their way out of the crisis by simply printing money. This seems, to be at least less unpopular in the short than long  term.

              As in every crisis, there are people who resort to desperate and irrational methods to get by. For instance, more people appear in the streets attempting to flog off coins as authentic old ones. They charge thousands of rubles for a supposed coin of Catherine the Great which was made in China. They can be bought from any kiosk for a hundred rubles. I was harassed by a man who tried to flog  me a poor quality laptop he had most likely stolen. I gave him 500 rubles to get rid of him. It was a mistake. He followed me through the park to my work place.

              He stated, ' If you don't give me more money, I will throw myself in front of a car'. I told him, 'Go ahead', and of course, he quickly changed his mind. I lost him by darting into a nearby supermarket.

              Far more serious situations are arising where con artists have been trying to persuade old age pensioners to sign a document which hands them their apartment in exchange for free medical care in a hospital. The American teacher Daniel Ogen and his wife managed to arrive in time to stop 'social workers' from cheating an old professor out of her apartment. It might be just a coincidence, but those attempted apartment scams often increase during a crisis. People lose not only their jobs, but also their minds and conscience.

              For now, most Russians are keeping their composure even if Russian ministers are biting their nails.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Occupy Saucedo & Telpochcalli!

Occupation of Saucedo and Telpochcalli!
By Jim Vail

Saucedo delegate and prize-fighting activist Sarah Chambers is against relocating Spry H.S. into her school.

The brave warriors at Saucedo and Telpochcalli, who first took on the city to opt out of the crazy Parcc tests, are back fighting the forced relocation of Spry High School into their building.

The parents, students and teachers are occupying their building and demanding that the Chicago Public Schools honor the wishes of the community.

They pointed out that their schools are already at 80% capacity Saucedo and 90% capacity Telpochcalli.

So where can they put all these students?  They would have to displace and disrupt the special education and bilingual classes, among others.

And, Saucedo delegate Sarah Chambers pointed out to the TV news reporters today, all this to save $90,000.

She said CPS can eliminate one position in the central office at twice the cost to come up with that kind of money. Not to mention the fact that they rent out buildings to charter schools for $1 a year.

This is a fight to watch!  Go Little Village community. We support you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

CPS Loses Computers, Equipment in School Closings
By Jim Vail
(First Published in

BGA's Sarah Karp continues to investigate CPS corruption.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had to close over 50 public schools a few years ago to save money. Instead, it appears that quite the opposite has happened, the school system has lost money.

The Chicago Public Schools awarded an $8.9 million contract to Global Workplace Solutions to help move materials from the 50 schools closed. Instead, taxpayers ended up paying the company about $25 million. CPS said the cost soared because there were more items than originally anticipated.

Plus, officials can’t say where many of the computers, desks, books and other items from those buildings ended up.

This is according to a recent report from the Better Government Association (BGA) written by Sarah Karp.

Karp is the journalist who broke the story for Catalyst education magazine that CPS awarded a no-bid $20 million SUPES principal training contract that eventually implicated CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett who was forced to resign and plead guilty to taking kickbacks on the deal.

Today, Karp writes that the many millions of dollars of classroom equipment missing is being blamed on Bennett for “poor record keeping.”

“Unfortunately, the previous CPS administration did not adequately manage or keep records on the day-to-day operations of the transition logistics,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner told the BGA.

However, once again it appears corrupt deals costing the taxpayers are being blamed on officials when the mayor is the one who oversees the schools and told the public the need to save money by closing schools. He should take the blame.

While the mayor said they needed to save money and close the schools, he then opened up more charter schools despite the fact that many are unproven and others have been investigated for fraud, such as UNO Charter Schools whose chief Juan Rangel was forced to resign. Rangel served as one of Emmanuel’s election campaign managers when he first ran.

Closing the 50 plus schools created an uproar in the black communities, where many of the schools were closed, and helped fuel the current mobilization of people demanding that the mayor resign over the recent police shootings and coverup.

After the schools were closed despite the fight to keep them open, a sad scene was reported of staff from neighboring schools flooding into the shuttered buildings to pick up precious books and materials no longer needed.

Apparently, the record keeping was “extremely lax” charting what equipment was moving out of the closed schools, and what was removed to schools that remained open, BGA reported.

For example, of the 9400 computers in closed schools, only 3724 were “redeployed” into other schools or CPS headquarters, according to CPS. Where are the rest?

CPS also has no record of where all the books ended up.

The school closings were supposed to save $43 million annually in operating expenses, and hundreds of millions of dollars in future capital costs, but incredibly, CPS never itemized the projected savings, so the totals are questionable, the BGA reported.

Apparently, the mayor’s only thought was to close the schools and privatize what he can despite the public outrage. And he could lie about the cost savings, and not even bother to keep track of savings, because perhaps he thought no one will hold him accountable.

The new chairman of the board of education, Frank Clark, who chaired the mayoral commission to close the schools, may try to do it again.

Perhaps the only way the public can stop such outrageous lies, corruption and lost public dollars is to take it to the streets and force out the top man who appears to be beholden to private interests, and not the neighborhoods whose schools were closed.

Monday, January 18, 2016

CTU Sub Dues Too High

CTU Sub Dues Too High
By Jan Peczkis
CPS Sub/ Long-Displaced Older CPS Teacher

For the last several years, I have not been a member of the CTU because I cannot afford it, with my meager earnings of a sub ($23,000/year theoretical max.)

For over a year-and-half, since being re-instated, I have been trying to get the CTU to allow pro-rated dues for subs. After some runaround, I learned that a CTU constitutional amendment was needed for this.  

They said that they would "look into it." Nothing concrete happened. Now their excuse is that they don't have time, for such a presumably-simple amendment, because of the contract negotiations. But, since I had first proposed it a year and half ago, the CTU had plenty of time to push through the amendment well before the contract-related issues came up.

All this time, I repeatedly contacted Kristine Mayle, whom I was told to contact, never got a concrete commitment for change, or at least hardship-dues exemption that I only recently heard about, and, as you can see below, recently just got the runaround--in fact a Catch-22 situation. 

​Lately, I asked Adam Geisler, the CTU delegate from Bateman School (where I often sub) to bring it up at the Delegates Meetings, and he has (as indicated below) but with no results or even movement.


Ms. Mayle,

I have been trying for over a year to get CTU to adopt a constitutional amendment that would allow pro-rated CTU dues for substitute teachers. So far there has not been much movement on this issue.

I had recently heard that CTU allows membership, with exemption from dues, for hardship cases. I had never heard of this before.

What is the maximum combined income that a husband and wife (with no children), with both age 61, can have and qualify for exemption from CTU dues?

Jan Peczkis
Long-Displaced Older CPS Teacher
CPS Substitute

Dear Jan,

CTU records indicate that you have not been a union member since 2009.  Although we appreciate your interest, we cannot respond to your request.



That is just the point. I am a displaced teacher, and have been a substitute teacher since 2006, and cannot any longer afford the dues.

That is why I am asking you if I could become a member of CTU while exempt from dues because of hardship?

Jan Peczkis

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Support Little Village School Community!

Support Neighborhood Schools in Chicago’s Little Village Community!
NO to CPS CO-LOCATION of Community Links HS into Saucedo/ Telpochcalli ES building.  YES to the collaborative creation of the ‘MARSHALL SQUARE EDUCATION PLAN', that supports ALL schools in our community.
4:30PM – RALLY  @ Saucedo/ Telpochcalli School, 2832 W. 24th Blvd.
5:30PM - CPS Community Meeting on CPS Co-location proposal @Saucedo/ Telpochcalli Auditorium
4:30PM – RALLY  @ Saucedo/ Tepochcalli School, 2832 W. 24th Blvd.
5:30PM - CPS Community Meeting on CPS Co-location proposal @ Saucedo/ Telpochcalli Auditorium
7:30AM  - 9AM:  RALLY at Saucedo/ Telpochcalli School , 2832 W. 24th Blvd.
10AM – CPS BOARD Meeting, 42 W. Madison
5PM – GET ON THE BUS to CPS Headquarters (again),
meet in parking lot @ 2832 W. 24th Blvd.
7:30AM  - 9AM:  RALLY at Saucedo/ Telpochcalli School , 2832 W. 24th Blvd.
10AM – CPS BOARD Meeting, 42 W. Madison
CPS appointed school board will vote on co-location proposal.
*OUR SCHOOL COMMUNITIES at Community Links HS, Spry ES, Saucedo ES and Telpochcalli ES are UNITED AGAINST CPS Co-Location proposal. WE DEMAND AN ACTIVE ROLE in decision  making that impact our school communities.
Please help spread the word!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fighting Spry Re-location

Little Village Community Fights CPS School Co-Location Plan

Without Little Village community input, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed CPS School Board has developed a plan to co-locate John Spry Community High School with Saucedo Academy and Telpochcalli Elementary School. As many of the communities have come to expect, CPS only asks for community advice after they have made up their minds about a plan they developed themselves. Yesterday at Saucedo Academy, the public CPS meeting was met with a rally, press conference, and blistering complaints from parents, students, and teachers from the community.
Photo by Bill Chambers
Photo by Bill Chambers
About 200 parents, students, teachers, and local school council members attended a rally in front of Saucedo Academy to oppose the CPS co-location plan. Multiple speakers questioned a plan that had been proposed without community input affecting the three main community schools – all having excellent ratings, high enrollment, attendance, and retention of students.
Zerlina Smith, a Saucedo parent and former aldermanic candidate, led off the rally with chants of “They say cut back, we say fight back!” She challenged the CPS focus on disrupting the Little Village community – “How do you spell racist? We say CPS!” She reminded the crowd that the CPS Board who is making these decisions for the community are all appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and this decision is one more example of his not listening to the communities of Chicago.
Zerlina Smith (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Zerlina Smith
(Photo by Bill Chambers)
Rahm Emanuel could have come here with his hand-picked board and sat down and spoke with all  the parents and all the teachers before they made this decision…We want to make sure our resources stay the same…Our children deserve better…We going to let this mayor know that he already under a lot of fire. We just don’t ask for him to resign. We want him to come to this building and resign here. Because Rahm Emanuel has had his term way too long representing black and brown people. He does not serve us….He does not represent the black and brown communities.
One of the parents, Cristina Lopez, demanded that Alderman Cardenas support a community-developed proposal and said that these schools deserve their own buildings.
Local School Council (LSC) member and parent Eric Linn stressed the importance of CPS going to the community first for input especially in the current environment of extreme lack of trust in CPS decision-making.
We strongly oppose this co-location because it was done without our input. By CPSs own space utilization formula these schools are efficient. They don’t take into account the rooms we parents want – the rooms for libraries, music, special ed classes, and counseling..What is the plan when they need more space in our schools? A school is more than square footage…It is an eco-system built on trust and stability that can be shaken by these top-down decisions…We demand true community input at CPS. They have lost the confidence of the entire city. The first step to gaining it back is to include students, teachers, and families into decisions that impact them.
John Tillman, a teacher and parent, continued to emphasize the lack of trust in CPS statistics that have proven to be faulty in the past.
CPS cannot be trusted they can’t even properly calculate graduation rates; they can’t properly calculate floor space as they give out deals to Aramark. They cost jobs and moneys. Now we are supposed to trust them and their efficiency numbers in terms of utilization?  We don’t trust CPS.
One of the most powerful speeches was by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Cook County Commissioner and former candidate for mayor. He spoke of the hard work by the entire community to make Saucedo Academy and Telpochcalli Elementary School into the successes they are today.
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
(Photo by Bill Chambers)
If Maria Saucedo were alive, she would be here saying we won’t tolerate anything the community doesn’t want. It took a lot of work from students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff to make this a level one school. Why should anyone dictate from up above that they want to co-locate another school on this campus? Telpochcalli School is one of the best-recognized small schools in Chicago because they involve parents. We have two stellar successful schools that value children, that involve parents…I am here to engage in defending what our communities have built over the years that is successful public education of our future leaders at Saucedo and Telpochcalli campus…When you announce and don’t engage, when you appoint and don’t involve and ask people if it is a good idea that’s a dictatorship. Chicago doesn’t want a dictatorship anymore…Chicago last year in a referendum citywide voted 90% that they want an elected school board. This is what happens when you don’t have an elected school board. You make decisions from the top down and don’t engage and respect communities…Our community will be respected!
Jonathan Jackson (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Jonathan Jackson
(Photo by Bill Chambers)
Jonathan Jackson from RainbowPUSH Coalition continued with another important theme, i.e. the finances of CPS that are affecting students and the involvement of the Mayor in the school system’s financial crisis.
You deserve better than this. They [CPS Board] continue to have board meetings, board actions and make decisions that defy the will of the people. There were 50 schools closed two years ago. They specifically said there would be no schools co-locating. Once again they lied…In 2016, we are seeing the demise of our public school system. The CPS system is bankrupt already. Next month they will be announcing our school system is a half billion dollars in the red. Our children did not make this school system go bankrupt. We will not sacrifice our children’s future. We are disgusted with the Mayor’s tone deafness and belligerent attitude. We are here to stand up, fight back on behalf of our students and our children.
Sarah Chambers, a Special Education teacher at Saucedo, summed up the issues with the co-location plan, stressing the Mayor’s ability to find money for banks but not for schools, and the community’s past and future resistance to decisions made without its input.
First Rahm tried to stabilize our schools by cutting special ed. Now he’s trying to stabilize our schools with this co-location. We may lose special ed classrooms, our library, cuts in resources, our class sizes will skyrocket. Yesterday he tried to get the City Council to fund $200 million in toxic interest swaps to banks, but he says he has no money for our schools. Rahm is choosing his banker buddies over our students and our children. The rent for Spry High School is only $90,000 but he has $200 million dollars for his bankers. He can renegotiate these swaps and bring money back to our schools…The old members know that Saucedo and Little Village are not to be messed with. Saucedo has had a boycott; Little Village has had a hunger strike for their schools. If you do not vote no, if you do not accept the community-developed proposal, we will escalate and have more actions.
Sarah Chambers (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Sarah Chambers
(Photo by Bill Chambers)
After the rally and press conference, more than 500 members of the community attended the CPS hearing on the co-location plan. As was explained at the CPS meeting held at Saucedo for the community, John Spry Community School pre-K through 11th grades is located at 2400 S. Marshall Blvd. and during the school day the high school grades 9 through 11 are located at the Boys and Girls Club at 2950 W. 25th Street. CPS proposes relocating Spry’s 9th grade to the Saucedo building and 10th and 11th grades to the main Spry building. CPS staff made a number of claims that the high school students would be segregated in their own floor of the Saucedo building, use a different entrance, and would have no impact on the Telpochcalli Elementary School (which is located in one wing of the Saucedo building). CPS has projected this move will save $90,000 in costs. But the promises of “no impact on Saucedo Academy and Telpochcalli” were met with multiple challenges by the community.
Parents, teachers, and students complained that the community was only offered this one plan and that shared areas of the schools, like the gym, library, and cafeteria will require high school and elementary students to mix. A Special Education teacher at Telpochcalli described how she doesn’t have enough spaces to meet with her students even now and that the unique bi-lingual nature of the school program was not even discussed in the CPS plan.
The very few people who spoke in favor of the CPS co-location proposal included Alderman Cardenas who emphasized the community needed to unite over this proposal and a principal at another elementary school in the area who described the inclusion of high schools students potentially being helpful to her elementary students.
One of the teachers from Spry questioned what would happen to the safety, the independence of the administration and even the future of the school with this plan. By the end of the session, multiple community members were demanding a community developed proposal and that they would occupy the school itself to press their demands.
Given the majority of the speakers at the meeting, it was quite clear the Little Village community was far from being supportive of the CPS proposal. There will be additional community meetings on January 20 and January 27. The co-location proposal will be voted on at the CPS Board meeting on February 24.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

NY UFT Union Report

Report-back from the UFT delegate Assembly,  
By Marjorie Stamberg
December 16, 2015 * 

UFT President Mike Mulgrew

·          The main issue was the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), which President Obama signed last week.  And the New York State task force report which came out the same day.  It marks Cuomo’s total 180° on teacher evals and Common Core.  This could mark the turning point in the national war against teachers and public education.  Butcrucially, the feds and the state have NOT stopped the high-stakes standardized testing mania that passes for so-called education in this country.  The struggle continues.   

·        (UFT President) Mulgrew was there in Washington when Obama signed the ESSA act on December 10, along with Randi Weingarten.  At the Delegate Assembly, we got his “takeaway” on this, which no surprise, was total support. 

·         There was a resolution on “Delinking Testing from Evaluation” handed out by New Action caucus (now in an election bloc with the MORE), but it wasn’t put on the floor.

·         We handed out a flyer: “Common Core Down the Tubes? Don’t Count on It” from Class Struggle Education Workers.  It is attached here.

President’s Report

President Mulgrew first reported on other issues:

·         On January 11, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Freidrichs v California Teachers Association case.  As I’ve reported, this is aimed at busting and bankrupting teachers unions across the country.  It is part of the rightwing anti-union “right to work” campaign.

·         Renewal Schools and School Closings: The UFT now has a “School Visit” App which documents where the UFT visited a school  They’ve visited the 96 renewal schools over 600 times. Carmen FariƱa does not have a policy of closing schools; the ones being closed are because they are too small to be viable.

·         ICT programs – they are not being implemented and used correctly.  These classes are part of some IEP requirements.

·         Breakfast in the classroom.  This is a pilot program which was started because 70 percent of breakfast meals were being thrown away.  So they are giving the kids breakfast in the classroom. But they have been serving pancakes that are still frozen or breakfasts which are beyond the expiration date.  They have to stop doing this.

·         The kids need breakfast, and lunch and it has to be done right.   The New York Teacher had a front-page story that 8 percent of students in NYC are in some kind of transitional housing.  That is an enormous number (I calculate that if there are 1,000,000 students, that means 80,000 kids are without stable housing, and are living in shelters or group homes or on the streets!)

·         Los Angeles teachers: UFT will have a motion supporting these teachers.  Eli Broad, the wealthy entrepreneur and ed deformer is trying to privatize the schools in L.A.   It is rumored he just bought the Los Angeles Times and wants to use it for his privatization propaganda.

·         Chicago teachers:  They just took a strike authorization vote, and we have a motion supporting them.

·         Success Academies:   Eva Moskowitz is now calling for a shorter school day, saying it’s too hard on staff and kids.  Hello? 

The New ESSA

·         The turnaround in Washington, Mulgrew said, was apparent when you hear Obama talking against the national test obsession and how it has to stop, and how teachers have to be given respect.  [Hey, wasn’t there a guy named Arne Duncan and his other White House pal, Rahm Emanuel, who with Obama’s approval, went a long way towards destroying public education in this country?]

·          Mulgrew’s line was that we in the UFT couldn’t do anything until the federal government moved; now there is a changed political climate so a lot is happening federally and state-wide.  Obama’s Race to the Top threatened to block funds for any schools that didn’t go along with Common Core and the teacher evals.  Mulgrew justified the fact that we went along with this because he didn’t want the kids of NYC to lose Title 1 funding for needy children.  (Would that have happened to the largest school district in the country? Seems unlikely.)

According to Mulgrew the new law is good because of three things:  it keeps the Title One funding, it says the feds cannot mandate teacher evals being tied to student test scores; it changes requirements so there are “points” of accountability for art and music and other programs that were sliced off under NCLB.

[My note – Common Core was brought down by a right-left bloc between the right wing and the teachers’ unions.  Nationally the strongest force was the right-wingers who wanted “states’ rights” to teach all their reactionary stuff like wack-a-doodle “intelligent design” creationist theory and climate denial.   In New York State, it was different.  The op out movement representing mainly the influential suburban schools on Long Island and Westchester were a huge force in the utterly justified campaign which forced the Cuomo turn-around.  Not so much in NYC where only 2 percent of parents participated.

New York State Regents

The regents voted a four-year freeze on factoring student test scores into teacher evaluations. They also voted a four-year freeze on using results of the students’ Common Core tests.  It might be extended to five years, Mulgrew said.   This will give teachers a chance to participate in drafting developmentally appropriate standards including for IEPs and ELLs.

He said we couldn’t do much about it now, because nothing is going to happen in Albany until after the presidential elections.  Why? Nobody in Albany wants to talk to each other. The Albany legislature is now being called “the prison pipeline.”

Mulgrew finished his report reminding us how a year ago at the Delegate Assembly (December 2014) he was telling us to get prepared, because it was “war” against Cuomo.  What a turnaround.

Holes in the Presentation

There were big holes in this presentation, which were picked up later in the Q&A, and other discussion.  

·         Big Hole One:   There is a moratorium on Common Core, but what about the local measures and the local tests.  They are still in place.  

·         Big Hole Two:  There is a New York State law that says teacher evals are linked to student performance on standardized tests.   So how are they going to get around this one?  This was pointed out by Delegate James Eterno.  Eterno said he was disturbed that UFT will try to do very little in Albany in the next period.  This came up in the discussion on the redrafted motion on Buffalo receivership.

·         Big Hole Three: the April 2016 tests.   These tests are Common Core, and are still on the docket to be given, even though they allegedly won’t count for anything.  They are lame-duck tests.  Class Struggle Education Workers is advocating that the union take the lead, along with parents and students, to carry out a massive boycott of the April tests, to drive the coffin nails into Common Core, and to stop the standardized testing abuse, who’s only purpose is to drive up the profits of the tests.

That’s it for now.

*As one of your UFT delegates I report-back on the monthly meetings.  These reports are "my take" on the meeting. For official minutes, let me know and I'll send them along to you.