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Huberman press release responds to CTU lawsuit

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman responded after the end of business on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, to the Chicago Teachers Union lawsuit filed against the Board of Education the day before in federal court. Instead of holding a press conference or discussing the issues raised in the CTU's 36-page federal complaint, Huberman responded with a press release which was distributed by email to media at 5:30 p.m. on August 3. The email did not include the name of anyone at the CPS Office of Communications for media to contact about the litigation.

Ron Huberman discusses the Prairie State Achievement Exams (PSAE) at Chicago Vocational High School on July 27, 2010, while Mayor Daley shows his interest in Huberman's explanations. ON August 3, Huberman refused to talk to the press about the lawsuit filed against him and Chicago's board of education by the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.At one point in the press release, which CPS entitled "Rebuttal" in the distribution, Huberman again made the claim that CPS was only firing teachers who were rated "unsatisfactory" by their principals, an issue, among others, that has been addressed in the original CTU complaint.

Again Huberman focused all of the attention regarding the problems with CPS revenue on the State of Illinois, ignoring the fact that since 2008 Mayor Richard M. Daley has refused, for the first time in over a decade, to authorize that the Chicago Board of Education raise local property taxes in Chicago a small amount. Although the seven-member Chicago Board of Education has the power to raise property taxes for Chicago's public schools by a vote of the Board — and without consulting the mayor or City Council — the Board's subservience to the mayor's wishes and whims makes it unlikely that such a vote would ever happened — no matter how easily it would solve the school board's remaining revenue problems in the upcoming fiscal year. The strategy of the Daley administration for two years (beginning before the financial crisis that began with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008) has been to ignore local property tax revenues and divert all attention to the State of Illinois when CPS budget matters are discussed.

The late afternoon release of the Huberman "Rebuttal" and the refusal of the Huberman administration to host a press conference to discuss the current situation has become a characteristic of the new administration at CPS. Unlike their predecessors (CEO Arne Duncan and school board president Michael Scott), current CEO Ron Huberman and current Board President Mary Richardson Lowry seem fearful of doing a press conference at which they would be required to try and answer questions based on fact. Instead, CPS has issued numerous press releases, like the one of August 3, without either Huberman or Richardson-Lowry answering questions from reporters.

The complete text of the CPS press release is printed below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3, 2010

Statement from Chicago Public Schools Officials Regarding Lawsuit Filed by the Chicago Teachers Union

The first obligation of Chicago Public Schools is to foster and improve the educational opportunities of our approximately 409,000 students. In this challenging economic time, we have been faced with difficult choices on how to preserve classroom resources for our students while at the same time confronting painful budget realities.

Despite the fact that CPS has been meeting with the Chicago Teachers Union for more than seven months — repeatedly requesting the union’s input on our fiscal challenges — the CTU lawsuit filed August 2 willfully ignores the state’s budget crisis. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Illinois is in worse shape than any other state. This crisis has a profound effect on every school district, including our own. Today, Chicago Public Schools confronts a $370 million deficit. To deny this reality makes no sense, nor does it serve our students’ needs.

Contrary to what the Chicago Teachers Union has alleged, we have not fired teachers “capriciously, callously and without legal grounds”. Instead, we have targeted our reductions in force to areas that minimize the negative impact on our students.

“While all layoffs are painful, one of our choices was to lay off teachers who received ‘unsatisfactory’ ratings in their evaluations prior to laying off higher-performing teachers. We believe that this approach is in the best interest of our students, and we’re disappointed that the union does not share this view,” said CEO Ron Huberman.

"We have been forced to take action over the past few weeks because we are under time constraints that grow tighter every day. One-hundred ninety-five of our Track E schools serving almost 100,000 students open Monday. We cannot wait.

"We believe the CTU’s lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend the district’s actions and policies against the allegations this lawsuit raises. We must — and will — protect our students from the effect of this budget crisis."

Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 409,000 students in more than 670 schools. It is the third-largest school district in the nation.



Comments:

August 4, 2010 at 11:06 AM

By: Mayfair Dad

CTU Priorities

So George, let me make sure I've got this straight.

You are advocating the Board of Ed vote to impose a property tax icrease to save the jobs of CTU teachers rated "unsatisfactory"?

Golly, I'm guessing the taxpayers (90% of whom don't belong to a union) will be none too happy about this.

August 4, 2010 at 12:40 PM

By: Vinicius De Mello

Track E Teachers that were terminated were not rated unsatisfactory

Mayfair Dad you need to get your facts straight!

August 4, 2010 at 12:54 PM

By: Rod Estvan

CTU priorities

Mayfair Dad who I assume is a property tax payer in Chicago, and a CPS parent raises the issue of whether Chicago property tax payers will accept a property tax increase to help avoid layoffs and numerous other cut backs. While I think the framing of the comment that the property tax increase would go to save the jobs of only teachers rated unsatisfactory is silly, the underlying point merits a response.

The comparative data that I have on property tax rates is for the year 2006. For each $100 of equalized assessed valuation in the City the rate was 5.98. Compare this to Deerfield at 6.24, Cicero 10.307, Lincolnwood 7.279,Burbank 7.765, or Orland Park which ranged between 6.683-9.064.

The Chicago rate is very low relative to Cook County and it is to this day. Those of us who live in the city and who own expensive homes are getting one the very best deals in terms of property taxes in Northern Illinois.

In fact I pay a higher property tax rate in a small town in central Wisconsin than I do in Chicago. What we have here in Chicago is a school district that has had its hand out to the state for years. Residents of Illinois outside of Chicago are aware of our low property taxes and they are not willing to pay up income taxes to subsidize CPS and Chicago.

In fact residents of small towns in Illinois pay very high property taxes for example last year Hardin Illinois located in Calhoun County had a property tax rate of 7.374. Hardin in 2000 has 959 people, 391 households, and 245 families. The median income for a household in the village was $30,972.

We have to pay our own way now the Illinois General Assembly is not going to pick up the tab. Most people in Illinois do not want to hear Mayor Daley's pleas, that want the people who live in this town to pay up.

Rod Estvan

August 4, 2010 at 1:56 PM

By: 5th Grade

CPS priorities

Mayfair Dad,

The irony of Huberman's 'Rebuttal' is that more than 50% of those teachers dismissed were highly qualified and with superior ratings — not unsatisfactory like the release stated. If he had a press conference, he would have been asked about that and wouldn't have an answer.

And he is also hiring more people in central office. So how is it that teachers need to be terminated because of budget constraints when he is still hiring?

August 4, 2010 at 3:11 PM

By: Mayfair Dad

Targeted Reduction in Force

“While all layoffs are painful, one of our choices was to lay off teachers who received ‘unsatisfactory’ ratings in their evaluations prior to laying off higher-performing teachers. We believe that this approach is in the best interest of our students, and we’re disappointed that the union does not share this view.”

Can we at least agree that, if a reduction in force is warranted by CPS' dire financial circumstances, then "unsatisfactory" teachers are the first to go? I might even support a tax increase if I knew the bad seeds were removed from the classroom. I'll bet the many great teachers would be relieved to see the slackers let go — it might even boost morale.

August 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM

By: Chgotchr

mayfair dad is a troll

Mayfair dad is a troll and possibly a Huberman crony in central office. If he isn't then he either doesn't live in Chicago or sends his kids(s) to a private school so none of this matters to him. No CPS parent who cares about their children would ever act as ignorant as this troll is acting. Please ignore him and he will go away.

August 4, 2010 at 8:14 PM

By: Danny

Due process and more

It does no good to call names here. While Mayfair Dad is in the minority on this site, he is very likely representative of the majority of taxpayers in our fair city. On the face of it, it is outrageous that the Union would prevent the Board from laying off unsatisfactory teachers. Which is exactly why—as 5th Grade” points out—Huberman brings it out in the press release and ignores all the superior and highly credentialed teachers he has also laid off.

Mayfair Dad: Getting rid of bad teachers is good for the profession and for the children, too. It’s only fair, of course, to make sure that these teachers are really unsatisfactory before we remove them from their jobs.

It’s uncanny how these bad teachers made it through their pre-service requirements where the colleges of education were supposed to weed them out. And then they made it through four years of probationary teaching service without principals being the wiser to the deficiencies in these teachers. You’d think that someone would have noticed they were bad teachers before then.

But now they’ve made it to become tenured teachers, and we finally have principals that have identified them as bad teachers. Well, there’s a way to get rid of them yet—a process that both the Board and the Union agreed to use. It isn’t that difficult, and no principal has to jump through a hoop to do it. (It probably isn’t as complicated as the Board’s requirements for getting on the principal list!) S/he just has to follow the process. No matter what the teacher does during the remediation period, the final decision is up to the principal, whose professional judgment cannot be grieved.

Due process is one of the fundamental characteristics of the American political system. It is enshrined in our constitution. It helps make ours a nation of laws and not of men and women whose make decisions on personal whim. The process is supposed to eliminate bias and reach a just end. (Removing bad teachers from the classroom seems a just end.) All you have to do is follow the process.

The Union must vigorously advocate for its members—who pay a thousand dollars a year in dues—regardless of whether they are superior or unsatisfactory teachers. The Union must also defend its collective bargaining agreement from arbitrary encroachments and unfair labor practices. It is enjoined to do so by state law, and expected to do so by its members.

We must realize this for what it is: Huberman’s tactic is designed to divert attention from substantive issues that he is unable to defend and focus it on a “straw man” argument of his own making. It is union-bashing, plain and simple, and unfair in the most basic sense because the problems the Board now faces are of its own making, and not of the unions.

It’s the job of management to supervise its workers and either remediate or remove unsatisfactory teachers. Follow the process.

It’s the job of the Board of Education to finance school operations, and if a modest tax increase is needed to keep superior and highly credentialed teachers in place, then the Board members should do their jobs.

August 4, 2010 at 11:22 PM

By: kugler

Well said

Danny, that was a work of art!

August 4, 2010 at 11:55 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

There's plenty of money available

57c of every federal tax dollar goes to pay for illegal and unjust U.S. wars and interventions around the world, for the aggressive U.S. military...Let's join the many organizing to bring all the troops home and cut the military budget. The budget is more than twice the military budgets of all the rest of the world combined.

August 5, 2010 at 8:44 AM

By: Reality

Education

Does anyone have a calulator? THE STATE OF ILLINOIS IS IN FINANICAL RUINS. It is like people are the captian of the Titanic, fixing the damn time piece while the ship is sinking. WAKE UP! Concessions need to be made by the unioin. In this economy, people are NOT getting raises, they are lucky to have a job. Maybe the CTU is diverting attention from this valid point by posing this lawsuit. Instead of facing reality, they are stalling with another lawsuit. Why don't we stop all the legal battles and put all the money the lawyers make from this bickering toward the budget shorfall. The sick thing is, the kids are the ones getting the short end of the deal.

August 5, 2010 at 3:37 PM

By: Pissed Off Track E Teacher

Track E Teachers

As one of the recent dismissed teachers, I can certainly refute Huberman's claim that only unsatifactory techers were let go. I received an excellent rating at the end of the year. I was notified 1 week before I was due to report back to work that my position was cut due to budgetary reasons. However, my principal showed up at the job fair on 7/29 with the intent to hire a new teacher. and guess what? He did! Track E teachers were also informed that all pay from summer break would be taken back from them. How is that fair to me and others like me, Mr. Huberman?

August 5, 2010 at 4:51 PM

By: jose M.

budget cuts

last year CPS submitted a budget and it was approved, right?

so they didn't get all the money they were supposed to get from Illinois and now have to make cuts. they are supposedly cutting about 7% of salaries from the non-union employees after changing titles and giving them raises , so their cuts are mostly a wash.

since they knew they were short of funds why did they keep spending money on trips?

Now they want the teachers union members to cut holidays, vacation pay(spring break), raises, etc for about 20% of their 2009 salaries.

Has CPS also made all of their vendors including book companies, utilities, consultants, printers, trucking, etc to cut their rates?

I'd bet CPS would say they can't cut what they owe the vendors because they have contracts with them.

August 5, 2010 at 8:10 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Budget cuts & layoffs

I would like to respond to some of the comments above. First, the state constitution states that the state has the primary responsibility for funding public education. I would rather see an increase in state income tax and the elimination of property taxes as a way to fund education. It would make things more equalized throughout the state and would be fairer to everyone. But then the suburbs would be complaining that their school systems are suffering. In Chicago, the percentage of property owners who pay for the schools is much smaller than the number of people who have children in the schools. Most of us do not feel that it is fair to raise our taxes while other people are not paying anything (especially people who don't have children in school!) More people pay income tax as opposed to property taxes.

I know many teachers who did not receive unsatisfactory ratings who are being let go. In addition, ratings are based on politics and some teachers and other staff get high ratings because they are yes-men to the principal while good teachers get low ratings because they stand up for the children. When the system is less political, I think more teachers would agree with some of the comments above like Mayfair Dad.

August 6, 2010 at 3:58 PM

By: Deborah Menchaca

Huberman's response

Thank you, Danny.

August 6, 2010 at 11:21 PM

By: Chris

Huberman's respopnse

Do not feed the troll. Simple. Amen

August 11, 2010 at 1:46 AM

By: Henry Lopez

Firing Teachers

I would like to ask Huberman various questions, but one in particular. Is it true if you went to a doctor to have surgery, you would prefer a doctor who is certified, experienced, and highly qualified to one who is not highly qualified but promises to complete a program and learn while having surgery on him. I believe I would not prefer the younger, inexperience, enthusiatic doctor having surgery on me. I want someone who knows what they are doing. I believe this high expectation should be implemented with teachers. After all it is indeed stated in the Board and Teachers Union Contract.

The lawsuit from the Teachers Union is not about firing unsatisfactory teacher. It is about violations. This has to be the investigated and the truth will be exposed.

Another question to Huberman is why are principals allow to have the power to ruin excellent teachers careers by lower the teachers rating and using write-ups with false information because of personal dislikes, age, and retaliation issues without objective investigations. The Board should have other people come in to observe teachers, such as union members.

I observe many cases where principals fired highly qualified teachers who were wonderful teachers to put in friends and even distant family members in positions who only had type 29, which is not even a standard certificate and short term special education certificate, type 12. I observed these teachers with very little qualification skills. They did not use good instructional strategies, and their classroom management was very poor. However, these teachers still obtained excellent ratings from the principal.

I believe these actions not only break the teachers union contract with the Board, but it violates special education laws and other laws that protect students.

I would tell the Board of Education, please don't use silly rational that CPS is firing unsatisfactory teachers and this is justified. There may be a few teachers that may not be good, however most are being lefted in their positions because they are not highly qualified and inexperienced. Consequently,they are cheaper. But there is a reason why highly qualified, experienced teachers are more expensive because they a better. After all you truly get what you pay for, indeed!

I observed many older, wonderful teachers get fired. I observed teachers who blew the whistle on principals get fired. I observed older teachers who had differences with principals get fired even though they had proof of student progress before firings of teachers with less tenure, less certification, and less experience.

These actions are just as bad as the discrimination endured by African Americans and Mexican Americans in the 1960's because the hurt is just as deep for teachers who dedicated the lives to students.

I appreciate the hard work and the fearless efforts this teachers Union led by Karen Lewis on behalf of all teachers. After all this is a TEACHERS UNION, and not a Board or Principal Union.

The Board of Education is not doing the students justice hiring inexperienced teachers who are not highly qualified just because their young and enthusiatic. In fact, they are doing the exact opposite. This is not just my opinion but having highly qualified teachers is proven by research to produce better results.

For all teachers who are and were treated unfairly because of age, wages, and differences with their principals stay positive, never give up, and keep your dignity.

I will leave you with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission..." Keep doing what you love and continue teaching. God Bless You All!

August 11, 2010 at 5:20 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Standing up to be counted is easier now... Part Two

While I agree and sympathize with the comments above (Henry Lopez), the words are too vague to do any good. Unless "unsatisfactory" teachers are willing to stand up and fight back in public and in their own names — despite the initial stigma — these rhetorical questions will fall on dead ears. The members of the Chicago Board of Education are all corporate hacks and part of the Daley machine. They vote the party line as faithfully as the leaders of the old totalitarian parties of Eastern Europe or the fascist regimes in South America ever did.

The difference at this point in history is that the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union is standing up and saying "No." The federal lawsuit is just one articulation of a strategy, and the rights of the "unsatisfactory" teachers is one of the several things being defended in that lawsuit.

But it will also require that teachers stand up and be counted, as Jackie Vaughn used to say, because we've had enough of rolling over to be mounted. Substance stories about "unsatisfactory" teachers and the crazy and corrupt principals who follow orders and persecute those teachers can only happen when the teachers are also on the record.

Two well known examples of hack principals should suffice for now: Cereda Taylor, the hack central office person Ron Huberman put in at Julian High School after he staged a publicity stunt (to get himself into Newsweek as a "hero") in getting rid of the real principal, and Erin Roche, the ongoing scourge of Prescott Elementary School.

Both have continued their purges of veteran teachers with obvious relish. Neither is going to be stopped by reason or some appeal to ethics or morals. People like these (like their counterparts from Romania in the 1980s to central Europe in the 1930s) are not in the business of being rational. It's a noisome power thing, pure and simple. They have to be stopped, just as their masters at Clark St. and City Hall do. You can make the arguments, but finally it will come down to power (and then they'll likely do a lot of whining, as bullies do when stopped...).

If all those "unsatisfactory" teachers were on the record (as some from Prescott have been), the articulation of the fight would prove easier.

But the lying that is central to the work of central office gets bigger by the day (see my upcoming story on the "transparency" issue in relation to Huberman's nonsense about reducing "consultants"). The biggest of the Big Lie(s) this year was the "billion dollar deficit." That one's still making the rounds. But the Big Lie under discussion here is the "unsatisfactory" teacher.

So Huberman, his trolls, and the corporate Chicago media keep repeating it, facts of no facts.

Meanwhile, having discovered that CPS has few "unsatisfactory" tenured teachers, Ron Huberman seems to be trying to encourage every hack working as a principal to establish "local criteria" (mostly based on bizarre "performance management" nonsense cooked up by outsiders with no knowledge of classroom and school reality) by means of which Huberman can increase the quota of "unsatisfactory" teachers, so the next time he stages a publicity stunt for the ever gullible Sun-Times, Tribune, and Catalyst "reporters" and editors, he'll have a longer list of "bad teachers" he can pose as saving the children from.

Right now, the facts just make a mockery of every new stunt and pretext he and his media handlers cook up. Even with that, fact checking is no longer done at Chicago's daily newspapers, so his lies get recycled into "news" and editorials (such as that smarmy thing last week in the Tribune, telling Karen Lewis to save a bunch of children from these terrible "unsatisfactory" teachers that Huberman had told the Tribune editorial board about)...

The quote from Jackie Vaughn was:

"Stand up and be counted, or roll over and be mounted."

August 11, 2010 at 9:08 AM

By: Dedicated Teacher

Teacher Ratings

Thank you to all of you who are trying to make the public see that not all "unsatisfactory" teachers are truly "unsatisfactory." There are too many principals who simply do not rate teachers on how well they educate children, but rather give teachers ratings based on whether or not they fall into line like little ducks who never question the principal. All too often teachers who stand up to principals or question them receive lower ratings than teachers who simply "fall in line." I have seen time and time again teachers who have had superior ratings for their entire teaching career, given by several different former principals, receive merely satisfactory or worse yet unsatisfactory ratings due to the fact that the principal simply does not like them because they are not part of the principals "yes team." How can teachers receive all "strengths" on their ratings but simply receive a satisfactory rating? How can teachers, in our data driven system, receive satisfactory rating when their test scores continue to climb? It is because some principals are setting these teachers up and trying to scare them into becoming those little ducks who fall into line. Yes, we hear time and time again that people are lucky to have jobs, but parents and the public are also lucky to have such dedicated teachers. Recently the federal government had a conference on bullying and the detrimental efffects. Perhaps CPS should hold a conference for principals who use the same practice on their teachers in hopes that they will intimidate them into becoming one of those little ducks who fall in line and never challenge them. Too many incredibly talented and dedicated educators in CPS are being bullied and their jobs threatended. Until ratings are less subjective the Chicago Board of Education has absolutely no right to let teachers go based on ratings. The union must step in and protect these dedicated teachers and work together with the board to develop a more objective rating system rather that is be based on one person's personal opinion.

August 11, 2010 at 10:05 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Teacher Ratings

I'm pleased to see that the majority of people seem to realize that ratings are very subjective and have been for over 30 years. I taught in one school where I called DCFS on a parent who was abusing their child and also pushed for referring children who were not making progress and was told to either find another school or I would get an unsatisfactory rating the following year. Likewise, when I stood up for my rights under the ADA, the principal gave into the EEOC but then told me to either transfer, go out under disability or face on unsatisfactory rating the following year. I know many more teachers with similar stories.

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