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Daley and Richardson-Lowry continue attack on teachers as Chicago stands to gain $105 million from new federal law

The morning of Wednesday, August 11, 2010, the same day as the CTU’s emergency House of Delegates Special Meeting, a buzz started around Robeson High School that Mayor Daley and Ron Huberman would be coming to Robeson for a press conference that afternoon.

Conveniently, the Robeson students only have a half-day on Wednesday, and they were rushed out of the building right around noon to make sure there was no interference with the Mayoral entourage.

While many teachers were guessing that it would be a press conference about our implementation of Culture of Calm funds, we were surprised to see that Senator Dick Durbin and several Superintendants from other Illinois school districts accompanied the Mayor.

It was then that we learned they were coming to speak about the Edu-Jobs bill that had just passed. Durbin explained that, although the bill initially was designed to help all pubic sector jobs, police and firemen had to be dropped from the bill to let it pass — so all $26 billion would be going to education jobs; $415 million would be going to the state of Illinois and approximately $105 million would be going to the city of Chicago.

Mayor Daley spoke about how well things have been since the amendatory act passed (back in 1995; it gave Daley complete control over Chicago's schools) and he had control of the schools, but didn’t elaborate.

Sen. Durbin invited the other superintendents to speak, both of whom said they didn’t care that it was so close to the start of school, they were excited to adjust all the programs to bring back as many teachers as possible. They made it clear that outside Chicago the federal money that was just approved to hire teachers was going to be used to hire teachers.

With Chicago it wasn't as clear, as Board of Education President Mary Richardson Lowry explained. There seems to be a difference in Richardson-Lowry's vision between hiring teachers under a law that says you are supposed to hire teachers and implementing what she calls "programs."

Ron Huberman, CPS Chief Executive Officer, was not in attendance, but Mary Richardson-Lowry, President of the Board of Education, came instead.

In thanking senator Durbin, she said that she was happy to bring back teachers as needed, but there were some programs that needed the funding returned first — exposing the lies and bureaucracy of CPS.

When reporters asked how CPS intended to use Edu-JOBS money for programs, she explained that in order to open positions, they would have to reopen certain "programs."

For instance, to reopen bilingual positions, more funding was needed for the "bilingual program." CPS claims the "bilingual program" is underfunded, though ISBE’s FY2011 budget has restored FULL funding for bilingual education. The only reason it was cut in the first place, amidst all the “sky is falling” stories from the Chicago Board of Educatoin, was because federal stimulus money had been specifically allocated for bilingual education and ISBE put their own money into funds not supported by federal stimulus.

All other superintendants spoke highly of teachers — except Richardson-Lowry.

In fact, Richardson-Lowry went as far as to say “if there’s an opportunity (emphasis added) to bring back the highly skilled end of our labor force, in part, through this effort, we welcome it.” She seemed to be implying that tenure and seniority — as guaranteed in the CTU contract and state law — were not going to be followed in rehiring teachers with the Edu-Jobs money.

Educators have seen how this works — they call a job fair and choose whom to bring back, ignoring the rules of tenure and seniority.

Many teachers are coming forward now with stories of what Field Rep Ted Hajiharis calls CPS’s “semantics game.” Art teachers are fired, but then positions in the same school open for “Art teachers with Dance endorsements.” These tactics are unsuccessfully trying to evade the CTU/Board agreement, which is at the heart of the current lawsuit CTU has filed against CPS. In the meantime, only 25 of the 400 teachers terminated from the Track E schools had a rating of unsatisfactory, so the Board’s definition of “unsatisfactory” is as “fluid” as they say their budget is.

Finally, Richardson-Lowry implied that budgets weren’t going to be recalculated until the money from the state was actually in the hands of CPS. This means no change in the plan to overcrowd and under serve students for over a month or more into the Track E schedule and anyone’s guess how long for regular track. She expects no change to the raised class sizes or many teacher layoffs. Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune reported that, “On average, districts invest up to 80 percent of their resources in personnel costs”

(http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-teacher-recalls-20100811,0,2068486.story?page=2).

However, the budget committee calculated over a year ago that CPS spends an ever-decreasing percentage of their money on teacher salaries; the current percentage is now under 40.

On the bright side, however, CTU president Karen Lewis said to a FOXNews reporter after yesterday’s House of Delegate’s Special Meeting that as far as she was concerned, CPS had their money, no “bargaining” was necessary, the issue is now closed. 



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