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'TIF', 'Fresh Start', 'REAL' — or whatever it's called— is a divisive union busting and teacher bashing merit pay program... CTU leadership said 'No!' to CPS 'Teacher Incentive' plan that required union participation, but CPS signed off anyway

The current Chicago Teachers Union leadership under President Karen Lewis refused to be manipulated with what teachers familiar with the issue are calling "blood money" by refusing to become a partner with Chicago Public Schools officials in another round of teacher participation in the firing of teachers. A June 1, 2012 story in the Chicago Tribune outlined the misuse of $35 million Department of Education grant money, noting that the union has asked the CPS Inspector General to investigate the deal. The Union asked the Inspector General of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to investigate why district officials accepted a $35 million grant two years ago requiring Union collaboration it did not receive. CTU objected to the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) proposal because its members are opposed to merit pay schemes that would link their salaries to standardized test scores and other value-added experiments.

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart (above right) took part in the publicity stunt organized by the U.S. Department of Education (then under President George W. Bush) and the Daley administration on December 11, 2008 distributing the REAL checks to teachers and other staff at Westcott Elementary School in Chicago. Above, at Westcott on December 11, 2008, are left to right: Then CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Westcott Priincipal, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, CPS Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason Watkins (seated), and then CTU president Marilyn Stewart. Stewart approved the union's participation in the REAL program (Chicago's version of the TIF program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education) without every informing the union's House of Delegates or seeking approval from the delegates or the union's members. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The controversial grant proposal was submitted during the leadership transition shortly after Karen Lewis and members of her team (organized as the "Caucus of Rank and File Educators, or CORE) were elected to office in June 2010. Lewis took office on July 1, 2010 after defeating former CTU president Marilyn Stewart and the United Progressive Caucus in two hotly contest elections, the first of which featured five candidates and resulted in the runoff that saw Lewis victorious.

The original program, called "REAL" (Recognizing Excellence in Academic Leadership") was announced by CPS and former CTU President Marilyn Stewart in June 2007, shortly after she was elected to her second term at union president. Stewart refused to submit the plan to the union's House of Delegates or membership, and many didn't know it existed. Chicago's "REAL" program was funded by the federal government's merit pay plan, which was begun under former President George W. Bush (and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings) and continued under President Barack Obama (and education secretary Arne Duncan). The URL for the 2007 Substance story covering the beginning of Chicago's REAL program is: file:///Users/georgeschmidt/Desktop/Photos,%20etc%20transfer%20from%20G-5%20Oct%2018%202010/Web%20Materials/substance_site/issues/2007/october2007/articles/chicago_school_news/october2007_real_merit.html

Upon review of the proposal, Lewis has said, CTU decided it was not interested in the pilot project because it was deemed a merit pay study and several merit pay studies have already concluded that merit pay does not work. In early March of this year, Lewis received a phone call from U.S. Department of Education (DOE) official Jo Anderson inquiring about the TIF grant. He (Anderson) was surprised to learn CPS and CTU had never agreed upon collaboration. (Anderson is a former official of the Illinois Education Association who was brought to Washington by Arne Duncan after Duncan became U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2009).

On March 9th, 19th, and 20th CTU repeatedly requested copies of all documents and correspondence given to the DOE regarding the TIF grant. It received none. On May 30th, Lewis learned from CPS officials that the district had been asked to return the federal dollars it had fraudulently received, according to Lewis.

In an email on June 1, 2012 to CPS "Chief Talent Officer" (formerly "Chief Human Capital Officer") Alicia Winkler, who oversaw the project, Lewis once again reiterated her objections to the TIF proposal upon learning CPS was aggressively pitching local reporters a misleading story suggesting she had somehow “caused the district to ‘lose millions of dollars’”...

“Today I received several phone calls from reporters alleging that CPS is pitching a story about my involvement with the TIF grant,” Lewis stated. “I am disheartened that CPS chose to go public with this matter, but since you have decided to be extremely disingenuous let us recap the entirety of this issue. This letter [issued by CPS] does not reflect the depth and breadth of our conversations. You knew when you submitted this grant in 2010, the newly-elected leadership of CTU was philosophically opposed to merit pay, performance pay, or whatever euphemism currently in use.

“You knew when you accepted the first federal dollar that your actions were in violation of the terms of the grant, which was supposed to include Union ‘buy-in.’ You asked for a last-minute discussion about the grant, yet you refused to provide the Union with your correspondence with the DOE since 2010. In essence, this entire discussion, prompted by a deadline, has been dealt with like so many other initiatives in your department — throw something together slapdash and hope no one notices that it is a train wreck. We are serious about planning, while you want us to sign off on a plan that is not reflective of the written grant because you spent money to which you were not entitled. This letter is a bold attempt to shift responsibility from you to us. That is unacceptable,” she concluded.

Later, Lewis contacted Inspector General James M. Sullivan and called for a formal investigation into Winkler’s actions. She wrote:

“CPS Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winkler accepted a $35 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the US Department of Education in 2010. The terms of the grant included Union agreement and participation in a merit pay, differentiated pay, and performance pay scheme. Ms. Winkler accepted federal funds knowing she was in violation of the terms of the grant as the Union did not agree to participate. On May 30, 2012, I was notified by Ms. Winkler that CPS was forced to return the remaining $34 million. These monies should have never been accepted in the first place, given CPS had prior knowledge that the Chicago Teachers Union would not be party to a divisive pilot program that has been shown to be unsuccessful for over 100 years of previous research. This misuse of taxpayer funds is extremely regrettable in light of the fiscal neglect of our schools. I respectfully ask you to launch a full investigation into the fraudulent actions by CPS immediately. I will also request the US DOE to look into this matter.”

The current union leadership has taken a clear break form the past collusive leadership of Marilyn Stewart who was quoted in Tribune in her deal-making style:

"We were trying to make lemonade out of lemons," Stewart said. "As a district, they had the right to do things, and as a union we were trying to steer them in the right direction."

In a time when the Union is building solidarity for the biggest clash with management in the last 30 years, union officials say it is shocking that a former Union official is still talking about making deals that would create divisions among union members and which are clearly a ploy by corporate media to undermine the Union before an anticipated strike vote.

Compare this with what happened 32 years ago when the "One Percent" tried the same trick to fool teachers and the public:

"Where they say money will buy everything. When they say I''ll buy the Chicago Teachers Union with the checks. I'd spit in their eye before I'd vote for anything but the strike!” — CTU President Robert M. Healey, February 2, 1980

The video of Healy’s statement can be seen at this link http://youtu.be/YYE7Un7C1f0

It should also be noted that the official statement made on behalf of the US Department of Education regarding the $35 million grant was made by Peter Cunningham — an Arne Duncan crony who went with him to Washington DC. "We're not closing the door on anything," said Department of Education spokesman Peter Cunningham. "We want to support good work that helps students learn and helps teachers get better. We look forward to seeing ideas from CPS."

From the Tribune: “CPS officials said they told the Department of Education they didn't have an official agreement with the union, but the department awarded the grant and gave the district a year to get one. CPS applied for the federal grant in July 2010, a month after the CTU elected new leadership. The district and the union had earlier agreed to collaborate on developing a pilot program that would compensate teachers for high performance, for working in tough neighborhoods or for taking positions that are difficult to fill.”

Cronyism is all over this deal and as the Union made clear the need for “a full investigation into the fraudulent actions by CPS immediately.”

The Full Tribune Article is below:

$35 million education grant threatened by merit pay standoff By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune reporter June 1, 2012

www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-cps-grant-lost-20120601,0,3703417.story

CPS award, contingent on union cooperation that current leadership never agreed to, may be revoked; CTU chief requests investigation by inspector general

A $35 million federal grant to implement a pilot program for a form of merit pay in Chicago Public Schools is in jeopardy because the teachers union has refused to buy in, according to CPS officials.

Previous leadership at the Chicago Teachers Union had agreed to work with CPS on the merit-pay pilot program, but the current leadership is having none of it.

"We do not believe in merit pay," said CTU President Karen Lewis. "This is (CPS') dream, and it's exactly what they've proposed in negotiations. I told (district officials) in 2010 we would not be interested in participating, and they still went ahead and took the money."

The standoff comes amid tough contract negotiations between the union and CPS, which is pushing to institute some form of merit pay districtwide.

The U.S. Department of Education said it's working with CPS to see if another program can be devised so the schools can hold on to the Teacher Incentive Fund grant.

"We're not closing the door on anything," said Department of Education spokesman Peter Cunningham. "We want to support good work that helps students learn and helps teachers get better. We look forward to seeing ideas from CPS."

CPS applied for the federal grant in July 2010, a month after the CTU elected new leadership. The district and the union had earlier agreed to collaborate on developing a pilot program that would compensate teachers for high performance, for working in tough neighborhoods or for taking positions that are difficult to fill.

Marilyn Stewart, CTU president until June 2010, said union leadership had agreed to work with the district on the pilot program funded by the grant despite reservations over merit pay. The union hoped the pilot program would provide mentors and support for teachers, she said.

"We were trying to make lemonade out of lemons," Stewart said. "As a district, they had the right to do things, and as a union we were trying to steer them in the right direction."

CPS officials said they told the Department of Education they didn't have an official agreement with the union, but the department awarded the grant and gave the district a year to get one.

CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard said districts across the nation are looking at ways to restructure teacher compensation and that the pilot program would have given the union a chance to play a role in how a new pay structure would be implemented. Brizard said he found it "disconcerting" that the union chose not to cooperate.

"This could have been an easy collaboration with the CTU," Brizard said. "It's unfortunate we're not able to do that."

CPS has spent almost $1 million from the grant for programs approved by the Department of Education. Lewis said the CPS inspector general should investigate how the district has spent the money.



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