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Overstuffed classrooms should be marked 'Colored Only' to highlight Chicago (and Chicago area) Jim Crow... Board President continues racist claim that Chicago faces a crisis of 'overcapacity' because school buildings have the space to allow classrooms with only 20 kids in them

Imagine a school board president in, say, Winnetka, telling parents that every classroom should be stuffed with 30 or 35 children, one teacher, no teacher aide, and that if they didn't do that, the system faced "overcapacity" and had to close school buildings to save money. It wouldn't happen down the street from the home of CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley, who lives, thanks to a waiver of Chicago's residency rule, in Winnetka, and yet it is happening without protest from any city official to children in Chicago.

In suburbs like Winnetka, where Tim Cawley lives, a classroom is "fully utilized" with fewer than 20 children in it. Chicago demands that 30 or more children be stuffed in each classroom, or the room (and school) is in danger of being "underutilized." The racism of Chicago's school board reminds many of the days of Jim Crow.At its September 25 monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Board President David Vitale, himself a multi-millionaire, responded to a request from Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson about a school closing hit list with the claim that CPS does not presently have such a list — but that in Chicago there is "overcapacity", i.e., too many school buildings for Chicago's public school children.

Aside from the lie about the list (CPS has been preparing various scenarios about "underutilization" for years, and has recently updated the latest in preparation for the latest attack on the city's public schools), the math used to overcrowd the schools where black and brown children go is, simply, racist. No wealthy suburb would allow its school board to push such a plan to stuff kids into fewer and fewer classrooms. But in Chicago only community groups and the Chicago Teachers Union oppose the conventional wisdom that say (a) there is "no money" and (b) there are too many classrooms.

While it may be true that every member of the Chicago Board of Education deplores racism, it is equally true that the rhetoric of austerity cannot camouflage the fact that in the Chicago area, "overcapacity" is reserved for the buildings that serve mostly poor black and brown children.

SUN TIMES ARTICLE ON THE BOARD MEETING

Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson (above at podium) asked the Board to publish it's 2012 - 2013 Hit List of schools to be closed. Board President David Vitale said there was no such list, but did say that CPS had a "capacity issue." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Teachers union official asks CPS for ‘truce of peace’ after strike, BY ROSALIND ROSSI and LaUREN FITZPATRICK Staff Reporters/rrossi@suntimes.com fitzpatrick@suntimes.com September 25, 2012 1:36PM

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A Chicago Teachers Union official Tuesday called for a “truce of peace’’ and denounced as “saber rattling” recent ads by what he called a “shoddy organization” that recently bankrolled a television commercial featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel talking about the new CTU contract.

CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson told Emanuel’s hand-picked school board members that CTU and district officials had “worked together” since November to seal a deal that union membership will be asked to ratify on Oct. 2.

However, what “would be most helpful to this process is if we could call a truce of peace,” Brunson told board members during their regular monthly meeting. This is “not a time for saber rattling.”

“Neither of us wants to win the war and lose the peace.”

Brunson cited two developments he described as counterproductive to the mutual agreement the two sides had worked so hard to achieve — but has yet to be ratified.

Without naming the ad or the mayor, Brunson referred to “million dollar ads by a shoddy organization that opposes our process” for bargaining a contract.

The apparent reference was to Education Reform Now Advocacy, an affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter advocacy group founded by several New York hedge fund managers.

The group bankrolled a recent tv commercial in which Emanuel praises the end of the teachers strike and pinpoints what he considers

to be highlights of the new teacher deal.

During contract talks, Education Reform Now Advocacy also ran radio ads, featuring two women sitting on a bus, which questioned how CTU members could have voted to authorize a strike before they saw the recommendation of a fact-finder. The fact-finder’s report was ultimately rejected by both sides.

Brunson also criticized recent comments by venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, a behind-the-scenes force in passing a recent school reform bill who has a Chicago charter school named after him and whose wife sat on Emanuel’s education transition team. Rauner is an investor in Wrapports LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rauner reportedly told a seminar recently that “talented teachers” needed to be broken away from “union bosses.”

School Board member and heiress Penny Pritzker, whose Hyatt Hotels became a protest target during the strike for receiving tax increment financing funds, said she appreciated Brunson’s “sentiments about a truce,” and that the school board and CPS management “share that sentiment.”

However, also a concern, Brunson said, were rumors that the district’s Portfolio Office has “composed a deck” of 100 schools targeted for closure. How to deal fairly with teachers displaced by closures was a key sticking point of contract talks.

School Board President David Vitale said “everyone knows we have excess capacity” — or more seats than students.

“Despite what everybody says, there is no plan,” Vitale said.

“When there is, we will share it with everybody.”

[The photo accompanying the Sun-Times print edition article above showed not Michael Brunson, who is African American, but Bill Daley, a white guy who was not at the September 25, 2012 meeting].



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