Failing charter schools declare war on Chicago Teachers Union in bid to grab more public dollars and land

The members of the Chicago Teachers Union had barely voted overwhelmingly to approve the new three-year contract that ended their first strike in a quarter century when the city's ruling class made it clear that the city's charter schools will be used in an aggressive war to undermine both the CTU and the city's remaining real public schools. According to an article that was published as "news" in the October 11, 2012 edition of the Chicago Tribune, the most aggressive move yet against the city's public schools will be carried out in the next few months with the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and charter schools cooperating to undermine the city's real public schools, eventually turning as many as possible over to the charters.

The October 11, 2012, Chicago Tribune story on the attack of the killer charters reads more like an editorial than a news story, basing all of its information on unsourced CPS claims and ignoring the facts of both the charter schools being touted for "turnaround" and the Chicago Teachers Union. While typical of much of the historical record regarding unions at the Chicago Tribune, the story was still a surprise to some readers, who hope for a separation of "news" and opinion.The twin lies behind which the attacks on the public schools will be waged are the claim that Chicago Public Schools faces a budget "crisis" (even as the mayor announces that economic growth has erased the budget problems facing the City of Chicago budget) and that many Chicago schools are "underutilized." Both claims are based on the use of fraudulent numbers, in the case of the budget the traditional CPS claim of a "deficit" that always disappears, and in the case of the "underperforming" and "underutilization" claims, the use of numbers that are only applied to Chicago schools.

Ironically, the "news" story in the Tribune fails to quote one on the record CPS source, typically taking the story line of CPS and City Hall and spinning the story based on "background" reporting. The Chicago Teachers Union was not even quoted, nor were experts who could easily be called upon to challenge the claims. The two Chicago charter operators poised to take over the "failing" CPS schools are both hiding their own performance and financial information behind barriers that they are allowed to erect because of the hypocritical secrecy of Chicago's charters. Additionally, the at times blatant racism of the UNO charter schools against black children and their families continues to be ignored by the Emanuel administration, while the decade-long policy of dumping kids from the Noble Street charter schools back into the real public schools is similarly ignored.

But as the corporate media were prepping for the fight with the lies of the ruling class, the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union were preparing for it based on the organizing that had begun during the seven-day strike in September.


Charter networks being urged to take over troubled schools in city... Some sites that CPS plans to shut could become charter turnarounds. By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune reporter

October 11, 2012

Chicago Public Schools officials have asked several charter networks if they would take over failing schools, for the first time making a direct connection between the city's plan to shut down neighborhood schools while increasing the number of privately run charters.

One of the charter networks approached by the district is the politically connected United Neighborhood Organization, which is "seriously considering" taking over troubled schools, said UNO Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangel.

"CPS is looking at charters to take a bigger bite of the school system," Rangel said.

In the past, CPS has tried to maintain distance between school closings and the addition of privately run but publicly funded charter schools, taking measures that included keeping a school building closed for a year or longer before approving a charter campus for the site.

But that could change as the district struggles to deal with a deficit that could reach $1 billion next year, while considering how to go about closing anywhere from 80 to 120 underenrolled or poorly performing schools.

If the charter networks agree to take over troubled schools the district wants to turn around, students are expected to remain in those schools. That could make the politically perilous matter of shutting down neighborhood schools more palatable in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods that figure to be hardest hit.

Community leaders and the Chicago Teachers Union have both voiced opposition to school closings, which have been rancorous in the past. CTU President Karen Lewis, who led teachers on a seven-day strike last month, has already said school closings will be the next big fight and declared, "I still got my boxing gloves."

Because so many underenrolled schools are in black neighborhoods, "the decisions that the district makes to close or consolidate schools are incredibly difficult ones," said Tim Knowles, director of the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute.

"No matter whether the district closes or consolidates 60 or 100 or let alone 120 schools, it's going to be at a scale Chicago has never seen before," Knowles said. "The strike will seem like a walk in the park."

There are 118 charter schools in the city now, a number expected to grow by at least 60 over the next several years.

District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said conversations with charters over moving directly into troubled schools remain "conceptual" but acknowledged CPS is exploring all possibilities.

"Given the daunting financial and academic challenges facing CPS, it's our obligation to explore options that can expand the district's reach in providing all students with the opportunity to access higher-quality school options and help them be successful in school and life," Carroll said in a statement.

Education reformers have been aggressively pushing behind the scene for more charters, and ushering the networks into turnaround schools could facilitate rapid growth. The district already has promised more per pupil funding and facilities assistance for charters and, in addition to promoting growth from local operators like UNO, is seeking to bring national charter operators to the city.

Until now, the privately run Academy for Urban School Leadership took over many of the troubled schools that CPS sought to turn around. Unlike charter schools, AUSL hires CTU members to teach in its schools.

UNO, which now runs 13 charters, according to Rangel, initially had plans to open four more schools in the fall of 2013. UNO is now proposing three additional schools for that year, and those additional schools could be what are known as turnarounds.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, often praised by Emanuel for driving up graduation rates and producing college-bound students, is also considering directly taking on turnaround schools, said CEO Michael Milkie. The 12-school network could add eight schools over the next four years, Milkie said.

For Noble, which already operates in some of the city's tough neighborhoods like Englewood, Grand-Crossing and East Garfield Park and serves neighborhood students at three campuses, taking on turnarounds would not be a stretch.

"CPS wants to displace as few students as possible," Milkie said. "These would still be neighborhood schools. In some ways I think it will be easier to sell to the community that the school is not closing, and the community will be sold as long as the quality of schools is high."

While the district is considering national charter networks, the looming fiscal crisis — $338 million in pension payments are due next year — may slow those plans.

"I think the financial fiscal state of the city is giving pause to national charter operators," said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. "It's a hard sell to get charter operators to come here under the current per pupil funding rate and the current fiscal condition of the city."

The pace of school closings continues to be debated internally, sources said. Although officials know more than 100 schools are underenrolled and underperforming, not all of them can be closed at once for logistical and safety reasons.

CPS is scheduled to put out a list of school closings by Dec. 1.

In the meantime, some charter operators are pushing the city to close schools in one fell swoop.

"If we're serious about transforming the system, then we have to make tough calls," Rangel said. "Is it easy? No. Is it pain-free? No. Is it worth it all? Yes."



October 11, 2012 at 10:20 PM

By: John Kugler

'J.C'. out friday?

Rumor is going around. Do we have confirmation?

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