Anatomy of the Sellout... Charter schools can continue adding students despite claims by CTU officers that the new contract language says they can't!... Contract loopholes will leave at least ten of the city's real public high schools on a new Hit List within 18 months...

Even though the expensive glossy mailing Karen Lewis did to try and wrangle a "Yes" vote from the membership for the "TA" (the "Tentative Agreement") was designed in the best tradition of propaganda to "sell" its product, the facts were clear from the very top, where the union president had to show, in stark terms, that the union's members would continue to fall behind their brothers and sisters across Illinois in pay. (Note: The raises in CTU contracts are not a "COLA" -- which is in most realities a separate "Cost of Living Adjustment" to a base line. The raises in the proposed contract are the only raises for many union members, despite the smoke and fog and lies).A growing number of members of the Chicago Teachers Union are surprised at how dishonest and deceptive the latest CTU mailing is. Between October 22 and October 24, union members received a glossy mailing from Karen Lewis, still CTU President, attempting to explain all the things the union supposedly "won" in the "TA"(that's union jargon for the "Tentative Agreement", or the proposed contract). The Lewis mailing gives a summary of the 2015 – 2019 Tentative Agreement.

In bold headlines it reads, “Congratulations, We Have Come So Far” as if the union's 28,000 members were in the process of completing some successful journey -- when instead they are walking, with their "YES" votes, into a four-year trap.

There is evidence that at least some of the CTU rank and file is pausing a minute for more discussion before voting. There are certainly many reasons for pause -- not the least of which is the loophole in the TA that will allow CPS to continue expanding charter schools, despite the claim that charter expansion will not take place thanks to the negotiations.

The claim? "Zero Charter expansions and No School Closing." But as more and more union activists are pointing out, the language (as written) is dishonest.

It reads “No School Closings: for years 1 – 2, then only the inability to meet graduation requirements [will be cause for school closings]...”

So if this is now already Year Two of the four-year contract (which if approved goes from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019) then next year, the summer of 2017, will be the start of Year Three -- and the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union will have given CPS contract language to close schools more schools.

Most members of the public know that CPS doesn’t need union contract language to close schools. After all, CPS closed 50 elementary schools claiming “underutilized space” in May 2013. That was less than one year after the union's supposed victory in the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012.

Thousands protested against the closings, with emotional hearings from one end of Chicago to the other. And yet the Board of Education, on a motion at that time from Barbara Byrd Bennett, closed all those schools. And the result for union members in those schools, despite all the emotions, was that most lost their jobs because the Chicago Teachers Union contract had long ago surrendered strong contractual protections for the seniority rights of teachers and other members of the union's bargaining unit.

At every point since 2012, it has been obvious that CPS was doing most of the charter school operators a favor -- close public schools open charter schools.

From many points of view, the story is almost ridiculous. Consider the number of "high schools" in Chicago (against the fact that the number of students in Chicago schools has been dropping).

At the high school level, CPS had 86 High Schools in 2000.

Today there are 140 "high schools" -- an increase of 68%.**

The high school student population is only a fraction greater, while the overall student membership in CPS, as most recently reported to the news media, has been dropping.

But the greatest impact of the Board's policy of charter expansion has been on the high schools. Many once great public high schools now have "low enrollment". And the next thing the public can expect to hear is that they are "underutilized" and therefore should be closed (the same arguments used during the hearings in late 2012 and into 2013 before the vote to close the largest number of public schools in American history).

This has been a 15-year plan by CPS and charter operators, and it continues. It is part of the overall privatization schemes of Chicago's rulers (nurses, librarians and others privatized; etc.) and by far the most expansive.

What is most ugly about privatization is that it is not about education, but, as was written long long ago, "follow the money." Chicago's public money is being diverted into private hands with the help of the Mayor, his hand picked Board of Education, and, if the TA is approved, the collaboration of the Chicago Teachers Union (ironically, by a "democratic" vote of the union's member).

In late 2012 and into mid-2013, critics called the school closing list a "Hit List." How will CPS generate and then propagandize on behalf of the new Hit List.

A dozen public high schools with low enrollment are just what they want for the new hit list. Next year with more budget cuts, the Board of Education will claim they have to close more schools because of "underenrollment". They will claim that these schools are not “meeting graduation requirements,” which is virtually inevitable as they have been starved of resources and then forced to take in the kids that the charter schools have dumped.

More funding to improve Chicago public education is not going to happen as long as CTU joins the Board's claim that Chicago's school system is "broke" despite all the wasteful spending that anyone can read, month after month, in the Board of Education's public agendas. The $20 million privatization scandal that is sending Barbara Byrd Bennett to prison (one supposed) is just a rather mid-level part of that scandal.

But there will be more cries for "austerity" and talk of how Chicago taxpayers can't afford to pay more (for schools at least; other stuff not so much). And so a number of high schools will be closed.

Unfortunately if the members vote Thursday and Friday according to what Karen Lewis is demanding, now the CTU has become part of this destructive game -- while claiming there will be no school closing in years 1 – 2. They clearly have left the door open for CPS to close high schools in years 3 and 4 of the contract.

So we should be wondering now how will the CTU march and protest to stop the next round of school closings when it looks like they have said, “OK”?

Are those noting all the loopholes in the TA wrong? In years 3 and 4 of the contract when hundreds of teachers are being laied off from the closed high schools, the fight by CTU leaders won’t be standing tall but begging.

Criticswrong this contract language will allow school closings?

Where is the plan for multi-purpose use of our public school buildings? There could be evening classes. There could be job training. The CTU could be marching with the neighborhoods to keep the schools open. Marching is better than begging any day, but as those who have marched without a strong contract have learned the hard way, marching doesn't stop the boss from doing what the boss wants.

The old saying is still true, “You only get what you fight for.”

Possible schools on the next hit list.

Fenger High School.

Current enrollment 231. Only 30 freshmen enrolled.

Fenger is surrounded by charter schools

1. Magic Johnson- enrollment - - - - - - - -201

2. Camelot Chicago Excel enrollment - - 227

Hirsch High School.

Current enrollment 190.

Surrounded by charter schools

1. Noble Gary Comer, enrollment 6th to 12th grades 1,150

2. CICS Avalon enrollment - - - 490

3. YCCS Sullivan enrollment - - - 332

Robeson, Current enrollment 152

Surrounded by charter schools

1. Noble Johnson enrollment - - 860

2. Amandala enrollment - - - - xxx ***(I cannot find their enrollment number)

There are also public high schools on the West Side facing the same fate:

Douglas High School.

Current enrollment 163

Manley High School.

Current enrolment 176

Marshall High School

Current enrollment 371

Hope High School.

Current enrollment 139

Gage Park High School

Current enrollment 302

Tilden High School

Current enrollment 284

Corliss High School

Current enrollment 371

Forced to share building with Noble Butler Charter 570 enrollment.

Bowen High School

Current enrollment 333

Surrounded by charter schools

1. Baker Charter (CPS gave Noble new Bowen annex) enrollment- 390

2. Epic Charter (83rd Houston) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - enrollment 500

Some of these scandals have even been noted in the local and national press:


Meanwhile, the city since 2000 has opened dozens of schools to offer more choice and retain the middle class. Most are public charter schools that admit by lottery but a bevy of test-based schools and programs also launched. Chicago now has 101,000 students in 140 high schools, excluding alternative schools. In 2000, CPS had 93,000 students in 86 high schools. That’s a 63 percent increase in schools against an 8 percent increase in students. For neighborhoods like Austin that have lost population, this seats-students mismatch is particularly devastating.

And because state law protects charter schools even when they are failing, the following must be noted:

*** State commission overrules CPS on charter school closures, Catalyst, By Kalyn Belsha | March 1, 2016

Amandla Charter School in Englewood and Betty Shabazz International Charter School’s Sizemore Academy in West Englewood both were granted permission to stay open for two years — the amount of time left on the charter agreement they had with Chicago Public Schools. [Because the Illinois Charter Schools Commission vetoed a vote by the Chicago Board of Education to close these charters because they were failing in many many ways.


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