CORE press conference challenges Huberman's expansion of Renaissance 2010 through 2011 and beyond... Group calls for a repeal of the Amendatory Act, mayoral control in Chicago

With no headlines and little fanfare, and while a Chicago Tribune reporter sat by taking dictation from the Board of Education's "New Schools" chief, one of the major groups within the 31,000-member Chicago Teachers Union used the occasion of another round of charter school creation in Chicago to oppose not only the continued expansion of charter schools, but the underpinnings of mayoral control in Chicago.

While Little Village High School teacher Jackson Potter (center) speaks to WBEZ reporter Jennifer Lacey, other CORE members wait to outline their objections to the proposed expansion of Chicago's charter schools. Hearings on the proposed expansion were held on November 9, 2009, at CPS headquarters. Left to right (above). Jennifer Lacey (WBEZ radio), Michael Brunson (Aldridge Elementary School, displaced), Sara Echevarria (Clemente High School), Jackson Potter (Little Village High School), Karen Lewis (King High School), Kristine Mayle. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. On November 9, 2009, members of CORE (the Caucus Of Rank and file Educators) called for the overturning of the 1995 Amendatory Act and an End to Mayoral Control of Chicago's public schools. The group had come to the Chicago Board of Education to protest the expansion of charter schools which will be on the agenda when the Board meets on November 18, 2009.

The call for the end to the 'Amendatory Act' came during a hastily organized press conference prior to a "hearing" upstairs. He hearing was on modifications in plans for the so-called "Renaissance 2010" program, this year forcing the creation of yet another new group of charter schools in Chicago. It had also become clear to most careful observers that despite its original claims ("100 New Schools for Chicago" by 2010), Renaissance 2010, one of the pet projects of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, was going to continue until 2015 or beyond unless it was stopped. Already on November 9, 2009, CPS officials were discussing plans for "new schools" that are supposed to open in September 2011, after the supposed end date of "Renaissance 2010."

The new schools this year are being rushed through the Chicago Board of Education's November 18 meeting, despite the fact that opposition to all of them is now widespread across the city, and in each of the communities that the schools are supposedly going to serve.

A CORE press release also cited the union busting part of Renaissance 2010, and during the press conference six CORE members discussed various aspects of the problems they were addressing.

"Quietly, with little public debate, on November 18, 2009, the Chicago Board of Education could authorize 8,130 additional charter seats, increasing charters’ current Chicago market share from 7.9 percent to 9.8 percent according to Chicago Public Schools data compiled by CORE researchers," the CORE press release stated. "CPS proposes to open nine new charter schools in 2010 and 2011 and convert seven contract schools into charters. Since the onset of Renaissance 2010 in 2004, Chicago Teacher Union membership has shrunk by approximately 6,000 members..."

“Labor law doesn’t allow a company to close down a union plant and open up a non-union one across the street, but that’s exactly what Chicago Public Schools has done for the last six years without pause,” said Jackson Potter, CPS teacher at Little Village-Lawndale High School and CORE co-chair, told WBEZ radio and Substance, the only two media to attend the press conference in the arcade on the ground floor of the CPS headquarters building at 125 S. Clark St. in Chicago.

“The Mayor and his appointed Board of Education are violating the human rights of teachers and putting our children at even greater risk when it busts our union," Potter continued. "The 1995 state law [the Amendatory Act] that gave Mayor Daley control of the schools — and prohibited the Chicago Teachers Union from bargaining over the closing and opening of new schools — is unconstitutional and must be overturned.”

Potter also explained that when educators do not have contractual rights, “management can run wild."

"My union contract backs me up so I can demand that my students receive an adequate education and proper services if they are English language learners, special education students, or are in need of counseling or medical support," Potter continued. "Without union protections, students are increasingly at risk.”

Later, Potter and others noted the there is widespread fear among CPS and charter school teachers about speaking out when unprofessional conditions and worse come to teachers' attention.

"It is increasingly clear from mountains of research that Renaissance 2010 schools generally do not offer a better education than traditional neighborhood schools," said Karen Lewis, CPS teacher at King College Prep and co-chair of CORE stated. "So today we have to identify the real reason behind school reform in this city -- union busting.”

Lewis cited research reports most recently from Stanford University and the University of Chicago showing that charter schools in general do not do better than the traditional public schools they are replacing. Lewis noted that the original claim for charter schools was that they would provide a superior education to the traditional public schools.

Kristine Mayle, a CPS special education teacher, explained that unlike contract schools, charters are barred from joining the CTU bargaining unit, may hire up to 25 percent non-certified teachers. Mayle also noted that charter school administrators do not need professional certification or teaching experience.

“CPS is creating a low-wage, high-turnover workforce. That’s the plan,” said Mayle. Mayle added that, “Charters burn out teachers" because they are able to required lengthy work days and weeks without compensating teachers for all of the additional work they demand. "Most charter teachers won’t stay in the classroom the ten years it takes to vest into the pension," Mayle noted, citing another place where the Board of Education was attacking the rights of unionized regular school teachers. "It’s not a stretch to imagine that the Board sees that as a plus.”

“Mayor Daley is privatizing our schools under the guise of providing better educational opportunities for students and families. There is no sound educational benefit for students in most charter schools,” said Sara Echevarria, a CPS teacher at Clemente High School. “Why would CPS open another charter high school in Englewood? They have five already and only one neighborhood high school. It’s all mapped out.” Evhevarria also discussed how the expansion of certain charter schools on Chicago's north side has affected Clemente High School and her community.

“There’s a myth that unions guarantee teachers a job for life. Not true,” said Michael E. Brunson, a displaced CPS teacher. “Strong contracts provide due process but that’s not happening in Chicago. Each year hundreds of union teachers are dismissed wholesale when their schools are closed, turned around or converted to charters. CPS’s current proposals aren’t about improving education. They’re about privatizing education and busting unions.” Brunson, who taught for years at Aldridge Elementary School in the Altgeld Gardens public housing project on Chicago's far south side, was displaced this school year from his regular public school teaching job. One of the areas targeted for the expansion of charter schools in the coming year is so-called "Riverdale" — which means the Altgeld Gardens housing project.

Robeson High School math teacher Danielle Ciesielski discussed the impact of the charter school proliferation in the city's Englewood community on her school. She noted that the charter schools that have been opened in Englewood, especially Urban Prep, which CPS is proposing to expand, do not serve the children of the community, who are being squeezed into the remaining public schools like Robseon.

A few minutes after the CORE press conference ended, Substance and others found at least one of the missing reporters. Although the Chicago Tribune had been informed of the press conference, a Tribune reporter chose to get a one-on-one briefing from Jaime Guzman, acting Chief Officer of New Schools, rather than listen to the critics of the charter schools expansion. For the past several years, the Chicago Tribune has promoted charter schools and slandered regular public schools not only in its editorials, but also in its news columns and in its features. Several present and former Tribune executives have been actively promoting Chicago's charter schools expansion for years, forbidding any critical reporting on even the most controversial charters in Chicago. With the federal promotion of charter school expansion by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan under the "Race to the Top" program, the Tribune is now hectoring the public to follow the controversial Chicago plan nationally. 


November 11, 2009 at 6:38 PM

By: Jim Vail

Chicago Trib.

I gave a copy of the ISBE Charter School report to the Chicago Tribune reporter Azam sitting next to Jaime Guzman of the Office of New Schools. I showed him that UNO is failing according to CPS standards because they are not making AYP. Earlier he wrote a glowing reporter about this charter tied to the corrupt HDO organization and reported their claims that their test scores are good. This guy certainly can't claim ignorance.

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