You live in a fantasy world. Don’t you realize that by cancelling school and making teachers take an unpaid furlough day on March 25th that you short change the learning of our students? Yet now you want to criticize us for having no options left but to strike.
We teachers have tried darn near everything to get you to realize that there are many ways to get additional funding for our schools and you refuse to do them. So we are left with no choice but to strike.
We do not want to strike. We wanted to negotiate with you, which is why there are 50 teachers representing us on the big bargaining team (that is called Democracy) when we negotiate.
We teachers work with students every day. We communicate with parents constantly.
Unlike you, we are parents of children in CPS. We work in the neighborhoods that you only visit when it is time for an election photo op.
So Rahm, we will shut down Chicago on April 1st in attempt to force you and your buddy Bruce down in Springfield to hear us.
Make no doubt we would rather be teaching our students. Make no doubt that we do not want to strike, but we will do it because we know that seems to be the only option left to get you to hear us.
There are ways to fix this and avoid future strikes.
Start with finding funding for our schools.
Here are some options on how to do this.
1. Ask your buddy Rauner to stop with his austerity budget.
2. Man up and ask your bank buddies to renegotiate the toxic bank deals that have and continue to steal money from our schools, our neighborhoods, and cities. This has cost CPS over $500 million dollars.
3. Use TIF surpluses to help our neighborhoods and schools instead of just siphoning the money downtown in an attempt to beautify an already beautiful downtown. There is $350 million in unused TIF money.
4. Cancel Aramark’s contract. Clearly our schools are dirty and privatizing our custodial services cost the district money and does not keep our schools clean. This would save $260 million. Yes, we would need to hire back many custodians, but they would be hired back by the schools and it would still be less expensive.
5. Relinquish your power of Chicago Public Schools. Your last CEO cost our district $20 million and the CEO’s (I hate that title, no one in charge of schools should be called that) you appointed before as well as your current appointment continue to harm, not help our city.
6. It is time for an elected school board. The voters who have been allowed to have a say overwhelmingly demand an elected board. 90% of voters who were allowed to vote on this issue want an elected school board.
7. Stop paying the military $17 million a year to be in our schools. Our streets are violent enough, we do not need the military model of solving conflicts taught to our students.
8. Require that the Mercantile Exchange pay a transaction tax. This would create $2 billion in revenue annually.
9. Take the Chicago Police out of schools and instead train teachers on Restorative Justice practices so we can teach our students how to de-escalate situations more effectively. This would also reduce some of the violence across our city as well as save money.
10. Don’t fund DePaul (a private university) to build a basketball stadium. This would save $173 million.
11. Stop building the new Obama High School. Savings of $60 million.
12. Get Teach for America out of CPS. The majority of them are only here for two years anyway. This is not the way to build relationships with parents and students. This would save $1.5 million.
13. Stop the incessant amount of standardized testing that wastes instructional time and costs the district millions.
14. Listen to the people, if you would’ve done that you wouldn’t have closed 50 schools. This contrary to your lies actually cost and still costs the district money. Still costing CPS $3 million per year.
I am sure there are many more ways to save money. I just wrote, researched, and brainstormed this list during my lunch period. This list not only saves money by cutting costs, but it also creates revenue options. Now you don’t need to threaten to cut our paychecks by 7%. Schools can hire back all the staff that has been cut. We can fully fund our schools with teachers, counselors, security, and librarians. We can have programs and opportunities for our students.
Surely your “experts” can come up with your own or figure out ways to make these ideas work. Or better yet you can listen to the experts, us teachers, who through the Chicago Teachers Union’s research have come up with solutions.
Teachers are problem solvers and we are working to solve the issues that your policies have created. But until you listen to us we will have to Shut Down Chicago on April 1st to fight for funding.
Read this piece on Huffington Post
When two sides enter into a negotiation, it is expected for the two sides to go back and forth on various points and details. One side will submit a proposal and the other side will reflect on the offer and then come back to the table to discuss what they like or do not like about the proposal.
Our teacher’s contract expired July 1st 2015 and it took until January 28th 2016 for CPS to make their 1st “serious offer” regarding our contract. The teachers that make up the bargaining team of the Chicago Teachers Union had been making proposals for months about how to help our schools, our students, and our teachers, while CPS had been unreceptive and/or unwilling to negotiate in good faith. But now almost 6 months after our contract has expired CPS submits one proposal and we are all of a sudden expected to take it, like it was the greatest gift ever presented to teachers?!
After the teachers of the big bargaining team went through each line of the proposal, they determined that it was not in the best interest of the students and teachers of Chicago to accept this offer. CEO Forest Claypool sent a threatening letter to Karen Lewis saying he now has no choice but to cut millions of dollars from schools.
Wait, hold up. It is not like the big bargaining team declared they will refuse all offers from CPS. They just refused parts of this offer. So the logical next step would be to come back to the table and figure out how make a contract for all parties to agree on. Just because CPS claimed it was a “good offer” and leaked parts of the proposal to the press making CPS look ‘oh so generous’ and teachers look ‘oh so greedy’, once again, does not mean it is a good contract.
So instead of continuing discussions, CPS has essentially given the middle finger to thousands of educators in this city. This is a big middle finger to the hundreds of thousands of students and parents who will be damaged by these draconian cuts to schools across the city.
All of this CPS madness comes from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who controls the schools. The same Mayor who is liked by only 18% of the people of Chicago. The same mayor that appointed CEO Forest Claypool (who has no educational experience) after his other appointed CEO got arrested. Both Rahm and Claypool control an appointed puppet school board that meets behind closed doors and ignores all public input to make their real decisions.
So once again I come back to the “serious offer” that CPS made. In the midst of all this corruption, we educators are just supposed to trust CPS and just accept their offer?
Teachers, unlike the Mayor, CEO, and Appointed School Board work with students and parents everyday.
We teachers send our kids to CPS.
We live in the city.
We will do what is best for the kids.
Yes, making sure a teacher is reasonably protected from the craziness that is CPS and paid fairly is still doing what is best for kids. A fair contract helps keep outstanding teachers from leaving this jacked up mayorally controlled undemocratic school system.
So CPS, grow up, realize that in a negotiation there will be times when you hear “No”.
We teachers are the experts in knowing what our schools, students, and profession need.
The contract negotiating process the Chicago Teachers Unions goes through with the big bargaining team and House of Delegates is Democratic. Just because the politics of this city are run by a “Yes, Rahm” mentality does not mean we will follow suit.
We are educated in what Democracy looks like and like it or not, CPS, we are educating you, just like we educate hundreds of thousands of students across our city daily.
This article on HuffingtonPost Chicago
If you haven’t heard the name Cedric Chatman, then you should know his name. Cedric is another tragic example of a black youth being killed by police and a city trying to cover up the murder. Cedric was killed nearly three years ago, almost two years before Laquan McDonald. To no surprise to anyone in Chicago, Rahm is currently trying to prevent the video from being released.
Black Americans being killed by police is not just a Chicago problem. This is an American problem.
I can’t sit back and witness the continued murder of black Americans, while far too many white Americans sit back and say nothing at all about it or even worse, blame the victims themselves.
As a white person who grew up in a majority white area, I know how white people view the police. They help keep us safe. The only times a white person fears a cop is when we are going more than 15mph over the speed limit and spot them in our rearview or when they show up to peacefully break up our youthful parties. The general consensus among whites is that the police won’t harm us, or our children; they will save us from the bad guys and give us due process if we mess up. If any interaction falls outside of this norm, it is ludicrous.
As we have sadly seen over the past few years, the world does not operate like this for black Americans, whiteness lets us have that sacred, safe privilege.
I know if you don’t experience something personally it’s hard to really internalize it. But this is the very reason why the intense, disturbing, police videos are so important to see.
Of course, no one wants to see someone being killed on camera.
But if you don’t watch it, then it never happened.
If white America is as tired of hearing about race and racism as some media outlets claim, then there are ways to help.
Start by giving a damn. I could call this empathy, but we are past that point in this struggle.
White culture tends to blame the victim, not the police officer, with comments like, “If Eric Garner had just… “ “If Laquan McDonald would’ve…”, or “If Tamir Rice’s parents would’ve…”.
Or we try to deflect from the real conversation about racism and ask questions like, “What about black on black crime? Why don’t black people care about that?”. Firstly, black people do care. Secondly, they protest it, which just doesn’t get the press coverage that black conflict gets on mainstream media.
Even comments like “Most police are good” are harmful. Yes, I agree that most police are good, but we’re focusing on the ones that aren’t. It is clear that there is an issue with the police and/or police training that needs to be addressed in this country. This has been going on for decades and as an example, Chicago operated Homan Square, a secret police site used to illegally hold and torture primarily black Chicagoans.
Here is a list of all the black people killed by police across America from 1999-2014, if you still need more proof.
So what can white Americans do?
- Listen to black people when they share experiences with race.
Some white Americans would rather go out of their way to find the most random black person saying how race isn’t a problem anymore and that black America just needs to “get over it” then actually listen to the overwhelming amount of black narratives and stories that show how racism is still so prevalent in our country. Rule of thumb, if it is just a black person sitting in their car talking about how racism isn’t real anymore you need a more credible source and for that matter if you only quote Ben Carson as your “black source” you again need find a more credible source.
2. Read articles, books, and narratives about race. The authors of these writings should be black.
There is a plethora of researched articles and books about race out there. It may not be comfortable to learn about how racism benefits us as white people and what white privilege is and does for us, but if you really want to consider yourself empathic or even Christian for that matter then you need to spend the time educating yourself. Here are a few good places to start.
3. STOP listening to white people on the news tell you about black people.
This isn’t specific to any news or TV station (although some are much worse than others). But, if you are getting your information about issues of race, including but not limited to police abuses, violence, protests, racism, etc., from this source, then you need to stop and refer back to the previous point #2.
4. Put yourself in the minority.
Go to areas of the city that aren’t white. (No you won’t be killed, robbed, raped or shot at—actually the odds are better that those things would happen in a white area, but that is a different article.) The first step with this point is realizing that yes, you are welcome and yes, it is safe. Try to take the images portrayed in movies out of your head. Try to limit your unnecessary fears. Use websites like Yelp & Trip Advisor to help you figure out where you want to go. There are great places to eat, shop, and see in black communities no matter what city you live in. When you go, plan to interact, not just observe “another culture”.
5. Teach your children that black people aren’t scary, by your words and actions.
The words you use around children are powerful; strike ghetto and thug from your language to describe places and people. Watch movies and shows with black leads or majority black actors. If possible, have your kids interact with kids who aren’t white, in situations where they are equals. Also refer back to my previous point #4.
A former black student of mine wrote an article titled, “The Reason I Can’t Have White Friends”. The title is sad and justified and the words are powerful. But, we white people need to read his words and then start educating our children and ourselves.
“I have grown tired of having to explain to people why mouthing off to police shouldn’t get me killed. I am tired of having to try twice as hard to smile on the train so people aren’t automatically afraid of me. I am tired of being afraid of police officers as they drive past my house or walk by me on the street. I am tired of being too afraid of police violence to go to the public pool, walk down the street, go to the movie theater walk with skittles or exist in my own skin. But I am unable to express this pain to people other than those of my own race. It is almost impossible to get other people to understand my pain. It is even harder to get people to acknowledge that the pain I and my people feel is even real. We live in a “post-racial” society but it seems that this “post-racial” attitude has tricked people into thinking that denying racism will completely destroy it.”
This piece on Huffington Post
This piece on Gapers Block
Recently Governor Rauner said, “…the Chicago Teachers Union shouldn’t have dictatorial powers, in effect and causing the financial duress that Chicago Public Schools are facing right now.”
This statement from Rauner comes just a few days after Forrest Claypool our newest CEO says that teachers need to have “shared sacrifice” by taking a 7% pay cut.
The shared sacrifice Claypool speaks of means that my wife (also a CPS teacher) and I would lose about $11,000 in combined income for this year alone.
I could go on and on about how Claypool is just another puppet of Rahm, in a long line of puppets appointed by the mayor or how Chicagoans demand en elected school board (remember Chicago is the only district in the entire state without an elected school board). But since Rauner thinks that the teachers union run by 40,000 teachers is a dictatorship and Claypool says teachers need to sacrifice I will share my stories, so maybe, just maybe, they both (along with Rahm) will realize what it means to really sacrifice.
Two weeks ago I found out that a student who attended and graduated from my high school was shot and killed. I did not know this student well as I had never taught him, but what I have found is that his death has triggered many other emotions and memories that I have suppressed.
There is a study that says that people who live in violent areas (like many parts of Chicago) show sign of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) similar to soldiers returning from combat. My father was in combat in Vietnam and for the first 23 years of my life he never once talked to me about Vietnam. It was one night that he decided to watch a fictional movie about Vietnam that it all came back to him. I can see how he has days where his mind is consumed by traumatic experiences that he had. He has been able to cope and now is working to prevent people, students especially from going into the military.
I have worked in CPS for 9 years now and have had students share tragic stories of losing their friends and loved ones to violence. I have seen how certain events can trigger their traumatic memories.
I never thought that a teacher (myself) could have this happen too.
When I found out that the student from my school who had just graduated was killed I was deeply saddened for his family, for everyone who knew him, and that our city continues to let young people die.
However I have found that now nearly two weeks after his death I have been thinking nearly every day of the first student that I ever knew who was killed.
Nearly 5 years ago a young man named Trevell was shot and killed. I taught Trevell as a freshman in high school. He was an outgoing, intelligent, and confident young man, but it was clear that he had some difficulties outside of school. As he continued through high school into his senior year he had made many positive decisions to steer his life in the right direction and had got himself into college. I received a phone call on a cold January Saturday morning from my assistant principal saying that Trevell had been shot and killed. I still remember that day that I found out about his death and also what it was like to go into school that Monday and cry with students and staff and share stories of Trevell.
The following school year I was teaching my senior Urban Studies class. I had taught many of the students in this class when they were freshman. There was one student Deonte who as a freshman I never thought would still be at our school, let alone close to graduating, for how involved he seemed to be as a freshman with life on the streets. Deonte as a freshman in my class would typically be focused on anything and everything as long as it was not academic. But amazingly Deonte had turned it around and now, as a senior had become one of the most liked students by staff and students. He had dramatically improved his grades and got himself accepted into many colleges. This one day in late May just a few weeks before graduation he was not in class. When I asked where he was, another student whispered to me that he had been arrested. I didn’t believe it, because he had put that part of his life way behind him. It wasn’t until I saw a mug shot of him wearing his school shirt and read his charge that I finally accepted it. He was one of my favorite students. I still think of him often.
Then about two years ago my wife and I experienced a miscarriage 17 weeks into our second pregnancy. My students all knew my wife was pregnant and while I was out of school grieving the loss I dreaded having to come back to school to see 150 students who knew that my wife was no longer pregnant. My students were amazing and helped me grieve. My students were actually much better than even some of the adults who knew we had experienced that loss.
I share these stories because my “shared sacrifice” is that every time a student dies I think of these things. I don’t even realize that I am thinking of these things at first, because I usually just get angry or frustrated and don’t know why.
There are days that I wonder like many teachers in Chicago, why do I still stay here? Why do I stay in a system that is run by the mayor with an appointed school board that clearly has no clue what is doing. Why do I stay in a system that has a new CEO every one to two years? Why do I stay in a system that allows its schools to be funded often times $10,000 less per student than schools in the suburbs?
Every answer to all of those questions is because of the students. The students are the reason why 40,000 teachers in Chicago don’t just pack up and move out of the city. We love our students. We love to guide, mentor, coach, counsel, teach, listen, and laugh with and at them.
So Mr. Claypool we teachers have “skin in the game”. My personal stories are sadly not unique; we teachers have and continue to make sacrifices every day by being a teacher in Chicago.
Mr. Rauner you want to blame us, teachers, for the fiscal crises of our city? How about thanking us for doing what we do every day. Thank us today, thank us tomorrow, and continue thanking us for your entire four years as governor, because you will never know what we do for the students of this city.
And after you thank us, give us power over our schools. Give us an elected school board. Give us counselors and therapists. Give our students the schools that they deserve.
Yes, giving more to the schools costs money, but let’s be clear, there are money and revenue options out there. You are just choosing to use bogus rhetoric instead of hearing and acting on the revenue options available.
The stress that I and the rest of Chicago’s teachers go through every day of the year to educate the children of this city that we love is not easy, but we do it because we know that our students matter. It is time for the politicians to do the same.
This piece on Gapers Block
This piece on Huffington Post
Let’s just get the following truths about the Chicago School Board out of the way:
- It is appointed by the mayor and not elected by the people of Chicago.
- It is the only school board in the entire state of Illinois that is not elected.
- It closed the most schools in the history of the United States.
- It allows our neighborhood schools to be criminally underfunded.
- It has opened excessive amounts of new charter schools and allowed them to take public school money even though they do no better and often worse.
- It allows banks to make millions off our students through toxic loans that the Board agreed to and refuses to renegotiate on.
- It allows our kids to be in the most militarized school system in the country. As if our streets weren’t already violent enough, let’s give the military access to all of our kids as well. Yes, that seems logical.
- It has board members on it like Quazzo who uses her role to cut deals and give CPS contracts to her friends.
Let’s move on to things we maybe don’t know about this board.
They are very afraid of losing their power. Yes, they will claim that they are just “volunteers” on the school board, who are dedicated to helping all students. They act is if they are volunteering to serve on this board, because no one else wants the responsibility. Well news flash: David Vitale, Jesse Ruiz, Carlos Azcoitia, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines, Deborah Quazzo, and Andrea Zopp….Your appointed days are numbered.
Chicago will get an elected school board in the near future. Those of you on the school board are just essentially clinging to the “good ole days” when you could do what you want and not have much scrutiny.
The scrutiny is here School Board. But good for you, you do have some options:
- You can fight tooth and nail for your “volunteer” positions. This is the path you seem to have chosen, unfortunately.
- The better option, you can quit and then encourage your dear friend Rahm Emanuel to realize an elected board is coming, whether any of you like it or not.
The truth is regardless of whomever ends up being our next mayor in a few weeks (please, please, please, Chicagoans let it be Garcia or Fioretti) the days of the appointed school board are over.
Sadly, history has had far too many people clinging to power in fear, and not letting Democracy actually be carried out. These people who clung to power and refused to even give Democracy a chance are now often referred to in an unflattering light in the history books I use with my students. And yes, school board members you might be sitting there on your high and mighty throne thinking things like “I don’t care if people disagree with my decisions, because I am doing what is best for the kids” blah blah blah.
How can you do what is best for the kids, if you won’t even allow their parents to have a say in what is best for them? By not letting parents or anyone else in this city vote for the people on the school board you are playing the role of someone who thinks they know what is best for all of us. This action is attached to historical words like Paternalistic, Racist, or Privileged to name just a few.
The model you are following is one used by people who colonized other countries and forced the people in those colonized places to believe religions, creeds, and values that were not their own. This was all done with the idea that, “We know what is best for you, because we are better than you”. Don’t you see it School Board? This is the role you are playing.
You DON’T know what is best for the people of Chicago. Only the voters do, but here in lies the problem…you won’t let the people vote!
There will be a movement to oust you. It is coming, actually it has already started. Alderman in Chicago are taking notice, parents and the community have already noticed and are speaking out. Count your days, because they are becoming fewer.
Sure it will be embarrassing briefly if you just stepped down from your “volunteer” role.
But believe me it will be even more embarrassing when you are forced off your throne, by Democracy.
And believe me Democracy is coming.
Article Published on Gapers Block
Article on Huffington Post Chicago
While we all prepare to give thanks for family, friends, and loved ones, I want to pause and give thanks to the people in this city who are relentlessly trying to give us all the opportunity to have an elected school board.
Because Mayor Rahm Emanuel keeps Chicago the only school district in the entire state of Illinois that does not have an elected school board.
We have a school board that is handpicked by the mayor and therefore does whatever the mayor tells them to do, because if they go against him then guess what? They are no longer on the school board.
We have an appointed school board that meets during the work day so parents, teachers, students, and the community cannot easily attend the meetings. But in spite of this every month people attend and speak out about how CPS can be and needs to be improved. Yet every month the CPS board pretends to listen to the pleas of the people they should be representing, watches while parents make their pleas and says nothing while people are physically removed from the microphone. The appointed board then goes into a closed door session and does whatever they want to do err I mean whatever they were told to do.
We have an appointed school board that agreed to close the most schools in the history of the United States and claimed that closing schools was good for children.
We have an appointed school board that has according to a Chicago Tribune editorial has allowed “CPS to get ripped off by the banks for the last ten years”. This money that the School Board and our Mayor allowed the banks to take from our schools was enough money to keep ALL of the 50 schools that were closed open. This money could reduce class sizes and allow for more counselors, librarians, art teachers, nurses and the list goes on and on to be hired.
A truly Democratic society means we are able to vote and be represented by people whom we voted for. In Chicago our mayor will not let Democracy into education. As a social studies teacher we are required to teach our students about the major types of governments in the world. When I teach about Democracy and then compare it to a dictatorship it is evident that our school system is run like the latter.
Various groups and people have been attempting to get a referendum on the ballot to allow the citizens of Chicago to vote to determine if they would like an elected school board or not. Yet every election one of Rahm’s puppets I mean Alderman, specifically Alderman Joe Moore has managed to bump the Elected School Board question off the ballot.
Why is this?
What is our mayor so afraid of?
Rahm must be afraid of Democracy.
The time is now to give the people of Chicago the say in how our schools are run.
Because there is one thing that we all can agree on and that is Chicago Public Schools are a mess.
Published in Huffington Post Chicago & Gapers Block