Chicago Board of Education Policies Charged With Creating Chaos in Schools
CHICAGO, IL – At the June 24, 2009 Chicago Board of Education hearing, members of CORE, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), repeatedly charged CPS with creating chaos in neighborhood schools through faulty staffing and other policies that tie the hands of teachers’ efforts to improve Chicago education. “CORE has a brain trust. We’d like a seat at the CPS decision-making table,” said Karen Lewis, CORE Co-Chair, as she addressed the Board. Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott and Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman said they would consider that request.
“Today Mr. Scott and Mr. Huberman took a step in the right direction when they agreed to include the expertise of CORE’s rank-and-file teachers in decisions that directly impact student learning,” said Jackson Potter, Co-chair of CORE. Potter warned that, “This must be substantive work, not just a means to silence the opposition.”
For the past year, CORE has testified every month at Chicago Board of Education hearings and every school closing hearing to voice the concerns and solutions of teachers, students and parents who work at or attend Chicago schools. “CPS and the Board demand accountability for our schools. It is time that the Board and CPS apply that policy to their own operations,” Potter said.
CORE members noted that on June 9, 2009, Monique Bond, CPS spokesperson, stated that 1,000 jobs had to be cut, but “We do not want to cut classroom programs, teachers or educational program...” Schools across the city have notified CORE of nearly 100 teaching position cuts at 12 schools for the 2009-2010 school year. “And those are just the 100 cuts we know about. We assume there are even more,” said Carol Caref, CORE treasurer and math teacher at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. “Our students deserve better.”
Because of Chicago Public School’s “20th day policy” which freezes hiring for the first 20 school days each year, teaching positions cut in June and reinstated in September typically are not filled until mid-October. As a result, thousands of students start the school year in overcrowded classes, some with 50 to 60 students, and classes monitored by substitute teachers. Once a school’s staffing stabilizes, usually about mid-October, massive student schedule changes occur.
“What school district enforces an iron-clad policy that denies thousands of students a teacher for an entire month? The 20th day rule effectively robs students of a month of learning,” said Karen Lewis, Co-Chair of CORE. “For years Arne Duncan made a big deal out of going to students’ homes to get them to go to school on the first day. What’s the point if they get to school and there’s no teacher there?” Lewis added.
According to CORE sources, some schools are particularly hard hit. Clemente High School is slated to lose 17 positions, Hope Academy 13, and Chicago Vocational Career Academy has nine teachers on the chopping block. These schools do not have drops in enrollment commensurate with the cuts. Mary Pat Gerard, a City-Wide Special Education teacher, reports that at least five city-wide special education teachers will lose their jobs. Other schools losing positions include, but are not limited to, Corliss, Crane, Hayes, Hirsch, Hope, Hyde Park, Morgan Park, Phillips, Robeson, Roosevelt, Sandoval and Sullivan.
In a related matter, on June 10, 2009, CORE filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint alleging that school “turnarounds”, a Renaissance 2010 policy, have a “disparate impact” on African American teachers. Based on Illinois State Board of Education data, CORE researchers found that since 2002 the percentage of African American teachers in CPS has dropped from 39.4 to 31.6. Currently, there are 2,000 fewer Black teachers working in CPS than there were in 2002. The EEOC filing can be found at www.coreteachers.org.
CORE is the reform caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union that represents rank-and-file members. The group is comprised of teachers, retired teachers, educational staff and other champions of public education who hope to democratize the Chicago Teachers Union and turn it into an organization that fights on behalf of its members and the students they teach.