Monday, April 20, 2015

Coalition to “reform ed reform” holding national conference in Chicago | Catalyst Chicago

Coalition to “reform ed reform” holding national conference in Chicago | Catalyst Chicago:



Coalition to “reform ed reform” holding national conference in Chicago



Robin Hiller
Robin Hiller
Julian Vasquez Heilig
Julian Vasquez Heilig
The predominance of the data and evidence is clear: School “reformers” have failed spectacularly in Chicago and elsewhere over the past decade. Politicians and corporate interests have pressed for failing policies that have created an unprecedented effort to privately control public education by demonizing teachers, undermining the democratic role of parents, closing schools and reinventing public schools as testing factories.
Education policies promoting private control and profit in education have continued unabated with support from Democrats and Republicans alike. Claiming to be dedicated to making children “college and career ready,” these corporate entities, with the help of elected and appointed officials at the national, state and local level, are destroying the very institutions that should be dedicated to providing all children with the free, comprehensive and supportive public schools they need and deserve to live their lives to the fullest.
Their goals are becoming more clear: to turn public schools into profit centers for corporate investors. In contrast, across the nation there is a growing coalition of community leaders, academics, and other stakeholders leading the conversation to reform education reformers’ reforms.
Hundreds of these education stakeholders from across the nation will gather in Chicago April 25-26 for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Founded by Diane Ravitch, an education historian, best-selling author and renowned public education advocate, NPE has served as a focal point for those seeking to support public schools and push back against profit and private control of public schools.
NPE is a non-profit advocacy organization that exists solely to network education stakeholders across the nation to protect, preserve and strengthen public schools, which is essential if we want a democratic society.
NPE is holding their national conference to Chicago not only because the city has become a case study about how public officials are seeking to create private corporate control of education, but because of the great examples of how Chicago parents and teachers are fighting back by advocating for alternative democratic approaches to reform.
Instead of implementing the corporate “education reform” agenda, NPE believes public resources should be used to produce public schools that serve every child.
Yong Zhao, an author and researcher whose latest book is Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, will deliver a keynote speech on the seduction of testing and the dangers of following the wrong model. Jesse Hagopian, teacher and leader of the successful opt-out at Garfield High School in Seattle, will talk about his book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.
The conference will include a keynote by Diane Ravitch moderating a unique public conversation about education reform with American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten and the National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García. The conference will also feature Chicago’s own Jitu Brown and Karen Lewis
There are numerous workshops and panels planned, including a focus on new ideas for student activism, grassroots parent advocacy, the power of teacher voices and other sessions about how to ensure public schools get the support and attention they need.
All of Chicago is invited to join in the discussion and bring new ideas for democratically-based reforms to stem the tide of profit-seeking corporate controlled public education.
For more information about the Network for Public Education Conference, go to: http://networkforpubliceducation.org/
Robin Hiller, Executive Director, Network for Public Education
Julian Vasquez Heilig, NPE board member and education professor, California State at Sacramento


The CPS No-Bid Investigation Spreads to CPEF, Once Chaired By Bruce Rauner | Chicago magazine | Felsenthal Files April 2015

The CPS No-Bid Investigation Spreads to CPEF, Once Chaired By Bruce Rauner | Chicago magazine | Felsenthal Files April 2015:

The CPS No-Bid Investigation Spreads to CPEF, Once Chaired By Bruce Rauner

The principal-training consultants who received the $20 million contract, the focus of a federal investigation, got seed funding from the Chicago Public Education Fund—whose board is a who’s-who of Chicago power brokers.



When I was writing a profile of Bruce Rauner last summer, his friends and admirers gushed over his dedication to creating and nurturing charters and improving Chicago Public Schools. CPEF—the Chicago Public Education Fund—came up time again as the nonprofit that allowed Rauner, who joined CPEF’s board in 2001, served as CPEF chairman, and is now an emeritus member, to pursue his passion for education reform. CPEF board member Susan Crown told me that the future governor was “incredibly dedicated to CPEF. Put everything he had into it.”
Now CPEF has been drawn into the latest CPS controversy—one that goes straight to the top.
The focus in early reporting from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times was on Rahm Emanuel-appointed CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office regarding a no-bid $20.5 million contract awarded in June 2013 to a Wilmette-based for-profit company called SUPES Academy. Hardly a household name, SUPES was hired to provide training to CPS principals.
What made the story so damaging to “B-Three,” as Rahm calls Byrd-Bennett, is that until she joined CPS as a coach and a consultant in 2012, quickly becoming CPS’s Chief Education Officer and then CEO, BBB had worked for SUPES. According to Sarah Karp, who writes for Catalyst, an education watchdog, BBB was still listed as working as a senior associate for a superintendent search firm called PROACT Search—with the same ownership as SUPES—four months after joining CPS. (BBB denied at the time that she had ever workeded for PROACT.)
Issued so far are subpoenas for grand jury appearances to aides close to BBB—three of whom she had worked with previously in other cities and brought to Chicago for six-figure jobs—seeking records pertaining to “financial benefits, gifts, honoraria, meals and reimbursements” from SUPES.
Over the last few days came reports that CPEF—its board loaded with wealthy friends and donors to both Rahm Emanuel and Rauner, and also with advocates of charter schools and Teach For America, both targets of the Chicago Teachers Union—was also in the headlights. The feds demanded CPS records pertaining to CPEF, which according to the Tribunehad provided the “seed money” to “launch” the SUPES training program for principals, called  Chicago Executive Leadership Academy (CELA).

Were there better options than SUPES?

Why CPEF funded SUPES is, at this point, anyone’s guess. True, one of CPEF’s published goals is to create better principals through training. “Everyone [at CPEF],” Susan Crown told me, “is interested in quality principals and how to get better leadership.” CPEF’s website describes its goal as “build[ing] a critical mass of great public schools in Chicago by investing in talented principals.”
But there should have been some warning flags about SUPES, not only BBB’s prior relationship with the company (which was no secret) but also the background of one of the company’s owners, Gary Solomon. A former dean and teacher at Niles West, Solomon, the Tribune reported in 2001, accepted a settlement with Niles Township High School District 219 after being “accused of sending sexually explicit e-mail messages to female students before he left his position in 1999.” The $50,000 settlement included the stipulation that Solomon could never again work in the District.
Solomon aside—he denied the allegations and was never criminally charged—why fund an obscure for-profit firm when the city is so rich in universities, several of which have programs to train principals?
Had anyone at CPS or CPEF ever heard of the University of Illinois or the University of Chicago? Catalyst’s Sarah Karp quotes UIC professor Steven Tozer as touting his school’s training program for urban principals, adding that the school might have bid on the contract had it known about it and that he had never heard of SUPES until the deal had already been done.
University of Chicago professor Timothy Knowles is a CPEF board member. His CPEF biography describes him as serving as chairman of the U of C’s Urban Education Institute, which “develop[s] urban teachers and leaders through its Urban Teacher Education Program.”
In fact, CPEF itself sponsors a program called the Chicago Principals Fellowship—in partnership with Northwestern University’s School for Education and Social Policy and its Kellogg School. CPEF’s website promises the program will, “by the end of the 2016–17 school year… serve the top 10 percent of CPS’s principals.” It currently serves 20–25 of CPS’s “most talented principals,” putting its fellows through “a rigorous executive leadership program… A large majority of the principals lead schools with a student population that is both predominantly low-income and minority.”
Sound more promising than SUPES?
The SUPES training program garnered consistently negative evaluations from participating CPS principals. Back in December 2013, Catalyst’s Sarah Karp wrote that “almost from the start, principals grumbled that the training was too elementary and a waste of their time.” She quotes from principal evaluations of the sessions: “One question asks what the principal found to be least useful about the session; one attendee wrote ‘All of CELA.’”
Also, much of the coaching is done via e-mail and by SUPES trainers who have no experience working in poor, urban schools. (In CPEF’s own just-released report, it noted as “Takeaway 01” that principals want “tailored, streamlined professional development opportunities and tools that respond to their schools’ individual needs.”)
The feds reportedly searched BBB’s houses in Chicago and a Cleveland suburb. (She was CEO of the Cleveland schools from 1998 to 2006 and chief academic and accountability officer of the Detroit Public Schools from 2009 to 2011.)
It’s important to note that no one at CPS or at CPEF has been charged with any wrongdoing.
As I write, the story is starting to seep into the offices of the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois. Rahm is now stuck not only with the stain of having appointed BBB but also with having to convince House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton to hand over more millions to CPS to help it meet, at least partway, its $9.5 billion pension obligation and its $1.1 billion deficit for the budget year starting July 1. Arguing for legislative relief from a General Assembly suspicious of all things Chicago, and especially its school system, is an exponentially tougher one to make in the wake of the news that CPS handed over $20.5 million for mediocre principal training to a company from which its chief once drew a paycheck.

A board of finance titans

This script could have been written by CTU President Karen Lewis, or her acting replacement, Jesse Sharkey, or by Rahm’s opponent in the second round of the mayor’s race, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Remember all the talk during the April 7 mayoral runoff of the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent? It would be difficult to assemble a board that screams 1 percent louder than CPEF’s—from the schools its members attended to jobs held to marriages made.
Among CPEF’s board members:
  • Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel, hedge fund genius, and widely reported to be “the richest man in Illinois.”
  • Penny Pritzker, billionaire heir to the Pritizker fortune, former member of the CPS board, now an emeritus member of the CPEF board, which she once headed as chair.
  • Susan Crown, principal of the family business Henry Crown and Company and chairman of the Susan Crown Exchange, “a social investment organization” with a focus on education.
  • Mellody Hobson, president, Ariel Investments and wife of billionaire George Lucas.
  • Helen Zell, philanthropist, executive director, Zell Family Foundation, and wife of real estate billionaire Sam Zell.
  • Jana R. Schreuder, Northern Trust Company COO—the first woman in that position—and a past Teach for American advisory board member.
There are educators on CPEF’s board. They include:
  • Tony Smith, Rauner’s just-appointed superintendent of Illinois schools, formerly head of the school district in Oakland, California, although never a classroom teacher and a long-time advocate of charter schools.
  • Timothy Knowles, Director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs, chairman of the Urban Education Institute. Knowles is also a former deputy superintendent of the Boston Public Schools and the “founding director of Teach for America in New York City.
  • Laura Bilicic, former classroom teacher, the co-founder and former head of a New York City private school for children with “significant learning challenges.”
  • Penny Bender Sebring, a former high school teacher and current senior Research Associate at the University of Chicago and co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research.
That CPEF’s board is much heavier with finance titans than educators shouldn’t surprise anyone. CPEF is designed to mimic a private equity or a venture capital firm in the way it raises money—its funds range from $10-25 million—and spends it. CPEF’s current board chairman, Brian Simmons, a managing partner at Shorehill Capital, told me when I interviewed him about his friendship with Bruce Rauner (their sons were classmates at the Latin School), “many elements of CPEF are like private equity. But CPEF is not-for-profit…. [We invest] in organizations that help improve educational outcomes.” He mentioned specifically CPEF’s role in raising money to bring Teach for America to Chicago. (CPEF’s President and CEO, Heather Anichini, is a TFA alum.)
Of the seven members of the CPS board, two—David Vitale and Deborah Quazzo—have served on CPEF’s board. Those happen to be the two who have been most raked over CTU’s coals for alleged poor judgment and conflicts of interest. Vitale, named board chairman by Rahm Emanuel in 2011, is the former vice chairman of First Chicago, NBD Corporation and president of the First National Bank of Chicago and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade. Complaints about him, as reported in the Tribune, note his risky, money-losing use of “auction-rate securities, nearly all of it paired with complex derivative contracts called interest rate swaps in a bid to lower borrowing costs.” Quazzo, a former investment banker turned venture capitalist, now partner of GSV Advisors, has been harshly criticized for investing in companies that do business with CPS. She has staunchly defended herself as not personally making a dime off her CPS service, butcalls for her to resign have persisted.
The aforementioned subpoenas are dated April 13 and 14, a week after Rahm won reelection. Had the scandal hit pre-April 7, Garcia might be measuring curtains for his Fifth Floor office.
It’s surprising that Garcia didn’t bone up on the subject and raise it during the campaign. Catalyst first reported the story in July 2013—for going on two years, Catalyst has been mostly alone in chasing this story—at which point the city’s Inspector General launched an investigation.
In a report dated June 11, 2014, Catalyst noted that “CPS officials seem to be forging ahead with the second year of a principal professional development contract with the SUPES Academy, despite lingering questions about the quality of the training and the relationship between CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the founders of the for-profit business, for whom she previously worked as a consultant.”
And what about BBB’s interim replacement, Board VP Jesse Ruiz, an attorney who has no classroom experience, but has served on the U.S. Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission and as Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education? Ruiz was part of the unanimous vote to approve the $20.5 million no-bid contract. And so was board chairman Vitale. (Ruiz was quoted in the Sun-Times as saying he voted yes because “I thought it would be a prudent action to make.”)
Ruiz, named CPS vice chairman by Rahm in 2011, said Saturday that he’ll kill the SUPES contract “if any wrongdoing is found” by the feds and that he is stopping all no-bid or “sole-source” contracts pending a review of the system’s contract practices.

What’s next?

This might be a good time for the mayor to consider some new CPS board members and a new CPS CEO. How about, say, Wendy Katten, the mother of a CPS sixth-grader who heads the group Raise Your Hand? She told theSun-Times’ Lauren FitzPatrick on Saturday, “We brought this to the current board’s attention over and over at multiple meetings over the past two years. We don’t want to wait for the feds to have to get involved for CPS to do the right thing, to act ethically.”
Ruiz’s children attend the private University of Chicago Lab School, where Rahm also sends his children. At a City Club speech in June 2013, Karen Lewis observed that the “elites” know “what good education looks like because they have secured it for their own children.”
Once this mess gets sorted through, two arguments are more likely, I think, to gain traction: One is the call for an elected school board, adamantly opposed by both Rahm and Rauner—voters in 37 wards by upwards of 83 percent called for one on an advisory referendum during the February election. The other is Gov. Rauner’s alarming suggestion just last week that perhaps the best path for CPS is bankruptcy, a plan that Rahm adamantly opposes.
Then there’s that matter of negotiating a new teachers’ contract. The current one expires this June. BBB’s $250,000-a-year contract also expires in June. Despite implementing the closing of 50 schools, mostly on the west and south sides, Byrd-Bennett forged a friendship with CTU head Karen Lewis. And it was BBB who stepped in and negotiated with Lewis to stop the teachers strike in 2012.
On vacation in Mexico when the story broke, Rahm hasn’t had much to say so far.
SUPES rhymes with dupes; whether innocent dupes or guilty dupes remains to be seen. Stay tuned.The CPS No-Bid Investigation Spreads to CPEF, Once Chaired By Bruce Rauner | Chicago magazine | Felsenthal Files April 2015:



LAUSD teacher union backs off battle cry, agrees to higher pay raise

LAUSD teacher union backs off battle cry, agrees to higher pay raise:



LAUSD teacher union backs off battle cry, agrees to higher pay raise






United Teachers Los Angeles backed away from its demands for additional educators to help students inside crowded classrooms and, instead, collected a higher pay raise.
Over the next 8½ months, Los Angeles Unified teachers will collect 10.36 percent in pay raises — even more than their union’s request for 8.5 percent and additional negotiations.
The tentative agreement needs to be approved by a majority vote of the Los Angeles Unified School Board and ratified by union members. If passed, it would last for little more than 26 months, expiring July 1, 2017.
In reaching the deal, union leaders backed down from demands for 5,090 new teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians.
LAUSD needed those educators, union leaders have said, because students were suffering in classrooms that were routinely packed with more than 40 students and schools lacked basic support staff.
The demands were prominently featured by union leaders in their campaign “Schools LA Students Deserve” and efforts to organize for a strike.
But the agreement reached Friday evening accepts the district’s long-standing offer to spend $26 million on new teachers and counselors.
Those dollars will be enough to hire just 139 teachers — far less than the 2,510 previously demanded by union leaders. And it will pay for less than half of the 289 additional counselors that union leaders have said are needed for middle and high schools.
Meanwhile, UTLA’s demands for nurses, librarians and other types of counselors ­­— 2,140 in all — were dropped. In their place, UTLA and LAUSD will form a task force to “explore and identify options for increasing and improving health services.”
“This agreement was the right thing for the district to do and the union to do, to take care of some very urgent issues that have been left undealt with over the last several years,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “But also to give us the possibility of creating a partnership moving forward.”
The agreement proposes capping the maximum number of students inside most middle and high schools classrooms at 37. Many fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms would ideally be limited to 34 students, while 27 pupils would the maximum for kindergarten through third grade.
But the district can ignore those guidelines, if funding isn’t available, according to the tentative agreement.
District officials have contended for the past year that providing a double-digit pay raise for teachers would require steep cuts and layoffs in the fiscally strapped school district.
As for counselors in middle and high schools, “the district and UTLA share the goal” of one counselor for every 500 students, according to the tentative agreement. Progress toward the 500 to 1 ratio will be reviewed by the superintendent and a task force.
Board member Steven Zimmer said “we’re trying to construct a pathway around class size,” something that’s important to families, students, LAUSD and UTLA.
“But I think it’s also important to look at this agreement in context, and understand, it’s really part of restoring trust and making sure that all teachers know the district believes in them and values them,” Zimmer said.
Over the last seven years, teachers have only received pay raises for longevity. During times of fiscal hardship, the union agreed to furlough days.
The 10.36 percent salary hike will include back pay. The first step toward 10 percent will be a 4 percent hike retroactively dated to July 1, 2014. A second bump of 2 percent will be backdated to Jan. 1. An additional 2 percent will be allotted July 1. And teachers will begin earning 10.36 percent more on Jan. 1.
The typical elementary school teacher earned $75,160 last year, while middle and high school teachers collected slightly less at $75,020, according to W-2 tax records that reflect salary and other types of pay for 2015.
A majority of those teachers’ worked 182 days to earn their salaries, including two without students. They also received 22 paid holidays, according to LAUSD.
In comparison, a full-time employee with two weeks of vacation and six holidays would work 249 days per year.
The pay raise will cost LAUSD more than $250 million per year when it’s fully implemented. It is $87.5 million more than the 6.5 percent raise district officials have previously said LAUSD could afford.
For every percentage point in pay raise, LAUSD could have hired 266 teachers for middle and high schools — a calculation that includes the cost of benefits for those educators.
The agreement has support from the school board, which features three members who face contentious LAUSD teacher union backs off battle cry, agrees to higher pay raise:

Big Education Ape: Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 4/20/15


Special Nite Cap - Catch Up on Today's Post 4/20/15


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