All Articles Tagged "charter schools"
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which orchestrated a strike in September that kept students and instructors out of school for a week, now says the city’s public school system has forced mostly African-American children into charter schools that are worse than the public ones they previously attended. Moreover, they charge the schools don’t hire enough black and Hispanic teachers.
“Chicago is the most segregated city in the country, and our students of color are routinely deemed as second-class by a system that does nothing but present one failed policy after the next,” writes union president Karen Lewis in the forward of a report released today.
In the press release for the report, the CTU says “the policy of closing schools in one area and opening schools in another has been the failed status quo” for two decades.” As a result, the public school system has experienced more racial segregation, fewer “stable schools” in black neighborhoods, poor treatment of teachers, and lowered educational value for students. The Chicago school system might close 100 schools, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.The report says that black children make up 88 percent of the public schools that have been closed or consolidated so far.
After combing through the report, Crain’s finds some valid points in the report, and others that will be up for contentious back-and-forth. But, in truth, that’s the state of the education discussion in this country as a whole. Educators and policymakers are engaged in a debate about how to teach students in a way that takes race, socioeconomics, and the needs of a modern world into account. In this case specifically, both sides have skin in the game; the union wants to see teachers strengthened, the school system wants to see its policies and plans put into place.
Parents and students, the third side of this triangular conversation need to be sure to make their voices heard as well. It’s the students, after all, that are the center of this whole issue.
For a second day, class is not in session at public schools across Chicago as a result of a teacher’s strike that’s having far-reaching implications. The work stoppage — the first in 25 years — is affecting about 350,000 students in that city. According to Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane (who rails against the striking teachers), 85 percent of these students are African American or Latino (about 42 percent are black, according to Reuters). And just about the same percentage receive reduced-price or free meals, meaning they live at or near the poverty line.
The average public school teacher earns $76,000 per year according to the school board and the school system is currently running at a $700 million deficit. The union had asked for a 29 percent pay raise over the next four years. The district, after negotiating, offered 16 percent over that same period of time.
But it’s not just a case of the big, bad, self-serving unions making obscene demands. While politicians are talking up the benefits of a shift to charter schools away from “dismal urban schools,” reports Reuters,” teachers see themselves fighting for their livelihoods now and into the future.
“Many teachers… see the new policies as a brazen attempt to shift public resources into private hands, to break the power of teachers unions, and to reduce the teaching profession to test preparation,” Reuters reports.
While the unions have been willing to bend on pay, they have been rigid about certain provisions that speak to a level of job protection, such as giving principals more authority over hiring and firing and the “last in, first out” policies. (Lengthening the school day was among some of the other changes on the table.) The Reuters story goes on to say that teacher demographics in that city have already changed with the rise of charter schools, decreasing the number of minority teachers.
“Today, just 19 percent of the teaching force in Chicago is African American, down from 45 percent in 1995, the union says; organizers fear that shift means fewer teachers have deep roots in and passion for the communities where they work,” the story says.
Moreover, they argue that tying a teacher’s job to student performance is unfair, as many students have socioeconomic issues outside of the school system’s control that impact their education. The discussion about school reform is one that many school districts across the country are having.
The situation also raises political questions for Chicago’s Mayor (and former chief of staff to President Obama) Rahm Emanuel, as well as the President himself. Mayor Emanuel and the teacher’s union have had a tense relationship over the past few months. A separate Washington Post article calls the strike ”the boldest confrontation yet involving one of a growing number of Democratic mayors who have been pressuring unions to accept policy changes.” And in an election year, when the President needs the support of unions, this could create a chasm between the two. A number of major union organizations, including the SEIU, have donated millions to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that supports the President’s re-election effort.
It’s important to note the benefits to the black community that unions have afforded. The “union premium,” which ThinkProgress defines as “an increase in wages for workers who belong to a labor union compared to workers who are not organized,” has bumped up the pay of black unionized workers by a significant percentage – $2.60 per hour. That increases their pay by 17.3 percent over black non-union workers.
“Black men who belong to a union see a 20 percent increase over the normal wage; for black women, the increase is 14.8 percent,” the article says. The gains are even more significant for Latino workers.
Moreover, the site (which, it should be said, is a liberal blog) credits unions with aiding the black community through already tough economic times in which it has experienced higher-than-average unemployment rates.
Seeing an opportunity, Mitt Romney has released a statement against the unions, a stance which has proven successful for other Republican politicians, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet,” the statement says. “President Obama has chosen his side in this fight.” The President hasn’t made a statement.
Finally, of course, there are the parents and students, who find themselves struggling to make do with alternative arrangements. Some parents have taken their kids to schools offering activities in lieu of classwork, but other parents don’t want to cross the picket line. Some parents have had to take the day off to look after their kids. Others take their kids to work with them. Talks continue, but there’s no word of a resolution.
Last Tuesday, while most folks were distracted by all the election day coverage, the School District of Philadelphia quietly announced its plan to restructure the city’s public school system, including closing 64 schools in the next five years.
Calling the plan an attempt to right size a district, which has been bleeding both seats and money, while making it competitive by offering parents more choices, Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen said that 40 schools would close by next year and six additional schools would be closed every year thereafter until 2017. The remaining schools would get distributed into “achievement networks” where public or private groups compete to manage them while the Central District headquarters would be reduced to a skeleton crew of about 200. The District chief also said that the ultimate goal is to have about 40 percent of students in Philly’s public school system moved to charter school management by 2017.
The announcement of basically the dissolution of the School District of Philadelphia, a city that’s the fifth largest city in the nation, has received minimum attention in the mainstream media. Even as the city of brotherly love becomes the latest city to weaken under the prospects of trying to balance budgets, while working with decreasing amounts of funding, meet the standards of federal No Child Left Behind guidelines and compete with the sudden rise in charter schools, which continues to pull necessary monies and resources from the already battered school districts. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, “across Pennsylvania, school boards are finding it increasingly difficult to manage tax dollars responsibly as the pressure to open more charter and cyber-charter schools builds, even as these schools show little evidence of performing better than regular public schools.” And it is not just Pennsylvania.
In Detroit, which last year announced plans to close half of that city’s schools and increase high school class sizes to 60 students, the city has also embraced charter schools as the cornerstone of its “Renaissance 2012″ plan even as the performance of the district’s 14 authorized charters so far has been less than impressive. In New York City, which has undergone a similar style restructuring plan similar in kind to Philadelphia, has too not seen the success as promised through its reduction of publicly held schools in favor of privately managed charter schools.
According to Diane Ravitch, former Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush, New York City has not gotten the remarkable results it promised. She writes, “The city’s proficiency rates, which seemed to be flying up by leaps and bounds every year, got deflated in 2010 when the State Education Department admitted lowering the cut scores on state examinations. Overnight, the New York City miracle disappeared, as the percentage of students who reached proficiency fell to levels near where they had been years earlier. And the achievement gap was as large as it had been in 2002, when the mayor took charge.”
(Amsterdam News) — Last Thursday, New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman denied the UFT and NAACP’s request for a preliminary injunction which would have prevented the Department of Education (DOE) from moving forward with its plans to close 22 failing schools and co-locate 15 public charter schools in DOE buildings. The judge ruled in favor of the city on all counts, citing, “there is no clear and convincing evidence that these low-performing schools could be so easily turned around…to adopt plaintiffs’ position would require the court to engage in speculation.” ”Because plaintiffs have failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims for a declaration that would enjoin the closure or phase-out of the designated schools or would bar the co-locations of the charter schools in the designed public school buildings, their motion must be denied,” stated Feinman.
(New York Times) — A South Bronx charter school has been put on probation for what city education officials called “serious violations” of state law mandating random admissions, including possibly testing or interviewing applicants before their enrollment. The school, Academic Leadership Charter School, opened in 2009 and is the first New York City charter to be disciplined for violating the rules for random admissions. The violations go to the crux of the debate over charters, which are publicly financed but independently operated. Random admissions is a key tenet in most states, but critics have long contended that the schools surreptitiously weed out students who are unlikely to do well on standardized tests or are more difficult to educate.
(Crain’s) — Charter school advocates, who have inspired a world of controversy lately in their search for classroom space across the city, now have their sights on public housing projects. Confined to cramped quarters or sharing buildings with traditional public schools, some charters have missed chances to expand or have made enemies of their neighbors in messy battles over space. The newest solution to those growing pains offers a secondary benefit: desperately needed funding for the New York City Housing Authority. Some charter schools could pay substantial sums for the agency’s unused spaces. The Harlem Children’s Zone, for example, paid the authority $7 million in May for land at the St. Nicholas Houses to build one of its Success Academies.
(The Grio) — In a ceremony this week, Harlem Day Charter School celebrated its 13 fifth-graders who are moving on to middle school. They represent roughly one-third of the class. The other two-thirds will have to repeat fifth grade. That hard truth is one of many that the teachers, students and parents of Harlem Day have been confronting in recent months as the school prepares to become the city’s first attempt at a takeover of a failing charter school. Only five of 32 teachers will be returning in September. About 100 of all 247 students in the elementary school are being held back. And administrators are having tough conversations with parents about the true state of their children’s academic progress. Parents are being told that students, who for years were passed from grade to grade, lack basic skills.
(AJC) — Nearly a dozen charter schools affected by a Georgia Supreme Court decision are one step closer to keeping their doors open. A committee of the state Board of Education has approved applications for 11 charter schools. The schools were in danger of closing after the state’s highest court ruled last month that the commission that created them was illegal.
(The Root) — As states grappled with ways to reinvigorate the flagging public education system, charter schools were offered up as an attractive alternative: a way to break outside the mold and offer the kind of innovative learning environment and accountability for results that is more often associated with private schools. Some critics fear that this alternative is now crowding out the public school system it was meant to supplement, creating a two-tiered system that leaves children in more traditional settings with fewer resources and options. That argument is the crux of a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and the United Federation of Teachers against the New York City Department of Education. They charge the city with favoritism toward 18 charter schools that share space in public schools. The suit, filed last month in New York State Supreme Court, claims that charter schools are getting more than their fair share of space within public school buildings and have better access to playgrounds, gyms and cafeterias. It also disputes the rationale for closing 22 failing schools, including 15 that were part of similar litigation last year by the UFT and the NAACP.
(Washington Post) — A majority of D.C. public school parents give the system positive marks for the first time in a decade, according to a new survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Fully 53 percent of those with children in the public school system say the city’s 123 schools are doing a “good” or “excellent” job, a sharp jump from January 2008, when 31 percent of parents expressed such approval. Former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, a divisive figure during her 31 / 2-year tenure, is viewed more favorably than she was before her resignation in October. The survey found that 55 percent of all D.C. adults — parents and others — approve of the job she did in office, up 11 percentage points from late last summer.