All Articles Tagged "public schools"
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.”
It seems like parenting is getting a whole lot tougher these days. Not only do you have to make sure the youngins’ are fed, clean and clothed properly but you also have to worry about going to jail over getting your child an education. Glad I have pets.
First is the story of a homeless Black mother in Connecticut, who was found guilty of stealing $15,000 in educational services. Tanya McDowell, who was living between her van and homeless shelters, was charged with felony larceny last year after she lied about her address to make her six-year-old son eligible to attend kindergarten in a better district. McDowell pled guilty to the accusation and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. While the sentence also includes a seven year bid for four charges of drug possession McDowell is also required to pay a $6,200 fine in restitution.
McDowell’s case has attracted lots of support from education and civil rights advocates who argued for compassion for a homeless mother. However the school district, the prosecutor of the case and finally the juror believe that she should have been required to send him to school in the city of her last permanent address. The case is also reminiscent of Kelley Williams-Bolar, who too was convicted last year of lying about her residency to get her daughters into a better school district in Ohio. Williams-Bolar was sentenced to two consecutive five-year prison bids. However after public pressure, that sentence was reduced and William-Bolar only spent 10 days in jail, five years of probation and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.
Both cases involved the so-called illegal falsification of residence in order to obtain thousands of dollars in educational benefits. However both stories also illustrate how increasingly hostile our public school system is, which presumably is supposed to be free for all American children (paid for by federal funds through our taxes dollars).
More and more, we are seeing stories about how Black and low income parents have been criminalized. Like how last year, more than 400 Baltimore parents had received notification that they would face a District Court judge as a result of charges filed by the school system’s Office of Attendance and Truancy. And in my home state of Pennsylvania, where the NAACP and the Public Inter Law Center of Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit against the Lebanon School District for imposing excessive and illegal fines of up to $300 per incident on truant children or their families. One parent in particular was ordered to pay $27,000 and a 17-year-old student was fined more than $12,000.
(AJC) — Erroll Davis,Atlanta Public Schools superintendent, on Tuesday night spoke at another town-hall meeting, fielding parental complaints, though not about the district cheating scandal. The meeting was held at Parkside Elementary School, where three teachers previously confessed to helping students cheat on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, according to an investigation by the Georgia governor’s office. The cheating allegations were not a big topic at the Grant Park neighborhood school.
Supporters of a year-round schooling system often suggest that policymakers should adopt this schooling format because students in other countries often outperform their counterparts in the United States. Why are students in other countries doing so much better than our own? One reason may be that most international schools offer extended school days and longer school years.
During the school year in the U. S., real learning is occurring, but the long summer break takes its toll by seemingly erasing some of what has been learned. This loss of learning is even more pronounced among students from low socioeconomic and minority backgrounds. The unequal learning opportunities for students of different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnic groups are major reasons for the achievement gap among students. During the school year when students from different socioeconomic backgrounds learn together, the disparity between students’ educational opportunities outside the school is diminished because both groups are learning enough at school to help minimize the differences outside of school. The environment within the structure of school appears to reduce the effect of socioeconomic differences among students, and may help the students belonging to lower socioeconomic families perform better.
When low income students spend time away from school, the achievement gap widens. In fact, the rate at which the achievement gap widens between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds actually accelerates when low-income students are not in school. Research shows that performance among students from low income backgrounds improves when they attend year-round schools. It appears then that year-round schools should be considered as one of the viable options for reducing the achievement gap.
By offering extended school hours and school days in a year, teachers could work in an environment where continuous learning would be possible. Teachers could also use the extra hours of school to work with students who take more time to learn and who face problems in keeping up with the other students in the class. Children and youth who are experiencing more difficulties with academic success would be exposed to more teacher time, which potentially provides them more opportunities to strengthen their skill level and knowledge base.
Year-round schools provide relief for families that require help with daycare. Many families have parents who both work full time outside the home, making it difficult to ensure adequate supervision of children during the summer months. In fact, the current school calendar – which includes the long summer break with little parental supervision, and presumably less adult interaction – could be part of the reason that so much learning is lost and no new learning is accumulated. Extending the school year to include the summer months would ensure both adequate supervision and continued learning for these children.
Many teachers have suggested that the quality of instructional time at school can be improved by employing a year-round school calendar because it offers continuity in the process of education. This is not to say that the only possible answer is a full, required year-round school calendar. It might be possible to achieve the goal of improving overall student learning through variations of year-round schooling which would cater to those students who most need the extra time in class.
In an educational climate that focuses so heavily on standardized testing, while at the same time makes use of a rather short school day and year, some teachers may find it difficult to offer extra time for needy students. Extending the school year could be a great asset to those teachers. Despite some perceived negatives and specific issues that would need to addressed, the idea of year-round schools is continuously gaining support in the United States.
Clearly, a structure for learning is needed that restores our stature as a well-educated nation and contributes to our ability to be a major player on the global economic playing field. Just as important, we need to provide enough time for learning so that young people from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds can have an education that allows them to grow into competent and confident adults able to choose how to live their lives. Holding on to a rigid traditional school calendar seems imprudent when viewed in light of such goals. The time is ripe to flip the arrangement, so that the traditional calendar becomes supplemental to more effective arrangements of time for learning.
Matthew Lynch is an Assistant Professor of Education at Widener University. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
(Chicago Tribune) – Jean-Claude Brizard left a restaurant with his wife on a recent weekend to find a handwritten note on his vehicle’s windshield. The note, addressed to “J.C.,” advised the new chief of Chicago Public Schools that it was time to replace his New York license plates. ”You can use the 4 percent you are taking from teachers to afford the registration,” the writer suggested. It was an unsettling reminder that Brizard, 47, is now the public face of education reform initiatives MayorRahm Emanuel is pushing. It also spoke volumes to the sentiments that many of those changes have unleashed. The escalating battle with the Chicago Teachers Union is just one of the many challenges Brizard has encountered in his first 100 days with the Chicago school system. (He’s scheduled to register his car inIllinois next week, his staff said).
(Chicago Sun Times) — Chicago School Board members Wednesday unanimously approved a budget packing a $150 million property tax increase as school officials offered elementary teachers raises totaling $15 million to work a longer day. Meanwhile, parents, clergy and others turned up the heat on all parties involved to find a way to achieve a longer school day and year. Scores of protestors lined the sidewalk outside the Board of Education, wearing stickers reading “90 more minutes now.’’ “We can no longer stand for the under-education and the mis-education of our children,’’ Rev. David Popel, pastor of Brotherly Love Baptist Church in Lawndale, told the throng. “I’m asking our mayor, our [Schools] CEO to find a way to make sure our children are properly educated.’’
(Chicago Sun Times) — State and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law, but school starts soon and Congress still hasn’t answered the call. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break. The plan to offer waivers to all 50 states, as long as they meet other school reform requirements, comes at the request of President Barack Obama, Duncan said. More details on the waivers will come in September, he said.
(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.
(The Root) — We teach children that “cheaters never win.” Unfortunately for the students of the Atlanta Public Schools, it’s a lesson that the adults in charge have apparently not yet learned. Last week a state investigation found evidence that more than 150 APS staff members directly participated in or knew of schemes to change student answer sheets to reflect correct answers. The news is devastating for a school system widely regarded as defying the odds and increasing achievement among its low-income, mostly African-American students. The gains reported by the Atlanta public school system garnered millions of dollars in private funds and accolades for Superintendent Beverly Hall. APS’ success, which Hall attributed to (pdf) standards-based instruction and strong professional development for teachers, was also a boon to supporters of traditional public school systems, who believe that reform is possible without overreliance on charter schools and with dramatic changes in teaching policy.