Chicago Teachers Union: Black teachers, students most affected by school closings


CHICAGO - Fed up with discrimination, the Chicago Teachers Union filed a complaint Feb. 9 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging the Board of Education's mass teacher layoffs last year unfairly impacted African American teachers.

The union's attorney, Robin Potter, told the media that the school board "is illegally terminating and laying off African American teachers who are highly qualified and excellent teachers... It is a systematic effort to rid the Chicago Public Schools of tenured teachers who are African American."

Black teachers make up 29 percent of all CPS teachers, but were 43 percent of all those laid off last year, the union says. White teachers are 47 percent of the total but were 36 percent of the layoffs.

"To make it right they have to stop these layoffs, they have to step back and they have to put these good teachers back in the schools," Potter said.

The EEOC complaint comes at a time when the CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are pushing through education policies that education historian Diane Ravitch calls "corporate school reform." The city and board are enacting mass school closings and privatizing them by bringing in well-connected charter school operators.

Today, the Chicago Teachers Union was at Cook County Courthouse filing for an injunction to stop the board's Feb. 22 approval to close or "turn around" 17 additional neighborhood schools.

Corporate school reform has a distinctive racist edge, the CTU charges. The Chicago Public Schools board is violating Illinois law because the "proposed actions disproportionately target African American student populations," the union said in filing for the injunction.

Powerful corporate forces are circling around the nation's third largest school district to implement their version of reform.

For example, the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research released today preliminary findings that purportedly show a slight uptick in reading and math, after four years, among elementary schools that followed some "turnaround" model. There were no improvements among any high schools, the report said.

But even the progress proclaimed is open for debate since it was minimal.

"The Board of Ed needs to be responsible to understand these programs are not working," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, reported the Chicago Tribune. "In order to do something devastating to the community, the results need to be clear and compelling. And these results are not."

According to the Sun Times, "Consortium researchers rushed the analysis into print, releasing only an 'overview of findings' and not the final report, because they said they wanted to inform the current debate over Chicago's turnarounds."

CPS jumped on the findings to promote a controversial charter school company, Academy for Urban School Leadership, which was part of the consortium's study, and is slated to get the majority of "turnaround" contracts if approved Feb. 22.

"I would say the report shows there's promising and encouraging data about our turnaround models in particular and about AUSL as an example,'' said CPS Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso. Donoso has her main experience in charter schools and "turnaround" models, according to CPS website.*

AUSL is a national charter school operator started by Chicago venture capitalist Martin Koldyke. The mayor, too, has a close relationship to AUSL including the fact that the principal of AUSL's Bethune School of Excellence was a co-chair of Emanuel's mayoral campaign.

Also in the corporate-political cabal is the Chicago Board of Trade, whose president, David Vitale, is the head of the Chicago Board of Education. Vitale had been on the board of directors of AUSL.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who came from Rochester, N.Y. school district, has extensive ties to the charter school/corporate reform world as well. Brizard is a graduate of Broad Superintendents Academy, funded by Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad.The Broad foundation, along with Bill Gates and the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame, make up the unholy trinity of mulit-billionaire philanthropists (some call vulture philanthropists) attempting to re-make public education in their corporate image.

In addition to the battle around school reform, teachers and the board entered contract talks last month. The union's contract expires June 30.

*In a previous version of this post,  CPS leaders Donoso and Brizard were incorrectly identified as former employees of AUSL. We regret the error.

Photo: Teachers, parents and students demonstrate for good schools and against mass closings on Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, Jan. 16, 2012. (Chicago Teachers Union)


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  • Chicago Teachers Union is asking for $713 million to improve the Chicago Public Schools. Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union have the right idea, but the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago are in a perpetual recession. This means the Chicago Public Schools will not receive $713 million dollars for improvements.

    The money ain't coming so the CPS and the CTU need to create a movement. The CPS and the CTU could ask retired educators, community organizers, mental health professionals, advertising agencies, and business leaders for $713 million in human capital.

    The goal should be to teach Chicago Public School parents the best practices of good parenting. Visit any low income public school and you will see that the better students tend to come from stable families where education is valued. There are secret sauces that will create stable families, neighborhoods, and schools where education is valued. The goal is to improve the home life of poorly performing students, thus improve the Chicago Public Schools.

    Marc Sims

    Posted by Marc Sims, 02/27/2012 1:28pm (4 years ago)

  • I read your article. I have a couple of comments.

    1. If the African American teachers are "highly qualified and excellent teachers," why are the schools that are targeted for turnaround failing? Those qualified, excellent teachers should be able to improve the performance. They have not. What's their excuse?

    2. This is about the kids and not the teachers. The kids are suffering. The schools chosen are in disadvantaged neighborhoods. So who's going to help these kids? The Teachers Union has done nothing to improve scores. Even if the AUSL schools' improvement is slow, at least it is improvement. What are the communities and teachers doing in non-turnaround schools to help high school seniors graduate and do something positive and contributing with their lives. Not everyone goes to college. What are the neighborhoods doing to help train kids for retail jobs? Are they teaching them to speak clearly and dress properly?

    3. Have you driven around these neighborhoods? Kids walking around with their pants hanging down around their butts. They can't talk in clear sentences. What success will they have in the future? Babies being born to babies. Shame on the families and communities who don't educate their kids about condoms. Shame on the kids who bring babies into the world who will be destined to fail if there is no improvement in the education process.

    4. So you tell me. Are these neighborhoods targeted because they are African American? Are these people who are fighting turnarounds that stupid that they can't see for themselves that yes they are mostly in predominately African American communities. So, are the communities taking care of their own? Are the parents taking care of the kids? Someone has to help. The only thing that comes out is discrimination. Well, they are discriminating against themselves if the "excellent qualfied teachers" who lost their jobs can't prove that they did anything to improve the education process in the schools. These neighborhoods should be jumping for joy that organizations like AUSL exist. Otherwise those "highly trained excellent teachers" described in your article would continue as is with "NO" improvement in the schools.

    5. As far as the Teachers Union is concerned. It is led by one of the most unhealthy looking women I have ever seen. How can she be an example to anyone. She should be ashamed of herself.

    6. Lastly, you refer to AUSL as a "charter school operation." AUSL schools are not charter schools. There's not a charter among them. They are Chicago public schools. Check your facts.

    Posted by Jennifer Jones, 02/10/2012 12:04pm (4 years ago)

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