Thursday, September 13, 2007

Approximately 600 teachers were murdered across Iraq in the 2006-2007 academic year

And you thought we had it bad.

Read the whole story here.

Here is an excerpt:

The chaos caused by violent attacks and kidnappings is felt at nearly every level, with students misbehaving and missing class, and teachers refusing to come to work. Approximately 600 teachers were murdered across Iraq in the 2006-2007 academic year, according to the ministry of education.

"Education in Baghdad's schools is a joke," said 35-year-old Ali Abdul-Hussein, who has moved to a different Baghdad neighbourhood and pulled his two children out of school because of the violence. "The ministry [of education] can't provide education and protection for our children."

The day-to-day operation of schools is disrupted by the number of displaced students moving in and out of educational institutions. The education departments in both al-Karkh in west Baghdad and al-Rasafa in the east are packed with parents appealing to bureaucrats to move their children to safer areas of the city or postpone their studies for another year.

Meanwhile, mortars and roadside bomb attacks in the capital’s war-wracked neighbourhoods — from the mainly Sunni Arab Adhamiyya quarter and the mixed district of Dora to the formerly middle-class areas of al-Khadra and Hei al-Amil — have forced schools to shut down for months at a time.

What Iraq teaches me is a sense of humility and how lucky we are. Truly.

And I have been learning a lot lately. A lot about how teachers are valued by the board and our own union.

CTU President Marilyn Stewart, her political caucus called UPC and their "all praise to our glorious revolution of sustained unity" contract have taught me so much.

What the latest contract has taught me is that we don't deserve anything more than 4%.

We don't deserve better medical care.

We can't make things better for PAT's.

We don't deserve and can't achieve any of those things through negotiation with the City of Chicago. Just can't be done you know.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

CTU Announces Agreement: Delegate Vote Questioned

See the deal for yourself:
CTU Tentative Agreement 2007-2012

Meeting Video:

see what really happened at last night's House of delegates' meeting:
CTU Contract Meeting Aug 31, 2007

CTU Contract Meeting Aug 31, 2007 (roll call)

CTU Contract Meeting Aug 31, 2007 (sit down)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What the CTU Stewart/UPC Team Promised to Get Elected: Will They Deliver?

CTU Announce Deal: Details to Follow

The evening news networks are reporting today, August 29, 2007, that the CTU has tentatively agreed to a 5-year agreement with 4% raises in each year. Delegates will be presented with the tentative agreement and asked to vote on it this Friday, August 31, 2007. While we all wait, hundreds of teachers have responded to our CTU Election/Contract Survey. We will be posting the results on our website ( when the tentative agreement is released. To date, about 500 teachers anonymously completed the survey in numbers corresponding to the election outcome (i.e. 70% reporting that they voted for Stewart’s team).

When asked about the CTU election outcome, the vast majority of all respondents (88.6%) stated that they believed the membership wanted to see if the Stewart team could negotiate a better contract. Of those respondents who indicated they voted for the Stewart team, a whooping 94.3% stated that they wanted to see what the Stewart team would deliver in the contract as the reason for voting as they did. Members will soon have a chance to answer that question for themselves.

Here is what the Stewart team promised in order to get elected (source “UPC Platform”,; view original on our website):
1.) no more 4 year contracts
2.) 7% plus salary increases for all members
3.) return to the flat rate payment for health insurance
4.) elementary class size reductions
5.) summer school and after school money to be pensionable
6.) daily guaranteed prep for elementary teachers
7.) elimination of PAT language

Check out this blog and our website when the tentative contract is announced to see what members say they want, and compare this to what the Stewart team promised to get elected, and what they ultimately deliver. For an opportunity to weigh in on the discussion and analysis of a new tentative agreement, go to

Today's Trib story on tentative agreement, FYI:,0,5135001.story

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Wish This Was Made By The CTU and Not ASFCME

Is there anyone out there who can make one like it for the CTU when we go on strike?

Am I in a dream state or is there still a union leader here in the city of Chicago who actually says things "We don't take shit from nobody"? Will our CTU leadership? I hope so.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New 5-Minute Survey on CTU/Contract is a blog designed by the members of to be a forum for teachers and staff to speak up and speak out on the myriad of challenging issues facing those of us who work in Chicago public schools. We will be doing periodic surveys on key issues and publishing the results on our blog and website, in addition to providing an ongoing forum for discussion and debate on critical and timely issues.

Our first anonymous 5-minute survey is on the recent CTU election outcome and on member contract priorities. If you are interested in participating, please go to our survey link and share your thoughts and opinions. We will publish the results of this survey in August.

The survey link is:

Have a well-deserved, restful summer break!

Friday, June 15, 2007

When Will NBCT's Get The Bonus?

Every year it is late. ISBE drags it feet and the CPS tries to outdo ISBE by working at a snail's pace.

If we don't get it soon, I'm calling the Governor.

This song is for all of you at ISBE and CPS payroll.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

New answer to old question

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is an answer to that old question that nags you at family reunions.

Taylor Mali: What Do Teachers Make?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Friday is Important Naturally...

Who leads our union is vital to our continued good work in this city of challenges. And you should vote for PACT and Debbie Lynch if you believe that teachers and education should be a progressive influence in our civic life. If you are among those who might say something like "Chicago ain't ready for reform", then by all heck, no I won't say it. Just go and vote for PACT.

But I urge you, regardless of who you vote for, to realize that ours is not the most important challenge Illinois or our nation faces.

This is.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Marilyn Stewart Makes A Deal For More Charters In Chicago

The full story is here at Catalyst.

Well, well, well. What is it about incompetence that people find so attractive? Anyone who votes for these guys is just plain foolish. Marilyn and the UPC are cutting a deal in Springfield to bring more charters to Chicago. I guess losing over 2,000 dues paying teachers wasn't enough for the UPC crowd. They want to weaken our union more. This makes me sick to my stomach.

Here are some excerpts from the Catalyst story:

Chicago would get 15 new charters, but have limits placed on expansion campuses of existing charters, under proposed legislation crafted by Senate President Emil Jones Jr. and the Chicago Teachers Union.

At least three of the new charters would be required to serve chronic truants and dropouts, an idea hatched by legislators who recently visited several such schools in California.

The compromise proposal is significant because the Chicago Teachers Union and its statewide parent union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, had made reining in charter expansion a centerpiece of their legislative agenda this year. Meanwhile, Jones had sought to double—from 30 to 60—the number of charters allowed in Chicago Public Schools.
And here is an interesting comment I found on the Catalyst comment section of this story from someone named Rod Estvan.

Now that the education funding bill has sunk, it is not at all clear that the CTU/Jones deal is still in place. CTU needs a funding bill to be able to cut a deal with CPS for pay increases. Right now there is no funding bill in sight that can pass the General Assembly. The main reason for the compromise was to get money to CPS, now that deal is gone. Will a stand alone deal on specific charter school expansion in return for limiting individual charters from having multiple sites under one charter be worth it for the CTU? I would guess it might not. Because in two years the whole issue can start again with calls for more charters, so the deal is basically meaningless.

Rod Estvan on Fri May 5, 2007 at 05:47:50 PM
Click here to read his comment in total.

What are your thoughts? Why did this story not break until this close to the election? What is going on over at the Merchandise Mart?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Gage Park in the Sun-Times, and it ain't pretty.

Sun-Times story here.

Most of the students I talked with today at Gage felt the story was unfair (not, however, untrue...even the stuff about guns outside of the building).

Students said other schools were worse off and they wanted nice things said about Gage. Some asked why no mention of the undefeated Lady Owl's softball team? Other's talked about the breakfast with the Lt. Governor celebrating Cesar Chavez. We even have a student who won at the city science fair and will be representing Gage in Springfield (Veronica Magdaleno, featured in the photo from the Sun-Times and super congrats to her!). I tried to tell them the story was about over-crowding and its impact, not a general "what's going on at Gage" story.

Yes, the story in the Sun-Times is true. But to remember why the topic of over-crowding was and is still important, I refer you to one of my first posts, a video of the protest about over-crowding. Originally posted here, I am reposting it for your viewing pleasure.

Another Edition of "Wish I said That".....

"We make learning into punishment. Learning should be exciting, inviting, an absolute turn-on. And it can be. Oh to be sure there are things that require some drill, explanation, but the amazing thing in any class is to see a kid get it, to be so involved in what s/he is doing that s/he loses track of the time, and doesn't want to stop. If we really want to leave no child behind, we have to stop the idiocy of turning school into drudgery, reducing it to test prep, and find ways of invoking the natural desire of all young people to learn. Instead of worrying "Is our children learning?" as measured by mass-produced tests, perhaps we should ask why what we are doing doesn't make them want to learn? " (Bold face mine - Ed.)
Read the whole post over at Daily Kos here. To understand what this person is saying, just walk into a kindergarten room. Rich, poor, white, black...nothing like that matters. They love school and love learning. What is it that we do as educators that has kids doing a 180 within a few years and hating the school experience? If I could answer that I would write a book and retire wealthy.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NCLB a "Criminal Enterprise"

The death of NCLB is right around the corner. From the Boston Globe:

Reading First, created by President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind law, offers intensive reading help for low-income children in the early grades. But investigators say that federal officials intervened to influence state and local decisions about what programs to use, a potential violation of the law. Some of the people who were influencing those decisions had a financial interest in the programs that were being pushed, officials said.

"I think we're very close to a criminal enterprise here," House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller, D-Calif., said at an investigative hearing Friday. "Have you made any criminal referrals, Mr. Higgins?"

Well that just about sums it up.

Whenever I think of scandals on this scale, I always come back to that infamous quote from Republican strategist Grover Norquist: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Then, natch, cue a picture of New Orleans after Katrina.

That is how it is supposed to be. It is Republican (Bush specifically) exercise in governance. It is not an accident. It is supposed to be like this.

I think the word I am looking for is "intent". When you elect people who hate government to run it, well, you end up with Katrina and Iraq, and the list goes on and on.

NCLB is dead. And I'll be glad to help with the remaining nails.

Someone hand me a hammer. Let's put this coffin in the ground.

Republicans have once again killed with incompetence what they couldn't kill with ideology.

And did Chairman Miller really expect an affirmative response when he asked if any criminal referrals had been made? Sheesh. He was, after all, talking to the party of "drown it in a bathtub".

Even he must realize that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Students Shot at Chicago Vocational

Bad news, nothing else to say.


Two teens playing with a 9 mm handgun inside a Chicago classroom both ended up shot in the leg after a bullet discharged as they were passing the gun between them, police said.

The boys were sitting in the back of a science classroom at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy on the city's South Side at about 2:15 p.m. The gun discharged as one boy passed the gun to the other, striking the second boy in the thigh and the other near the knee, said Robert Lopez, an assistant deputy police superintendent...

...The teen who brought the gun to school panicked, ran outside the building and dumped the gun near the front of the building, Lopez said. A Chicago police officer assigned to the school confronted the student as he re-entered the building, and the student led him to the gun, police said.

There was conflicting information about whether all students at the school are required to pass through the building's metal detectors.

Lopez said students are chosen at random to go through the detectors because it would take too long to scan each teen.

But Michael Vaughn, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools, said all students are required to go through metal detectors every day...

...It was the second shooting on school property in less than a month. On March 22, two students standing in the parking lot were shot and wounded after a car pulled into the lot and an occupant opened fire, Bond said.

Full Sun-Times story here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Essay Paper is Dead

You should read this essay (even though the essay is dead) from the Washington Post.

Here is an excerpt:

Nevertheless, the educational system needs to acknowledge what the paper is today: more of a work product that tests very particular skills -- the ability to synthesize and properly cite the work of others -- and not students' knowledge, originality and overall ability.

I envision a time when's database contains millions of essays on Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." At that point educators may finally understand that no high school student will be able to write another original word on the subject.

So let's declare "The paper is dead" before the database makes the declaration for us. And let's recognize what the paper has become, so that we can declare, "Long live the paper!"
It raises an important point. How long before the number of essays submitted to Turn It In dot com becomes so huge no kid will anything more to say about a particular subject?

Do you use Turn It In?

Union Election News at Catalyst

Union campaign heating up - A decent round up of the issues, but not much "there" there. I understand why though. I mean, why would Stewart say anything resembling the truth when dissembling works so well for her? Read the article in full here.

My favorite? Catalyst has a graphic on the number of teachers who did not yet have tenure and were "let go" by their principals the last two years (the famous "click").

This is one issue that UPC and Stewart has used to try and pillory Debbie Lynch. What UPC and Stewart never say is that under the contracts UPC had negotiated in the past, teachers could spend their entire career without ever getting tenure.


PACT and Lynch solved that problem. They forced the Board to put every new hire on the tenure track from day one. A vast improvement over the old way of doing business.

The catch? If everyone is on tenure track from day one, principals would get the right to fire when they wanted within the three year period. Seems a fair trade for ending a system where you could spend years and years not working towards tenure. I certainly think the new way is a better way.

So it turns out that UPC's complaints are not very significant (compared to working for ten years and still not having tenure like they had negotiated in the past). Yes, it turns out that most teachers find jobs at other buildings if they are let go from one building. It is not the tragedy UPC makes it out to be. But then, so few of UPC's claims survive the light of reasoned analysis anyway.

Anyways, here is the Graphic from Catalyst:

Catalyst also has a good story on rising health care costs and how, no matter who negotiates in June, will find themselves faced with a financial crisis for CPS no matter who wins:

But that increase would still provide little wiggle room during contract talks, given a cornucopia of rising costs, including teachers’ pension fund obligations, inflation and a possible deficit in the current budget. CPS is negotiating with Commonwealth Edison to hold the line on spiking utility rates.

Each percentage point increase in pay will prove pricey, costing the district roughly $25 million, says Martinez. Districts across the country are typically negotiating 3 percent to 5 percent raises, says Julia Koppich, an education consultant and former education faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley.

Chicago teachers received four percent raises in each of the last four years under the current 2003 contract, an amount that compared favorably with other urban districts. At the time, “teachers were getting 1 percent, 2 percent, if they were getting anything at all,” says Koppich.

Former union president Deborah Lynch took heat for that contract because teachers were hit with increased health care costs. But, as Koppich points out, “health care costs were going up everywhere. [The controversy] was a mystery to me.”

The controversy was a mystery to me. You said it. Now, can we finally put this misinformation to bed once and for all and get on with the job electing PACT and Lynch to represent us? At least with PACT in office, there might be fewer "Valentine's Day" parties paid for out of our dues.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

IDs of 40,000 CPS teachers at risk

From the Sun-Times:

Two laptop computers containing the names and Social Security numbers of
about 40,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers and administrators were stolen
Friday from the district's downtown headquarters, creating the second security
scare in less than six months.

CPS was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's
arrest or recovery of the computers.

The laptops and backpack were taken from a 13th-floor conference room
where two contractors had been reviewing the history of payments to the Chicago
Teachers Pension Fund, said CPS spokesman Michael Vaughn.

The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft web page is located here. Please take care. I hope no CPS teacher has a problem because of this. This is very unfortunate.

Please visit the FTC to find out how to deal with ID theft.

Read the full Sun-Times story here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Charters Are Bad Places To Work


No Union.

Simple isn't it? Read this (full story here) and tell me that getting rid of unions is a good thing:

Administrators at a Los Angeles charter school forbade students from reciting a poem about civil rights icon Emmett Till during a Black History Month program recently, saying his story was unsuitable for an assembly of young children.

Teachers and students said the administration suggested that the Till case — in which the teenager was beaten to death in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a white woman — was not fitting for a program intended to be celebratory, and that Till's actions could be viewed as sexual harassment.

The decision by Celerity Nascent Charter School leaders roiled the southwest Los Angeles campus and led to the firing of seventh-grade teacher Marisol Alba and math teacher Sean Strauss, who had signed one of several letters of protest written by the students.

The incident highlights the tenuous job security for mostly nonunion teachers in charter schools, (Italics mine - Ed.) which are publicly financed but independently run. California has more than 600 charter schools, and their ranks continue to swell. According to the California Teachers Assn., staff at fewer than 10% of charter schools are represented by unions.

"I never thought it would come to this," said Alba, who helped her students prepare the Till presentation, in which they were going to read a poem and lay flowers in a circle. "I thought the most that would happen to me [after the event was canceled] is that I'd get talked to and it would be turned into a learning and teaching experience."

School officials refused to discuss the particulars of the teachers' firings but said the issue highlights the difficulty of providing positive images for students who are often bombarded by negative cultural stereotypes.

Without a union you are nothing more than an "at will" employee, like a McDonald's fry cook.

There is a good discussion of this story going on over at Kevin Drum's place at the Washington Monthly (read it here). Here is an excerpt from Kevin:

...I was struck this morning by Megan McArdle's latest plea for liberals to support a voucher system:

Come over to our side, outline a voucher plan you'd accept, and as long as it doesn't include "all schools must employ union teachers under centrally negotiated contracts that protect seniority and outlandish grievance procedures", I'll sign on. Central testing? Fine. You want to make sure they serve organic seaweed salad in the lunchroom? If that's what it takes to get you and other liberals into the voucher camp, I'll agree to that too. Double spending per student, for all I care.

Now, I'll confess that my support for unions isn't the most full-throated you're going to find. Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for unionization efforts in low-wage service industries, a little bit less for old-line manufacturing unions, and less still for public sector unions. But even so, I find this remarkable.

Double spending per student, for all I care. Sure, sure, this is hyperbole, but even so it represents a pretty straightforward admission of what many of us have always suspected: voucher proposals are really just a stalking horse to bust teachers unions. It implicitly assumes that the biggest contributor to poor public education in America -- so big that it's worth literally anything to get rid of them -- is the existence of grievance procedures and seniority.

Unfortunately, there's no evidence to back this up. (Bold face mine - Ed.) Unions appear to have, at most, modest and variable effects on student outcomes. Even the most hostile reading of the evidence doesn't come anywhere close to suggesting that unions are the single biggest obstacle in the way of educating our children properly. And it doesn't come within light years of suggesting that it would be worth doubling spending to get rid of them. This is anti-unionism run wild. Hating teachers unions because they oppose policies you like is one thing, but hating them even if you get your favorite policies enacted is crazy.
Why would any sane professional educator tolerate the lack of unions?

Here's two things I think should happen regarding charters in Chicago:

1) Unionize all charters. I know that they can't become members of the CTU, but they can form their own union. Someone should call the AFT or the NEA and get field organizers out here on the double.


2) Redouble lobbying efforts in Springfield to get the law changed. I don't care if it takes years, if the school is operating in Chicago and is publicly financed, they should be union schools. There can be no compromise on this issue. Public financing = union schools.

I know I risk sounding like a broken record, but the CTU did tons more to make me a better teacher than CPS ever did (continual kudos to Lynn and the NTL gang and to the man who dedicated his career to making the Quest Center the finest - Dr. Allen Bearden).

In Chicago, the teachers union is a place where improving practice has long been a big part of what they do. The CTU is more than just grievances and seniority. CPS should know better.

And that is why CTU members oppose charters.
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