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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Community Schools in Chicago? Arne Duncan's and Rahm Emanuel's Dream...Parents Say "Not so Fast'

Oops.  One of Arne Duncan's goals of education, envisioning schools becoming community centers to supplant parental influence and responsibility, might have hit a snag in Chicago schools. 

...we need to lengthen the school day. We need to lengthen the school year. Our calendar is based upon the agrarian economy.

Children in India and China are going to school 25, 30, 35 more days a year. They're just working harder than us. So, we need more time, particularly for disadvantaged children, who aren't getting those supports at home.

If children are hungry, they need to be fed. It's hard to learn if your stomach is growling. We need to take that on. If students can't see the blackboard, need eyeglasses, we need to do that. If students need a social worker or counselor to work through the challenges they're facing at home in the community, we need to do that.

And so I -- my vision is that schools need to be community centers. Schools need to be open 12, 13, 14 hours a day six, seven days a week, 12 months out of the year, with a whole host of activities, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

And when schools truly become centers of the community, where you have extraordinary teachers, the best teachers, the best principals, great nonprofit partners coming in during the non-school hours to support and do enrichment activities, social services, then those students will beat the odds, will beat poverty, will beat violence in the community, will beat sometimes dysfunctional families, and be productive citizens long term. They will go to college.

This is the vision of Duncan.  "The extraordinary teachers, the best teachers, the best principals, great nonprofit partners" will step into the shoes of the roles of parents and the government bureaucrats and the nonprofit partners who are using taxpayer money to drive education will save the students.

Wow.  Stars in your eyes yet?  Ready to turn your kids over to the system?  Maybe not so fast.  Parents might not be so infatuated with governmental intrusion into their lives according to this article from chicago.cbslocal.com writing about teachers and parents pushing back on Duncan's plan to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Emanuel wanted to lengthen the school day to 7 1/2 hours for all students.  He was not successful in that goal. However he was able to extend the school year:

Emanuel said, even scaling back to 7-hour days for elementary schools, CPS will be providing a great deal more classroom time for students, given that the district also lengthened the school year by 10 days starting next school year.

“We are gonna go from 170 days to 180 days; from 5 hours and 45 minutes to 7 hours. That comes to 40 additional days of instruction,” he said.

The teacher union's side of the story:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis had a lukewarm response to the mayor’s decision to scale back the longer school day for elementary schools.

“The mayor moved his toe a half an inch from the starting line. He needs to do more, and he needs to listen with both ears,” she said. “It is not the length of time, but the quality of time that truly matters here.”

She acknowledged the mayor was moving in the right direction by backing off his demand for a 7 1/2 hour school day for elementary students, but she didn’t mince words about what she thinks is a failure to come up with a broader-reaching education policy.

“There’s no plan. They’re just numbers again. There’s still no plan. This was never a plan. This was a political slogan. We need to be extraordinarily clear about what that means: nothing. There is no plan,” she said.

Lewis also went after the mayor for closing neighborhood schools without listening to input from parents who opposed the closures. She said the mayor has marginalized parents by installing a hand-picked board that goes along with his every wish.

She called for specifics from the school district on how officials plan to pay for longer high school days, while maintaining funding for foreign languages, music, and physical education.

A statement from some parents:

...not all parents were happy with a 7-hour day for elementary students.

Wendy Katten, co-founder of the parent group Raise Your Hand, said, “Personally, I think 7 (hours) is probably too long for the primary grades.”

On Monday, parent groups complained that they were being left out of the decision-making process on school day length. As they demanded a meeting with Mayor Emanuel in front of his office the group Chicago Parents for Quality Education said parents support more classroom time for their kids, but most think 7 1/2 hours is too long.

They called for a 6 1/2-hour day, about 45 minutes longer than the current school day.

Jonathan Goldman, who has children at Thomas Drummond Elementary School, said Monday that school officials should present a budget for the longer school day, noting in Boston and Houston, schools are spending an extra $1,300 to $2,000 per pupil to lengthen the school day.

 The teachers don't want to teach longer without more compensation and maybe the parents don't trust the teachers and/or administrators to have their children for an extended period of time if what this commenter on the cbslocal.com site writes is true:

Playing a major role in Wednesday’s report were findings that school employees falsified applications for free lunch programs to get their own children a benefit to which they were not entitled.

CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman and the Better Government Association first broke the school lunch fraud story.

The free and reduced lunch program costs CPS an estimated $100 million a year. On Wednesday, CPS Inspector General James Sullivan’s report confirmed findings of falsified applications, calling the violations a serious and possibly system-wide problem.

The report also found more than $1 million in improper benefits paid to retired teachers.
The full report is available on the inspector general’s website.

The federal lunch program was meant to provide nutritious meals to poor children to help them learn.

It requires that parents fill out applications certifying the gross income of their family, with an income cap that varies depending on the number of children in the family.

But as CBS 2 disclosed in 2010, school board employees – including teachers at North-Grand High School – were routinely misstating their income so their own children could qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Among them was math teacher Virgilio Santos, who earned more than $70,000-a-year at North-Grand.

“How can you qualify for the free lunch program with a salary like yours? More than $70,000?” Zekman asked Santos in 2010.

“Sorry, sorry,” was all he said as he drove off.

In the report released Wednesday, the inspector general found 11 North-Grand employees falsified those applications, as well as two parents in law enforcement, so that their children could get free or reduced lunch.

A school clerk also falsified applications for her children, who were attending other schools.

Disciplinary action was being sought for all of the employees involved.

As CBS 2 reported last year, Ascunsion Ayala was removed as principal at North-Grand for allowing falsified applications to be filed by her staff.

Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw praised the move to fire Ayala last year.

“The buck stops at the principal’s desk. She allowed a ripoff of our tax dollars,” Shaw said.

There also was a humorous anecdote in the report. One teacher not only excluded her teacher’s salary from the free lunch application, but she also overstated the size of her household by including the name of her family dog as a child.

School officials declined to be interviewed on camera about the report, but said in a written statement that the findings are disappointing and the new leadership at CPS will not tolerate any activities of this nature.

The inspector general’s report also says the school district improperly paid retired teachers for holiday, vacation and sick time when they worked as substitute teachers. In all, the report says retired teachers working as substitutes collected $1.13 million in improper benefits from 2007 to 2011.

Under a deal with the Chicago Teachers Union in 2007, retired teachers are ineligible for benefit pay and are paid at a per diem rate for substitute teaching.

A system update to block such payments was arranged as a result of the investigation. Sullivan also recommended the district tighten its controls and try to recover money improperly paid.

So much for governmental role models for kids and taxpayers, eh?  Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not much better than mid-level bureaucrats. From the same article:

The union has also repeatedly blasted the CPS plan for a longer school day, saying officials haven’t sufficiently explained how the extra time would benefit students or how the district would pay for the extra time teachers would be required to work.

The union was further infuriated when Emanuel and Brizard urged schools to break ranks with the union and go ahead with the longer school day on their own. The schools that complied received an extra $150,000 in funding from CPS, and teachers at the schools received $1,250 bonuses and 2 percent raises.

This is a story of deceit, thievery, abuse of position, no budgets, blackmail and coercion.  No wonder the parents have reservations of Emanuel's and Duncan's dream of a community school.  As inadequate the government wants you to believe parents have become, maybe these governmental bureaucrats are even worse for children.

1 comment:

  1. Here in Springfield, the News Leader is publishing articles praising "community schools" (along with the school board) and a local school (Robberson)is excited because it has been chosen to become the first community school. Speaking of funding, this is an excerpt from the News Leader:
    SPS Adjusting Plan for Outside Meals for Students (11:48 PM, Feb. 3, 2012)
    "But this week, Ridder said that during the funding application process for the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program — which would largely pay for the effort — the district learned it must offer evening meals through the week before expanding to a weekend. Ridder said the effort will be linked with a plan to pilot a “community school,” an approach that coordinates an array of services and extra support for families through the school building".
    I don't have any children attending Springfield Public Schools, but I find this 'dance' very interesting. Thanks for this article and the one posted at Fellowship of the Minds, otherwise I wouldn't have found this site!


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