Layoffs and programming cuts at Chicago Public Schools are resulting in an educational system with fewer tenured educators, less support staff, and a declining set of extracurricular opportunities for students, a survey released by the Chicago Teachers Union says.
Layoffs and programming cuts at Chicago Public Schools are resulting in an educational system with fewer tenured educators, less support staff, and a declining set of extracurricular opportunities for students, a survey released this morning by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) says.
CTU compiled the survey by e-mailing a questionnaire to teacher union delegates at 470 CPS schools across the city between September 10 and September 17; delegates working at 146 different elementary and high school schools, representing 24 percent of all CPS institutions, returned the questionnaire. (Some of those respondents did not answer every question listed, according to data released by the union.) The survey provides the following snapshot of where CPS's cuts are falling and how the system is changing under its present administration:
The last point is one that would probably resonate with Stephannie Olivares, a freshman at Little Village High School (LVHS) on Chicago's Southwest Side. Olivares described the first two weeks of her math class as frustrating. Substitute teachers were at the helm when the school year started, according to Olivares. "The substitute was telling us to do one thing and then the real teacher came in an tells us to do something else," she said. "It's confusing."
Another LVHS student, freshman Aide Garcia, said in one of her classes, there were 28 desks for 35 or 36 students. "If you want a seat you have to run from where you are to the class," she told Progress Illinois.
Olivares and Garcia were part of a contingent of LVHS students who rallied on Tuesday with laid-off teachers, members of community groups like Action Now and the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, and CTU supporters and leaders. Many of the LVHS students hoisted signs directed at CPS administrators and Mayor Richard Daley that read, "Dollar stores have to be cheap, not CPS" or "Cut Hair, Not Budgets."
Among the crowd at Tuesday's rally were a number of teachers and support staff let go this summer. Many were veterans of the system, with master's degrees and years of experience. Amy Alluisi spent 17 years as an art teacher at Chavez Elementary before she was pinked-slipped. The stated reason for the firing was "program reductions" but Alluisi assumed she wasn't kept on because she wasn't bilingual. She hasn't been able to get into a displaced teachers' pool, where she'd continue working four days a week and searching for a new job on the fifth. A laid-off kindergarten teacher at Chavez, Nancy Kirby, said unemployment insurance amounts to about one-fourth of her salary. "That doesn't cover my bills," she said.
The future of their positions may be settled in federal court. The union brought a federal lawsuit against the school district in early August, claiming that the dismissal of hundreds of teachers this summer violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Both sides were in court last week, and a ruling is expected soon.
In the meantime, the battle over the future of CPS continues on other fronts. Parents at Whittier Elementary, in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, are occupying a field house on the school's campus, demanding CPS transform it into a new library. Day six of the sit-in was yesterday. CPS hasn't budged from its position, but CTU President Karen Lewis is seizing on the dramatic action as an example of what's wrong with CPS.
"When parents, teachers, and students have to engage in civil disobedience for a library, it is clear something is seriously wrong with the system," Lewis said, according to a press release. Today, at the Board of Education's monthly meeting, she called for a "Marshall Plan" to reinvigorate neighborhood schools and demanded the board use millions in federal assistance to hire back the teachers and support staff who lost their positions this summer. She made the case using the new survey data, a copy of her remarks shows.
Here is Lewis at yesterday's rally, firing up the crowd: