karen lewis

Chicago Charter Schools Outperforming CPS Neighborhood Schools

Constance Brewer from Noble Network of Charter Schools joined Dan & Amy to discuss the new research on the peformance of charter schools in Chicago as compared to the neighborhood schools. Ms. Brewer also addressed the cap on charter schools in Chicago.

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CPS' Leadership Is Failing Students & Taxpayers

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool says he isn't sure how CPS teacher pensions are calculated. But Dan Proft and Pat Hughes, co-founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, break down the numbers with Illinois Policy's Ted Dabrowski, and show why CPS is both financially and morally bankrupt. They also explain how the Senate's "grand bargain" of multibillion dollar tax hikes could be on its way back, and why Gov. Bruce Rauner must forcefully oppose it.

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CTU In The Business Of Protecting Job Security, Not Educating Children


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This is Pat Hughes with this week’s Upstream Ideas ‘Two Minute Warning.’  When Pritzker Elementary school laid off their librarian to cut costs in response to decreased enrollment, dozens of parents volunteered to staff the school library to keep it open.  Parents were finding a way to solve a problem of failed government and to serve the kids. Well---we can’t have that. The contemptible Karen Lewis and her Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because parents had invaded their turf. Parents sadly---albeit predictably—were banned from staffing the library. Now students can’t check out books---At School--- AND the librarian is still jobless. Everybody loses while Karen Lewis and her union leadership hacks---people who claim to be educators---flex their muscle to ultimately line their pockets. Do you get it, Chicago? They don’t care about your children, no matter what they say.  Teachers Unions serve the interests of adults. In Chicago and elsewhere, they are in the business of winning better salaries and benefits, protecting job security, and otherwise advancing the interests of their members. That’s why in 2012 CTU members---some of the country’s best paid teachers--- went on strike until their pay was increased 16 percent. Here’s the deal. The kids in the system are cannon fodder. Each year, CPS fails to bring the majority of its students to grade-level achievement. And Only 26% of students graduate college-ready. Abject failure. There are solutions. But they require courage and action. You must challenge the status quo, and fight for “Educational Opportunity” and “Choice.” You must demand more charter schools and vouchers---so children aren’t relegated to a life of despair because of their parents income and zip code. Stand up for your children. If you don’t, you leave their education - and their futures---to those---like Karen Lewis---who don’t give a damn about either. You’ve been warned. For more Upstream Ideas visit www.Upstream-ideas.com


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Young Men Doing Right Wronged By Chicago Violence

Tim King, Founder of Urban Prep Academies in Chicago, joined Dan & Amy to look beyond the crime statistics in Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, and to discuss how his academies are educating young black men to be successful in their chosen pursuits. While Urban Prep has a 100% college acceptance rate for their graduates, they are not immune to the violence - two students were shot and killed last month. King tells Proft & Jacobson, “There needs to be a more comprehensive approach. We need a significant and serious investment in schools and public education.” 

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Why Can't Parents At Pritzker Elementary In Chicago Volunteer At The Library? Three Letter Answer: C-T-U

Chicago attorney Michael Hendershot, a parent of a first grader at A.N. Pritzker Elementary, a Chicago Public School, explains what happens when the librarian is laid off in the Chicago-Teachers'-Union-run school system.

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What Are CPS’ Emptiest High Schools?

Dan Proft & Amy Jacobson discussed the state of CPS and their unfunded pension liabilities. Listen below.

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The Tax Burden Of The CTU Deal

On this edition of Illinois Rising, Dan Proft & Michael Lucci, VP of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute, break down the estimated costs of the CTU deal; they talk with Jelani McEwen, Dir. of External Affairs for the IL Network Of Charter Schools about the impact of the deal. They also discuss why more and more people continue to leave Illinois, especially millennials, for states like Indiana with job surplus’.

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CPS Is Back In Session - How Long Until The Threat Of Another Strike?

On this edition of Illinois Rising, Dan Proft & Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute, discuss the potential of another CTU strike this year, how taxpayers are affected by actuarial assumptions in the pension system, why several Illinois Universities saw a drop in enrollment this semester and more.

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Checkmating CTU; Funding Chess Club Trip to DC

Math teacher and Chess Club Coach Joseph Ocol is making a difference for kids at Earle STEM Elementary on Chicago’s South Side. He weathered the opposition to starting a chess club at the school (incredible) and stood up to Karen Lewis and CTU.

Ocol joined Dan & Amy this morning to discuss this matter and the trip to DC for his team for which he is trying to raise an additional $6,000.

Dan & Amy pledged to help and AM 560 listeners have already exceeded that amount. But more money raised means more chess club members can go on the trip. For info on donating click here.

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Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy, Amy, you remember back in 96’ when I took on IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in that infamous chess match. Amy Jacobson: Oh, that’s right! Dan Proft: I think that was actually Garry Kasparov, but in my dreams… Amy Jacobson: In your dreams. Dan Proft: I was in the Garry Kasparov position. I’m a fan of chess. I don’t get to play very much, but I’ve learned it as a kid. Amy Jacobson: We’re you in Chess Club? Dan Proft: No. Amy Jacobson: Because now that’s the thing. That is the cool thing, to be in chess club. Dan Proft: Well, that’s good, because it teaches you great strategic thinking. Amy Jacobson: My kids go to Chess Camp every summer, for a week. Dan Proft: That’s good. Well, there is a Chicago teacher who’s also a Chess coach at the ORAU Stem Academy. His name is Joseph Ocol, and when the Chicago teachers went on strike for that one day strike back on April 1st, Ocol wasn’t there, he was at school practicing with his chess team. He said in a letter that “I have always promised the kids that I shall try to be with them after school, even if I do not get paid”. And as for his pay on April 1, since he didn’t participate on the strike, he’ll only give it up if the money goes to his chess team and not to the Teachers’ Union, and that’s created a bit of a stir because how dare a Chicago Public School teacher act in the interest of the children rather than the Union, and we’re pleased to be joined by the aforesaid Joseph Ocol, chess coach and teacher at ORAU Stem Academy. Joseph, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Joseph Ocol: Oh, thank you. Good morning, everyone. Dan Proft: Good morning, and so, did I characterize what happened correctly, and if so, where do you stand right now with Karen Lewis and the Chicago’s Teachers’ Union? Joseph Ocol: They sent me a letter, asking me to sign the form that I should give up my April 1st day, or if want to contest it, I should submit a letter and for me to appear before a hearing, this June 6th. Dan Proft: Wait, so you had to submit a letter in order to redirect your pay to April 1st to your chess team, as you so desire. Joseph Ocol: Yeah, it’s a form that I need to authorize the Union to give up my April 1st pay. Dan Proft: What’s the purpose of the hearing? Joseph Ocol: Well, the purpose is, if I want to contest I have to appear before them on June 6th. That would be about 6:15 pm, and I will not be able to go, because it’s a Monday, and again, I promised the kids, after school, I’ll be with them as much as possible, even if I don’t get paid, because it’s something, to me, that I’d like to help the kids, pass the light to these kids. You know, in a word, I would say it’s a challenging area there, so the most challenging time for a kid to be outside a school building is between 3 to 6, and that’s the reason I volunteered myself to be with these kids, to make lives more productive to them. Amy Jacobson: Do your students realize how you’re helping them and what you’ve endured to be there for them after school? Joseph Ocol: Yeah, I’m trying to help them every way I can, simply because chess is not just a game. Chess is about life. This is about saving lives, and that’s the reason, of all the activities, chess will be occupied there, because it’s not only the less expensive activity, it’s the most effective in developing critical thinking skills, strategy/planning skills for the kids; let them be aware that every move that they make, as in life, has a consequence. Dan Proft: And just so we’re clear – a lot of people outside of Chicago won’t know; even people in Chicago, frankly – the ORAU Stem Academy is on the south side of the city. Are most of your students from low income families? Joseph Ocol: Yes, more than 90% of the population in the school belongs to below poverty lines. Dan Proft: 90% below poverty line. And what’s the composition of your chess team, boy, girl, and all that? Joseph Ocol: I have the all girls that’s won the national championship last month, and I also have the combination, boys and girls, and they’re almost 40 members. Dan Proft: Was this the chess team at ORAU Stem Academy, was this a team you started, or have you just built it out? Joseph Ocol: I started it, there was no team before at ORAU, and in September – that’s the month that I joined, last September – I started it. It’s really something about the treatment I also got from certain Union members from day one; there’s another story about this. Amy Jacobson: How have they been bullying you? And they started bullying you, the other teachers before you even skipped out on the April 1st walkout? Joseph Ocol: Yeah, the old timers there, in the school, they seemed not inclined to accept change, and it turned out that I was one of those who was invited to transfer to the school, plus all the new teachers, at day one I already had sense that they did not want to accept those members of the union who are also old timers in the school. They don’t seem inclined to accept newcomers. Dan Proft: Is it just you coming over there? They were not interested in you starting a chess team? Joseph Ocol: Yes, and it’s more about the self invested interest. They don’t want the school to succeed. They don’t want the kids to succeed. Dan Proft: Unbelievable. Joseph Ocol: It’s something like a sort of conspiracy. So I talked with the principle – the principle was the one who invited me – so I said, “I’ll do what I can, even if I don’t get peer support”. I’m not talking about all the members of the faculty there. I’m talking about the old timers there who seem to think that just because they’re union members, they can just bully anybody and just take control of the situation. So we do what we can. Dan Proft: So would you say that the old timers who are opposed to even the formation of a chess team - which is kind of an incredible statement - would you say that they’re just there to buy their time until they get to retirement, that they’re not interested, as you say, in improving the school, improving the product of preparing kids for success in life, the sorts of things that good teachers do? Joseph Ocol: The bottom line really is about the kids, but some people tend to disregard that and they tend to pretend that they’re helping when they’re not. They’re just the vibration of the peer support, the sort of conspiracy to sabotage. So we’re doing what we can, and the bottom line is we’re trying to help the kids. Amy Jacobson: So it’s a huge accomplishment. You have 40 members of the chess team. I know you’re trying to get to Washington DC. How did you get the kids to… Joseph Ocol: Ah, no, there are almost 40 members, but I was planning about 15. Amy Jacobson: That’s great. Joseph Ocol: We will learn whatever funds we have. Dan Proft: This is a tournament in DC that you want to take 15 of the team members to? Joseph Ocol: It’s not a tournament. It’s an opportunity for us to meet the President and Congressman Davis, and there was an invitation from the office of Congressman Davis to meet the champion team, and we thought maybe we could also bring the other members of the team, because there were boys who also won the 5th place in the Nationals. But the girls won the championship. Dan Proft: One year after they started there they’re champions; that’s quite a story. You’re like the Jaime Escalante of chess. Joseph Ocol: I would say the girls did their best and we were just lucky to win, but I’m proud of them because they see chess as hope, an opportunity for them towards life and high school. Dan Proft: Now do you teach them the King’s Indian Defense to open, Mr. Ocol? Joseph Ocol: Yeah. Dan Proft: Thank you very much. Joseph Ocol: There is a number of openings, but I want them to do something just like in life: simplify. You simplify your life, you simplify things and you get a better hold of your life. Dan Proft: Alright, so we’re talking to Joseph Ocol, who’s the teacher and the chess coach of ORAU Stem Academy on the south side of Chicago. So you’re trying to get to DC, you’ve got 15 of your chess team members, the opportunity to see DC, meet politicians and so forth, reward them for their championship quality performances. How much do you need to raise and how much have you raised? Joseph Ocol: We have about – I would say – 4000, as promised by a donor, but for 15 kids we’re trying to raise about 10,000, because we’re also trying to get a chaperone to be with them, because we are required to get chaperones with them, other than myself. Dan Proft: Okay, so here’s what I’m going to do, because this is such a great story, it’s an underreported story, it’s you standing up to the union and other people that are just there collecting a paycheck, and to do what you’ve done on the south side for these kids is so fantastic. I’m going to pledge $3000 for this 6000 that you need and do a dollar for dollar match, essentially for maybe some listeners out there would like to come raise the $6000 dollars that you still need to take your team members to DC, and they can call through (126) 425 0600. And Joseph, we’ll keep you on the line, get your information and I’ll get you a check and then we’ll direct anyone else who wants to participate to help your team get to DC, we’ll direct them your way as well. Joseph Ocol: Thank you very much! I’ll relate that to the kids today. Dan Proft: The only thing you need to tell them is that it was a conservative who came to your defense. No, I’m just kidding. Joseph, thanks so much for joining us, thanks so much for what you’re doing for the kids. We tell so many bad stories about CPS and there are great teachers there, like you, doing amazing things and really opening up doors in children’s lives, for their continued lifelong success, and really respect what you did in standing up to the Union, and respect what you’re doing in advance of children’s futures there on the south side, I appreciate that. Joseph Ocol: Thank you very much, and more power to your legislation. Thank you to your listeners. Dan Proft: Thank you for joining us, and hold on while we’re going to get your full contact information. Thanks, Joseph.

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When teachers threaten a strike, call their bluff.

chicago tribune mast head
chicago tribune mast head

By Dan Proft (Article published in The Chicago Tribune on 12/10/15)

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan put a marker down for the rule of law when he fired more than 11,000 Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers who had walked off the job in violation of federal law, despite enjoying the backing of their union, PATCO, in the 1980 presidential campaign.

Is there a school board in Illinois willing to put a marker down for the next time its teachers walk the picket line?

In recent months, there have been three missed opportunities.

The 150 teachers at Prospect Heights School District 23 were out for a week in September before they came to terms with the board for a contract that provides a 14.25 percent pay increase over four years for teachers making less than $90,000 annually and a 9.75 percent pay increase over four years for teachers making more than $90,000.

Mari-Lynn Peters, the school board president, told me that for every job opening in District 23, the board receives 200 to 300 applications.

In October, it was the 248 teachers at McHenry County School District 156 who walked for a week. They agreed to come back after the board agreed to a 9 percent raise over three years in addition to splitting the cost of covering increased health insurance contributions.

Before the new contract, the average teacher salary in District 156 was just under $80,000, with 15 percent of teachers making more than $100,000 and two-thirds of teachers making more than $70,000. As in Prospect Heights, McHenry 156 board President Steve Bellmore told me that a substantial number of applications are received when there is a job opening in the district.

On Nov. 2, East St. Louis District 189 teachers returned to class after 21 days on strike with a four-year deal that provides an average salary increase of $12,834 over the life of the contract along with fully paid employee medical, dental, vision and life insurance (no deductible).

In East St. Louis, all of the more than 6,000 children in the district qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program. The median household income in East St. Louis is $19,000. The median pre-strike District 189 teacher salary was $72,000. Only 6 percent of East St. Louis students are deemed college-ready in spite of the fact that in the 2012-13 school year, East St. Louis spent $14,462 per student, compared with a statewide average of $11,483 among similarly sized school districts. And, when I say the district, I really mean the state of Illinois, because District 189 has been under state oversight since 2011 and receives two-thirds of its funding from state government.

My grammar school basketball coach used to tell us, "The graveyards are full of indispensable people."

The school boards in Prospect Heights, McHenry and East St. Louis all had the opportunity to put that pithy aphorism to the test in an environment where it appears that demand for teaching jobs outstrips supply.

I understand why they demurred. Replacing people is no fun.

But no individual teacher or even district full of teachers is more important than moving the K-12 culture away from conferring salaries and benefits to the adults and toward schools that are child-centered and outcome-focused.

Some will dismiss this piece as an attack on teachers because it is easier to propagate the imaginary battle between pro-teacher and anti-teacher forces.

But someone has to put a marker down.

School districts throughout Illinois, including in the leafy suburbs, are following the trajectory of the bankrupt, junk-rated Chicago Public Schools.

So it's apropos that CPS is up next for its second teacher strike in five years.

Rather ironically, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis seems to be the last honest potentate in the Illinois edu-ocracy. To keep CPS teachers enjoying the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, Lewis supports a LaSalle Street tax on financial transactions and a progressive state income tax, and she is open to a city income tax if that's what it takes.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS chief Forrest Claypool pretend they can make a go of it at CPS with a $500 million state bailout of a system where a $1 billion annual budget deficit is the new normal.

Clearly the PATCO moment will not occur inside the leadership vacuum that is Chicago.

But it is going to happen if for no other reason than the axiomatic Herbert Stein's Law: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

Our K-12 school systems cannot go on forever in their current form. Even if the will is weak, the math is inexorable.

Original article can be found here: http://trib.in/1NXRD3L