PLEASE LOOK AT CHICAGO TEACHER'S UNION AND EDWIZE IN NYC FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION ADVOCATES!
Regarding Basu's assessment that designer universities are the problem with student tuition:
Isn't is great when corporate 'public' media gives you assessments after the fact and nothing as policy is moving through Congress? Did you hear WYPR debate the use of hundreds of billions of dollars as 'job' stimulus in building these elite university structures 4 years ago? NOT A WORD. ACROSS THE CITY WE SEE TONS OF UNIVERSITY BUILDING AND K-12 IS CLOSING SCHOOLS AND STARVING CLASSROOMS.
We have talked about universities being corporatized and embellished to attract the Best of the Best in the world and to maximize corporate profit by having the public pay for corporate R and D. Americans paying for marketing of overseas students while state and federal funding for financial aid for US students dries because of those nasty government debts. If WYPR had a debate about this direction 5 years ago would you keep voting the same neo-liberals into office? OF COURSE NOT. PUBLIC MEDIA HAS A JOB TO CREATE PLATFORMS FOR DEMOCRATIC POLICY DEBATE.
So now is the chance for WYPR to get out in front of what is the same policy of privatizing and tiered levels of education with K-12. That is what O'Malley and neo-liberals in MD are pushing now with this education reform straight out of corporate America's play book. Below you see an article that sums the movement up and the good news is that parents, teachers, and communities all know what is happening and are organizing to stop it. Why so quiet in Maryland? MARYLAND IS CAPTURED AND HAS NO FREE PRESS AND POLITICAL DEBATE SO PEOPLE ARE SIMPLY LED AND NOT LEADING! We are turning that around with the discussions about private non-profits and the need to GET RID OF THEM.
I was at the grocery store last week when I heard a young woman talking on the phone. She was telling a friend about her first days as a Teach for America in Baltimore underserved schools. She stated she was placed in a school not knowing anything about the culture or community from which the students came....that she had, as a first year teacher, 35 students in the classroom with all of the administrative tasks on top of teaching.....and that the students didn't like her and she did not like the students. We had an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun last year from another Teach for America worker that said the same thing. These university graduates should be starting a career in whatever field they chose but instead are being directed into classroom situations either as a ploy to lower tuition debt or to mitigate the failure to grow the economy. Baltimore is flooding our schools with Teach for America and student achievement is going nowhere. The situation is considerably worse!
THEY ARE NOT THERE QUITE OFTEN BECAUSE THEY HAVE A PASSION FOR TEACHING. THEY WILL NOT ADD VALUE IN MOST CASES TO THE EDUCATION EXPERIENCE OF THESE STUDENTS.
So why does Baltimore push policy that everyone hates? It is the same as the university policy.....it is about building a corporate structure for K-12 schools that kills all of the public structure policies. It has nothing to do with quality education! All of Maryland and Baltimore neo-liberals are pushing this....City Hall and Maryland Assembly. WHY DO YOU ALLOW THESE POLS TO RUN FOR OFFICE OVER AND AGAIN?
LABOR AND JUSTICE NEED CANDIDATES IN ALL ELECTIONS IN PRIMARIES AGAINST NEO-LIBERALS SO WE CAN TURN ALL THIS PRIVATIZING POLICY AROUND.
Baltimore and Maryland are in the hands of hard-core education privatizers in O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake and the push comes from Johns Hopkins here in Baltimore. Neo-liberals see education and health care as the next markets for Wall Street and that is what Race to the Top and Affordable Care Act do----make public education and health a market-based structure.
Charters, Teach for America, and school choice are being used as urban gentrifiers so many parents do not see the long-term goal being Wall Street. The intent is to privatize all of K-12 with these policies and not only schools for the poor. STOP ALLOWING WALL STREET HAVE OUR PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND K-12 BY ELECTING NEO-LIBERALS! All of Maryland democrats are neo-liberals. WE NEED LABOR AND JUSTICE RUNNING CANDIDATES IN ALL ELECTIONS. It is the Mayor and Governor who controls education policy in Maryland and Baltimore. We have Rawlings-Blake handing our school board over to O'Malley and he then appoints all corporate/business educators to all government positions. WE CAN AND MUST REVERSE THIS BY SIMPLY STOPPING THE FARM TEAM OF CORPORATE POLS!
Those who think testing children and teachers will serve to hold people accountable it does no such thing. These evaluations cannot possibly assess one school getting lots of private funding and higher per student tiered funding with a school that gets none of that. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE WITH THE INEQUITY OF MD SCHOOLS RIGHT NOW! The problem with schools is lack of funding and resources--that is the solution! -
Education Reform: Stop the Standardized Testing Insanity! Kyle Curtis Blue Oregon
"They pass online assessments as this great thing, but we’re pretty much just putting kids in front of computers all day. Certainly, online learning and assessments have a place in today’s education system—the question is, where is that place?” On April 18th, students at Cleveland High School in Southeast Portland walked out of their standardized state assessment test. According to a release posted on the website of the PPS Student Union, this action was undertaken to protest the “broken education system in Oregon and throughout the country, that continues to be commodified by standardized education.” This came on the heels of a similar action taken in March at Grant High School who criticized the tests as a “waste of resources that should be directly spent in the classroom.”
The test protested by students was the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) test, conducted annually to students in the third grade and higher. Along with these state assessment tests, students also participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which has been often referred to as “the nation’s report card,” and high school students also must pass the Graduate Requirement Test (GRT). With so many required tests taken simultaneously or back-to-back, it is understandable that students complain about the focus being on “passing and exceeding than you are of absorbing the material.”
All of us have completed a standardized test of one form or another as we made our way through the public education system—what’s the big deal? Is this simply a matter of “kids these days” being unwilling to put forth the effort to even bother taking tests they know they are not going to pass? Or does the concerted resistance by high school students in the Portland area—and throughout the country—indication broader, systemic issues that plague our public education system?
“Kids aren’t just numbers, measured solely by assessments,” says Susan Barrett, a co-founder of Oregon Save Our Schools. Barrett’s organization has expressed concerns about the increased reliance on standardized tests in Governor Kitzhaber’s education reforms passed in 2011, which resulted in the creation of the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) and placed the Governor in charge of the state’s schools. “When does it make sense to have people less involved with our public schools, and cut out community involvement?” asks Barrett.
The path that eventually led to the creation of the OEIB was circuitous, beginning with an Oregon Education Investment Design Team hand-picked by the Governor in the spring of 2011. This design team was treated to a series of presentations by the Duncan Wyse from the Oregon Business Council, who recommended the mandatory statewide implementation of “outcomes based budgets” and “proficiency based education.” According to an OEIT report[NOTE: the link provides you to a History of Education Reform in Oregon compiled by Oregon Save Our Schools] on outcomes-based budgets for public schools, “The state will be the ‘buyer’ of outcomes and the schools will be ‘sellers’ of outcomes.” This mind-view, rooted in the private-sector philosophy one would expect from the Oregon Business Council, ignores the traditional moral responsibility of public schools to serve as society’s great equalizer. Obviously, the emphasis on mandatory “proficiency based education” translates into the increased reliance on standardized tests.
The OEIT convened a "Learn Works" meeting of 30 participants in September of 2011, which Barrett attended and set off the initial red flags for her regarding the increased emphasis on standardized tests. “I remember the first two speakers were from Stand for Children, and they were pushing an online-based computer testing program,” Barrett recalls. Up until that point, Stand for Children had only involved itself with efforts to increase funding for schools and limit class sizes. Barrett was confused by Stand for Children’s testimony in favor of the testing software. “I asked myself ‘What is this? Is this a separate organization doing some sort of sales pitch?”
(Stand for Children Oregon denies providing any presentations in support of standardized testing at the September 2011 LearnWorks meeting. According to Sue Levin, the Executive Director for Stand, the organization had two official representatives, neither of which presented in support of standardized tests. Although other Stand members attended, they did not represent the organization and Levin states that she "has no idea" whether they presented on standardized tests. Regardless, Levin points out the efforts the organization did in collaboration with then-State Rep. Suzanne Bonamici to pass legislation that would allow students that pass OAKS the first time--the test is conducted three times--to be excluded from the next two rounds of testing.)
This was Barrett’s introduction into the increased emphasis of standardized testing. Barrett believes the promises of increased use computer-based standardized tests aren’t matched with the actual results. “[Proponents of testing] rhetoric sounds great, that this can all be accomplished at an individual’s pace of learning,” Barrett says. “The only way for a student to learn at an individual pace is for teachers to be able to address the needs of kids. They pass online assessments as this great thing, but we’re pretty much just putting kids in front of computers all day. Certainly, online learning and assessments have a place in today’s education system—the question is, where is that place?”
The problems regarding the current high stakes of increased reliance on standardized tests are compounded with the ridiculous manner in which they are administered and the expectations that schools are to meet, particularly for “priority” schools. Gresham’s Davis Elementary is one of the most challenged public schools in the state, with a free-and-reduced lunch rate of nearly 95 percent. And yet, Davis had received accolades for its test scores, identified by the state as a ‘champion’ school from 2009-2011.
“Suddenly, over night, Davis was a priority school,” says Allen Koshewa, a Grade 4-5 teacher at Davis Elementary. As a priority school, Davis requires a number of interventions by the state to improve the school’s outcomes, resulting in Koshewa spending a good portion of his creating reports as he does designing lesson plans. Koshewa points out he could have the exact same curriculum and lesson plans at a non-priority school in inner southeast Portland without the required reports he currently submits, but at Davis he needs to spend extra time justifying his curriculum that meet the state's standards-based "learning targets" with each lesson plan.
What caused the reversal of fortune for Davis Elementary? “Our test scores hit a ceiling and couldn’t keep rising,” explains Keshowa. Despite having similar demographics as other schools, the significant number of refugee students at Davis from such countries as Somalia, Burma, Nepal, Zambia, and Iraq pose added difficulties. According to Keshowa, “The research shows that it takes non-English speaking students seven to ten years before reaching the 50 percentile on a standardized test. But they are expected to math by their first spring, and to pass reading by the second year. ”
With increased budget cuts and directives from the state mandated onto districts and schools, teachers are overly stressed to ensure that students are able to continually meet the designated benchmarks for each test. These demands result in students in grades as low as kindergarten being removed from class and plopped in front of a computer for testing purposes. “Recently, a kindergarten teacher at Faubion Elementary bent my ear about the requirements she’s faced with,” says state Rep. Lew Frederick (D-North Portland). As Frederick explains, “The Early Learning Councils in the recent reforms are set up for assessments of kindergarteners, but some schools are implementing them early. The problem, I feel, is that it prepares them to do nothing other than take test after test after test.”
Rep. Frederick wonders how this increased reliance on rote test-taking will result in creative, inquisitive, and skilled students. When pointed out that students will develop test-taking skills, Frederick responds with, “That is something I have never heard any leader of a corporation or industry say they look for in prospective employees. And yet, we’ve created this system to just churn them right out.”
With these concerns about the outsized impact on the education system caused by the over-reliance on standardized testing, Rep. Frederick entered the current legislative session with a three pieces of legislation designed to take a strong look at the systemic issues plaguing Oregon’s public education system. HB 2664 requires a comprehensive, one-time report conducted by the state Department of Education that examines the fiscal, administrative, and educational impacts of standardized tests. In a sense, the purpose of HB 2664 is to determine whether the charges made by the Cleveland High School students—that these tests are a “waste of resources”—have some sort of basis in reality. “How much time, money, psychic power do these tests consume?” asks Frederick. “Are they effective? We don’t even know!” Currently, HB 2664 is sitting in the House Rules Committee.
Rep. Frederick’s other bills include HB 2665, which would require a study by the Education Department of the impact of poverty on education in Oregon, and HB 2666 which seeks to ensure the privacy of data for students that take these standardized tests. Although studies demonstrate the negative impact of poverty on education, HB 2665 would only address the distributions of the State School Fund, the opportunities to learn across neighborhoods and economic circumstances, and the efforts taken to address disparities of opportunities in off-school hours. This bill was passed by a unanimous vote this past week. HB 2666 would limit the ability of student test score data from being collected, shared, and sold to outside third-parties. HB 2666 is currently sitting in the House Rules Committee.
“We’ve had high-stakes testing for almost 20 years, and the impact has been minimal,” Frederick says. “We want comprehensive education for all of our kids, and that’s not going to happen solely through increasing the testing.”
We know that Baltimore has every intention of making all of the schools that are rebuilt with this $1 billion in Wall Street financing into charters just as in Chicago
Chicago Requests More Charter Schools After Massive Wave Of Public School Closings
The Huffington Post | By Rebecca Klein Posted: 08/15/2013 11:02 am EDT | Updated: 08/19/2013 5:38 pm EDT
Chicago recently shut down 50 of its schools in the largest single wave of public school closures in history. So why is the city now trying to open more charter schools?
Chicago Public Schools on Monday quietly posted a 52-page document asking charter schools to apply to operate in the city starting in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. The document says the district wants charters to open in 11 neighborhoods that have overcrowded schools, although it does not indicate how many charter schools the district would need.
The Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 of the city’s public schools in May after charging that some city schools were being "underutilized" and should consolidate to save resources. In the wake of these closings, critics panned the idea of opening new charter schools.
District spokesperson Keiana Barrett told the Chicago Sun-Times that underutilization is an entirely separate issue from overcrowding.
Public school advocates have long charged that the closing of public schools -- and the call for more charter schools -- is part of elaborate scheme to privatize education. While charter schools are funded by public money, they are operated by private organizations and are usually not unionized.
“We are not surprised at all by this,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis to Chicago public radio outlet WBEZ. “We were called conspiracy theorists, and then here is the absolute proof of what the intentions are. ... The district has clearly made a decision that they want to push privatization of our public schools.”
Wendy Katten, an activist who is against school closures, told the Sun-Times that some of the so-called "priority neighborhoods" highlighted by the district as potential charter locations already have schools that the district previously debated closing, although they ultimately remained open.
“Some of these priority areas had schools originally on the closing list,” said Katten. She cited the Chicago area of Pilsen as an example and went on to say, “I agree with consulting stakeholders and taxpayers on what kind of schools they want in their community, something this administration has no interest in doing."
District spokesperson Becky Carroll told WBEZ that “while there were significant population declines in some parts of the city, there were also increases in other parts of the city. ... There are many schools that are overcrowded or are facing overcrowding and we need to address that issue as we do any other.”
Public school closings in Chicago have faced opposition on several fronts. In July the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights sent a letter to the United Nations, urging the organization to watch for human rights abuses related to the closings.
This is the Chicago Teacher's Union analysis of their school system budget and it is relevant to Baltimore as the same education reform is happening there as is in Baltimore. What we are seeing across the board is policy that does not advance quality education....it does the opposite.
Look as well at how in Chicago hundreds of schools were closed as unneeded or lack of funding. Then, you see public schools being added where those public schools were and Teach for America where union teachers were. The entire reform is simply a privatizing scheme that will kill quality in classes and teacher standards.
CTU Analysis of the CPS FY 2014 Budget 08/28/2013
As the 2013/14 school year opens, schools across Chicago are facing challenges beyond the complex process of teaching and learning. CPS students, families, and staffs are facing ballooning class sizes, limited learning materials, strained nerves tied to unfunded mandates, and massive uncertainty about whether the current state of CPS is the “new normal.” At the very least, district leaders could have been transparent and direct about these cuts. However, consistent with years of false deficit claims, obfuscation about central office staffing, general disregard to clear accounting of how dollars are spent, and denial of responsibility, district leaders again chose to blame “Springfield” for Chicago’s budgetary problems. Parents and the public were told the state did not provide more money, the state did not provide pension relief. Absent from this discussion was any acknowledgement of poor district decisions: no advocacy for additional local revenue, no planning for the self-inflicted increase in pension payments, brazen charter expansion at the same time public schools are closed en masse, and complete disregard for public input on the district’s spending priorities. At this point, CPS leadership has effectively zero credibility on budget issues because CPS leadership chose gimmickry and illusion over honesty.
This report is the first installment in an ongoing series of CPS budget analyses in which we will monitor the district’s budgetary practices. Here, we introduce the severity of specific programming cuts to schools. We question the motivations behind student based budgeting (SBB) and the incentives it creates. We assess the use of “hush money” to lure predominantly North Side schools to approve insufficient austerity budgets. We show how the district spends money on initiatives that promote instability, instead of investing in stable schools. We demonstrate how the district’s public financial accounting of savings from spring school closures is wrong. We introduce our analysis of the costs of charter expansion and question the district’s accounting. Finally, we call into question the lack of planning behind CPS’ ‘solutions’ to overcrowding.
We will explore these and many other issues in further detail in the months ahead. We hope that you will ask questions and help us further our analysis to further our goal of changing CPS budget priorities to reflect the will of real stakeholders, not just those business interests who consistently implore schools to “do more with less.” At a time when the work of education increases because of demands like Common Core implementation, a new state-mandated administrator and teacher evaluation system, and integrating the thousands of students ripped from their schools into new ones, and because there are 3000 fewer people to do the work, such an exhortation from meddling non-educators is an insult. Schools will do less with less, especially in a district in which almost 9 in 10 students are low-income and cannot draw on resources from home. Chicago will never be a world-class city as long as it treats its schools as interchangeable and disposable businesses rather than as key sites of engagement and investment.
Budget cuts programs and essential services
In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget, the district cut funding to non-charter schools by $164 million. The biggest most apparent cuts are to the programs that parents, teachers and communities fought so hard to expand. The arts, despite a signature announcement by the district to expand their role in the school day, take a cut of 13% across CPS. Funding for music programs is slashed by 14%. Funding for library service programs is being cut 22%.
As a reminder, this is in a school district, where just last year, 40% of schools had neither full time art nor full time music teachers; 22% had no art teacher ; 39% had no music teacher ; and only 27% of schools had both full time art and music teachers.
Programmatic funds for Social Work Services are being reduced over last year’s expenditures by half a million dollars, or 7% less than what was allocated in FY 2012. This is in a year where over 50 schools will be consolidated, many of which had high percentages of students with special needs. Why is investment in social workers and services not increasing? Why is it decreasing at all?
The budget also includes severe cuts in services to high-needs students. Funding for Autistic Programming has been cut from prior year expenditures by nearly $4 million, a reduction of nearly 10%. Most of this cut, about $3.5 million, is due to the closure of schools with significant funding for Autistic Programs last year, including Lafayette, Stockton, Herbert, and Trumbull. Why is this funding not being restored at the schools where the students transfer? There is only an increase of roughly $1.75 million in funding for Autism programs across district schools getting increases in funding. Clearly the autism services lost at the closing schools are not being ported in full to the receiving schools. Is cutting essential direct services to high-need students what CPS considers “achieving efficiencies”?
Student based budgeting is a threat to stable schools
Student based budgeting (SBB) has arrived in Chicago. This year roughly half of a school’s funding -- money to provide core instruction, hire paraprofessionals, and provide basic supplies -- is given to schools on a per-pupil basis. SBB attaches dollar values according to number of students, with little regard to actual school needs. Previous budgeting schemes did not take need into account either, but SBB is a critical step toward making public school systems operate more like businesses. SBB is championed by right-wing organizations that promote the idea that if a school loses students, it is the school’s fault, and therefore proportionately fewer dollars should go to the school or the school should be closed.
Stable community schools are the backbone of a great public school system, and the danger of SBB is that it undermines this ideal. If a school community loses residents and children because they’ve become destabilized, by for example predatory banking and attacks on affordable housing, the response should not be a proportionate rollback of public services. How can schools hope to attract families and maintain the community’s appeal when the principal is forced to cut back on arts, music, or other essential supports and services because the school loses students? Policies of disinvestment that cause these downward spirals have been the status quo of CPS. This is the context for the fight to save ‘underutilized’ schools in disadvantaged communities, rather than creating more abandoned buildings. SBB threatens to make such downward spirals further entrenched in policy and even more severe.
Equitable funding or ‘hush’ money?
There is no right way to do austerity, but there can be many dishonest and wrong ways to implement and frame it to the public. CPS claims that their move to SBB creates more “clarity and equity”, and yet after giving schools their budgets in June and seeing a wave of LSC budget rejections, CPS doled out extra funds to a quarter of district schools.
CPS described their method of choosing which schools received extra funds, and how much money each school received, as being “clear and consistent”, targeting schools “with the greatest need”. But the criteria that CPS used to determine these extra funds had no reference to the relative needs of disadvantaged students and communities. Instead, CPS defined ‘need’ as the difference between the percent cut in funds that their ‘equitable’ SBB system imposed on a school, versus the percentage change in enrollment of students. Over half the $8.8 million extra that was doled out went to 62 North Side schools. Undoubtedly, it makes sense that a school with an increase in enrollment should get an increase in school funds. However, it makes just as much sense to consider the disadvantage experienced by particular communities and students (e.g., homelessness, mobility, joblessness) when considering the distribution of resources.
The real reason CPS released money to schools with higher enrollment (while ignoring schools with equally important needs) was to stop parents at those schools from protesting the budget. The money was hush money, an extension of the summer PR machine to silence community pushback against citywide austerity. However, the sorry state of our schools means that these funds provide crucial supports, the difference for some schools between having a half-time arts teacher or no fine arts or music at all. Nevertheless, the attempt to silence opposition has been met by a few valiant LSCs that continue to reject their amended budgets.
Central office spending and contracts shows misplaced priorities:
New School Development gets more funds but hides expenditures
The FY14 budget for the Office of New School Development, now a sub-department under the Office of Innovation and Incubation, is increasing by $22 million over FY13 expenditures. The Budget describes New Schools as a support office tasked with authorizing charter, contract and “high-quality” district schools, and the incubation of new schools, implying staff support for these schools. Yet, the entire increase in the budgeted amount over last year’s expenditures lies in the Contracts and Equipment Account Groups, while the amount budgeted in Salary (for staff) actually decreased. Most of the money in Contracts and Equipment is unaccounted for. The only portion of the $18 million budgeted in Contracts that can be identified separately in Board documents are a couple thousand dollars approved last year to AUSL for turnaround contracts. Similarly, of the $21.2 million budgeted under Equipment, only $5.2 million can be identified in public Board documents. The $5.2 million cover the amounts approved for incubation and start-up funds as well as for the turnarounds approved this year. The rest of the money is unaccounted for.
Teacher layoffs while TFA expands their footprint
The budget includes $1.6 million in funding to Teach for America to refer and support 325 first-year interns, and an additional 245 second-year interns into teacher positions. This funding is purely for the referral services and the administrative costs of TFA, not for the salaries which are paid through normal funding streams to hired teachers. At a time when over 1000 veteran teachers who lost jobs through no fault of their own are seeking work, it makes no sense to spend money on unnecessary recruitment. This is especially true for TFA, which has a built-in loss rate. Studies show that 85% of TFA interns did not remain at their placement school beyond four years. 65% leave the teaching profession after four years.
The investment CPS needs to make in new teachers is in programs that support teachers in the early years of their career and seek to improve retention among them – not programs geared to making teacher turnover an even more ingrained feature of the profession.
Centralizing operations, but increasing management for principals
CPS added another layer of bureaucracy by moving Facility O& M, Engineers and Custodians out of the schools and into central office. Principals aren't in charge of the budget to allocate custodians anymore, but since they don't have building engineers, they're in charge of managing them which they don't have time for.
CTE ‘expanding’ even while programs are lost
Like other aspects of the CPS budget, the CPS PR spin machine is once again claiming a new initiative that is in fact a program cut. Since 2011, CPS high schools have retained only half of their CTE programs, and an additional 24% could not be verified as still existing – thus the actual total loss of programs may be much higher. CPS has 10 schools with “Career Academy” in their title but one only has Automotive, one only has Culinary Arts, and another only has Accounting and Culinary Arts. What happened to the CTE programs at those three schools? Why is CPS spending money to build new CTE programs at other high schools instead of reinvesting in the ones that are supposed to be Career Academies?
What CPS needs to do, instead of haphazardly creating and eliminating programs – especially costly ones that require physical build-outs and equipment - is an honest and thorough analysis of the current and future job market for the region and work with local industries to build the linkages that will train students and help them transition into good jobs. The CTU CTE committee has been advocating for this for years.
False claims about the money saved from school closings
The largest component of the supposed savings from the school closures is capital avoidance savings. CPS claims that by closing 50 schools, they will avoid having to dedicate future funds to building upkeep, restorations, and other capital improvements to the facilities. They claim that over the next 10 years, these capital ‘avoidance’ savings amount to $437 million, or roughly $43 million a year. There are several big problems with this claim. First the estimates of capital ‘avoidance’ are based on outdated assessments of the condition of the buildings. Secondly, CPS assumes that the entire value of the capital needs assessment, (every single feature related to basic building infrastructure that needs capital investment) would have been prioritized, funded, and fixed for all of the closing school buildings over the next 10 years. This is a ridiculous assumption – many of CPS schools do without needed upgrades or repairs for years, especially the school buildings that are in the underinvested parts of Chicago, the south and west sides. Over the last 10 years, for the same buildings CPS closed, only $75 million has been invested for capital improvements. For CPS to claim that the buildings they closed would have received $437 million worth of capital improvement over the next 10 years, if they remained open, is a baseless claim.
With the $155 million investment to cover the capital costs of upgrading the receiving schools to accommodate the consolidations and the $75 million spent in transition costs spread over FY13 and FY14, CPS has spent a total of $230 million for the school closures so far. Subtracting the $43 million in operations savings that CPS gets from firing teachers and staff and non-capital facility upkeep savings from turning a functioning school into a boarded up abandoned building, CPS is expending a net of $190 million this year. Even if we generously accounted for the claim of $43 million in capital savings, which is separate from the savings from operations, CPS would still be expending well over a $100 million this year to close 50 schools. At the same time CPS is dealing with a massive overcrowding problem. Now that 50 school buildings have been shuttered, CPS will be forced to deal with overcrowding either by building new schools for roughly $45 million per school or by paying exorbitant rents or massive rehabs costs to open charters in communities where few proper school facilities are available. Building new schools is costly, which is why the decision to shutter nearly 50 school buildings without considering their use to help alleviate some overcrowding is so unwise, even from a budgetary and facilities planning perspective.
District prioritizing charter expansion
Continuing a trend of shifting money towards charter schools, this year’s budget saw a $164 million dollars cut to district-run public schools, or 5.5%. Charters received $85 million more, a 17.5% increase. Nine entirely new charter campuses are opening this fall, with a combined projected enrollment of 2500 students. CPS assumes that students attending new schools come from other schools in the district. New schools cost close to $1 million per year in school start-up funds alone, provided through the Office of Innovation. In addition to new schools, other charters are expanding, and CPS is projecting that total charter school enrollment will increase to 58,000, 14% of all students in CPS.
According to the district, charters and district schools received equal funding last year. With the move to SBB for all district schools this year, this equity is supposed to become clearer. However, there are some questionable choices made about the money flowing to the charter sector.
Charters receive SBB funds, which cover funding for core instruction, as well as for a principal, clerk and counselor position, referred to as an “administrative base”. In addition to SBB funds, charter schools also receive per-pupil non-SBB funds. These funds are meant to be the equivalent to charters for expenditures on services that are provided in-kind, such as operations & maintenance, special programs, central office supports, etc. There are several problems with the provision of the non-SBB funds to charters. CPS does not itemize specifically the $770 million it estimates in FY13 expenditures on non-SBB services, or the $705 million in FY14. Furthermore, the budget book states that the non-SBB rate was calculated prior to completion of the FY2014 budget. We question the accuracy of the $705 million estimate in non-SBB expenditures because of the severe cuts to citywide programs and services presented in the budget. The district also needs to spell out clearly its justifications for each district expenditure charter schools receive an equal share of. For example, neighborhood schools do not benefit from funding for selective enrollment programs, but this funding is included in calculating the equal non-SBB share to charters.
Lack of planning for overcrowding relief
Rapid charter proliferation spurred by CPS and the faulty standards of their utilization metrics led to the massive closings of neighborhood schools in the south and west sides. CPS should have considered shifting attendance boundaries and programs from over-crowded areas instead of moving ahead with the closure of school buildings. Now CPS is proposing to rapidly expand charter schools on the northwest and southwest sides. CPS’ problem is lack of planning.
Since 1996, CPS has spent over $671 million on annexes, additions and temporary units. In FY14, CPS plans to spend $24.5 million in overcrowding relief, and then an additional $20 million each year from 2015 – 2018. Thus in total, CPS plans to spend over $100 million on overcrowding relief by 2018. CPS could instead spend a fraction of that money on better planning, better projections, and better allocations of programming throughout the district to attract more students to under-served areas of the city.
There are at least three instances where a charter occupies a building that was initially built to relieve overcrowding. This is not because parents demanded charters but because CPS’ population and enrollment projections are inaccurate. Charters that claimed to have waiting lists are now advertising on CTA routes so it would seem that there are in fact no waiting lists. CPS has found yet another scheme to advance their school privatization agenda, and has twisted it to seem as if they are responding to the public concern of overcrowded schools.