Monthly Archives: September 2012

Indiana using Illinois’ Union Strike

What can other school districts learn from the Chicago teachers’ strike and its resolution? Plenty, says an Indiana education expert. The strike may be over, but the settlement lays the foundation for for “a profession built of teachers who will come and go quickly because of low respect and poor working conditions.” http://bit.ly/SzGj0e

IL Unionized Government Workers benefits are “Unsustainable”

Negotiations between Gov. Pat Quinn and the state’s largest employee union have ground to a halt. In an email to members, AFSCME says the administration wants to freeze wages for two years, among other thing. The administration was explicit in its response: “The union of state government employees fails to recognize that the salaries and benefits the average state employee receives are unsustainable and at levels far exceeding the salaries and benefits of other unionized state workers across the country.” http://bit.ly/QEZBfG

Does Chicago Think It’s “Too Big To Fail”?

Hey, downstate Illinoisans, the Chicago teachers’ strike could affect your bank account, warns journalist Scott Reeder. “By agreeing to something it knows it can’t afford, the city will have to seek funding elsewhere… Like … Springfield,”

 Reeder writes. “I’ve covered the General Assembly for many years and observed the pattern time and again.” Chicago officials consider themselves “too big to fail,” and thus entitled to bailouts never extended to other communities. http://bit.ly/SzsXB7

January’s Critical Reforms Reliant on Lame Duck Lawmakers

Reforming public pensions will be the most important vote any legislator will cast this legislative session – if there is a vote. But just as when lawmakers raised state income taxes in January 2011, if this critical reform is to happen, it may come down to a votes from a handful of lame duck lawmakers. In 2011, some pro-tax voters were rewarded with state jobs. http://bit.ly/Tvd8N8

IPI Launches the “No Pension Bailout” Movement

The Illinois Policy Institute launched “No Pension Bailout,” a national movement to block Congress’ attempts to rescue failing state and municipal pension plans. U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) joined John Tillman, the institute’s CEO, in presenting a study, proving any bailout would punish responsible states and reward reckless ones. The study shows the winners and losers by state and county.

“For decades state legislators have endeared themselves to public employees with pension promises … based on accounting methods that would put any business in jail,” said DeMint, adding that blocking any hope of a bailout forces state politicians “to deal with this problem immediately.” Tillman added, “In Illinois, we had a $7 billion tax hike that was supposed to solve all our problems, pay all our bills, and instead it all went to pensions.”

Former Teachers Union Lobbyist pulls $1,000,000 yearly Illinois pension

If you’re a private sector employee and watched your 401(k)’s value plummet four years ago, this Chicago Tribune story will make your blood boil. Had you worked a few years for state government then worked for a public sector union, you could have rolled that unpredictable 401(k) into a guaranteed defined-benefit pension — paid by a system funded by your tax dollars. http://trib.in/SecWPD

Rahm Eyes Expanding Charter Schools

With Chicago students back in the classroom, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is free to push ahead with a key component in his effort to reform the city’s public education system — the expansion of charter schools. Chicago’s charters reported a higher graduation rate for the year ending in June 2011 than CPS did — 73.8% to 60.6%, according to state and CPS records.

A Civic Federation report found that most local networks were in good financial health, and it found that charter schools tend to spend a smaller percentage of their expenses on instruction than CPS. Researcher David Stuit, a consultant to charters and other public schools, said the ability for charters to operate more cheaply is made possible by the charter workforce, which is typically nonunion and tends to be made up of young, entry-level teachers. But many of them leave due to the lack of potential for income growth.

Appendix F of the second report by Mayor Emanuel’s ethics reform task force is a diagram showing how alleged violations of the city’s current ethics ordinance are investigated and resolved. The task force members call it “the spaghetti chart.”

According to the Tribune editorial board, it’s migraine-inducing. Suffice it to say, the process is complicated — needlessly, deliberately complicated. What goes in may never come out, and you, the taxpayer, are supposed to take it on faith that alleged ethical breaches are being vetted rigorously and dealt with properly. A new process, streamlined and more transparent, is recommendation No. 38 in the task force report. The mayor’s office will draft a proposed ordinance based on those suggestions. The changes would go a long way toward fulfilling Emanuel’s promised ethics reforms, but only if he fights all attempts to water them down.

Illinois owes $670 Million for Teacher Pensions in next budget

Illinois will have to come up with another $670 million for the teacher pension system in the next budget after a retirement fund panel crunched the numbers and adjusted its assumptions, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Fixing Illinois’ budget crisis begins with understanding just how much money comes in and how much money is spent in a given year. Yet tracking the state’s massive budget is much more difficult than it seems, especially because of convoluted accounting practices. This lack of transparency matters because, in addition to contributing to the budget crisis, incomplete information makes solutions harder to find. Understanding the state’s true fiscal situation depends upon how clearly, consistently and broadly budget information is presented. Illinois faces two main transparency problems: “time-shift” budgeting and an overemphasis on the General Funds budget, according to economist Richard Dye in an op-ed for the Sun-Times.

Emanuel and the new Teachers Contract

Mayor Emanuel could go a long way toward paying for the new teachers contract — without closing schools, raising class size or laying off teachers — by reversing financial maneuvers he ordered last year to prop up the city budget, according to the Sun-Times. Emanuel stripped teachers of a previously negotiated, 4 percent pay raise and used the $80 million in savings to pay the Chicago Police Department retroactively, going back to 2009. The question now is whether Emanuel is willing to reverse that maneuver to help defray the $295 million, four-year cost of the new teachers contract and ease pressure on a school system that has drained every penny of its reserves and faces a $1 billion shortfall next year.

Chicago Teachers Strike

There are endless reasons why Chicago teachers say they went on strike. Pay, charter school growth, unfair evaluations, teacher recall, the over-use of standardized tests, the “privatization” of public education, poor teaching and learning conditions, anger toward Mayor Rahm Emanuel and on and on. But for many a Chicago teacher, no reason was more pressing than the prospect of mass school closings in this city.

The Sun-Times has reported rumors (http://bit.ly/SeCyNn) of as many as 100 school closings, while the Chicago Tribune cites sources saying 80 to 120 schools will be targeted on the South and West Sides, which have seen significant population declines. City and schools officials adamantly deny these estimates, but refuse to offer a firm number. CPS’ spokeswoman says the scope and timing is still being hammered out. It should go without saying that the more open and inclusive CPS is as it heads down this difficult road, the better.

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