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Chicago Blues: Tenured Teachers Laid Off

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Having closed 11 percent of the city’s public schools in May, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has now been forced to fire 2,000 employees, including 1,000 teachers—half of whom were tenured. The Chicago Tribune reports:

“We’re not going to be able to cut our way out of this crisis,” [CPS Spokeswoman Becky] Carroll said. “Our revenues are simply not keeping in line with our spending increases.” […]

The district again blamed the lack of pension reform for many of its fiscal woes, noting that pension payments are growing this fiscal year by an additional $400 million.

The Chicago Teachers Union president blamed the school district’s duplicity for the layoffs:

“Once again, CPS has lied to parents, employees and the public about keeping the new school-based budget cuts away from the classroom,” [Karen] Lewis said.

It’s an interesting web the union has spun for itself: its power to negotiate lavish pensions for teachers has helped bankrupt the city, which is now forced to sack teachers. And with Chicago’s budget deficit at $1 billion and revenue declining, there’s no end in sight, and no tenure and no pension is safe. How teachers react to the declining ability of unions to secure their interests in one of America’s great blue cities will tell us a lot about the blue model’s current bill of health.

The immediate impact on children and families of Chicago’s fiscal failure is obvious enough, but the long-term impact is perhaps even more grim. The city’s budget cuts, harrowing crime rate, and broken politics are forcing people out: Chicago’s population has declined to numbers not seen since before the 1920s, with the black population falling by almost a fifth in the past decade alone.

This trend means even less revenue for the city, even fewer children to fill the classrooms, and even more talent and potential lost. Chicago is failing its poor, and hope for improvement is in short supply.

[Image of Chicago teachers strike courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    Tenure for public school teachers is an obscenity which never should have been allowed.

    Tenure should be eliminated ASAP for the sake of the children ….and the sake of the long suffering taxpayer.

    • Corlyss

      The think is, few people realize how recent all these “entrenched” practices are. It’s like the Canadians. Before Trudeau, Canadians were as xenophobic as the Brits were. The Trudeau throws open the country the size of the US with the population of California, and now I get lectured by Canadian friends about how mean and xenophobic the US is. It’s maddening to listen to speakers talk about recent advents as though the founding fathers established them in the Bill of Rights somewhere.

    • owenmagoo

      tenure is a mixed bag. done right it can increase the quality of education, significantly.

      when it is used almost exclusively as a shield for bad teachers, or in preventing cuts in staff consistent with population decline, it goes drastically wrong.

      while I agree with your contempt, I remain 51% in favor of tenure, and 49% against. It remains a sound theory, with a history of tragic implementation.

      • Mysticbeetle

        Yes, by all means, let’s equivocate.

        • owenmagoo

          I prefer to suggest that this issue made have some grey areas. but if you want black and white, right and wrong, proceed…

          chances of the end of tenure? nil.

          opportunities of liberating a secondary school student from tenured teachers are limitless.
          the strong advocates for change, with regard to tenure, have already walked away from the fight.

    • Jim__L

      The original push for tenure in American schools came as a result of a politically-motivated persecution (firing) of a Stanford university professor, for criticizing the business practices of Leland Stanford’s railroads.

      I don’t know why that should apply to elementary school teachers, either.

      These days, you’re likely to be denied tenure or tenure-track if you don’t toe the line on Political Correctness (if you can even find a Humanities program at a major university that isn’t ultra-PC to get the advanced degree that “qualifies” you for the position in the first place), so the Establishment has found a way to circumvent the dissenting-view protections tenure was supposed to provide.

      Tenure is obsolete.

  • Andrew Allison

    Detroit redux!

  • Corlyss

    “It’s an interesting web the union has spun for itself: its power to negotiate lavish pensions for teachers has helped bankrupt the city, which is now forced to sack teachers”

    Where I come from, we call that “karma.”

  • Atanu Maulik

    Wars against mathematics are un-winnable. If only the left understood that. Alas.Sigh.

  • Bruno_Behrend

    They could have kept the teachers and fired 2000 administrators.

    Ask yourself how many administrators it would take to run one independent school. Maybe 2-5, less if some teachers owned the school and took up some of those duties.

    If we don’t get rid of school districts and zip code based education, we will be having this same discussion in 10, 20, and 40 years.

    • MichaelKennedy

      They call them charter schools. Why are they different ? No union.

      • M_Becker

        And, 10% of the admin cost plus no long term cost for pensions & health care.

    • kevmac1

      School districts themselves are fine, but I’m with you 100% on drastically cutting the administrators. Besides a superintendent, vice superintendent, and coordinators for the various curriculum areas, everyone else in the central office is unnecessary.

      And those admins that remain should also be required to teach one class per day in addition to their other duties. Public education really started to lose its way when admins were no longer required to teach; they tend to turn into politicians and bureaucrats who make adult-based decisions, rather than student-based decisions.

      • Bruno_Behrend

        I know I’m currently in the minority on this, mostly because most people (too many conservatives included) believe the myth that the school district is an entity of local government. It isn’t.

        If you look at the way most school codes are written, districts are creatures of the state codes, not local control.

        Hence, local control is a myth. Your district is closer to a McDonald’s franchise. You may be able to dictate the size of the parking lot, but you will never control the menu or the pricing.

        That is why the decades-long “consolidation” of 200K independent school boards into 14K corrupt and opaque districts has gone hand-in-hand with a counterproductive federalization of education – financed by local property taxpayers who believe in myths of “local control.”

    • Steve White

      Especially the Chicago Public Schools. Both at the schools themselves and at the Central School Board offices, the administrators have been multiplying the last few decades like [insert name of favorite vermin here].

      And of course, they don’t do anything. Nothing. There’s no value added. Many of them are political hires (Chicago is the most political of cities, doncha know) and so they contribute nothing to the educational mission. A fair number are teachers who either don’t want to teach or can’t teach, and so they move to central administration.

      You could easily have all the administrators count off by twos, fire the odd-numbered ones, and not miss a one of them.

      A story: two decades ago the CPS Superintendent, Manford Byrd, was proposing to hire 1100 new administrators in the face of a $300 million-odd deficit. Someone actually had the temerity to call him on it — why are you hiring all these people? The man didn’t miss a beat; he smiled and replied, “somebody has to help me manage the deficit.”

      That’s Chicago, baby.

      • werewife

        A story from my dying city: A gorgeous new building was established to help revive the old downtown. 1/3 of it became the main public library, 2/3 of it became state-of-the-art new offices for most of the Board of Education. Three departments of said Board of Ed, however, remained in an old, shabby building: Registration, Transportation, and Special Ed – purely coincidentally, no doubt, just those departments which parents regularly needed to visit in person. This is all one needs to know about how these “selfless public servants” really feel about their customers.

  • Beaux Weevil

    What kind of education could these geniuses possibly be providing the children of Chicago?

  • koblog

    Prime error: “Chicago is failing its poor.”

    Your “Blue Model” is failing everywhere precisely because whole cities, states and nations use “government can solve poverty” as a ruse to blame business for not paying its “fair share” of confiscatory taxes.

    Chicago, like Detroit, hasn’t failed its poor — it has demonized and destroyed its productive businesses like all liberal socialists do.

  • Ytown Republican

    What part of the word UNSUSTAINABLE do you liberals not understand?

    • iconoclast

      Every syllable.

  • 500_lb_Gorrila

    Q: What’s the difference between Chicago and Detroit? A: About five years, then they’ll both be completely failed cesspools…thanks democrats.

  • cubanbob

    Now you know why the Feds aren’t bailing out Detroit. After Chicago who is next in line?

    • Jim__L

      So, how big a collective hole have these municipalities dug themselves? I.e., how big would the bailout have to be…

      How about when you add states to the mix?

    • M_Becker

      Probably Flint, MI and then the State of Illinois.

  • teapartydoc

    Just got a flyer for a medical meeting I would have loved to have gone to. In Chicago. Nope. Not going to spend a penny there.

  • Joseph Blieu

    Chicago has negotiated the Blue Maze like NYC by being two different towns. there is tremendous demand for living space in Wrigleyville, North Clark St. Wicker Park etc. and the loop and N. Michigan are clean, bright,, and safe (except for flash violence), and blessed with 5 great universities . The other side are the 1000 minority families that bury their children each year and no one does anything about it, and the witnesses won’t talk to the police.

    I think that the remarkably visible and relatively unpunnished corruption and political crime is the greatest immoral act I have seen in the US but I think Chicago will survive well into the next century as it seems to have found the right mix of protecting and entertaining the young and old rich classes, feeding the connected clouted political class, and teaching the minorities to victimize themselves and make relativley little demands for improvement.

  • David Govett

    Lay off administrators by the thousands.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    The generations that took us to the moon and laid the foundations for the Internet were, by and large, educated in classrooms with one teacher and around 30 students, with minimal administrative/support overhead.

    Today, it costs over three times as much (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to educate a child from K-12 … money that funds expanded administration, specialist support, and improved infrastructure, as well as teacher salaries that are more in line with the value they add to education than the pittances they made in the “good old days” above.

    Yet we do not see a commensurate improvement in the quality of that education today … even though access to knowledge is more widespread and comprehensive than ever before. I have a hard time seeing graduates in their mid-20’s today, that are able to leverage their education and “go boldly where no man has gone before” with anything more risky than a Web page.

    Money is not the problem … the problem, IMHO, is that we have lost the focus on the fundamental objective of primary/secondary education: developing the analytic and communications skills, then combining them with a respect for personal initiative that teaches kids HOW to go beyond the book when it comes to learning.

    Instead, in many districts the focus is upon building the INSTITUTION … providing more and more services, addressing more and more social problems, making more and more rules to take human judgment out of the loop … activities that might have the right intent, but too often become exercises in empire-building and politics while getting in the way or even working against that primary objective.

    As a result, we have been pouring rivers of money into schools, but are falling short on results – and now the money stream is drying up.

    Educational institutions – and the elected officials who support them – need to understand that not every socio-economic problem is their responsibility … but that achieving the fundamental objective above, in the lives of every student (and family) that is willing to pursue that objective IS their responsibility … and that their institution must be managed so that the objective is continually realized in the most cost-effective, sustainable manner possible, to keep the system from going the Chicago way.

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