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Doing themselves no favors

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011

* This latest Chicago Teachers Union effort at spin predictably didn’t work

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a comment to her that included an obscenity during a heated discussion over lengthening the day at Chicago public schools […]

Activist the Reverend Paul Jakes has written a letter demanding the mayor apologize.

“I know that African-American women have been victims continuously down through the years of disrespect and we as an African-American community will not stand for it,” said Rev. Jakes.

But Alderman Emma Mitts said there’s nothing racial about it and and who knows what Lewis may have said to Emanuel.

“I know there’s two sides to every story, and somtimes three sides to every story. So what really went on,” said Mitts.

* Zorn looks at how the teachers union is doing itself no favors

A simple for instance: Is the union for or against a longer school day?

Yes and no.

The union is in favor of it if the extra time is well-used — “we want a better school day,” is how CTU President Karen Lewis puts it — and if teachers get commensurately more money for putting in more hours. But they’re against it because Chicago’s instructional time is very similar to instructional time in similar cities and because objective research doesn’t back up the claims for longer school days. […]

The union often stresses the need to empower classroom teachers in making important educational decisions. But when City Hall began the recent effort to lengthen the classroom day by a majority vote of the teachers in individual schools, union leaders objected, called it union busting and filed suit on procedural grounds.

The teachers now look like confused obstructionists — part of the problem, not part of the solution — largely due to self-inflicted public relations injuries.

* A while ago, Zorn attempted to get to the bottom of the disagreement between Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union over how many instruction minutes per year kids are receiving

The teachers union claims 55,260 minutes a year, the administration claims 52,360.

In a flurry of email and phone messages I tried to get the sides to reconcile these numbers — the difference amounts to 17 minutes a day — and concluded it has to do with whether you count “passing time” (time allocated for physically transitioning from one activity to another) as instructional time, which other school districts may also do.

In other words, the CTU is counting time spent in the hallways as instruction time.

* But after being played like a violin by the mayor, this bit of spin is the first time that the CTU has seemed to get ahead of the story

Using the elite private school where Mayor Rahm Emanuel now sends his kids as a starting point, Chicago Teachers Union officials have crafted a proposed schedule that adds 75 minutes to the typical public elementary school student’s day.

The union’s latest salvo in the battle over a longer school day uses as a comparison point the schedule of one third-grade classroom at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, union officials said Tuesday.

Just like at what U of C kids often call “the Lab School,’’ the CTU proposal offers a well-rounded curriculum featuring far more art, music, physical education and other extras than most CPS kids now get and even includes the study of a second language.

Ultimately, the proposed CTU schedule would provide an even longer school day than the Lab School , where a third-grader’s tuition is $21,876. And it does so without requiring Chicago Public School teachers to add any minutes to their work day.

The union will need lots more PR like this to try to neutralize Emanuel. This, alone, won’t do it, of course. Emanuel is a driven, ruthless man who has the polls and the public behind him.

* But, President Lewis can’t seem to get that silly argument behind her

Also on Tuesday, new information emerged about the four-letter fracas between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the teachers union president in his City Hall office. The mayor is said to have used the F-word when pushing his plan during a heated exchange.

“This is obviously a demonstration and illustration of who he is. That’s what that is,” said Lewis.

“My view is this is a distraction from the major issue which is getting the kids an education and time in class learning,” said Emanuel.

But sources say she too screamed and swore during the meeting, something she doesn’t deny.

“I did not, um, I did not take it. Let’s put it that way,” said Lewis when asked if she cursed back.

It’s time she moved on to more important things. Just because a reporter asks a question doesn’t mean she has to answer it.

* Related…

* 2 more schools opt for longer days - 7 faculties have now bucked union on divisive issue

* City Enacting New Preschool Health Goals

* Emanuel to aldermen: Suggestion box is out on budget - Mayor needs to eliminate shortfall put at $636 million

* Goldman Sachs to provide $25 million in loans and grants to Chicago-area small businesses

* New city crime database goes online

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Mark - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 5:32 am:

    Apparently the 236 page CTU collective bargaining agreement doesn’t spell out if instruction time includes passing time (time allocated for physically transitioning from one activity to another).

  2. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 5:46 am:

    BREAKING NEWS: RAHM USES BAD WORDS! Wow, that’s a shock. Thanks for letting us know, Karen.

    In other breaking news, Rahm is pretty short. Send out the alerts! The public needs to know!

  3. - Dirt Digger - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 6:18 am:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say swearing at CTU is not going to be bad for Rahm’s polling.

  4. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 6:56 am:

    Although Lewis isn’t going out of her way to gain sympathy for her union by placing a price tag on everything they agree to, Emanuel isn’t making points either. You can’t say you’re for student success when you’re clearly anti-teacher.

    Stop bickering through the press and get on with it, declare war or settle.

  5. - Cindy Lou - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 6:58 am:

    Not to be insensitive to any personal affronts to Ms Lewis, it seems some actually believe ‘bargaining discussions’ is the place perfectly acceptable to use such heated language when tempers flare. I am not a believer that it should be tolerated, it is offensive and unnecessary …but if Ms Lewis thinks she is the only one subjected to the ‘heated tirades’ of offensive behavior in discussions of serious and impacting issues, she’d be wrong. It doesn’t make it right, but it’s not an isolated case.

  6. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 7:04 am:

    I am for longer school hours and I thought the whole point of them was to be able to restore some of the arts and languages instruction that has been so sharply curtailed in the curricula everywhere. That extra time at the end of the day could also be used for targeted tutoring of the at-risk kids. NCLB and the Illinois Standards put such a rigid set of blinders on what is taught, our kids lost just about all their enrichment programs. “Enrichment” could also include things like shop class, where we can get the next generation started on careers in the Trades, so this is not just about indulgent and impractical things. There is nothing impractical about learning to communicate in the major languages of the business world, for example.

  7. - JP - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 7:29 am:

    Typical plan by Rahm…education system isn’t working? we need more of it….stimulus isn’t working? we need more of it…

  8. - jeff - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 9:33 am:

    Comparing Chicago Lab day to CPS is a disservice to the CPS students. The average Lab student has parents spending even more money on music, language and other outside instruction. They read lots on their own.

    CPS students deserve and need more to make up the difference. The top 1% of kids in income and education go to Lab. They get what they need in 5+ hours of instruction because of what is going on at home.
    As a stinking Republican I say the kids need a lot more to have half a chance to catch up. Also compare Lab and CPS salaries you will be surprised. CPS is not underpaid.

  9. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 9:59 am:

    Rahm should apologize. Any other city employee would have been suspended.

  10. - Anon - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 10:04 am:

    CPS is falling apart, the city/state/country is broke and we’re arguing about swear words and hurt feelings? From Rahm? Seriously? Who the *$%^ cares? Get focused on what matters - give our kids a better education.

  11. - Indeedy - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 10:07 am:

    —“I did not, um, I did not take it. Let’s put it that way,” said Lewis when asked if she cursed back.—

    I’m pretty sure that’s code for “#&%$ yes, I swore back.” Spend any time with Karen and you’ll know how ridiculous it is to point only at Rahm for profanity. Don’t get me wrong. I love how spicy Karen can be and would pay to be in a room with her and Rahm. What I don’t like, however, is the 12 year-old that seems to be running the CTUs pr strategy. “Maaaaa, he touched me!!” Really??

  12. - Team Sleep - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 10:36 am:

    Wow. The Mayor of Chicago cursed. We need to have a sit-in at City Hall and preach unity.

  13. - GetOverIt - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 10:44 am:

    There is a fundamental question which I believe Ms. Lewis, albeit poorly, articulated in her reported discussion with the Mayor leading to his verbal barrage. That is, what is the role of the educational system? For the Lab school the answer seems to fall somewhere between enlightenment and preparing for the future economy. For the CPS, on the other hand, socialization and caretaker seem to be the goals, as the support structure that allows Lab students to excel is non-existent.

    Thus, a longer school day will do no more than what the short day does today for CPS children who return to their neighborhoods and their parents where reading at night is no more likely than a 4% unemployment rate by years end.

  14. - Seriously??? - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 10:45 am:

    Rahm’s language usage has been well known for years. This is a non-issue being used to distract from the fact that the union is being obstructionists. Why not ask the actual teachers how they feel about it? The rank and file often don’t feel the same way union leadership portrays.

  15. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:02 am:

    GetOverIt nails it.

    Making the day longer is not the solution. Better teaching and better administration is the solution.

    The private school that my own kids attend does not have a lot of fancy stuff. What it has is teachers dedicated to teaching and administrators with innovative methods of reaching out to kids.

    If CPS was to hire some better people, they could get the same results. The longer day alone won’t do it. There must be a systematic change.

  16. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:19 am:

    The CTU p.r. response has been brutal. “What are we going to do with 90 more minutes?” and “He swore at me.” Unbelievable.

    If this keeps up, Sen. Meeks and the Irish Catholic Dems will take another run at vouchers, and they might even be able flip some of those GOP “no” votes.

  17. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:23 am:

    I cannot take Lewis seriously based on her appearance. She looks unkept.

    I don’t care if they extend the day by 3 hours, it won;t help much until more kids get home support.

    How do the day care providers feel about losing income?

    Driving Ms. Daley

  18. - dave - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:29 am:

    **I cannot take Lewis seriously based on her appearance. She looks unkept.**


  19. - whetstone - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:34 am:

    “The top 1% of kids in income and education go to Lab. They get what they need in 5+ hours of instruction because of what is going on at home.”

    It’s not just income. I went to a comparatively inexpensive private school (2011 tuition: about $7500, about the max my parents could afford for an only child) that, like the Lab School, draws many of its students from college prof families. The students who weren’t were also socialized to expect to go to college and to have a sense of what it’s like.

    Some of it’s income, but a lot of it’s just exposure and socialization. Even with the best possible teachers and a strict program, it’s just always going to be a hell of a lot harder for CPS. Look at KIPP charters: widely regarded as successful, definitely hard, definitely separate some chaff from the wheat… and their college-grad rates are way lower than places like Lab School.

    For all CPS’s problems I’m inclined to sympathy, since they’re being asked to compensate for a host of social and public policy problems.

  20. - The Flox - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:48 am:

    Positive motives aside, Mayor Emanuel is engaged in union busting measures by unilaterally imposing changes in hours and working conditions in violation of negotiated contracts. Target today is the CPS and next in the crosshairs will be police, fire and building trades. It is no secret the mayor shares similar opinions of public employee bargaining as the Wisconsin governor and others caught in financial crunches.

  21. - so... - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 11:56 am:

    “**I cannot take Lewis seriously based on her appearance. She looks unkept.**


    Karen Lewis is not an effective leader for CTU in this PR battle they are in.

    Part of it is her personality. She’s combative, abrasive and just does not come off as a nice person.

    Now, I do not know Ms. Lewis personally, maybe in person she’s perfectly wonderful. But the impression I get from reading about her in the paper and seeing her on TV is not a good one. Perceptions like that matter, especially in PR battles where you are arguing against the prevailing public opinion.

  22. - The Flox - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 12:01 pm:

    Carol Marin’s giggling over Rahm’s repeated use of a synonym for friggin’ is puzzling after her outrage and Rich Miller’s distraught thoughts and breast beating of a daffy governor using the same expression in a conversation with pals. I’m fxxxxxxg angry by the hypocrisy.

  23. - mokenavince - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 12:20 pm:

    Rahm is a equal opportunity swearer . Live with it.Rev.Jakes should take on rapper’s and hip-hop
    artists who really degrade women.Karen Lewis looks
    like she can hold her own with out the Rev. or anyone else.

  24. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 12:30 pm:

    dave, believe it or not, appearance is important. It is not fair, but this is life. Her sense of style is a distraction to her cause.

  25. - shore - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 12:44 pm:

    From afar I think the previous commenter on her appearance is wrong, we don’t hear that amount men. I have no dog in this fight and am no fan of either the mayor or the union, but I think the latter has done a miserable job in making its case. This woman is a horrible messenger. In the interviews I’ve seen her do she comes off as tone deaf, arrogant and pushy with a message that essentially amounts to just give us our money damnit. They need a major course correction.

  26. - Fed up - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 1:45 pm:

    Hmmm , I agree with Rahm about the longer school day but he has shown hisself to be a crass bully. I think Chicago will wear tired of this tyrant very soon. I bet Rahm wouldn’t allow a streets and San worker or cop to talk to someone like that without some discipline.

  27. - truthman - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 2:39 pm:

    Chicago School Teachers:

    Short School Year
    Short School Day
    Poor Test Results

    Thank you Chicago Teachers Union.

  28. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 3:05 pm:

    ===Her sense of style is a distraction to her cause. ===

    I’d be curious to know what you think of Mother Jones’ fashion stle.

  29. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Wednesday, Sep 14, 11 @ 6:33 pm:

    Apologize in advance for the length …

    Longer hours, in and of themselves, won’t make any significant difference. Dedicated teachers can, the ones that still are willing to try to teach.

    Any public school system, including CPS, has problems because they have to try to educate everyone from various socioeconomic and cultural (for lack of a better word) strata with what is basically one set of rules. Using the tracking approach can make a difference for the students put in the “higher” tracks but all they are really doing is segregating the students according to their achievement (notice, I said achievement, not ability). So called magnet schools also get a lot of their results by self-segregating by achievement.

    As any teacher can tell you, the root cause and solution is in the home. Students who have parental involvement do better regardless of their socioeconomic standing or overall cultural attitude on education. If the parents believe in education, their kids will learn.

    Work rules also affect the outcome. Being unable to remove disruptive students from classrooms just lets the minority prevent everyone else from learning. (As a former student) Catholic schools have their faults but one thing they got right was discipline; if you were a disruptive force you were gone.

    Vouchers for every student might, repeat, might be a solution. However, that statement also contains a number of assumptions.

    First, that there are enough “good” schools to accept everyone who wants to attend them. In the public educational system, magnet schools are an example of voucher schools … but only a few number of students manage to source the limited number of seats.

    Second, that the parent using the voucher is really trying to get a better education for their child and not just trying to move them to a perceived “safer/better” school. And that the parent will invest the time and energy to help their child succeed at the new school.

    Finally, there is the whole issue of transportation to the voucher school. For example, downstate, because there are not Catholic high schools in every town, at their own expense people drive their kids to schools as much as 40 or 50 miles away. Not everyone has the resources to do that … so how do we address that issue?

    Reforming the school system is a never ending job. My grandfather got involved in that about 80 years ago; he managed to get some things improved but not everything he wanted (primarily to get the public schools modeled more after the more successful Catholic system). We’ve been “reforming” the school system for that long … but we have to less to show for it today than we did then …

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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