Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.
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In the News: Aldermen want charter moratorium
A group of aldermen is calling for a moratorium on new charter schools starting in 2014 in Chicago, arguing it doesn't make sense to add new charter seats at a time the city is considering closing public schools that don't have enough students, the Tribune reports.
TARGETED FOR CLOSURE: The Chicago Teachers Union called the 129 schools still on the list for possible closure an "unprecedented attack [that] targets only schools in Black and Latino neighborhoods—especially the ones in which resources are few."
PARING DOWN: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, announcing that she has officially shaved the school closing list by agreeing to some of the recommendations of the Commission on School Utilization and taking heed of the feedback at community meetings, said she used nine criteria to remove schools, including ones that are high-achieving, have more than 600 students and are more than a mile from another school that can accept them. (Catalyst)
CLEVELAND AND CHICAGO: "The entire Cleveland school district, which Barbara Byrd-Bennett led, is smaller than the CPS closings list." (@SethLevin)
CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The day before Chicago Public Schools was set to release the list of schools in danger of closing, a group of parents asked the CPS Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools to investigate the district’s closing process. Parents 4 Teachers, which has strong ties to the Chicago Teachers Union, filed a complaint alleging conflict of interest, saying the district is motivated to close schools not by a budget deficit but by a desire to expand charter schools. (ctu.net)
WEST SIDE VOWS TO FIGHT: Residents of the West Side, where 16 elementary schools now must make the case they should not be closed in June, vowed not to give up the fight. “No schools closing,” “save our schools,” shouted folks from the Austin-North Lawndale network who were crowded into the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ. (Sun-Times)
FINES FOR CHARTERS: The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund is seeking a change in state law that would expand the number of charter school teachers who are required to participate, and also allow the fund to levy steep fines on charter schools that are late in handing over teachers’ payments toward pension savings. (Catalyst)
LIFE AND DEATH AT HARPER HIGH: This weekend and next, Feb. 15-17 and Feb. 22-24, the public radio show "This American Life" will devote two full episodes to the violence affecting Harper High School in Chicago. Last school year, 29 current and recent Harper students were shot. Twenty-one were wounded; eight died. The special episodes begin airing the same day President Obama travels to Chicago to talk about urban gun violence. (thisamericanlife.org)
IN THE NATION
VOCABULARY REQUIREMENTS: Children who enter kindergarten with a small vocabulary don't get taught enough words—particularly, sophisticated academic words—to close the gap, according to the latest in a series of studies by Michigan early-learning experts. (Education Week)
PRESCHOOL CRITICS: While supporters herald President Obama’s plan to extend preschool, critics argue that providing universal access could result in federal money being squandered on ineffective programs. (The New York Times)