CPS Debt Downgraded

A leading bond-rating agency has downgraded the Chicago Board of Education’s debt in the wake of the settlement of the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s recent strike.

Moody’s Investor Service had already downgraded the Chicago Public Schools’ bond rating outlook to “negative” from stable in July, and cited Thursday the rating agency’s “view that the district will be hard-pressed to make the budget adjustments necessary to close an estimated $1 billion budget gap for fiscal 2014.

The schools’ downgrade to an A2 rating “reflects a weakened financial profile” born of depletion of reserves, a coming jump in pension payments after three years in which state law was changed to reduce the payments temporarily, slow payment of state money–and the recent strike, Moody’s said in a release.”If progress is not made toward improving the financial condition and liquidity of district operating funds, or if challenges arise in making the required pension contributions, the district’s general obligation credit quality will be impaired,” according to the release.

Strikes by other unions, more delays in state funding or “unmanageable” increases in pension costs could result in further ratings downgrades, Moody’s warned.

A spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools wasn’t immediately available to comment on the downgrade.

via Chicago Tribune.

CPS is falling apart.  The biggest losers here are the poor families generally on the South and West sides that have no other options for their children.  It’s the false choice of failing CPS school A or failing CPS school B.

Rahm caved.  He owns this.  Epic fail.

Wealthy Donors Work to Improve Schools

The union and HuffPo object:

Stand for Children is a non-profit education reform group advocating for the inclusion of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, charter schools and decreased teacher union power. Over the past three years, the group’s political action committee has raised more than $4 million and doled out more than $1 million to politicians, political parties and other political committees in Chicago and around Illinois. That’s more than double the $460,000 the Chicago Teachers Union PAC has given to political campaigns and other committees over the same period of time. While contributions from the Illinois Federation of Teachers bring the two sides into closer competition, much of IFT’s contributions went to a Supreme Court race in 2010.

via HoffPo.

It’s bizarre to me how anyone can get behind the current union, CPS model.  It’s so clearly failing.  …  Well maybe what we have is a tale of two school systems — one that services the middle-class on the North and Northwest Sides and South Loop, and another that dooms the poor kids on the South and West sides to lives in poverty.  But that’s a topic for another post.

What we have is CTU standing in the way of progress.  They don’t want teachers to be accountable for anything.  When 79% of 8th graders are not proficient in reading and Karen Lewis says, “Give us more money” and “You can’t evaluate teachers” the message is clear that she, a/k/a the union, have no interest in teaching… only the money for even the worst of the worst.

CTU Deal Will Lead to School Closings & Layoffs

Four years of up-to-the-limit property tax increases for Chicago homeowners and businesses. Closing scores of under-enrolled and underperforming schools. Thousands of layoffs of teachers and other school staff. More cuts to the central office.

That’s what could await the Chicago Public Schools, thanks to the tentative agreement between teachers and the district that is expected to put an end to the five-day teachers strike.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said the 16 percent pay raise included in the tentative agreement will almost certainly trigger massive layoffs and scores of school closings.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

Well Duh!

This comes as a surprise to no one.  What did CTU think was going to happen when you have a broke and bankrupt system giving 16% raises to it’s staff?  You balance the budget by having less staff.

This is just like the minimum wage discussion:  If the minimum wage was $25/hour there would be fewer people working… not more.  And the price of your hamburger and groceries would be 20-50% higher.

When you artificially increase wages in the private sector you get inflation.  When you artificially increase wages in the public sector you get a bankrupt public sector.

Chicago Teachers Fear Wave of School Closings

Striking Chicago teachers fear that once they approve a new contract with the school district and end their strike, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will go ahead with dozens of school closings because of falling enrollment and poor academic performance.

via Reuters.

Really?  Well what do they think the mayor should do when the city is shrinking and budgets are in the red and the students are failing?

The union’s position is ‘just keep giving us more and more money to achieve less and less.’  It’s unsustainable.

Epic fail.

Where I Agree With the Teachers

On the fourth day of the teachers’ strike, protesters targeted school board member Penny Pritzker, whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain.

At 3:30 p.m., thousands of demonstrators dressed in red gathered outside the Hyatt Regency Chicago, at 151 E. Wacker Dr., protesting the $5.2 million in TIF money the city provided for a new Hyatt hotel in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Around 4 p.m., they began marching south on Michigan Avenue toward the South Loop.

Protesters said the TIF money spent on the Hyatt in Hyde Park would have been better used to improve schools in the neighborhood, and avoid budget cuts that have hurt the local schools.

via CBS Chicago.

Indeed, the TIF system in broken and the law needs to be repealed in Springfield.  Of that there can be no argument.

But let’s look at this for just a second…

$5.2 million for the new Hyatt.  26,000 CPS teachers.

That’s $200 per teacher.  That would be an average salary increase of 0.000026% for each teacher FOR ONE YEAR.

And that my friends is why unions suck.  They will keep the kids on the street fighting over mice nuts.  For all their fancy “for the children” rhetoric it’s really about draining every last nickel from the taxpayer.


Inner City Kids and a Catholic School

God Bless John Kass:

When Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis led her members out on strike this week, she said real school would be closed.

“Negotiations have been intense but productive,” she said. “However, we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. Real school will not be open (Monday).”

Real school? You mean that public system where four of 10 students don’t graduate?

Since real school wasn’t open, I was compelled to visit an unreal school.A South Side school where 100 percent of the students graduate, and 100 percent are accepted to college. A Roman Catholic all-boys school that draws from poor and working-class neighborhoods, a school where there are no cops or metal detectors, no gang recruitment, no fear.

An unreal school that is mostly black, but with a smattering of whites and Latinos, and where every student who sees a stranger in the halls goes up to the newcomer, introduces himself, shakes his hand, looks him in the eye and calls him Mister.

via Chicago Tribune.

It is unethical and criminal that our children are forced into failing schools when they have the real opportunity to have an excellent education.  Vouchers would make real Obama’s rhetoric of every child having a fair chance.

Kass exposes the reality of the situation:  this has nothing to due with educating children… it’s about politics.

For shame.


Teachers’ Unions vs. Children

When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.
— Albert Shanker, former president of the United Federation of Teachers

I wrote about this before, how the truth is that CTU, WEAC, and all other teacher’s unions have a fiduciary duty to the union members.  The union cannot do anything which would advance the interests of non-members (i.e. children) to the detriment of the members (i.e. teachers.)

This is a very simple legal principle that most educated people easily understand.

Of course there’s the greater philosophical discussion that should take place as to whether of not unions of government employees are to anyone’s benefit.

The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.
— F.D. Roosevelt, in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees

The idea being that when private sector employees collectively bargain they can overplay their hand only to their own detriment as well and to the detriment of their employer.  Another company will be the beneficiary of the higher wages (and cost of goods/services) of the first.  This is not true in government where there is no competition.

Anyone seeking more and more from the public coffers should be considered with extreme skepticism.

Chicago Teachers Union: It’s About Children Greed

According to the Chicago Tribune key issues separating Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union:

SALARIES AND BENEFITS. The district offered 16 percent increase over four years and “modified step increases that both reward experience and provide better incentives for mid-career teachers.” The union said it’s closer on pay but is still concerned about rising health care costs and other benefits. Teachers sought a substantial raise in the contract’s first year because of the longer day and want to keep raises for experience.

This is insane.  There is no one in the private sector who’s planning on seeing a 16% increase in their income over the next four years.  Plus these people make tons of money already!

A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said average pay for teachers, without benefits, is $76,000.

via CBS Chicago.

The average family in the city only earns $47,000 a year.  Considering a regular school term of 40 weeks, at 6.25 hours per day…. The way I figure that’s $76,000.00 / (6.25 * 200)  = $60.80 / hour.  Plus they get benefits — excellent benefits.

So what we have is a group of people who on average make over $60/hour — the highest paid teachers in the nation — and are complaining about it.

Next issue:

JOB SECURITY. The union has pushed for a system to recall teachers who have been laid off when new openings occur. This has become important because of rumors the district plans to close up to 100 schools in coming years. The district says teachers displaced by school closings will be eligible for a job at new schools if there is a vacancy — or may elect to take a three-month severance.

I got some news for the CTU:  CPS is dying.   For the second year in a row, CPS is taking the maximum possible increase to property taxes permitted by law.  Further, Chicago is shrinking and here.

There is no job security when you’re product is crappy & overpriced.  People do not want to live in a place where they’re taxed to death to fund under-performing public schools.  At CPS just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and only 56 percent of students who enter their freshman year of high school wind up graduating.  If you want job security you need to excel at what you do… not completely suck at it.

Next Issue:

TEACHER EVALUATIONS. The union wants to lower how much student performance contributes to evaluations. CPS has said the new evaluation system, created in collaboration with teachers, was negotiated and settled in March under state law.

I happen to know a few people who are tight with a couple of principals in the CPS system.  The first things they will tell you is that it is impossible to get rid of a bad teacher.  Everyone knows this.  So to improve schools CPS and CTU sat down and came up with a system to evaluate teachers back in March.  Now, CTU has decided that it doesn’t like the system it already agreed to.

Not only is the Teachers’ Union is specifically fighting to keep bad teachers in the classroom but it breaking a promise it already made.

– – –

The only possible explanation for all this is that CTU cares very very little about education.  There is no talk about reducing class sizes, getting new blackboards, reimbursement for further education, or improving safety in the schools.  Nope.  It’s all about money & clout.  Money & clout.  Protecting their own at all costs.

CTU is nothing but a bunch of bullies.  Rahm should treat them as such.

IL Pension Hole Analysis

I wrote this a few weeks ago as a comment on a retired teacher’s blog.  The post there was about how we need to “tax the rich” in order to fund the teachers’ pensions.  I was asked to comment on the post by a retired teacher I know.  Analysis follows:

There is no one sided solution to this problem. Perhaps if Springfield moved on this a decade ago it could be solved with “funding” but at this time both sides are going to have to give.

According to Crain’s Illinois’ unfunded pension liabilities are $86 billion. See: http://jamesbosco.com/2012/06/19/illinois-pensions-are-the-worst/

According to the Il Dept. of Revenue there were 36,682 returns filed in the state with over $500,000 in AGI. These returns paid $1,633,991,633. See: http://www.revenue.state.il.us/AboutIdor/TaxStats/2010/IIT-NetIncome-2010-Preliminary.pdf

If we (a/k/a Illinois) doubled the tax on these folks with AGI over $500k we could bring in an extra $1.63B assuming no one flees the state (which would happen.) So doubling the tax on “the rich” would cover 1.9% of the current pension liabilities.

If we quadrupled the tax that would cover less than 7.6% of the current pension liabilities. So it would take over 13 years of quadruple taxation on those making over $500k per year just to get current pension liabilities square. This would not cover the additional debt.

Union members can sit around pointing fingers but it’s not going to solve the problem. Illinois is broke. Everyone’s going to have to give more than they want. Of course, the “rich” can always move to Indiana or Wisconsin. Then they contribute nothing; that doesn’t help retired teachers one bit. So I recommend that you be careful what you wish for.

– – –

We cannot solve our problem by eating the rich.  We must grow the size of the pie. … Well, growth and inflation.

Tale of Two Missions

Absolutely amazing piece of work about Chicago’s failing schools.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmnFQkD0Eg0]

I have considerable new found respect for Mr. Williams after seeing this.  I always thought we was railroaded out of NPR unfairly.  But I also thought he was a little light intellectually.  Whatever his faults (and we all have faults) it’s clear he cares about the children and wants to make things better.  Kudos.