Posted tagged ‘Chicago Public Schools’

CTU Election 5/21

May 19, 2010

We’re down to the final two days before the Chicago teachers get to choose between business as usual union politics where we throw money at politicians and hope they save us and movement style union politics where we save ourselves.   If you have been following my sporadic postings since October you know that I took Howard Zinn’s advice and joined up with a social movement.   As a teacher, the thing that was most important to me was education and naturally that’s where I went.  I can’t tell you how CORE has impressed me in this time.   While the other caucuses seem exactly one person deep–maybe two—CORE has 20 or 30.

I talk about CORE a bit differently than most.   You see, since I didn’t join until October I was able to pick a caucus that felt like they would take the union where it needed to go.   Since, I joined I’ve seen CORE’s partnerships with Teachers for Social Justice, Chicago Youth Initiating Change, and a host of community organizations.   We have something developing here and I’d ordinarily be quite content if we lost the election to sit back and continue to let the movement germinate, but who knows what will be left of the union or the city’s schools if another caucus wins—especially UPC.

The CORE Slate

Karen Lewis – She’s a firebrand.   She reminds me a bit of my sister.   Most of the time she’s pretty laid back and easygoing, but let her talk about education and she lights up.   She makes such an eloquent spokesperson for the teachers and students of the Chicago Public Schools.   It’s about time we had a CTU President that we can watch on Chicago Tonight without cringing.

Jesse Sharkey – He’s the perfect counterpoint to Karen.  I see him at CORE meetings with his young son and I see not only a great feather, but also a guy who really knows how to organize his time.   He’s a very effective speaker as well who was quite effective during the city council hearing on school turnarounds.

Kristine Mayle – I blogged about Kristine on the last day before going into work this year.   I was shocked to find out the next day that she would be working with me.  She reminds me of a turn of the 20th century labor leader.  She is so polished and well-spoken.  She also seems to be a font of endless stamina.  She made it to every school closing hearing 2 years ago and most of them this year.

Michael Brunson – Michael is fun.  He’s a former boxer and a second career teacher who is extremely gentle and charming, but like you might expect there’s a fighter there.   He’ll be smiling and you never see the jab coming.

I could go on and on.   This is an organization that is passionate about public education.   Check us out at http://www.coreteachers.com.   If you are a Chicago Public Schools teacher I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you educate yourself and make up your own mind.   I’m looking forward to Friday when the votes are cast, but I’m also nervous as all get out.

The House That Ron Huberman Bought

May 11, 2010

The budget belt is tightening in Chicago and the schools are getting squeezed.   Schools will be shoe horn  35 students into a room and many teachers will be losing their jobs, but cheer up because the education business isn’t bleak for everybody.  CPS head Ron Huberman just bought a new $900,000 house.   According to several real estate sites, “LUXURY & ALMOST NEW CONSTRUCTION “GEM” IN THE HEART OF LINCOLN SQUARE! 5 BED/3.1BATH ON XTRA WIDE LOT. CHEF’S KIT W/ VIKING SS APPLIANCES, HUGE ISLAND, CHERRY CABS & EAT-IN KITCHEN+FAM ROOM! HOME FEATURES BRAZILIAN CHERRY HWFS, 3 FIREPLACES, 2 WET BARS, 8 FT SOLID CHERRY DOORS, CRWN MOLDING, 2 W/ D HOOKUP UP & DWN, SECUR/SOUND READY. HUGE DECK OVER GARAGE!WALK 2 PARKS, TRANS & STARBUCKS.”

Now, as schools are being asked to cram 35 students in the room, a little controversy has erupted because the fire code requires 20 square feet per student.   Isn’t it great to know that if Ron wanted to have a teacher hold class in his living room, you could legally seat 20 students in the spacious 18×23 room.  In fact, you could fit another 15 students in the master bathroom.   The house has 3 fireplaces and a whirpool.   The house, which is located at 2031 W. Wilson is in addition to the $400,000  condominium that Huberman has not yet put on the market.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Rob Huberman’s spacious new home where the man at the top of CPS can stretch out and let the stresses of the day float away.  For lifestyles of the rich and clueless, here’s wishing you cafeteria pizza wishes and dry erase dreams.

Bedroom Information

  • # of Bedrooms (Above Grade): 5

Bedroom #3

  • Size: 22X12
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Living Room

  • Size: 18X23
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Additional Rooms

  • Family Room
  • Gallery/Foyer
  • Recreation
  • Utility/Laundry Room (1st Floor)
  • Utility/Laundry Room (2nd Floor)
  • Has Basement
  • Full Basement
  • Finished Basement

Additional Room #3

  • Laundry Room
  • Size: 8X14
  • On Lower Level
  • Ceramic Tile Flooring

Equipment

  • Oven/Range
  • Microwave
  • Dishwasher
  • Refrigerator
  • Disposal
  • Humidifier
  • Security System
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Ceiling Fan
  • Whole House Fan
  • Sump Pump

Utility Information

  • Water: Lake Michigan
  • Water: Public
  • Sewer (Public)

Property Features

  • Deck
  • Porch
  • Bar (Wet)

Property Information

  • # of Rooms: 11
  • Ownership: Fee Simple
  • Listing Agent Must Accompany
  • Foreclosure
  • Parcel Identification Number: 14181280020000

Listing Information

  • Possession: Closing
  • Holds Earnest Money: No
  • Foreclosed
  • Seller Concessions: No

Master Bedroom

  • Has Master Bath
  • Size: 22X14
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Bedroom #4

  • Size: 12X12
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Dining Room

  • Combined with Living Room
  • Size: COMBO
  • On Main Level

Additional Room #1

  • Bedroom #5
  • Size: 14X12
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Additional Room #4

  • Pantry
  • Size: 6X5
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Fireplace Information

  • # of Fireplaces: 3
  • In Family Room
  • In Living Room
  • In Basement
  • Wood Burning
  • Attached Fireplace Doors/Screen
  • Gas Logs
  • Gas Starter

Parking Information

  • # of Cars: 2
  • Garage
  • Side Apron
  • Detached Garage
  • 1.5 Car Garage
  • 2 Car Garage
  • Automatic Garage Door Opener(s)
  • On-Site Garage
  • Side Driveway
  • Heated Driveway
  • Other Driveway

Lot Information

  • Less Than .25 Acre
  • Dimensions: 37 X 110

Financial Information

  • Tax: $7,297.11
  • Tax Year: 2008
  • Finance Code: Conventional

Bedroom #2

  • Size: 10X11
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Bathroom Information

  • Master Bath (Full)
  • Whirlpool
  • Separate Shower
  • Bathroom(s) in Basement

Kitchen

  • Eating Area (Table Space)
  • Island
  • Pantry (Butler)
  • Size: 22X23
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Additional Room #2

  • Recreation Room
  • Size: 18X24
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Additional Room #5

  • Foyer
  • Size: 4X9
  • On Main Level
  • Other Flooring

Heating & Cooling

  • Gas Heating
  • Central Air Conditioning

Building Information

  • Age: 1-5 Years
  • Aluminum/Vinyl/Steel Siding
  • Concrete Foundation
  • Wood Shake/Shingle Roof

J.P. Morgan Chase Anounces Plans to Launder Tax Payer Money

May 5, 2010

The Chicago Public Schools are facing a financial crisis.  Now, all the evidence points to this being a largely manufactured crisis to pry concessions from their employees and dollars from the state.  One thing is certain and that is that $250 million dollars that should be going to the Chicago Public Schools have been siphoned off this year from property taxes for Mayor Daley’s TIF fund.  This fund is basically his personal nest egg to spend where he sees fit.

One of the beneficiaries of this program is J.P. Morgan Chase.  Now, the use of the TIF fund is generally kept hush hush, but in December of last year, the developer of the $100 million Cabrini-Green redevelopment found himself unable to pay back a construction loan from J.P. Morgan Chase and the city came to the rescue so that he would not have to default on the loan.   The amount that J.P. Morgan Chase made on this deal was in excess of $8,000,000.

J.P. Morgan Chase, which is no stranger to corporate welfare has partnered with the city on a large number of projects using TIF funds and has benefited enormously.  Whether we’re talking about the $50 million Wilson Yard Project or sweetheart deals with individual alderman.   The big question though is what is J.P. Morgan Chase doing with that money that should have been directed to public school students in Chicago?  I’m glad you asked.

Today, J.P. Morgan Chase announced that they would be setting up a $325 million dollar program to fund charter schools.  In the ultimate indignity, public school students are now subsidizing charter schools with J.P. Morgan Chase basically serving as middle man.   With up to 300,000 public school teachers expected to lose their jobs next year and many others making big salary concessions it may be very tempting to live off the credit card a little.   If you are a teacher and you do have to do that, I just hope it’s not a Chase credit card.

Solving Chicago’s Billion Dollar School Debt

February 28, 2010

The French Market benefited greatly from TIF money

About a decade ago, my financial outlook was really bleak.  I had gone back to school and financed a middle class lifestyle on a part-time retail job selling comic books and credit cards.   The result was between student loans and credit, I owed about $36,000.   I dug my way out of the big hole in a couple of ways.  I traded in a life insurance policy that was no longer needed and picked up a quick $4,000 that was immediately spent paying down the debt.  I stopped using my credit card and I paid cash for everything.  I set a budget for everything I spent and I started saving for things a year ahead of time.   Christmas savings began December 26th and I was able to cover vacations and big expenses without using the credit card.  I brought down my debt despite paying for a master’s degree because I really took a look at my books and saw where I was wasting money.   That was the key to spending cash.

There’s now a big battle brewing in Chicago because Ron Huberman has announced that the schools are nearly a billion dollars in debt.   Teachers are outraged because this story is right on the tail of a Tribune report showing that Huberman had not one, but two company cars.   Taxpayers are outraged because they feel that the district went into debt paying for the teachers.  They’re both wrong.

Thanks to Renaissance 2010 and the inept inaction of the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s Marilyn Stewart administration, there are now less than 30,000 members in the Chicago Teacher’s union.   That means if every teacher in the city took a $30,000 pay cut you still couldn’t pay off the debt.  There’s also the issue of pension.  As the Tribune put it, “The pension’s status is the result of many factors. A steep market decline, a large chunk of new retirees and years of the district making no contribution at all have left it about 74 percent funded. State law requires the pension to be funded at 90 percent, and the district is now facing steep payment increases to catch up.”

It’s hard to blame pension costs for the budget when you haven’t been paying your contribution.  Likewise, Ron Huberman doesn’t have a one billion dollar car.   What he does have is an awful lot of people that he brought over from the CTA that he is now paying over $120,000 a year too.   Bureaucratic waste has skyrocketed during the Huberman administration.

Ben Jovarsky from Chicago’s best investigative newspaper The Reader comes up with much better places for the budget axe to fall, “Huberman and his aides also might want to look at cutting back on contracts to outside vendors (about $696.6 million has been set aside for that) and trimming a few of the extraneous central office divisions, like the Office of Autonomy. I’m not sure who it’s autonomous from—certainly not Huberman or Mayor Daley—but it has seven employees and an annual budget of $1.4 million.   …. And then of course there are the …TIF slush funds controlled by the mayor, which aren’t itemized on property tax bills. Last year alone, the TIFs siphoned about $250 million in property tax dollars out of CPS’s supposed share.”

So assuming Huberman could cut 30% of the budget on outside contractors and the central office tightens its staffing and Daley gives back the TIF money I think we can safely project about $500,000 in savings.   The rest can come from one simple item in the budget.   As CORE member Xian Barrett pointed out when speaking to Operation PUSH this year, “Look at CPS’ own budget which this year boasts a $422 million increase in ‘Other Charges’.”

Of course this is Chicago we’re talking about.   The latest rumor I heard was that they would ask teachers to work 15 days without pay and give them one week of paid vacation instead of two.   This is basically a 10% salary cut.  A 10% salary cut should cover about half of the money that Daley has deprived the schools of through his TIF scheme.  How has that money been used?  According to Jovarsky, “n recent years, the CDC has approved $35 million in TIF money to help United Airlines move into new offices downtown, $6 million to help MillerCoors do the same, $8 million to lure the French Market to the Ogilvie Transportation Center.”  I guess a city needs to have priorities.