Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union thumbs nose at proposed 20% raise

The Chicago Teachers Union made headlines a few months ago when it was revealed that the union was demanding a 30 percent raise in its new contract proposal.

Such an enormous raise – regardless of the supposed justification – would be unthinkable in a district with a $665 million budget deficit and a 9.8 percent unemployment rate.

The school board countered with an offer of a two percent raise, which would still be a burden on the district’s overstretched budget.

As a result, both the CTU and Chicago Public Schools requested an “independent” fact finder to look at both sides’ proposals and suggest some sort of compromise.

This morning, the fact finder is expected to release his report, which calls for a 15-20 percent raise for CTU members in the first year of the contract, according to the Chicago Tribune.

And the union is expected to reject that recommendation.

Thumbing its nose at a massive raise – which incidentally has no relationship to job performance – will likely not be received well in a community that is enduring some of the worst unemployment rates in the country.

The Tribune reports:

“The Chicago Teachers Union had gone into negotiations asking for a wage increase of nearly 30 percent over two years. Sources said the union realizes that the price of a major pay hike in terms of lost jobs and working conditions would be too high.

“Union officials now face the task of explaining to members why it would reject a salary increase that is less than they asked for but significantly higher than the 2 percent first-year raise CPS initially offered.”

Sources tell that the union will be assembling its leaders Wednesday to formally accept or reject the fact finders report. At that meeting, it will also likely set a date to strike.

Why won’t the union schedule a vote of members to see how they feel about a 15-20 percent raise. My guess is that they would jump on it, but union leaders are not asking their opinion. They seem determined to go out on strike, probably just as school is set to begin in September.

Just for the record, the students of Chicago were never mentioned in the Tribune report about the labor talks. This is further proof that in union schools, they are frequently treated as afterthoughts while the adults fight over money.

And I thought schools existed for children. Silly me


Towns that still have grammar schools top the table when it comes to getting pupils to Oxbridge

Regions that still have grammar schools are significantly more likely to send sixth-formers to elite universities than areas that went comprehensive.

Official figures published yesterday for the first time reveal stark differences across England in teenagers' chances of attending Oxford, Cambridge and other universities in the prestigious Russell Group.

More than one in seven sixth-forms at state schools and colleges - 330 - failed to send a single teenager to a leading university in 2009/10. More than 40 of these had at least 100 A-level students.

Nearly two-thirds of sixth-forms failed to get any pupils into Oxford or Cambridge.

But areas with grammar schools dominated a list of the local authorities sending most pupils to leading universities - despite accounting for less than a quarter of councils nationally.

Reading, which has two grammar schools, sent seven per cent of all sixth-formers to Oxbridge and 28 per cent to a Russell Group university.

Sutton, which has several grammars, sent three per cent of A-level students to Oxbridge and 23 per cent to another leading university.

Other selective or partially selective authorities which sent large proportions of pupils to elite universities include Buckinghamshire, Trafford, Barnet, Wirral, Torbay, Bournemouth, Kingston-upon-Thames and Liverpool.

Nine of the top 11 areas for sending pupils to Oxbridge have grammars, and eight out of 12 for sending pupils to any Russell Group university.

Some grammars in these areas draw pupils from a wide area but experts last night said the figures still raised questions over the provision for bright children in many comprehensives.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the dominance of selective authorities was 'striking'.

'It's plain as a pikestaff that in many of those areas where they bring bright kids together at 11, they are getting higher qualifications and going to top universities.

'There are advantages in getting really bright people together in the same schools.

'They can spark off each other and there will be a concentration of good teachers. These teachers clearly know the route into Oxbridge and the other Russell Group universities.'

Professor Smithers recently published a report warning that the country was neglecting its brightest pupils due to failures by successive governments to cater properly for gifted children following the scrapping of most grammars beginning in the mid-60s.

'If you want to increase social mobility you need to be able to identify the bright children and ensure a good education for them,' he said.

'Under our present approach, those bright kids run the risk of getting isolated in a school which is essentially about other things, so they don't realise their potential.'

Education Secretary Michael Gove has allowed existing grammars to set up satellites in neighbouring towns but has ruled out new schools, instead concentrating his efforts on making exams more rigorous and improving the calibre of teachers.

Data published yesterday - which excludes private schools - gives parents a breakdown of the paths taken by pupils after they have left state schools and colleges, including whether they went to university, further education colleges or apprenticeships.

Ministers hope the information, available on the Department for Education website, will make it easier for parents choose a secondary school.

The figures showed that four schools and colleges in England did not send any pupils to university in 2009/10, although they all had small numbers of candidates.

These were Tividale Community Arts College, John Madejski Academy, Avon Valley College and Handsworth Wood Girls' Visual and Performing Arts Specialist College.

A total of 330 schools and colleges out of 2,164 which entered pupils for A-levels or equivalent qualifications, did not send any students to a Russell Group university.

In addition, 1,395, 64.5 per cent, did not send any youngsters to Oxford or Cambridge.

Between them, these two universities, considered to be the best in the country, have around 6,700 places for undergraduates each year.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: 'There is still a postcode lottery in the UK when it comes to education. Unfortunately where you live still makes a difference on how you get on in life.

'We cannot afford to have areas in the country where it is unheard of for people to go to Oxford and Cambridge.'

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: 'The most important factor in whether pupils are able to apply successfully to leading universities is whether or not they achieve the right grades.

'Entry to all our universities is very competitive for many courses and places are limited so these figures should be seen in that context.'

The figures also showed how authorities with relatively high levels of poverty, such as Tower Hamlets and Brent in London, confounded expectations and still sent large numbers of pupils to university.

Schools minister Lord Hill said: 'It is interesting to see how well some local authorities in more deprived areas, and some schools and colleges in those authorities, do in terms of students going to our best universities, compared to those in other parts of the country.'


British boy smashed with golf club not teacher’s fault, judge rules

A schoolboy who was awarded damages after being hit in the face by a golf club during a PE lesson has been stripped of his £21,000 payout after judges ruled that it was “impossible” for teachers to keep a constant eye on all pupils.

Samuel Hammersley Gonsalves, an outstanding cross-country runner, was 11 when his teeth were smashed and jawbone broken in an accident during a golf lesson at the sports academy he attended, Laurence Jackson Secondary School, on Teesside.

Samuel, now 16, of Guisborough, North Yorks, sued the local authority, Redcar and Cleveland council, through his father, Thomas Gonsalves, claiming his PE teacher, Mike Fowle, had failed to supervise the 22 boys adequately during the lesson.

He was awarded £21,000 damages at Middlesbrough County Court in November last year, after Judge Peter Cuthbertson ruled that the teacher had been negligent in failing to keep every pupil in the “crocodile” of boys in his line of sight.

However, the finding was overturned yesterday after Lord Justice Pill, sitting in the Appeal Court in London, said teachers “cannot be expected to see every action of every pupil” in their care, or face negligence claims.

Christopher Williams, for the family, said Samuel was hit accidentally in the face by another pupil with a club as the class made their way out to the school field for their golf lesson. Mr Fowle was at the back of the line of 22 boys and, on Judge Cuthbertson’s finding, had not seen the incident happen. Mr Williams argued that Judge Cuthbertson was right to find the teacher negligent and said the original ruling should stand.

Daniel Edwards, for the council, told the court that the decision placed “an unrealistic burden” on schools and teachers. “One teacher cannot possibly keep 22 pupils in direct sight at all times,” he said. “He could walk in a crab-like style up and down the line constantly turning his head from side to side, but some pupils would still be out of sight at some times. It simply cannot be done.”

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Lord Justice Rimer and Lady Justice Black, upheld the council’s appeal.

He said: “However observant the teacher is, and however careful the lookout he is keeping, he cannot be expected to see every action of 22 boys walking in a crocodile fashion.” He added: “One feels sympathy for a boy who received the unpleasant injury without any fault on his part. However the appellants cannot be held responsible for what happened.”

Mr Gonsalves said after the ruling that the family would have to spend £30,000 on dental reconstruction work for his son. He added: “He hasn’t competed in any sports since the accident, to this day.”


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