Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chicago School Leaders Don’t Know How They’re Going to Pay for the New Contract!

The successful business leaders that sit on the Chicago Board of Education must have checked their brains at the door when they went into the negotiating room with the teachers union. How else could they possibly negotiate a contract that the school district can’t possibly afford?

Truth be told, if board member Penny Pritzker’s Hyatt Hotels operated that way, they’d be out of business. But, alas, this is government. They strike deals with unions and figure out how taxpayers will fund it later.

Reuters tells us:

“Chicago public school teachers returned to their classrooms on Wednesday but thorny questions remained over how Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the cash-strapped school system will pay for the tentative contract that ended a strike of more than a week.

“The three-year contract, which has an option for a fourth year and which awaits a ratification vote by the 29,000-member Chicago Teachers Union, calls for an average 17.6 percent pay raise over four years and some benefit improvements.

“Average teacher pay is now about $76,000 a year, according to the district, which pegged the annual cost of the new contract at $74 million a year, or $295 million over four years.

“The $5.16 billion fiscal 2013 budget approved by Chicago Board of Education last month closed a $665 million deficit by draining reserves and levying property taxes at a maximum rate, while also slashing administrative and operational spending.”

Let’s see: historically high pay, depleted reserves, maxed-out tax rates…so what does the board negotiate? A 17.6 percent raise and benefit improvements! Hyatt Hotels may go bankrupt operating that way, but this is government!

The likeliest solution would be to slim down the district, which would directly impact the Chicago Teachers Union’s dues intake. The district will most likely lay off teachers to cut costs and make up for the loss of student enrollment.

The district’s financial problems are compounded by the fact that its credit rating was recently downgraded, making it more expensive for the district to borrow money. The district’s draining of its reserves, huge pension costs and labor fight were blamed for that development.

The union’s strike accomplished precisely what it set out to do: get a sweetheart deal from a scared school board that checked its business brains at the door. That’s no way to run government and certainly no way to run schools.


RI: School bans father-daughter dances

A school district in Rhode Island has ended the traditional father-daughter dance because the longtime tradition violated the state’s gender discrimination law.

Judith Lundsten, an assistant school superintendent in Cranston,  tells Fox News the move came in response to a complaint from a single mother after her daughter wasn’t allowed to attend a father-daughter dance.

“The parent felt it was not appropriate and filed a complaint with the ACLU,” she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the district demanding that all father-daughter and mother-son events be cancelled.

Lundsten said school attorneys found while federal gender discrimination laws exempt such events, Rhode Island’s does not.  “At this point, the law states that we cannot have these gender-specific type activities,” Lundsten told Fox News. “

She said the school district is going to try and work with lawmakers to amend the law – but until that time “We are following the law.”

Lundsten said the ban has caused a bit of controversy in the community.  “The community has a great deal of concern about this issue,” she said. “Certainly I understand that times have changed and people have different feelings about this.”

“I think it’s a shame,” parent Sean Gately told Fox News. “It’s an assault on traditional family values.”

Gately, who is running for state senator, learned of the ban at an open-house for their second-grade son. Another parent noticed the annual father-daughter was not on the calendar.

“For generations we’ve had mother-daughter, father-son events,” he said. “My wife was looking forward to taking our son to the annual mother-son event.”

So Gately decided to start making some telephone calls. He learned that Rhode Island’s law is based on Title IX. That law actually carves out specific exemptions for events like father-daughter dances. However, the Rhode Island general law did not.

And until the law is changed – the dances are banned.

“We do believe that once this happens in Cranston, the ACLU will pursue every other school district in Rhode Island,” he said.

Gately said he’s going to miss those special moments – marked by longstanding memories and pictures.  “Noting made me more satisfied than when I got to pin my daughter’s first corsage on her lapel when she bought a pretty dress,” he said.  “These are important traditions that we have here as a country and as a community,” he added. “The attempt to try and take them away from us is an atrocity.”

But Lundsten said the incident could serve as a learning experience for the community.  “It’s part of having a health debate about our country and how we can do better,” she said. [Really??]


Sex education from as young as 9 in Australian schools

CHILDREN will be taught to "recognise sexual feelings" from age 11 or 12 under a new national physical education curriculum criticised by religious schools.

Physical, social and emotional changes of puberty will be taught in Years 5 and 6, when children are as young as nine and 10.

But Catholic educators have forced the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to back down from its plan to explain puberty to children as young as seven, over concerns the kids might "freak out".

ACARA had wanted puberty as a topic to be introduced in Years 3 and 4.

Guidelines for the first national curriculum on health and physical education reveal a shift from a focus on sport and fitness, to the politically correct topics of "gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and psycho-social environments".

The subjects of "sexual and gender identity" and "managing intimate relationships" will be included in the new curriculum, which will be drawn up in detail during the next 12 months.

Sexuality will be explored in Years 7 and 8 when some students are still only 11 or 12 years old as they "learn to recognise sexual feelings and evaluate behavioural expectations for different social situations".

But ACARA had to delay the puberty sessions after education groups raised concerns.

"Respondents from the Catholic education sectors considered the inclusion of content related to puberty in Years 3 and 4 as inappropriate," ACARA states in a summary of educators' feedback to its earlier draft guidelines.

The final guidelines will be used by education experts to write the detailed curriculum that will be drawn up by a group of education experts during the next 12 months.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said it was rare for Australian children to hit puberty before the age of 11 or 12.

"(Teaching it in) Years 3 and 4 does seem to be a bit early," he said yesterday.  "They're still out playing hide and seek."

Dr Hambleton said talking to children about puberty and sex was "best done by family", although it was important children did not hear it in the playground first.

Council of Catholic School Parents executive director Danielle Cronin said classroom lessons on puberty could "really freak kids out".

"It's quite confronting, and it can be distressing enough in Years 5 and 6, so Years 3 and 4 are probably a bit too early, especially if you want to avoid them being freaked out," she said yesterday.

An ACARA spokesman said children in Years 3 and 4 would still be taught about body changes but ACARA had "made a shift in the language as a result of concerns".

"The community will have further opportunities to provide feedback on the Health and Physical Education curriculum as it moves through the development process," the ACARA spokesman said.

He said Catholic schools had not been the only educators to object, but would not give more details.

The final guidelines have removed the reference to puberty but state that Year 3 and 4 students "develop and apply the knowledge, understanding and skills to manage the physical, emotional and social changes they begin to experience during this stage of life."

National Catholic Education Commission chairwoman Therese Temby said Catholic schools would take part in ACARA's drafting of the new curriculum.


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