CORE begins fight for teachers' jobs

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • December 10, 2008 @ 12:00 PM

As the possibility of another 2,000 teacher dismissals and layoffs draws nearer, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) is partnering with several advocacy groups in the city to bring attention to the matter.

Today, CORE is scheduled to hold organizing meetings on the north, west and south sides of the city.

Today’s meetings, all of them starting at 3:30 p.m., will be held at Senn High School, Room 115, 5900 N. Glenwood; Julian High School, Room 113, 10330 S. Elizabeth, and Little Village Lawndale High School of Social Justice, Room 107, 3120 S. Kostner. The public is invited.

CORE officials says about 2,000 teachers lost their jobs last year due to closings and so-called turnaround schools, and they expect another 2,000 to lose their jobs by the end of the current school year because of more turnaround schools and district downsizing. Many of those teachers have not found replacement work.

“They are high quality teachers … but they have no job,” says Jackson Potter, one of CORE‘s leaders.

Joining CORE in its stand against further layoffs and privatization of schools are Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), Chicago Teachers Union, Blocks Together, Southwest Youth Collaborative and the Pilsen Alliance.

In January or February, the Chicago Board of Education will likely consider a record-number package of turnaround schools for the 2009-10 school year. Chicago Public Schools officials say they have not decided on the number of proposed turnaround schools, or which schools will be targeted, but they have said up to 12 or 14 turnaround schools will be proposed. The board has alread approved two new school-management firms. This year, six new turnaround schools were established, bringing the total number of turnarounds to eight.

Typically, when a school is targeted as a turnaround, the entire staff is fired and a new principal is brought in to make new hires. Only a handful of teachers or staffers are usually retained. Many of the new hires come from a teaching academy in Chicago run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a management firm that runs five turnaround schools in the city and will likely add another three next year.

Eric Skalinder, a member of CORE who works at Kelly High School on the South Side, says there are a number of 25-year teaching veterans with multiple college degrees and teaching certifications who wind up without a job and still years away from retirement.

“That’s disturbing to us,“ Skalinder says.

Last year, about 1,000 teachers lost their jobs due to turnarounds.

“We expect it to be more than that this year,“ Skalinder says.

In addition to the turnarounds, decreases in student enrollment may force teacher layoffs. Chicago enrollment has dropped by 45,000 in the last five years, according to the state report card.

CORE also claims that the opening of new schools in Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Renaissance 2010 plan eventually leads to the closing of established neighborhood schools. Potter says some schools, with massive teacher changes, become turnaround schools even without the official “turnaround” status.

On Jan. 10 at Malcolm X College, the group will hold a public hearing, during which teachers, students and community members will talk about the ways in which school closings, consolidations and turnaround projects have affected them.

Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.