Today’s headline in the Chicago Tribune is, “Taxpayers socked twice: Pensions and penalties” (May 24 2015.) The article goes on to tell how some teachers and administrators are given raises in their final few years of work, which helps boost their retirement income (since retirement pay is based on the average of the employee’s salary their last four years). The Trib says that increasing the salary socks local taxpayers and boosting the retirement income socks Illinois taxpayers. Guilty as charged. So what’s the problem?
School boards negotiate the teachers’ contracts that spell out end-of-employment salary boosts. School boards agree to administrator salary increases. The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) spells out the rules for the penalty school districts must pay if the end-of-employment salary boost exceeds 6% – presumably calculated to recoup the additional payout the employee would received during retirement. Districts pay that penalty. Those are the clearly stated rules.
Don’t like the rules everybody has been following for almost a decade, Trib? Then lobby to get them changed. But don’t waste more ink describing how everybody is following the rules.
Across the country, many states are pushing aggressively to expand educational opportunities for students trapped in low-performing schools.
You’ll hear about state-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools, education savings accounts that help parents pay some school expenses; tax breaks for parents for private-school tuition and expenses, even credits that allow companies to direct part of their state taxes to nonprofits that provide student scholarships.
There’s strong momentum to expand school choice: Some 39 states are mulling laws to give students more alternatives to neighborhood schools, up from 29 states last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
What’s the problem? We’re not pushing charter schools enough for them. We’re getting behind other states. “Don’t let the nation outpace us,” they cry. Here’s the evidence – The Illinois House voted 60-40 to disband the Illinois State Charter School Commission. In Illinois a charter school operator has to get permission from the local school district they want to open a school in. If rejected, the charter school can go to the Charter School Commission to overturn the local school board’s wishes. The Tribune says the commission is a “venue of last resort” for charter school operators. Let’s see – the democratically elected school board says “no” to a charter school, then the charter school gets an expensive lawyer and appeals to people on a commission who don’t know anything about the school district, thereby skirting democracy. It is interesting to note in the online version of the article there is a link to another editorial, “Make democracy work for Chicago Schools.” Make up your mind – do you want democratically controlled schools or not?
The editorial does point out some of the charter school failures – the United Neighborhood Organization charter network* in particular. It even states, “Some of Chicago’s charters have a poor performance record – and they should close.” So they recognize that charter schools can fail – that’s OK, just close the schools and send the kids somewhere else.
The Tribune doesn’t get it. Charter schools are not the solution – see the report from the National Education Policy Center. Allowing charter schools to operate where local school districts don’t want them removes local control. The people in the district would no longer have a say in what their children are learning – the charter school management team would.
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