Footnote Credit: illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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May 3: Summer jobs

To encourage struggling 8th-graders to sign up for Step Up to High School, CPS

announces it will provide two-week, $5-an-hour summer jobs to participants.

Step Up is for 8th-graders who meet promotion standards but are still performing

below national averages on standardized tests. Students will tutor younger children

and perform other work. CPS says freshmen who enrolled in Step Up were more

likely to pass algebra and English than students who were eligible but didn’t


May 13: Deseg plan

A federal judge rebukes CPS lawyers for failing to meet an April 1 deadline

for submitting materials to the U.S. Department of Justice on its desegregation

consent decree. U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras rejected CPS’ claim

that it met the deadline by submitting drafts of material. The board must finish

a list of actions, including a review of magnet school admission policies, by

the end of the 2005-06 school year. Kocoras will decide then whether to end

the decree.

May 24: Budget cuts

CEO Arne Duncan announces that 2,180 teaching positions will be eliminated to

help trim a $100 million budget deficit. Duncan says the positions will be cut

at schools that are being closed or have declining enrollment. Officials say

the net loss will amount to only 130 jobs, since 2,050 vacant or new teaching

positions have yet to be filled. Another 1,300 non-teaching positions in schools

will be cut. The announcement sparks protests at the School Board meeting two

days later.

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Voucher schools unaccredited

Florida—Ten of 34 schools that received vouchers this year under an education

bill touted by Gov. Jeb Bush were unaccredited, according to the May 26 Palm

Beach Post. Last year, six of 24 voucher schools were unaccredited. Lt.

Gov. Toni Jennings says the law does not demand accreditation. But members of

Bush’s own Republican party are demanding an investigation. “I know

what I meant. The schools had to be accredited,” said Sen. Anna Cowin,

who sponsored the bill.

Reading readiness improves

Arizona—Kindergarteners in the state’s 63 lowest-performing schools

showed dramatic improvements in reading readiness over the school year, thanks

to new reading programs and intensive teacher training, according to the May

20 Arizona Republic. Last year, only nine percent of full-day kindergarten

students at the 63 schools had adequate pre-reading skills. Nine months later,

more than half those students had improved their skills and were ready for 1st


Teacher tests may be dropped

North Carolina—Lawmakers are considering dropping subject-area exams to

make it easier for more out-of-state teachers to obtain in-state licenses, according

to the April 28 News & Observer. Gov. Mike Easley opposes the idea,

saying he does not want to lower standards to meet federal No Child Left Behind

mandates, which state that schools must have fully licensed teachers in every

class. A third of some 10,000 middle and high-school teachers hired every year

in North Carolina are recruited from out of state.

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“Arne, your projections of 20 years of labor peace are premature.

You’re not going to fund our contract on the backs of teachers.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch to Schools

CEO Arne Duncan at his May 24 press conference to announce a plan to cut 2,180

teaching positions.

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I was told my daughter, whom I identified as Asian, was not selected

for a magnet school because so many minorities applied. Why are all minorities

lumped together in the lottery?

An anonymous parent

For years, CPS did consider each racial or ethnic group separately in magnet

school lotteries and selected students according to the school system’s

demographics. But in 2002, the district placed all minority applicants in one

category. That practice is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court rulings prohibiting

quotas for specific racial groups in hiring and school admissions, according

to the CPS Law Department.

Under the 1980 federal desegregation consent decree, CPS magnet schools must

strive for student enrollment that is 15 percent to 35 percent white and 65

percent to 85 percent minority. Since only 9 percent of CPS students are white,

whites generally have an advantage in magnet school admissions.

E-mail your question to

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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Lawmakers haggle over state aid for schools

SPRINGFIELD—Despite last-minute negotiations

over the Memorial Day weekend, the House and Senate remained at odds over how

much to raise the basic ‘foundation level’ of per-pupil funding

for schools and how to pay for it.

Earlier this spring, lawmakers passed a bill that would increase

the level by $250. But a second bill that would pay for the increase by closing

corporate tax loopholes passed in the Senate, then failed in the House by a

vote of 23 to 81, despite support from House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Opponents said they feared the bill would alienate businesses.

At Catalyst press time, Madigan had proposed a spending plan to keep

state government operating, but the plan did not address school funding. Increasing

the foundation level to $5,060 from $4,810 would provide another $105 million

for Chicago schools next year.

Daniel C. Vock

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