June 1: Tax hike
Mayor Daley approves another property-tax increase for schools, up to the limit allowed under the tax cap. The $55 million tax hike is the 10th since his 1995 school takeover. Ald. Patrick O’Connor, chair of the City Council Education Committee, says the increase is needed to keep from raising class sizes. Later in the week, 120 school administrators are expected to be laid off to save $11 million, part of $25 million in administrative cuts. The plan also includes a salary freeze for 1,300 employees earning more than $40,000.
June 14: Capital plan
Mayor Richard M. Daley announces a $1 billion plan to build nine new high schools and 16 elementary schools in 10 neighborhoods. The plan relies on a combination of bonds and money generated through tax increment financing (TIF) districts. Daley says the plan is necessary because he “can’t wait for what’s going to happen in the state,” referring to the state’s failure to provide money for school construction. Daley relied on TIF money previously in 2000 to raise cash for school construction.
June 26-27: Vote ‘no’ on budget
The watchdog Civic Federation issues a 65-page critique of the district’s $5.3 billion budget, urging School Board members to reject it, citing a lack of transparency, a failure to address soaring personnel and pension costs and the “murky” $1 billion school construction plan. Mayor Daley defends the construction plan a day later, warning that students could no longer afford to wait for state and federal money build schools.
I read that in Maine, schools are required to develop policies on bullying and sexual harassment by September 2006. What is Chicago Public Schools’ policy on bullying? What does the board plan to do to encourage schools to handle bullying effectively?
Cynthia Brawner, Teacher, Paderewski Elementary
Most states have now passed anti-bullying legislation, according to one advocacy group. Illinois did so in 2001, requiring school districts to address the offense in their discipline policies.
In late June, lawmakers amended the state’s School Code to urge, but not require, instruction at all grade levels aimed at preventing bullying. The Illinois State Board of Education was also encouraged to create educational materials and teacher training on the topic.
Under the CPS Uniform Discipline Code, bullying is considered misconduct similar to fighting that does not result in any injuries. A first offense triggers a conference with the disciplinarian, detention or suspension for one to five days. Repeated offenses can result in suspensions up to 10 days.
Next year, CPS is suggesting that teachers at all grade levels adopt an online health program that includes lessons on bullying, conflict resolution and anger management. (See www.healthteacher.com) CPS has also helped a number of schools partner with community-based organizations that work with kids to stop bullying and provide conflict resolution.
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While Advanced Placement test-taking continues to rise in Chicago Public Schools, pass rates on exams have declined slightly, according to CPS data. In 2005, 6,025 students took at least one AP exam, up from 5,485 in 2004. However, the exam pass rate fell in 2005 to 41%, down from 43% in 2004. Nationwide, the pass rate—the percentage of exams on which students earned a score high enough to obtain college credit—is 60%.