All posts by meredithfrancis2017

Parents, teachers call CPS special education budget an ‘atrocity’

By Meredith Francis and Emily Olsen

After several public hearings, two budget drafts and a threatened teachers strike, some parents and teachers say the Chicago Public Schools budget still fails to protect the safety and well-being of special education students.

“Students who need one-on-one assistance for feeding and changing, and extreme behavior problems have no one,” said Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo Academy in Little Village. “My school has students with seizures and only has one nurse two days a week.”

Continue reading

Long-awaited elected school board bill down — but not out

By Meredith Francis and Emily Olsen

Lawmakers are no strangers to the waiting game, but the public is getting antsy.

In a packed education committee room in the Springfield state house, parents, students and Chicago community organizers mobilized Nov. 16 to make a fundamental change to the way the nation’s third-largest school district is led — electing a school board instead of having it selected for them.

Continue reading

Election got you stressed? Get a laugh from these Tweets

By Meredith Francis

If laughter is the best medicine, then we could all use a heavy dose on this  Election Day.

If the election is stressing you out, you’re not alone. Social media platforms have been as much as a battleground in the 2016 election as the debate stages. Candidates, other politicians and pundits have taken to their handles to attack each other and their supporters have unleashed their fury at their opponents, too.

But if you want a break from the influx of election updates, polling numbers and soap box-shaped Facebook posts, try scanning these more light-hearted tweets.

Continue reading

As Illinois students drown in debt, will elected officials come to the rescue?

By Emily Olsen and Meredith Francis

When Kyle Walsh was 16, his dad sat him down and explained Kyle would be responsible for paying off his college loans, not him.

Walsh, 20, is now student body president at Illinois State University, a second stop on his road to a degree. He first attended community college to save money but expects to graduate with up to $15,000 in student loan debt. This is not as bad as many of his classmates, Walsh said, but the burden shouldn’t fall on students.

“The state hasn’t been fulfilling its role in investing in public education,” Walsh said.

Continue reading

Grad students negotiate right to unionize for more rights, work benefits

By Meredith Francis

In a dimly lit, Gothic-style church on the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus, several dozen graduate students are taking small steps to make big changes by going old school: forming a legally recognized union.

“The work we do isn’t recognized as a very important part of keeping the university going,” said Claudio Sansone, a member of Graduate Students United and third-year comparative literature doctoral candidate at U of C.

The U of C graduate students are part of a larger push at private universities across the country to form federally recognized unions. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in August that graduate students are now also considered workers.

Continue reading

Hand-picked CPS board no longer works for parents who want their own vote

By Meredith Francis and Emily Olsen

While many are already casting their ballots for the presidential election, some Chicago parent and community groups are demanding the opportunity to cast a vote for their local school board.

“Parents, people across the city have had enough. We want an elected school board and we want it now,” said Erica Clark, a member of Parents 4 Teachers, outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters just before the monthly board meeting.

Continue reading

Chicago charter school teachers could make history with first-ever strike

By Meredith Francis

For the first time in U.S. history, charter school teachers could strike.

Though the Chicago Teachers Union narrowly avoided a strike last week, over 500 teachers from the Uno Charter School Network still threaten to walk out of the classroom as early as Wednesday if a contract deal is not reached by Tuesday night.

“Nobody ever wants to strike, but we need management to have a sense of urgency and to understand that it’s so very important to our kids to have a quality education,” said Erica Stewart, a fifth-grade teacher at Sandra Cisneros School in Brighton Park.

Continue reading

For Adult Literacy Programs, Stop-Gap Budget Is Not an Open Book

By Meredith Francis

Before a crowd outside the Thompson Center, Deyro Banguero speaks English fluently through a megaphone, advocating for more state funding for adult education. He’s been in the United States for five years after moving here from Colombia. In his citizenship classes at Erie House, he’s learning United States history, civics and reading and writing skills that will help him pass the naturalization exam.

“I’m very thankful to these organizations because they have helped not only me, but a lot of people,” Banguero said.

Since the Illinois state budget impasse this year, fewer people like him are getting the resources they need, Banguero said. In his citizenship class, there are only seven or eight other people.

Continue reading

Down to the wire: Chicago teachers strike narrowly avoided with tentative agreement

By Emily Olsen and Meredith Francis

Minutes before the midnight deadline, the Chicago Teachers Union and school board reached a tentative agreement to avoid a strike that would have sent some 20,000 teachers to picket lines.

“It wasn’t easy,” CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters at 11:55 p.m. Monday. “Clearly, there are some issues, and there are some things we’re going to still be working on. But what we ended up with is something that’s good for kids, it’s good for clinicians, for paraprofessionals, for teachers, for the community, and we’re very pleased that we were able to come to this tentative agreement.”

Continue reading

With threat of teacher strike looming, CPS problems pile up at board meeting

By Emily Olsen and Meredith Francis

[Update: The Chicago Teachers Union announced Wednesday evening that the teachers will strike starting Oct. 11 if it does not reach a contract deal with the school district.]

As dozens of teachers and parents crowded into a packed room at the Chicago Board of Education’s Wednesday meeting to voice their complaints, a teacher strike threatened to bring school to a halt altogether.

The Chicago Teachers Union will announce Wednesday evening whether it will strike, a move overwhelmingly supported by rank-and-file teachers last week. Teachers must give the city 10 days’ notice before walking out of the classroom.

Continue reading