Children First Plan: No Plan For Children

September 6, 2012

Chicago Public Schools today announced additional details of a $25 million plan the district says will provide children critical services in the event of a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union.

The CTU and the schools have been in negotiation for months to settle a change in the working conditions of teachers. Under a plan put forward by CPS, teachers will be working a longer day and a longer year.

Despite a finding by an independent fact finder that found the teachers were due raises, both CPS and the CTU rejected the findings.

Further, the legislature, in an attempt to remove a strike from actions that could be taken, passed SB7, requiring a 75 percent approval from members for a strike to take place. Earlier this year teachers approved a strike with a vote that approached 90 percent.

As a result of the impasse. A strike is widely expected starting Monday.

In Ravenswood, the strike will leave the following high schools open under the Children First plan.

  • Northside Learning HS (a special needs school); 3730 W Bryn Mawr
  • Northside Prep; 5501 N Kedzie
  • Amundsen High; 5110 N Damen
  • Roosevelt High; 3436 W Wilson
  • Lane Tech; 2501 W Addison

And the following elementary schools will be open in our neighborhood, also under the Children First plan:

  • Bell; 3730 N Oakley
  • McPherson; 4728 N Wolcott
  • Stockton; 4420 N Beacon

According to the schools, the plan will provide children with “critical services”. CPS said in a news release this morning it would staff the Children First schools with staff from its central office and with other staff not affiliated with the teachers union.

The schools would be open from 8.30A -12.30P. A signup seems to be required.

CPS has also requested non-profits, parents and community organizations to staff the 145 schools to be kept open.

Children, under the half-day plan, will be given a cold breakfast and lunch.

Age appropriate activities are planned. But details are sparse.

Picket lines are expected at the open schools.


The Details of Children First

Children First was first announced last week. The $25 million cost for this project is about one-third the amount schools would have spent to finance the teachers regular raise this year. Instead, much of the savings from the teachers giving back that raise was used to pay for police in a transfer.

A CPS spokeswoman noted that the $25 million is based on approval of a line item by the Chicago Board of Education. “It is impossible to put costs on variables,” it was noted. Those variables? How many days the strike lasts and how many students need services.

The schools have said they would partner with “faith and community based organizations.” However, The Bulldog could find no evidence of that in Ravenswood. CPS released a list of organizations that would offer programs. But there are no organizations listed in Uptown or Albany Park, both scenes of recent gang violence.

From the parks to the libraries to the non-governmental agencies that work with children, there is no evidence of anyone participating in the Children First program in Ravenswood.

Except for the three schools, four high schools and one special service high school listed above, this program doesn’t exist in Ravenswood.


Park District Plans Released

The park district said it will extend hours at some locations to allow parents to choose between a half-day or full day program. “Space is limited,” a news release from the parks say. “There will be no food at the parks for students; students would need to bring their own food.”

Families may enroll children in a morning session, an afternoon session or a full day session. Sessions are 8.30A- 12.30P and 12.30P- 3.30P.


Chase 4701 N Ashland Special Recreation Program
Welles 2333 W Sunnyside
River 5100 N Francisco
Horner 2741 W Montrose



Parents: Good Luck!

Calls to the Mayor’s Office were referred to the schools. As were calls to the libraries.

Our conversation with Ruth Lednicer, the library director of marketing, was typical. “We are open normal hours. We’re making sure we have a robust set of activities for kids.” There are no special hours or activities. For the libraries it is business “as we do every day.”

The parks say they have a “strategic plan” in place. The parks spokesman didn’t discuss that plan last week. This week the park spokesmen are unavailable. (Late edit, a plan was announced late today and is detailed in the paragraph above.)


Organization Sub-unit Result/ Address Hours
Chicago Park District “Strategic plan” may call for extended summer camp type activities. 6A- 11P in unstaffed parks
McFetridge/ California 3843 N California Fieldhouse till 6A- 1A M-F
Welles 2333 W Sunnyside Fieldhouse till 7A- 10P M-F
Horner 2741 W Montrose Fieldhouse till 9A- 10P M-F
River 5100 N Francisco Fieldhouse till 10A- 8P M-F
Revere 2509 W Irving Park Fieldhouse till 9A- 9.30P M-F
Chase 4701 N Ashland Fieldhouse till 8A- 10P M-F
Winnemac (inside Amundsen High School) 5001 N Leavitt Fieldhouse till 1.30P- 9.30P M-F
Chicago Public Library No change in hours, staffing or activities
Sulzer 4455 N Lincoln 9A- 9P M-Th; 9A- 5P F
Independence 3548 W Irving Park 10A- 6P M,W; Noon-8P T,Th; 9A-5P F
Lincoln Belmont 1659 W Melrose 10A- 6P M,W; Noon-8P T,Th; 9A- 5P F
Bezazian 1226 W Ainslie Noon- 8P M,W; 10A- 6P T,Th; 9A – 5P F
Budlong Woods 5630 N Lincoln Noon- 8P M,W; 10A- 6P T,Th; 9A – 5P F
Uptown 929 W Buena 10A- 6P M,W; Noon-8P T,Th; 9A- 5P F
Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club Contingency plans calls for summer camp activities for current members
Lill Street Art Center No reply
Davis Theater Although they held summer matinees, no reply
Concordia Place No change in programs. Membership required.
Old Town School of Folk Music No reply.


How did we get here?

Our neighbor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, set the stage for this strike during his run for mayor. A major plank in his campaign was a longer school day.

But read back, through the excellent coverage in the Chicago Sun-Times or here at The Bulldog and you’ll find that educators have no plan for using the extra time each day. Much of it will be used for lunch, recess and other activities that are not directly related to learning.

During our visits to schools last year, leading up to the Local School Council elections, we heard from guards, kitchen aides and others that they were being asked to work a longer day without compensation.

You can disagree with the teachers union all you want. The fact is that the poorest and lowest in the school system were asked to work for no extra pay.

And you can agree with the need for a longer school day, and yet ask, where is the plan for all this additional class time?

Watching CPS for two years we’ve learned that students want to learn, teachers are talented and want to teach. Often principals are the problem in poor schools. Sometimes LSCs are the problem.

But the big obstacle is CPS Central Office and a political culture that demands no accountability.

‘Children First’ is symptomatic of the problem.

  • As detailed by the Sun-Times, most school districts do not open schools during a strike. Why do we need this plan?
  • As noted above, there is no “plan.” This is ‘whip it out of the dark side of the moon’ planning and is typical of CPS Central Office.

But there are other problems here too.

  • Our Mayor is more invested in the election of the President than he is in the education of our children and resolving this labor dispute. He is more invested in the Presidential election than the increasing street violence in Chicago. For the mayor, this labor dispute has become a battle of saving face, not saving education.
  • Go back in our archives to watch the mayor’s floor whip and the chair of City Council’s former Education Committee explain why he didn’t dirty himself as a neighborhood school languished. Sadly, a second alderman can be seen in the background nodding his head in agreement. Our political class wants nothing to do with the failure of education in this city.
  • The longer school day plan was to significantly lengthen the class time, through a longer school day and a longer school year. The plan was watered down, with much of the additional instructional time gutted for lunch and recess. And the plan was never a plan at all. As late as spring, school personnel were telling The Dog they had no direction on using the longer day from the Central Office. The longer school day represents more ‘pull it out of the dark side of the moon’ planning by CPS.
  • And, most tellingly, a demand for a significantly longer year and day was not backed by money. The fact finder approves of increasing teacher pay demands by more than 19 percent. What else is not being funded here?



Children First Sign-up Page

Chicago Public Schools Children First FAQ

Chicago Public Schools letter to parents on Children First

Chicago Public Schools All Children First Sites

Chicago Public Schools High School Children First Sites

Chicago Public Schools Elementary School Children First Sites

Chicago Public Schools Safe Havens List

Chicago Public Schools Collective Bargaining Information Page

Findings of the Fact Finder

Chicago Park District Children First Announcement

Chicago Teachers Union Blog

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3 Responses to Children First Plan: No Plan For Children

  1. Scott on September 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Colleagues of mine at some CPS elementary schools report that they actually have less time with students than before. Both teachers and students now start at the same time, creating bottleneck traffic jams of parents, buses and teachers trying to get to school on time.
    Thank you for stating that the board and the politicians refuse to except responsibility for our failing schools. Another party to the problem is parents, who never get criticized for their contributions to failing students. A large number of the students at my high school come in reading between a third and fifth grade level. This disparity cannot be blamed solely on bad teaching. And what about absences and tardies? Students across the city miss school way too often and are tardy everyday. How is this the teacher’s fault?
    We really can’t waste time trying to figure out who is to blame for a failing school system. Our resources and energy need to be spent on fixing the problem TOGETHER! ALL of us, including teachers, parents, politicians, and even the students themselves, need to do our part to fix what is so miserably broken.

  2. PulSe on September 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I’ll tell you where my child will not be if there is a strike: In the custody of either party.

    My child isn’t going to be playing a pawn. He’ll be at home.

  3. CPS Parent on September 9, 2012 at 6:32 am

    Sharp As A Tack will have programming at 4 locations, able to help hundreds of students – 4727 N. Clark, The DANK Haus, 4740 N. Western, The Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox and with another group, Source 4, at First Free Church 5255 N. Ashland. To register or get more info go to