Chicago Teachers Union fails to turn $68K per student into even 1 academic win

Chicago Teachers Union fails to turn $68K per student into even 1 academic win

Douglass Academy High School had 35 students with nearly 900 seats unfilled. None were proficient on the SAT. The Chicago Teachers Union wants to add at least eight staffers there and at every other school in the district at a cost of $1.7 billion.

Only 35 students enrolled in Douglass Academy High School for the 2023-2024 school year, but the building can hold over 900 students.

Logic would say it should be closed, but the Chicago Teachers Union prohibits closing it and other underused schools. In fact, CTU sees the 23 staffers at Douglass as inadequate.

CTU’s new contract demands would put at least eight additional staff members in the school. That would mean 31 staff members for 35 students.

Douglass already spends over $68,000 per student. All that money and all that potential staff attention, yet it failed to produce even a single student who was proficient in either reading or math on a recent SAT.

CTU’s leaked contract is filled with costly demands, including additional staff members at every school which will cost Chicago Public Schools an estimated $1.7 billion and threatens to increase Douglass’ already exorbitant per-student spending. The new demands that could be estimated tallied over $10 billion, with billions more than could not be accurately calculated.

If anything, the numbers show the more Chicago spends on public education, the worst the academic results.

Douglass Academy High School spends the most in CPS, but sees some of the worst results

Douglass Academy High School spends $68,091 per student compared to the district’s average of $18,287. That spending encompasses “site-based expenditures,” which is defined as “the total of per-pupil school-level expenditures and per-pupil centralized expenditures funded by federal and state/local source of funds.” Those expenditures include the cost of school staff, transportation and central office staff.

Douglass Academy High School spends the most per student compared to any other school in CPS, according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s 2023 Report Card.

With that kind of spending, one would expect academic proficiency to soar, but that’s not the case.

The most recent test data available shows no 11th grade students could read or perform math at grade level on the SAT in the 2021-2022 school year, and 86% of tested students scored in the lowest proficiency level for reading. Test data is not available for the 2022-2023 school year. It has been redacted according to ISBE’s rules for results involving fewer than 10 students.

The last school year in which any 11th-grade Douglass students could read or perform math at grade level was the 2016-2017 school year. Just 2.4% of students could read or perform math proficiently then.

The school also experiences an absenteeism problem. In the 2022-2023 school year, 64% of students were chronically absent, outpacing the district average of 40%. Also, nearly half of the teachers at Douglass had 10 or more absences during the school year.

Not only are many students and teachers missing instruction days, but countless seats at Douglass Academy High School have been left empty. The school can fit over 900 students, yet only 35 students are enrolled. Only 4% of the building’s ideal capacity is being met. Douglass Academy High School is the emptiest school in CPS.

CTU demands would mandate additional staff at Douglass Academy High School

As of March 2024, Douglass Academy High School had 23 full-time staff members for its 35 enrolled students, according to CPS’ employee position files. CTU wants to add at least eight staff members to the school’s roster, a nearly 35% increase.

CTU’s leaked contract demands include adding multiple staff positions to every school in CPS. The new positions include: librarian, librarian assistant, social worker, newcomer liaison, case manager, restorative justice coordinator, reading specialist and interventionist (elementary schools), three elective teachers (middle schools), technology coordinator, “Climate Champion,” and gender support coordinator and/or LGBTQ+ lead/specialist and option to expand LGBTQ+ faculty support teams at each school.

Douglass Academy High School already has a technology coordinator on staff, but CTU’s demands would mean the addition of the other eight new positions to the school’s employee roster.

With fewer than 10 incoming freshmen each year, it’s hard to imagine what a newcomer liaison would do each workday or how much assisting an assistant librarian could do.

The total additional cost to CPS districtwide for the new staff members is estimated to be $1.7 billion. The addition of eight staff members to Douglass Academy High School threatens to increase the school’s already highest-in-the-district spending per student.

CTU more concerned with union jobs than student outcomes

While about three-quarters of students in CPS can’t read at grade level and even fewer can do math, CTU leadership is pushing a lengthy list of costly demands. Many of these demands don’t impact learning in the classroom. Those include housing for migrant students, subsidies for weight-loss surgery and drugs such as Ozempic, and environmental initiatives such as an electric school bus fleet.

Students at Douglass are struggling in the classroom. Chicagoans and CPS parents have already expressed their concern about “students not learning enough academically” in CPS. Still, CTU seems oblivious as it pushes expensive demands for new staff members rather than prioritizing students’ outcomes.

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