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Chicago's Charter Schools Go On Strike, Troubled For-Profit College Closes Campuses

Educators from the Acero charter school network hold signs as they protest during a strike outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters.
Joshua Lott
Getty Images
Educators from the Acero charter school network hold signs as they protest during a strike outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Charter school teachers strike in Chicago

The nation's first charter school teacher strike started Tuesdayas over 500 teachers walked out of 15 schools to demand better pay, smaller classes and better resources. These teachers join thousands of public school employees who walked out of the classroom earlier this year with similar demands.

Charter schools are publicly funded but exempt from certain regulations; for that reason, historically few charter school teachers have been represented by a union, whereas just over half of public school teachers overall are represented by a union.

Teachers for the Acero Schools network, which manages the 15 charter schools, earn almost $13,000 less on average than Chicago Public School teachers. It's reasons like this that brought Randi Weingarten, the president of American Federation of Teachers, the second largest teachers union, out to Chicago to offer her support. (The AFT has also been very critical of charter schools in the past.)

Troubled for-profit college closes schools

Tens of thousands of students are currently enrolled in schools operated by the for-profit college chain, Education Corporation of America. But according to NPR's Vanessa Romo, it's unclear how many are expected to graduate at the end of the term. That's because ECA is closing dozens of schools around the country.

The move this week to close schools came just a day after the company lost its accreditation and funding. ECA has also been engulfed in financial trouble, falling behind on rental payments and facing eviction in some cases.

Special Education teachers are in short supply

A new report from Education Week finds that number of special ed teachers has dropped almost 17 percent over the last ten years. And the shortage is outpacing student growth. Over that same ten-year period, the number of students with special education needs dropped only 1 percent.

Campus sexual misconduct guidelines open for public comment

As we reported last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' new policies on how to implement Title IX, which bars gender discrimination in schools receiving federal funds, are open for public comment. A public campaign by the anti-sexual-assault organization It's On Us is organizing students to submit comments.

The department's changes specifically address how college campuses should handle cases of sexual assault and harassment, replacing Obama-era rules. Critics say the guidelines make it more difficult to report sexual assault and reduce colleges' responsibility to fully investigate all incidents.

Nashville covers college costs beyond tuition

Tennessee was already known for its pioneering Tennessee Promise program, the first of now 12 statewide free-tuition programs. Now, Music City has created a program that will ultimately help a few thousand students cover expenses like textbooks and transportation as well. It's part of a broader policy debate about the financial barriers to completing college.

School spending is up, according to federal data

This was one of the biggest issues that came up in the world of education this past November: spending. From teacher pay to resources, educators across the country wanted more money to be poured back into public schools. And now, a new report from the Department of Education says that spending is, in fact, increasing.

From 2015 - 2016, the most recent data available, spending increased 2.9 percent. The year before that? Fiscal year 2014-2015 saw a 3.2 percent increase.

Here's the caveat: State budgets took a major hit in 2008 during the recession, and while spending has increased, there are many states that still haven't returned to those pre-recession funding levels.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR NewsEducation
Jeffrey Pierre is an editor and producer on the Education Desk, where helps the team manage workflows, coordinate member station coverage, social media and the NPR Ed newsletter. Before the Education Desk, he was a producer and director on Morning Edition and the Up First podcast.
Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.