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Education Thu Aug 25 2011

Jean-Claude Brizard: It's All About the Love--Take It or Leave It

by Matt Farmer

My nine-year-old daughter was excited to get up in the morning and go to school last year, thanks in large part to the energy and efforts of her third-grade CPS teacher.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has now decided to harness even more of that teacher's seemingly boundless energy. In fact, earlier this week he asked her to spend some extra time in the classroom during the 2011-12 school year.

Why? The reason should be obvious. As Brizard told WTTW's Phil Ponce on Tuesday night: "We want to celebrate our teachers...We love our teachers."

Brizard was even willing to put a price tag on that love.

He said he'd break out his checkbook and sweeten this particular teacher's $52,400 salary with a 2% kicker. And all she needs to do is spend an extra 90 minutes in the classroom on each of the school's 170 instructional days.

You read that right. Just for her putting in a paltry 255 additional hours (a little over 6 extra weeks for those of you who remember the old 40-hour work week), Brizard will show his love to the tune of $1048. That, my friends, represents a pre-tax hourly wage of nearly $4.11. Not too shabby in the age of 9% unemployment.

Sure, it's a bit below the $4.25/hour minimum wage that a lot of fast food workers enjoyed back in 1991, but how many Burger King managers actually celebrated and loved their employees back then? (Before you answer, let's remember that President Clinton was not yet in the Oval Office.)

Yes, the extra 90 minutes a day in the classroom sounds like well-paid fun, but won't that teacher also shoulder additional preparation time, grading time, and (possibly) commuting time as a result of the longer school day? And isn't that teacher going to end up shelling out more of her own cash for the supplies that students will use during those extra 255 hours? All good questions, but no one ever said love was easy, folks.

Just look at what love's done to our Romeo Brizard. The guy went out on a limb Tuesday by promising a 2% salary increase, even though he's flat broke. But make no mistake -- he will get the money.

He told Ponce that he will order his team to find the money and tell them to "cut bone" if they have to. (Note: The expression "cut bone" has long been rumored to be City Hall slang for "tap into the mayor's TIF slush fund.")

And he is going to do all of this for love.

Love can move mountains. Love can obviously get the Tribune and the Sun-Times to print CPS press releases on a near-daily basis. And love can certainly dig under the sofa cushions on Clark Street to find an extra $4.11/hour for my daughter's old teacher.

And that's why Chicago taxpayers were so eager to get into an imaginary bidding war with imaginary school districts for Brizard's services. That's why we ultimately agreed to pay his $250,000 salary, which is about 9% more than we paid Ron Huberman, who merely liked teachers.

Imagine the void those poor public school teachers back in Rochester must now feel. Even when 95% of them gave their old superintendent a vote of "no-confidence" last February, Brizard continued to love them unconditionally.

Well, he's ours now, Rochester. At least for the next year or so.

Matt Farmer is a Chicago lawyer and musician. He currently serves as a member of the Local School Council at Philip Rogers Elementary School.

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Tim Adams / August 25, 2011 2:36 PM

Sounds like Brizard is up to his old tricks... this is not at all surprising. Best of luck to the public school families and teachers of Chicago! Please keep us in the loop, and let us know if we can be of assistance; we're still recovering from his reign here.

In solidarity,

Tim Adams
Community Education Task Force
Rochester, NY

Jon / August 26, 2011 3:35 PM

Brizzard claims he is willing to be held accountable, so considering his abject failure to do anything worthwhile in Rochester and the fact that he has yet to do anything here, I think a pay cut of at least 70% is in order until he proves that he can get something done for Chicago. I see nothing at all in his record that justifies paying this guy 1/4 million $$$ a year. Add to this the fact that he thinks the cheating scandals in Atlanta, DC and elsewhere are simply due to dishonest people and not the pressure they were put under to "succeed or die", that Campbell's law is not in play, and his denial of reality and willingness to lie about that which disagrees with his agenda are more than clear.

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