Posts Tagged Chicago firefighters object to hiring initiative

Chicago hiring policy creates controversy (more)

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article about hiring rules in place for the hiring of new firefighter candidates:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is standing behind a hiring preference for Chicago Public School graduates that has infuriated firefighters, despite surprise opposition from Chicago Teachers Union president and possible mayoral challenger Karen Lewis. But that didn’t stop the mayor from taking a smaller step Thursday to appease the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2.

At the request of firefighters union president Tom Ryan, the city has altered eligibility rules for the Dec. 13-14 firefighters entrance exam that will be Chicago’s first in nearly a decade.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Ryan was upset about a requirement that 18-year-olds who will be eligible to take the exam for the first time must produce a high school diploma or GED. That would have forced “hundreds, if not thousands” of 18-year-olds born after Sept. 1 to choose between dropping out of high school to get their GED or skipping the exam altogether and waiting years for the next one, Ryan said.

The dilemma was created by the city’s decision to lower the eligibility age to attract a broader pool of candidates. In the past, you had to be 19 to sit for the exam. The new test will be open to anyone who turns 18 before Dec. 31, 2014. On Thursday, Ryan said the Emanuel administration has agreed to remedy the problem by allowing 18-year-old high school seniors to take the exam, so long as they agree to stay in school and get their high school diploma by June, 2015.

Ryan said he’s still trying to convince the mayor to back off from the CPS hiring preference under threat of a union-funded court challenge. “Make it fair for all Chicago taxpayers. It should not matter if you attended a public or private school or if you were home-schooled. If a preference is given, it should be given to all Chicagoans,” he said.

The Dec. 13-14 firefighters entrance exam will be Chicago’s first since 2006. If the test was administered more regularly, the 18-year-old quandary would not have mattered so much.

But Ryan has said, “For 30 years, I’ve been told they’re going to hold the exam more often. It hasn’t happened. There have been three exams in my 30 years on the job. We understand the exam is expensive.”

thanks Dan

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Chicago hiring policy creates controversy (more)

An editorial from PoliticsEarly&Often about the current hiring initiative for Chicago Public School graduates applying for the fire department:

The City of Chicago is gearing up to enforce its Chicago Public Schools preference policy, which would give CPS graduates preferential standing among other firefighter applicants, providing an unfair advantage above students enrolled in private or religious schools. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel apparently seeks to encourage more opportunity for CPS high school graduates to serve in the Chicago Fire Department, it seems like a shortsighted approach to creating educational stability and opportunities for Chicago’s youth.

With dwindling poll numbers as it relates to his education policies, it appears the mayor yet again has not given much thought towards how to empower Chicago’s youth.

I suggest a real and meaningful incentive plan that goes beyond the mayor’s proposal.

Instead of offering CPS high school graduates special treatment, the mayor should work toward giving students the educational resources they need to become successful firefighters. CPS should turn the current Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy after-school program into an in-school Career and Technical Education program of study. Not only would this provide students with a foundation in fire science and all aspects of firefighting, but it will also motivate students to stay in school, as studies show that CTE programs have higher graduation rates than non-CTE programs. In fact, student retention in CPS’ CTE program in 2013 was 83 percent and the graduation rate of CTE students was an astounding 99 percent.

A citywide mentoring plan might include:

  • A course in the introduction to fire science to be taught in CPS high schools; such a curriculum is readily available from local community colleges and might include dual credit components;
  • An internship program where students could visit local firehouses, see the nature of firefighting and also develop important skills;
  • Participation in a prep course designed to assist all students, including private school students who are Chicago residents, in doing well on the exam;
  • Volunteer activities aimed at fire prevention in the community and public awareness.

It may appear at first glance that the CPS preference policy is neutral toward religion and race. But even a cursory examination reveals insidious religious and racial discrimination. A distinction is drawn between city residents who graduate from a CPS high school and those city residents attending a private school. In actual practice, the overwhelming majority of students attending private high schools in Chicago are enrolled in parochial schools, especially — but not limited to — those operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago. That large group of students is denied equal treatment under the mayor’s plan for one reason — they attend religious schools. This is a burden upon the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

Again, while the policy does not refer to religious discrimination, its de facto result is the clear disparate negative treatment of students choosing a religious school option. It is odd that in an area of society with perhaps the most notorious history of de facto discrimination (i.e., the education of our children), Mayor Emanuel should propose resurrection of a policy long rejected. At a time when there is particular sensitivity to efforts to impose burdens upon religious freedom, why would the City of Chicago elect to adopt such a discriminatory policy offensive to a large number of Chicagoans?

It also is likely that Emanuel’s plan results in racially disparate treatment as well. While this memorandum does not purport to have conducted a full study on the racial makeup of the private schools in Chicago, it does appear quite reasonable to suggest that those attending private schools are predominately classified as “Caucasian” for racial statistics purposes. This point merits further study to ensure that the plan does not, in addition to discriminating based on religion, also do so based on race.

The mayor’s policy should be rejected for what it really is — a meaningless stunt that does nothing whatsoever to raise CPS graduation rates and has zero impact on the quality of public safety in Chicago. It does, however, foster religious and racial divisiveness and invites significant legal challenges that could cost taxpayers millions.

thanks Dan

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Chicago hiring policy creates controversy

The Chicago Tribune has an article about a potential challenge from firefighters to the new hiring preference for the CFD.

A group of Chicago firefighters has hired a lawyer in anticipation of a possible legal challenge to a city hiring policy that will give graduates of Chicago public high schools an advantage in an upcoming fire department exam.

The firefighters say the preferential hiring practice that will affect the December exam should be extended to all Chicago residents, including those who, like the children of many firefighters and city workers, attended private high schools. Their legal fight is funded by a $20,000 donation from Firefighters Union Local 2.

The situation points to the competing political constituencies Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces as he approaches his re-election bid in February. Emanuel doesn’t want to anger firefighters, especially so soon after announcing a new contract with the union that was passed overwhelmingly by rank-and-file firefighters and the city council. He also is loath to pick a fight with voters who choose private schools for their children, among them many of the city workers who are required to live in Chicago.

At the same time, the mayor needs to repair a relationship with African-American and Hispanic voters that has eroded since his first election thanks to factors including persistent violent crime and his push to close schools, a move that mostly affected minority neighborhoods.

Given the large minority enrollment at Chicago Public Schools, it makes political sense for Emanuel to stick up for giving preferential hiring treatment to CPS graduates. He did just that following a city council meeting last month, saying he wants “the goal of CPS attendance of schools to be a credit so the diversity of the city, the strength of that diversity, is represented in the workforce of the city.”

The Emanuel administration instituted the hiring standards that favored CPS graduates for many municipal jobs in 2012. The Department of Human Resources was directed to “ensure that a minimum of 20 percent of the candidates referred for a position that has the CPS hiring consideration are CPS graduates.” The rule was met with applause by some aldermen and became an accepted element of city hiring until it became clear that the preference would be applied to the Chicago Fire Department entrance exam in December, the first such exam offered since 2006.

Chicago Fire Department Lt. Peter O’Sullivan said he and other firefighters hired an attorney because of the outcry inside the department and from Chicago residents who aren’t firefighters but have now realized the children they sent to private high schools will have a tougher time making it on the hiring list.

Only about 9 percent of CPS students are white, according to the district. O’Sullivan dismissed any suggestion that opposition to the city policy is racially motivated.

O’Sullivan lives in the far Southwest Side Mount Greenwood neighborhood, an enclave of firefighters and other city workers. His son graduated from nearby St. Rita Catholic high school and plans to take the fire department test. “So now he’s going to be at a disadvantage,” O’Sullivan said.

Firefighter David Quintavalle’s son and daughter attended Marist High School, a Catholic school in Mount Greenwood. He said it was a decision he made “because of my religious beliefs.”

Michelle Adamowski, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, said the city’s Catholic high schools can help provide the diverse pool of applicants for city jobs sought by Emanuel.

According to Adamowski, 13 of Chicago’s 20 Catholic high schools have a student population that is more than 50 percent minority, and about half of the total student population of Chicago Catholic high schools is minority.

On the far Northwest Side, another area packed with city workers, Ald. Mary O’Connor, 41st, said residents have been pulling her aside for weeks at block parties to complain about the city’s preferential treatment for CPS graduates.

“Many of these people have made significant sacrifices to send their children to parochial schools, while their property taxes go to support CPS,” O’Connor said. “I respect what the mayor is trying to do, but my position is that this is unfair.”

O’Connor and Southwest Side aldermen Matthew O’Shea, 19th, and Marty Quinn, 13th, sent a letter this week to Soo Choi, commissioner of the City Department of Human Resources, asking to meet to find “middle ground.”

Emanuel spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier declined to comment on a potential lawsuit by firefighters, but noted in an e-mail that “the hiring preference encourages Chicago Public School students to stay in school and get their diploma so they are prepared for college and a career.”

Another article describes how some Chicago aldermen also object to the new hiring plan:

Chicago aldermen sent a letter to the human resources commissioner blasting a city hiring policy that gives preference to Chicago Public School graduates.

Aldermen Matt O’Shea (19th), Marty Quinn (13th) and Mary O’Connor (41st) expressed their concern to Chicago Department of Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi that the city’s policy created an “unfair hurdle to interested candidates that based on all other merits being equal, are now being viewed as less preferable.”

The aldermen’s three wards respectively cover neighborhoods where a high number of Chicago police, firefighters and other city workers historically reside per the city’s residency requirement. The aldermen take issue with the practice — announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel two years ago — that would give a leg up to CPS graduates applying for city jobs.

With the city preparing to take applications for the Chicago Fire Department for the first time in a decade, some lifelong city residents say the policy discriminates against graduates from Catholic and private schools, notes Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown.

Southwest Side alderman O’Shea and Quinn, and their Northwest Side colleague O’Connor, raise alarm over the potentially discriminatory policy in their letter to Choi:

“Our residents represent a rich tradition of City employees, public safety safety workers, and educators that would like their children to be afforded equal opportunity for employment … Many parents in our community make significant sacrifices to pay for parochial school education. In doing so, they continue to pay property taxes nearly half of which fund a school system that their children do not attend. To treat one group of tax-paying residents differently could be viewed as unfair.”

The aldermen state that while the CPS hiring preference is an internal policy not subject to city council vote, all taxpayers should be considered equal when hiring for city jobs.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) tells Brown that those complaining about being penalized for exercising their religious beliefs by sending their children to Catholic schools “have been at an advantage for more than 100 years.” Brookins also called the Chicago Fire Department “the whitest department in the city of Chicago.” Brookins believes the CPS hiring preference policy would bring “a different mix of folks” traditionally overlooked by the Chicago Fire Department and other city departments, Brown reported.

O’Shea, Quinn and O’Connor urged the city to modify its policy “to provide a more general preference that would benefit all applicants currently living within in Chicago,” by ensuring the same access to municipal employment.

thanks Dan


Some Chicago firefighters object to hiring initiative

DNAinfo Chicago has an article about some Chicago firefighters objecting to a new city hiring initiative:

Union firefighters are threatening to sue over a city initiative that gives graduates of Chicago Public Schools preferential treatment in city hiring, just as Mayor Rahm Emanuel trumpets a new round of recruitment for the fire department.

Emanuel’s office made a point Wednesday of drawing attention to an online application for the Fire Department open through Sept. 16. It costs $30 to apply, with a written exam set for December for qualified applicants. The job description makes clear that those who already have completed fire or police training receive preferential treatment for firefighter and police positions, as do relatives of those who died in the line of duty as police officers, firefighters or military personnel. It also states a hiring preference for veterans and CPS high school graduates.

Yet that last attempt to give a leg up to CPS grads is a sticking point for some firefighters.

“There’s been an outcry by our membership on some of this,” Tom Ryan, president of the city’s firefighter union, said Tuesday. “They just feel that, being taxpayers and citizens, that should be enough, that all children who live in the City of Chicago should be given the same treatment.

The Fire Department hiring notice, first posted online last week, specifies: “The City of Chicago offers a CPS Graduate Preference to high school graduates from the Chicago Public School system.” Emanuel has touted the CPS grad preference frequently in urging kids to stay in school.

“The hiring preference policy encourages Chicago Public School students to stay in school and get their diploma so they are prepared for college and a career,” mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Wednesday.

Quinn cited a city policy stating that the Department of Human Resources ensures that “a minimum of 20 percent of the candidates referred for a position that has the CPS hiring consideration are CPS graduates.”

Yet firefighter union board member David Quintavalle wrote recently in a post that appeared on Facebook: “I, and numerous [union] members who I have spoken to, are outraged that the city would harm so many other qualified applicants who have received educations from private schools.

The union “has been contacted to explore the possibility of litigating this issue on behalf of our members’ families before anyone is harmed. Many of our members have sent their children to these private schools for personal reasons or religious beliefs,” Quintavalle said.

Ryan said the objection to the hiring preference isn’t necessarily about the tradition of firefighters passing the profession on to their children. [He] made no mention of litigation and said it was still open to negotiation, with ample time before the firefighter exam in December. [He] pointed out that it was only last week that the city announced the new round of Fire Department hiring exams, adding, “Things could certainly change.”

Quintavalle, though, said if the union doesn’t pursue a lawsuit to stop the CPS preference provision, “We, the members, will have to take it upon ourselves to stop this injustice. “It’s not enough that our members must live in the city and pay all the taxes that fund the CPS system, but now you must send your child to a CPS school in order to get a preference in the upcoming firefighter’s exam. This is pure and simple discrimination; the city should not promote this type of discrimination, and [the union] should not tolerate it.”

thanks Dan

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