Friday, October 24, 2014

More on the Sun-Times 'Breach in the Wall'

In this morning's post, I asked what Dave McKinney's brother and sister S-T reporters were going to do in response to, what Mark Anderson called, "the breach in that wall between owners and the newsroom." By this afternoon I got my answer.

McKinney's fellow reporters have asked S-T owners for reassurance that they won't seek to influence editorial content. The request comes in a petition that supporters can sign, posted on the reporters' union website. It reads:
Mr. Michael Ferro and Mr. Timothy Knight: 
We are deeply troubled by the situation leading up to Dave McKinney’s resignation. It raises incredible questions about whether Sun-Times reporters risk retaliation from management after writing stories unfavorable to a politician or our company's investors.
We have basic concerns about whether we will be able to do our jobs moving forward without interference. 
We want to know: did a politician or someone tied to that politician lodge a complaint with Mr. Ferro over a story? If there was indeed a breach in the firewall that is supposed to exist between owners and the newsroom, how do we know that will not reoccur? Would you or Mr. Knight address the newsroom to answers these questions and others?
Respectfully, Chicago Sun-Times Newsroom and supporters
I just signed it.

Now the question is, what will Rauner/Rahm pals who own the S-T, do to salvage its integrity and prevent an all-out rebellion on the part of its staff? The ball is in the court of Ferro and Knight.

A 'breach in the wall' at the Sun-Times. How will it play out for Rahm?

The Ward Room's Mark Anderson has the best take on the Sun-Times/Rauner/McKinney debacle. He's smart enough to look beyond its immediate impact on the (I know I am, but what are you) gov's race and see how things might play out for S-T editorial board pal, Rahm Emanuel in February's race for mayor.

SmallTalk salute for Dave McKinney
Anderson points out how the S-T editorial board sold its soul and the paper's credibility by doing Rauner's bidding, throwing ace reporter David McKinney under the bus and then endorsing Rauner over Quinn.

McKinney deserves a SmallTalk Salute for his resignation letter to Rauner-puppy-dog bosses, Ferro, Knight and Kirk. He's right on time when he writes:
Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times. It’s had a chilling effect in the newsroom. While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern. I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.
I'm waiting to see what McKinney's brother and sister S-T reporters are going to say in an attempt to salvage their own professional and political integrity. Here Carol Marin's Tweet:

As for the upcoming mayor's race, Anderson writes:
The mayor has deep ties to a number of Sun-Times board members, just like Rauner. Members of the board, including Michael Ferro Jr. and Michael Sacks donated heavily to Emanuel’s 2011 campaign. The mayor parties with members of the board. Michael Sacks has been described as the mayor’s “go-to guy” on everything from the city’s parking meter deal to economic development.
That’s not to say a mayoral endorsement from the Sun-Times will be done in anything but the most transparent, above board way possible. But what if it’s not? This one certainly wasn't. There’s little doubt both the city and the state are facing an abundance of critical and difficult problems right now. Voters and concerned citizens need institutions like the Sun-Times to fulfill their role as unbiased, unimpeachable reporters of truth—even in the messy world of politics.
Did he really paint a scenario where Rahm is trailing in the race by double digits? I doubt it, but I like it.

The very thing that makes them strong, makes them weak.

And speaking of no credibility... I'll let Brother Fred's take on the new Time cover say all that needs to be said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rahm can still be had

I'm happy and a bit overwhelmed to see Karen Lewis tweeting again. Way to go Karen.

I haven't seen any new polls since Karen fell ill, but my sense is that Rahm Emanuel can still be had in February and is beatable, either in a run-off, or head-to-head, by Ald. Bob Fioretti.

Nothing I read or hear tells me that Rahm, even with his bulging cash reservoir, has moved past the 50% mark with likely voters. He is still the most despised man in Chicago, especially in the black community where his legacy of school closings and failed education policies and sabotaged city services and programs are devastating entire neighborhoods.

Before Karen's illness, Fioretti seemed at least viable in the polls, even before actually campaigning. Some polls were actually showing him running second, behind Karen. Back in August, Tribune polls showed that,
"...even a mostly unknown potential challenger — 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti — has gained surprising traction... a sign that there's a sizable contingent of anyone-but-Emanuel voters. The mayor had 43 percent in the hypothetical matchup with Fioretti, while 23 percent were undecided."
Now, everything has changed except that Rahm most likely, hasn't gained any ground.

Can be beat. 
I know it won't be easy. Fioretti's campaign still hasn't really gotten off the ground and lots of us are still walking with our heads hung down and thinking more about Karen's recovery than about elections, The media naturally is focused on the governor's race, which hasn't exactly electrified voters.

And worse, the city's labor coalition still can't seem to pull itself together and get in sync with the parent and community groups who would like to see the Little Emperor fall. That includes the shame-faced leadership of SEIU Local 73 who contributed thousands of union members' dollars to Rahm's campaign chest.  The unions are the only force right now, with the money and organization to turn out enough voters for a Rahm upset, either by Fioretti or some combination of viable emerging candidates (Are there any? Rumors abound).

I'm also getting tired of "charisma" experts and those who tell me, "it's not about elections, it about building the movement." From what I can see, that kind of thinking leads to no election victory and not much of a movement. How can you fight Rahm's autocratic, two-Chicago policies in the neighborhoods while surrendering political power to him in City Hall?

Then there's the question of the viability of the many progressive local city council campaigns who are really up against it, without the money and dynamics of a strong run against Rahm. My hope is that after November's races, we will recover, get unified and get our act together behind Fioretti.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

92,000 arrested in U.S. schools. Chicago leads in filling school-to-jail pipeline.

Rashe France was a 12-year-old seventh-grader in 2012 when he was arrested in Southaven, Miss., charged with disturbing the peace on school property after a minor hallway altercation. His family is concerned the arrest will have repercussions in the future. (STEVE JONES FOR WSJ)
The school-to-jail pipeline is overflowing. Thousands of students, mostly black and Latino, are being arrested in school, many for what are considered minor violations of school discipline codes in white, wealthier schools. The result -- U.S. has the largest prison population in the world and nearly one out of every three American adults now are on the FBI's master criminal database.

Today's WSJ reports:
A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody...Over the past 20 years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.
 According to the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, 260,000 students were reported, or “referred” in the official language, to law enforcement by schools in 2012, the most-recent available data. The survey also said 92,000 students were subject to school-related arrests. There are no earlier comparable numbers—the Education Department requested the data because it couldn’t find good national research on the topic.

CHICAGO AMONG THE WORST...More so than in other large school districts, Chicago schools are quick to call in police to handle student misbehavior and conflict, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the 2011-2012 school year (the most recent available).  In Chicago, police were called at a rate of nearly 18 cases for every 1,000 students, while New York City’s rate was 8 per 1,000 students and numbers in Los Angeles were 6 per 1,000.

Overall, CPS referred 7,157 students to law enforcement in 2012, of whom 2,418 students were arrested, according to the federal data. As is the case with school discipline in general, black males are disproportionately targeted

Increasingly, issues of classroom management and discipline are being taken out of the hands of educators and turned over to law enforcement. This certainly doesn't bode well for the future of the teaching profession or for our society.

Monday, October 20, 2014


"Black Turnout in '64 and Beyond." -- 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration project. (NY Times)

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka
Gov. Chris Christie likes to say that he is “the decider” of what happens in Newark’s public schools. What that means is that he and his appointees now own the failure of the state’s policies. -- New York Times
Kristen Crowell
"Actions have consequences, and United Working Families is committed to a fifty ward strategy to ensure voters have their say,” Kristen Crowell, executive director of United Working Families, told Ward Room. “The City Council may not want [the question of an elected representative school board] on the ballot—but we are determined to put this on the ballot so all of Chicago has a voice." -- The Ward Room
Rousemary Vega
“When they closed Lafayette, we asked Alderman Maldonado to fight for our schools. He didn't listen. We asked the school board why they closed our school while they continued to spend money building new privately operated schools in rich neighborhoods, and while the city continued to give our tax money to private developers downtown. They flat out ignored us parents. [26th Ward candidate Juanita Irazarry]  is listening.” -- Grassroots Illinois Action Press Release
Prof. Mitchell Robinson
"When traditionally prepared teachers leave the profession, it’s a bug–when TFA recruits leave, its a feature.” --  Washington Post

Friday, October 17, 2014

L.A. Board 'doesn't believe' Deasy is crooked

From L.A. school board's statement on the departure of Supt. John Deasy:
The Board "does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts."
Not exactly the carefully-chosen words you want to see in a reference letter from a former employer. I mean, it should go without saying. Shouldn't it?

But if Deasy isn't greasy, why isn't the board sharing its internal probe of the iPad contracting process?

Inquiring minds want to know.

And here we go with the third go-round of Ray Cortines, the 82-year-old, don't make waves, utility manager, who will keep the seat warm until Bill and Eli can find another hatchet man for LAUSD.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rahm -- 'We don't need no stinkin' constitution'

“The Supreme Court…has thrown a wet blanket on further discussions.
RAHM BLAMES THE COURTS -- He asks his Civic Committee patrons: How do you expect me to grab public employee pensions if the courts keep ruling it unconstitutional?

Thanks again to Patti Vasquez and producer Craig Collins, for having me on the show last night on WGN. Patti got me talking about Karen Lewis and the upcoming race for mayor as well as the the latest study on Chicago charter schools. Here's the podcast (beginning at 17:23) for those of you who couldn't hang that late.

Comment on WGN website:
Patti:Glad you had Mike Klonsky on Wed nite. I strongly share his views in the major need to replace the current Chgo. Mayor. It is highly unfortunate about Karen Lewis, her own well being and the Mayor’s race. Mike is right, this guy can’t go soon enough, before he damages the city and residents (and pocketbooks) even further. Don’t give up hope!
Demographics...S-T's Lauren Fitzpatrick reports that for the first time in Illinois, white students no longer constitute the majority of public school students, the Illinois State Board of Education said Wednesday. And the percentage of students considered low-income has surpassed the halfway mark, according to the agency.
White public school students made up 49.9 percent of all of Illinois’ 2 million public school students in 2014 as the Hispanic population has grown to 24.6 percent, according to the state board. Of all Illinois public school students, 51.5 percent are considered low-income.
The strange thing about Fitzpatrick's piece -- it never once mentions African-Americans and makes no reference to their percentage of the state's school population. Since when did black students become invisible?

Just heard the news that John Deasy's contract in L.A. has been terminated. Let's see where Gates puts him now.
More broadly, critics have faulted Deasy for what they call an autocratic, punitive leadership style that they say has demoralized teachers and other employees. Still, Deasy has enjoyed strong support from key civic and business leaders, who have urged the Board of Education in recent weeks to retain him.
Ain't that the way it goes?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rahm's 'savage cuts' to public services

I just received this press release from Stephanie Gadlin at the CTU.

Chicago Teachers Union Response to Mayor’s Budget Address:
Emanuel’s seeks balance through savage cuts to public services by using accounting trickery

CHICAGO – Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement in response to the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Budget Address:

“At the end of today’s city budget address, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed with a comment touting downtown business growth. His perspective is particularly apropos: in a city where the top 5 percent of earners make 25 percent of the income and unemployment in some parts of the south and west sides nears 50 percent, three-quarters of those downtown jobs have gone to people outside of the city,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

“A budget for everyone would address these realities, but this budget continues a top-down imposition of two distinct cities, one for the privileged and one for everyone else. Similar to other Emanuel budgets, “balance” comes through savage cuts to public service and accounting trickery, as there is only minimal revenue generation in this budget, and what is included, like taxes on car leases and increased cell phone taxes, are incredibly regressive. The mayor’s proposals on crime, education, and the minimum wage make this two-tiered system clear.”

Overall statistical declines mask the intensity in which Chicagoans’ experience with crime differs, Sharkey noted. The reality on the ground is that neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city continue to struggle with daily violence. Budgetary allocations for police only cover positions lost to retirement and are nowhere near what the mayor promised during this first campaign.

Emanuel continues to support the failed policy of mandatory minimums as a solution to gun crime; such an approach only drives up the cost of incarceration, does not deter shootings, and absent sufficient support for re-entry, those with felony records have little opportunity for employment. Those incarceration costs are merely shifted to other tax payers, allowing the Mayor to take all the credit without paying any of the expense.

Furthermore, the mayor’s decision to shutter mental health clinics continues to shift costs to the county jail and county hospital while increasing risks to all Chicagoans. Last week’s blue line shooter had a history of untreated mental illness. A budget that worked for all Chicagoans would restore funding for mental health clinics, provide resources for real community policing, and would support comprehensive re-entry programs for parolees.

On education, Mayor Emanuel takes credit for policies that he did not start and hides the savage cuts he’s pushed. Graduation rates were already increasing prior to his election, and the real credit must go to the school staffs who daily work with students. These same school staffs have seen savage cuts to their budgets over the past three years, including hundreds of lost positions for the longer school day the mayor demanded. Students across the city are going without art, music, world language, and PE because of those cuts. Dozens of librarians have been shifted into teaching positions, so libraries go unused because of inadequate staffing.

These library cuts come on top of slashed Chicago Public Library hours. Furthermore, while the Emanuel touted After School Matters, elementary school after-school programs have been slashed across the city. For instance, Gale Elementary School suffered $1 million in budget cuts (the same as the expansion of ASM), eliminated all after school programs, and has to raise money for books. Also omitted from this budget address was the impact of the 50 school closures the Mayor rammed through that have not resulted in major financial savings but have negatively impacted the students and families forced to change schools (again, mainly on the South and West sides).

Finally, the so-called “universal” expansion of pre-K is much less than advertised. The mayor’s proposal only covers four-year olds (instead of three-year olds as well), is free only for the lowest-income families, varies widely in quality depending on whether in a CPS program with highly-trained and certified teachers or in a private day care with less qualified workers, and is funded with a complex scheme that rewards Goldman Sachs with additional profits on top of the millions from toxic swaps the economy-crashing bank has already received. The Mayor’s education policies have never deviated from a failed corporate reform model and have outraged parents across the city.


On the minimum wage, Sharkey noted, the Mayor’s proposal also shows the two-tiered nature of his overall approach to governance. There are no protections for tipped workers or domestic workers, two of the largest categories of minimum wage earners in the city, and these are often the Black and Latino workers who have been left out of the downtown boom. Worse, despite claims of eliminating the need for choosing food or medical care, the Mayor’s minimum wage proposal leaves low-wage families in poverty. The ordinance would only be above the poverty line by 2018, and by 2019, by the time the full $13 kicks in; low-wage workers would be 9 cents over that line. The economic impact of the Mayor’s proposal is half of the competing $15 ordinance. Chicago needs the $15/hour wage ordinance, and it needs that ordinance now.

“The CTU remains committed to policies that have real impact, including revenue-generating plans like the LaSalle Street Tax and TIF reforms that create real, fair investment streams rather than more of the same warmed-over conventional wisdom. We support the $15 minimum wage, the privatization, transparency and accountability ordinance, restoration of cuts to social services, and real funding for retirement security. These proposals are possible when we survey the entire city, not just those who can be seen from the fifth floor,” said Sharkey.

Want to improve student learning? Raise the minimum wage

An increase in the minimum wage was one of the key demands of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom 
There's already an abundance of research showing the link between poverty and measurable student learning outcomes. One of the best ways to help students and improve learning outcomes would be to raise the minimum wage to one that's livable.

A new study coming out of the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Peter Edelman's Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, makes the connection between the current struggle to increase the minimum wage to the historic movement for civil and human rights. A doubling of the current minimum wage would not only help lift millions of families out of poverty, it would also boost the entire economy while improving government balance sheets. According to the study:
...the choice by policymakers to keep the minimum wage low has been an important factor contributing to the dramatic and troubling rise in income inequality since the 1970s. For all these reasons and more, the civil rights community has a crucial role to play in the coming months and years in the fight to raise the minimum wage.
If you want to make the case for a $15/hour minimum wage you won't find a better resource than the bibliography at the back of  Improving Wages, Improving Lives: Why raising the minimum wage 
is a civil and human rights issue.

At Monday night's meeting (Progress Illinois)
While we're on the topic of Civil Rights...U.S. Department of Education officials heard first-hand stories about the impact public school closings and consolidations are having in Chicago at a South Side community meeting held Monday night with parents, students and their supporters.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is currently looking into a complaint filed by education activists alleging "racially discriminatory" school actions and closings in Chicago. Organizers with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School spearheaded the town hall meeting, held at First Unitarian Church of Chicago in Hyde Park. The discussion was designed to allow education department reps to hear directly from the people affected by the school actions cited in the complaint.

DEASY STAYS, FOR NOW -- I'm not sure what happened at last night's school board meeting in L.A. but what I'm hearing is not good. L.A. Times ed reporter Howard Blume tweets: