Jerry Harris

Monday, November 18, 2019


COUNTING VOTES -- 81% of the teachers who voted backed the contract.
CTU Prez Jesse Sharkey
...called the contract, "a powerful advance for our city and our movement for real equity and educational justice for our school communities and the children we serve." -- Channel 3000
Ald. Ed Burke "Diminished and preoccupied"
That's how Sun-Times Fran Spielman describes indicted Ald. Edward Burke. "He's no longer the center of attention at council meetings he once dominated. He occupies the front-row seat closest to the door, arrives late, leaves immediately and seldom if ever, speaks." --Illinois Playbook
Barack Obama vs. the party's 'left activist' wing
He tells wealthy donors: “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” -- New York Times
Now contrite former N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg 
“I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand back then, the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.” -- New York Times
Bill Russell accepts HOF ring 44 years after his induction

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Better to teach journalistic ethics by example

Why were faces blurred in this Facebook photo used in the Sun-Times story?
A routine news story became a viral controversy Sunday night after the editors of Northwestern University’s student-run newspaper issued an apology for interviewing and photographing campus protesters. Journalists from around the country quickly took to Twitter to attack the paper’s staff, saying they shouldn’t apologize for doing their job. -- WBEZ
It reads like a Who's Who in Chicago news reporting. I'm referring to the list of TV and newspaper reporters who have been lining up to teach a lesson to the students who staff the Daily Northwestern. The hubbub and overkill is about the paper's recent editorial apologizing for the way they covered the campus protest over the university's speaking invitation to arch segregationist and former Trump Atty. General, Jeff Sessions.

It was an unnecessary apology for interviewing and photographing campus protesters in a way that might put them in jeopardy. It's not the job of the press to protect the identities of protesters, say the critics and I generally agree. But I also applaud the student journalists for at least wrestling with the moral implications and unintended consequences of their actions and how their coverage might impact the lives and security of their fellow students. This, at a time when student activists, especially students of color, are often targeted for expulsion or arrest when they exercise their constitutional right to protest.

This kind of ethical and moral questioning goes to the very heart of democratic education and is something we rarely see among members of the corporate media.

There's no clearer example than the Sun-Times own coverage of a different sort of protest back in April when the racist FOP and other fascist and white nationalist groups marched in Chicago in an attempt to take down progressive States Attorney Kim Foxx and raise their profile in the city. While the article was a good exposure of some of the extremist groups involved, the Sun-Times editors also made a decision to blur the faces of some of the cops participating in the rally.

Who made the decision to blur the faces in the photo? Why wasn't there the same kind of critical response and ethical questioning from the professionals as there was around the Northwestern student editorial? I raised the question about the blurred faces at the time to a member of the Sun-Times editorial board who told me they would get back to me with an answer. Seven months later, I am still waiting for their explanation.

So until then, the pros who were silent back in April would do well to save the lecturing and teach by example.

This from Northwestern Daily's Editor Troy Closson.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Bolivians take to the streets in support of overthrown President Evo Morales after the U.S.-backed military coup. The placard reads: ‘Evo you are not alone.’ 
Trump hails the coup
 Calls it “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere”. -- Guardian
 A twisted view of the latest U.S.-backed military coup in Bolivia
For a socialist president who was until recently hailed as the great success story of the Latin American left, this unseemly end serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when world leaders remain in office for too long. -- New York Magazine
Chesa Boudin
S.F.'s District Attorney-elect, Chesa Boudin
Many of Boudin’s policies, though, are even more progressive than those of Gasc√≥n, who was one of the country’s most liberal district attorneys. One departure, Boudin said, is he will no longer charge gang enhancements, which greatly increase the penalty for crimes if a defendant is found to have participated in a street gang. The law has faced criticism over the disproportionate number of black and brown people who are charged with gang crimes. A 2016 audit of the state’s gang database found that only 8% of documented gang members are white. -- San Francisco Chronicle
 CTU Pres. Jese Sharkey 
...leaders knew it was time "to start thinking about ending the strike and counting up what we had achieved. We began to realize that we had gotten as much out of CPS as we thought that we were going to get," Sharkey said on the union’s podcast, CTU Speaks!
The CTU later published a series of tweets about the veteran pay issue and implied some people “are looking to manufacture a crisis" about it. -- Tribune
R.I.P. Noel Ignatiev
In time his view that whiteness is a social and political construction — and not a phenomenon with a biological basis — has become mainstream. The resurgence of white identity politics and white nationalism in recent years made Ignatiev’s arguments relevant to a new generation of readers who argued the notion that race is more about power and privilege rather than about ancestry, or even identity. -- L.A. Times

...Only if we start with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Breaking...NY’s poor causing congestion, says de Blasio

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Billionaire Bloomberg says he's running. But why?

The prototype for the Rahm Emanuel mayoralty was Michael Bloomberg's New York. -- Crain's
The oddsmakers in Vegas put the odds on Michael Bloomberg winning the presidency at 14/1. That puts him even in their minds with Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg and trailing only Donald Trump 7/5, Elizabeth Warren 3/1, and Joe Biden 8/1 in the eyes of bookies.

I follow this stuff only because the bookies usually have a better handle on things than do the pollsters. That's why the house always wins.

Why is this billionaire Republicrat media tycoon and former New York mayor even considering jumping into a crowded Democratic primary as a 14-to-1 longshot? He knows the odds as well as anyone. One, because he can afford to, and two, he wants to be a hedge against the progressive insurgents like Warren and Sanders.

If either of them won the primary, I could even imagine Bloomberg running as an independent or third-party candidate in key battleground or swing states to draw away votes. Bloomberg is worried much more about the progressive ascendency than about his off-and-on frenemy Trump (who calls Bloomberg "Little Michael").

Known as the stop-and-frisk mayor in New York, Bloomberg once claimed that the biggest problem was his cops "over-stopping whites", and that he was just evening the score.

During his time in office, Bloomberg wielded his personal power against New York's communities of color and their public schools. He imposed a tidal wave of privatization on the city, including a big swing towards privately-run charter schools. What pissed me off most was how he used our "small schools" rhetoric to promote charters.

He was an advocate of using standardized testing results as the main vehicle for evaluating school and teacher performance.

He thought poor and especially immigrant parents were too ignorant to have much to say about their children's education.

Bloomberg once claimed:
“Unfortunately there are some parents who just come from — they never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education...The old Norman Rockwell family is gone.”
That last part is true, and good riddance.

All this reminded me of this great quote from NYT's Michael Powell back in 2011:
"There is an 'autumn of the patriarch' feel to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg these days."
He's an outspoken enemy of organized labor and even compared the teacher unions to the NRA and used the big-lie technique to charge the unions with protecting child molesters.

Bloomberg's charter school cronies, Eva Moskowitz and Joel Klein. 
He hired corporate-style reformers like of Joel Klein and the totally incompetent (thank goodness) Cathie Black to replace public schools with charters and erode public space and public decision-making. Among his partners in crime was the city's supreme charter hustler, Eva Moskowitz, who enriched herself running the so-called Success Academies.

Bloomberg is a horrible politician who was only elected because of his bottomless war chest. You need only go back to his paper-thin 2009 victory in the NY mayor's race over relative political unknown Bill Thompson. Bloomberg poured $90 million of his own fortune into the race, a sum unequaled in the history of municipal politics, that gave him a 14-to-1 advantage in campaign spending. Yet he won by only 5%.

So, is Bloomberg's announced candidacy a bluff, a real threat to anti-Trump forces, or neither? One thing is for sure: Michael Bloomberg offers no positive alternative to Trump or to the current field of candidates in the Democratic primary.

Monday, November 4, 2019


Sean Doolittle won't go to the White House
"My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘shithole countries,” Doolittle said, referring to Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador and African nations in a January 2018 meeting. “At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.” -- Washington Post
Union V.P. Stacy Davis Gates
... called it a “sad day” and criticized Lightfoot for taking “vengeance” on teachers and students. But then added, “We have a better Chicago Public Schools as a result of the last 10 days." -- Tribune
Union Pres. Jesse Sharkey
...said the last two weeks have been “tense” but added that “it’s not about me or the mayor. It’s about the members of the Chicago Teachers Union." -- Tribune
 Mayor Lori Lightfoot
"It was a hard-fought discussion. It took us a lot of time to get there. But I think this is the right thing ultimately for our city, and I’m glad that this phase is over.” -- Tribune
California Gov. Gavin Newsom fires back at Trump
“You don’t believe in climate change,” Newsom tweeted. “You are excused from this conversation.” -- The Hill
Annie Lowrey at The Atlantic
Wildfires and lack of affordable housing—these are two of the most visible and urgent crises facing California, raising the question of whether the country’s dreamiest, most optimistic state is fast becoming unlivable. -- California Is Becoming Unlivable

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sun-Times blows it again on teacher planning time

Sun-Times editorial asks: "But since when do salaried professionals watch the clock like hourly workers on an assembly line?" Answer: In Chicago, schools are still organized like factories (remember them?) Teachers still punch in and out.
Today's Sun-Times editorial: When teachers strike so they can teach kids less, something is wrong, blows it again.

It's the second time in a row for S-T, although the last one wasn't an editorial. They just turned over a full page to an anti-public-school harangue by a right-wing think-tanker. But now they're running neck-in-neck with the Tribune's McQueary and Kass for most ill-informed anti-teacher, anti-union pundit awards.

Kass and McQueary I understand. They are committed right-wing, racist, anti-union ideologues who never bother with seeking truth from facts. Remember when McQueary wished a natural disaster would strike Chicago to pave the way for a "rebirth" of the city?

But the S-T (partially owned by the CFL) just seems to be missing the mark out of ignorance, rather than ideology. Today's editorial calls on the CTU to drop their demand for more teacher planning time and get back to work.

While I have been at odds with CTU leaders over their tactics, especially their abusive, personal attacks aimed at Mayor Lightfoot and her supporters (me included), I have been walking the picket line and supportive of the teachers' demands for better pay and working conditions, including full support staffing for every school.

I am hopeful that they can settle this thing, hopefully by today, by agreeing on a fair contract which includes provisions for adequate, teacher-directed planning time.

But for some reason, this demand for more and better teacher planning time has become a minefield and one of the last barriers in the way of a tentative agreement between the board and the union. The S-T editorial, by mischaracterizing the demand, just adds fuel to the fire.

According to S-T editorial,
The CTU has repeatedly insisted on a terrible idea: Giving elementary school teachers an extra 30 minutes of prep time every day, though this would meaning cutting 30 minutes of teaching time every day. Forget it. 
No, it not a terrible idea. It's a great one and one that doesn't have to cut into classroom teaching time. But even if it did, research shows, that's not so bad.

S-T claims,
Chicago once had the shortest school day in the country, which was a national embarrassment. When kids are not in class, they cannot learn. But since 2012, thanks to the effort of many parents, educators and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago has had a longer school day — something closer to the national average — and we cannot go back.
This is all bullcrap. Chicago didn't have the shortest day in the country and wasn't a "national embarrassment." That was all a fabrication of Rahm Emanuel's who made a longer school day his election campaign mantra so there would be more time for test-prep rather the prep time for teachers and staff.

Rahm even dragged Arne Duncan back to town from Washington to campaign for his longer school day plan. I gagged when I heard Duncan call Chicago's school day, a "disgrace" and a "badge of shame." Duncan had autocratically run the schools here for the seven years previous and with a compliant union leadership behind him, had never implemented a longer school day.

As one observer wrote in a letter to the Sun-Times in 2011,
 A longer school day without structure is like a restaurant serving “lots” of food — if the food is not tasty — who cares if you get a lot of it!
If less seat time for students was a "national embarrassment", why wasn't the Lab School, where Rahm sent his kids, embarrassed? They had a shorter school day and year than did CPS and still do. So do the wealthy suburban districts to the north of us. None of them equate more seat time with more learning.

S-T claims:
Yes, teachers need time to plan. But since when do salaried professionals watch the clock like hourly workers on an assembly line? True professionals — teachers, doctors, college professors, and even journalists — agree on an annual salary and get on with the job.
Have the S-T editors ever been inside a Chicago Public School? If they had, they would know that unlike other professionals, our teachers punch a time clock every day, just like factory workers (remember them?). No, teachers are still not treated as professionals. Real professionals have time to plan, much greater autonomy over their work and the time and wherewithal to collaborate with their colleagues.

Can you imagine a lawyer defending a client with inadequate prep time? Or doctors being told to spend more time in the operating room with less time to prepare? Or either of them punching a clock?

As I said up top, I hope the strike gets settled today and I hope teacher prep time is part of the deal. It shouldn't be that hard to reach an agreement on this.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Day 9 of Chicago teachers strike. Sun-Times gives a full page to the charter hustlers

In the wake of horrific Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Univ. of Chicago economist Milton Friedman called the event "an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.”

For all my radical friends out there, by "radically reform," Friedman didn't mean fully democratizing public ed. Rather he meant nothing less than replacing all public schools with privately-run charters. With the help of fellow free-marketeers like Paul Vallas, who became the head of post-Katrina New Orleans schools, that's exactly what happened.

It was Vallas's successor at CPS, Arne Duncan who, as U.S. Secretary of Education, dotted Friedman's i's and crossed his t's by calling Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”

It was then up to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to sum things up with his 2012 catchphrase, "Never let a serious crisis go to waste."

Naomi Klein would later expose this shock-and-awe strategy of "disaster capitalism" in her best-selling book, The Shock Doctrine.

I'm recalling the shock-doctrine mentality while reading a full-page pitch in this morning's Sun-Times by the far-right Heritage Foundation, proposing to replace Chicago's public schools with privately-run charters in order to avoid the inconvenience of teacher strikes. Ironically, S-T is partially owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The city is currently in the ninth day of a teacher's strike, with little prospect of a settlement in sight, and today's prophets (profiteers) of unregulated free markets are once again trying to capitalize on a city's crisis.

The logic behind their sales pitch is that since Chicago charter teachers are forbidden by law from being in the same bargaining unit with CTU Local 1, the city's charter schools have remained generally union-free. Thus, if you have no unions, you will have no strikes. No strikes, no inconvenience for parents. Voila!
Charter schools, public schools where families can choose to send their children instead of to an assigned district school, have remained open during the strike. Though some Chicago charters are unionized, differences in their contracts have allowed charters to keep students in school, saving families from having to make other arrangements to meet work and family commitments.
Passages Charter School
How convenient! Except for one thing. Charter schools, funded by the state, are facing the same funding crisis as public schools. Illinois is 50th of the 50 states when it comes to equitable funding of school districts.

Charter teachers, who are generally working for less pay, with less autonomy and with far worse working conditions than the teachers in regular Chicago public schools, are slowly-but-surely getting organized and speaking out against their exploitation by charter operators. And unlike traditional CPS schools, where the union bargains with a publicly-elected mayor and her appointed school board, charter teachers and their unions must each face-off with their own privately-appointed and unaccountable boards of directors. Often these not-for-profit boards actually sub-contract the operation of the schools to for-profit operating companies.

Not only have the charters failed to produce better results than the public schools they are replacing, but charters are no more immune to strikes than are the schools in so-called right-to-work states like Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia, where strike waves have recently rocked the system.

The last paragraph in the Sun-Times piece (which reads like a last-minute add-on), makes my point:
Unfortunately, teachers in Chicago’s Passages Charter School chose to strike and called for higher pay. These striking teachers, who have since settled on a new contract, undermined the value that charter schools bring to students and families, especially during union demonstrations in district schools. And remember that CTU demand to stop charter-school growth in Chicago?
Yes, and a good demand it is.  The Chicago teachers’ union secured a cap on charter school expansion in their last contract negotiations in 2016. That should also be embedded in the new contract.

Thanks for reminding us.