Friday, February 27, 2015

Rahm asked by Ponce: 'Do you need to tweak your style?' Or 'Why are you such a dick'?

"You know, Phil. I'm human just like you."
Telling interview with Mayor 1% on Chicago Tonight.

Rahm is not used to being confronted face-to-face interview style where he can't sneer, give a glib answer, and walk away. Phil Ponce basically asks him why he is such an asshole (Ponce doesn't use those words of course) and Rahm struggles for words. He tries to force a smile -- they've prompted him to smile more, to be a softer, gentler Rahm -- but his mouth just doesn't seem to stretch that far. He's just not a self-aware guy and all the coaching by Axelrod's people can't change that.

After denying the Guardian report that Chicago PD has an off-the-books, secret interrogation spot at Homan Square ("We follow all the rules... Everything's done by the book."), Rahm is asked about the PARCC test fiasco.

He's lost. Non-responsive. I can't really blame him on that one. He's an education know-nothing and his own schools chief Byrd-Bennett has ordered that full PARCC testing be put off for a year, blasted the testing process and called the PARCC test “unproven.” All Rahm can do is mutter something about how the test needs improvement. He admits, "We haven't even gotten the results back from last-year's tests." But you can tell he's going to cave to Arne Duncan and Rauner's guy Meeks on this one and give the test anyway ("There is a serious financial and that's what we have to weigh"). What?

Then comes Ponce's asshole question. Why do so many Chicagoans hate you? Actually, he asks, "Do you need to tweak your style?" Rahm hesitates, trying to remember the prompt on this one. He remembers how all politicians are taught to respond when asked about their weaknesses. You say something like, "My strength is also my weakness. I care too much." Or something like that.

Says 1%:
You know, Phil. I'm human like you are. [good one]. Your strengths are my weaknesses just like everybody else. I am a hard driver who tries to get things done and that's my strength and my weakness... I can also be so pushy [making shameful face] that I'm not listening. I rub people the wrong way and make people think I'm not listening. So my strength is my weakness.
Okay, you're strength is your weakness. We get it.  But the question still remains. Why, with all that PR money in your war chest, and with the bloated staff of spinners coaching you, are you still the most hated man in Chicago? I think it just a visceral, populist and democratic response to little emperors. Chicagoans just don't like 'em.

Funniest comment...1% says he had "phone exchanges" with Chuy Garcia. Ponce asks about the nature of those calls. 1 replies that they hadn't really talked: "He left a voice mail...I called him. But we have to get back to each other."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Basking in the warmth of Tuesday's victory

It's another beautiful Chicago morning. Icy cold, ankle deep in snow. The new layer of white on the urban tundra is like a fresh coat of paint on the walls of a grimy apartment. The dog poop and the Starbucks cups and wrappers have vanished. Brother Fred is driving to Springfield, leaving his killer dog, Bruiser and his cousin Rocko behind to guard the house. And I'm still basking in the warmth of Tuesday's election victories by progressives over a rickety Rahm machine. Well, maybe not basking -- shoveling.

I showed Laurent Cantet's film, The Class, in my class last night. Since I've seen it several times, I was going to duck out for a while and read student reflection papers. But the film is still so compelling, I stayed and watched it again. Great discussion followed. I still love when that happens.

Back to Tuesday...If you ever wanted to see a mandate, take a look at the citywide votes for the Elected School Board referendum. Ward after ward came in at around 90% for. It was a dagger to the heart of mayoral control of the schools.

Best quote on this came from KOCO's Jitu Brown.
“I’m tired of going to school board meetings where people who don’t have skin in the game are making decisions.” 
Of course, Jitu's talking about educational skin. But truth be told, Rahm's hand-picked board members do have skin in the game. Take Deborah Quazzo for instance (please), whose companies are raking in millions from CPS contracts. It's no wonder she's opposed to an an elected school board. Skin in the game, you bet.

Meanwhile, the Mayor argues, 
"I don't believe what we need right now is more politics in schools."

The worst quote comes from a dazed and shaken Emanuel. Not knowing how to respond to the whipping he and his cronies took, he's forced to steal an old line from the great Harold Washington, whose spirit hovered all over Tuesday's raceHe tells the New York Times“Politics ain’t beanbag.” C'mon Mayor 1%. You can do better than that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hey Little Emperor...

Hey little Emperor, come down from your throne
The hourglass is empty, your time has come and gone
The battlements are crumblin’ the walls are tumblin’ down
Your counselors and concubines are getting’ out of town 
-- Steve Earle

Even though I didn't drink last night (honest) I feel hung over this morning after 14 hours of poll watching and then hitting Carlos Rosa's victory party at the Levee. I can't remember a victory like this since Harold Washington won the Democratic mayoral primary in 1983 (Yes, we once had party primaries in Chicago). Yesterday's citywide defeat of Rahm's overstuffed political machine, and Chuy Garcia's forcing of Rahm into a runoff, was as close to being on par with that as it gets.

Rosa's stunning win over a Rahm-backed incumbent was but a small piece of the pie (which I'm still digesting). In my diverse Logan Square neighborhood, it comes on the heels of Rep. Will Guzzardi's devastating rout of  machine daughter Toni Berrios last March. Rosa, a 26-year-old community activist, more than doubled the vote of the mayor's guy, discredited incumbent Rey Colon.

DNAInfo reports:
Ramirez-Rosa was joined on stage at The Levee, 4035 W. Fullerton Ave, by 39th District State Representative Will Guzzardi and a crowd of friends and family around 8:30 p.m. The incoming alderman then claimed his victory in the ward, which represents portions of Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa, Irving Park and Albany Park.
"This is not about switching one alderman for another; it was about a movement," Ramirez-Rosa said following his acceptance. "We aspire to more — a city that uplifts working people. That's the message the 35th Ward sent today. We proved tonight we can begin the first step of that progression."
Yes we did.

Carlos & Chuy
Citywide, Rahm failed to carry a majority in any ward except for the lakefront. His superPAC proved worthless. And his toady incumbents, like John "Petcoke" Pope in the 10th, Deb "Boss' Daughter" Mell, have been forced into runoffs by progressives Susan Sadlowski Garza and Tim Meegan.

My alderman, Scott Waguespack, a leader of the Progressive Caucus, who was singled out for defeat the so-called Chicago Forward PAC, defeated it's candidate Dooty-Jones (I love saying that name, like I love saying Huck-a-Bee, Huck-a-Bee) with 80% of the vote.

The Elected School Board referendum, which was a dagger aimed at the heart of mayoral control of the public schools, carried in ward after ward with numbers around 90%. Makes you wonder who the other 10% was?

More to come on this as my head clears and the final numbers come in.

Monday, February 23, 2015


New York Principal Carol Burris
The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. -- The Answer Sheet
Joan McRobbie Senior Associate, CTAC 
But with rising inequality, reality is making a comeback. Many voices are re-asserting that it's not an excuse but a necessity to acknowledge that out-of-school factors associated with poverty affect school performance. -- Huffington
FOX News host  Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery
 “There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there? -- MSNBC
Noam Chomsky
 First of all, you don’t have to assess people all the time… People don’t have to be ranked in terms of some artificial [standards]. The assessment itself is completely artificial.  -- Creative by Nature

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chicago Area Researchers Slam Rahm's Failed Ed Policies

For Immediate Release

From Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE)

February 20, 2015

Isabel Nunez, CReATE Coordinator, (312) 421-7819
Mike Klonsky, (312) 420-1335
Brian Schultz, (773) 442-5327
David Stovall, (312) 413-5014


On the eve of the Chicago mayoral election, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), a network of 150 education researchers from universities in the Chicago area, is releasing Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions (2015).

In response to Mayor Emanuel's claims of major success for his education policy initiatives, CReATE calls into question major parts of Chicago school reform under Mayor Emanuel's leadership. CReATE reviews how reforms of the past four years and earlier have impacted Chicago children, families and school communities.

In response to recent policy initiatives, CReATE proposes a series of research supported alternatives to mayoral appointed school boards, school closings, the ever-expanding chartering and privatizing of public schools, as well as the curriculum and teacher evaluation designs and increased high stakes testing being imposed by Common Core State Standards and the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top policies.

The position statement also includes contact information for university-based education researchers who can provide more detailed commentary on specific areas of education policy.

CReATE’s Statement on Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions is available online at

Chicago's hard-hit suburban schools resist charter invasion

Parents, teachers, activists, and students showed up at the Chicago Heights District #170 Board meeting on Feb. 12 to oppose opening the district to the LEARN Charter School Network. LEARN was voted down by an almost unanimous vote. (John Booz, Tribune)
Chicago Heights is a south-of-the-city suburb with a high concentration of poverty and a rapidly-growing Mexican immigrant population. District #170 schools have in many ways borne the brunt of an eroding tax base, loss of manufacturing jobs and the recession of the past decade. While the schools struggle to implement the district's reform plan, including a new middle-grade STEM academy, and prepare at the same time, for the next round of PARCC tests, progress remains slow. Test scores remain the carte du jour for judging schools and teachers, leaving districts like the Heights vulnerable to interventions by the state.

Gov. Rauner now threatens even more draconian cuts to school budgets and health and social services that will negatively impact the schools and communities in Chicago's inner-ring suburbs. He's proposing that suburbs' income tax revenue be cut in half

Towns like Chicago Heights have become the new target areas for poorly-regulated, expanding networks of privately-run charter schools which have already saturated the inner-city market. Recently, District #149 in Dolton/Calumet City was able to beat back a charter takeover attempt by over-hyped Urban Prep.

Nearby South Holland also rejected an assault on their district by a company called LIFE Academy Charters. Their board also voted unanimously in September 2013 to reject a charter proposal by Urban Prep.

Now District #170 is being targeted by the LEARN Charter Network which has a dismal track record of low performance, lots of unlicensed teachers, and a record of exclusion of English language learners and students with special needs. But at last week's meeting, a near unanimous vote by board members, to the delight of a cheering crowd of parents and teachers, scuttled the expansion plans of the charter operators -- at least for now.

With heavy financial backing from big hitters like the Walton Family, and political support from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), LEARN is preparing to appeal its rejection to Rauner's State Charter School Commission. LEARN's director Greg White, founder of Chicago Venture Partners, with no background in education, thinks he will get a better deal from the corporate cronies who sit on the Commission. With Rauner in the gov's mansion and his newly-appointed board president, Rev. James Meeks, a voucher/charter advocate in place, White may be right.

All the Chicago Heights board and Supt. Tom Amadio can do is make their case for survival, show off the slow but steady academic progress they are making, rally their troops again with help from the teachers union, and hope for the best.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Big gap in turnout predictions. Are they looking at the same race?

Rahm hoping voters will stay home. 
“It's a slight increase in interest in the election,” said Chicago political consultant Don Rose, who is involved in the mayoral campaign of Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. “Everybody seems to be under the impression that this is going to be a low-turnout election. I am not sure of that.”
The Mayor's praying for a low turnout on Tuesday. As his people see it, that would be his only hope for avoiding a runoff and loss of control of the City and schools. If you believe the Sun-Times' Fran Spielman, Rahm may get his wish.
If early voting — or the lack of it — is any bellwether, Chicago could be headed for a record-low turnout in Tuesday’s election... Majority Hispanic wards that traditionally record the lowest election day turnout chalked up some of the lowest early vote totals. That can’t be good news for mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
But if you read Thomas Corfman at Crain's, you get a completely different assessment.
Chicago voter registration has risen 3.9 percent, to more than 1.42 million, since the November election, reaching the highest level in almost five years despite a mayoral race that has lacked fireworks.
Registration for the Feb. 24 municipal election has not only slightly surpassed 2011, when Rahm Emanuel first ran for mayor, but also has exceeded the 2012 presidential election that featured Illinois favorite son Barack Obama, according to figures compiled by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Wow! Record high and record low. Are they both looking at the same race?

It's Spielman who sounds most bewildered by her own early voting data. She may be getting her information from machine ward bosses. But even if, she adds this:
 The biggest total was the 2,205 early votes recorded in the 19th Ward, home to scores of police officers, firefighters and teachers who are not enamored with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
 A close second was the 2,092 early votes in the 41st Ward, where homeowners have accused Emanuel of turning a deaf ear to their skyrocketing complaints about O’Hare jet noise.
My own opinion? Low turnout or high -- it all depends on who can turn out their base. I can't imagine that the undecideds are undecided about Rahm, It may be that he can be stuck in the 40% range whether the turnout is high or low.

Warren & de Blasio
Here's an intriguing assessment from today's Washington Post:
Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, has picked up the torch of the economic populist movement embodied by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Emanuel is being cast as part of the establishment that includes Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and has been accused of being too cozy with Wall Street and big banks at the expense of average Americans.
There’s little doubt that Emanuel will finish well ahead of Garcia and three other challengers in Tuesday’s election. But polls show him at risk of falling short of a majority and being forced into a six-week runoff campaign, probably against Garcia. Liberal activists are relishing the opportunity to extend the race.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

UIC study makes compelling case for an elected school board in Chicago

In 2012, 87% of 80,000 Chicago residents voted in 13% of the city’s precincts for an elected school board in a nonbinding referendum. A similar referendum is on the ballot next Tuesday in 37 of Chicago’s 50 wards.
A new study out of UIC's College of Education makes a powerful case for junking mayoral control of Chicago's public schools and replacing Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked school board with a representative, elected board.

Chicago is currently the only district in the state that doesn't elect its school board. In 1995, the state legislature gave then Mayor Daley, full authority over the schools, including the appointment of the board members. But UIC researchers, Pauline Lipman, Eric (Rico) Gutstein, Rhoda Rae Gutierrez, and Tirzah Blanche, find that after two decades of  of mayoral control, the appointed Board’s policies have become increasingly contentious, leading parents, community and education organizations, academics, civil society leaders, politicians, and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to call for an elected representative school board.

The study finds that after 20 years of mayoral control in Chicago, the research paints an alarming picture—Board policies and actions have resulted in a school district that is more unequal on nearly every measure leading to the recreation of a "two-tier" school system.

Here's what else it finds:
  • There is no conclusive evidence that mayor-appointed boards are more effective at governing schools or raising student achievement. 
  • The Board prioritized selective programs and schools while neighborhood schools serving low-income students of color lost resources and bore the major impact of misuse of tests to enforce punitive accountability and narrowed curriculum, and to close schools. 
  • Under the mayor-appointed Board, racial disparities in educational outcomes persisted and in some cases widened. 
  • The Board’s policy of closing neighborhood schools has not improved education for the majority of affected students and has had harmful consequences, particularly for African American communities, students, and teachers who were disproportionately impacted. 
  • The Board’s privatization agenda has not generally improved education. Charter and contract schools are on the whole doing no better and are more punitive than neighborhood public schools. Privately operated schools are also further removed from public accountability. However, the Board turned over one-quarter of the district’s schools to private operators. 
  • Chicago’s Board engaged in questionable and risky financial arrangements and was a poor steward of public resources. 
  • Mayoral control and Board structures and processes limit public input and democratic accountability. The Board has been markedly unresponsive to outpourings of public opposition to its policies and essentially indifferent to advice and proposals of parents, teachers, and others with expert knowledge and who have a primary stake in students’ education.
The study makes the case that  an elected board that is representative of the community it serves is no guarantee—but it would be a significant step to strengthen and improve public education in Chicago

Alternatives to closings...For me, one of the most interesting parts of the study, focused on the appointed board's disastrous closing of 50 neighborhood schools. The study points to significant attempts at reform before and after the 1995 take-over that might have posed an alternative to the closings, but were scuttled by the appointed board after Gates and the big Chicago foundations pulled their funding. Among those cited was the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative (CHSRI).
Before CPS embarked on a broad policy of closing neighborhood schools, the district embraced small high schools through CHSRI, creating 23 small, neighborhood high schools between 2002 and 2007. These were not special programs or selective enrollment but whole school initiatives. In August 2008, the Board ended the program with 17 of the original schools still in existence. Yet, a comprehensive 2010 report on CHSRI outcomes found that CHSRI schools offered a promising alternative for low-performing students in the city.
CHSRI was a promising initiative to improve educational opportunities and outcomes inneighborhood public schools open to all students. However, the Board dropped CHSRI and directed resources to closing neighborhood schools, expanding charters, and opening turnaround schools.
The UIC researchers conclude with a question: "The Board’s policies under mayoral control are so educationally insupportable that we are pressed to ask: Whose interests does the Board serve? The majority of CPS students, or political and financial interests?"

The question answers itself.