Friday, April 21, 2017

Randi's school visit gambit with Betsy DeVos

DeVos and Weingarten at Van Wert H.S. 
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten seems convinced that she can show Trump's Ed. Sec. Betsy DeVos the error of her ways. By touring a few public schools together with DeVos, Randi hopes to show her that public schools are not the devil's workshop after all and should be supported by the D.O.E., rather than demolished as is essentially the stated ambition of the Trump administration.

Even after DeVos' first visit to Jefferson Academy in D.C. began with her having to sneak in the back door to avoid protesting parents and community members and ending with her debasing the teachers there, Weingarten's response has been to plead with DeVos to do another school visit, but this time with her.

I don't know what there is about photo-op school visits she thinks are so powerful as to turn this evangelical hater of anything public into an advocate for public ed. But Randi is a committed corporate liberal who has faith in the good intentions of corporate power brokers and profiteers and her ability to get them to do the right thing if only they give her a seat at the table. Here, I'm thinking back to the union's brief flirtation with Bill Gates or Randi's flights to Chicago to support Rahm's Infrastructure Trust or to London to sit in on Pearson board meetings 

DeVos flees protesters at D.C. school.
So DeVos agreed and she and Randi toured Van Wert H.S. in Ohio together yesterday. The visit got a nice write-up by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.
DeVos agreed to visit a traditional public school with Weingarten, who chose to take the education secretary to the small, rural Van Wert school district in Ohio, where about half of the students come from high-poverty neighborhoods. Weingarten wrote in an op-ed that just ran in a local newspaper in Van Wert that she sees the district as a model for others trying to improve:
The hallmarks of successful public schools (and systems) include four essential strategies: promoting children’s well-being, engaging in powerful learning, building teacher and principal capacity, and fostering cultures of collaboration. Van Wert puts these four pillars into practice.
 In contrast, Ohio’s charter schools have been plagued by fraud, mid-year school closings, lying about student attendance to receive additional funding, mismanagement, and an overall lack of accountability that has led even charter proponents to call Ohio the “Wild, Wild West” of charter schools. One study by state auditors found more than $27 million in improperly spent funds at Ohio charters. The Akron Beacon Journal found that “charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.”
When DeVos agreed to visit a traditional public school with Weingarten, the union leader agreed to visit a charter school with DeVos. That visit has yet to be scheduled.
If some WaPo ink is all Randi was after, all well and good. But if she's providing some union cover for DeVos in exchange for some credibility with the Trump administration, she's playing a fool's game.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Eve Ewing (top) and Sarah Chambers.
Tomorrow on Hitting Left, our in-studio guest will be Eve Ewing. Eve is a sociologist of education whose research focuses on racism and the inequality of public school system. She's currently doing a post-doc at the University of Chicago.

Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in fall 2017, and she co-edited the fiction anthology Beyond Ourselves.  Her work has appeared in venues such as Poetry, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Washington Post, Union Station, the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and many other outlets. Eve is proud to be one-half of the poetry duo Echo Hotel, alongside Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. She is also the co-director of Crescendo Literary, a partnership that develops resources and events rooted in community-engaged art; with Crescendo she co-created the Emerging Poets Incubator and the Chicago Poetry Block Party. Eve has held residencies at the WordXWord Festival and AIR Serenbe, where she was a recipient of a Focus Fellowship. She is an editor emerita of Seven Scribes.

We will also be talking with Chicago special education teacher Sarah Chambers in her 8th year at Saucedo Academy, who's been suspended and could be fired by CPS for allegedly engaging in “misconduct” related to a standardized test.
“I received an email the day before spring break that I was suspended, with no explanation at all,” she told Chicago Tonight. “I was very shocked, very angry for not being able to be with my kids, for them harming my kids.”
Supporters met outside Saucedo on Tuesday afternoon in a show of solidarity with Chambers after more than 3,000 people signed an online petition calling for her reinstatement.
Marguerite Horberg, founder and director of the Hot House will tell us about the May Day cultural extravaganza she is planning following the massive march the afternoon of May 1st.

Tune in to hear the Klonsky Bros. Hitting Left on Friday at 11 a.m. CDT, on WLPN 105.5 F.M., streaming live at Lumpen Radio. If you have an IPhone, download the Lumpen Radio app.

If you miss the show live, you can always listen to the podcast 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What did Rahm and DeVos meet about? No one seems to know.

File under #Transparency #Accountability

Rahm Emanuel met with Betsy DeVos a week ago. But we still don't know what the meeting was about.Why not? 

All we saw was this cryptic press release from the D.O.E.:
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos met with Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel at the Department of Education’s LBJ Building, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
The Secretary and Mayor had a wide ranging discussion on Chicago’s education system, rising graduation rate and the Mayor’s reform plans.
The Secretary thanked the Mayor for visiting the Department and for sharing his thoughts, and issued the following statement:
“I want to thank Mayor Emanuel for today’s conversation and for sharing his vision for education in the city of Chicago. I look forward to continuing to find ways in which the Department can work with the Mayor’s office to ensure the students of Chicago receive access to the highest quality education possible. I applaud the Mayor for Chicago’s rising high school graduation rates and commitment to providing more students new opportunities through dual enrollment programs."
 Not a word in the Chicago media. Near total blackout...except for this from Chicago Tonight:
A request for comment from Emanuel's office was not immediately returned. Chicago Public Schools declined comment on the meeting, but did note its dual enrollment program has grown from 15 schools up to 60 over the past five years and currently serves more than 4,200 district students. 
Not even a word about privately-run charters? And dual enrollment? That's it?  Sounds like both were afraid to get to close to each other in public.

Putin/Trump syndrome.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Whitenizing Chicago

UNEMPLOYMENT AND DISINVESTMENT by the city and its corporations are destroying neighborhoods and pushing thousands of African-American families out of Chicago and other big cities. Some call it "reverse migration" but the net effect is the whitenizing or gentrification of the cities. 

Another driving force behind this push-out of black and poor from the city, is Mayor Rahm Emanuel's capital investment plan and his closing of schools, mental health facilities, and other city services. While investment-starved neighborhoods suffer, Rahm has pumped millions into ill-conceived projects like the new DePaul basketball arena.  Rahm's policies have further isolated, destabilized and blighted south and west-side neighborhoods, creating conditions for more crime and violence. Whole neighborhoods are now marked by boarded-up homes, stores and schools as thousands of families lose homes to foreclosure.

DePaul's new $200M basketball arena.
An article in Monday's Reader calls Chicago's South Shore neighborhood, "the eviction capital" of the county. Real estate owners and management companies like Pangea and Kass are doing most of the evicting. Last year, Pangea filed more than 1,000 eviction cases, usually also seeking back rent, and won about 60 percent of them.
 "If you want to know Pangea's ambitions, they named themselves after the ancient supercontinent," says Mark Swartz, director of the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing. "They are buying up the south side."
 "The issue is unemployment, and lack of investment by the city and by companies," says alderman Leslie Hairston, whose Fifth Ward includes parts of northern South Shore. Though she says she doesn't hear much about evictions from her constituents, she wasn't surprised to learn about the higher-than-average eviction rate in South Shore. "You look at the number of people working two, three jobs just to try to make ends meet—it's challenging," she says.

Impact on education...The next time you hear Rahm or schools chief Claypool boasting about rising standardized test scores or graduation rates, consider how these jumps (if they are to be believed) correspond to the loss of CPS enrollment, especially on the part of poor and black students.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Thousands crowd Daley Plaza in Chicago, demanding Trump reveal his taxes. 
Shane Bauer
Militias, alt-right, nazis etc won today in Berkeley. They outnumbered the opposition, pushed it back, and held downtown. Today's America. 6:28 PM - 15 Apr 2017 -- Esquire
Head of ICE in N.J.
 "The executive order basically expands who we should be arresting," --
Joe Biden
Let me tell you, it bothers me most if Secretary DeVos is going to really dumb down Title IX enforcement. --  Interview in Teen Vogue
Neal Broverman commentary
If corporate cheerleader DeVos reconsiders the plan to streamline loan servicing, she could hand the giant contract over to Navient, which allegedly "mishandled loan payments, buried critical information in fine print and set obstacles for borrowers trying to release co-signers from their loans, among other failings, according to the consumer bureau’s legal filing." -- Betsy DeVos Screwed You Over Last Week
Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-TX)
“Are we talking about a parents’ right to choose where their child is educated or are we talking about giving public funds to private and faith-based schools...The reality is that we have options in public schools." -- Austin American Statesman
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai
US’ MOAB bomb was an ‘immense atrocity against Afghan people’ -- Al Jezeera

Friday, April 14, 2017

On Hitting Left Today

Jose Rico joins us for conversation about Chicago schools and immigration tomorrow on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers at 11AM 105.5 FM in Chicago, live streamed around the galaxy. Jose was part of the board's Latino Advisory Committee that resigned in mass in February to protest inequitable cuts in the budget.

Larry Miller
I'll also be interviewing Larry Miller who, along with a slate of progressives, won his election to the Milwaukee school board last week. The slate, backed by the Working Families Party, defeated the well-financed campaigns of some of their opponents by relying on grass-roots organizing. They are committed to rolling back vouchers and other Betsy Devos privatization initiatives.

Another great show. You would be crazy to miss it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Duncan's latest donut. He claims that kids drop out because school is 'too easy'

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." -- Mike Tyson
In yesterday's Tribune op-ed piece, Arne Duncan jumps in behind Rahm Emanuel's call to make every kid "have a plan" and to make it more difficult for Chicago's predominantly students of color, to graduate from high school.

Neither Duncan nor the mayor are talking about increased school funding or a more rigorous curriculum, a term that is itself problematic, or anything to do with teaching/learning. Instead they want to use bureaucratic powers to force students to get letters, proving that they've been accepted into college, a job, the military or some other program before receiving a diploma. They both are assuming of course that there are jobs and affordable college seats waiting to accept them. That's quite an assumption in these times.

I'm not sure what that would mean for students who want to travel to Europe or Africa, write a novel, paint a masterpiece or drive a cab.

As Dewey once said: "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself"

Duncan does allow for a "gap year" before college or military adventures in Syria (he himself avoided military service) but what about a gap two years? Or even a lifetime?

All this amounts to simply another top-down, unfunded mandate, reminiscent of Rahm's imposed longer school-day/school-year. Now, as budget realities set in, the mayor is threatening to shorten the school year by three or four weeks. I wonder who's going to keep track of and verify all those college acceptance and internship letters, now that they've laid off all those counselors, school social workers and clerks and when they can't even afford to keep the schools open?

In his op-ed Duncan claims that students, "don't drop out because school is too hard. They drop out because it is too easy". This statement, coming from a non-educator who somehow was put into top management of Chicago's and then the nation's public schools by his wealthy patrons, shows the hollowness of modern school reform.

Actually, reasons for dropping out go way beyond the classroom and the question of easy or hard. As we all know, what comes easy for some, comes hard for others. There are rigorous (hard) schools in both wealthy and poor, black and white, urban and suburban communities. But we know that high dropout rates correlate with poor schools with high concentrations of kids living in poverty.

Poverty, inequality of opportunity, joblessness, violence, mass incarceration, destruction of social networks all are at play here.  Otherwise, the dropout rate wouldn't correlate so closely with concentrated poverty and students of color. Low-income students are six times more likely to drop out of high school.

As I have pointed out over the years here, the anonymity of large-scale schooling can also be a factor for kids who drop-out because nobody seemed to know them well or care whether or not they stayed or went.

Yes, of course students should "have a plan". But education, if it is to be engaging, can't just be about job preparation and training.

Duncan's reductionist polemic, coming on the heels of Rahm's proposed bureaucratic move to create more hoops tor kids to jump through, brings back memories of his failed Race To The Top. Duncan used that program to threaten the loss of federal funding to school districts in order to impose more standardized testing, school closings, teacher firings and privately-run charters. In other words, he set the table for Betsy DeVos. 

The op-ed indicates to me that Duncan is up to something bigger than promoting a few new hoops (no pun intended) for city kids to jump through. I'm hearing rumors that he's planning a run for mayor after Rahm's term expires and that he's got some big money behind him. Remember, Duncan was one of the main advocates for mayoral control of the schools and is an opponent of an elected school board.

Bankrolling Duncan's Chicago political aspirations is the Emerson Collective, a group founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. 

I think they're making a bad investment.