Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rauner appointment of Vallas will take CSU from frying pan into the fire.

“When it comes to paying contractors, the sky is the limit; when it comes to financing the basic functions of the state, the coffers are empty.” ― Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
If you want to see how disaster capitalism works in real time, watch for shock-and-awe Gov. Bruce Rauner to appoint Paul Vallas as head of predominantly-black Chicago State University.

Vallas may have cost Quinn the election.
Driven to its knees after years of corrupt leadership and deprivation of adequate funding by state leaders, CSU is now set up for privatization, dismemberment and final burial by a governor bent on destroying everything public in public education. And who better to lead the way to the academic graveyard than Vallas, the master of disaster himself?

If it was up to the voters, he couldn't be elected dog-catcher. Vallas, the faux Democrat whose selection as Pat Quinn's running mate was a major factor in Quinn's loss to Rauner in the gov's race, is one of the most despised figures in the field of education. As I recall, he even lost his own primary run for governor to none other than Rod Blagojevich. From Chicago to Philly, to New Orleans, to Haiti, to Chile, and Bridgeport, he has left chaos, and division in his wake.

His top-down, school reform approach, pushing so-called "choice", privatization and busting teacher unions, puts him on par with Trump and Betsy DeVos. 

His appointment comes at a time when his former partner in Synesi Associates, Gary Solomon, is on his way to prison, along with Barbara Byrd-Bennett in the SUPES corruption scandal. Synesi is one of the indicted companies that hired Byrd-Bennett as a consultant, in return for her support in obtaining millions of dollars in CPS no-bid contracts. Vallas not only hired Solomon and his companies when he worked in Philadelphia, but brought Solomon with him to New Orleans.

Vallas is no more qualified to run a university than he was to run a public schools system. In fact, the governor of CT tried to pass a special dispensation and failed after a state superior court judge ruled that Vallas did not complete a state-mandated school leadership program and was therefore not qualified to be superintendent of Bridgeport. He was then run out of town by voters.

I'm hoping CSU faculty and students will rally in opposition to Rauner's appointment.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Yesterday was a travel day, so I was unable to post Weekend Quotables. So today, it's just plain Quotables.

White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney
Mick Mulvaney on after-school programs that feed kids
"The way we justified it was: these programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs. And we can’t prove that that’s happening.” -- Undark
James Comey
In his opening statement, Comey confirmed -- for the first time publicly -- that the FBI was investigating "the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," an inquiry which includes "individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts." -- CNN
Author and journalist Masha Gessen
“The danger of having these two unhinged, power-hungry men at their respective nuclear buttons cannot be overestimated.” -- POLITICO
Rep Luis Gutierrez on being handcuffed at ICE's Chicago office
"It shows you what happens with a system that is run by bullies" #DNlive 
Donald Trump
 "You don’t understand, he can hear everything we’re saying! Obama can even hear my thoughts! I have to get it out!" -- The Onion

Friday, March 17, 2017


The neighborhoods of the south side in 1919. The borders were sharply drawn as black and white workers competed for jobs in the packing houses and factories. 
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but rather the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
That's my favorite quote from my favorite Irish poet. This morning, we're trying to keep the fire burning while as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We're doing our Klonsky Brothers radio show as always, live from  the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. It's a great day to talk about politics in our city of immigrants, labor battles, and the birthplace of neighborhood community organizing.

Going back to the 1830s, Bridgeport has been an enclave of the city's huge Irish working-class immigrant population and the power base for five Chicago mayors. The Daley family whose political machine, built on racism and patronage, ran the city out of the 11th Ward, for more than half a century.

It was here that as a young man, former Mayor Richard J. Daley ran with the notorious, racist Hamburg Gang that terrorized the black community and other newly-arrived immigrants, and was active in the deadly 1919 race riots. 

William Butler Yeats
Over the years, the more affluent "lace curtain" Irish began to move south to Morgan Park while Bridgeport has in recent years, become much more diverse with many Mexican immigrant families settling here along with younger white middle-class techies, artists and professionals. 

While former Mayor Richard M. Daley left and headed to more upscale digs nearer the lake, the 11th Ward Democratic party, which is headquartered near 36th Street and Halsted, remains a stronghold of the Daley family today, represented by Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson and his uncle, Committeeman John P. Daley

This from Sneed's column yesterday:
• Paddy blab: A tale of two Patricks. Sneed is told Patrick Daley, the son of Richie and his late wife, Maggie, may be moving back to the hood where his first cousin, Patrick Thompson, is now the alderman of the old Daley bastion of Bridgeport.
Is Patrick Daley hoping to establish a political base for a future run for office?
“No. He bought a fixer-upper,” said a Daley source. “Word is he is moving in, but it could be with the intent to flip it,” he said.
Sign of the times in Bridgeport. Brother Fred and I will be prepping for today's show at Jackelope Coffee and Tea house this morning. Old man Daley must be rolling over in his grave at the very thought.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Chicago and its public schools have become profit centers for privatizers

I don't think so. 
Under our last two mayors, the city of Chicago and Chicago public schools have become centers of privatization. All public space from parking spaces, to red-light cameras, to trash collection, to the highways and skyways have become fair game for the privatizers.

The move to privatize everything public, to erode all public space and public decision-making comes as a reaction to the real and sometimes manufactured financial and other crises which have shaken cities from New Orleans, Detroit and now Chicago.

The pains of privatization have taken their greatest toll on public education, turning schools into profit centers mired in corruption and waste and impacting everything from the way we teach to the way we test. Relationships between students and their teachers have been torn apart with the massive closing of neighborhood schools and replacing them with networks of privately-managed charters.

Things will only get worse with the election of privateer Donald Trump and the appointment "choice" fanatic Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Education.

The privatization of CPS has been a disaster. It has further expanded racial segregation. It has led to union busting and the degradation of teachers and school staff. Schools under the management of Aramark and SodexoMagic have been left filthy and disgusting. They are also charging CPS $80M to oversee custodial work instead of custodians reporting to school principals through their union at no cost.

Privatization has also meant massive corruption leading to the great SUPES scandal and the conviction of former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett who is on her way to prison.

The latest moves by autocratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked schools chief Forrest Claypool, to expand the privatization of custodial and building management services, has been met with resistance from school principals, parents and labor unions.

One of those unions is local143 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Union Pres. Bill Iacullo will be our in-studio guest this Friday on Hitting Left. He will be joined by two of the city's top progressive political campaign strategists and communications specialists, Joanna Klonsky and Brian Sleet.

Tune in to Klonsky Bros. Hitting Left Radio, 105.5 FM, streaming live at 11 a.m. on Lumpen Radio.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Aspire Early College Prep English teacher Eleshia Smith leads a chant during a rally outside of Aspira Business and Finance High School
Aspira charter teacher Marines Martinez
“Aspira just finally agreed to our terms. It’s just a tentative agreement, but we did note that Aspira is finally listening to us." -- Tribune
Valerie Strauss
But words have meaning — even if they are only symbolic and not legally enforceable — especially at a time when public schools are more segregated than at any time since the 1960s and school choice policies favored by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been found to increase school segregation. -- Alabama’s constitution still calls for ‘separate schools for white and colored children’
Philly Councilwoman Helen Gym
 Faced with continued austerity, we marched, took over school-board meetings and lobbied City Council offices. And we started to win more victories...If the Philadelphia experience is any measure, this uprising won’t just be limited to our schools. It will form the basis of a movement which will not only withstand an authoritarian federal agenda but will also grow more unified in spite of it. -- Bill Moyers & Co.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)
Men paying for prenatal care coverage like buying a cabin 'you're never going to use'. -- The Southern
E.J. Dionne Jr.
 What some feared might be a Trump Juggernaut is instead the Trump Jalopy, a wheezing, unsightly contraption with grinding gears and missing parts. -- Washington Post
 Speaker Paul Ryan  
...said he didn’t know how many people would lose their insurance under his Obamacare replacement plan. In a revealing exchange with CBS News, he suggested that it was “up to people” how far the uninsured rate would climb. -- Think Progress

Not buying this NYT piece about how Rahm's principals fixed Chicago schools

The principals that are making gains are making them, not because of the system, but in spite of CPS. -- Principals Assoc. Pres. Troy LaRavier 
I'm not sure who in Rahm Emanuel's oversized City Hall PR Dept. planted this story in the New York Times, but kudos to them for getting this piece of fluff  past the fact checkers and custodians of common sense. Peter Cunningham swears it wasn't him, but I congratulated him anyway.

The Op-ed by David Leonhardt, "Want to Fix Schools, Go to the Principal's Office" focuses on Chicago and gives all the credit to the mayor and CPS super-principals for the district's supposed "fastest in the nation" gains in student achievement, rising graduation rates and lower dropout rates.

Using cherry-picked data, he makes a case that Chicago is on or near the top of the nation's public schools, even while 85% of its students continue to live in poverty and the entire district teeters on the brink of financial collapse.

In other words, Leonhardt is whistling past the graveyard. He's over his head when it comes to writing about education in Chicago.

All this reminds me of the Arne Duncan, Chicago Miracle  in 2008, when no success claim about turnaround schools was ludicrous enough to be challenged by a compliant media.

As for fewer dropouts and spiraling graduation rates, I'd love to believe the reports but don't know how anybody can, given CPS's history of deception in reporting such data.

Remember when in 2015 they were forced to lower the official high school graduation rate following revelations that thousands of dropouts were being misclassified as "transfers"?

According to the NPR report:
At just 25 CPS high schools, more than 1,000 students were mislabeled as moving out of town or going to private schools. But they had actually dropped out and were attending CPS alternative schools, the investigation found. More than 600 were listed as getting a GED. State law is clear that students who leave school to enroll in GED programs or attend alternative schools should be classified as dropouts.
Now they claim that the percent of students graduating CPS schools has hit an all-time high of 73.5%, outpacing  national average gains and representing "a monumental 16.6 percentage point increase since 2011."

Makes me wonder how they even know what the rate was in 2011 since that year marked the beginning of four years of inflated high school graduation rates. Little has changed since then. Students who transfer to privately operated "alternative schools" within the CPS system still won't count as dropouts — and the district still continues its practice of crediting a student's graduation from an alternative program back to the school they originally left.

The reason they like to use average-gains data is that it masks the effect of the great decline in CPS student population over the past two decades, matching the out-migration of Chicago's quarter-million mostly-black residents.

One scenario has it-- get rid of your poorest African-American kids, close their schools, and your test scores (if you use the same test) and other selected performance data is likely to go up -- right alongside your neighborhood crime statistics.

Crediting principals for these "amazing" gains, Leonardt claims the progress has "multiple causes, including a longer school day and school year and more school choices for families. But the first thing many people talk about here is principals." He offers not one shred of evidence to back up the claims. This while Rahm is now threatening to shorten the school year by three weeks.

He then quotes Rahm:
“The national debate is all screwed up,” Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, told me. “Principals create the environment. They create a culture of accountability. They create a sense of community. And none of us, nationally, ever debate principals.”
Ironically, Leonhardt's pat on the principal's head comes at a time when Chicago principals are threatened with 30% budget cuts and are being hard hit by the board's privatization scheme's which have left their buildings in shambles, massive staff cuts and exploding class size. Not to mention the fact that CPS principals are rarely in a school long enough to lead any substantial school improvement effort.

I raised the issue with Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association

Here's what he had to say:
One of the things the article talks about is test scores. But I recently was in Madison Wisconsin where I had a conversation with the mayor. He told me test scores there had dropped significantly and they couldn't figure out why until they dis-aggregated the scores of the kids who had always attended schools in Madison and the kids who had moved to Madison from Chicago. The first group were testing at about the same level as they always had. But the kids who had migrated from Chicago, many of them public housing refugees, tested so poorly, they dropped the average of the Madison school district. So it would make perfect sense that the averages in the district that they left would climb. 
I then put Troy in a tough spot by asking him about attributing the reported gains to star principals. But Troy got right to the point:
Chicago principals are working in a district that continues to make it far more difficult for them to do their jobs. They pull one resource after another. For example, if you're a CPS principal now, you may not have an assistant principal. If you really value the position as the article claims, then you invest in the position. The words don't line up with deeds.
Finally, we're all not making the gains we could be making if they invested in us and in the schools. The principals that are making gains are making them, not because of the system, but in spite of CPS.  
CPS principals are also competing for jobs and credibility with an invasion of newbies coming out of private leadership training programs. These TFAers and New Leaders often are hired by district charter schools while having little or no teaching experience and are willing to work for less money.

So yes, principals deserve lots of credit for trying to "do more with less" using tricks like leasing out their buildings or their parking lots, charging student fees each year, or asking parent to raise money for school operations. But to single them out over classroom and special-ed teachers, who have been steadfast, even while baring the brunt of cuts, losing their planning time while class sizes explode, is is divisive and misleading at best.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's Int'l Women's Day and Chicago charter school teachers are finding their voice

Marines Martinez from Chicago ACTS Local 4343 tells media that ASPIRA charter teachers are willing to go on strike to “take a stand for our students and our larger communities.” 

BREAD & ROSES...It's International Women's Day and what better way to celebrate than to show some solidarity with Chicago's, mostly women of color, fast food workers who are filing EEOC complaints today against Burger King. The filing will be followed by a protest in front of a downtown Burger King restaurant to demand an end to the rampant sexual harassment and workplace violence happening in their stores.

Fast food workers at BK stores across the city have experienced physical and verbal abuse along with intimidation from general management at several locations owned by the same franchisee. One under-aged woman worker was fired for not consenting to specific sexual requests.

Contact Deivid Rojas, Communications Director Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago,
Fight For 15 Chicago for more. 312.219.0008.

THE KLONSKY BROS. will be talking plenty of IWD stuff and more with 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza on Hitting Left radio, Friday at 11 a.m. on WLPN 105.5 F.M., streaming live at Lumpen Radio. Don't miss.

A SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to charter school teachers at ASPIRA AND Nobel charters who are unionizing and fighting the good fight on behalf of teachers and students everywhere.

ASPIRA teachers have set March 17th as their strike date unless a last-minute agreement is reached. If they do strike, it will be the first strike of charter schools in the nation. ASPIRA runs four publicly funded Chicago charter schools, serves 1,400 students - who are mostly Latino - and has 106 educators.

Teachers said at a press conference Tuesday that ASPIRA schools were not allocating money correctly, letting basic school building needs - like clean bathrooms and stalls - are falling by the wayside. Educators posted photos on Facebook from inside the high school of leaky ceilings, water marks and bug traps in the building.
"We want to make sure that ASPIRA tells us where they are spending their money. If you walk into our schools... I've been with ASPIRA for five years and every year it seems like conditions are getting worse and worse," said Marines Martinez, an ASPIRA teacher.
 Parents agree. They said teachers put much of their own money into classrooms and need a raise.
"The school needs a lot of things. He knows that. I ask him for minor things and the school don't have it. This school doesn't have a gym, doesn't have anything," said Louis Mendez, an ASPIRA parent.
TEACHERS AT NOBLE, Chicago’s biggest and most heavily funded charter school network, have set out to form a union, a move that if successful would create the largest charter school union in the nation. Founded in 1999, Noble operates 17 campuses across the city, educating more than 12,000 students. They are the darling of Gov. Bruce Rauner who has one of their schools named after him.

As of Friday morning, 131 of the roughly 800 Noble teachers and staff across city had signed on in support of the union. Union organizers told The American Prospect on Monday that they have received many more signatures since then, but could not say exactly how many because online signatures are still being tallied.

Mariel Race, a Noble teacher involved in the organizing efforts, says her charter network has long focused on expansion, but now operates so many schools that it’s time to shift gears towards retaining strong teachers. 
“We’ve given our feedback on teacher retention for many, many years, and I don’t feel like it’s really being heard,” she told The American Prospect. “There’s not a whole lot that’s being done about it. I think that having a teacher perspective at the table is a huge piece, and I think in order to be heard, with legal backing, and collective backing, it needs to be a union.”
CTU Pres. Karen Lewis, also voiced support for the Noble Street teachers.
“The Chicago Teachers Union stands in complete solidarity with the courageous teachers and staff in the Union of Noble Educators, and personally, I am extremely proud of their desire to strengthen their collective voice to better advocate for the students they serve,” she said in a statement.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Two-tier school system reproducing segregation and inequality

Modern school reform has become nearly synonymous with racial re-segregation and two-tier education. There's one tier for the elite and one big tier for the rest of us. Sociologists call it social-reproduction, wherein school systems become institutions that transmit social inequality from one generation to the next.

The election of Donald Trump and his selection of Betsy DeVos, with her single-minded emphasis on "school choice", as education secretary, promises to make the gap between the tiers even wider. But the use of charters, vouchers and selective-enrollment schools as competitive forces vis-a-vis traditional public schools predates Trump/DeVos by decades.

Ironically, selective-enrollment schools and charters originally were envisioned as tools for desegregation. Selective enrollment and magnet high schools in particular were created in the 1970s after consent decrees forced school districts to desegregate.

The news out of Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has autocratic power over the public schools, is that the city's selective-enrollment high schools have become even more exclusive. In 2009 the Chicago deseg consent decree was liquidated by a federal judge with support from Arne Duncan and selective-enrollment and charters have dropped all pretense of being about racial equality.

DNAinfo reports:
Getting into a selective enrollment high school got even harder this year — so much so that members of next year's freshman class at Walter Payton College Prep High School who won one of the coveted seats outright earned at least 898 points out of a possible 900 points, according to cutoff-score data released by the district.
While some provisions are made to admit a quota of "economically disadvantaged" students to schools like Payton, those students are often re-segregated or tracked to lower tiers within the school itself.

The implications extend far beyond high school, impacting college admissions and job opportunities. The two-tier system also places enormous pressure on parents and students starting in pre-school and up through elementary and middle grades. It's this pressure that feeds the system of tracking and sorting based primarily on standardized tests.

DNAinfo reports that anxiety is running high across the city as eighth-graders learn whether or not they have been accepted into one of Chicago's selective-enrollment high schools.
"It's insane," 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar said of the pressure on middle-schoolers."To try to build one's life around a test score of 99.8 or 99.7? That's not what an education is supposed to be about."
He's right.