Friday, July 22, 2016

Sense of urgency at last night's community hearing on police accountability [Updated]

AMAZING!...No sooner did the Progressive Caucus of the City Council hold the first of its hearings on police accountability THEN THIS HAPPENED.
Instead of watching Trump's "Make America Germany Again" speech last night, I and hundreds of others went over to Malcolm X College on the west side, where the City Council's Progressive Caucus was holding its Community Forum on Police Accountability.

The purpose of this forum was to gather testimony and recommendations from members of the public. The Caucus deserves kudos for listening and for doing what the city and the mayor have so far stalled on doing.

Supporters of CPAC, which calls for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council from the city's 22 police districts, came out in force.

The meeting was moderated by WVON's Dometi PongoAld. Rick Munoz (22) and Ald. John Arena (45) and Rod Sawyer (6) were the only aldermen to speak, and only at the opening and close of the meeting.  Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), David Moore (17), Toni Foulkes (16), Ariel Reboyras (30), Jason Ervin (28), Sue Sadlowski Garza (10), and Willie Cochran (20) also attended.

Most disappointing to me was Police Board President and Police Accountability Task Force (PATF) chair Lori Lightfoot who went on much too long until the crowd demanded that she stop since she was cutting into allotted testimony time. Worse, she left to attend a Police Board meeting while audience members urged her to stay and listen. It wasn't her night. That's for sure.

Munoz says the Progressive Caucus plans to draft its own reforms in the coming months and members were there to listen.
"We listened, we heard people's voices, and that will be part of the legislative process... we will have a series of ordinances in September, October, and November, on how to reform the police department."
People want less talk. More action.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Junior forgot to mention about Chicago gun violence

D.T. Junior had so much oil on his head last night, Dad was worried the stage lights might ignite him. And wouldn't that be tragic on top of everything else, Melania-gate and all?

Looking for some easy claps from the convention's dwindling gaggle of racist Trump sycophants, Junior called out Chicago, cynically using the rising death toll that gun violence has taken in the city's black and Latino neighborhoods to make his case against any and all gun control legislation.
"Just look at how effective those laws have been in inner-city Chicago, a city with the toughest gun laws in our nation, where 70 people were murdered last month alone and where over 3,400 American lives have been lost since this administration took office in 2009." 
No Junior. Chicago doesn't have the toughest gun laws in the country.

But I'll give him a point for trying. He's right that local gun laws alone don't do much to stop the shootings. They may save a life now and then. Not a bad thing.

But the reasons for the city's pandemic gun violence are complex. They are rooted in institutionalized racism, poverty, joblessness, school closings leading to more blight, worsening post-industrial socio-economic conditions, feelings of despair and anger, and neighborhood segregation and isolation. Add easy access to guns and a competitive, largely unfettered drug market and you get Chiraqs.

But Democrats can't blame all this on the Republicans.

Junior could have mentioned that IL's concealed-carry law was struck down by the court back in 2012. And it's all but impossible to get any laws with teeth passed in the legislature for fear of being taken out with NRA money.

While buying a gun inside the city limits may be slightly more difficult for some, all they have to do is drive across the Indiana line into Gov. Pence territory, for one of the largest gun buffets in the country. Everything from Saturday Night Specials to heavy artillery is there for the taking.

Almost 60% of the guns used to commit a crime in Chicago are first bought in states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi, Those states do not require background checks for gun sales at shows or over the Internet.

Oil-Can Trump could have scored big points against Mayor Rahm Emanuel by pointing out how he, as Pres. Obama's chief of staff, put the kibosh on every attempt to pass national gun control legislation. Remember in 2009, when Rahm told Atty. Gen. Holder to STFU on gun control?

But national gun laws would have cramped gun sales in V.P candidate Pence's home state and so many others controlled by Republicans and the NRA. So Junior was left with nothing but a few claps.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Still time to enroll in Trump U speech writing class

My moment of Zen...Hmm. Melania's speech at the RNC has a familiar ring to it. Could it be...?
 Bizarre response from the Trump campaign...
"In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking," Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement issued early Tuesday morning. "Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success."
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander gets top honor from the NEA leadership. 
Speaking of bizarre, Melania's speech pales in comparison to the NEA giving their Friend of Education Award to Sen. Lamar Alexander, the man from Whittle.  Soon after receiving the award, Alexander showed up at the Republican Convention, hung out with Donald Trump and had lots of praise for the presumptive candidate's line on ed reform. Here's Brother Fred's take.

All this is starting to make sense to me. A moment of Zen.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Parents and students sit-in at Ald. Burnett's office to protest $60M selective-enrollment school.
Parent organizer Sherise McDaniel 
“Year after year, we face budget cuts to local neighborhood Chicago Public Schools, [and] we need those funds. We don’t need another magnet, selective enrollment for the privileged. We have to care about everyone.” -- Protesters to Ald. Burnett : stop new selective school
CTU Pres. Karen Lewis
Educators did not agree to the SUPES contract that led former CPS CEO to plead guilty to a felony last year. CTU members did not agree to the Aramark outsourcing deal that cost more but left schools filthy. We did not target the South and West sides of the city with the largest mass school closing in U.S. history. Those decisions were made by the mayor and his hand-picked board of education. -- Letter to Chicago Tribune
Author Samuel Abrams
Privatization takes the form of nonprofit as well as for-profit school management, as privatization technically means outsourcing the provision of government services to independent operators, whether nonprofit or for-profit. -- Answer Sheet
Author Tony Schwartz
If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.” -- New Yorker
Slain Baton Rouge officer, Montrell Jackson
“I’ve experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core. I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.” - Facebook post 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wishing I could disrupt a conversation about lead in the water

Listening this morning to the stream of WBEZ's report on, "Understanding The Risks Of Lead In Chicago’s Water". UIC Prof, Dr. David Jacobs from the National Center for Healthy Housing, ticks off half-a-dozen reasons why leaded drinking water is toxic, especially when it comes to young children's brain development. Then he floors me when he mentions this in passing...
"It's been well-established, with a path-breaking study here in Chicago, that lead inversely affects reading and math scores in schools."
I suppose he means this one or maybe this one.

The conversation moves on. I squirm in my chair, wishing I could jump in and disrupt the discussion right there. I would say something like...
Wait! You mean that all those tens of thousands of Chicago children who have been drinking leaded water from school drinking fountains and home sinks -- mostly poor and children of color -- have been disadvantaged by high-stakes PARCC and ISAT testing? Held back from promotion and graduation? College entrance? Their schools facing loss of funding or even closure because of lower test scores in comparison to wealthier, newer schools? Their teachers having their evaluations lowered and merit-pay-based salaries diminished, in large part because their students are exposed to leaded water?
And to top it off, told "no excuses" when they object?
But alas, I can't jump in. The informative conversation has already ended.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ed activists enter the lion's den, win some important concessions

In an unexpected move, Democrats have revised the K-12 education section of their party’s 2016 platform in important ways, backing the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, qualifying support for charter schools, and opposing using test scores for high-stakes purposes to evaluate teachers and students. -- Washington Post
Party platforms mean little and are usually forgotten the day after the election. This year's platform fight within the Democratic Party is more significant than usual because it reflects the struggles of real movements on the ground -- the Fight For 15 Movement, for example -- and because of the realignment of forces within both major political parties.

Dem platform now supports Opt-Out
Throughout the primary campaign, Sanders continually tried to drag Clinton leftward on policy. Leading up to the national convention, Sanders insisted that the party adopt “the most progressive platform ever passed.” That may be a low bar, but it did.

For the first time, after intense internal debate between the Clinton and Sanders factions, the DNC's platform committee backed the unqualified inclusion of the $15 minimum wage as the official policy of the party. They also dropped their statement of support for TPP.

With education activists like Chicago's Troy LaRaviere leading the way, the Sanders forces wrung concessions from Clinton loyalists and came away with an education plank that broke from the current administration's outright support for privately-run charters and high-stakes testing. The party is now on record in its support for the opt-out movement of parents and students.

Also among the unity amendments was a Sanders-Clinton compromise on education that included free public higher education for families with income of up to $125,000 a year.

If you don't think that matters, check out the whiny responses from Arne Duncan's former deputy, Peter Cunningham, and from the hedge-fund school "reformers" from DFER.

Here's my brother Fred's response.
Democrats are now against “high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language learners as failing.” Peter hates that.
Cunningham even has reservations about the rather tame criticism of charter schools: He calls it “extreme” that the Democratic Party supports “high-quality public charter schools,” as long as they don’t, “replace or destabilize traditional public schools.”
DFER's Shavar Jeffries claims that the original draft on education was “progressive and balanced.” but that the new language “threatens to roll back” President Obama’s education legacy. I hope so, considering that what Jeffries calls "Obama's education legacy" is actually George Bush's.

The platform shift marks a setback for these corporate reformers and their patrons--Gates, Walton, Broad, etc... I have suggested that Eli Broad should even demand his $12M back from Cunningham and Edu_post. They obviously have no juice.

Here's an example of the disrespect these guys have for the millions of Sanders supporters.

I'm still waiting to see what Cunningham's former boss, Duncan, has to say on this.

There's  much in the platform that progressives will dislike. Some things I personally find offensive. As the Nation notes:
After the amendment to secure the rights of Palestinians was voted down, the room unanimously supported a move to eradicate wildlife trafficking that would have helped save creatures like Cecil the lion.
But at least on education and a few other issues, Sanders' people were able to leverage some concessions. In exchange, if he can deliver the party at least 70% of his voters (and I believe he can) he will all but ensure a Trump defeat. More important, Sanders has promised to keep the movement behind his campaign going after the election.

Looking back, this is the kind of negotiation that should have taken place on the part of AFT and NEA leaders before their now discredited early and divisive Clinton endorsement.

I have no doubt that after the election, Clinton and the party leadership will try to backtrack on the education plank. But now at least, there's a document that activists, parents and teachers can use to hold her feet to the fire. Something that wasn't done during the Obama years.

Activists learned they could enter the lion's den and win some victories. Now the struggle moves back out in the streets, the communities and the schools.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

After all the threats and bullying of parents, IL dumps the PARCC

"I think the promise of PARCC is greater than the promise of most of the other assessments we’ve ever had. Kids can test to the edge of their knowledge." -- IL State Supt. Tony Smith in 2015.
Stunning reversal...After all the threats to students and parents who opted-out of the PARCC exam last year, ISBE now says, it's ditching the test for IL high schoolers altogether.

However, the move won't mean less time spent on high-stakes testing and test-prep for teachers as resisters have been demanding. Nor will it mean a shift towards authentic assessment and teacher evaluation. Just more pressure on students and more confusion for parents who still have no way to measure student growth from year to year as the SAT replaces PARCC as the test de jour. SAT unfortunately, gives no more information to teachers than PARCC did.

Miserable results from last year's PARCC tests.
The move comes after two years of PARCC testing in Illinois were highlighted by low scores and thousands of students skipping the tests and amid calls for more equitable access to college entrance exams. Students in third through eighth grade in Illinois will continue to take the PARCC tests.

The IL pull-out also badly weakens the consortium of states using the common math and English tests, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The exams are built around the so-called Common Core Standards which in fact are little more than a test-driven curriculum with companies like Pearson marketing the text books and designing faulty exams.

In 2015-16, only seven states out of the 20 original consortium members and the District of Columbia administered the exams. The Bureau of Indian Education and Department of Defense schools also still participates.

Remember BBB was critical of PARCC implementation and tried to delay last year's testing until she and the district were threatened by Gov. Rauner and Arne Duncan, with sanctions, including loss of $1.4 billion in federal funding. Rahm's hand-picked schools chief had asked CPS be allowed to give the PARCC  only to 11th-graders and a sampling of grade school students.

Now she's are her way to prison and PARCC won't be given to 11th-graders.

Ah, the sweet irony.