Friday, February 5, 2016

Parent and community support builds as teachers hit the streets

CTU rally shuts down traffic in the Loop
Watch aerial video of CTU rally in the Loop, shutting down traffic. WGN's Sarah Jindra says expect major delays on Congress going to and from Eisenhower.
Posted by WGN TV on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Left Coast -- I'm excited to see this, even from 1,800 miles away.

The best news is that the embattled CTU is gaining mass support from parents and community members as another teachers strike seems more likely. According to the latest Tribune poll, Chicagoans support the union over Rahm Emanuel (a low bar) by more than three-to-one. That matches the support striking teachers had back in 2012.

The other day, Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown blasted the CTU for not accepting the board's first "serious" contract offer. As I said at the time, it's easy for Brown to push for the teachers to cave on the contract without much of a fight. He doesn't have to live with the results.

Tribune poll on eve of 2012 teachers strike
But now the worm has turned. Sun-Times owner Mark Ferro has bought controlling interest in the Tribune, threatening to turn Chicago into a one-paper town with a probability that more Sun-Times writers and reporters will lose their jobs.

From Crain's
The news of the Ferro group's investment spooked shareholders, who sent the newspaper company's stock down as much as 27 percent yesterday before closing at $7.98, down 11 percent. It also sent shockwaves throughout the embattled newsrooms of both Chicago's daily newspapers, leaving employees uncertain of what the shakeup will mean for their futures.
While many Sun-Times reporters appear to be sympathetic to teachers facing the threat of massive lay-offs,  I can't help but wonder if Brown is now wishing he had a fighting union like the CTU at his back and 3-1 support from the community over his owner/investors.

Good luck, Mark and what's left of S-T reporters and staff.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Claypool threatens war on schools if CTU won't bend.

Claypool's threatening letter
LEFT COAST--I'm blogging from L.A. this week and missing all the action back in Chiraq. If I had the dough, I would fly back just for Thursday's big blowout CTU rally in response to Rahm's threatened $100M in new school cuts.

A letter sent by Forrest Claypool to the union Tuesday said that within 30 days, CPS would stop paying the teachers’ share of pension contributions (as if they'd been paying them up until now), order school administrators to cut $50 million by laying off 1,000 teachers and "re-shuffle" $50 million that goes toward general education funding to schools. That re-shuffling of Title I and II funds will hit hardest at kids with special needs and English-language learners.

Claypool says he will drop the threats if the union would only agree to his contract offer which CTU's bargaining team unanimously rejected. I believe that's called blackmail. Or maybe -- hostage taking.

The CTU calls it "war" on the schools. Thursday's a good day to battle.

Very very...The first meeting Rahm Emanuel’s newly formed Police Accountability Task Force produced the quote of the week from Lori Lightfoot, chair of the task force and president of the Chicago Police Board.
Lightfoot said officers who violate Rule 14 — making false statements — are taken “very, very seriously.”
Notice the two verys, showing that this time Lightfoot really really means it. She's has been complicit in the cover-up of police shootings and misconduct up til now. The cost to the city, of police misconduct (a strange name to describe torture and shootings) comes out to more than $640M over the past decade. This according to a report from the BGA. You may notice that this is roughly the same amount as is needed to plug the current budget hole at Chicago Public Schools.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Clinton, Trump burned in Iowa. CTU says no to Rahm's contract offer

The voters sent a clear message that income inequality weighed on their minds, with more than one in four Democratic voters saying the issue was the most important facing the nation, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls. -- New York Times
Impressive win for Bernie... He's finished dead-even in Iowa. Split the delegates. 6 coin flips was Clinton's margin of victory. Did somebody check the coin?

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Bernie's campaign field workers and organizers, many who drove out from Chicago, who out-organized Clinton's team. I don't know this, but I'm guessing there were lots of teachers doing Bernie's door-knocking and caucus debating despite premature Clinton endorsements by AFT and NEA.

Yesterday marked significant losses for Wall Street-backed Clinton and Trump. Imagine if there were no Citizens United or SuperPACs. Sanders would have romped. Sanders' average donation was $28, an amount that will allow him to return to his contributors for more money during the spring. Only a few hundred of his 1 million individual donors gave the maximum of $2,700 for the primary.

Look for a major Clinton staff shake-up following this debacle.

Trump showed he's all blow and no go. It's one thing to hold a rallies or appeal on talk shows to the same tiny wing-nut hard core, cheering your every fascistic, militaristic, racist and misogynistic cliche. Big Republican money may now go to Rubio as the only hope to save the party. Not much hope there.

CTU Big Bargaining Team unanimously rejects board's first "serious" contract offer. Tells Rahm to sharpen his pencil. That's why they call it COLLECTIVE bargaining.

S-T columnist Mark Brown is miffed. He can't understand why CTU members aren't all giddy and jumping for joy over Rahm/Claypool first offer in over a year. Of course, Brown hasn't read the contract offer. Nor does he have to live with the results. He criticizes CTU Pres. Karen Lewis for not leading her members by the nose.
There are times when union membership has to be led. 
He obviously doesn't know CTU.
Looking at it from the other side, how does schools CEO Forrest Claypool and his team negotiate with a union bargaining committee that can’t confidently speak for its members?
Brown should be asking, how the CTU membership can trust anything Claypool says or does? Remember, teachers and staff will have to live with this contract for the next four years. If Rahm doesn't want another strike, which would be another coffin nail in his political future, he'll have to come back with a better offer.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Burns bails. Rahm's rubber-stamp.

In October, parents and community groups carrying anti-privatization signs, gathered in front of Ald. Will Burns (4th) office, demanding that Burns be replaced as Education Committee chair.
Ald. Will Burns (4th) Rahm's most dependable rubber-stamper in the council, is bailing out. He's abandoning his post for a job at AirBnB. No, I'm not making this up. Got it straight from NBC Chicago and Mary Ann Ahern.
Still no explanation for his sudden departure. Some are asking, do they have something on him? I have no idea. The feds and IG are all over the place, but I haven't heard Burns' name mentioned.

Ald. Burns has taken a political beating over the past year and has even been abandoned at times by his own puppet master, the mayor. Remember, he took the lead in attacking the Dyett hunger strikers and opposing their demand for keeping Dyett open as a neighborhood school in Bronzeville. Burns pushed for making it a privately-run charter only to have Rahm and Claypool flip at the last minute and concede to the hunger strikers' main demand, opening Dyett as a neighborhood school.

Then there was his losing battle to stop production of Spike Lee's film, "Chiraq". Burns had urged the state not to give Lee and his company, Forty Acres and A Mule Filmworks, a $3 million tax break for filming in Illinois. He lost that one too.

But Burns' biggest sense of betrayal may have come this week when Claypool, in a contract offer to the CTU, agreed to a moratorium on charter school expansion. This was a major defeat for Burns who had been primed as the mayor's lead blocker on charter schools in the black community.

Back in September, when Black Caucus leader Rod Sawyer, called for a moratorium on charters, it was Burns who fought against it.

Burns leaves as a power-house wannabe who even had been mentioned as a potential Rahm successor. I'm sure there will be more to come on this one.


Rahm's council rubber-stamp, Ald. Will Burns bails out. Takes job with AirBnB.
CTU Vice-Pres. Jesse Sharkey 
“The Big Bargaining Team will tell us if there’s a [tentative agreement].” -- Sun-Times
Freep Editor Stephen Henderson on Flint
This is about cities themselves, and how Michigan’s system of governance permits and even incentivizes the creation of poor, isolated urban centers that don’t have enough population or resources to deliver services. This is about race and class, and the historic emphasis of suburban development on moving away from black and poor communities, stripping them of the tax base and other resources they need to survive. -- Detroit Free Press
Rahm Emanuel on $1.3B O'hare expansion
"We went after this like a heat-seeking missile." -- Crain's
Brother Fred on Iowa Caucus
If Trump gets 25% that's 30,000 people. That wouldn't be a sell-out crowd at Wrigley. -- Iowa Caucus Project
Donald Trump on his donations to the Clinton Foundation
 “Again, I was a businessman, and it was my obligation to get along with everybody, including the Clintons, including Democrats and liberals and Republicans and conservatives. As a businessman, I had an obligation to do that.” -- The Hill

Friday, January 29, 2016

After more than a year of stalling, finally a serious contract offer to the CTU

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Karen Lewis and the CTU for forcing Rahm/Claypool's hand and finally getting a serious contract offer. This comes after a year of CPS stalling and forcing teachers to work without a contract.

Of course, the offer still has to be voted on by the union's Big Bargaining Team, the House of Delegates, and ultimately ratified by the membership itself if a strike is to be avoided. This is what union democracy looks like.

The details of the offer aren't being made public. But Lewis says that the "basic framework calls for economic concessions in exchange for enforceable protections of education quality and job security." She says those losses could include the end of the city's practice of picking up the bulk of teachers' required contributions to their pensions. But she says that the union would not bend on another key issue, incremental pay increases known as "step and lane" bumps that are doled out based on seniority and experience.

If accepted, the contract agreement would be a big blow to Gov. Rauner, who's been holding the state's education budget hostage and even threatening a state takeover of CPS, in an attempt to pressure Democrats into busting the CTU and the state's public employee unions.

An agreement and lessening the threat of a teachers strike may also take some political heat off the mayor, especially with the IL Democratic primary coming up in March. A strike would surely be another giant nail in his political coffin.

The next test will be whether the unions, battered social service agencies, and community organizations can keep the pressure on Sen. Pres. Cullerton and House Speaker Madigan to keep them from selling out to Rauner's demands. Cullerton is already showing his willingness to coalesce with Rauner on another pension-theft bill, even after the last one was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Flint water disaster was preceded by takeover of schools and local govt's

In Michigan, the idea of a government of, by, and for the people did not apply to poor black cities, and when residents were robbed of the ability to govern themselves, they suffered. In Flint, it meant they got poisoned. -- Bill Moyers
The current disaster in Flint has its roots in Gov. Snyder's racist, anti-democratic coup d'etat in which power was usurped from local elected officials in financially distressed municipalities across Michigan. Snyder replaced them with his own appointed political cronies and corporate managers.

Flint isn’t the only city in Michigan deeply affected by the coup. In fact, Flint was one of six cities — most of which were poor and had a majority black population — to be placed under emergency management by Snyder since 2011.

Bill Moyers, who grew up in Flint, writes:
The emergency manager law gave unchecked power to the governor in the name of helping these communities emerge from financial distress. But in reality, it unleashed a series of devastating austerity and privatization measures adopted in the name of progress, and took away democratic rights from poor communities of color.
The financial distress came, not as a result of mismanagement or corruption -- although there was plenty of that right in Snyder's office as well as in the legislature -- but from the state's massive de-industrialization and collapse of the state's auto industry which began in the '70s. But Snyder, a right-wing ideologue, who believes that autocratic rule should trump democratic decision making, didn't want to let a good crisis go to waste.

His next target was the state's local school districts where he seized control of their budgets. In Detroit, the district was put under the rule of an emergency manager, Robert Bobb by Snyder's predecessor, Jennifer Granholm. Bobb then contracted with Barbara Byrd-Bennett to run the schools. It was there that BBB and her partner in crime, Gary Solomon, embarked on a trail of corruption that would run through Chicago and end finally in conviction and a possible 7 year prison sentence.

Snyder replaced the elected city governments in Muskegon Heights. and Highland Park with hand-picked business czars. In Muskegon Heights, an emergency manager dissolved the public school system and turned it over to a for-profit charter school, only to have the company bail on the contract because, as the emergency manager put it, “the profit just simply wasn’t there.”  The districts were left in a state of chaos rather than academic improvement.

In Pontiac, emergency managers privatized or sold nearly all public services, outsourcing the city’s wastewater treatment to United Water months after the company was indicted on 26 counts of violating the Clean Water Act, including tampering with E. coli monitoring methods to cut corners on costs.

In Flint, says, Moyers, "children were poisoned to save money."

The poisoning of the children and families of Flint was part and parcel of the poisoning of democracy in the state of Michigan. Now IL Gov. Rauner is proposing the same measures for Chicago and its school district. If you want to see where that leads, look no further than Flint.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Little Village schools fighting school crowding hold the line

Community activists gather outside Saucedo/Telpochcalli to demand that CPS postpone its co-location plan. 
I'm told that CPS has pulled its plan to move Spry Community Links High School into Saucedo/Telpochcalli, off the agenda of the February board meeting and agreed to protesters' demand to review the plan with community input. While there's nothing in writing yet, community activists who staged last week's sit-in against the consolidation plan, are calling it a victory.

This from Progress Illinois:
The district faced community pushback, including a sit-in staged by parents, students and community stakeholders last week, over its plan to co-locate the high school grades of John Spry Community School in the building that houses Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy and Telpochcalli Elementary School, at 2850 W. 24th Blvd. 
"CPS has postponed the proposed Saucedo/Spry co-location at the request of the community," CPS spokesman Michael Passman confirmed in a statement Wednesday. "We will hold regular meetings with stakeholders to seek more input."
Writes Telpochcalli teacher Maria Cosme:
Thanks to all the groups for all we have done and accomplished. We have yet to get something in writing from CPS regarding postponing this proposal, but we had agreed that we want it completely off their agenda so we may come together as a community (parents, students, teachers, administration, and community agencies) to develop what is best for our students. So, them postponing is a victory but the hard work of developing this plan begins today. United we will have more successes.
This from Saucedo teacher Sarah Chambers:
This is definitely a victory for the Spry Community Links High School, Saucedo Academy, Telpochcalli, Spry and the community at large. The parents, community members, teachers and students made their voices loud and clear against this top-down proposal. Christina Lopez, mother of a student at Saucedo School, says “we will not accept anything less than a positive and safe school for our students. Our school is named after Maria Saucedo, an activist, educator, and mother who believed in education, equality and justice. We will continue to stay vigilant and engaged until there is a community created plan.
And from Jennifer Rocque, a teacher at Spry Community Links High School
"We commend CPS's decision to postpone the proposal. We look forward to working with key stakeholders to create a well suited proposal that provides [Spry] Community Links High School the opportunity to continue serving our families."