HITTING LEFT #145

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trump: 'I't may take a traumatic event to unify the country.'


Truth be told, I didn't watch Trump's shit show last night. Watched the Pistons demolish the Cavs instead. Much more satisfying.

I rarely watch SOTU. I wait to read the transcript the next day looking for keywords. The first thing I look for, out of force of habit, is education. D.T.'s only mention was this:
 Let’s open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. (Applause.) 
Nothing about "choice", vouchers, charters, teacher unions, Betsy DeVos...nada. As for unfunded voc-ed for the poor, Nancy Pelosi said it best:
I won't take up space here to debunk last-night's long trail of lies and disinformation. MSM did that well enough this morning.

Two things Trump said really worried me.

The first was his commitment to expand the nuclear arsenal and use the threat nukes as a "deterrent".

The second, even more frightening took place in his earlier meeting with network news anchors. Trump told them that he would like to "unify the country" but that because of the "tremendous divisiveness", it would likely be impossible without a traumatic event affecting Americans.
“I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” Trump said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”
His meaning was clear.

Buckle up! Resist!

Monday, January 29, 2018

WEEKEND QUOTABLES



Samantha Eyler-Driscoll
Senior Editor at the Stigler Center and its publication ProMarket, and one of six members of the ProMarket editorial board, I have opposed since its inception the proposal by my colleague Luigi Zingales to provide a platform to Steve Bannon at the Stigler Center, as well as the use of ProMarket to promote the provision of that platform, on grounds that it normalizes white nationalism and implicates us in the concrete violence wrought on American lives every day by that ideology. -- Resignation statement
Donald Trump
"I wouldn't say I'm a feminist..." -- Interview with Piers Morgan 
Janelle Monae
 “We are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters and human beings. We come in peace, but we mean business.” -- Grammys
Tiffany Kidd, Ballou H.S. math teacher
“I feel like we’re now in a culture where we’re forced to fail students, where we used to be able to provide solutions.There’s been anger and frustration.” -- Washington Post
Chicago State board member Nicholas Gowen 
...said he was taken aback by Vallas’ resignation. “Quite frankly, I’m a little floored,” Gowen said. “If he desires to run for mayor, then of course he can’t keep this position, but that should have been made clear early on if that was his desire. I find it hard to believe this was a lark.” --  Tribune

Friday, January 26, 2018

The late Rev. Walker and his charter school in Harlem

Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker in Harlem
I didn't know the Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker personally, but I knew of him and admired his work, his dedication and brilliance as a heroic '60s civil rights movement strategist and aide to Dr. King, supporter of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and later as Harlem community organizer. I was deeply saddened by his death.

While nothing diminishes my respect for Rev. Walker during that period, it's clear that at a later point in his life, his perspective changed. He became a community investment banker and real estate developer. His disdain for the lack of decent, affordable housing and education options in the black community led him to become a supporter of charter schools and school vouchers. In 1999 he helped establish and lent his name to the state's first charter school, the Sisulu-Walker Charter School (named also for the South African anti-apartheid leader Walter Sisulu).

*****

As readers of this blog know, I am not a supporter of either privately-run charters or school vouchers. But back in the mid-90's our Small Schools Workshop was an incubator for some of the first small charter schools in Chicago that opened in 1997. That was back when charters were organized and led by union teachers as a hoped-for critical force for innovation within the public school system.

How times have changed. In recent years, charters have been captured by politically-connected networks run, not by teachers, but mostly by anti-union boards of wealthy, corporate, pro-privatization patrons who have garnered support from within both recent Democrat and Republican administrations and their departments of education -- from Arne Duncan to Betsy DeVos. Billions of dollars have been diverted from public schools to support these networks. Teachers have been disempowered and left without union representation and collective bargaining rights.

But I still try to seperate my critical opposition to charter expansion from my support for charter school teachers, parents and students. I'm encouraged by union organizing efforts on the part of charter teachers and by the coming merger in Chicago between the CTU with and the Chicago Assoc.of Charter School Teachers (ChiACTS).

*****

The Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem (formerly Sisulu Children's Academy-Harlem Public Charter School, and its for-profit management company, Victory Schools) initially drew rave reviews and drew backing from wealthy investors like venture capitalist Steven Klinsky. It's opening-day ceremonies were attended by Pres. George W. Bush (then Texas governor), Governor George Pataki, Secretary of State Randy Daniels and other national, state and local dignitaries. In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg celebrated the school’s 10th anniversary by demanding an end to the state cap on charters.

It was Klinsky, with no background in education, who started for-profit Victory Schools, Inc., made high-interest loans to the school and decided the curriculum for Sisulu-Walker would be Direct Instruction (DI). It was soon claimed to be one of the top performing public charter schools in all of Manhattan based on student test scores.

But it was only a matter of time before the "luster faded", ratings fell, Klinsky's money dried up and foundations backed away. Like so many charters, it was also beset with financial mis-management issues, teacher and principal turnover, and student recruitment violations.

Sisulu-Walker had five principals in its first decade, and the state put the school on probation in 2004. After the charter was renewed, a 6th principal, Michelle Haynes, came in 2012.
[Victory's]show place charter school, Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, received the 15th-lowest score on the 2010 city progress report cards, ranking in the bottom one percent of all schools. It received “F’ grades in the school environment and progress categories. Most of the school’s teachers reported problems with order and discipline and they recently voted to unionize. (Huffington)
And unionize they did. 

No need to go on. Those who have followed the ongoing saga of school privatization can anticipate the rest. Despite its name and all the ballyhoo surrounding its opening, in the final analysis Sisulu-Walker offered nothing more innovative and no better learning environment that the neighborhood schools Rev. Walker had criticized. Life conditions for the neighborhood's poorest families grew worse and many were forced to leave Harlem. If anything, Harlem's charters were used to gentrify the neighborhood rather than a serious attempt and public school reform.

Hopefully things will change under new leadership and with the empowerment of the school's teachers.

My point here is that we celebrate the life and mourn the death of Rev. Walker despite our differences. Times and conditions bring out the best and worst in all of us.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

'Underutilization': The devastating language behind school closings.



It's time to reconsider the word, "underutilized" as CPS code language for schools in black communities, in the same way "Norwegian" has become code for white in the Trumpian lexicon.

Chicago Public Schools finally released data last month, showing that it considers more than 200 of its schools -- almost a third of the total, and nearly all with black or Latino student populations -- to be underutilized and therefore primed for closure and possible replacement with privately-run charters. CPS no longer calculates space use for privately-managed charter or contract schools.
Some 229 buildings now are considered underutilized, nearly as many as CPS considers to be efficiently used. That’s according to a newly-revised formula CPS employed to compare numbers of classrooms in a school with the number of students enrolled, calculating approximately 30 kids per classroom.
Another 29 buildings have been deemed overcrowded, including a few selective enrollment schools that can screen applicants and limit who gets in. That leaves 231 “efficient” buildings — now defined as where enrollment constitutes between 70 and 110 percent of a school’s ideal capacity. The efficient range used to be between 80 and 120 percent.
The study's release, timed with the lifting of the self-imposed cap on school closings, immediately caused confusion since officials had once again, changed the way they calculate “space utilization,” leaving principals and parents unclear about how their schools’ capacity grew since CPS last made the calculations.

Whether it comes to evaluating test scores, graduation rates, special education, or crime rates, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has never been adverse to juking the stats for political advantage.

More importantly, in communities, where the needs for learning spaces as well as for youth and adult social activities are great, there's no reason for so many schools to be shuttered, left as vacant hulls contributing to blight and crime and destabilizing the lives of so many children and families.

This is especially true in neighborhoods like Englewood and South Loop where the city is about to close even more schools while spending hundreds of millions of dollars for new school construction, only blocks from the school buildings they are about to abandon. The question as always, is who are the new schools for?
**********
I'm looking forward to the release of  Eve Ewing's new book, When the Bell Stops Ringing: Race, History and Discourse Amid Chicago's School Closures. I caught up with Eve last night at the Read/Right Library in Humboldt Park, reading from Electric Arches and talking CPS school closings. She was right on time. 
********** 

It's impossible to understand so-called underutilization or shrinking school populations without coming to terms with the forced mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Chicago's African-American families over the past three decades. It's an exodus which gov candidate Chris Kennedy, for his own opportunist reasons, laid on MRE's doorstep, for what Kennedy called the mayor's “strategic gentrification.”

Kennedy caught hell from the media for "playing the race card" and the Rahm-protecting Sun-Times even called him a "Stalinist". But he was only saying what everybody already knew, although the push-out of black and poor people from the city predates Rahm's regime. It's been part of well-documented initiatives to whitenize Chicago that goes back decades involving not only previous mayors, but the city's biggest investment banks, corporations and real estate developers, including Kennedy himself.

So whenever a new study on school utilization by CPS comes out, you can bet that the plans for the next wave of school closures have already been laid. Why even bother to go through another round of phony community hearings. Parents, students and community members have consistently voiced opposition to closing their schools only to have their voices ignored.

With former school CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in prison and former CEO Forrest Claypool forced to resign in the face of corruption charges, it will now be up to Rahm's newly appointed CEO Janice Jackson, to sell "underutilization" to the community.

Monday, January 22, 2018

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Women's March, New York

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
The women’s marches were the beginning, not the end. What happens next will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses and strengths. -- Guardian 
Betsy DeVos to AEI 
"Common Core is dead" -- NPRed 
Mulvaney: Shutdown "kind of cool".
Mick Mulvaney, director of OMB
“I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts down the government down is me, which is kind of cool." -- Vox 
Jill Abramson
So prevalent is the use of Trump’s name as a slur that the White House had to issue a formal statement saying the president “condemns violence, bigotry and hatred in all its forms, and finds anyone who might invoke his or any other political figure’s name for such aims to be contemptible”. -- Guardian 
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT)
"Being from Norway is not a skill." -- To Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rauner asked, 'Is David Duke a racist?' He dodges like Trump did.

 "Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK?" he said. "I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists." -- Donald Trump, Feb. 2016
Remember when candidate Donald Trump refused to condemn the KKK and specifically David Duke as racists? It certainly was a harbinger of things to come.

Fast forward to the current race for governor in IL where racism and the push-out of thousands of the state's African-American families are among the hot campaign issues. It's deja vu all over again.

WVON's Maze Jackson and his morning show co-host, veteran Chicago newsman Charles Thomas, (a former guest on on Hitting Left) asks Gov. Rauner if Donald Trump and/or David Duke can be considered racists?

It went down like this...
MAZE JACKSON: “The President of the United States used language that we’ve never heard before, we call – we said he said ‘shitolee’ on this show. You heard his comments. Is Donald Trump racist? Is he a racist?”
RAUNER: “I’ll say this. That language has no place in our political conversation.”
 JACKSON: “But is he a racist?” 
RAUNER: “That language has no place in our political conversation.”
JACKSON: “But we’ve got it. We heard it. He said it. So it’s in the universe. So, to a – to the Haitians that live in this city, in the state – what’s up with Donald Trump? How do you respond to that?” 
RAUNER: “That language has no place in our political conversation.” 
CHARLES THOMAS: “But you won’t call him a racist?” 
RAUNER: “No place.” 
THOMAS: “Is David Duke a racist? I mean, is… what about Donald Trump? 
RAUNER: “You know what? We have racists in our society. We have got to come together to change the system in Illinois. Illinois is broken. Our system is broken. African American families are suffering in Illinois. It’s worse than anywhere with unemployment. We have got to change our system.”
So shameless Rauner, who has a wing-nut Republican on his right and Democrats on his...you decide, won't publicly call out racism in its most obvious form for fear of alienating what remains of his right-wing, downstate base. Now he's suddenly for overthrowing the whole system.

Trying to avoid total embarrassment, we later hear this from a Rauner staff member:
“The governor believes that David Duke is a racist,” Justin Giorgio, a spokesman for Rauner’s campaign, said later in an email. “As he stated in his interview this morning, the governor is working to bring all Illinoisans together to overcome the racism that exists in our society.”
For all this slip-sliding and evasion, Rauner gets a personal thank you from the former Grand Dragon himself.

Monday, January 15, 2018

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

"I am not a racist."  (Painting by Haitian-American artist, Watson Mere)
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” -Martin Luther King Jr., The Radical King
Steven W. Thrasher
As often as American politicians are always saying they wish Ferguson or NFL protesters did things “more like King”, white Americans have never really liked any kind of racial protest, and didn’t especially like King when he was alive. They didn’t like him marching at Selma or helping run a bus boycott in Montgomery. The didn’t like him organizing a Poor People’s Campaign to try to bring together economically exploited people of all races. And they certainly didn’t like him showing up in Memphis to help sanitation workers strike for better working conditions after two of their own, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were killed on the job. -- Guardian
U.S. & Norwegian educators statement
“The vile and unacceptable comments made by President Trump must be condemned with the strongest possible force. Norwegian and American educators stand in solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Haiti, El Salvador and across Africa—and people of African descent in both of our countries—who who will bear the brunt of bigotry." -- Union of Education Norway and AFT on President Trump’s Racism
Rev. William H. Lamar IV
“Donald Trump is America’s id,” said Pastor Lamar, whose 180-year-old church is five blocks from the White House. “He is as American as baseball and apple pie.” He added, “America has to think long and hard about whether it wants something different.” -- New York Times



Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday's show. What I would have asked Delia.


I thoroughly enjoyed today's show for two reasons.

The first was watching my brother Fred's first day at the controls as producer. With a day of training under his belt, Fred sailed the Hitting Left ship successfully off to sea, proving you can teach an old dog some new tricks. Congrats bro.

Second, was having Delia Ramirez, candidate for state rep in IL Dist. 4, as our in-studio guest. She proved to be a lively and forthright guest and handled herself well under pressure (we don't do puff on HL). I came away thinking this Prosser High School alum with deep roots in the neighborhood, will make a great rep. Thanks Delia.

Delia Ramirez
I regret that time ran out before I could ask her what she thought about Gov. Rauner's veto of the state's school funding bill, a measure that was designed to clear the way for a major overhaul of how the state distributes dollars to public schools.

Yes that's the very same bill that overcame Rauner's earlier veto and passed easily through the legislature back in August, with Rauner and the Republican caucus, following the lead of Madigan, Cullerton, Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the state's Democratic leadership, down the school privatization path. The trade-off for school funding for the Democrats was acceptance of the state's first school voucher program.

Under that program, individuals and corporations can give money for scholarships to private schools in exchange for a tax credit worth 75% of their donation.

Rauner not only signed the bill, but then took credit for its passage.

But now that the bill has become law, Rauner has used his amendatory power to once again veto it in a so-called "trailer bill". Weird, I know. (Can he do that, Delia?). It seems he now wants to lower the bar and include even more unvetted and unauthorized private schools in the feast at the public trough.

I wanted to get Delia's thoughts on how she as a legislator would work to resist this unethical and probably illegal assault by the governor on public education funding. But alas, time ran out and even having Fred at the control board couldn't change that.

If you missed today's show, you can listen to it here on Mixcloud. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sun-Times leaps to Rahm's defense. Calls Chris Kennedy a 'Stalinist' who's 'playing the race card'. Ugh!

Kennedy and Rahm at Wolf Point : "We like investing here," Kennedy said. "Every time we attract a new resident to our Downtown, we make a contribution to strengthen the social fabric of Chicago."
Some of my liberal friends tell me I've been too hard on Chris Kennedy. He's a "progressive," they say, and they're quick to remind me that he recently broke with party hacks by leveling criticism at Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the continuing push-out of thousands of black families from Chicago. He did indeed. But more on that later.

I've posted several times on this blog offering reasons, personal and political, why I can't vote for Kennedy in the Democratic primary. Yes, I would probably hold my nose and vote for him in a race against Rauner. But I would likely vote for Satan himself in that unlikely case.

But after reading the Sun-Times editorial this morning, accusing Kennedy of "playing the race card" and of throwing "Stalinist mud" on the mayor, I find myself inclined to trudge to Kennedy's defense.

Kennedy's criticism of Rahm Emanuel's “strategic gentrification plan” was spot-on or possibly understated. Emanuel and previous mayors (before and after Harold Washington) share major responsibility, along with the big banks and real estate developers and manipulators, for the black exodus.

Can anyone deny that Rahm has stepped up school privatization and the erosion of public space? Can anyone reasonably deny the increasing gentrification of targeted black communities, under-funding or shutting down city services, mass closings of public schools and health clinics in black neighborhoods?

Not to mention the mayor's culpability in the cover-up of police killing in the Laquan McDonald case and others.
“I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration, and I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes,” Kennedy said during a news conference about gun violence in North Lawndale.
Of course,there are deeper systemic reasons for the reverse migration, having to do with deindustrialization and the disappearance of good-paying union jobs, as well as the easy flow of guns and drugs into the neighborhoods. But all this has been going on nationally for decades and accounts in large measure for the great demographic shifts taking place, and the whitenization of the cities. I wouldn't put all of that on Rahm--but he deserves his share.

All Kennedy did was tell us what we already knew, and no credible observer would deny it. Kennedy, for his own reasons, just put it all out there. And what are those reasons?

I suspect that he's targeted Rahm, not for personal reasons as the Sun-Times claims, but to gain a political edge in a tightening gov's race. I'm sure any one of the candidates, after looking at the mayor's plummeting poll numbers, would rather run against Rahm or better yet, against Trump, than against each other.

Yes, there's obvious hypocrisy and opportunism on Kennedy's part. He's learned it from the best. As Hank Williams, Jr.,would say, "It's a family tradition."

Columnist Mary Mitchell points out that Kennedy was one of the mayor's biggest supporters when Rahm ran against Chuy Garcia and that Kennedy family downtown real estate deals played a role in the city's gentrification.

Mitchell points to a video showing Kennedy, framed by shots of cranes and renderings of a luxury high-rise tower, comparing Emanuel to Joe Kennedy.
“He saw something in Chicago that he thought was extraordinary … It had stable and powerful political leadership, and it had a confident group of business leaders … Those factors were at work 60 years ago, and now with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership, they are still true in Chicago today,” Kennedy said at the time.
At the groundbreaking for the Wolf Point project, Kennedy praised the billion-dollar investment being made in the downtown core of Chicago. Wolf Point is a joint venture between the Kennedy family and three other entities.
“We’ve added 50,000 people to the downtown core in the last few years, which makes it one of the fastest growing residences anywhere in the United States,” Kennedy said then.
Meanwhile, low-income Chicagoans living in areas surrounding the downtown core were being routed from CHA’s public housing.
Yes, Kennedy's attack on Rahm is an obvious pitch for black votes, votes which may well decide this election. I'm glad someone's pitching there. He's so far tried to appeal to African-American voters, focusing on the issue of gun violence, educational equity, and property taxation in black neighborhoods.

But the S-T editorial is nothing but a naked and shameful racist (who says, "playing the race card" anymore?) and red-baiting (Stalinist? Really?) defense of the mayor. I was hoping for better with the change in ownership and leadership of the paper. Silly me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Troy is officially running for mayor

Troy LaRaviere on Hitting Left
I'm not endorsing anyone for mayor yet. 2019 is still a ways away and we have no idea what the whole field will look like. First of course, we have to defeat Trump wannabe Rauner in the race for governor. But I was glad to hear yesterday that my friend Troy LaRaviere had filed his papers and officially entered the mayor's race against Rahm Emanuel. 

Some of you may remember that night in 2015 at the Hideout, when CTU Pres. Karen Lewis turned to Troy and said, "Why don't you run?" Lots of light bulbs lit up that room full of lefties and progressives at the time, including one over my head.

Troy was our first guest on Hitting Left back in February of 2017 and we asked him then if he was ready to announce. He wasn't then but was obviously surveying the territory. Now it seems he's put his team together and is ready to officially jump into the fray. Good for him. Good for us.

I've been afraid that the progressives would wait too long before coming up with viable candidates to take on Rahm and his current regime of one-percenters. I still am.

Rahm's people are definitely not waiting til 2019. Despite his lower-than-snakeshit poll numbers and collapse of support among the city's African-American voters, he's raising tons of campaign money, rebranding himself as a progressive, and is still a force to be reckoned with.

But it's also important to remember that Chuy Garcia, now running for congress, forced Rahm into a run-off even after entering the campaign late and with only a tiny fraction of the mayor's campaign funds. Knocking off Rahm in 2019 will be tough. But it's doable.


Troy with Bernie
Troy, the former principal at Blaine Elementary, was fired by the board for "insubordination" after speaking out openly against the mayor's wrongheaded schools policies. Troy has always been a pot-stirrer. After winning his election and becoming president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, Troy has continued to be a voice for social and educational justice. His recent takedown of Rahm's discriminatory special ed policies was a model of research-based critical inquiry.

He's a Bernie Sanders Democrat and played an important role in pushing for a critical statement on privatization and charter schools in the Democratic Party's platform during the 2016 presidential campaign. Sanders came to town in April, 2016 and called Troy's firing, "Rahm's revenge obsession."

But questions remain about whether a LaRaviere candidacy can capture the imagination and pocketbooks of voters and unite communities citywide, despite a badly divided, often anti-electoral and sectarian left. Can LaRaviere reach out to those with interests beyond the field of public education? I think he can. But it will be an enormous challenge.

For those still unfamiliar with Troy's take on education and politics, check out his blog here.

NEXT UP ON HITTING LEFT... Delia Ramirez, candidate for state rep in the 4th Dist.

Monday, January 8, 2018

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

Passerby Gretchen Moore shot video of raid on Chicago homeless
“And so I parked my car and I went running over and I said, ‘Who are you and why are you doing this? I can’t believe any of the aldermen would do this.'" -- WGN
Oprah at the Golden Globes 
 They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military. And there's someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. -- Transcript 
 Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) following visit to Puerto Rico
"If this were happening in Connecticut, there would be riots in the streets." -- Washington Post
Brandon Johnson
Brandon Johnson on Amazon's HQ2
The fact that you have the richest man on the planet getting a tax incentive, in theory to move jobs to Illinois, while black women in particular have to beg on the county floor for a job, that's an unjust system. -- Hitting Left 
 Drew Magary on 'Fire & Fury'
 And it confirms what we have all always known to be true: that the president severely lacks the cognitive ability to do this job, and that he is surrounded at all times by a cadre of enablers, dunces, and outright thieves. -- GQ 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Toxic CPS culture starts at the top

Gift cards for reward and punishment
What happens when you make the public school system a wing of Chicago City Hall, arguably the greatest symbol of corruption in this country's history? Answer: You end up with a toxic culture of corruption that filters down throughout the system.

The latest example has to do with the misuse (theft?) by school administrators of thousands of dollars in school-purchased gift cards that were supposed to be used as incentives to get students to come to school and take their standardized tests more seriously.

According to the IG's report:
Between January 2013 and December 2016, CPS schools, network offices and central office departments spent about $250,000 to buy 7,462 gift cards, according to the report. The cards were often bought as incentives for good student performance or attendance.
The report describes the purchase of the cards as wasteful, noting that they come at a high cost.
“Vendors that sell gift cards to CPS are essentially selling cash but they charge significant processing and service fees on top of the value of the gift cards,” the report states. “Those fees have been, on average, 18 percent markups on the gift cards purchased since January 1, 2013.”
The report also details the widespread practice of using the gift cards to “circumvent the district’s prohibition on the use of petty cash.”
As you might expect, this latest corruption scandal targeted teachers and principals only. Several were fired or reprimanded. It all reminded me of the Atlanta test cheating scandal where only African-American teachers went to prison. Top administrators pressured teaches to produce higher test scores or risk being fired paid not penalty.

In a similar vein, the IG found several “high-level” central office employees violated district policy by living outside of the city.
“The violations by high-level central office employees are particularly concerning given that CPS regularly terminates the employment of low-level employees for such violations,” the report states.
The Sun-Times reports:
In an emailed statement, CPS spokesman Michael Passman said, officials “appreciate” the inspector general’s office for “identifying employees who have not upheld the values of our district, particularly when their actions deprive students.”
Yes you heard Passman right -- "the values of our district..." But he carefully avoids any mention of the mayor or his appointed district leaders for their roles in this latest corruption scandal or for promoting the culture of corruption at CPS.

For those who've been sleeping, CPS has gone through 8 different mayor-appointed CEOs in the past 9 years. Of the last two, one is in prison on fraud and corruption charges, the second was recently forced to resign amid more corruption charges.

Nobody in the media is even questioning this basic form of bribery that lays the foundation for cheating and corruption of both educators and students. This testing madness with it's winners and losers, rewards and punishments for students, teachers and administrators, breeds corruption and cheating at every level of the system.

Why pay students or families with restaurant gift cards to come to school take tests? Who at the top, thinks this is a good idea? Where's the research to support bribery or even so-called "merit pay" as a successful education tool? And why would they think that this wouldn't lead to more corruption within the system?

Getting rid of the culture of corruption is a long, hard struggle. But the best place to start is by separating CPS from City Hall, ending this autocratic mayor's control of the schools, and establishing a democratically elected school board.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Some thoughts on the swearing in of Doug Jones


Yes, Doug Jones, is a self-described centrist Democrat who still talks the talk about some illusionary bi-partisanship with Trumpists rather than resistance. But he will likely vote with Dem leadership to protect DACA, Social Security and Medicare, and labor (maybe), etc... when push comes to shove. But white lefties were wrong to attack him during the campaign or to sit it out, leaving the burden of community resistance on African-American (mainly women) voters and activists.

It's great that Jones is being sworn in today, instead of child molester and white supremacist, Roy Moore, who was backed by Trump. Time for lefties as well as the DNC to get their acts together on campaign strategies as well as on support for the revived women's movement, southern freedom struggles, Black Lives Matter, Medicare-for-all, Fight for 15, and the Poor People's Campaign, before the 2018 midterms.

Also, Dem leaders need to stop making excuses for their 2016 failure. Loss to Trump wasn't Susan Sarandon's fault or whatever the Russians, Saudis or Israelis did to swing the election Trump's way. Yes, they did it and will do it again with Trumpists' "treasonous"  collusion. And yes, Susan should have voted for neo-lib Clinton, given the choice at the time. But that didn't cost Dems the election. Put that behind you, DNC, and open up the party to Sanders' base, as well as black and Latino young activists, in an open unity process.

Otherwise, to quote Marx, it's "the first as tragedy, then as farce." For those interested, that well-known quote came from The Eighteenth Brumaire where KM also comments:
"Men [and women] make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past."
An observation worth considering as we head into the new year. Let's start from a hard assessment of those circumstances and work from there.


BROTHER FRED & I got into this very topic during our last two interviews on Hitting Left with Emma Tai from United Working Families and Kenzo Shibata from DSA. Listen to the podcasts here. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

WEEKEND QUOTABLES

R.I.P. Erica Garner
Erica Garner 
"I'm in This Fight Forever" -- The Root
Lenny Steinhorn, historian at American University 
"1968 was the perfect storm that crystallized the differences in society." -- U.S. News 
 Chicago Mayor Richard Daley at '68 Convention
 When Senator Abraham Ribicoff, of Connecticut, was giving a speech, the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, shouted at him, “Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy motherfucker, go home.” -- New Yorker, "Lessons from the Election of 1968"
Arthur Goldstein @teacherarthurG
Every kid can learn, but every kid can learn differently at different times. Some kids need more time than others. Some have learning disabilities. Some don't know English. A full 10% of our kids are homeless, and as long as we continue to ignore that, we won't be serving them no matter how often we give them the meaningless label of "college ready." -- NYC Educator 
Kenzo Shibata (DSA) 
We really do need to envision what organized labor looks like and it's not always going to look like money taken out of your paycheck to pay for representing you at the negotiating table. States and different locals are approaching it differently. But people have to feel like they're together, part of a union...Changing that mindset is going to be key to their survival. -- Hitting Left