Tuesday, October 8, 2019

There were three teacher strikes when Harold Washington was mayor

The 19-day CTU strike in 1987 was longest in city history
In 1983, Harold Washington made history in two ways. He became Chicago's first African-American mayor and the first whose election grew directly from a high tide of black resistance to racist machine rule. That movement was joined by a grassroots coalition of progressive forces citywide. During his first term, a racist cabal of 29 white aldermen, led by the two Eddies, Vrdolyak and Burke, blocked his every move in the City Council. However, by 1987, when Washington won re-election, court-ordered reapportionment of wards led to the election of some allied Latino aldermen and the mayor gained some breathing room.

At that time, the public schools, the most racially segregated in the nation, were in a state of deep crisis. Badly underfunded by Republicans in Springfield, who referred to CPS as "a black hole," and ruled by a self-perpetuating top-heavy bureaucracy, Chicago's school system was the picture of abject failure. Chicago-hating Pres. Reagan went so far as to send his racist Sec. of Education William Bennett to the city to denounce CPS as the "nation's worst" school system.

In the wake of the record 19-day teachers' strike (Sept. 8 to Oct. 2), angry and frustrated parents raised their demand for sweeping change. While the mayor met separately with the two sides in the strike, urging reconciliation, he refused to get involved directly in the talks or to dictate terms of a settlement.
''Everyone says I was not involved, but you solve problems through discussions,'' he said. ''I had some of our best people working on the problem. There was a constant quest on my part to resolve the strike.'' -- NY Times
The five-week shutdown, which became the longest teacher strike in city history, and the third during Washington's tenure, concluded with a tentative agreement of a two-year contract that the CTU membership ratified the following day. The new contract mandated a 4% pay increase the first year, followed by another 4% the second year, "if adequate funds could be found," and a reduction in class sizes by two students in grades K-3. But since neither side had a plan for generating new revenue, the raises came at the expense of the firing of 1,700 teachers, low-level administrators, and staff.

However, change was in the air, thanks to a resurgence of a powerful reform movement of CPS parents and community activists. Washington had been working behind closed doors on a plan to overhaul the school district. When the teachers’ strike hit, he seized on the political unrest and anger in the black community to make a public commitment to school reform.

He announced plans for an education summit that would search for a path forward that included all stakeholders. The Summit, held at UIC (Circle Campus) was attended by more than a thousand participants. Washington died of a heart attack before the summit could carry out its work, but the momentum for change remained alive.

It's important to note that at the time, black leadership of the school system was apparent. The city's mayor, school board chief, superintendent, and teachers' union president were all African-Americans.

The sweeping changes that followed were marked by a shift in power from the top of the bureaucratic machinery down to the local school level, including the creation of parent/community-dominated Local School Councils (LSCs). While the victories were short-lived and later reversed completely during the next Mayor Daley's regime, they still showed what is possible through grass-roots community organizing.

Of course, conditions today are markedly different. Since 1995, the schools are under mayoral control which the Daley and Emanuel regimes have used to maintain corporate control of the schools through privatization, charter schools and mass school closings.

Harold Washington didn't have that kind of power and didn't want it.  A new progressive tide has put the first African-American, gay, woman in the mayor's seat, along with her appointed school board, composed mainly of progressives and people of color. There's also a new crop of city council members including 6 who identify as "socialists" fresh off of election victories over the machine.

Oh, if only Harold had that going for him back in '87.

The CTU has lost its dynamic leader, Karen Lewis, but remains a strong and vital part of the progressive movement in Chicago.

One thing hasn't changed. CPS remains just as racially segregated as it was 30 years ago and has lost thousands of African-American students, teachers, and parents since then. While the legislature is now dominated by Democrats and a Democratic governor, the school system is still badly in debt,  underfunded and desperately in need of teachers, nurses, librarians, social workers, and wrap-around services.

Unfortunately, another CTU strike now seems inevitable. But strike or no strike, the union and the board will ultimately reach an agreement and hopefully move forward together.

Monday, October 7, 2019


"I will destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey" -- Stable Genius

I'm seriously trying to avoid quotes from the Stable Genius, but sometimes I just can't help myself.
...if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). -- Twitter
CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey on contract negotiations
 “I don’t think we can find a boogeyman. It’s a very different dynamic." -- Sun-Times 
 Arnie Rivera, CPS’ chief operating officer.
“The tone behind closed doors is very productive, very respectful for the most part. This contract for both parties isn’t just about compensation, it’s about making the school system better.” -- Sun-Times
China's Foreign Minister, Wang Yi
“China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the US, and we trust that the American people will be able to sort out their own problems." -- Global Times
Diane Ravitch on reports that Sen. Warren had a longterm affair with 24-year old Marine
Damn, she’s good! -- Twitter

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Looking for something better to come from vitriolic contract talks

Striking CTU members gather over two days to study the 2012 contract offer before voting to end the strike. 
The contract talks between CPS and the CTU are going pretty much the way I expected and just the way I feared. In some ways, they are a continuation of the contentious and divisive campaign tactics that marked the mayor's race between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle.
Lightfoot’s victory — winning every single ward — was a blow to CTU’s power and perceptions about its influence. And the union has been struggling to get some of its mojo back ever since. CTU’s dilemma is that it’s trying to wage a war with a mayor who’s not Rahm Emanuel — an enemy CTU knew how to fight. -- Illinois Playbook
The CTU and SEIU Local 73, cornerstones of the progressive movement here in Chicago, both backed Preckwinkle who was soundly defeated by the current mayor. Both candidates ran as "progressives" but in the end, Lightfoot and a group of insurgent city council candidates rode an anti-machine wave to victory.

But as I predicted at the time,
With election day only a few weeks away, and Lightfoot apparently pulling far ahead, internecine warfare has broken out among the progressives to such a degree it's going to be hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again when the election madness is over.
As we approach the Oct. 17th strike date set by the unions, the past nine months have unfortunately proven me right. The current negotiations are largely being carried out in the media and on Twitter as both sides scramble for public support. These tactics of grandstanding, personal attacks and demagogy increase the level of antagonism which in turn, tends to cloud the real contract issues and the systemic, rather than the personal nature of the struggle.

I have made no secret of my disagreement with some of the mayor's as well as the union's views on education. For example:
I support the demands of the teachers for decent pay and working conditions as well as for adequate and equitable staffing, teacher prep time, and wrap-around services for schools. And as I've said many times, if the negotiations break down leading to a strike, I will be walking the picket line, as I've done in 2012 and '16 with my CTU daughter Jennifer and her colleagues over at Telpochcalli Elementary in Little Village.

But I am also cognizant of the fact that this struggle is taking place within a system that criminally underfunds public education, erodes public space and decision-making while supporting all manifestations of corporate greed. It also encourages antagonistic relations between those that should be united in common cause.

I believe that the mayor and her team are committed to the goal of public education, including racial desegregation, better pay for teachers, adequate and equitable staffing. But how to fully fund all these and how much is contractual and/or budgetary are matters for collective bargaining. It's the very process that Republican governors have liquidated in Wisconsin, Ohio and other red states as well as the main issue behind the wild cat teacher strikes in right-to-work states like Oklahoma and Arizona.

It's these conditions that have led to the contentious relationship between some union leaders and the most progressive school board in Chicago history.  All this, while teachers voice their righteous anger and the board tries to grapple with its own inadequate budget. The only short-term resolution lies in serious collective bargaining by both sides.

The mainstream and corporate media attacks on the teachers and their union have been disgraceful and have made things worse, especially when you consider that the Sun-Times, which ran a greedy-teacher editorial, is partially owned by the CFL.

Then there was Greg Hinz at Crain's who has the hutzpah to equate the union with Trump.

It's also no secret that I've had sharp disagreements with the leadership of the union over their own false equation of Mayor Lightfoot with Rahm Emanuel. I've also been critical of the union's unfocused and personal attacks against, CPS negotiators, and progressive board members like Miguel del Valle and Elizabeth Breland.

CTU mocks Board Pres. del Valle
 The forces at the table at this year's contract negotiation are far different from those in 2012 and '16 and I'm encouraged by the fact that educators now dominate the table on both sides.

According to the Sun-Times:
Former teachers and principals now make up the bulk of CPS’ team, which both sides say is a welcome change from the bureaucrats negotiating for the schools in 2012 when just one teacher attended the talks, and only a second, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, joined in after the CTU walked out. In 2016, three educators were on the CPS team that struck a deal with the union minutes before a strike deadline.
 “The tone behind closed doors is very productive, very respectful for the most part,” said Arnie Rivera, CPS’ chief operating officer. “This contract for both parties isn’t just about compensation, it’s about making the school system better.”
Teachers, parents and community members have no interest in sharpening the hostilities some in leadership seem to relish, or in rehashing last year's election.

I'm hoping against hope that both sides can reach an agreement in the next two weeks and avoid a strike. My greater hope is that the energy and turmoil created around this struggle, strike or no strike, will drive an even greater vision of democratic schooling that transcends the current contract issues as well as the leadership necessary to push that vision forward.

Monday, September 30, 2019


DT calls for "civil war" if he's impeached. 
I usually try and limit myself to only one hair-brained or fascist quote from Trump per week. But this weekend, there were two that creeped me out badly enough to warrant a second look.

First, there was DT referring to six members of the House of Representatives -- two Jews and four women of color -- as "savages" on Saturday morning. This, even though they were among at least 223 House Democrats who now support an impeachment inquiry.

He went so far as to suggest that one of those Jewish "savages", Rep. Adam Schiff,  be arrested and charged with "treason". 

Speaking of violence, the second was him threating "civil war" if he's impeached.

In my mind, each of these adds on to the long his of impeachable or criminal offenses in their own right. And I'm not the only one.

Harvard Law professor John Coates
...argued that the social media post itself is an "independent basis" for lawmakers to remove him from the White House.

Beto O'Rourke
When he calls 6 members of Congress—all women of color or Jewish—“savages,” he wants you to think of them as less than human. Like when he calls immigrants an “infestation” and says "no human being" would want to live in Baltimore. We can’t be surprised when violence follows. -- Twitter
Gabrielle Bruney
"Savage" has a long history as a racist term used to mark people of color as supposedly being less civilized than their white counterparts...In July, Trump called for this same group of congresswomen to "go back" to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came," despite the fact that all are American citizens and three were born in this country. -- Esquire

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

What's happened to Chicago schools since Arne Duncan got Judge Kocoras to lift the deseg consent decree

Students wait for the bus in front of Bouchet Elementary Math & Science Academy in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood. More than 74% of students whose neighborhood school is majority black schools are bussed to majority-black schools. (Manuel Martinez/WBEZ)
I'm reading Sarah Karp's WBEZ story about Chicago's experiment with school desegregation and recalling how Arne Duncan helped get a federal judge to quash the city's deseg consent decree.

Karp writes:
Most of the city’s 78 magnet and test-in schools — including classical, gifted and selective enrollment — were created under the decree as a way to lure in a diverse group of students. But even after the court order was lifted, school district officials said they believed integration was important, and they started integrating by the socioeconomic status of children.
In 2009, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras lifted the consent decree ending three decades of efforts to integrate Chicago schools. The decree’s bilingual education provisions, according to Kocoras, duplicated protections in state law. The ruling came despite evidence presented by DOJ lawyers in court that the district repeatedly failed to enroll English learners in bilingual education fast enough or provide them with required services.

Since then, writes Karp, CPS has continued busing and spending extra funding on magnet and test-in schools and also added 13 new ones plus more charter schools that have been shown to contribute to segregation. This year, the school district plans to spend $50 million for bussing and extra positions at these schools, which serve 62,000 students.

But, says Karp, the WBEZ analysis finds only about 20% of magnet and test-in schools meet the racial makeup goal set out in the court order, compared to 35% a decade ago. Under that definition, the goal was for white students to make up between 15% and 35% of the student body and black, Latino and Asian students to make up between 65% and 85%.
Six schools of the 65 in existence 10 years ago went from being considered integrated to not, while only one of the new schools has that mix of students. Among the schools no longer meeting this definition of integrated are Skinner North Elementary School, which opened in the last decade, and Walter Payton College Prep High School — two schools often named as the best in the city and the state. They have both seen significant increases in white students. 
Magnet schools and busing programs that were created and funded for the purpose of encouraging racial desegregation have since been turned into their opposites. Now magnets have increasingly become privileged selective-enrollment schools, anchors for neighborhood gentrification with expensive busing programs taking children miles away from their neighborhood schools and into segregated ones.

Niketa Brar on Hitting Left
Niketa Brar, executive director of Chicago United for Equity, and a frequent guest on Hitting Left, says magnet and selective schools have been used as a way to allow families to avoid the problems of the public school system. This is especially true in gentrifying neighborhoods, she said, where parents put their children on buses to be driven away from their local schools.

Brar tells Karp:
“They become little havens of white people feeling like they are participating in the public school system while actually keeping their children segregated from the impacts of a local neighborhood school that have the same resources that every other child in their neighborhoods gets.”
It's worth recalling that it was Pres. Obama's Secretary of Education and former CPS school chief, Arne Duncan, along with Mayor Daley and Duncan's successor Ron Huberman, who pleaded with Judge Kocoras to scrap the decree a decade ago. They claimed that the city had done all it could do to desegregate its schools and that the deseg struggle was "futile and a drain on district funds".

This,  even though research has shown that the period in which school deseg was in full play was when the district had made the greatest gains in measurable student learning and closing the so-called achievement gap.

Duncan maintained that if the consent decree was lifted, CPS could save $300 million, mostly in eliminating bus service to magnet and selective enrollment schools. It was all a lie. Busing service and selective enrollment programs and charter schools have been expanded. Only their purposes have changed.

Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's selective-enrollment schools became even more exclusive.

During the period of 1981 to 2015, the total population of African-American students in CPS plummeted from close to 240,000, 60% of all CPS students, to 156,000 or 39% of CPS. The loss of so many poor and black children and an increase in wealthier white students have since been ignored as an explanation for claimed rising test scores and graduation rates.

I'd argue that they, along with school resegregation, have lots to do with it.

We'll see if and how things change over the next four years with a new mayor and city council. 

Monday, September 23, 2019


Biggest climate protests in history. 

Climate activist Greta Thunberg 
"We are not just some young people skipping school,’ she told thousands of school strikers in Manhattan, on a day when millions around the world demonstrated for action. "We are a wave of change. Together, we are unstoppable." -- The Guardian
Nate Silver
He refers to Sanders supporters as "residue". Oops!
Not sure Bernie should get credit for having more diverse support than last time given that he has far less support than last time. A lot of voters have left him. White liberals have been particularly likely to leave him (for Warren) so the residue of what's left is more diverse. -- Tweet
The Hindu
The India of Mr. Modi’s Hindutva dreams, advancing rapidly under his rule, will be “one nation” with one people, one language, one religion, one election, one market, and one everything — a homogeneous, Hindu utopia. -- Commentary: One people, many countries
 Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. on U.S.-Saudi arms deal
 "A secretive monarchy that commits atrocities in Yemen, that murders dissidents and journalists and lies to the world about it, and that treats women as property is not one to which we should be giving some of our most sensitive military technology." -- NBC News

Monday, September 16, 2019


BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY--56 years ago, white supremacists bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, killing four girls and injuring dozens more.

Gene Patterson, the editor of the Atlanta Constitution in 1963
A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand, she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her. Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in their hand. -- Tampa Bay Times
 Laura Washington
Let’s put another trope to rest: It’s the one about how these angry black women can’t get along. These two women don’t have to like each other. They probably never will. So what? -- Sun-Times
Stephen Colbert on the Democratic debate
Let the 'humble background games' begin. -- Guardian
Kamala Harris on Trump 
Donald Trump [on trade]… he reminds me of that guy in the Wizard of Oz, when you pull back the curtain, he’s a really small dude. -- The Hill
Donald Trump doing his best Don Quixote
"Goddamn windmills..."  -- Washington Post