Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shooting straight on Obama/Ayers

Chicago Catalyst's Linda Lenz ("Annenberg Challenge a radical enclave? Gimme a break!") gives us the real story on Obama and Bill Ayers and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. It's all in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

Thanks Linda.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Why not test ‘em in the womb?

Bloomberg/Klein now want to give standardized tests to kindergartners, says the NYT.

In an e-mail message sent on Monday evening, the Education Department’s chief accountability officer, James S. Liebman, urged principals to join a yearlong pilot program with five testing options for kindergarten through second grade, including timed paper-and-pencil assessments in which students record answers in booklets for up to 90 minutes, as well as ones in which teachers record observations of individual students on Palm Pilots.

WGN Swift-boater torpedoed

Chicago’s superstation WGN gave over two hours to swift-boater Stanley Kurtz on Milt Rosenberg's Extension 720 show, to "expose" Bill Ayers' alleged ties to the Obama campaign. The campaign struck back, getting angry listeners to call in their protests in record numbers.

"I would say this is the biggest response we've ever got from a campaign or a candidate," he said. "This is really unprecedented with the show, the way that people are flooding the calls and our email boxes."

Was McCain really tortured?

Not according to the definition of torture used by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Andrew Sullivan, at the Daily Dish, says:

In the Military Commissions Act, McCain acquiesced to the use of these techniques against terror suspects by the CIA. And so the tortured became the enabler of torture. Someone somewhere cried out in pain for the same reasons McCain once did. And McCain let it continue.


That's the last time I ever listen to Sid.

The big chill

I’m sorry Bill. Can’t we all just get along?
I’m a living example of what can happen to those who’ve been openly critical of the Gates Foundation. A decade ago, the Small Schools Workshop was on the foundation’s good-guy list. But since I first began making critical comments about the role Gates and other top-down “muscle foundations” are playing in the world of school reform, I’ve become persona non grata.
This story in the Seattle Times talks about the “chilling effect” all this has had on the world’s biggest foundation and confirms that it’s not just me:
"It would be suicidal for someone who wants a grant to come out and publicly criticize the foundation," said Mark Kane, former leader of a Gates-funded program to expand childhood immunizations in the developing world. "The Gates Foundation is very sensitive to PR."

Now they tell me.
But Bill, I’ve been rehabbed
Ace Chicago Sun-Times journalist Laura Washington interviews ‘60s movement vets Marilyn Katz and Don Rose at In These Times web edition (“The Whole World Was Watching”). It’s all about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and the “revolutionary” decade in which it took place.
Don points to Chicago as “the crucible of everything that was happening in America” in ’68 but thinks times have really changed. A look at the Denver convention makes that clear.
Looking back on '68, Chicago was the crucible of everything that was happening in America. It was a crucible of the student movement. We had the SDS headquartered here. We had the SDS meeting here. It was a crucible of the civil rights movement, beginning with the formation of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). It was the crucible of the anti-war movement. Everything that epitomized the '60s was occurring here, and it looks as if it is beginning again. The movement is not revolutionary, at this point, but evolutionary.

Marilyn then gives me and other ‘60s rads a clean bill of health.
What is really interesting to me is that (’60s radicals) like Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and Mike Klonsky have managed to live evolved lives in tune to fundamental social ideals, while figuring out a way to not only join the system but make changes. Small schools movement, juvenile justice, a whole series of things.

Thanks Marilyn (I think). And thank god for evolution.

Spirit of '68

Mixing me up with Henry?
Another thanks (I think) goes out to Time Out Chicago’s Martina Sheehan (“Spirit of ‘68”) who writes about me and other ’68 Chicago activists, like Congressman and former Black Panther leader Bobby Rush, the late, great Fred Hampton, and of course the omipresent Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, in this week’s Museum & Culture section (?????). I’ve got news for you Martina. I ain’t ready for the museum quite yet.
Here's Martina's take on me (90% accurate):
Mike Klonsky
Then National secretary for Students for a Democratic Society, the era’s largest and most radical student-activist group that organized for peace and participatory democracy
Now Author, and cofounder and director of the Small Schools Workshop at University of Illinois at Chicago
Activist legacy Neo-con bloggers still seethe at the mention of the “Maoist hardliner” whom they allege enjoyed more than one state dinner in Beijing. Lately, though, Klonsky’s been busy trying to improve schools and education: His Small Schools Workshop helps educators create new charter schools or restructure large schools into smaller learning communities. He also recently coauthored Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society and writes a blog on education and politics.
All kidding aside, Martina, thanks for the book and blog plugs. And BTW, I don't mind keeping those neo-con bloggers seething. But this I know--I never enjoyed a state dinner (maybe they mean steak dinner) in Beijing or anywhere else. State dinners are usually reserved for other state dignitaries. They must be mixing me up with Henry Kissinger.

Sid leaked it to me...

It's Ridge!

An old '60s activist friend, now a Republican insider, emailed me right after the Obama speech to tell me I was wrong about Romney. "It's Ridge," said Sid, a veteran of the Lower East Side ultra-radical group called Up Against the Wall Mother F******. He's since cut his hair and got his law degree at Yale. I can't tell you any more about Sid lest I get him fired.

Sid says they picked Tom Ridge to counter Biden's influence in swing-state Pennsylvania. But I'll always think of him as the former governor who funneled hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the now discredited education privateer Chris Whittle and his Edison Schools, Inc.

Ridge of course, then went on to head up the largest and most dysfunctional bureaucracy in the history of mankind--Bush's Office of Homeland Security.

More on all this later. I just wanted to break this story before the Republicans let the cat out of the bag.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama: “They call this the Ownership Society…”

"In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own. Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America."

Why wait?

San Antonio schools have an answer for increased student truancy. No it’s not making schools more interesting, smaller, more personalized, or any of that touchy-feely stuff. Rather, it’s making students wear ankle bracelets that emit GPS signals when they are absent. As one local official tells AP:

"We are at a critical point in our time where we can either educate or incarcerate," Penn said, linking truancy with juvenile delinquency and later criminal activity. "We can teach them now or run the risk of possible incarceration later on in life.”

By all means, incarcerate them now. Why wait?

Too poor to play

While Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan and board president, Rufus Williams continue to oppose coordinated actions on Sept. 4th which would call attention to inequitable funding for schools, inner-city students are paying the price. Duncan and Williams argue that the kids shouldn’t be involved in the struggle. But, 8 years into the district’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, these same students still sit in under-resourced schools and, according to the Sun-Times, are “too poor to play.”

The typical affluent school featured far more phys ed than the one period a week usually found at the impoverished schools. And both art and music were common at advantaged schools, while impoverished ones mostly offered art and no music...

Rove's Hand

While Bush hatchet-man, Karl Rove denies having a direct role in John McCain's campaign, his finger prints are all over it, especially since the hiring of Rove attack dog Steve Schmidt. Those prints include racist Muslim-baiting (see the PUMA interview with Chris Matthews below) and 50's-style McCarthyism and Swift Boating of Obama/Bill Ayers).

But tomorrow, we will see just how influential Rove is when McCain announces his VP pick. McCain and many of his biggest campaign donors want Lieberman. But Rove hates Lieberman and is closest to Romney. My prediction? I''ll bet on Rove/Romney.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rove/McCain PUMAs to Matthews...

"I'm not going to tell you. So nah nah!"


Shakin' his money maker

When Mitt Romney says that it was "hard work" that got John McCain all those houses that he got for marrying Cindy Hensley, what does he mean exactly? --Josh Marshall at TPM

From the Veep
"A child is more then a test score. So how can you expect our students to build a new economy if all they are doing is filling out bubbles? How can you expect them to think critically if all we are doing is testing their ability to memorize things?" --Joe Biden

Rothstein saw it in Park Ridge first…

PREAPrez shares some history as he welcomes teachers back to school.

The view from USA Today

Have Karl Rove’s boys, now running the McCain campaign, succeeded in making this election revolve around Obama’s “relationship” with Chicago educator and school-reform leader Bill Ayers? Probably not. But reading the front page of USA Today would certainly make one wonder. Here's some of the best quotes:

Tom Hayden, an anti-war activist who met Ayers in the 1960s and later was elected to the California Legislature, says Ayers' past should be forgiven:

"I have met and like John McCain, but he bombed, and presumably killed, many people in a war I opposed," Hayden says. "If I can set all that aside, I would hope that Americans will accept" that Ayers has changed, too.

McCain asked after April's debate how Obama can "countenance someone who was engaged in bombings." In May, McCain said his campaign "is not going to be about" Ayers nor other Obama associates.

LOL! I wonder who he’s referring to?

For a great analysis of the McCain/Rove Swift Boating campaign, complete with flow chart, see Media Matters Action Network.

Klein knows what's best to read

The chancellor is basing the district’s new reading program on the assumption that he—not the teachers-- knows what’s best. Forcing E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge program on schools will further enable Klein to teacher-proof the curriculum.

Core Knowledge will soon replace the BalancedLiteracy reading program which taps into student interest and which is largely responsible to recent increases in reading scores, claimed by Klein (disputed by many others). Teachers are getting the Reading First agenda without the scandal-ridden Reading First program. My assumption is that this change has little to do with the teaching of reading and much more to do with Ownership Society politics that have become hallmarks of the Bloombert/Klein era. Here he’s funneling $24 million in contracts to Hirsch’s consulting group for a pilot program.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Was it just me?

Did Sen. Kennedy’s dramatic appearance in Denver last night remind anyone besides me, of Willis Reed? A die-hard Laker fan in 1970, I still have vivid memories or the badly-injured Knicks center suddenly appearing on the Garden floor, igniting the crowd and sparking the underdog Knicks to victory in game 7 over my Wilt Chamberlain/Jerry West led Lakers.

They all had one thing in common…

American Prospect’s Dana Goldstein reports on DFER’s recent pre-convention seminar in Denver which brought together a well-heeled group of business-type school reformers. They all had one thing in common—their hatred of teacher unions. About 10% of the convention delegates are teachers union members.

The event, billed "Ed Challenge for Change," was sponsored by a coalition of foundations, nonprofits, and businesses supporting the charter-school movement, including Ed in '08, the advocacy group founded by Bill Gates and real-estate mogul Eli Broad. The evening provided a truly unusual spectacle at a convention: A megawatt group of Democrats, including Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., and former Gov. Ray Romer of Colorado, bashed teachers' unions for an hour.

A more sympathetic blogger, Michelle McNeil portrays the DFER group as having only “a slight anti-union message” and then links them to the McCain-endorsed policy group, EEP.

I thought the (unintentionally) funniest part of McNeil's post was her description of D.C. Supt. Michelle Rhee, who left early to catch a flight, bashing the Democratic Party:

“ It’s supposed to be the party that looks out for poor and minority kids,” when that’s not actually happening.

This in a congregation underwritten by the world’s richest men, hedge-fund operators, Ownership Society privatizers and politicians.

Vallas says no to Dems

Why in the world was Paul Vallas offered a speaking gig at the Democratic Convention? And why did he turn it down? It seems that Vallas, an old Chicago machine Democrat who is currently busy privatizing the New Orleans public school system, is again feathering his nest back in Chicago. His ambitions, according to the Sun-Times' Carol Marin, include running for Cook County Board president --as a Republican.

And so why might the Obama campaign, loyal to the core to the Daley administration, invite Vallas? Maybe to make sure there was video of him at the DNC before he jumped to the GOP.

Eduwonkette unmasks


Let’s see how this changes the line of attack by Bloomberg, Klein, Rotherham, etal., on the young caped crusader. Norm at EdNotes Online, tells how it all got started.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Urban League's suit

I wonder how Arne Duncan got this photo op when he opposes the suit?

Fiddling while inner-city schools burn

Thanks to Rev. Meeks’ call for a Sept. 4th school boycott, the inequities in Chicago and state school funding are getting lots of media play ( here and here) and hopefully forcing legislators off the dime. Last week, the Urban League filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the State of Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Education, claiming the defendants violated students’ civil rights by providing unequal funding to schools based on race, particularly black and Latino students.

Unfortunately, schools CEO Arne Duncan refuses to get behind Meeks’ efforts, arguing that this is a "job for adults" and that kids “shouldn’t be used” in the struggle for school funding. Problem is, the adults—the governor,the legislature, the mayor, and Duncan--are sitting on their hands. Now that some adults are finally acting, Duncan has come out against the Urban League’s lawsuit. He tells the Chicago Reporter:

“By definition, lawsuits pit side against side. We should all be on the same side when the issue is properly funding the education of 2 million children throughout our state.”


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Targeting Obama/Ayers and Chicago school reform

Karl Rove’s boys have stepped in and taken over McCain’s resurgent campaign. They want to turn the election into a referendum on Obama’s patriotism and his supposed ties to ‘60s radicals like educator Bill Ayers. They certainly don’t want the election to be a referendum on the Republican’s last 8 years in office.

So they're spreading the word that Obama is a closet “socialist” (Manchurian candidate) and have dredged up swiftboater Jerome Corsi’s trashy book Obama Nation to spearhead their assault. They've also enlisted a handful of wing-nut bloggers who continue to recycle their own lies about Obama and others (including myself) in this latest Rove-inspired disinformation campaign, reminiscent of the 1950’s red scare.

Along with trying to frighten undecided swing-state voters, the wing-nuts have also targeted school reform efforts and the old Annenberg Challenge in Chicago, which they claim were all part of the Ayers-Obama socialist conspiracy from hell. Their lies include: 1) Obama was the chair of the Annenberg Challenge Board and directed its funding; 2) that Ayers was on the board; 3) that Obama gave thousands of dollars to Ayers. Not a word of any of this is true.

School reformers and ed bloggers seem to be running scared, afraid to speak out against the swiftboaters. This is the kind of fear that gripped the Kerry campaign in 2004 and helped lead to his defeat. It’s this fear that Rove and his boys are counting on in their desperate attempt to cut into Obama’s lead.

Travelling in Massachusetts, I just read this excellent piece by Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, who has obviously not fallen into fear’s grip. He writes:

Corsi notes that Obama was once a community organizer in Chicago, and not just any community organizer, he maintains, but one trained in the tradition of Saul Alinsky, the self-proclaimed radical organizer who died in 1972. For Alinsky, Corsi asserts, the word change "invoked radical socialism" and was "nothing more than a code word for the typical income redistribution those on the left have sought since the days of Karl Marx."

Perhaps you find it hard to believe that Obama, who declines to call for either a single-payer healthcare system or even an individual mandate for healthcare coverage, is either a radical or a socialist. Well, consider these tidbits Corsi presents about the college days of one of Obama's youthful campaign bloggers: In his Harvard suite, he hung "a Communist Party flag that he and a roommate brought back from Russia." Further, the same future blogger's bookcase "included titles by Karl Marx and Howard Zinn. . ."

Hopefully Lehigh’s needle will encourage others, especially some of the reformers here in Chicago who worked on the Annenberg Challenge with Bill Ayers and Obama, will come out of their shells.

Friday, August 22, 2008

If it's about public education, Obama wins

I've been working with some large high schools on the east coast all week and haven't had time to blog. But here's some things that have caught my attention:

According to the 40th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on the subject, if ppeople were voting "solely on the basis of a desire to strengthen the public schools," they'd choose Barack Obama over John McCain by a margin of 46 percent to 29 percent. Four years ago, in a similar poll, President Bush and the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, each polled 41 percent. The latest poll, based on telephone interviews this past June with a national sample of 1,002 people, includes these other findings:

People trust Obama to do a better job on closing the achievement gap (59 percent,
compared with 18 percent for McCain) and on funding education (48 percent to 28

People are dissatisfied with the No Child Left Behind Act, with 42 percent wanting to change the law significantly and another 25 per cent saying it should be allowed to expire.

Read the rest of the Kappan/Gallup survey here.

Save Our Schools

While I've been gone from Chitown, my brother Fred has kept us posted on the latest developments around Rev. Meeks' call for a 1st-day-of-school boycott.

Meeks and the Save Our Schools Movement are calling a meeting this Sunday for educator volunteers interested in helping out during the boycott. Freedom School classes will be held in the churches that day and help is needed from teachers and other volunteers. The meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at: House of Hope 752 East 114th Place (Baptistry Room, located near Gate 4).

Contact Kenya Jackson ( for more details.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vallas: After Katrina, 'no one can tell me what to do...'

Management guru Tom Peters, had this advice for his corporate followers: “DESTRUCTION IS COOL!” and “DESTRUCTION IS JOB 1....It’s easier to kill an organization, that to change it. Big idea: DEATH!”

Peters’ organizational death mantra has been picked up by shock-and-awe neo-cons (in Iraq) and school-reform privatizers in cities like D.C. and New Orleans. In Paul Tough's Sunday NYT Magazine piece, “A Teachable Moment,” N.O. schools chief Paul Vallas explains why Katrina’s destruction was a godsend for him.

When I asked Paul Vallas what made New Orleans such a promising place for educational reform, he told me that it was because he had no “institutional obstacles” — no school board, no collective bargaining agreement, a teachers’ union with very little power. “No one tells me how long my school day should be or my school year should be,” he said. “Nobody tells me who to hire or who not to hire. I can hire the most talented people. I can promote people based on merit and based on performance. I can dismiss people if they’re chronically non-attending or if they’re simply not performing.”

Who got the grant? Who takes the credit?

I’ve worked with high schools around the country on quite a few grant proposals. So I know that the process for winning a federal Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) grant is a pretty rigorous one. A lot of work and teacher time usually goes into the planning and writing of these proposals and the review committees look carefully at each large high school to make certain that they have the will and the capacity to successfully restructure the entire school over a four-five year period.

A recent winner of a $2.7 million SLC grant, writes the Northwest Indiana Times, was a consortium of Indiana high schools, including schools in Hammond and Merrillville. So far, so good.

Now I’m not foolish enough to believe that politics doesn’t play any roll in the way DOE funds are distributed to districts—especially these days. But read over the lead sentence in the article and see who takes all the credit for the schools’ winning grant proposal.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rove dredges up Floyd Brown, the Willie Horton guy

Karl Rove is pulling out all stops in his racist, slime campaign against Barack Obama. Rove and McCain have enlisted Floyd Brown, the man behind the racist 1988 Willie Horton ads. Brown’s latest video blames Obama for Chicago’s murder rate and according to the Tribune, plays on people's fears about race and crime. “Twenty years later, the racial dynamic remains,” says the Trib.

When he’s right—he’s right

Pat Buchanan is a shade to the right of Attila the Hun. But when he’s right, he’s right. He was right in bashing modern-day Attilas, Bush/Cheney for invading Iraq. He’s right this time in exposing Bush/Cheney/McCain for neo-con hypocrisy and blundering in the Russia/Georgia conflict. Can the world take another four years of the neo-cons in power?


Today’s NYT reveals McCain as a trigger-happy war monger who was not only ahead of the other neo-cons in pushing us into the war in Iraq, but was also hot to invade Syria and Iran as well, in the days immediately following 9/11.

Edwards? What about McCain?

From Politico:

"His marital history has been duly recorded," said Caldwell, referring to McCain, "and as recently as yesterday I think it is, our pastor from Saddleback, Rick Warren indicated that he would not feel comfortable voting for an adulterer and I don't know exactly to whom he was referring but I think the data speaks for itself, and again, at the end of the day, and I really appreciate you raising this because, at the end of the day again I think the American public deserves full revelation of the candidate's character and competency.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Meeks brings attention to “national sore”

Hermene Hartman, posting on Huff’s new Chicago blog, offers support to Rev. Meeks call for a 1-day school boycott. Savoy Magazine publisher, Obama supporter, and former deputy-chancellor of Chicago's City Colleges, Hartman writes:
I support Reverend Meeks wholeheartedly. He is moving with the spirit of protest to dramatize the situation. His traditional legislative means have not worked. His coalition politics style of organizing has not worked. His preaching has not even worked to push the envelope. His premise is basic, pure, correct and hard to argue: How do you bring about change if you don't change?

What will Stern think about this?
I wonder how all those conservatives who are delirious over their grand “choice” experiment in post-Katrina New Orleans, will respond to Channa Cook’s new charter school, the Sojourner Truth Academy. It’s theme, Social-Justice, complete with programs to help incarcerated teens and a strong community-service component. Isn’t this the kind of “Little Red Schoolhouse” Investor’s Business Daily, Sol Stern, and the boys at the right-wing think tanks have been railing against? Listen to NPR story here

The trouble with heroes...Eduwonkette digs a little deeper to get a more balanced and realistic view of a New York small school. Teachers do good work, but the school selects its students making comparisons with neighborhood schools, invalid.
This is American education's favorite past-time - find inspirational principal/teacher and tell an uplifting/touching story about how kids from tough backgrounds beat the odds. Preferably, someone easy on the eyes like Hilary Swank or Morgan Freeman plays the lead…We do teachers and schools a great disservice by clinging to the teachers/principals as heroic, self-effacing figures storyline.

Advice for investors?

Look who’s leading the attack on the Democrats’ education platform and giving new life to already discredited New McCarthyism tactics against Obama. It’s none other than that voice of the Ownership Society, Investors Business Daily (“Obama’s Little Red Schoolhouse”).

The article’s title alone is enough to tip you off about the emerging McCain/Rove campaign strategy. And, of course IBD isn’t saying anything that the Clintons and EEP Democrats aren’t whispering behind the scenes.


The IBD article follows the lead of the new best seller by swiftboater Jerome Corsi, Obama Nation, which was produced and directed over at Simon & Schuster by none other that neocon hack Mary Matalin. Corsi is now making the rounds of wing-nut and openly white-supremacist radio talk shows, rallying his troops.

Troops send dollars to Obama at 6:1 ratio

The nonpartisan Center For Responsive Politics reports that deployed U.S. troops are contributing to the Obama campaign fund at 6-to-1 over McCain contributions. Anti-war libertarian Ron Paul , who suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has also received more than four times McCain's contributions from the soldiers.

Go to fullsize image Michael Moore’s 6 sure-fire ways for the Dems to lose in November

Sage advice to Democrats in Rolling Stone on how to lose — as if they really needed any.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chicago school boycott -- Who's against it?

One of the first articles carried on the new local Chicago Huffington site has schools CEO Arne Duncan opposing the student boycott on opening day.

I am very grateful for the attention [Meeks] has brought to this issue," Duncan said. "But I think we can fight this battle and win this battle without doing anything that puts students on a course of behavior that is self-destructive."

Did you get that? He's grateful to Meeks for calling attention to the issue, but he opposes what Meeks has done to call attention to the issue. Hmmm.

Duncan also never explains why students organizing to protest inequities in the system, is “self-destructive.”

School reformer says no to Meeks' boycott

PURE's Julie Woestehoff, has a letter in today's Trib. After reading it, I'm not clear why PURE is opposing the one-day boycott and protest. Julie points to PURE's long history of struggle against the funding inequities in the system, calls for "targeted" direct action, and says, "our sentiments are closely aligned with Rev. Meeks." But...

Finn attacks the boycott, Sharpton, and “noxious causes”

There's no confusion about where he stands. He's not "grateful" to Meeks. Nor are his "sentiments closely aligned" with Meeks. Rather, Fordham wing-nut Checker Finn is breathing fire. I haven’t seen him this angry since his pet Reading First project was unmasked for the swindle it was.

This time Finn is pissed that Chicago’s black community is finally doing something about the current funding crisis in inner-city schools. His target of course is Meeks and the 50 other black ministers who are leading a one-day boycott to dramatize the funding inequities—more specifically, the growing gap between city and wealthy white suburbs and schools. But interestingly, he saves his real venom for another black civil rights leader who sits 1,000 miles away—Rev. Al Sharpton:

The Reverend Meeks, a politician who leads a church on Chicago's South Side, has received support for his plan from the Reverend Al Sharpton, a wannabe politician who leads all sorts of noxious causes and whose association with this one makes laughable
his recent "commitment" to improve the academic achievement of minority and low-income pupils.

“Noxious causes?” Finn, of course is referring to the Civil Rights Movement--not to the Klein/Sharpton/McCain EEP coalition.

Can it really be civil rights and equity vs. “school reform”?

Obama’s ed advisors

There's lots of speculation about which of Obama’s education advisors (or wannabees) will hold sway once he’s elected. Will it be the more progressive Bolder, Broader types like Darling-Hammond and Tennenbaum, or those grouped around Klein and Sharpton at EEP? Here's how Edweek blogger Alyson Klein poses the differences, unfortunately basing her analysis mainly on the views of conservatives like Fordham’s Mike Petrilli:

On one end of the spectrum are those whom Mr. Petrilli and others characterized as “fairly traditional liberal” types, who have made their mark in areas such as educational equity and civil rights…And then, Mr. Petrilli said, there is a “younger, thirty-something crowd of school reformers…”

So, it's ed equity and civil rights vs. school reform. How could that have happened to the school reform movement?

More Bolder, Broader…

Russo got some feedback on Bolder, Broader from Chairman Larry Mishel and had to correct some of his own misconceptions. Mishel points out that BB is NOT against all testing and reveals a few things about BB’s more conservative rival policy group EEP. He also confirms my point about the Dem's draft Party Platform drawing on BB’s holistic approach to school reform.


Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (remember him?) who’s been hired by Fox News, was asked by if he’d take a cabinet post, if offered, in an improbable McCain administration?

"Why would I want to do that?" Huckabee says. "I'm gonna have a good life out here in the private sector," he says. "Why would I go back to telling everybody in the world how much money I make and . . . barely surviving to have some obscure cabinet post and have some 20-year-old from the White House telling me what I'm gonna do?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

'Nations don't invade other nations'--John McCain

More chutzpah

This time it’s born-again pacifist John McCain, preaching the gospel of non-violence to the Russians.

From Huff:

Speaking to reporters about the situation in Georgia, Sen. John McCain denounced the aggressive posture of Russia by claiming that: "in the 21st century nations don't invade other nations."

Amen, brother John. But what if the Russians just call it a "surge"?

On the same wavelength—Cheney/Goering
In an interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz back in March, Veep Dick Cheney was asked his thought on surveys showing about two-thirds of Americans stood opposed to the war.

Raddatz: Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth fighting, and they’re looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.

Cheney: So?

Raddatz: So you don’t care what the American people think?

Cheney: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

"The People Can Always Be Brought to the Bidding of the Leaders"

“Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship...

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

- Hermann Goering (as told to Gustav Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials)


Joe Williams has politely corrected me (see comment below). I misread his quote from the Dem's party plank where he (they) use the word "choice." It was from the 2004 plank--not 2008. I unfairly accused Williams of manufacturing the word "choice" in describing the 2008 plank. I apologize.

I guess I was thinking back to other Williams' phony statements, like the one in the NY Sun, trying to make Obama out to be a voucher supporter. Sorry Joe. I should have read more carefully and not have have presumed you were doing it again.

But tell me, how do you feel about the new platform NOT using the word, "choice" and not supporting vouchers? With all that hedge-fund $$$ behind you, why doesn't DFER have more juice with the campaign?

Memo to Obama & McCain from Howard Zinn

Professor Howard Zinn, author of "SNCC: The New Abolitionists” and “A People’s History of the United States,” has written an open memo in the Boston Globe to Barack Obama and John McCain, warning each about expanding the war in Afghanistan.

The resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan is a good moment to reflect on the beginning of US involvement there. There should be sobering thoughts to those who say that attacking Iraq was wrong, but attacking Afghanistan was right.

Cost of War

The next time you are told that your school can’t afford computers for every student, you’ll know the reason why. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard public finance professor Linda Bilmes, the total cost of the Iraq War will be over $3 trillion. That's enough to buy a new Toyota Prius for every household in America or enough MacBooks for a bridge to the moon 2 MacBooks wide.

The Democrat’s Ed Plank

The latest version of the 2008 Democratic National Platform is filled with the usual general platitudes so that different and often contending interest groups can read into it what they will. But its education plank, “A World Class Education For Every Child,” is pretty good. Thus, it can’t be making the voucher supporters at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) very happy. Despite all the lobbying and bundling by these hedge fund Republicrats, the plank makes no mention of their favorite strategy-- vouchers.

Nevertheless, DFER’s Joe Williams is practically wetting himself over the words “promote public charter schools” found in this year’s plank as opposed to the phrase “support public charter schools” which was in the 2004 platform.

But still, the word change from support to promote still begs the question for Williams, so he simply adds the word “choice” into his own representation of the plank, on his blog—as in "support public school choice, including charter schools.”

But if you read the actual education plank in the 2008 platform, nowhere will you find the word, “choice.” Actually, choice is a perfectly fine word and is sprinkled generously throughout the platform, ie. in the health care plank, social security, etc… So its omission from the ed plank was obviously intentional--making clear once again that the Party and candidate Obama, while supporting (and promoting) PUBLIC charter schools that are accountable, aren’t voucherites.

All this leaves the disgruntled Williams with only one option. He skips over all the usual political wheeling and dealing and debate within the platform committee and adds he own language to fit Republicrat scenario. One can only wonder why he didn’t throw in the V-word as well?

For the most part, I like the Dems’ education plank. It is pro-teacher, critical of the failed policies of NCLB, and it promises, "an end the practice of labeling a school and its students as failures and then throwing our hands up and walking away from them without having provided the resources and supports these students need."

In this sense, it fits will with the Bolder, Broader policy group’s approach in not putting all the weight for reform on schools alone. Instead, the draft platform presents its ed plank in the context of a broad expansion of efforts to provide health care, fight poverty and work for equal rights.

My question for Democrats is—how can you offer all this and still support an escalation of the war in Afghanistan?

Ragging our book

Thanks to our friends at the Rag Blog for running Jill Davidson’s review of our book:

Documenting the ways that “the progressive grassroots educational reform movement for small schools has been hijacked by business groups, right-wing ideologues, and the ideology of the Ownership Society,” the Klonskys throw readers into the deep end of the small schools movement, the threats posed by corporate and governmental encroachment on public education, and the toxic ground on which privatization forces have co-opted small schools for corporate gain, both in the authors’ home turf of Chicago and elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chicago aldermen afraid to endorse the boycott

It's not easy being a Chicago alderman and having to work on Daley's plantation. With Mayor Daley still controlling jobs and the purse, an alderman has to walk the line between Daley patronage and the demands of his/her community. Case in point-- Black Caucus alderman yesterday, SUPPORTING, but afraid to ENDORSE Rev. Meeks' proposed first-day-of-school boycott. The boycott idea, to dramatize the funding disparities between city and rich suburban schools, has drawn broad community support and was embraced by ministers from 50 West and Southside churches yesterday.

Comparing Marshall's 46 percent graduation rate to New Trier's 99.8 percent rate, Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mt. Pilgrim Church denounced disparities in which students on the North Shore have thousands of dollars more spent on them than Chicago schoolchildren. "Money does matter," Hatch said. "The funding disparity, of course, brings not only unequal investment but obviously unequal outcomes."
But it's drawn fire from the mayor, governor and other politicians who've been sitting on their hands while state funding for schools remains at a political impasse in Springfield.

Not the first time

1963 CPS boycott flyer

This isn't the first time Chicago school students will have stayed home to protest the inequities in the system. Some 45 years ago, civil rights groups led boycotts by African-American school students protesting segregated, overcrowded schools, the use of trailers as classrooms, and the policies of the notorious Supt. Benjamin Willis. Willis and the board filed injunctions against the movement and used many of the same arguments being heard today--"kids shouldn't miss a day of school," "kids are being used," etc... But the boycott came off and more than 100,000 African-American students stayed home.

Those early school boycotts marked the beginning of a sustained protest movement, the Chicago Freedom Movement of 1965-1966, that culminated in the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's arrival in Chicago to lead the struggle for equal opportunities in education and housing.

The newest pacifist

Don't you just love the idea of George Bush preaching pacifism to the Russians. That's chutzpah.

From the AFP wire:

"I said this violence is unacceptable," Bush told US broadcaster NBC, in reference to an exchange he had with Putin while they were attending Friday night's opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics."I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia...I was very firm with Vladimir Putin."

Monday, August 11, 2008


“Ninety-nine and a half just won’t do”—Wilson Pickett

My brother takes a funny dig at data-driven research on his PREAPrez blog. But I can top it.

How about John Edwards’ plea the other day that he was being “99% honest” when he denied his tryst with a consultant (yuck!).

Now, here’s my data-driven question for you. If 99% honesty isn’t enough, what percent is enough?

And speaking of politicians who sneak around (and aren’t even 99% honest about it) on their faithful, but seriously ill wives, what kind of man would do a thing like that and still think he could run for high office without consequence? I’ll direct that one at John McCain, Rudy Giuliani (actually he was the sick one), and Newt Gingrich.

Rhee’s cynical tenure-for-pay swap

Will Parker bite?

D.C. school chief Michelle Rhee’s proposal to swap teacher tenure rights for significant pay increase, might seem reasonable and even attractive, in the short run, especially to younger teachers.

But the problem is, technocrat Rhee and Mayor Fenty are in league with Ownership Society privatizers bent on replacing public with privately managed (non-union) charter schools and vouchers for Catholic (non-union) schools. That means that the pay provisions of any new contract won’t be worth the paper they’re written on as budgets are slashed and closed neighborhood schools are replaced by charters or vouchers. Any D.C. teacher could then be fired without due process, especially in schools marked by Rhee for closing. As the teaching force moves from public to charter or Catholic schools, teachers are subject to the pay scales, work rules, and whims of the private management companies and parents and communities can like it or lump it. This is especially true as charter caps are lifted and charters handed out freely to the Archdiocese.

If D.C. union prez George Parker bites on Rhee’s cynical proposal, without a plan to keep public schools public, I think he and the union are through. I’m sure other urban districts will be watching closely.

Are they really for choice?

Conservatives call themselves “choice” advocates for public school reform. Let's see how many of them support choice when Rev. Meeks brings 200 bus loads of Chicago inner-city kids up to suburban Winnetka and tries to enroll them in a wealthy, white North Shore high school, to call attention to the enormous funding disparities.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Looking back on Bernie Mac

The death of comedic genius Bernie Mac (Bernard McCullough) brought to mind a Chicago Tribune article written back in 2002 by David McGrath, Bernie's old English teacher at Chicago Vocational High School.

I've used this article from time to time in my ed courses or as discussion starters with fellow educators. It was an instructive piece for me, about innate but untapped brilliance in lots of inner-city kids--brilliance that isn't always apparent. You often have to dig to find it and that's really difficult in huge high schools like CVS was back when Bernard McCullough played the class clown in McGrath's classroom. 4,000-student CVS became the first Chicago high school to be restructured into smaller learning communities.

McGrath writes:

As I listen to his mishmash of South Side dialect and convoluted usage, I wonder how much of it is comically purposeful, ironically fortunate or vindictively calculated as rebellion against my efforts as his freshman English teacher in 1972 at Chicago Vocational High School on the Southeast Side. Were it the last, I could hardly blame him; for Bernie Mac became a success in this world in spite of and, possibly, because of this first-year teacher's inexperience, naivete and inability to manage the class in Room 180 in which Bernard McCullough launched a coup to become "king" of eighth-period English...

...He could have earned A's for his papers' content but always rated an F for the sentence structure and the punctuation. Always an F for the mechanics--a shortcoming I judged to be a consequence of his attention deficit (though ADD had yet to be coined), when it really may have been, instead, a manifestation of his all-consuming need for unrestrained self-expression. He was bursting back then, and there was no stopping him.

When Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald died a dozen years ago, a magazine published interviews with a few of her former teachers. Like Bernie Mac, Ella never connected with school and dropped out at an early age. "If only we knew we had an Ella Fitzgerald sitting right there in our classroom," said one of them sadly.

McGrath puts it this way:

I failed him. Not by giving him an F, but by not knowing or soon enough learning how to nurture his gifts. I think how if he had come to my class when I had three or four years of experience, I could have channeled his force into wonderful avenues of creativity and leadership. And then I think how maybe I did after all--channeled it straight out of the classroom, out of the school, out of the establishment, putting it on the stage where not 28, but 28 million can be led to laugh at themselves and forget the reality for a while.
There's never any easy, cut-and-dry lessons or answers when it comes to teaching. But I think McGrath's experience with Bernie Mac is worth some consideration.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Chicago day-1 school boycott

Rev. Meeks' call draws community support

In Chicago, you don’t hear too much lately about Daley/Duncan’s school Renaissance 2010. The reason? With only a year remaining for completion of the business-model reform plan, they’re running out of money to pay for it. No such problem in rich Chicago suburbs a few miles up the lakeshore.

With all the power wielded by the Mayor and Democrats, especially in this election year, nothing has been accomplished in the area of school funding or leveling the playing field for Chicago’s 420,000 mostly black and Latino students. And you can bet that the anti-tax Civic Committee that’s been pushing so hard on privatization, isn’t going to kick in or push for a more equitable tax policy.


Rev. James Meeks, whose southside Salem Baptist Church has about 25,000 members, has emerged as the leader of a dynamic, community-based movement for adequate and fair funding. At a huge downtown rally Thursday, he continued his call for a school boycott on the first day of classes, Sept. 2.

He plans to take boycotting students up to New Trier High School in the wealthy suburb of Winnetka, in an attempt to enroll them at a school where there’s nearly three times the number of tax dollars spent per child. He also wants to flood the Chicago Stock Exchange, Mercantile Exchange, Chase Bank, Fifth Third Bank, and the Aon building with students and parents until some action is taken. While that can't make the Civic Committee very happy, Meeks' call is meeting with enthusiastic support in black neighborhoods and churches.

But Daley and Duncan are frantically attacking Meeks' plan. Gov. Blagojevich wishes Meeks would disappear (under his administration, the state’s share of school funding has dropped under 30% for the first time ever). School Board President Rufus Williams has been out scrambling for media in an attempt to counter Meeks' boycott call, claiming that missing the first day of school will lower student test scores and cost the district money.

If you’ve ever been in a Chicago school on the first day of classes, you know what’s wrong with the first argument--more chaos, missing school buses, and classroom mix-ups than any real teaching. Kids will learn much more lobbying for public school funding--even if it's not on the test. There may be some truth in the second, but if that’s a real concern, the Mayor, Williams, and the schools CEO ought to be standing with Meeks, not against him—or at least offering a better strategy.

Why aren’t they? First, Meeks has upstaged the Mayor and has rightfully assumed the leadership position in the movement to save our schools, while Daley, Duncan (who lined up behind an underfunded NCLB) and a divided CTU are stuck in political sand of their own making. Second, Daley needs this kind of publicity during his quest for a Chicago Olympics, like a fish needs a bike.

Finally, where are the school reformers and the powerhouse foundations at this important point in CPS history? Are they really joining Daley in opposing the boycott?