Monday, September 29, 2008

In defense of community organizers

At the Republican Convention in St. Paul, former New York Gov. George Pataki sneered, "[Obama] was a community organizer. What in God's name is a community organizer? I don't even know if that's a job."

Huff’s Peter Drier:

The following Sunday (September 14), on "Meet the Press," Giuliani added to the attack by claiming -- wrongly -- that "the group that recruited [Obama] was a Saul Alinsky group that has all kinds of questions with regard to their outlook on the economy, their outlook on capitalism." Giuliani, utilizing what used to be called "red-baiting" tactics in the McCarthy era, then tried to link Obama to what he called "a very core Saul Alinsky kind of almost socialist notion that [government] should be used for redistribution of wealth."

It was here in Chicago that community organizing was invented a century ago. Our Small Schools Workshop and many other CBOs drew inspiration from Jane Addams’ Hull House which inspired the Settlement House Movement in the 1880s.

More Drier:

The Republicans had expected that their orchestrated attack on Barack Obama's community organizing efforts in Chicago would link the Democratic candidate in Americans' minds with inner cities, the poor, racial minorities, troublemakers and radicals. But the Republicans' nasty remarks only triggered a blizzard of newspaper articles and editorials, radio talk show discussions, emails and blogosphere commentary.

After the debate

Community organizer, Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund:

Since 2001, we have spent hundreds of billions on two wars, and that doesn't even take into account anticipated further spending requests throughout the next few years to sustain these wars. Yet tonight, Senator McCain called for a federal budget freeze that would literally leave millions of children and families out in the cold.

Cleve Sellers

Speaking of community organizers, one of my heroes from the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement was Cleve Sellers from SNCC. Cleve (I guess he's Dr. Sellers now) is the new president of Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. Here’s part 4 of a series, including a great slide show, on Cleveland Sellers in the Charleston Post & Courier.


Laura Linney, accepting her Best Actress award for her role in the HBO biopic "John Adams," said that the miniseries made her "so grateful and thankful for the community organizers that helped form our country."

Sunday's papers

These two headlines in Sunday's Trib say it all

Spending bill OKd with billions for automakers

Citing cost, USDA kills pesticide-testing program

The view from the right

George Will
on McCain, in WaPo:

For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people.

Battle of the right-wing think tanks

There’s a battle raging within and among the right-wing think tanks that should have a familiar ring in the midst of the current financial crisis and bailout debate. The traditional free-market conservative “choice” strategy which focuses on vouchers for private schools has been under siege since neocons took over the DOE and control of the massive education budget 8 years ago. Now there’s a push on the right for a strategic shift away from reliance on vouchers.

The new choice plan, put forth by former voucher supporters like Manhattan Institute’s Sol Stern, AEI’s Frederick Hess, and Fordham’s Mike Petrilli calls instead, for massive investment in privately-managed charter schools, including Catholic schools that reinvent themselves as public charters. Like the government bailout of the investment banks, this plan would take the financial risk out of school privatization while still banning collective bargaining rights for teachers.

However, it seems that my old friend—‘70s radical turned darling of the ultra-right—Howard Fuller, is still hanging on to the old voucher strategy. I guess the Bradley Foundation just won’t let go. The worst part is, Fuller is still equating public education with slavery and turning Harriet Tubman into a voucher advocate. If public schools can’t be reformed says Fuller (blame it on unions) than vouchers become Tubman’s underground railway.

So, it’s a stretch.

Tilson sells us short again

If any of you out there are worried about this bailout fiasco, stop. You’re only “suffering from delusions.” The bailout is actually “a win-win.” At least that’s what hedge-fund-operator-turned-school-reformer Whitney Tilson (“A win-win for the tax-payers”).

He assures us that we are bound to make out on this deal. Thanks Whitney. I'm already planning to spend my dividend check on my mortgage payment to Washington Mutual. Can't wait.

Tilson is also the money man behind Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the main organization promoting school vouchers and union busting within the Democratic Party. More “win-win” ideas, I suppose.

Here's what I wrote about Tilson and his Ownership Society school entrepreneurs in June, 2007.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman proud he made the list

“It was one of my life's proudest achievements. More than the films, more than the awards — finding out that I was on Nixon's Enemies List meant that I was doing something right."

Friday, September 26, 2008

No need for debate, McCain already won

Hey, did you hear? McCain won the debate, "hands down."

At least that was campaign managers Rick Davis' assessment. Only problem is, he gave that opinion at least 8 hours before the debate took place and before McCain even admitted that he would attend. Plus, this ad that Davis and Steve Schmidt created, was somehow released in the media, hours before the debate. A more appropriate and accurate ad might have read:


BTW, wasn't it Davis who just was exposed for working for a lobbying firm being paid $15K/month to rep Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae while he was working as McCain's campaign manger?

Poverty, health care “gooey” ideas for these gadflies

You can almost feel the froth coming out of the mouths of right-wing think-tankers Checker Finn and Stafford Palmieri and they rage against the “community schools con and schools' “coddling” of the poor.
…we've found this idea gooey and emotional, focusing on the externalities of daily life that drip into America's classrooms—poor healthcare, single parent families, unemployment—rather than on what schools can do with the kids who actually turn up there.

The very idea that poverty, racism, lack of health care or decent housing can impact the way schools work (or don’t) is anathema to the boys from the Fordham think tank, who attack all such talk as part of the Bolder, Broader Coalition’s “defeatist attitude.”

Instead, Finn and Palmieri prefer vouchers, privately-run charters, and “paternalistic schools” like KIPP which push out 60% of their kids rather than “coddle” them. Great way to get test scores up.


It’s all right Ma, it’s just a “reassessment of risk”

The Republicans having Goldman Sachs' Hank Paulson in charge of getting the country out of this financial mess is likeBush having FEMA’s Michael ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job") Brown overseeing the Katrina disaster. Here’s the picture Paulson painted for us a little more than a year ago:

In Washington, the Bush administration is cautioning that the recent volatility in bond and stock markets is no cause for alarm because of the underlying strength of the American economy and because recent market declines should be thought of as an adjustment to past lending excesses. “We have the strongest global economy I’ve seen in my business lifetime,” Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said in Beijing last week. “We have a healthy economy in the U.S. So what is going on in my judgment is a reassessment of risk.”

Paulson, who received hundreds of millions of dollars as the chief executive of failed GS says this with a straight face:
“The American people are angry about executive compensation, and rightly so,” he said. “No one understands pay for failure.

This from Forbes regarding the "$700 billion" bailout figure:

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy. "It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Thanks for this, JK.

Sid called...

My Republican campaign insider informant, Sid, called to tell me why McCain tried to call the debate off. This first debate, says Sid, was supposed to be about foreign policy. But knowing the the questions would surely turn towards the economy, working against McCain’s only perceived long suit—national security-- and into Obama’s strength, the campaign needed to play the "maverick" card.

Sid says that Steve Schmidt thought the only way out was to make a big news splash with McCain riding into Washington to take credit for a bi-partisan agreement and then flying to Mississippi at the last moment as the conquering war hero who put the nation first above politics.

Sid’s other reasons.

1. McCain's campaign manager has been caught red-handed this week taking $15,000/month from Freddy Mac. They wanted to put some time between that and the debate.

2. With poll numbers sinking like a stone, Schmidt told him, “DO NOT ENGAGE UNDER THE CURRENT CONDITIONS!”

3. Schmidt thought he could blindside and out-maneuver Obama after accepting his initial offer of a bi-partisan approach to the bailout, as a sign of weakness.

4. As for the Letterman fiasco, which showed that McCain hadn't really stopped campaigning after all, Sid wouldn’t say a word, leaving me to think that this was just a giant screw-up. Second big one in a week, following the anti-Chicago, anti-Daley ads.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

may not be reviewed by any court of law...

32 Words

John McCain
wants to suspend the campaign and cancel Friday's debate. No time, he says, for the democratic process when there's more than a trillion dollars in bailout money to be divvied-up. What's next, canceling the elections? Canceling the Constitution?

It's possible. Here's the 32 words in Paulson's bailout proposal everyone is afraid to mutter:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Will the Democrats allow this to pass, like the did the FISA bill, in the name of bipartisanship? Let's hope not.

An awsome, "failing" school

A N.Y. parent of a first-grader writes on Essential Blog (Coalition of Essential Schools) , “Why I love my daughter’s ‘failing’ school.”

My kids’ school missed scoring a C by .5 point. Now it’s faced with the possible removal of a beloved principal, financial penalties, reorganization, removal from the Empowerment Zone in which parents and teachers work together to make decisions they feel best for children as learners. All this despite ample evidence that the school is awesome.

Thanks for the heads up on this from Jill Davidson.

Beyond recession

This tent city of 150 including lots of children, sprung up quickly in Reno, which has one of the highest home repossession rates in the U.S.

This should be food for thought for the "no excuses" schools-go-it-alone crowd, to digest.

The Washington DC based National Coalition for the Homeless says 61 percent of local and state homeless organizations have registered an increase in homeless people since 2007. Many in the growing homeless population are children. The problem is being attributed to home repossessions, the credit crunch and rising unemployment.

This can't be good for test scores. Can it?


Annenberg revisited

Brown University’s Daily Herald tells how the Annenberg grant came to Chicago. Finally, some of the original Annenberg leaders are speaking out in response to the swift-boaters like Stanley Kurtz who attack the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) as a left-wing plot, in order to discredit Barack Obama.

The proposal to create the Chicago Annenberg Challenge described two main principles that would, and did, guide school reform in Chicago over the next six years. The first was giving more local control to individual schools and making decisions from the bottom up rather than from the top down.The second was forming partnerships with community organizations like museums and symphonies to create enriching experiences for students.

Annenberg’s National Director Barbara Cervone disputes the negative assessment of the grant often made on the basis of test scores alone. She says that evaluations using test scores for a program like the CAC was "a fool's errand."

What the Daily Herald piece doesn't say is that Walter Annenberg's public school reform grant marked the end of an era. The negative assessment of CAC now being pushed by politically-motivated conservative forces was used to set the stage for the rise of the new muscle philanthropists like Gates, Broad and Walton, who used their massive concentrations of corporate wealth to drive their version of "reform" from the top-down.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The wheels are coming off the Bush/McCain bailout plan. Poll numbers are sinking like a stone. The McCain campaign doesn't know how to respond. THEY PUNT.

Naomi Klein – “I warned you…”

I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place...).

Read the rest here.

Letter of thanks from Sumi Cho

Hello Drummond Families Together, Speakers, and Co-Sponsors:

I wanted to thank everyone again in DFT, our wonderful speakers--Prof. Valerie Johnson & MALDEF Regional Counsel Ricardo Meza and moderator Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado--as well as our co-sponsors: Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, American Friends Service Committee; DePaul University College of Law Diversity Committee; Parents United for Responsible Education; Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education; Center for Anti-Oppressive Education; UIC Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy; Chicago Freedom School; Small Schools Workshop; and The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, for all your hard work and dedication. We could not have had a successful event with such little lead time without our friends and allies getting the word out so effectively.

As organizers, we were very pleased with the turnout, the high-quality program, and the supportive and energetic engagement from the audience. The topic seems to be resonating. Our event has gotten some buzz in the local media. We're the lead story in Chitown Daily news (first link below), the most commented upon thread today on Alexander Russo's Dist 299 Blog (second link below), and the third news item on Chicago Public Radio (third link below). Chicago Public Radio will post later, the podcast of our program under the "Chicago Amplified" link.

Going forward, DFT will continue to work on developing affidavits from parents and community for the new deadline of December 1st, thanks to MALDEF's successful motion to postpone the original submission and hearing date. Our new hearing date is now January 20, 2009, and speakers and attendees thought it wise to have a strong showing at the hearing. This struggle is obviously a very small piece of a much larger struggle for real school reform, and we look forward to linking the issue of resegregation to that of the great work of our co-sponsors on school closures, NCLB, English Language Learners, Renaissance 2010, overcrowding and privitization/militarization of our schools.,17180

Thank you again for your support, and we look forward to returning the favor and continuing the struggle for quality education for all Chicago's children.

Most sincerely,

Sumi Cho

'You wanna throw mud, McCain...?'

Defending the family's honor

I'm sorry, but I had to laugh at this fight among thieves. Imagine, McCain's people launching on Chicago and the Daley family? Are they crazy? And just a day after the Cubbies clinched the Division championship. Especially on brother Bill, who's not even fair game "cause he's in da private sector." You go, Mr. Mayor.

He lets 'em have it with both barrels:

"You had the Keating Five. We had the biggest scandal in America called savings and loan. The biggest scandal. People lost their homes because of greed. And no one is inferring [wrongdoing by] Sen. McCain and the others, who were always known as the Keating Five. So, if people start throwing dirt and mud, remember it comes back and hits you right in the face. [...] It would be a great ad. Remember: People lost their life savings, their own homes for a guy named Keating out of Arizona."

The war comes home

This “mother of all bailouts” will likely cost us citizens (and our great grandchildren) not the advertised $700 billion, but about $2-trillion, with a T, counting interest ---lots of interest. Don’t fret. The price tag for us buying all these bad debts from the banks is roughly about the same amount as the war is costing us. Think of it as our double penalty payment for electing the neocons TWICE. Wanna try for 3?


Danny Schecter the “News Dissector” , author of Plunder: investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal, speculates about the purpose of the militarized police presence in St. Paul and the tough tactics used against protesters and journalists outside the Republican Convention, in what was proclaimed a so-called National Security Incident.

Now in the face of financial collapse and possible urban unrest, Schecter thinks that the 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team is being pulled back from Iraq to train for a new mission—“helping people at home.”

The AIG school of school management

In case you’re interested, here’s the new class of executive trainees from the AIG Eli BroadCenter for the Management of School Systems. I’m sure they’ll do a great job running the public school system. Why wouldn’t they?

Some Broad fans got their undies all in a twist over the Chronicle of Philanthropy quoting from my blog re. Eli and AIG (comments section). They attack me as an “obscure radical blogger.” Right on all three accounts. But they could have at least got my name right—Michael, not William. Am I that obscure? Speaking of radicals, check out this AP headline.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can they still call it the Wall Street Journal?

The Journal may have to change its name now that the street they represent has been so discredited. But that doesn’t stop them from running more Ayers/Obama/Annenberg swift-boating slime in this morning’s edition. They’ve dragged out wing-nut think-tanker Stanley Kurtz again to do the sliming.

Russo picks it up, but the best he can offer us is that “nothing radical came of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.”

Too bad. Chicago's school system could have used some radical change.

JD2718 makes a good point.

There was a tendency all spring to overplay the differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now, why are some trying to underplay the differences between Obama and McCain?Linda Darling-Hammond’s piece (on edwize) is a good place to start.

Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

For more than a year, she has worn it around her neck at Seagoville High School, but this week Dallas school officials told the 16-year-old to remove it or conceal it under her shirt because a rosary is considered a gang symbol.

That’s right-- the Rosary. Not the AIG logo.

Not another one of those spam emails

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

City Kids, City Teachers: Reports from the Front Row

Chicago Book Discussion

Join co-editor Gregory Michie and contributors Monique Redeaux,

Lisa Espinosa, Katie Hogan, and Janise Hurtig

Wednesday, Sept. 24 - 7:30 pm
Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St.

for a discussion of the new book:
City Kids, City Teachers: Reports from the Front Row

Edited by William Ayers, Gloria Ladson-Billings,
Gregory Michie, and Pedro Noguera

A contemporary companion to City Kids, City Teachers: Reports from the Front Row, this new collection has been compiled by four of the country's most prominent urban educators. Featuring the writing of young people and practicing teachers, poets and scholars, social critics and journalists, City Kids, City Teachers offers unique takes on topics ranging from culturally relevant teaching and scripted curricula to the criminalization of youth, gentrification, and the inequities of school funding. In the words of Deborah Meier, "For a teacher, parent, citizen, or policy maker, this is a collection of some of the most important actors in the struggle to make our educational system work for all kids."

"Challenges the conventional wisdom of what it means to live in the city or teach in urban schoolsŠ.Teachers throughout the nation will appreciate the honesty, complexity, and passion of this wonderful book."
--Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
"Lands squarely on the streets of America where a variety of voices offers the clarity and detail of schools that work, practices that add value in the classroom, and relationships which build the confidence to live meaningful lives."
-Rudolph F. Crew, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools
"A wonderful, provocative collection. The contributors have a bone-deep belief in the possibility of a much better society - one that students and teachers can help create."
--Bill Bigelow, Editor, Rethinking Schools

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Change We Need in Washington

"I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it’s there. There are some that don’t work like we had hoped – like the Bush Administration’s billion-dollar-a-year reading program that hasn’t improved our children’s reading."
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama—as prepared for delivery
Monday, September 22nd, 2008, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Obama's ed advisor Linda Darling-Hammond

Why educators should support Obama

It’s funny (not HA HA, but strange) that most of the blog chatter attacking Obama’s education program is coming not from the Republicans, but from hedge-fund Democrats or left-wing purists. Both groups claim to be supporting Obama. But the first hates his strong relationship with teacher unions and his opposition to vouchers, while the second group argues, he’s “just the same” as Bush/McCain.

Former teacher, now a Stanford prof and Obama advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond posts a pretty strong response to the latter group on the UFT’s Edwize blog. Thanks to Edwize’s Leo Casey for the heads-up.

Greenwich Village High

They've always had small schools

Here’s how the rich folks in the Village get a new small school for their kids. From NYT:

Mr. Liebmann said he was drawn to the new school’s motto, “Work hard, be kind, take risks,” and was mapping out an interdisciplinary academic program that would emphasize hands-on learning and community involvement. For instance, he said, the class schedule will allow time for field work every week so that, say, students can hone their Chinese-language skills in Chinatown and study physics in motion on a subway car.

Meanwhile, back in the real world--Meeks going to Cub playoffs

It bizarre, but Daley and Duncan still refuse to join Rev. Meeks and his campaign for adequate and equitable funding for Chicago schools. Now the initiative has clearly fallen into Meeks’ hands with growing mass community support. The Rev. is going to look for more support among playoff-bound Cub fans at Wrigley Field. Some are opposing the protest by calling Cub fans idiotic drunken revelers. That may be true (it's been 100 years), but we aren't just fans, we're parents and voters as well.

The gap--36 billion

My old colleague at Catalyst, Lorraine Forte posts this, ("Don't Believe School Funding is Problem? Read This") on Huffington:

The data is shocking: If the students who enrolled in kindergarten in Chicago Public Schools in 1994 had, instead, enrolled in top-spending Lake Forest-Libertyville schools, they would have reaped the benefit of an extra $36 billion-worth of education by the time they graduated.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading the Sunday papers

McCain camp compares Obama to Hitler

It was inevitable. First the wing-nuts tried to paint Obama as a Marxist, commie, radical, Muslim terrorist. But desperation and sinking poll numbers for McCain have led to them playing the old Hitler card. Check out Thomas Sowell’s new column, comparing Obama to Hitler and Obama supporters to fascist mobs:

To find anything comparable to crowds' euphoric reactions to Obama, you would have to go back to old newsreels of German crowds in the 1930s, with their adulation of their fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. With hindsight, we can look back on those people with pity, knowing now how many of them would be led to their deaths by the man they idolized.

We can expect this kind of trash in Sowell's National Review. But the Sun-Times, Detroit News, Washington Times and other mainstream media picked it up ran with it as if it was legit political analysis. How do readers and advertisers let them get away with it?

What about the Keating 5?

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg asks a similar question. He wonders why questions about how Obama knowing Bill Ayers, Rev. Wright, etc.. " is supposed to reflect upon him, poorly." But few in the media dare mention that John McCain is one of the Keating 5. How can he get a pass on this as he talks about the "Wall Street criminals and cheaters" with a straight face?

Not only was McCain among them, but of the five, he was Charles Keating's best pal, accepting big contributions from him, lobbying on his behalf, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in his business schemes, traveling on his jet, taking his family on vacations with Keating and his family -- free vacations, which McCain only hurried to pay for after the scandal broke, when the Senate Ethics Committee criticized McCain's "poor judgment."

Frank Rich, as usual ("Truthiness Stages a Comeback") is one of the few who aren't biting:

McCain, by contrast, has been chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, where he claims to have overseen “every part of our economy.” He didn’t, thank heavens, but he does have a long and relevant economic record that begins with the Keating Five scandal of 1989 and extends to this campaign, where his fiscal policies bear the fingerprints of Phil Gramm and Carly Fiorina. It’s not the résumé that a presidential candidate wants to advertise as America faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. That’s why the main thrust of the McCain campaign has been to cover up his history of economic malpractice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Trouble the Water

If you want to see a great, powerful, uplifting film, don't miss Trouble the Water. We caught it last night over at the Century. I was hoping it wasn't going to be one of those depressing documentaries about hopelessness and misery. It wasn't.

Read the Sundance review here

Now we own airplanes

This note was in my latest AESA newsletter about the upcoming annual conference in Savannah:

CONGRATULATIONS... on our purchase of AIG. I understand that we don't only own corporate jets, we own a company that manufactures jets. This should make getting to and from conferences much easier.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Green Dot's biggest test yet

L.A. Times’ writer Howard Blume gives us part-one of a series on Green Dot’s bold takeover at Locke High School. There’s also an excellent video portrayal that gives teachers some voice that’s been missing in most press accounts. Teachers union leader Duffy, who originally sided with the board against Green Dot, seems to have softened his line:
"The task Green Dot's taking on is monumental," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the district teachers union. "The school district has shown for 20 years or more they can't do this job."

The most telling quote comes from Former Locke teacher and dean Frank Wiley, who now teaches at my alma mater, Hamilton High.

Wiley says frustration with years of failure and mismanagement led him to join the narrow majority of Locke's tenured teachers who signed a charter petition. That document became the legal basis for Green Dot's takeover. But Wiley didn't remain at Locke; at 45, he worried that the intensity of the Locke project could lead to teacher burn-out.

"At Hamilton, I have regular high school kids," Wiley said. "If you come prepared, they come prepared to learn. At Locke, it's like there's a postwar syndrome. I loved who the students were and what they were about. But there's an edge. These kids have a hard life."

Only 16 of the 38 permanent teachers who signed the Locke petition are staying on. Others could have remained but would have had to sacrifice tenure with L.A. Unified, which could have meant lower pay for veteran teachers, reduced job security and loss of lifetime health benefits. Negotiations with the district to preserve these sweeteners broke down.

No Broad prize for me

The Chronicle of Philanthropy quotes me taking a poke at Eli Broad, the AIG bailout, and business-model school reform. Does this mean I’m no longer eligible for the Broad Prize?

The wing-nut bloggers

The McCain/Palin campaign is flanked by a platoon of wing-nut bloggers from Steve Diamond to, who spam my mailbox each day with threats and anti-Obama swift-boating crap. Most of it tries to paint Barack Obama as a radical through his association with Bill Ayers, me, and Rev. Wright (still?) -- one big Muslim/socialist/terrorist/black nationalist conspiracy from hell.

It’s a narrative they keep circulating amongst themselves as a way of whipping each other up. Some of it is picked up in the mainstream media like the New York Post. With each blog, the story evolves. Recently it’s been focused on Chicago school reform and the Annenberg Challenge that funded reform a decade ago. It would be good for a laugh, except I always wonder what the wing-nuts will do once Obama is elected. That’s scary.

Here’s the latest. It begins: “Yes, Obama is commie! And a Marxist at that…”

That’s just in case you thought he was a “commie”-- but not a “Marxist.”

Straightjackets for teachers?

Kevin Carey at Quick and the Ed offers his most convoluted argument yet for teachers having less autonomy—not more. If he can find any teachers to buy the less-autonomy line, I have a condo in Florida I’d like to sell them (cheap).

Treating Teachers “like artists”

I loved this NYT Blog, “Teaching Without a Script,” by Matthew Kay, a young teacher at Philly’s Science Leadership Academy. He is also athletic director, boys head basketball coach, and proud leader of the slam poetry team. Matthew’s post helped me remember why I like small schools like SLA so much.

It’s not money. Great teachers are deft managers, thirsty scholars, and empathetic people — and we would excel in careers that pay a whole lot more if cash was our driving ambition. The reason that the young teachers at S.L.A. are so excited to be here most likely mirrors my own — we are all treated like artists.

I’d love to get Matthew and his colleagues together in a room with Carey to get their take on the "less autonomy" argument.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

OK Johnny, can you find Spain on this map?

It’s even worse than that. His foreign policy advisor Scheunemann (yes, the lobbyist who wants to go to war with Russia) says McCain wouldn’t agree to meet with Spain’s leader, Zapatero, our NATO ally, ON PURPOSE.

Name ends in a vowel. Must be some kind of terrorist.

From interview:

QUESTION: Okay... what about Europe I'm talking about the President of Spain?

MCCAIN: What about me what?

QUESTION: Okay... are you willing to meet with him if you are elected president?

MCCAIN: I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom, and I will stand up to those that do not.

Neocons turn on McCain/Palin

Look who’s taking pot shots at McCain/Palin. While Dems decide to use kid gloves on Palin, it’s neocons, George Will, David Brooks, Charles Krauthhammer, David Frum, and (OMG) Karl Rove, to name but a few, who are letting it be known, they don’t like the ticket very much.

“They were all keeping quiet,” says my Republican-insider friend Sid, “until it began to look like McCain actually had a chance to pull it out.” It was the Palin pick that really got them, says Sid. Pat Buchanan reminds us that “ Palin is no neocon” and the neocons either don’t trust her or consider her, “a blank slate.”

All in the family…

Guess who’s a global head of investment management for now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers? I’ll give you a hint. His name is name is George Herbert Walker IV. Yes, he's a cousin. But things aren't going so well within the Bush clan now that McCain is back playing the "maverick" reformer and brother Jeb is on the stump calling on voters to throw the bums out of Washington. Ouch!


Secret of KIPP success?

A new study of the five California KIPP schools finds standardized test scores going up along with the attrition rate of low scoring kids. According to the study, KIPP is losing 60% of its entering 5th graders before they reach the 8th grade. The study also shows a high turnover rate among KIPP teachers. More on this at San Francisco Schools blog.

Ravitch packs a punch

Diane Ravitch has come out swinging. In her latest post on Bridging Differences, she connects a lightening left uppercut to the collective chins of KIPP, Geoffrey Canada (In Paul Tough’s book), and his “powerful, wealthy board of directors, which includes hedge-fund billionaires.”

Not surprising. These directors care only for the numbers, and they don’t care how the schools get them. “The overall goal of the Zone might be liberal and idealistic—to educate and otherwise improve the lives of poor black children—but Canada believed the best way to achieve that goal was to act not like a bighearted altruist but like a ruthless capitalist, devoted to the bottom line.”

Using the housing crisis to block black voters

State Republican leaders in Michigan and Ohio are using every trick in the book to cut black voter turnout. The latest trick is to use the housing crisis as a weapon. They are threatening to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election. For more on the organized campaign to depress the black vote nationwide, see Andrew Hacker’s “Barack Obama: The Price of Being Black” in the New York Review of Books.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Diversity & Desegregation


Tuesday, September 23rd

6 - 8 P.M.

Valerie Johnson -- Professor, Political Science DePaul University
Ricardo Meza -- MALDEF Regional Counsel
Roberto Maldonado -- Cook County Commissioner & Event Moderator

On November 10, 2008, federal Judge Kocoras will consider releasing the Chicago Public School (CPS) system from its consent decree to desegregate. Such a determination effectively would abolish existing racial diversity goals in all Chicago magnet schools. Join us to learn the history of desegregation in the CPS system and how racial diversity in magnet schools may be

This event is free and open to the public.
Reservations are preferred but not required. or call
Veronica at (773) 569-6169

Sponsored by: Drummond Families Together; Cook County Commissioner RobertoMaldonado; American Friends Service Committee; DePaul University College of Law Diversity Committee; Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE); Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education; Center for Anti-Oppressive Education; UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy; Chicago FreedomSchool; Small Schools Workshop; The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Eli Broad -- stick to golf

Teacher retirement funds being crushed

“Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, on Eli Broad: “He thinks our schools can learn a lot from a well-run business and all it takes is leadership from the top down.”

Eli Broad, as in Ed in '08, the Broad Foundation, and the Broad Prize, played a big role in the collapse of AIG. But he, along with venture philanthropist Bill Gates, might still be the most powerful force currently pushing the so-called business model on public schools.

Broad helped negotiate some of the biggest pay and severance packages for failed AIG CEOs, in history. This should give educators plenty of food for thought about the hypocrisy of the Broad/Gates push for merit pay as part of business-model reform. If merit pay is so great, why didn't it begin with AIG?

The AIG collapse may also cause school boards to think twice about the top-down leadership model being pushed at Broad's own Superintendent's Academy, which offers special fellowships for military officers interested in running school districts. We all should consider the unwarranted influence these giant venture philanthropists are having over public education in general.

Broad co-founded Kaufman & Broad and later acquired Sun Life Insurance (renamed SunAmerica) in 1971 and sold the company to investment bank AIG in 1998 for $18 billion. Instead of retiring on his billions, Broad saw an opportunity to make billions more in the retirement business as millions of the baby-boom generation approached retirement age. As a director of AIG Retirement (VALIC), he was able to keep one foot in real estate and one foot in retirement—two legs planted deep into the sub-prime mortgage scandal.

To give you an example of what the AIG collapse will mean for teachers, in California alone, teacher retirement funds held more than 20 million shares of tumbling AIG stock. Teachers in Louisiana, California and other states, have settled suits against AIG trying to recover a portion of their losses. But many teachers are now going to have to rethink their retirement plans. In Georgia, the teachers retirement fund took a $180 million loss yesterday, when they were forced to dump 3.5 million shares of AIG from their portfolio.

As my teacher/brother Fred points out in yesterday’s comments section, most Illinois teachers aren’t familiar with either AIG or Eli Broad.

But when I mentioned VALIC, their eyes opened wide. VALIC is one of the 10 district approved annuity companies. Many of our teachers have their entire pensions in VALIC and VALIC is owned by AIG. Suddenly Wall Street didn't seem so far away.

Broad smiles and says: “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life at a country club playing golf. I want to do something that makes a difference and I think trying to improve public education will make a big difference.”

Mr. Broad, with all due respect, you’ve already “made a difference.” Golf’s not such a bad game.

McCain campaign too dirty for KARL ROVE!

"McCain has gone, in some of his ads, similarly gone one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100% truth test."—Karl Rove on Fox News

Now the media is confirming what my insider Republican friend, Sid told me 2 weeks ago—that Karl Rove had a falling out with Steve Schmidt over the campaign’s selection of SarahPalin.. “Believe it or not”, said Sid, “Schmidt and the boys have moved to the right of their mentor”. When Rove has to speak out publicly to save his own reputation, you know things have gotten low.

“Maverick” did flip-flop on killing the DOE

Somebody needs to start fact-checking Edweek’s fact-checker. Alyson Klein tries to play gotcha with the Obama campaign for running an ad which says: McCain, “even proposed abolishing the Department of Education.”

Fact-checker Klein can’t find anything false about the statement, but is still critical because the information in the ad (like McCain, strike that) is “fairly old.” McCain did advocate abolishing the department back in 1999 (that’s no so long ago, Alyson) but then flip-flopped when the Republicans took over the department. By 2001, McCain like Bush/Cheney and the rest of the neo-cons, dropped their liquidation demand after they figured out that the DOE was potentially a multi-billion-dollar cash cow. Over the past two Bush administrations, they were able to funnel billions to their favorite contractors, after-school programs, and school management companies. Suddenly McCain and his friends became big fans of the DOE, No Child Left Behind, and a scandalized $4-billion Reading First program.

So the Obama ad was completely factual. It’s problem was, it didn’t go far enough in exposing “Maverick” McCain’s lack of principles and his no-so-Maverick, following-the-party-line mentality.