Monday, February 28, 2011

Mendoza's firing was an outrage

Former CPS art teacher Francisco Mendoza (wearing hat), talks with friends and well-wishers during an auction of donated art items for his benefit held at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago on February 27, 2011 . Mendoza has cancer and was fired last summer by CPS. l Keith Hale~Sun-Times
I went to the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Pilsen last night to help fired CPS teacher Francisco Mendoza. The place was packed with hundreds of Mendoza supporters who raised thousands of dollars to  support the renowned artist/teacher in his battle with cancer and CPS.
Mendoza, a painter, muralist and pillar of Pilsen’s art community, tried not to cry Sunday night as hundreds of friends showed up to support him at an art auction fund-raiser — yards from Orozco Elementary, where he once worked. “I’ve got to stay strong,” said Mendoza, smiling beneath a black cowboy hat, seated in a wheelchair. “I feel like if I cry — everyone here will start crying.” -- Sun-Times
The firing of Mendoza while he was on sick leave, was a disgrace and a big blow to his students and the entire school community. He was diagnosed last April with multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. He spent five months at Rush University Medical Center undergoing chemotherapy, and survived a close call with a lung infection, before returning home to find a termination letter. 

Corporate reformers, including mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, want to eliminate tenure and other collective-bargaining rights so they can easily fire teachers like Mendoza, leaving them with no health care or any means of support and replace them with younger (certainly not better) teachers who are paid less and are less likely to get sick.


I was just asking, whatever happened to Solis?
"...we've seen our brothers and sisters in the public employees unions willing to give their share, and to negotiate in good faith to help their states get through tough times. But the governors in Wisconsin and Ohio aren't just asking workers to tighten their belts, they're demanding that they give up their uniquely American rights as workers." -- Labor Sec. Hilda Solis
Walker can thank Rhee
"But Walker's argument - that greedy teachers are putting their own interests over the interests of the public - resonates in part because in recent years, many Democrats have made that argument as well. Exhibit A is former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee." -- Richard Kahlenberg, Washington Post
At Moscowitz' Upper West Side charter school meeting
"The guests sipped wine and nibbled sushi, guacamole and Gruyere..." -- New York Times

Friday, February 25, 2011

Where are you, President Obama?

Obama 2007 campaign speech from Spartanburg, S.C.

See my latest post on Huffington: "President Obama, Where Are You on Teachers Union Rights?"

It's not just about unions...

When the prankster called Gov. Walker and mentioned "special interests" the governor didn't flinch. He didn't have to be told in whose interests he was working. David Koch had bankrolled his campaign and contributed over $1 million to the Wisconsin Governor's Assoc. The Koch-funded Wisconsis T-Party were his campaign workers.

Walker's pay-back: The gov's bill gives him power to sell off state-owned power plants to Koch Bros. in no-bid contract at any price.
Shock troops: Faced with no-let-up protests against the union-busting bill by teachers and public workers, the Koch Bros. are mobilizing their T-Party shock troops for a confrontation Saturday in Madison.

Media "Research" : In a near hilarious piece in today's Wall Street Journal by L. Brent Bozell's  far-right loony Media Research Center, Rupert Murdoch's crew complains of teacher and union worker media manipulation in coverage of the protests. Seriously!

Deb Meier reflects on her accidental trip to the protest in Madison in today's Bridging Differences.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Which side are you on?

After his friend and former colleague, Diane Ravitch declared, "I Stand With the Teachers of Wisconsin," AEI's Rick Hess somehow felt compelled to make clear to his patrons exactly where he stands. No surprise there since Hess' organization is funded by union-busting billionaires like the Koch Brothers. 

Speaking of which-- Gov. Walker is now the laughing stock of Wisconsin after his recorded butt-kissing conversation with David Koch impersonator and Buffalo Beast editor, Ian Murphy. Trying to impress his patron with his cleverness, Koch revealed his secret plan to trick boycotting Democratic senators back to Madison for a pretend compromise meeting.  What great grist for Jon Stewart's mill. 

President Obama's lips remain sealed. How far he's drifted since that December, 2008 day of hope, when then president-elect Obama came out strongly in support of Chicago union workers who sat-in at Republic Window and Door to keep the plant from leaving the state.

Side Note on the Republic battle: Obama's new chief of staff, Bill Daley, was Midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase, which owned 40 percent of Republic.

If you can make it to Mad City this Saturday, the teachers unions have scheduled a giant rally at the capitol for 3 p.m. See brother Fred's blog on this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miguel's speech

The victory party

Last night's Miguel del Valle victory party at Revolution Brewery, over in the 35th Ward, actually felt like victory. Even though big-money candidate Rahm Emanuel, as expected, won the mayor's race handily, spirits (no, not just those) ran high. When Miguel finally arrived, the place went up for grabs. The hundreds of supporters, including many young, hard-core community organizers,  exploded into chants of "Miguel, Miguel..." I had the feeling that this was the beginning of something big, rather than just the end of another campaign.

Of course, time will tell. I had the same feeling standing in Grant Park at Obama's victory celebration in 2008. But after that victory, the movement went to sleep, anesthetized by phony Democratic Party promises. Still, given the events of the past two weeks, from Cairo to Madison, I walked out into the crisp Chicago air feeling as hopeful in this local electoral defeat as I did that night of victory in '08.

These two young campaign organizers sum things up perfectly.
In what could have been a concession speech, del Valle laid claim, “There are people willing and able to fight the battles that need to be fought… We are going to build an agenda that says progress should be for all and not for some. I can feel it coming.” We haven’t missed our opportunity. Our moment to democratize Chicago has just begun. February 22nd doesn’t mark a loss but a first step toward victory. -- - B. Loewe & Josh Prudowsky

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From Brenda Engel of the North Dakota Study Group

To the NDSG: An account of my experience Saturday (requested by a French journalist in Paris, Sylvie Laurent, who is a friend of my son-in-law). Feel free to quote any part of it if useful. Brenda

Madison, Wisconsin, February 19, 2011
“The North Dakota Study Group,” a national group of progressive educators, was holding its annual conference in northern Illinois over the weekend of February 18th. The second morning, Saturday, a scheduled speaker – a teacher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – spoke eloquently and movingly about the mass demonstrations in the state capitol, Madison, not too far to the north of us, and made an urgent appeal for support. The Group, of which I’ve been a long-time member, voted to cancel activities for the remainder of the day and about fifty of us drove in tandem (in a fleet of vehicles) to Madison – a trip of something over two hours.

Arriving in mid-afternoon, we parked our van in a huge multi-leveled garage and proceeded on foot towards the Wisconsin State Capitol. As we neared the scene of the demonstration, our feelings of expectation began to intensify. The distant waves of sound became louder, the elements more distinct: magnified voices of speakers, roared responses of the audience, occasional shouts and whistles: the expressed reactions of a multitude– an estimated fifty thousand – of outraged citizens, outraged at the union-busting, reactionary bill proposed by their newly elected Republican governor.

We entered the crowd, holding onto each other in order not to become lost – although, as is usual in these high- tech times, each of us (with one exception) was equipped with a cell phone and we had, with forethought, exchanged numbers in advance. At about fifty feet before us rose a hill, also dense with people, crowned by the magnificent State Capitol itself, a luminescent, neo-classical building with high Corinthian columns and lofty dome – in style non unlike other state capitols but at that moment it seemed more beautiful than any, almost celestial, a symbol - of what? democracy? people power? hope for the future?

Before the building was the podium on which a knot of people clustered, one of whom was speaking, exhorting, encouraging and eliciting a huge response from below. Some of the words were understandable but we got the idea even when they weren’t. We were surrounded by placards, posters and banners, among them: “This is what democracy looks like” (my favorite); “Governor Walker, the whole world is watching;” and “Kill the Bill!” People of all ages and ethnicities surrounded us. More speakers, ending with a speech by an eloquent snow-plow operator: “This is not just a movement; this [has to do with] a way of life!”

After the speeches ended, we climbed the hill and joined a line entering the Capitol itself. I was surprised both at its accessibility and by the friendly welcome given us by the guards. (Of course, they are public servants as well and vulnerable to the Draconian measures being proposed by the Governor.) There were signs everywhere cautioning that the demonstration was to be “peaceable” – an echo, not the first, of Cairo. In the rotunda under the dome, a small group of teen-agers were beating out rhythms on drums and calling out slogans, on an electric megaphone, in support of “our teachers,” words then chanted by the surrounding crowd. For the first time we felt comfortably warm. After a while we were aware it was getting late, we were getting hungry and felt ready to leave.

The crowd outside was thinning; it was dark and becoming colder. As we left, I turned back and had one last view of the Wisconsin State Capitol, artfully lighted – glowing gold against the night sky.  Please reply to Brenda by email at:

Watch 17-year old student demolish Tom Luna's bill

Groups rally in Idaho to "Save our teachers! Save our schools!"

Charter schools: Public or private?

Another Chicago charter has claimed it's a "private" school in order to stop its teachers from unionizing. The school has received $23 million in public funds since it opened in 2004. But eight months ago, a solid majority of the school's teachers voted to organize. The school's board, with backing from the charter school association and the Civic Committee, decided to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in hopes of stalling off union certification.
In papers filed with the National Labor Relations Board, attorneys for the Chicago Math and Science Academy on the city's North Side say the school should be exempt from an Illinois law that grants employees of all public schools the right to form unions for contract negotiations. -- Tribune
Teachers report threats by principal, Ali Yilmaz as well as the firing of a popular and well-respected teacher who was part of the union organizing drive.

In the same Trib article, University of Chicago's Tim Knowles is sounding more and more like Wisconsin's Gov. Walker, claiming that collective-bargaining rights for teachers are "a risk to those basic freedoms".

Rahm Emanuel, who is the poll leader in today's mayor's race, promises more of the same if he's elected.

Third-year teacher Kate Ostler says the process has brought many teachers closer together.
"We've built a real community here, and that's helped," she said. "We're sticking this out because we love the kids and we love what we do."

A truly selfless Wall Street guy

 Ownership Society News

Bill Daley will earn a meager salary of only  $172,200 as White House Chief of Staff. That means he's taking a pay cut of $19,827,800 this year and every year he's doing the job. Why would someone take a pay cut of nearly $20M you ask?
Daley, brother of Mayor Daley, got much of his income from JPMorgan Chase & Co., where he was a top executive. Daley also served on the boards of directors for Boeing and Abbott Labs and owned shares of stock in both companies. Daley resigned his seats on the two boards after joining the White House in January. The White House says Daley has divested all of his holdings in individual companies and reinvested the proceeds in “non-conflicting assets” such as diversified mutual funds. -- Sun-Times
Just dedicated, I guess. Hmmm.

Monday, February 21, 2011


From Deborah Meier in Madison 


It was anything but an "angry crowd"! There is something joy-prodcing about this kind of protest--as though in releasing our voices we are refilled with energy and affection for each other. An occasional Tea-partyer (a few thousand at most of "them" amongst 75 thousand pro-unionists, etc hardly made for ay problems at all! In fact sometimes their slogans just fit into ours. It was only the media saw it as a serious "confrontation" between Wisconsin citizens! Bah humbug.)

What ingenuity the signs themselves showed, as families and kids held up their ingenious ideas. Finding rhymes and slogans that were filled with the fun of language. Lots of it fgocused on respect and democracy. Chants and songs that have grown up over the years since I was a regular demonstration goer. I needed a day like this one--and appreciated those who stayed behind to get some other work for the North Dakota Study Group done. The Wisconsinites really appreciated our presence and folks came up to ask us were we "really" from Boston, California, Texas, etc???
Bob Peterson spoke at 9am at the Mundelein center and by 10:45 we were all abuzz--shall we go? How can we stay away? We're "this close" (2-3 hour drive away) how can we not go? By noon we were all in cars and vans and off we went. Poor Bob P's van got a flat! He got picked up by others in our retinue. Some were a little cold--as we rushed off without proper sweaters, coats, mittens, etc. But we warmed each other with many hugs.


Are they still calling it "reform"?

Reform Detroit style: Bobb will close half of city schools, raise class size to 60. This is nothing less than criminal.

President's Day in Boise. Thousands of teachers, parents, and students are spending their day off protesting Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's plan to require high school students to take four online courses, introduce merit pay for teachers and end tenure for new teachers.  It would also eliminate about 770 teaching positions.


Thousands of Wisconsin union members and supporters are packing the Capitol again today to protest T-Party Gov. Walker's plan to not only to cut wages and benefits for some public employees, but go after teachers' and public workers' collective bargaining rights as well.

View from right field: Even the conservative, pro-business Madison Chamber of commerce has condemned Walker's "adversarial" approach.

NDSG 2011

North Dakota Study Group stopped work and went to Mad City. Here's Francisco Guajardo's video.


An assault on unions...
"Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally; seems like more of an assault more on unions. And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they are our neighbors, they are our friends." -- Barack Obama to Milwaukee T.V. station
Critical thinker
"You say that education is the way out of poverty right?" 16-year-old Yamilet Miranda asked Duncan from the crowd. "So then why is education always the main target during budget cuts?" -- Southern California Pacific Radio (Audio)
Ezra Klein:

"Don't blame the union" for budget crisis. -- WaPo
Fred Klonsky:
"How did a crisis created by Wall Street, with huge profits still being made by Wall Street, ever get framed as being the fault of a kindergarten teacher, a nurse or a fireman?" -- Solidarity Forever!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why We Fight Back - March 2011 Month of Action to Defend Public Education

Endorse the Call to Action OR via contact page
Add your Action/Event to the listing
Calendar of Events for March

As we enter into the spring semester, the struggle to Defend Public Education continues. This semester will play a significant role in the future of this struggle. We will be facing greater austerity measuresbudget cuts, continued attacks on public education and social services, and another year of layoffs, fee hikes, and cost increasesnot to mention foreclosures and unemployment that continue to devastate our communities.
The economic policies of neoliberal capitalism that have enriched Wall Street while exploiting working people will not change. The wars will continue as our schools and communities are devastated with massive cuts. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that the bombs dropped in Vietnam explode at home and this holds true today.
Students and youth across the globe have been responding to this crisis for years. Over the past few years, we have seen major actions in the UK, Greece, Puerto Rico, France, Argentina, Brazil, and many other countries. January 2011 saw students and youth play a significant role in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunsia. We have been inspired by the courage of our brothers and sisters and it is this inspiration that we must bring into our struggle.
In the US we have organized for two major days of action to defend public education, as part of the larger movement to fight back against the economic crisis. This year, we need to make a strong statement with our actions. It is our turn to step out and be bold. We must join with those fighting racist attacks and the banning of ethnic studies. This year we are calling for Month of Action in March to begin building a stronger student fight back, and to pull the energy of the youth into the streets.
We must be clear, this is only the beginning. March 2011 will be a month of escalating actions, beginning on March 2nd with a national day of action, called for by activists in California. We call for participation in the following actions:
People are often afraid to act alone. We must counteract this by being bold, stepping out and showing that we can, and will, win. As we break this mold, as we begin to unite our struggles and share our collective stories, fear will be taken over by inspiration; apathy will be taken over by a desire to fight. We must build our struggle so the media cannot ignore us. We must spread the struggle all over the country and learn from the models in California, New York, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Milwaukee and elsewhere.
We are incredibly inspired by the actions of our brothers and sisters internationally and continue to work with them to build for the Spring of Resistance. We know that this fight is not ours alone. We know that it will take more than one month to win it, but we must begin somewhere. We call on all students, youth faculty, teachers, parents, community members, and anyone who is concerned about the future of public education to join together in building for March. We are the ones with the solutions that can carry us forward. Let us join together in continued struggle.

The National Committee to Defend Public Education

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are they really trying to resurrect Renaissance 2010?

HUBERMAN: We're continuing to learn from what's worked well in Renaissance 2012…2010!...and what we need to improve on…

ambi: tape rewind

Did he say Renaissance 2012??

HUBERMAN: No, that was just a slip, Linda.--WBEZ report from Jan. 12, 2010.
Chicago's local public radio station WBEZ jumped into the exciting world of school reform program evaluation this week and as one might expect, they made quite a muck of it.

While several previous studies and analysis of Mayor Daley's signature Renaissance 2010 campaign have either been inconclusive or shown it to be a flop, leaving the district with a widening so-called achievement gap and essentially no better off than it was before the expensive and divisive campaign started, this new "study" is dazzling only in its mystification.

It was  supposedly concocted with the help of Columbia Teachers College, appears to be little more than a pre-election gambit at resurrecting a discredited reform strategy of mass school closings in targeted neighborhoods and turning them over to private operating companies.

The study pitches itself, "a progress report, not a final grade." But that implies that Ren10 is still alive and kicking with the final verdict still in doubt. The BEZers like Linda Lutton must not have read or listened to their own report from a year ago, "Renaissance 2010: A Tainted Brand", announcing that the mayor and former schools chief Ron Huberman had already declared the program over, kaput, dead and buried. In fact after the plan's Civic Committee architects called the results of the mayor's reform "abysmal," Huberman  even banned use of the term Renaissance 2010 within the hallowed halls of 125 Clark Street. And for good reason.

WBEZ report's low-lights
This is what WBEZ did: grade by grade, subject by subject we compared test scores from the Renaissance 2010 schools to the neighborhood schools right around them.
Do any credible researchers still consider this a valid way to measure school reform progress? Please write in and let me know who you are.
WBEZ found a third of the city’s Renaissance 2010 schools do not beat out their neighborhood comparisons even half the time.
Huh? What?
Interim schools chief Terry Mazany: Clearly, as I’ve been saying, there is no silver bullet.

Who could argue with that? Although Ren10 was pitched as a silver bullet by the mayor, Arne Duncan and the Civic Committee. Duncan even rode the rigged results of this Chicago Miracle all the way to Washington.

Overall, WEBZ  found Renaissance elementary schools outperformed nearby schools 58 percent of the time on the grades and subjects students were tested in.
And what did they do the other 42 percent of the time or in subjects that weren't tested? For example, Huberman cut important foreign language programs, ostensibly to save money, because foreign languages aren't tested. Is this making any sense yet? It's more or less left to the University of Chicago's Tim Knowles, himself a charter school starter/operator to sum all this up.
KNOWLES : Are we willing to live with some margin of error? We should be, because we’re trying to create new paths forward for children and family.
Tim, of course there is always some "margin of error." That's not the problem here. It's comparing, closing, or privatizing schools and firing thousands of teachers based on a single, standardized test score. Ah, but you already know that. Right? Remember Tim,  it's those kids, parents and teachers that have to live with your margin of error, not you.
KNOWLES: The city should make Renaissance 2010 routine.
But why, Tim? The study is inconclusive. Previous studies called it a failure. Why make it "routine"/
KNOWLES: But along the way, we should be doing careful cost-benefit analysis. And asking ourselves is this worth the upheaval.
Ah yes, a cost-benefit analysis. Harvard grad school tuition wasn't wasted. But why along the way? Why not do it before we embark?
KNOWLES:  The critical question is whether more children are being better educated now. And whether the results justify the costs.

Yes indeed. Now you're talking. Please consider real studies, not just those done by radio stations, that answer those two questions along with questions of equity (the gap, remember?) before resurrecting Ren10 and "making it routine."

Previous looks at Renaissance 2010

The Chicago Tribune, January, 2010:

  • "In Renaissance 2010 elementary schools, an average of 66.7 percent of students passed the 2009 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, identical to the district rate."
  • "The Ren10 high school passing rate was slightly lower on state tests than the district as a whole -- 20.5 percent compared with 22.8 percent."
  • "Only a quarter of Renaissance 2010 schools had test scores high enough to meet the federal goals set by No Child Left Behind."
  • "Nothing created more disruption to the city's educational landscape."
  • "Chicago students as a whole still post some of the lowest test scores on national math and reading exams."
  • "Even in schools with single-digit pass rates, violence-filled hallways and embarrassing absentee patterns, parents picketed the streets and filled the school board chambers, begging that their schools be left alone."
  • "The new schools mirror the district demographically, except they enroll fewer special education students and those who speak English as a second language."
SRI International and the Consortium on Chicago School Research  (August 18, 2009)
Furthermore, although researchers note that the initiatives are still in the early stages and that more time may be needed before drawing definitive conclusions, descriptive analyses show that the average standardized test performance of freshman students in most high schools in all three initiatives remained similar to historical levels relative to overall CPS performance.
SRI International (June, 2009)
Overall, we found no dramatic improvements. We did find a few hopeful signs, but results were generally mixed.

Reforming Rhee-form

Some good news coming out of D.C. Mayor Gray is standing up to de-funding threats by corporate reformers. He says he's looking to reform Rhee's "reform", collaborate with the union & select permanent Rhee-placement.  

Gray's education transition team is recommending significant changes to the controversial IMPACT teacher evaluation tool created by interim Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson as a way to rate teachers and fire them on the basis of student standardized test scores.  Henderson was Rhee's assistant. But it's looking more and more likely that she herself will replaced based on recommendations from Gray's transition team which is headed by Katherine Bradley, president of CityBridge Foundation, and Michael Lomax, head of  the United Negro College Fund.

The question is, will Arne Duncan and the venture philanthropists who backed Rhee-form take revenge on the district by pulling badly needed foundation and federal dollars?

Gray's moves have conservatives like AEI's Rick Hess in a tizzy. 
...when Gray promised to stay the course on D.C.’s promising reform efforts and welcomed Fenty’s decision to name Rhee’s deputy Kaya Henderson as interim chancellor, reformers crossed their fingers and hoped (especially since Gray knows that any serious retreat from the D.C. reform agenda risks tens of millions in philanthropic support, and an equal amount in federal Race to the Top funds).
Voucher blackmail

Sen. Lieberman is already threatening to withhold ed funds from D.C. schools unless district approves vouchers for Catholic schools. Would this kind of blackmail ever happen in a mainly-white or middle-class district? Or in a city with full voting rights?  Uh uh.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All eyes are on Wisconsin

30,000 turn out today for pro-union rally
The British Guardian reports on the Tea Party's takeover of state government. Gov. Walker wants to ban unions and take away rights of all public service workers.
Wisconsin is rapidly becoming a disturbing showcase of where America as a whole is headed, as Tea Party political ideas takeover the Republican party. What began as a ragtag scattering of conservative activists two years ago is now starting to have real political power and putting its anti-government, slash-and-burn ideas into practice in ways that impact millions of Americans.
Schools throughout the state closed as thousands students walked out in support of their teachers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sights and Sounds from Tuesday's Wisconsin State Capitol Rally

Fallout from Rhee's bogus contract with the union

Hundreds more D.C. teachers could be "excessed"

Broom Lady Michelle Rhee is gone from D.C. but the school district and its teachers are now left to face the fallout from her destructive policies. It appears that Rhee pal, Arne Duncan has pulled the plug on federal funding, punishing this predominantly African-American district for giving her the boot.

Now, DCPS faces the loss of EduJobs funds from the Obama administration, along with reductions in other federal monies. It also faces other pending massive general cuts in the 2012 education budget, as well as  a pull-back of millions of dollars in foundation money that was promised on the condition that Rhee remain as chancellor.

Then there's that contract Rhee pushed on the teachers union; the one that the corporate school reformers were raving about; the one that gave Rhee and her successor a free hand in firing hundreds of teachers in exchange for supposed "merit pay" raises. But those pay increases were dependent on the good will of the Gates and Broad foundations and on Rhee's willingness to make massive cuts in other badly needed district programs.

The union leadership should have never signed on to the raise-for-tenure deal, as many of us warned back in 2009.  Now the district, teetering once again on the verge of bankruptcy, is prepping principals on another planned mass teacher tiring, why crying poor about the pay raises.

Writes WaPo's Bill Turque:
Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson denied speculation Monday that the District can't afford the increased teacher salaries provided for in the 2010 collective bargaining agreement. Sources have identified the loss of millions in one-time 2010 "Edujob" funds from the Obama administration, along with reductions in certain special education monies, as part of the hole school officials are trying to fill. But Henderson didn't have much to say about either.
According to Turque, the district is giving school principals a "refresher course" on how to eliminate teacher jobs as they assemble their 2012 spending plans. "Excessing" can occur when there's been a decline in enrollment, a cut in local school budgets, closings, changes in programs or restructuring under No Child Left Behind. Until last year, excessing was done almost exclusively by seniority. But Rhee's contract now requires the use of a "performance-based" formula in which last year's IMPACT scores count for 50 percent.

Yes, Rhee is gone. But she's left DCPS as a basket case and the district's teachers, parents and students will have to bear the costs--a lesson to Sacramento and Florida districts where Rhee has landed.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Cheney on Mubarak
“So he’s been a good man and a good friend and ally of the United States, and we need to remember that.” -- Dick Cheney at Reagan celebration.
Wrong Message
Seething about coverage that made it look as if the administration were protecting a dictator and ignoring the pleas of the youths of Cairo, the president “made it clear that this was not the message we should be delivering.” -- NY Times
Teachers in the cross-hairs
Groups like EAG go after public school teachers through the back door. They lie about who they are. They video tape teacher’s private lives and activities. They make FOIA requests of teacher emails. Then they cry the blues when they get caught and have their slime activities brought to light. In the end they’re all just different wings of the same bird. -- Fred Klonsky's Blog
Wisconsin gov threatens troops against unions
Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond wherever is necessary in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state employees. --AP

Friday, February 11, 2011

A good day for democracy

Not just in Egypt

This morning I warned  the EAG wing-nuts about stalking my brother. I even expressed pity for the poor schmucks (h/t Mel Brooks). Now they are whining like babies just because brother Fred spanked them on his blog. So they went slobbering to Fred's boss but got nothing but a lesson in free speech from the school board president. Fred says, "Today I am proud to be a teacher in Dist. 64."

Read the exchange between EAG's Steve Gunn and Dist. 64 Board Pres. John Heyde -- obviously a stand-up guy.
"Just as you have a right to make a FOIA request under the law, Mr. Klonsky also has a right, protected by the First Amendment, to offer commentary on his personal blog. His blog apparently has developed a healthy readership, including – I have to assume – your organization. Because I am not aware of any connection your organization has with Park Ridge or Niles, Illinois, I assume your organization got the idea of requesting Mr. Klonsky’s e-mails because you did not approve of what he writes in his blog. And I understand that you also do not approve of his latest posts. I respectfully suggest that, if you do not like what Mr. Klonsky writes in his blog, you stop reading it."
It's a great day for democracy. A bad one for dictators and wing-nuts.  

Civil rights advocate Payne appointed CPS chief educator

Interim Chicago schools chief executive Terry Mazany has appointed Charles Payne, a University of Chicago sociology professor and author of “So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools.” to the position of Chief Education Officer. Payne is a long-time social-justice advocate who also authored one of the best histories of the Civil Right Movement, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle.

The post has been vacant since the departure of Barbara Eason-Watkins, in June. There has been a strong community demand, especially in the midst of the mayoral campaign, for the appointment of educators to leading positions within CPS. Both Mazany and Payne are educators as well as local foundation favorites. They are both critical of the testing madness of the previous administration. 

Payne's appointment will put even more pressure on whoever is elected mayor to keep educators in place. 

Wing-nuts stalking my brother? Oops, a tactical mistake.

There's a tiny group of right-wing crazies in Michigan called the Education Action Group. EAG claims it's all about "school choice." But for them, choice is merely a code word for privatization, anti-union, and anti-teacher politics. While they're tiny, as you might expect, they are heavily funded by a rich and powerful bunch of conservative types who group around the Mackinac Center for Policy Research. EAG serves as the Center's hired attack dogs, used against teacher unions and even spying on individual teacher pro-union activists. One of those they're currently stalking is my brother Fred. Ooops, a tactical mistake.

Fred is a veteran elementary school art teacher and a damn good one. He's well respected by his colleagues and has represented them for two terms as their elected local union president. Fred is also a long time social-justice, civil rights, anti-war and union political activist. He's very open about his political views and makes them known to all who are interested on Fred Klonsky's Blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

The other day, the district supt. informed Fred that someone named Ben Velderman had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request demanding to see all of Fred's work emails. There is nothing specific about their request. It's just a fishing expedition and job harassment reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's tactics back in the '50s.  And there's good reason for the similarity. Venderman works for  EAG founder Kyle Olsen. Olsen is a disciple of McCarthy and a pal of new McCarthyites like Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart.  He is a contributor to Breitbart's blog,, Fred is actually in very good company. Olsen, Beck and Breitbard are currently cranking out vicious attacks on liberals like the  renowned sociologist Frances Fox Piven. Previous targets include civil rights hero Shirley Sherrod and President Obama.

Knowing Fred as I do, there is no chance in the world  that he will be dissuaded  from his social-justice efforts or from the way he teaches his kids. If you want to know more about his teaching methods, read this letter to Velderman in response to his stalkers, written by film maker and Columbia College prof, Jeff Spitz. Fred's classroom work was featured in a Spitz film. In fact, I kind of feel some pity for Olsen, Velderman and their gang now that they have pissed off my brother. But as Fred points out, the real purpose of McCarthy-style bullying attacks is to intimidate other teachers and spread fear.

But I think we can turn that around. If you would like to respond to Velderman or Olsen and tell them what you think of their attack on Fred or on other educators, you can reach them at the Education Action Group Foundation, Inc at 213-733-4202. Velderman's email is Please copy me on any missives to EAG so I can post them here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TSJ supports Del Valle for mayor

I received this statement of support for MdV from Teachers for Social Justice, in this morning's mail:
TSJ has decided to endorse Miguel Del Valle for mayor. We believe Del Valle is the candidate most likely to be responsive to the educational concerns of teachers, families, students and communities in Chicago. We know that real change in public education in Chicago will depend on all of us organizing and working together for the changes we need. But a mayor who listens to the people, not just business, is an important condition for us to have our issues heard and addressed and our solutions taken seriously. This election is a chance to make that happen.
Good going TSJ.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I don't think so.
The education technology entrepreneur who started Blackboard Inc. and pioneered on-line (often teacherless) learning, has joined a new venture, which he claims will "revolutionize" the way academic institutions and their graduates move and use education credentials. Docufide, Inc., the company that makes a huge profit every time you have your high school or college transcripts sent, today unveiled a major leadership role and investment by Matthew L. Pittinsky, Ph.D., Blackboard's co-founder and former CEO and Executive Chairman.
“Matthew is both an educator and an entrepreneur," explained E. Rogers Novak Jr., General Partner of Novak Biddle Venture Partners. "I've seen firsthand his ability to identify a big opportunity to improve how education works." 
 Says Docufide, Inc. chairman John Reese, 
"Our passion is not just to reduce the cost and complexity they and their institutions experience along the way, but also to use data to guide their progress and ensure that each transition builds on the last and that the sum total of what they learn helps them realize their dreams."
Ah yes, using data to realize teachers' dreams. That's what it all about.

Isn't it?

Rhee's trail of destruction

Former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee left a trail of devastation in her wake when she left town. In December, the contractor she hired to run Dunbar High School, was given the boot. And yesterday, an arbitrator ruled that the first 75 teachers Rhee fired must be given about $7.5 million in back wages and offered positions with D.C. Public Schools. It's estimated that with an average annual salary of $50,000, each teacher would cash in on $100,000 -- costing the school system $7.5 million while the city faces a $545 million deficit in fiscal 2012. 

Take heed Florida. Rhee is now advising and "permanently partnering" with your T-bagger Gov. Scott on how best to fire teachers and privatize the schools. Take note also Arne Duncan who lost what little credibility his own reform initiative had when he staked it all on Rhee's success in D.C.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where is the love?

I'm sending each of them a broken-heart cookie and a cup of coffee to help them past the pain. A Huffington Post report has AFT prez Randi Weingarten breaking up with billionaire media mogul and N.Y. mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Oh, well. I never thought it would last anyway. Guess they just weren't right for each other, coming from different sides of the barbed wire and all.  
"I'm very disappointed in the mayor. I don't know why he's gone from wanting to work with people to making teachers his enemy," says Randi.  The political atmosphere for teachers and teacher unions is "more toxic than I can ever remember."

Critical Voices

Go to the blog site of the Forum For Education and Democracy this morning, and you will find important and provocative posts by three of the nation's more thoughtful educators and social justice activists.

Pedro Noguera, "Obama has a Long Way to Go on Education Reform", offers some praise for the president for keeping education high on the nation's policy agenda for speaking up on behalf of undocumented immigrant students. But Noguera doesn't let Obama off the hook.
There is no reason to believe that simply by raising standards, academic performance among students will increase, followed by higher graduation and college attendance rates. The hundreds of schools that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has labeled "dropout factories" are unlikely to be transformed simply because the bar has been raised.
Noguera takes Obama to task for being "boastful" and overstating the impact of Race To The Top. He argues that NCLB need to be trashed rather than tweaked or renamed.

There's a lot more that Noguera could have added in his critique of Obama-style school reform, starting with the whole approach of placing the burden for global economic and military hegemony on the schools--Obama's "Sputnik moment."

But much of which Pedro leaves out is then picked up by Jan Resseger, "Sad, Sad School Reform" and Forum director, George Wood, "Putting the 'F' Word Back in Education."   Resseger unpacks the myth that private operators are a key to turning around "failing schools."
It has become the vogue in today’s school reform, a movement driven by billions of federal stimulus dollars from the U.S. Department of Education, to assume private companies can operate schools better than public school districts...Privatization does not guarantee a school’s success and reliance on contractors is not a district-wide panacea. School reform in 2011 will continue to depend on dedicated educators creating communities where students are cared for and nurtured.

Wood, a high school principal in his other life, calls on educators to recapture the part of schooling that made learning fun and engaging.
 I am not calling for a return to the “good old days,” a time when some children were consigned to less-demanding classes and other children were not even allowed through the school house door.  But I do think we have lost something in our unending quest of lofty standards, more rigor and higher test scores. That something is the joyfulness of play, and the creativeness of curiosity.  We have separated our children from the very world that sustains them.  They will be poorer intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually for it.
I'm putting all three posts on my student's reading list.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Another Sputnik Moment

"The United States never the led the world," the report says. "It was never number one and has never been close to number one on international math tests. Or on science tests, for that matter." -- EdWeek

Two myths of international assessments are debunked—the first, that the United States once led the world on international tests of achievement. It never has. The second myth is that Finland leads the world in education, with China and India coming on fast. Finland has a superb school system, but, significantly, it scores at the very top only on PISA, not on other international assessments. Finland also has a national curriculum more in sync with a “literacy” thrust, making PISA a friendly judge in comparing Finnish students with students from other countries. And what about India and China? Neither country has ever participated in an international assessment. How they would fare is unknown. -- Brown Center Report


Cheney, Mubarak BFF
'I think President Mubarak needs to be treated as he deserved over the years, because he has been a good friend." -- Former V.P. Dick Cheney at event commemorating the Reagan centennial.
Re-segregating Wake County schools
"We used to be held up as a national model," resident Jamie Dunston said. "Now we're being held up … as objects of ridicule and disgust, and rightfully so." -- L.A. Times
Bachman finds meaning in life
"I take my first political breath every morning with one thought in mind," the Tea Party darling told her audience, the Missoulian reports. "Repeal Obamacare... That's my motivation in life."  -- Michele Bachman
Candidate for president of UTLA 
"Right now we're the big, greedy teachers.... We are not the villains in education; we are the saviors." -- Julie Washington
Good for peace?
I asked an old friend here in Cairo, a woman with Western tastes that include an occasional glass of whiskey, whether the Muslim Brotherhood might be bad for peace. She thought for a moment and said: “Yes, possibly. But, from my point of view, in America the Republican Party is bad for peace as well.”-- Nicholas Kristoff (h/t brother Fred)

Which schools are you going to close, Rahm?

Why isn't anyone asking Rahm Emanuel which 35 schools he intends to close if he is elected mayor? How about letting those school communities know in advance so they can decide how to cast their ballots?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Behind the new push against teachers' unions

FOX in full bashing mode
Paul Thomas, writing for the British Guardian, reveals some of the motives behind the current assault on teachers and their unions. He points out that the new push against teachers' unions, cloaked in discourse about the damage done by "bad" teachers, comes from the right and ironically from some Democrats, like Arne Duncan. 
But the political attacks on teachers and unions, which come from both the left and the right, would likely not resonate as much as they have done, if it were not for the celebrity tour on the back of the documentary Waiting for "Superman", whose message has been perpetuated by celebrity reformers. Two of those, Bill Gates and Geoffrey Canada, share an entrepreneur status that suggests expertise on everything simply because they are wealthy.
Ultimately, writes Thomas, this PR campaign by corporate and political leaders has been effective, even if it remains inaccurate.
That the evidence-based inequity of teacher assignment is ignored, while the myth of the bad teacher is perpetuated, is evidence of the motivation behind the new reformers – an unspoken commitment to the status quo of this social inequity that benefits the very people so keen to lay charges against teachers and unions.
John Merrow, who seems to have shifted somewhat from his earlier support for the L.A. Times' teacher-bashing scheme, follows up with a pretty good post on Huffington, "More on Teacher Bashing -- Getting Proactive.
Stopping teacher bashing is not enough. Nor is "better communication" between labor and management. What's needed is a proactive effort to make teaching a better job. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I'm so moved, overwhelmed by the courage and spirit of the Egyptians, I can't even begin to focus on our own school politics today. Maybe later when I'm done plowing.  Best eye-witness accounts are coming on Twitter from NPR's Andy Carvin. Well worth following.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ownership Society News

The Rise of the New Ruling Class: How the global elite is leaving you behind by Chrystia Freeland.

It's the cover story of the current special State of the Union issue of the Atlantic with some fascinating facts and quotes. It's all about how the emergence of this new global elite, whose wealth has come mainly from the information economy, is widening the gap between the super-wealthy and the rest of us.
What we were seeing...was not a single economy at all, but rather “fundamentally two separate types of economy,” increasingly distinct and divergent.

Freeland writes that a multi-billion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.

The new ruling class salutes no flag but the dollar sign in their quest for greater wealth and power. With modern technology and an increasingly educated global workforce ready to work for one-tenth of what a U.S. worker makes, the increased pauperization of the middle class is a certainty.

The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told me that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” the CEO recalled. 
Freeland concludes: "The lesson of history is that, in the long run, super-elites have two ways to survive: by suppressing dissent or by sharing their wealth.' Not much sharing going on these days, I'm afraid.

Why compare Ohio mom to Rosa Parks?

After last night's Twitter discussion with some of my favorite folks, including Nancy Flanagan and David Cohen, I posted this comment in response to Nancy's post, "Equal Access: Rosa Parks, Lite" on her Teacher in a Strange Land blog at Edweek.


Good post Nancy.

Valerie Strauss (my favorite ed columnist) was wrong to make the comparison between Williams-Bolar and Rosa Parks. It sounded patronizing and wasn't helpful. Who among us could live up to that standard?

Of course, when white, advantaged parents seek out the "best school" for their kids (often as far away from  impoverished and isolated communities as possible) they are within the law. Why? The law, as it was 55 years ago when Mrs. Parks took her famous bus ride, reinforces, (now de facto),  segregation, or as Jon Kozol calls it, apartheid schooling.

People will resist our current segregated and increasingly 2-tier system of schooling  in whichever ways are available to them. Even the most liberal among us are often protective of the privileges we expect for our own children--privileges that occur only because we may be white or can afford a house in an affluent neighborhood. Of course we tsk, tsk at the thought of  Williams-Bolar being jailed but then somehow feel the need to compare her negatively to Mrs. Parks for lying on a form in order  to put her child with ours.

I like the way you put it: "There has to be something for everyone in building a truly equitable system, or it will never be built. When open access to quality education requires fraud, we're all in trouble."

Of course there's fraud and fraud, just like there's theft and theft. An impoverished mom stealing baby food for her hungry child is not a thief in the same sense as a Bernie Madoff. And we would see no need to make the comparison between her and Rosa Parks.

As John Dewey wrote: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children.”


Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet column, "Not a Rosa Parks Moment" in the Washington Post can be found here. In fairness, I think that Valerie's commentary was aimed mainly at conservative "choice" advocates rather than at Mrs. Williams-Bolar. They were the ones who cynically raised the Rosa Parks banner, as if...

Also worth reading is a commentary by Dewayne Wickham in the Ohio NewsLeader, "Failed educational system forced Ohio mom to act desperately."