Thursday, June 30, 2011

This is a stick-up. Your pension or your job.

Mugging in Milwaukee

Supt. Thornton just fired 519 city teachers. Now he is threatening massive lay-offs unless the 5,600 members of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association would agree to pay $20 million more into their own pension fund. Of course there is no guarantee that a pension give-back, once surrendered, would prevent more firings.

MTEA President Bob Peterson released a statement Wednesday night defending the union's refusal to make pension concessions. He also criticized Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature's Republican leadership.

Instead of creating jobs, Peterson said,
"Gov. Walker and his Republican supporters have forced the elimination of hundreds of family-sustaining jobs in Milwaukee" through layoffs. -- JS Online
No pension give-back for Chicago mayor

During the four decades he held public office — as mayor of Chicago, Cook County state’s attorney and Illinois state senator — Richard M. Daley paid a total of $393,679 into his government pension plans.
He’ll get all of it back within 26 months. Daley has begun collecting his pension, which, for now, comes to $183,779 a year. Next year, he’ll start getting automatic cost-of-living raises that will boost his pension by 3 percent every year. Daley, 69, chose to retire under the state’s most lucrative government pension plan — the one that Illinois legislators set up for themselves. It provides Daley with a pension equal to 85 percent of his final mayoral salary of $216,210. The state pays two-thirds of his pension. The city — which also is providing the former mayor and his wife with two limos and 5 bodyguards for life — picks up the rest. -- Sun-Times

Debunking Jeb Bush's 'Florida Formula'

Back in March, Florida's T-Party Gov. Rick Scott, signed into law one of the first and most damaging of the current wave of anti-teacher, anti-union bills passed by any state legislature. Among other things, the new law took away teachers' collective bargaining rights and has them working for "merit pay" based on their student's FCAT scores. It was crafted with the help of Scott's chief education adviser, Michelle Rhee.

But the real force behind the so-called "Florida Formula" was former Gov. Jeb Bush who had earlier tried and failed to push the package through in the form of SB6, only to have it vetoed by Scott's predecessor, Charlie Christ. Now Republican Bush, through his  Foundation for Excellence in Education, with eyes on a future run at the White House, and not so ironically any more, with support from from Pres. Obama and ed sec. Arne Duncan, is pushing his reform package nation-wide.

A recent presentation by Bush to Michigan legislators has been reviewed for the ThinkTwice think tank review project by Dr. William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).

In it, Mathis points out that Bush's formula is based on the claim that under his administration, large gains were made in state 4th-grade reading scores. These purported gains are then attributed by Bush to six broad reforms that were among the policies Florida enacted over two decades. The favored Bush reforms are: assigning letter grades to schools; high-stakes testing; new requirements for promotion and graduation; bonus pay for educators; new teacher credentialing alternatives; and vastly expanded school choice.

According to Mathis, instead of a comprehensive and objective consideration of the impact of Florida’s policies, the Bush presentation “is clearly an advocacy tool designed for advancing a particular set of reform proposals.” This has resulted in a misleading presentation, with Bush promoting several policies that rigorous research has shown to be ineffective or even harmful.
Regrettably, Bush’s Michigan speech relies on a selective misrepresentation of test score data. Further, he offers no evidence that the purported test score gains were caused by the recommended reforms. Other viable explanations, such as a major investment in class-size reduction and a statewide reading program, receive no or little attention. Moreover, the presentation ignores less favorable findings, while evidence showing limited or negative effects of the proposed strategies is omitted.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Darling-Hammond's commencement speech at Columbia Teachers College

The Service of Democratic Education

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Troubles continue to plague L.A. charters

It's been a rocky year for charters in Los Angeles Unified, which hosts the most charter schools of any district in the nation—183 currently, with roughly another 20 slated to open in the fall. Besides financial mismanagement and the cheating scandal, a principal at another charter was sent to prison for embezzlement and another school was closed for a poor academic record. -- AP Wire
Deasy (L.A. Times)
Deasy approves charters despite cheating scandal

Things may be looking up for the six Los Angeles charter schools caught in a highly organized cheating scandal. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has decided to keep the schools open. The LA Times reports:
[Deasy] was satisfied that the Crescendo charter school group had taken appropriate steps to deal with the problems on the South Los Angeles campuses.


State school board rescues 11 charter schools
Eleven charter schools whose operating agreements were voided by a state Supreme Court ruling got the final approval they needed Tuesday to serve more than 15,000 students in the fall. The schools, among 16 in limbo since the Georgia Charter Schools Commission was overturned, are slated to open in August. - AJC

Monday, June 27, 2011

Too poor to play? I doubt it.

As you probably know by now, there's no love lost between me and corporate reformers who dismiss  poverty and racism as mere "excuses," used by apologists for failing schools and poor teaching.

But I also have difficulty understanding some otherwise well-meaning educators who look at kids growing up in poverty as if they had some incurable disease and were therefore incapable of learning complex ideas or critical thinking skills. Even worse are those who assume that poor kids aren't even capable of partaking in group or play activities with each other or with other children.

I was troubled by an AP wire story by Dan Stockman which appeared in Saturday's Sun-Times as "Teaching the poorest to work, play"  and which began this way:
There are no swings at Hammond’s Lafayette Elementary School. In fact, there’s almost no playground equipment at all. That’s OK, though, because they don’t really do outside recess here. They can’t: The children of Lafayette Elementary School don’t know how to play with one another. “They have no social skills,” Principal Colette Weitknecht says.
The article rightfully goes on to expose the vast discrepancy between the resources available to kids in school in upscale Carmel, a three-hour drive down Hwy 65, and those in Lake County, where the median family income is $10, 581.

Given the lack of resources, the teachers at Lafayette Elementary seem to be doing a fine job. Measurable learning outcomes are steadily rising.  But the very idea the children in the school are incapable of play is disturbing and based on wrong assumptions about child development or possibly about race and culture. Even if Principal Weitknecht's assumptions were true (which they aren't), they would logically lead to just the opposite conclusion. More, not less organized play. More time for recess, not less. More equipment, not empty, barren yards with little or no supervision. In fact, more time and resources for play is precisely what early childhood teaching and learning should be about, regardless of family income.

No swing sets or recess at Lafayette Elementary -- not okay!

Want to know more about the importance of free exploration, wonder, imagination, and play to the learning and growth of children? Read: 


Austin Poly's first graduating class.
Austin Poly H.S. junior Deandre Joyce
The spring protest over the teachers’ firing was a highlight of his year, Mr. Joyce said. He was among the 36 students suspended for participating in the walkout and sit-in. “Our voices can be heard,” he said. “There is power in numbers.” -- Chicago News Cooperative
D.C. Chancellor Kaya Henderson
Upon hearing of principal Bill Kerlina's resignation: “I guess that we all know everything ain’t for everybody.” -- Bill Turque, Washington Post
Shael Polakow-Suransky
“The dilemma that schools will face is whether to cut a teacher who has been working with kids all day long in a classroom or cut teachers who are working in a support capacity, like librarians." -- NYT
The Reform Pretenders
"I do not blame Mr. Brizard for not raising the graduation rate to 75% in so short a time. Anyone who has engaged in real school reform knows that it would be virtually impossible to do what he promised that quickly. However, I do blame him for pretending that he could. Yet if one is a Klein reformer, trained by the Broad Superintendent Academy, one is taught to scoff at incremental change. The hard work of deep reform that transforms systems is for those old apologists who stay in town for a decade." -- Principal Carol Corbett Burris, 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator

Friday, June 24, 2011

At Whittier School yesterday...

Supporters blocking the gate. (M. Klonsky pics)
After getting a call yesterday, that Mayor Emanuel was moving to arrest parents at Whittier School who've been defending La Casita, the site promised for a new school library, I hurried over there. What I found was a small group of supporters, who had also received calls, blocking the gate and asking the (de)construction crew and truck driver not to cross the line. About a dozen of Chicago's uniformed finest stood poised for action. Ironically, the mayor and his hand-picked school chief, J.C. Brizard, were a few blocks away at a community meeting run by charter school operator UNO.

Dump truck with police escort turned back.
As things turned out, the union guys agreed not to cross our line. The dumpster-bearing truck pulled out to the cheers of the crowd, the police dispersed and went back to fighting real crime as promised by new police Supt. McCarthy. Parents planned to continue their vigil over La Casita this morning at 5:30 a.m.

Chicago's finest poised for action.
The mayor seems determined to violate the agreement won by the Whittier parents, after last winter's occupation of the building.  The agreement was, to build a school library at La Casita. He now says he will create library space inside the school by displacing Whittier's special education program. The parents reject that plan and are threatening to continue the occupation along with support from community partners.

The struggle continues.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ain't gonna work on Arianna's farm no more

I must admit I liked the slightly larger following I got from posting at Huffington and I will miss the interaction I had with many new friends who read my stuff and left comments of their own. I'm also generally a fan of the new media and the somewhat (more on that later) greater freedom it offers for critical writers like myself. I have long given up relying on the analog media which has made itself obsolete and has put thousands of skilled journalists out on the street.

All this being said, my parents didn't raise no scab. Even though my Guild membership expired years ago,  I don't cross picket lines, real or virtual. Problem with this one (or with me) is that I didn't know about it until I heard something at the Netroots Nation meeting last week and then read this piece by Mike Elk from ITT
In response to what labor leaders see as an exploitative situation, on March 17, the Newspaper Guild (TNG) and the National Writers Union (NWU) both called for bloggers to refuse to blog at the Huffington Post and join an electronic picket line against the publication. The unions are demanding that a pay schedule be established for compensation of all unpaid Huffington Post bloggers and that those bloggers be given greater editorial control over how their pieces are used. -- In These Times
I may be a little slow these days, but I'm still there.

Glad to see that I'm being joined by or joining with, some of my favorite former Huffinton bloggers, including my friend Rick Ayers, whose postings can now be found here, Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges, New York Times bestselling author Max Blumenthal, sports writer Dave Zirin and Citizens Radio Host Allison Kilkenny.

See brother Fred's commentary today:  "Don’t cross the digital picket line. Don’t blog for Huffington."


Now, so much for greater freedom:  I'm  fuming over Huffington's apparent censorship of a piece I wrote several weeks ago, about social-Darwinism and corporate school reform. It wasn't published and I never even heard a word back from Huffington editors telling me why.  Here it is, in full. You tell me why there's was no room at Huff for this point of view?

School Reform Meets Social Darwinism 

So when critics complain to me that we (charters and college-access nonprofits) are "creaming" the best African American and Latino students, the students who would have gone to college without us, my only retort is "So what?" -- Robert Schwartz

Robert Schwartz's post on the Huffington Post, "Why Charters and College Access Programs Should Cream," is but the latest incarnation of Social Darwinism applied to current public education policy. Such theories were popular in the late Victorian era in England, America, and elsewhere.

Social Darwinism has little to do with the actual theories of Charles Darwin. Rather it's basic premise was -- and still is -- that the strongest or fittest should survive and flourish in society, while the rest -- well, not. Its conceptual core comes from a somewhat distorted interpretation of Herbert Spencer, whose ethical philosophies were grounded in an elitist worldview and received a boost from the application of Darwinian ideas such as adaptation and natural selection. It was Spencer who actually coined the term "survival of the fittest." While his fight in defense of science against the theological systems of the Middle Ages was progressive in his day, Spencer's theories also contribute to today's reliance upon standardized testing as the measure of learning.

Indeed, in its most extreme form, Social Darwinism was used to justify eugenics programs aimed at weeding "undesirable" genes from the population. While we usually associate such theories with Nazi Germany, we have always had our home-grown versions within U.S. academia and politics.

President Obama, while on the campaign trail in 2007, was a vocal critic of Social Darwinism as practiced by the Bush administration's Ownership Society approach to economic and tax policies, including the removal of social safety nets for those citizens most in need. But you don't hear much on that topic from him these days, especially when it comes to school reform policies. After all, what is Race To The Top except a refined form of survival of the fittest?

Robert Schwartz calls on corporate America to further bankroll privately-run charter schools like KIPP and ICEF as elite schools for those students with "high potential," while relegating traditional public schools to "focus on what they've already been doing for the past decade" -- moving those with lesser potential "from below basic to proficiency."
"You see," writes Schwartz, "our urban and rural schools have been doing better at educating lower achieving African American and Latino students in their attempt to close the achievement gap."
Schwartz, a Teach For America (TFA) alum -- no shock there-- directs the so-called Level Playing Field Institute. He actually performs a service here, by articulating the anti-democratic social theory behind many current corporate-backed school reform policies. However, his plea to U.S. corporations to increase their support for school re-segregation and creaming via charter schools is redundant. The corporate world, including power philanthropists like Gates, Broad, Walton and Bradley, is way ahead of him in this regard. It was the Bradley Foundation, in fact, that underwrote the publication of The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, which was based on the Social Darwinist theory that black and Latino students lacked the academic potential held by white and Asian students, and therefore should be tracked away from college preparatory programs.

Schwartz knows from where he speaks. Until recently, he was Chief Academic Officer for Inner City Education Foundation Public Schools (ICEF) in South Los Angeles. He claims to have led "the strategic expansion of the academic program from three schools with 500 students to 15 schools with almost 4,000 students."

I couldn't help but notice this recent news story about ICEF, where the survival-of-the-fittest theory plays itself out in practice. It seems that after years of financial mismanagement, ICEF has crashed, leading to a lock-out of hundreds of students at their Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter Middle School. According to ABC News, "The Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) that runs the charter school and leases space from the Boys and Girls Club was having problems paying its bills."

So it seems that even for the chosen few with "high potential," Social-Darwinian theories don't necessarily deliver the goods and their promised "level playing field" is not so level after all. Buyer beware!
Follow Mike Klonsky on Twitter:


Save Our Schools [SOS] Flyer 2011 The Signs of a Movement. Fly These High

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Great way to spend the morning

"This is what democracy looks like!"  (M. Klonsky pic)
I got to march this morning, with thousands of Chicago teachers and supporters who surrounded CPS headquarters to protest the mayor's latest assaults on their collective bargaining rights. Chanting, "Shame on the Board!" "Save our schools!" and "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" the marchers proceeded to the Bank of America and other downtown corporate offices, chanting and making a loud, but beautifully harmonious noise. Dozens of cars honked their support.

The mayor's hand-picked school board meets this afternoon to put their rubber stamp on his reneging on the pay raise teachers supposedly won in the last contract negotiations and there should be plenty of noise in the conference room as well.

V.P. Sharkey  (M. Klonsky pic)
CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey (left) standing atop a mailbox, addressed the crowd through a bullhorn, and made clear what the stakes are in this battle and how powerful the forces of big corporate money are that are arrayed against the union.  He called on teachers to stick together and "act like a labor movement."

"I can't guarantee victory," he to the cheering teachers. "But I can promise that we can't win if we don't fight."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

At Netroots Nation

Frustration with the administration

That's what I found at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis last week. Lots of mostly-young, progressive, media-savvy activists, union members, staffers and educators, pissed off and frustrated at the administration's perceived abandonment of their issues and values since 2008.

I almost felt pity for White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, whose speed rapped, scripted responses to tough questions from Kaili Joy Gray of the Daily Kos and from the audience, were often met with laughter and derision from hundreds of members of the Democratic base in attendance.
But Obama's advisers hope that between now and November 2012 the president can persuade this critical part of his base to turn out in droves again, and the wooing by aides was well under way Friday. "I promise he is as frustrated as you are," Pfeiffer told about 2,400 bloggers and activists attending the annual Netroots Nation conference. He assured them they were "a very important part of the coalition that got him here." -- CBS News
Of course, the overwhelming majority (80% to be exact) of the attendees still voice support for Obama. But the question is, how deep and how active that support will be by election time. 

At an education panel, NEA V.P. and former Utah teacher of the year, Lily Eskelsen told a crowd of progressive educators and activists:
"We have to hold this administration accountable, but we will get a choice between President Obama and our worst nightmare."  
But what she didn't explain was how the NEA leadership's endorsement of Obama, nearly 2 years out, without asking for or getting any commitments in return, is holding them accountable/ (See Lily's Netroots interview with Tom Hartman at Other excellent ed panelists included: Jeff Bryant, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, Kevin Welner, and Rep. Judy Chu. Sabrina gave a great pitch for the upcoming Save Our Schools March, July 30th in D.C.
Jane Hamsher, blogging at Firedoglake, summed it up pretty well this way:
"If you had told me a year ago that a panel entitled “What to do when the President’s just not that into you” would be a love fest, and White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer would be greeted by booing and hissing, I would have said it was time to put down the crack pipe. But that is pretty much what happened."
Side story: I had to leave Netroots Friday afternoon and head back to Chicago. Sadly, I missed the whole scene with right-wing oinker Andrew Breitbart and his body guard fleeing to the elevator, being pursued  by aggressive bloggers who caught him trying to sneak in without paying.

It is 'her business,' Gov. Christie

Watch Gov. Christie snort at public school mom who asks why he's cutting public school funding, "It's none of your business." He pretends she asked him where he sends his kid to school. She didn't. Christie is a bully and a demagogue.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Teacher Anthony Cody
Teachers and parents feel abandoned - even betrayed - by this administration. We were there for you in 2008, President Obama. Where are you now when we need you? -- The Answer Sheet
Montgomery County Supt. Jerry Weast

Unfortunately, federal dollars from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program are not going where Dr. Weast and the PAR program need to go. Montgomery County schools were entitled to $12 million from Race to the Top, but Dr. Weast said he would not take the money because the grant required districts to include students’ state test results as a measure of teacher quality.
“We don’t believe the tests are reliable,” he said. “You don’t want to turn your system into a test factory.”-- New York Times
Does class size matter?
"If education is to matter in substantive ways, then great conditions, including a reasonable class size, need to be in place to make school a place where great teachers and students want to be". -- Peter Smagorinsky, University of Georgia
How Rahm sizes up the CTU
"The Emanuel camp’s calculation is that various realities make a walkout unlikely. Those include deficits, the system’s sub-par image, the bargaining ramifications of a new state education law, and how a majority of teachers will get increases, distinct from the 4 percent now in jeopardy, based on years of service or added educational attainment... The competence of the moribund union’s past leadership rivaled Italy’s, and the new union chief, Karen Lewis, must somehow galvanize members over an issue, perhaps preserving their pensions." -- James Warren, CNC

Friday, June 17, 2011

Teacher bashing 'reform' has left Central Falls High School in chaos

Superindent Gallo blames teachers for her mess

Central Halls High School is Rhode Island was the opening salvo in corporate reformers' current war on public schools and on teachers. The mass firing of teachers and service staff was hailed as "courageous" by Obama/Duncan. The school and the city (the smallest and most economicaly depressed in R.I.) was thrown into chaos.

Looking back a year later, NPR reports:

The debacle at Central Falls High has gotten national attention because President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have publicly sided with administrators arguing that teachers must be held accountable for students' dismal test scores. Last year, only 7 percent of students tested at grade level in math, 24 percent in reading. This year's test results could be worse. Why? "Because of our low expectations in the classroom — meaning teachers,"  says Supt. Gallo, the administrator who carried out the firings.

Central Falls High has become a cautionary tale about the complexities of school reform and whether the federal government should be dictating what those reforms should be.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rahm does his best Ronald Reagan

"Not to quote Ronald Reagan, but I will: 'The facts are a stubborn thing,' " Emanuel said.

If there was any doubt that the mayor is itching for a union-busting showdown with Chicago teachers, he's made it perfectly clear by invoking an old hero -- Ronald Reagan. Emanuel's corporate handlers over at the Civic Committee have assured him that blaming rich, greedy teachers for the budget crisis and going after teachers pay, tenure, and pensions is a political winner.
They even had him quoting Reagan yesterday, conjuring up images of the great communicator busting the PATCO strike in 1981 and firing over 11,000 workers to the cheers of strike-weary air travelers. But this may have been a mistake at a time when Democrats need to stem the rise in joblessness.
Rahm and the corporate school reformers see the current crisis as their big chance to do nothing less than bust the teachers union the same way that Reagan busted PATCO. Only this time they are counting on the acquiescence of the union leadership to avoid another Wisconsin-type battle. Fresh off their victory with the passage of SB7, the reformers got the school board to block Chicago teachers' scheduled 4% pay raise.
Demagogue Rahm defended the salary cut, claiming "that three out of four Chicago Public Schools teachers will get other types of raises even without the 4 percent increase." So much for facts being stubborn. The point here wasn't that Rahm wanted to save the budget-conscious school board some money. Rather, he wanted to nullify the whole collective bargaining process which produced the raise. In essence, Rahm and the reformers are pursuing the same strategy as the Tea Party govs in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Indiana and Michigan. The only difference is in tactics. They want to do it to the workers. Rahm wants to do it to the workers, with their collaboration.  
But they may have overplayed their hand this time. This isn't 1981. Now they've pushed the CTU leadership's backs to the wall. This is a leadership that won the last union election by promising to lead a fight- back while attacking the conciliatory approach of the old union leadership. Now they have to stand up and fight or lose credibility. It's not just the promised pay raise but for the very future of their union that's at stake. 
 Greg Hinz at Crain's Chicago Business writes:

 "Mayor Rahm Emanuel clearly threw down the gauntlet today, as his new Board of Education unanimously voted not to pay scheduled 4% raises for members of the Chicago Teachers Union. Now the question is, what will the CTU do about it? Union chief Karen Lewis has used lots of angry rhetoric lately, but she has only a few days to make a really heavy decision: Whether to accept the cut or use it as a legal device to reopen negotiations on the now somewhat obsolete contract with Chicago Public Schools."
Even though SB7 has weakened the union's ability to organize a strike by requiring 75% of union members to vote for one as well as requiring a long mediation period, this all could still work in teachers' favor by allowing the union time to organize. It could also help build support from other public employee unions, like the cops' and fire fighters'.  It sounds like Karen Lewis and her troops have decided to go beyond the rhetoric. She went on TV last night and warned:
“We could easily strike because of this.” The teachers union president correctly blamed the school board for a possible strike by teachers stating “we are still shocked that the board would take an action that could possibly lead to a strike…” 
Even the threat of a strike, blue flu, and job actions by public employees as we head towards the 2012 elections, could well wipe that shit-eating grin off of the mayor's face.   

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reich -- The war on workers' rights

Sec. of Labor during the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, tells why the current war on workers' rights has undermined the American economy:
For three decades after World War II – I call it the “Great Prosperity” – wages rose in tandem with productivity. Americans shared the gains of growth, and had enough money to buy what they produced. That’s largely due to the role of labor unions. In 1955, over a third of American workers in the private sector were unionized. Today, fewer than 7 percent are.

With the decline of unions came the stagnation of American wages. More and more of the total income and wealth of America has gone to the very top. Middle-class purchasing power depended on mothers going into paid work, everyone working longer hours, and, finally, the middle class going deep into debt, using their homes as collateral.

But now all these coping mechanisms are exhausted — and we’re living with the consequence.

Momentum Builds For SOS March and Rally in D.C.

Today's Edweek has a major article by Erik Robelen describing the momentum building for the July 30th Save Our Schools march in

D.C.Organizers say the effort aims to galvanize and give voice to those who believe policymakers, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and state governors, have gone astray in their remedies for improving American schools
Sabrina Stevens Shupe, in downtown Denver, says she's alarmed to see how testing-based accountability continues to increase. "We were very excited that, 'Oh, we're going to get Obama in office,' ...and we get this bait and switch with Arne Duncan and Race to the Top," says Shupe, a Save Our Schools organizer and former Denver teacher.  — Nathan W. Armes for Education Week

A two-day conference is scheduled before the march and a “congress” the day after to discuss next steps. Among the organizations to endorse the Save Our Schools march are: the International Reading Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Council of Teachers of English, the nonprofit group Parents Across America, and the Virginia School Boards Association. Also, more than 30 state and local teachers’ unions, plus the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have signaled their support.

Organizers of the Save Our Schools march say they expect 5,000 to 10,000 people to attend the Washington gathering on July 30. Nancy Flanagan, the Michigan teacher of the year in 1993, said the size of the rally isn’t the point. “The point is to start momentum toward a sea change, to bring together—physically and virtually—a network of people who want change,” she said. Social media have been key drivers of the march, with organizers using blogs, an SOS Facebook page, and Twitter to promote it.

Union contract up for grabs as CPS board meets today

Protest rocks Chicago CFO Summit

In, the wake of yesterday's protests, the seven-member Chicago school board, hand-picked by the mayor, will meet for the first time today and  decide whether to rescind a 4 percent pay raise for teachers which was agreed on in the contract that expires next year. 18 different unions and groups including the Chicago Teachers Union, the SEIU, and a group called Stand Up Chicago helped organize the demonstration.
"The CFOs up in the building right now having a conference, collectively their companies made over $200 billion in profits last year," said demonstrator Casey Murphy. "Executive compensation and bonuses over a billion, and in the meantime it's almost 10 percent unemployment in this country." 
Participants say the corporations attending the event have taken money from chicago's working families -- homes and schools.
"We're just saying that we need to put real priorities into place. It should be our kids before the bankers and everybody else," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. -- ABC News
Pam Coleman, a teacher at Solomon School on the Northwest Side, said attempts to deny the raise are a way to force other changes.
"I think they're using the 4 percent as a way to break the contract. Once they open the contract, all the other things will be open to discussion," such as moving to extend the school day as early as this fall, she said Tuesday at a union protest against corporations that, union members say, have gotten tax breaks and bailouts on the backs of public education. -- Tribune

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SB-7 signed into law by Gov. Quinn

Clears the way for assault on Chicago's teachers
“This is not a bill to attack the teachers,” said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, who sponsored the bill.
Illinois Gov. Quinn has signed into law SB7, which severely weakens the power of the state's teachers and their unions to bargain collectively. What makes SB7 different from legislation pushed by Tea Party govs and passed in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan, is that the Illinois bill, now law, isn't as draconian. Public employees unions haven't been outlawed completely. Perhaps a more important difference is that the bill was passed with support from the state's three largest teachers unions, pretty much nullifying any opposition from the rank-and-file, wavering politicians, community activists or from other unions.

This "collaboration" is being hailed by corporate reformers and by some union leaders as a model for the rest of the nation and as a better alternative to the "chaos" and open class warfare in Wisconsin. We shall see whether or not that's true or whether it just makes that warfare more one-sided.

One thing you can count on though, is that the current assault on public schools,  teachers and other public employees will continue as the state's corporate interests use pocket politicians to increase profits and their power position vis-a-vis the unions. For IL teachers, it will still be possible, though more difficult to resist the next attempt at a  pension grab coming up in the fall veto session.

Chicago teachers will now have to face a push by corporate reformers and the mayor to have fewer teachers teaching larger classes, with less job protection, working longer hours and more days for less pay, in the upcoming contract negotiations. The new law makes teacher tenure and layoffs contingent on student achievement based even more narrowly on standardized test scores and makes it easier to dismiss veteran teachers without due process.

With Rahm Emanuel now running the city's schools, we can expect to see a continuation of the disastrous Renaissance 2010 strategy of closing neighborhood schools and replacing them with privately-managed charter schools and replacing union teachers with lower-paid, non-union temps. Even new schools CEO J.C. Brizard admits to Ren10's "collateral damage" as being the "creation of two different [and unequal] school systems."

If there's to be a push-back from the CTU on any of this (including the take-away of the 4% pay raise won in the last contract negotiations), they will have to make it with one hand tied behind their back because of the SB7 bill that they themselves supported.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Duncan Rules

Ed sec. Arne Duncan says he will use his executive authority to impose rules on schools and districts if congress doesn't reauthorize NCLB by the fall.
“We’re not going to sit here and do nothing. Our first priority is to have Congress rewrite the law. If that doesn’t get done, we have the obligation to provide relief in exchange for reform.” -- NYTza
Cleaning up Daley's reform mess

New Chicago schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard says he's busy cleaning up the “collateral damage” of past reforms.  
“I think the New Schools work so far has been good, but what it’s done, from what I’ve seen so far, is it’s created two different school systems,” he said. “That’s what I meant by collateral damage.” -- NYT
Don Washington
Many of us feel the President Obama has let us down and that the political system has failed us all. The truth is that this is always the way it's been. As my grandfather said: "Democracy is the battle that never ends, you are fighting for something or losing everything... We are the children of faith and social justice and history tells us that together we are an unstoppable coalition and a reflection of the very best virtues and values of our country. We will one day come together to compel this President or the next to pursue social justice and protect ordinary people from the powerful and selfish. -- Mayoral Tutorial 
 Marc Tucker's report nixes current reform agenda
'It turns out that neither the researchers whose work is reported on in this paper nor the analysts of the OECD PISA data have found any evidence that any country that leads the world’s education performance league tables has gotten there by implementing any of the major agenda items that dominate the education reform agenda in the United States.' -- Report: Standing on the shoulders of giants

Friday, June 10, 2011

Two looks at the Marshall High "turnaround"

Marshall teacher Anthony Skokna, fired for being a veteran teacher who earned too much.

The first is from Ben Joravsky at the Reader:
It's curious, this double standard we have when it comes to cracking down on low-scoring schools. The man in charge of the system retires with, among other things, a well-paid, do-little position at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Meanwhile, the teacher on the front line winds up on the dole...
The second is from Matt Farmer at Huffinton:
 Huberman gutted Marshall last year as part of another high-stakes CPS "turnaround." After firing the old guard, CPS officials hand-picked the school's new faculty to ensure that this "turnaround" will be more successful than Arne Duncan's "transformation" of Marshall back in 2007-08. And although this "turnaround" faculty has yet to complete its first year, it already appears there will be more blood-letting at the school in the days ahead...


One of the many reasons I am marching along with thousands of others in D.C. on July 30th is in defense of union rights for teachers and other public workers.  Here is the SOS position on Unions and Collective Bargaining printed in full: 

Unions and Collective Bargaining 

Unions of all kinds are currently under political attack. Public employee unions are especially under fire, as we have seen in Wisconsin and now in other states. As members of public employee unions, teachers are particularly aware of the risks inherent in allowing such attacks to go unchallenged.

Those of us involved in organizing the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action recognize the importance of the right to unionize for all employees. States which have unionized work forces have higher standards of living, and higher performance on various academic measures. Indeed, the nation with the most consistent performance on international comparisons of student performance, Finland, has a teacher corps that is almost completely unionized. 

But this is not just about teachers. It is about police, firefighters and nurses. It is about all workers who wish to organize and collectively bargain on productive working conditions, safety and compensation including benefits.

This is not just about adults, either. Poverty is one of the major factors undermining student achievement in America. By empowering employees to improve their working conditions and pay, collective bargaining rights help to stabilize and strengthen families and communities. That, in turn, boosts the social and financial support available to students and schools. The interests of schools, students, teachers, families, and communities are all connected. Attempts to reform schools without simultaneously strengthening communities have a long history of failure– a history that we need to reverse. 

For these reasons, we fully support the right of all workers to participate in unions, and for unions to have the right to organize and to represent their membership, including through collective bargaining.

Click here to view a list of unions that have endorsed our effort. We hope also to gain the support of unions outside of education.

See you all in D.C. I hope

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What's happening with Rahm's year-round school plan?

Jennifer Johnson, a teacher at Lincoln Park High School, administered final exams in a classroom where temperatures reached the mid-nineties on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Hey Mr. Mayor. What happened to all that talk about year-round schooling? Remember, during the campaign. You were saying how students in Houston were getting 3 more years of classroom seat time than kids in Chicago. Well this week in Chicago (don't know about Houston) the temperature in those old buildings with no A/C shot up to over 98 degrees in some classrooms

Thousands of kids were sent home early to avoid a crisis. Little or no teaching/learning takes place under those condition -- in Houston or any place else. 
For those CPS high schools giving finals this week, the timing of the heat wave was particularly difficult. “It was horrible,’’ said Lincoln Park High junior Rachel Jones of Wednesday’s heat. “I had to leave class five times. ... Finals were really, really hard. All I could think about was how hot it was.’’ -- Sun-Times

Anyway, just wondering where you were and what you were doing. I didn't see you or J.C. Brizard inside any schools. Maybe you were hanging out in some air conditioned principal's office.  BTW, exactly how much are you paying this guy?

Interesting days indeed

Diane Ravitch calls them "an interesting few days." Indeed they were. They began on the last day of May with her NYT op-ed piece which nailed the corporate school reformers for their politically-driven, data-fudging "turnaround" myth-making.

Then came the pitiful response from Arne Duncan via embedded Bloomberg journalist Jonathan Alter, which basically amounted to a paragraph or two of personal invective aimed at Diane.
 "She’s the education world’s very own Whittaker Chambers, the famous communist turned strident anti-communist of the 1940s."
 "Diane Ravitch is in denial and she is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country who are proving her wrong every day." (Fawning Alter quoting "mild-mannered" education secretary Duncan).
And my favorite: "She now uses phony empiricism."  
 This, the day after she  received the Daniel Patrick Moynihan award from the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences for promoting "the use of informed judgment to advance the public good" through "sound analysis and social science research in policy-making, while contributing to the civility of public discourse and pursuing a bipartisan approach to society's most pressing problems."

Ravitch and Alter then had a debate of sorts on David Sirota's Denver radio show. I say "of sorts" because Diane was like the veteran educator confronting an embarrassed school kid who hadn't done his homework. Progressive moderator Sirota had a tough time restraining himself from joining in on Alter's spanking.

Actually Alter has done a service, not only to Duncan (whose communications team obviously feeds Alter his lines) and to corporate reformers (Bloomberg), but to us as well. As Anthony Cody put it, in his Edweek blog, Alter "kicked the hornets' nest."


To top things off, Duncan had to pull his over-sized yet overworked PR team at the DOE off of the Ravitch case to do damage control on the Stockton raid story.  I'd like to think I had a little something to do with that after spending my morning yesterday tracking down why NBC News10 pulled its interview with Kenneth Wright. Wright became the victim after Arne's DOE army, assault weapons in hand, and armed also with a DOE search warrant, broke down Wright's door at 6 a.m. and terrorized Wright and his small children for hours. No sooner had I posted the story than the station pulled it (under pressure from the feds???). After my phone calls to the station, I received this missive from News10's Roy Kennedy:

First of all, thanks for contacting us.  The interview with Mr. Wright will be posted soon.  The original package had some old information that needs to be updated.  In the meantime his interview will be put up on the site in the next hour or so. Call or email me if you have questions.
Roy Kennedy News10

If you've followed the story, you know that the original Wright video interview promised by Kennedy was never posted again. But a new video clip (above) does have excerpts from it.  In the meantime, the story changed from the raid supposedly targeting a student loan defaulter (Wright's estranged wife) to:
In a statement to, Education Department Press Secretary Justin Hamilton confirmed that its Office of Inspector General executed the warrant with the presence of local law enforcement authorities.
"While it was reported in local media that the search was related to a defaulted student loan, that is incorrect," the statement read. "This is related to a criminal investigation. The Inspector General's Office does not execute search warrants for late loan payments."
Now that's what I call damage control. Duncan's OIG troopers bust down the door of a black family at dawn in Stockton. They throw the father down on the ground, hand-cuffed in front of his children. Lock him in a squad car for six hours in miserable heat. Wreck his house searching for who knows what. Then release him without charges and press the local NBC affiliate to change their story and make the video interview with him go away.

Yes, interesting few days indeed.