Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chicago charters use 'scorched earth' tactics to beat unionization

Pro-union Chicago Math and Science Academy teachers and supporters before a board meeting in 2011.
Teachers and staff at Youth Connection Leadership Academy, a charter school on Chicago's south side, have voted to join the teacher union. The response from Youth Connection Charter School's management? They are threatening to close the school and fire everyone rather than allow their teachers to have collective-bargaining rights. So far, teachers and staff at 13 Chicago charters now have union representation.

Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ACTS), the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO have joined together to file a complaint against with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board .
"This is union busting, plain and simple," said Brian Harris, president of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which the academy faculty had voted to join. "We've never had anything this drastic where they've threatened to fire everyone or close down a school. But, every single school where we've tried to organize, with the exception of one, we've faced some push-back."
In the past, Chicago charter school operators have even claimed that their schools weren't public, in order to evade ILRB jurisdiction.

Skip the serious face, Arne

How do we as a teaching profession create a climate in which everyone is clamoring to come into schools like this ... where this is a badge of honor?" -- Arne Duncan
Serious face...

Arne Duncan looks so intense, like he's seriously listening and looking for answers. Don't be fooled. He's not. He's done these "listening tours" before. They make for great photo ops.

How do we get more Tamara Raifords “clamoring” to teach in low-performing schools? he asks some New Haven Teachers. Tamara Raiford who teaches pre-K at Brennan/Rogers, introduced herself as the only teacher in the district to leave a top-performing Tier I school to join a low-performing “turnaround.” She says she chose Brennan "because of the challenge."  -- New Haven Independent
But Duncan already knows full well why there aren't thousands of teachers "clamoring" to leave high-scoring, predominantly middle class or wealthy suburban schools to come teach in resource-starved, inner-city schools. He has been one of the architects of the modern, two-tier school system -- one tier for elite and one for the rest. It's been his Race To The Top policies that have reinforced the system by punishing schools with high concentrations of poor, black and Latino students, closing them down and arbitrarily firing their teachers in mass.

Duncan has also been a leading proponent of so-called "merit pay" for teachers, a system based on rewarding a handful of teachers and docking others' salaries based on their students' standardized test scores. As research has shown, these scores are indicators of poverty much more than anything going on in the classroom. So if you leave a high-scoring school for a lower one, prepare to take a serious pay cut.

Duncan has joined with Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney in calling for larger class sizes thereby making certain that teachers in overcrowded urban schools will face much tougher challenges. Duncan claims that "class size has been a sacred cow and we need to take it on." Another disincentive for teachers thinking about making the switch.

It's also Duncan who has forced states and districts in need of federal funds, to close neighborhood schools and fired entire school faculties, along with their principals while they turn those schools over to private management companies. The remaining charter school teachers are dis-empowered in many ways, including the loss of their collective bargaining rights, job security and protection from discrimination.

To top it off, Duncan has voiced support for newspapers like the L.A. Times, publishing the names of teachers alongside their student test scores as a way to debase and insult teachers working with low-scoring students.

So, Sec. Duncan, please spare us the serious listening face. No need to ask why their aren't more Tamara Raidfords. You already know the answer. So do we.

NEPC announces it annual Bunkum Awards

For Immediate Release Thursday, May 31, 2012
Contact: Jamie Horwitz (202) 549-492,


Grand Prize Winner Compares Charters Schools to Cancer – Where Cancer is a Good Thing 

National Education Policy Center for the First Time Awards a “Get a Life(time) Achievement Award” to an Individual – Dr. Matthew Ladner, an Advisor to Jeb Bush’s Advocacy Organization

Boulder, Colo. -- The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder, has announced via online video the winners of the 2011 Bunkum Awards –presented for the most compellingly lousy educational research for the past year.  The video is now available for viewing at

The 2011 Bunkum Grand Prize goes to the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), which received the “Cancer is Under-Rated Award” for Going Exponential: Growing the Charter School Sector’s Best. In its report, which advocated the rapid expansion of preferred charter schools, PPI compared those charters to viruses and cancers.

PPI says that it “conducted research about when and how exponential growth occurs in the natural world, specifically examining mold, algae, cancer, crystals and viruses. We used these findings…to fuel our thinking about fresh directions for the charter sector.”

“The Progressive Policy Institute deserves our top award for combining a weak analysis, agenda-driven recommendations, and the most bizarre analogy we’ve seen in a long time,” stated Kevin Welner, director of NEPC. “This report spoke to us in ways matched by no other publication.”

Welner and the NEPC recognized the report for its almost complete lack of acceptable scientific evidence or original research supporting the policy suggestions, as well as its failure to make the case that its suggestions are relevant to school improvement. To view the NEPC review of this report, and for a link to the report itself, visit

The NEPC also awarded its “Get a Life(time) Achievement Award” to Dr. Matthew Ladner, senior advisor of policy and research for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. This is the first time NEPC bestowed an individual with a Bunkum Award.

“We’ve never before found someone with an individual record of Bunkum-worthy accomplishments that just cries out for recognition,” stated Welner. “Dr. Ladner’s body of Bunk-work is focused on his shameless hawking of what he and the Governor call the ‘Florida Formula’ for educational success.”

Specifically, Ladner argues that because Florida’s test scores had increased during a time period when Florida policy included things like school choice and grade retention, these policies must be responsible for the scores. Yet decades of evidence link grade retention practices to increased dropout rates, not to improved achievement. 

Moreover, Florida’s recent test score results are notably unimpressive, but Ladner continues to promote his favored policies, blaming the scores on a slide in home prices and other factors he says are “impossible” to determine. Learn more at

NEPC’s other 2011 Bunkums (full descriptions are available at

  • “Mirror Image Award (What You Read is Reversed),” to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Learning About Teaching (2011 First Runner-Up). Although the Foundation touted the report as “some of the strongest evidence to date of the validity of ‘value-added’ analysis,” showing that “teachers’ effectiveness can be reliably estimated by gauging their students’ progress on standardized tests,” the actual data show only a modest correlation between teachers’ effectiveness and students’ test scores.

  • “If Bernie Madoff Worked in School Finance Award,” to ConnCAN for Spend Smart: Fix Our Broken School Funding System. This report promotes a “money follows the child” funding system that would have the effect of making funding even more inequitable by shifting funding away from students in poverty and those learning English.

  • “If Political Propaganda Counted as Research Award,” to the Center for American Progress and the Broad Foundation, for Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn around the Nation’s Dropout Factories. Drawing on mysterious backwards-engineering techniques, the authors of this report build a foundation for their findings and conclusions that mimics real evidence.

  • “Discovering the Obvious While Obscuring the Important Award,” to Third Way for Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren’t Making the Grade. Mixing and matching data sources and units of analysis to such an extent that it’s almost impossible for readers to figure out which analyses go with which data, the report attempts to convince its readers that middle-class schools are doing a lot worse than we think. In fact, the results show the results of middle class schools to be … in the middle.
The word Bunkum comes from Buncombe County in North Carolina. Buncombe County produced a Congressman, Representative Felix Walker, who gained infamy back in 1820 for delivering a particularly meaningless, irrelevant and seemingly endless speech. Thus, bunkum became a term for long-winded nonsense of the kind often seen in politics, and today in education.

The National Education Policy Center unites a diverse group of interdisciplinary scholars from across the United States. The Center is guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. To learn more about NEPC, please visit

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Broward Board Says 'No' to FCAT

Broward County, the nation's 6th largest school district, has put their T-Party governor on notice. They hate FCAT and Florida's preoccupation with standardized testing. The School Board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday opposing standardized testing as the primary means for evaluating schools, students and teachers.
"This is destroying public education, destroying the teaching profession and destroying children," School Board member Robin Bartleman said. "The classroom should be fun. Kids should be excited about learning and not be afraid they're going to be punished for one test."
 The effort is part of a national movement, where parent groups and school boards are signing petitions and resolutions opposing high stakes testing. The Palm Beach County School District passed a similar resolution in April, and Martin and St. Lucie counties have also joined the fight.

FEA, the state's largest teachers union, has joined the anti-FCAT fight as well. According to the Palm Beach Post, The Florida Education Association and two teachers, Okaloosa County fifth-grade teacher Karen Peek and Indian River County eighth-grade teacher Beth Weatherstone, have filed suit in opposition to the use of FCAT scores in teacher evaluation and as part of the state's merit pay policy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Romney throws a right. Obama ducks.

I must admit, I was glad when Mitt Romney fired the first education salvo across the Democrats' bow last Wednesday at the Latino Coalition annual economic summit in Washington. My fear was that both parties were going to avoid mentioning the E-word right up through November. I thought, now that Romney has come out openly and purposefully, in a white paper,  with his party's anti-public school line, including support for vouchers, larger class size and a direct, unambiguous assault on teacher unions, Pres. Obama would have no choice other than to respond.

But not only did the president and education chief Arne Duncan personally duck out of sight on this one, in the one instance where Team Obama did respond -- on teacher unions -- they revealed to all those who still have illusions, the Democrats' own complicity in the corporate version of school "reform".

The exchange has gone something like this:

Romney: President Obama has been a tool of the teachers union,  unwilling to stand up to the "union bosses" and he has caved in to greedy teachers and their demands for collective bargaining rights and smaller class size.

Team Obama: No he hasn't. The President has been just as anti-union as you have and Sec. Duncan has consistently pushed for larger class sizes.

As Mitchell Landsberg reports in yesterday's L.A. Times: 
In fact, Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have clashed repeatedly with teachers unions over the administration's support for charter schools, merit pay and standardized testing. And Obama has won praise from a number of Republicans for pursuing an education agenda that, in some significant ways, builds on the policies of former President George W. Bush.
 It was none other than brother Jeb who put it most succinctly:
"I am very, very encouraged, and excited that the president has taken on a core constituency of his party, which is the teachers' union," Bush said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. (Video here.)
It's now clear that Obama, the great triangulator, believes he has positioned himself just barely enough to the left of the Republicans, to maintain his AFT and NEA support while also placating his fund-raising base of anti-union, DFER hedge-fund reformers. Team Obama thinks he can win the election without enthusiastic support from the nation's 6.2 million teachers, and he may be right. We shall see.

But the question remains, who will stand up for public education, teachers and children?

AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten will probably face some tough questions on this score when she turns up as the guest on #SOSchat tonight on Twitter. 

Early registration is now open for the Save Our Schools (SOS) People's Platform Convention, Aug. 3-5 in D.C. As one of the placards at last summers SOS march read, "You have the right to remain silent, but I wouldn't advise it."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot town, summer in the city. Only the beer was cold.

Brother Fred and the Carpenter Ukulele Society
It's 4 p.m., another day of 90+ Chicago weather and I'm still trying to get my head straight after yesterday's festivities.

First Jesse Sharkey's C.O.R.E. BBQ Picnic with a few hundred union teachers (you could hear the strains of Solidarity Forever blocks away) and then on to my brother Fred's retirement party -- back-to-back and luckily within walking distance. Great music at both. Good food and open bar. Lots of CTU'ers came over from the picnic to the party where everyone signed in on a wall petition to save the Teachers Retirement System.

Steve, Matt & Jennifer
Things got raucous at  Mike James and Katy Hogan's Red Line Tap with rockers Matt Farmer and Steve Doyle jamming for 3 hours. Fred and fellow teachers in the Carpenter Ukulele Society opened with their best Van Morrison. Best night of the early summer. Omen of great things to come.

Blogger supreme Tim Furman at SchoolTech Connect, sums things up pretty well. Although he obviously couldn't hang with us oldies who closed the party out.
Anyway, what a tribute. The place was packed, and it was a virtual who's who of the people who elected Obama and were to one extent or another left behind by that particular President, whose campaign for the White House started at the Heartland Cafe, next door. There was more accumulated wisdom about teaching and learning and the purpose of public education than in all the new ed reform foundations in DC combined. Plus an open bar, which as far as I'm concerned is key. Key.


Pedro Noguera
"The way we are now as a country, not only aren't we living up to the Brown decision, we're not even living up the Plessy v. Ferguson of separate but equal." -- Up W/ Chris Hayes
Melissa Harris-Perry 
"I  live in the 7th ward of New Orleans, and I  don't like what I see happening there in the KIPP schools. I am distressed by the movement away from teachers unions that can actually fight for teachers." -- MSNBC
John McCain
Defending Romney's record at Bain Capital: "And yes, the free enterprise system can be cruel” -- TPM
Charles Blow
Louisiana is the starkest, most glaring example of how our prison policies have failed.  -- NYT, "Plantations, Prisons and Profits"

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Save Our Schools Webinar Early Childhood Educators Say “No!” to Standards and Tests

June 1, 2012, 9 PM Eastern Daylight Time [EDT}
Please Join Us!

Nancy Carlsson-Paige is a professor of early childhood education at Lesley University where she has taught teachers for more than 30 years. Professor Carlsson-Paige was a founder of the University’s Center for Peaceable Schools. Since the mid-1980′s, Nancy has written and spoken extensively about the impact of violence, especially in the media, on children’s lives and social development, and how children learn the skills for caring relationships and positive conflict resolution. She has written five books and numerous articles on media violence, conflict resolution, and peaceable classrooms and schools. Her most recent book is called Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids. Nancy is an advocate for policies and practices that promote children’s well being and encourage skills and attitudes that further peace and nonviolence.

Deborah Meier
is a senior scholar at NYU’s Steinhardt School, and Board member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, FairTest, SOS and Dissent and The Nation magazines. She spent 45 years working in K-12th grade public schools in New York City (East Harlem) and Boston (Roxbury) including leadership of several highly successful small democratically run urban schools–the Central Park East schools and Mission Hill. Her books include The Power of Their Ideas and In Schools We Trust. In 1987 she was the first educator to receive a McArthur “genius” Award and currently blogs for Ed Week with Diane Ravitch (Bridging Differences.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another look at Rahm's Texas model

"If you start in the Chicago Public School system in kindergarten," offered Rahm, "and your cousin lives in Houston, and you both go all the way through high school, the cousin in Houston spends three more years in the classroom." -- Rahm Emanuel
Romney's ed adviser and former Houston Supt. Rod Paige
Chicago's mayor, in his demagogic appeal for a longer (not necessarily better) school day, is fond of holding up Houston, Texas as his model. This piece in the Texas Observer details some of the reasons why Houston schools and Texas schools in general, may work for some of their students, but certainly not for poor students or students of color, and why they provide no example for Chicago to follow.

Observer reporter Cindy Casares writes:
People who question the existence of systemic racism need only look at the numbers. Take the emotion out and see for yourself. The statistics are quite simply stacked against people of color in this state. Yet the media covers the issue in code, leaving it to sound like some unsolvable mystery.
  • Poor and minority students in Texas are far less likely than others to have certified math teachers.
  • 58 percent of Algebra I teachers in predominantly African-American schools are certified in math, compared to 82 percent of the teachers in schools with the fewest African-American students.
  • Of the state’s 
50 largest school districts, 43 have the highest concentration of novice teachers in the poorest schools.
  • Across Texas, at every school level and in all
core subjects (English, math, science and social studies), Hispanic, African-American and low- income students are more likely than their more affluent and white peers to be taught by teachers who do not meet state requirements.
  • A similar analysis of teacher and student data in Los Angeles concluded that “having a top- quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap.”
  • In Arlington, for example, the average teacher salary in the district’s highest-poverty middle schools is $4,750 less than the average teacher salary in the more-affluent middle schools.
  • In Amarillo, teachers working in elementary schools serving mostly Hispanic and African-American children earn on average $2,405 less than those in the elementary schools serving greater numbers of white students.
Rahm needs to find himself a new model, especially now that Mitt Romney has named former Houston Superintendent and Bush's Ed Secretary Rod Paige as his chief education adviser.  Remember, Paige's Texas Miracle was a fraud.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Hey hey. Ho ho. Rahm Emanuel has got to go!

Thousands of CTU members march up Michigan Avenue to CPS Headquarters after a rally at the Auditorium Theatre. | Scott Stewart~Chicago Sun-Times.
That was the thunderous sound of 5,000 red-clad Chicago union teachers marching past CPS headquarters at Adams & Clark. Just when Rahm thought is was safe to come out of his office after last weekend's NATO Summit fiasco, he once again became the target of working class venom. Speaker after speaker denounced Rahm's ongoing war on teachers. His contract offer was denounced as an "insult."  On every issue, they offered counters to his "reform" agenda of privatization, charter schools, longer school day,and test-based teacher evaluation.

CTU Pres. Karen Lewis, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, &  Rev. Jesse Jackson  march along Michigan Avenue to CPS Headquarters. | Scott Stewart~Chicago Sun-Times.
According to Sun-Times reporters:
Inside the Auditorium Theater
The teachers had rocked the city’s Auditorium Theater with chants, cheers and jeers during a Wednesday afternoon rally to rev up the troops against a contract proposal union leaders derided as an “insult.” Dressed in red CTU t-shirts, teachers and other school workers turned the theater and three of its balconies into a sea of hopping, clapping red. "Definitely teachers are mad enough to strike,” said Prosser High School teacher Jennifer Koszyk. “I’m mad for my children. I want to make sure they get the same education as other children get in Illinois.”
 Outside, at the support rally UIC Prof David Stovall mocked Emanuel, asking the crowd, "any paid protesters out there? The response was a loud and joyful, "hell, no!"

Chicago's finest sporting CTU buttons
M. Klonsky pics
After more than 4,000 CTU members poured out of the Congress Theater, they were joined by rallying supporters across the street in Grant Park, with the groups merging into a sea of red-shirted marchers. As they proceeded up Michigan Ave. and then west on Adams, they were greeted with signs of support from onlookers -- a group of custodians, some medical techs, hard-hatted construction workers and retail clerks. Even the mayor's bike cops, many of whom had been used against the anti-NATO demonstrators on Saturday, now were wearing CTU buttons and posing for pictures hugging union marchers.

As the current negotiations move into high gear, Rahm would do well not to underestimate the level of solidarity and commitment on the part of the teachers. I didn't find any who wanted a strike. But neither did I find any who weren't ready to walk if pushed to the wall.

Who will stand up for Public Education in this election?

Romney lands the first punch. Will Dems strike back? If not, who will?

In the run-up to the elections, neither candidate(s) has said much about education issues. As for party platforms, neither party has a real education plank. The Republicans have been playing only two notes -- bust the teacher unions and don't tax the rich. The Democrats have been playing none. They have been tight-roping between the teacher unions and the influential hedge-fund "reformers" like Democrats For Educational Reform (DFER) and have seemingly decided to play it safe and go without an education plank. Neither party dares to utter the words No Child Left Behind or Race To The Top which are both vote killers for any candidate.

But today it was a clever Mitt Romney who fired the first salvo across the bow of the reticent Dems. Speaking before a friendly crowd at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Romney co-opted much of the Democrats ed "reform" initiative, launched a broadside against the unions, etch-a-sketched on his former support for NCLB, and called for a national system of school vouchers for private schools.
"This president receives the lion's share of funding from organized labor, and the teachers' unions represent a massive source of funding for the Democratic Party," Romney said.    He continued, "If I'm president of the United States, instead of just giving lip service to improving our schools, I will actually put the kids first and the union behind in giving our kids better teachers, better options and better choices for a better future."
Romney's speech puts the ball squarely in Obama's court. In what appears to be an extremely close race, public school parents and three million union teachers, most of whom are Democratic voters,  could make the difference. But until now, the president's reform agenda, led by Ed Sec Arne Duncan, has been almost equally anti-teachers union and eerily similar to that of the neocons who preceded him. It's an agenda that so far has generated little if any enthusiasm among teachers and ed activists at the grass-roots level. And without that enthusiasm, a la 2008, it's doubtful Obama can win, or even if he does, carry congressional candidates with him.

Romney's open embrace of vouchers is a bone thrown to energize the far right wing of his party and would seemingly give Obama room to distinguish himself from Romney. The problem is, his DFER patrons have no problem with vouchers, and echo or even outdo Romney's anti-labor rhetoric. With the NEA and AFT vote already locked up, the Democrats have no need to take Romney on regarding collective bargaining rights or issues like test-based teacher evaluation, smaller class size, mass firings, or school closings. And on privatization issues, such as replacing charter schools with private ones, Obama and Duncan are marching in lock-step with the Republicans.

Romney also officially announced his appointment of his education team, led by former Bush Ed Secretary Rod Paige.  Paige, you may recall, distinguished himself by calling the teacher unions "terrorists" and calling for more Christian religious teaching, including the teaching of  "intelligent design"  in public schools. He also engineered the phony "Texas Miracle" while Superintendent of the Houstonools. Along with Paige, Romney's list of education advisers reads like a who's- who of Bush-era, corporate-style education reform and school re-segregation.

So the question is, where will the pressure from below come from to make public education issues front-burner? Save Our Schools (SOS), which organized last summer's march and rally of thousands of teachers, is trying to organize a national discussion and develop a national platform. With few resources and a late start,SOS  is trying to pull together a People's Platform Convention in D.C. in August with such notables as Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, and Nancy Carlson-Paige heading the speakers list. If they can unite a critical mass around a policy platform, SOS activists and allies could then organize actions and occupations at the upcoming conventions and hopefully provide a voice for teachers and public school advocates.

But to do so successfully, the fledgling  organization will have to raise some big money fast. A presidential election year is the most difficult time to try to raise money. And it's a daunting task to pull together locally-based activists around such a national project.

You can register for the SOS Convention or make a contribution here.

Thousands of CTU members, supporters will rally today

If Rahm Emanuel thought that Chicago teachers would roll over and play dead in the face of his war on the CTU,  he's badly mistaken. Yesterday it was announced that nearly 80 percent of CTU members have voted to reject the latest teacher contract proposal in recent straw polls — more than what would be needed to authorize a real strike under the new anti-union law, SB7.

At 3 this afternoon, thousands of Chicago teachers will meet in a unity rally inside the Auditorium Theater at State & Congress. At 4:30, many more will join them in a massive show of solidarity with a rally and march.
I will definitely be there. Wouldn't want to miss this historic event.

Rahm's poll numbers have plummeted in recent weeks, mainly in reaction to his attacks on the CTU.  The mayor has shown himself to be little more than a union-busting corporate Republicrat in a town where there is no Republican Party. One party operative even astutely referred to him as the "Democrats' Karl Rove."

Rahm spins
Despite all the mayor's ridiculous spin about how the city "survived" his NATO fiasco, it's clear to anyone who was downtown this weekend that the Summit was nothing less than and economic and political disaster for Chicago. On any normal sunny weekend in late May, the city's loop hotels, businesses, museums, and restaurants would be bustling. Instead, a huge section of the city looked like a ghost town except for the thousands of demonstrators and the army of cops brought out to contain them. The uncalled for beatings of peaceful protesters, the suspension of citizens' rights, the closings of city streets, businesses and museums, hardly make Chicago seem like a mecca for tourism.

The most common remark I heard from people on the street was, "thank God we didn't get the Olympics."
But I thought the funniest example of positive NATO spin was the claim that there was "less traffic congestion" during the Summit. Well, Duh! Yes, if you force thousands of downtown workers to stay home and not go to work, and if you close the Kennedy and other highways so that visiting dignitaries can move freely, there will likely be less traffic. That's the economic bonanza promised by the mayor.

Who are you crappin, Rahm?

The most vile attack yet on Wisconsin teachers

This is the most cowardly and treacherous attack yet on public school teachers, make that, on all public employees. That image above is of a full-page newspaper ad taken out in the Janesville Gazette, the local newspaper in Paul Ryan's district. The Gazette, to its credit, didn't print the ad, but it still managed to find its way into subscribers' mailboxes through fliers placed in the paper's home-delivery tube system. The names you can't read in this image are the names of teachers in Janesville who signed the petition to recall Scott Walker. Next to their names, is their salary. At the bottom of the unsigned ad, there is a space to sign to "opt-out" of any teacher's classroom who signed the petition.

Walker and his cronies at the Heartland Institute and front group,  Citizens for Responsible Government, aka CRG Network, have figured out another way to use their Bradley Foundation and their Koch Bros. money to first, go after the unions, and then after any teachers who dare exercise their democratic right to sign a petition, with public acts of intimidation.

The flier distributed by CRG this weekend is done in the same style as a flier stuffed in Janesville mailboxes in March. Those fliers listed the salaries of some district administrators and teachers and made specific charges against public schools, including "dumbed-down curriculum," "Marxist/globalist agenda," "sexualization of children" and "union bullying and vindictive targeting of students." The first flier also contained no information about who made it. It suggested parents pull their children from public schools and put them in private schools.

Wisconsin public school parent karoli, posts in Crooks & Liars blog
I have never seen any teacher who deserved the treatment they are receiving, and I've never seen any reason to tell any teacher they don't have the right to participate in our political system and still teach school. What outrages me most about this evil, cynical, ugly, thuggish act on the part of rich old men and women in Wisconsin and their precious John Birch principles is their utter lack of humanity. 
One can't help but notice the similarities between this style of attack on teachers and the publishing of teachers' names next to student test scores in the L.A. Times. If anyone ever needed a better reason to recall Walker or to  fight in defense of teacher unions, I don't know what it would be.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Anatomy of a big high school

Chicago's great architectural critic Lee Bey writes for WBEZ public radio, about his alma mater, Chicago Vocational High School ("School of architecture: A look at sprawling Chicago Vocational.") 

The massive, 72-year-old school, located at 2100 E. 87th St., is not only the city's second largest high school building (only Lane Tech is bigger), but is Chicago's best large-scale example of Art Moderne architecture. The 27-acre school, formerly known as Chicago Vocational High School, was built for $3.5 million, with 45 percent of the cash coming from the federal Public Works Administration.

CVS was the first high school that joined the Small Schools Workshop back in the early 1990s. With nearly 4,000 students at that time, teachers and administrators were looking for ways to break through big-school anonymity, create a safer learning environment, and break down the wall between academic and vocational learning embeded in the old voc-ed model. After some initial successes, the project was lost to the district's shift to a test-prep regimen under Paul Vallas' regime.

Chicago Vocational closes and  re-opens in the fall as one of the city's five STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) academies. This is the latest in a long line of top-down, turn-around magic bullets. The hope, says Bey,  is that these six-year schools, with a curriculum and program developed by IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Verizon, will return the school to its original mission of producing graduates for the workforce. The design may have changed but the notion of public school as simply job training is anathema to sound ed policy.  But I do like the 6-12 concept, the small academy idea which lets kids choose based on their interests. I just think schools are for educating the whole child, not just the voc side.

Writes Bey, 
Chicago Vocational's original concept was revolutionary. The school system figured out the world of the 1940s and beyond would need more machinists, auto mechanics, electricians, architectural draftsmen, food service experts, sheet metal workers, complex printing machine operators–and more–so they built a school to fill the need. The school was built for 6,000 students, all male, originally, who would graduate with certificates proving they were work-ready.


Rita Solnet
Rita Solnet, Parents Across America
“It’s kind of like a tsunami at this point — a movement underway. Primarily, we’re saying we know you wanted accountability, but the pendulum has swung too far. It’s gotten ridiculous where one test on one day determines everything for that one child. We are saying use the FCAT as a diagnostic tool — for what it’s meant to be used.” -- Miami Herald

Read more here:
Light footprint?
Out of the experience emerged Mr. Obama’s “light footprint” strategy, in which the United States strikes from a distance but does not engage in years-long, enervating occupations. -- David Sanger, NYT, "Charting Obama’s Journey to a Shift on Afghanistan"
Woody Guthrie 
Saturday’s tribute show crystallized in music much of what was being chanted, debated and discussed across Chicago during the weekend of the NATO summit and its corresponding protests. With the artists drawing from Guthrie’s catalog as well as their own, themes of class struggle, inequality, immigrant rights and labor were well represented. -- Thomas Conner, Pop Music Critic/
Iraqi war vet, Ash Wilson
 "I was in Iraq in '03 and what I saw there crushed me. I don't want us to suffer this again, and I don't want our children to suffer this again. So I'm giving these [medals] back." -- ABC 7 News

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nurses rally and play Robin Hood

Demand a Robin Hood Tax to pay for health care.

New police  SUVs
Thousands of police and Sheriff's deputies occupied the loop area, their sparkling new SUVs stretching for blocks along downtown streets while  nurses and their supporters filled Daley Plaza this afternoon.

There was a great atmosphere of militant solidarity as speaker after speaker denounced the NATO Summit and austerity measures and budget cuts to health care, education and other social services and demanded that the millionaires and corporations start paying their fair share through a "Robin Hood Tax." It was a festive mood with Tom Morello, from Rage Against the Machine, closing out the peaceful rally with his music. Remember, Rahm had first denied the permit for the Nurse's Association rally because he feared that having Morello play would draw such a monstrous crowd as to create a national security threat.

Protecting Daley Center from the nurses
But somehow, the phalanx of armed deputies surrounding the Daley Center managed to keep it safe from the Robin Hood-clad nurses.

There were lots of great speeches, but I thought the best one was given by Kristine Mayle from the Chicago Teachers Union. I couldn't tape it, but here's a transcript:


Good afternoon sisters and brother. My name is Kristine Mayle and I am the Financial Secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union. Many of my members have asked me to convey to you that they wanted to be here today, but they cannot because they are out there in the neighborhoods, serving the 400,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools.
Our teachers are working in overcrowded classrooms without air conditioning or the proper technology they know our students need. Our paraprofessionals are trying to fill the gaps that layoffs and budget cuts have left in our schools and classrooms. Many of our school social workers are out their counseling our youth who are victims of violence. Our school nurses are trying to provide services for students at staffing rations that were recommended in the 1960s!
The Chicago Teachers Union supports the Robin Hood Tax because it could bring much needed resources to neighborhood schools that need it the most. Currently 190 CPS schools do not have libraries. 90 schools do not have either visual arts, music, or world language teachers, many more only have one of the three. Many of our elementary schools have no playgrounds. We don't have enough school psychologists, counselors, social workers or nurses. We do not have enough physical education teachers to provide daily PE that is required by state law. Budget cuts have all but eliminated our literacy and math coaches who provide supplemental services to students wh need them the most.
Our teachers spend thousands of our own dollars each year to provide materials and supplies in our classrooms. Materials and supplies that should be provided by the school district. Be we do it for our kids.
Nurses and teachers are a lot alike. We got into those professions to help people, to make a difference. And we do, every day, despite the budget cuts that constantly plague our professions and make it nearly impossible to provide the kinds of services we know our students and patients deserve.
The Chicago Teachers Union stands with the nurses and all the other groups here today who are fighting for the Robin Hood Tax. What would be an insignificant amount of money to the corporations paying it, would make a world of difference for our schools and communities. Thank you for what you do every day.
Solidarity forever.

News from the war zone

 As I'm getting ready to head downtown to support the nurse's protest rally at Daley Plaza, I'm struck by the front page headline in the Sun-Times.

Remember Rahm had promised that the city would be "open for business." That the gathering of the NATO war machine would put Chicago on the world map, make it more of a target destination for tourists and shake loose from our "Al Capone" image. The mayor even went so far as to proclaim NATO as a peace group, and the Summit as the scene of the "Chicago Accords" which would put an end to war as we know it.

But Rahm's Potemkin Village has turned into Nightmare on State Street. Here's what the thousands of foreign press and dignitaries will see when they step out of their limos after a ride from O'hare to downtown that may remind war reporter of the ride down Baghdad Airport Road. Espressways from the airport to the loop are shut down. The Museums are all closed. South Loop stores are closed, windows boarded up. Thousands who work in the city are being told to stay home. One can only imagine the lost revenue to the city during Rahm's NATO Fiasco.

Please come to the Rally to Support Teachers and School Staff May 23, 3 - 5 p.m. Outside the Auditorium Theater, 50 E. Congress

The S-T has published a NATO Survival Guide. Tips include:
  • Avoid the North Side (Can't. I live there).
  • Avoid the South Side (You mean, hang out on the West Side? Bad advice for tourists)
  • Buses will be no sure bet
  • Forget about the museums
  • Avoid Metra Electric Line.
  • Don't be bashful (about having your private parts patted down when you try and board a train).
  • Stay home
Inquiring minds want to know -- Who owns the drone?

When asked about the drone spotted in the Chicago area, Defense Department spokesman George Little responded:   
The -- well, I don't know about the particular aircraft you're referencing. But the U.S. military is providing a support role through NORTHCOM to support security for the summit. The -- and that's in accordance with American law.
On the other side of the tote board, thousands of protesters will be in the streets this weekend, demanding a humane society that takes care of its neediest and an end to the bloated military machine which sucks up so much in the way of human resources and human life at the expense of our schools, health care and basic needs.

They also want to know -- What happened to their friends who had their front door kicked down, their house raided (with no warrant) and who were disappeared (an old Argentinian expression) with no charges.

Open for business indeed.  A tourist Mecca? Rahm is making Al Capone look good.

More coming on this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rahm says NATO is a peace group

Studs Terkel
Yesterday was Studs Terkel's 100th birthday. I'm certain if Studs were alive today he would get a chuckle listening to this mayor's bombast as much as he did listening to the last one's. I don't know what could possibly top Rahm's latest description of NATO, the world's largest war machine ever on the face of the earth, as an an organization working for peace.

You see, according to the mayor, the reason he brought the NATO summit to Chicago is so the WINDY city could be the historic scene of the Chicago Accords -- the agreement to put an end to war --as we know it.

The Sun-Times' Fran Spielman writes:
As the NATO summit draws near, Emanuel has become increasingly defensive about an event that many Chicagoans view as a giant headache... But after the U.S. Secret Service disclosed plans to close three major expressways, lakefront museums and countless roads to protect President Barack Obama and other world leaders, the mayor acknowledged that it was a whole lot more than a “minor inconvenience.”
So, it seems Rahm has changed course (or at least his PR team has). Now he is trying to placate Chicagoans by telling them their sacrifices are for the good of world peace.
“NATO will be now deciding how to de-emphasize its involvement, its footprint in Afghanistan and how to wind down its presence. It will be known as the ‘Chicago Accords,’ basically,” the mayor said.

“That’s significant. Something that started post-9/11 will now become de-emphasized and the NATO kind of presence as it dealt with Afghanistan will now be on the downward slop — not an upward slope. And that is going to be agreed to here.”
Translation: NATO countries, having exhausted most of their citizens' collective wealth and millions of young lives on wars and invasions since the end of WWII, are now redesigning warfare for the 21st Century. While the giant NATO war machine will still suck up great gobs of the world's GNP, and continue non-stop warring on any weaker nations with oil in their ground, it will now do so more efficiently with advanced drone technology, troops contracted through private mercenary companies like Blackwater, and advanced counter-insurgency tactics, ie. intelligence gathering through spying, assassination and torture.

Oh yes. I almost forgot. The NATO Summit will also be good for tourism (if there are any tourists who want to come to a city under virtual martial law, with its schools being closed along with its mental and health clinics, and it poor being evicted and put on the streets by sheriff's officers).

Welcome to Chicago! We miss you Studs. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rahm's spy got caught red-shirted

Before he was spotted and told to leave the union meeting, Marc Wigler tried to get a delegate's credential from the district supervisors. Substance photo by John Kugler.
What war on teachers would be complete without spies and enemy infiltrators? What's next -- drones? The problem for Warlord Rahm and Gen. J.C. Brizard is that their spy got nailed. 

New word for spy in Chicago -- Wigler.

News from Chicago's War Zone

The mayor has created a war zone in Chicago. By bringing the NATO war makers into town, bringing in federal troops and police from across the country to patrol the city's downtown and neighborhoods, Rahm Emanuel has lit a fuse that will inevitably explode. Protesters are already being jailed and clashes between protesters and Bridgeport (Daley's old neighborhood and power base) residents. I think that's what he wants so he can offer Chicago up as a model for handling the expected forthcoming wave of civil unrest in response to the nation's deepening economic crisis.  More on this ind the days ahead.


The first year of Rahm's so-called school reform has been a disaster, not only for the city's 420,000 students, not only for city teachers, parents, and communities, but politically for the always-campaigning mayor himself.

Just look at the latest Chicago Tribune poll numbers. While most people support having a longer school day, the overwhelming majority of city voters, especially parents, support the Chicago Teachers Union over the mayor and want teachers to be compensated for their extra work.

Overall, on matters of school reform, the poll numbers represent an embarrassing defeat for the mayor. Despite the full-court PR press by his overpopulated and overworked media-spin department at CPS, his numbers are coming down faster than an alderman's drawers. Here they are:

Do you believe teachers should be paid more for for working longer school days or not?

Even with the threat of a teachers strike looming, Chicagoans backed more pay for teachers 86% to 10%. The numbers were even higher when it came to parent support -- 92% to 6%. These numbers should definitely help strengthen the CTU bargaining position.

In the debate over improving CPS, who do you side with, Mayor Emanuel, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), or neither?

The results here are even more amazing. Among all Chicago voters, union support more than doubles support for the mayor, 40% to 17% with 36% uncommitted. Among voting parents, Rahm garners only 18% compared to 48% for the CTU, and 30% uncommitted.

He's back

While things are looking bleaker than ever for Rahm (and for mayoral control of the schools) it's another big pay-day for Paul Vallas who was Mayor Daley's first appointed schools CEO. Greg Hinz at Crain's reports that Vallas, who is supposed to be the Interim Schools Supt. in Bridgeport (Connecticut -- not Daley's old hood), is being awarded with a nearly $1 million contract for his consulting firm, the Vallas Group. The contract calls for Vallas Group to work on "coordination of interventions in low-performing school districts."

As i have reported on several occasions, Vallas and his high powered and high price consulting team has already made inroads into the state. In Rockford, for example, they got Vallas' assistant named as superintendent and then Vallas' group was brought in to grease the path for privately-run charter schools.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

FairTest to Honor Diane Ravitch with the Deborah W. Meier Hero in Education Award

Date and Time: Tuesday, 5 June, 5:30-830 p.m.

Place: Julia Richman Educational Complex, 317 East 67th St., New York City P

Diane Ravitch is an internationally renowned and respected historian of education. Formerly a supporter of testing, test-based accountability, and school choice, she had the courage to publicly renounce her previous position after seeing the wreckage caused by No Child Left Behind. For the past two years, she has tirelessly toured the nation, encouraging educators, parents and other citizens to stand up against the relentless encroachment of high-stakes standardized testing on the minds of children and the lives of educators.

Author of 10 books, editor of 14 others, and the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work, Diane is a graduate of the Houston (TX) public schools and earned a BA from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in American Education History at Columbia University. She was on the faculty of Teachers College from 1975-1991. She then was Assistant Secretary for the Office of Education Research and Improvement in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by the Clinton administration, serving from 1997-2004. She shares a weekly blog with Deborah W. Meier on Education Week’s website column, “Bridging Differences.” Diane lives in Brooklyn with her partner Mary Butz.

Order your tickets or place an ad in the Celebration Program using this downloadable form.

If you are unable to attend, we hope you will place an ad in the program or make a donation in honor of Diane here.

Susan H. Fuhrman
Betsy Gotbaum
Michael Mulgrew
Sandra Priest Rose

Betty P. Rauch, co-chair
Sophie Sa, co-chair
Vicki Abeles
Linda Darling-Hammond
Linda Sullivan Gottlieb
Henry M. Levin
Michael Ravitch & Daniel Hurewitz
Louisa Spencer
Lisa Wolfe & Joseph Ravitch

The People Speak

"The People Speak, Englewood," 
an Evening of Dramatic Readings and Songs, May 31st

Hosted by Kevin Coval, featuring Ameena Matthews of The Interrupters; Louder Than a Bomb All-Star Malcolm London; TEAM Englewood's student poets, musicians, and artists; DJ Itch 13; and special guests to be announced

May 31st, 6:00 pm, at TEAM Englewood High School, Auditorium
6201 S Stewart Ave, Chicago, IL 60621
Free and open to the public | Free lot parking | CTA: 63rd red line, Halsted green line, #63 bus

Chicago, IL—Closing out the first year of the "Chicago Voices of a People's History" arts and education initiative, a live performance of "The People Speak" will take place at TEAM Englewood High School May 31. Bringing to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who made the United States what it is today, the evening will feature students engaged in "people's history" curriculum alongside noted Chicago poets and activists, for dramatic readings and musical performances of the words and songs of rebels from America’s past.

"The People Speak, Englewood" is based on the award-winning documentary feature The People Speak which had its broadcast premiere on HISTORY™ in 2009. Seen by more than eight million people, The People Speak features Matt Damon reading John Steinbeck; Bob Dylan performing Woody Guthrie; Marisa Tomei describing the 1937 Flint sit-down strike; Morgan Freeman and Don Cheadle performing the words of Frederick Douglass; John Legend reading Muhammad Ali; and many others performing the work of both the acclaimed and anonymous in U.S. history. 

Earlier this year, Damon, along with hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco headlined a benefit Chicago performance of "The People Speak, Live!," carving out time in the day to meet with TEAM Englewood students in the process of planning the May 31st performance. As student Jerome Wade said of the visit, "This project is really important to me because of my community. I mostly try to better my community with my poetry and music. To see people come here and make a big deal of it, motivates me to keep doing it.”

An executive producer of The People Speak film, Damon talked about the project's educational character with WBEZ, saying "At [my] age now, I can read Frederick Douglass and be really excited about it," he said "But to have Morgan Freeman reading a great Frederick Douglass speech, it's a way for kids to connect more viscerally to American history." 

"The People Speak, Englewood" will feature the words of abolitionist Sojourner Truth and Chicago Black Panther Party Captain Fred Hampton; songs by Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye; original writing from TEAM Englewood poets including the poem "Stuff Black Kids Say to Racists," and a speech from the late historian Howard Zinn, author of the bestselling A People’s History of the United States, whose work forms the basis of the entire project.

The May 31st performance is produced by the national non-profit Voices of a People’s History, in conjunction with TEAM Englewood High School and Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. Since 2003, Voices of a People's History has produced more than 100 performances across the country with casts that have included local students, parents, civic leaders, and actors alongside celebrated artists such as Black Thought of The Roots, Josh Brolin, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Sandra Oh, Steve Earle, Robert Redford, Mark Ruffalo, Patti Smith, Kerry Washington, and Alfre Woodard—on stages ranging from small classrooms to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Sundance Film Festival. 

Alongside Louder Than a Bomb, Voices of a People's History initiated the yearlong Chicago Voices pilot project in September 2011, bringing free educational material, teacher workshops, and public arts programming to classrooms and communities across the city. Since the Chicago Voices pilot project launched, 1,000 Chicago educators have received the free Chicago Voices Educators Toolkit, suitable for middle and high school and introductory college classes. The toolkit includes The People Speak DVD, a preloaded USB flash drive with standards-aligned lesson plans, teaching guides, primary source material featuring Chicago history, as well as several books by Howard Zinn. 

Louder Than a Bomb Artistic Director Kevin Coval and Chicago Voices Co-Director Mariah Neuroth are available for live interviews. Anthony Arnove, producer of The People Speak can be available by phone, along with Voices National Executive Director Brenda Coughlin. Select performance participants can also be available for select interviews. Please direct all queries to Sarah Macaraeg at 312-315-8476 or Cast photos are available at Press kit available upon request.

Selected praise for the Award-winning documentary The People Speak 

“Striking, exhilarating...the performances are thrilling.”  --Los Angeles Times

“A celebration in spoken word and song of those who made history from the bottom up.” --Scripps News/McClatchey Tribune 

“A terrifically educational and entertaining film for all ages.” --Pittsburgh Tribune Review 

“The bottom line: An excellent family choice to watch with your teenagers, The People Speak crosscuts the live readings with historical footage and is more engaging than your average American history lesson.” --News & Observer 

Selected quotes from The People Speak 

“Democracy does not come from the top. It comes from the bottom.” --Howard Zinn in The People Speak

“Then that man in back there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from!? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with Him.”
--Kerry Washington in The People Speak as Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I A Woman?” (1851)

“So, I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where--wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ -- I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build why, I’ll be there.” --Matt Damon in The People Speak as Tom Joad from John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)