Friday, June 29, 2012

"Thank God Obama didn't listen to me!" --Rahm

While kids in Chicago continue to die at two-to-three times the rate of troops in Afghanistan, the mayor and his corporate patrons are worried that the nearly 40% rise in killings this year is grabbing headlines and that  the body count may be bad for business.
 We need the mayor, who is the city's best spokesperson, to be public in an aggressive way. He should be prepared to call convention groups and reassure them of everything that is going on. The mayor needs to be public in saying we don't have a crime problem. The real danger isn't to tourists. The real danger is a convention group that gets panicked and we lose millions. -- Laurence Geller, president and CEO of Chicago-based Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc.
Rahm jumped on his assignment and used the shooting death of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton as a his chance proclaim that there is no crime problem here.
"This is not about crime. This is about values," shouted the mayor as if talking to an imagined attentive group of gang-bangers. He urged them to, "take your gang conflict away from a 7-year-old. Who raised you?"
Good job Rahm. No, this is not a "crime problem." It's about "culture." Yeah, that's the ticket. Not a word of course, about school closings, easy access to guns and drugs, issues of poverty and youth joblessness, all of which are major contributing factors to the alarming jump in youth violence.

But that's not Rahm's quote of the day. This is: 
“Thank God for the rest of the country he didn’t listen to me.”
He was referring of course to Supreme Court decision which rule Obama's healthcare bill constitutional. White House Chief of Staff Emanuel was the main one trying to kill the initiative, calling it a political loser. A better quote might have been: "Too bad he listened to me on other stuff -- like, Guantanamo trials, the Dream Act and the drone war in Afghanistan."

While dozens of more Chicago teachers at Clemente High School continue to get pink slips, Rahm is dishing out millions in taxpayer money to his friends who own the Cubs and Bulls. His patrons include Democrats and Republicans and even far-right-wing Obama haters like the Ricketts family and school privatizers like Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel Investment GroupHis Infrastructure Trust scheme will also fill their coffers. To keep schools afloat, Rahm is taxing property owners to the max for the second year in a row making schools even more reliant on this inequitable form of school funding.

Finally, speaking of culture, it may well be that a new prison may have to be built exclusively to hold convicted local machine politicians.  I'm thinking, maybe they can use the closed Tamms super-max prison.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

More on Clemente firings

Thanks to some of the many anonymous commentators on the Clemente story for the factual corrections; i.e., the number of principals at Clemente since Irene Damota's departure.  The best accounting I have been able to come up with is this, starting with Kenebrew in June 2010: Kenebrew, Gilligan, Dr. Heiu, Soli, Rodriguez, Soli, Sorensen. While open to further corrections on this, I think the point I made about instability and lack of community cohesiveness stands.

I have stopped posting any anonymous comments allegedly coming from some Clemente teachers debasing their fellow teachers. I find this a self-demeaning, unprofessional practice, which says more about the current culture and leadership of the school than it does about any of its teaching and career staff.

I have been an active supporter of Clemente High School since it was opened in 1975 and have worked with hundreds of teachers and several principals there over the years to try to help solve some of the school's many problems. I found that most of these problems were caused by forces outside the control of either the many school principals or teachers. These include the very size and physical design of the school itself, the poverty and violence in the surrounding community, and the instability caused by thoughtless bureaucratic interventions on the part of CPS leaders. To blame teachers for these problems and to engage in mass staff firings is horribly unfair but characteristic of the times.

One of the most horrific of these interventions came from Arne Duncan with his Renaissance 2010 closure of Austin High School in 2007 and the shipping of hundreds of kids from the west side over to Clemente and Wells. This led directly to an explosion of violence and disruption inside the massive 7-story complex.

Here's a quote from the AP wire story at the time.
In the largely African-American Austin neighborhood, about half of the 7,000 high school-aged students were forced to travel outside the community to other schools after Austin High School was shuttered in 2007. Some ended up at the mostly Latino Roberto Clemente Community Academy High School, where school officials weren't given "any kind of a warning," said Idida Perez, a community organizer with West Town Leadership United. The result was near daily fights between the newcomers and the neighborhood kids, she said.

"You have a trail of blood and tears ever since they launched (Renaissance 2010)," said Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence organization CeaseFire Illinois. "There's a history of violence associated with moving kids from one area to another." 
 Only Herculean efforts by the principal and a solid group of teachers, plus Clemente’s small-schools plan, kept the situation from deteriorating further into all-out war. Ren10 school closings also caused a spike in school violence across the city, at schools like CVS and Gage Park.

CPS has tried moving principals around (even sending in "super principals"), fired hundreds of teachers (including many with experience and high ratings). They have  pushed one magic bullet after another on schools like Clemente, only to dump them a year or two later as the guard changed. One of the silliest that comes to mind was the so-called Culture of Calm during CEO Huberman's short-lived regime. Huberman claimed he could statistically identify specific students who were most likely to be killed in gun violence and then use interventions to move those students out of the line of fire.

At the time I wrote:
Resembling a kind of obscene game of Russian Roulette research, Huberman is spending $30 million to guess which of the city's 400,000 public school students will most likely be killed this year, notify their parents and get them to "change their life styles."
And this from the Wall Street Journal.
The 200 students assessed as being in the "ultra high risk" category were deemed to have greater than a 20% chance of being shot over the next two years. An additional 1,000 students had between a 7.5% and 20% chance of being shot, and an additional 8,500 had a 1% to 7.5% chance of being shot.
So now there's a new sheriff in town with a new hired hand, new games of Russian Roulette and more magic bullets in his gun. No one dares mention the words Renaissance or Culture of Calm any more. Now it's longer school dayturnarounds and transformations. It's pretty much the same half-baked, top-down ideas hatched in board rooms of the Civic Committee. Only now it's all about privatization of public space and union busting.

I have no beef with the new wall-to-wall IB curriculum at Clemente. It's as good as any other they've had there in the past and seems to be supported by the local community. But what I abhor is the way this was consciously used as a scheme to fire up to 20 teachers, including many with excellent records of service. I hate the way it was cynically used to pit teacher against teacher and to add one more brick in the wall of the current union contract negotiations. None of this has anything to do with IB itself.

It's more about the hidden curriculum of schooling, that is, lessons which are being learned by Clemente students but not openly intended -- like when they come to school one day and find that once again their favorite teacher is gone. It's all about the culture of sorting and tracking, winners and losers in a race to the top. It's the kind of practices you will mainly find in inner-city schools with large numbers of Latino and African-American students.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'Parents will walk picket lines...'

“There’s a huge disconnect between what the board thinks kids deserve and what parents think kids deserve. Good teaching conditions are good learning conditions. If teachers go on strike, many, many hundreds of parents will be on the picket line with them.” -- Erica Clark,  Parents 4 Teachers 

Clemente follow up

Driving past Clemente last night, we couldn't help but notice the big heart sign on the wall saying, WE LOVE OUR GREAT TEACHERS. But after Rahm's Monday massacre, where about 20 of those great teachers were given pink slips, we have our doubts. Now we learn that the school is being used by CPS as model for youth development. I'm sure teachers like Kevin Hough had nothing to do with that.

Next up for the fired teachers  --  Attending today's board meeting, a hoped-for meeting with Ald. Joe Moreno, and a sit-down with Principal Sorensen, the union and board lawyers on Tuesday.

Rahm/Brizard try and shift blame to Daley/Duncan

"We in many ways were lying to parents and to kids about proficiency." -- J.C. Brizard
This morning, hundreds of union teachers and their community supporters are packing the CPS board meeting to protest the board's failed reform policies. With a teachers' strike looming and public opinion continuing to turn against the mayor, Chicago schools CEO J.C. Brizard is trying to shift blame for current failures onto the previous regime.

Here he tells ABC7 political reporter Charles Thomas that "he spent much of his first year in Chicago looking at test scores," before he reached a disturbing conclusion about the school district he had signed on to lead. Then he turns on his predecessors, calling Arne Duncan's reform plan "incoherent." 
"What I found was a reform effort that was somewhat fragmented," said Brizard. 
Recall that at the time, the Daley/Duncan reform was hailed as a Chicago schools "renaissance" and a "turnaround miracle," which led to Duncan's elevation to become Obama's education chief.

In another startling unsolicited confession, Brizard admits"lying to parents and to kids about proficiency." 
"We have kids that are graduating out of elementary school going to high school being told they're proficient and they're not."
As Rahm forces his longer school day on a resistant school community, Brizard says he replaced over a third of the district's 675 principals, with more to come. But Brizard's reform-through-firing and school closing/turnaround approach is no different from that of  Duncan's.

Thomas goes on to report that Brizard "denied being the puppet of Mayor Emanuel." But, Thomas recalls, Mayor Emanuel did not allow the newly appointed CEO of the Chicago Public Schools to speak at his introductory news conference.

Of course that's exactly what Brizard is -- the mayor's hand picked front man, who along with a hand-picked, corporate and billionaire-loaded board, which votes unanimously at Rahm's signal on every issue, have turned CPS into a wing of City Hall.

But all the spinning and blaming has only led to growing disenchantment in the community and growing support for the teachers and the CTU. And now that anger is being expressed in the form of a parent/community-based petition drive to end mayoral control and replace it with an elected school board.


Those interested in taking part can join the Teachers 4 Parents petitioning drive today at 6 p.m. at the monument in Logan Square.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Strange reform???

Of course it's possible that Rossi got the story wrong, but does anyone else think this is a strange reform of CPS anti-bullying policy?
Other elements of the new CPS Student Code of Conduct include allowing in-school suspensions to be used as an alternative, or in combination with, out-of-school suspensions, and lowering the automatic minimum penalty for the most serious offenses, including murder and arson, from 10 days out of school to five days in or out of school.  -- Chicago Sun-Times
I mean I support the idea of alternatives to out-of-school suspension and am totally against so-called Zero Tolerance policies. But I think 10-day suspension isn't too harsh a penalty for MURDER!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rahm's Monday Massacre at Clemente

When the board announced that Roberto Clemente High School was to be the city's third public high school, (along with Senn and the new Back of the Yards H.S.) converted into a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate (IB) school, many Clemente teachers were thrilled by the news. Teacher teams began preparing to implement the new plan and think about how they could make a contribution to the new Clemente.

Unlike most early CPS school restructuring efforts, the new IB school at Clemente was being planned to accept all interested neighborhood students and "not look to filter students out,” schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard told reporters earlier this year.

In March, the mayor signed a deal with IB to double the size of the city’s international baccalaureate program and devote five neighborhood schools exclusively to that program to supposedly prepare 3,500 more students for college.

Clemente, in the predominantly Latino Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago has been kept in a state of instability by the board for the past few years. Last year alone, the school had 7 principals including the current one, Marcey Sorensen who was brought over from reconstituted Tilden High.

It was Sorensen who dropped the bomb on about 20 Clemente teachers Monday, telling them that their positions had been closed out and "redefined." Redefinition has been a favorite tactic used by Rahm Emanuel and CEO J.C. Brizard to fire tenured teachers without due process.

One of those teachers, Kevin Hough told me that the firings came without notice. "Many of us had superior ratings," said Kevin. He has been teaching in Chicago for the past 11 years and is currently the lead trainer for the Model U.N. program for all of CPS. Kevin is also a service-learning coach and a union delegate.  
"We were working on planning a new course for seniors called Global Citizenship and Personal Finance when I got the call telling me my position had been closed. I heard that some of the teachers, mostly veteran teachers, had been called on Friday." 
He said that Sorensen has been steadily bringing over her favorite teachers from Tilden and replacing Clemente teachers since the beginning of the year. She actually started the E-3 removal process with no remediation plan, against several teachers who had received superior ratings until that point. She was obviously given the green light to "clean house" by Brizard, who is using the shift to the new IB program as an opportunity to fire tenured teachers.

I asked Kevin what he was going to do now. He said that he and fellow teachers were having an emergency meeting with the union on Tuesday to plan a course of action. As for his personal plans, Kevin said that his is so disgusted with the way CPS treats teachers that he is seriously considering leaving CPS. 
"I love teaching but I have a family to support and we can't live with all this instability. Why be part of a system that constantly devalues you?" 
I had no good answer for him.

Weekend Quotables

David Segal
With public employee unions under attack in states like Wisconsin, and with cities across the country looking to trim budgets, behold a town built almost entirely on a series of public-private partnerships — a system that leaders around here refer to, simply, as “the model.” -- "A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private."
Natalie Hopkinson
Today, as the quality of life improves, there is a subtext to change, that in order to make progress, black people must be pushed out of the way. They had it for 50 years! -- "Farewell to Chocolate City."
Charles Blow
The Republican-Democratic divide is increasingly becoming an all-white/multicultural divide, a male/female divide, and a more religious/less religious divide — the formers the traditional power classes, and the latters the emerging ones. -- "Bullies on the Bus"
Jay Mathews
I have been a reporter for 45 years. I have seen many cover-ups. This looks like one to me, and to many educators I have spoken to. D.C. officials have never investigated in any depth the wrong-to-right erasures that the District’s testing company began reporting in 2008. -- "D.C. keeps ignoring its test erasure scandal"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Trib writers shine another light on Rahm's anti-union attack ads

AKPD's John Kupper
Thanks to  reporters Jeff Coen and Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah for their excellent piece in Today's Trib, "Emanuel allies press attack in teachers union battle." It confirms everything I wrote Monday about David Axelrod's old firm AKPD being the architect of the lying anti-union ad campaign now being played on local radio in Chicago.

According to the Trib report, the big money behind the attacks on Chicago teachers and their union is the group Democrats For Education Reform (DFER), run by NewYork hedge-funders Whitney Tilson and Ravenel Boykin Curry IV. The group continues to be a big player in the Obama election campaign and is the main force for school privatization, vouchers and privately-run charter schools, within the Democratic Party. They are also major supporters of Rahm's longer-school-day-with-no-pay-for-teachers initiative

More importantly, the Trib report shows that despite denials and evasions, the mayor has knowingly and unabashedly supported the anti-union campaign which is being run by his own political operatives like AKPD's John Kupper. Kupper admits his firm is on retainer with Emanuel's political organization, and state records show The Chicago Committee, one of Emanuel's campaign fundraising organizations, paid Axelrod's old firm more than $21,000 in the first quarter of 2012 for "professional services/consulting."

As for DFER:  
Officials at Democrats for Education Reform said the group's Illinois state director, Rebeca Nieves Huffman, also has not talked to Emanuel about the ads and "doesn't coordinate with him." In May the mayor was photographed with Huffman at a school reform summit in California, but Huffman spokeswoman Megan Jacobs characterized that as a chance encounter.
The two Trib reporters also shine a light on Emanuel political operative Greg Goldner (behind Rahm's use of paid protesters) and billionaire backers Penny Pritzker and Bruce Rauner.
Emanuel's emphasis on schools fits with the long-held agenda of a number of his wealthiest political supporters. They include Penny Pritzker, now a member of the Board of Education, and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, whose wife, Diana, an early education expert, served on Emanuel's transition team.

Rauner was instrumental in bringing the reform group Stand for Children to Illinois. That organization helped pass the law setting a higher bar for a teachers' strike and also has criticized the teachers union for taking the strike authorization vote.
Good going Jeff and Noreen.

The 'civil rights issue of our generation' -- Taking those words seriously

Jitu Brown of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (back, left) and Helen Moore, Co-Chair of Keep the Vote/ No Takeover Coalition of Detroit demanded a meeting within two weeks with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan. They are filing USDOE civil rights complaints alleging that African American students are unfairly and disproportionately impacted by school closings, turnarounds and phaseouts. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Every opportunist politician from Mitt Romney to Arne Duncan has lately been calling ed reform, "the civil rights issue of our generation" turning the words civil rights into an empty, meaningless cliche. But now it looks like students, and school activists are taking the words seriously.

Yesterday, parents and students from seven cities joined those in Chicago in filing civil rights complaints against school closings, phase-outs and other “rampantly horrible” corporate-style school reforms, they contend have disproportionately victimized minority communities.

(From left) ShaQ Carbon, 18, Tone Elliott, 18, and Tre Murphy, 16, were part of a group demanding a meeting within two weeks with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The group is calling  for a “national moratorium’’ on the kind of school reform shakeups that they say began in Chicago under former Schools CEO Paul Vallas; ramped up under his successor, Arne Duncan, and have spread nationwide during Duncan’s tenure as U.S. Education Secretary. 

The Sun-Times' Ros Rossi reports
Among those gathered outside the U.S. Department of Ed’s Chicago office Thursday was Helen Moore, a Detroit school activist for 45 years.
Ten years ago, Moore said, the Detroit school system had 300 schools; now it has 86. The system has been shattered into a crazy quilt of neighborhood schools, charter schools, “site-based” schools overseen by a selected school board and schools run by an outside agency. An “emergency manager” runs the place like a “dictator,” she said.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Brizard the 'great unifier', runs for cover

I've been working in and around schools for many years. In all that time I've rarely seen 90 percent agreement among teachers on anything. The one man who seems to unite every district teacher (against him) wherever he goes, is J.C. Brizard. His charm and education background seems to get him through his first year. But once teachers and the public see past the smiling face and figure out what he's there for, it's just a matter of time before the consensus builds.

Brizard arrived as superintendent in Rochester in January 2008 and was received warmly by the community and even by union president Adam Urbanski. But it didn't take long for Urbansky to realize, “Brizard’s definition of shared decision-making was to make a decision and then share it with others.’’ By 2010, with graduation rates falling and Brizard pushing school closings and "merit" pay, 94.5 percent of the city's teachers gave their superintendent a  vote of No Confidence Brizard went to Chicago leaving in his wake, a largely broken school district with dismal test scores, shaky finances and a fractured relationship with teachers..." (Chicago Tribune)

After serving just one year as the mayor's hand-picked schools CEO, Brizard seems to have done it again. The 90-percent strike authorization vote by CPS teachers is but one reflection of the unanimity Brizard and Rahm are forging within Chicago's school community.
Brizard's latest fiasco involves his cancellation of a supposed "informational meeting" about the contract negotiations. The Sun-Times' Roz Rossi reports:
Thousands of Chicago parents who answered the phone, only to hear the voice of city Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard personally invite them to an “informational’’ meeting about teacher contract talks will have to wait at least a month to get their information
Faced with growing opposition to their handling of the negotiations and an impending teachers strike, Rahm and Brizard are running for cover. Brizard claims that the meeting is being cancelled due to lack of information coming from a "fact-finder." The more likely explanation is that he was told to cancel the meeting because of the angry response Brizard is likely to get from angry parents with lots of media present. I mean, he didn't just put the meeting off a week or two to get more facts -- he put it off until AUGUST!

This means, that between now and August, the CTU's voice will be the only credible one heard. Anything coming from the board should be challenged by any reporter worth their salt -- "I thought you said you won't have any reliable information from the fact-finder until August..."

Now the question is, whose gambit is this? Exactly who told Brizard to duck and cover on this one? Was it Rahm himself? Or was it Axelrod Strategies?

There's little doubt in my mind that if a vote of No Confidence were to be taken today, not only among teachers but across the whole city, it would pass overwhelmingly and Brizard would once again emerge as the great unifier.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In the Mailbox

From Jennifer Johnson

Dear Public Education and Teacher Supporters,

Yesterday, we got some good news. Thanks largely to your thousands of signatures and comments has dropped both Jonah Edleman’s Stand for Children and Michelle Rhee’s Students First as clients.

You can read Huffington Post's coverage here: 

Though this is good news, we still need to be very realistic about and their willingness to repeatedly dupe signers into supporting petitions that appear to be progressive but are really backed by corporate and anti-labor organizations. While this is a great step, we still don't have a clear indication from on where they draw the line on anti-worker organizations and groups that advocate against collective bargaining or promote legislation written by ALEC, an extreme organization that you may recognize as the author of the 'Stand Your Ground' law in Florida and anti-worker legislation across the country. We should be heartened that our voices were heard in this instance, but warned about those that would call us allies in the struggle to support public education and those who educate our children. What is to stop from doing this again? What other media are acting like they are friends to teachers and workers, but they are really not? 

Because, as you know, us Chicago teachers are in contract negotiations and fighting for better schools for our students, I want to encourage you to stay engaged. We, and other educators, need the support that you demonstrated by signing our petition. These kinds of attacks on teachers as the nurturers of kids and as members of labor organizations won’t stop today. 

Please keep reading articles to stay informed, write a letter to the editor or make an online comment if you see teacher bashing, tell your friends and family while in line at the grocery store about how teachers are fighting for quality public education. Research whose lobbying and supporting your local representatives, because in many cases, they are connected and funded by the leaders of organizations like Stand for Children and Students First. Please continue to be a voice against the corporate influence of astroturf, neoliberal organizations that are trying to destroy public education as we know it and bust unions that fight back. 

One way to keep informed and involved is to follow the work of the unions that I’m in. As an active member of the Chicago Teachers Union, I’m proud to say that we are a more united and fighting union than ever. President Karen Lewis ( petition signer #262) and our members are pushing for research-supported education reform. To read the Chicago Teachers Union study called “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve” go to: You can download the whole thing, read and share widely! Have you ever seen a teachers union lead like this before? 

As a Chicago Teachers Union is Local 1 member, I am also a member of the American Federation of Teachers, who are stepping up nationally to fight well-funded, corporate attacks by groups like Stand for Children. President Randi Weingarten ( petition signer #520) wrote “Tell to stop union busting” on our petition. To get news and information from the AFT, go to: 

We remain committed to publicly funded public education and making sure that the voices of teachers, students and parents dominate the discussions and policies to make our schools better! 

Thanks again for your signature! Let’s keep up the great work!


We're number worst!

Illinois gets a solid F grade and is rated number one worst of all 50 states when it comes to inequitable funding. This according to the Second Edition of the National Report Card on public school funding, Is School Funding Fair?

The report lists the six states with the most regressive school funding systems in the nation. That is, where districts with higher poverty rates actually receive less funding than more well-off districts. The most regressive state is Illinois, followed by North Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Colorado.

Valerie Strauss at the Answer Sheet, sums it all up:
Legislators can extend the school day, force new tests on students and link the scores to a teacher’s job, but a new analysis about disparities in school funding raises the uncomfortable question of just how effective any reforms can really be when issues of equity are ignored.

Change.Org dumps Rhee, Edelman

 Here's a video about the petition drive that led to dumping Rhee & Edelman

In response to an avalanche of protest, Change.Org, a progressive online website that enables activist groups to generate petition-based campaigns, has dropped two anti-union clients, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst, and Jonah Edelman's Stand For Children. The move comes in the wake of a massive, angry response following Change.Org's circulation of a petition disparaging the Chicago Teachers Union and its members who voted overwhelming to give their union the authority to strike. The relationship with union-haters Rhee and Edelman was attacked  as a violation of Change's supposed progressive orientation.

Chicago teacher, Jennifer Johnson (Huffington got her name wrong and calls her Jennifer Jones) deserves lots of credit for initiating the protest with a petition which drew thousands of signatures.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A jobs for youth program? Are you sh*%#ing me?

Unemployment rate in Cook County is around 9% not including those who have given up looking. For black and Latino youth it's closer to 50%. For ex-offenders it is much, much higher. The record number of young victims of gun violence in Chicago streets this summer parallels the youth unemployment rates.  For Chicago area young people, unemployment, poverty and family income account for nearly all of the risk factors leading to juvenile incarceration. Yes, youth unemployment is a deadly business in this county.

Given this, I had to blink and couple of times and rub my eyes to make sure I was reading this correctly. It's Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announcing that the board is "contributing" $120,000 to a county-wide summer jobs for youth program, bringing the total to $265,000 for all of the Chicago area.

You've got to be kidding me. I mean, once the two bureaucrats administering the program are paid, what's left?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Axelrod's old firm behind 'Infrastructure Trust', Citibank, and attacks on CTU

Obama, Emanuel & Axelrod
Well, mercy me! Look who's behind those ads blasting the CTU. Why, it's ASGK Public Strategies and AKPD, David Axelrod's old firms. An embarrassed Axelrod is claiming that he no longer has any connection to the firms since he sold them in 2009, when he became Obama's Senior White House Advisor. But he's still very much connected (the A stands for Axelrod) and he pulls down a nice $200,000/year from them.

Among ASGK clients are Citibank, the financial giant that received $45 billion in bailout money after helping to cause the global financial collapse. Citi is also the driving force behind the Mayor's so-called Infrastructure Trust scheme. Another client is the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs. You might recall, it was Joe Ricketts, the right-wing family patriarch, whose PAC planned the racist ad campaign against Pres. Obama. Rahm Emanuel then feigned outrage and threatened to turn his back on the Ricketts' demand for about $500 million in public funding for the renovation of Wrigley Field.
Emanuel’s top spokeswoman says hiring ASGK won’t win Citibank and the Cubs any favors from City Hall. “If you think hiring Axelrod’s old firm will get you special access or privileges, you are sorely mistaken,” says spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton. “No person or company has an inside track into City Hall.”
Sorry for the break in this post. It took me a couple of minutes to get off the floor and back onto my chair after that one. My side still hurts from laughter. 

Another Axelrod-founded firm — AKPD Media and Messaging — recently produced ads critical of the Chicago Teachers Union, which is locked in a contract battle with Emanuel, who seems hell-bent on destroying the city's public employee unions. AKPD oversaw Emanuel’s ad blitz during his mayoral campaign, and the firm is a paid consultant to his political committee, state records show.  

Like ASGK, AKPD continues to pay Axelrod for selling his stake in that firm. AKPD owed him $2 million, to be paid over four years, when he became a White House aide, Axelrod told federal ethics officials.

Both AKPD and ASKG are housed at the same River North address that’s also home to Axelrod Strategies, the firm he founded upon leaving the White House last year. “I rent space in my old offices, but I work full-time out of Obama headquarters these days,” Axelrod says.ASGK’s managing partner, Eric Sedler, won’t talk about the work the firm is doing for the Cubs and Citibank.
And no one, it seems, will say anything about the anti-CTU campaign.  

All this calls into question the motives behind AFT President Randi Weingarten's recent visit to Chicago. Weingarten spoke in support of the Infrastructure Trust at Bill Clinton's Global Initiative Conference. To her credit, Randi had been in town a few weeks earlier to support and march with thousands of rallying union teachers. But now, here she was rallying support for the very forces that were attacking the CTU in a massive media campaign. According to the Sun-Times report:  
Emanuel was seated onstage next to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, whose largest member union, the Chicago Teachers Union, [was] taking a strike-authorization vote this week, frustrated with Emanuel’s administration, which killed a negotiated 4 percent raise for the teachers last year. Emanuel has said he thinks teachers deserve a raise. His board has offered a 2 percent raise in the first year of a proposed five-year contract and no guaranteed raise after that.
Weingarten and Emanuel didn’t go near that issue Thursday.
Why not?

Cross-posted on Schooling in the Ownership Society


Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
"I think people from Mexico are now going to feel, 'Hey come on in and we'll get by with it.' But it won't happen in this county. They will still be arrested." -- After arresting 6-year-old suspected illegal immigrant. 
 Diane Ravitch
Isn’t it strange that you never see a group like “Education Reform Now” or “Democrats for Education Reform” or “ConnCAN” or “50StateCANN” advocating for smaller classes or more librarians or a reversal of budget cuts. -- "Big Money Joins Chicago Fight" 
Gary Orfield
"If you have choice without civil rights policies, it stratifies the systems. People who have the most power and information get the best choices." -- New York Times
Experience matters
“Teaching is no different than any other profession — experience matters. Researchers have found that teachers reach peak effectiveness with about seven years of experience. But 80 percent of the teachers hired by D.C. this year will be gone before they get there.” -- Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Save Our Schools The People's Education Conference

Join Us!  August 3rd - 5th
When. Where. Why...

The Save Our Schools Convention, scheduled for August 3-5 in Washington, DC, is a chance to have our voices heard as we head into the November elections. We are currently offering a special discounted early registration fee of $150 per person until June 30. Lodging is not included in the registration fee, but we can offer a great rate at the convention site! Please use this link to register today:


Register for the...
Save Our Schools People's Education Conference
August 3rd - 5th
Hear and Be Heard by Expert Speakers
Shanta Driver * Deborah Meier * Jonathan Kozol * Nancy Carlsson Paige * Rose Sanders  

* Help build the Save Our Schools Movement and Days of Action in August *
* Bring your energy and enthusiasm to the People's Education Conference *
* Speak with experts. Share your knowledge *
* Discuss the urgent issues that challenge real education reform *

Hotel Accommodations..
The SOS Convention will be at the beautiful Marriott Wardman Park Hotel at 2660 Woodley Rd NW, Washington, DC in the leafy Woodley Park neighborhood. We have locked in a low rate of $109 a night! Parking has also been discounted by 20% for SOS attendees! Make your Group Rated Reservations now!
The Group Name is Save Our Schools. The link 
Amenities and Transportation
There is a Metro station right on-site (Woodley Park-Zoo Metro), beautiful gardens, heated swimming pool, & sundeck. Read reviews from TripAdvisor here:

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to reserve a guest room at the Marriott Wardman Park

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August 3rd - 5th

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday thoughts: With Dems like these...

Who says we're broke? 
“We believe this will save the Medicaid program.” --Julie Hamos, director of the state Healthcare and Family Services department.
"We're not pulling back from service. In fact, we're giving more service to more people and we're adding a new benefit." -- Rahm Emanuel
I'm thinking that with IL Dems like thes who needs Walker?

Gov. Quinn just signed on to $1.6 billion in cuts to Medicaid. The cuts include termination of the Illinois Cares Rx prescription drug program for the low-income elderly and disabled and a $15 million-a-year program that provided nursing services to “medically fragile” children reliant on ventilators so they could remain in their homes rather than being moved full-time into hospitals.

I know, I'm not supposed to call them cuts. Since the Dems are doing it, they're "reforms." Like Julie Hamos says, we're actually "saving" Medicaid. In the mean time, those kids on the ventilators will just have to suck it up. It's like when Mayor Rahm closes the city's mental health clinics, he's not really closing them. He's actually providing "more services." Haven't you heard of the old saying, "less is more"?

I'm also thinking maybe it's about time for Reading, PA to appeal to India, China, Saudi Arabia, somebody (Haiti ??) for foreign aid so that the poorest city in the U.S. can afford to have public education for its children. 
The Republican-led legislature is debating a proposed budget from Gov. Tom Corbett (R) that would cut $100 million more from public K-12 education, and end a block grant program that funds kindergarten and small class sizes, according to Mike Crossey, the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. The budget also would also cut $30 million from early education and $18 million from childcare programs. -- Joy Resmovits at Huffington
Finally, as the weekend approaches, I'm thinking baseball. I'm also thinking how wonderful it is that Rahm has put aside his differences with the Cubs owners, the right-wing billionaire Ricketts family. Remember when old man Ricketts and his wing-nut super PAC proposed that $10 million racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright-Obama attack ad campaign? Rahm was livid -- wink, wink.  It turns out all is forgiven and the Rahm, will likely deliver millions in taxpayer dollars to renovate Wrigley Field in order to save the poor Ricketts family the expense. This on top of already huge tax breaks.

To top things off Rahm will also let the taxpayers build a new practice arena for the Bulls billionaire owner, Jerry Reinsdorf on top of his already existing tax benefits. The move, according to the Tribune, "could help fuel the continued gentrification of the Near West Side" and "change a prominent dynamic in the real estate market for North Shore mansions where many players have lived."

Who says, the city is broke?

Well actually, Rahm does. That's why the school workers in SEIU will receive only a 2% pay increase in their new contract along with an "escape clause" that allows the board to renege on future raises if the city "can't afford them."  I'll bet there's no such escape clause in Rahm's deal with the Cubs and Bulls.


Overhauling Testing and Accountability with Monty Neill of FairTest
Monty Neill will present and lead a discussion in three parts: 1) what is wrong with current testing and accountability; 2) what are some educationally sound goals in these areas; and 3) action steps at local, state and federal levels to overcome the problems and win the goals.
Monty Neill, Ed.D., is currently Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). He has led FairTest's work on testing in the public schools since 1987. He has initiated national and state coalitions of education, civil rights, religious and parent organizations to work toward fundamental change in the assessment of students and in accountability. Neill currently chairs the Forum on Educational Accountability, an alliance working to overhaul federal education law (the No Child Left Behind Act, in particular) based on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, signed by nearly 150 national groups. Under his leadership, FairTest has worked on graduation tests and other high-stakes tests with organizations in many states.
Join Us this evening at 9 PM [EDT]
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

More on Rahm turning Chicago into Wisconsin

All eyes it seems, are on Chicago, where the CTU refuses to roll over in the face of Rahm Emanuel's assault on teachers' collective bargaining rights and on the teaching profession itself.

The other day, Sun-Times reporter, Fran Spielman asked Rahm a great question. She wanted to know if the mayor was concerned, "whether the showdown with teachers threatens to turn Chicago into 'another Wisconsin?'”

The Reader's Ben Joravsky takes off in a similar vein:
Cut pay, hike hours, keep class size large, offer no music, drama, or art, and dole out millions and millions of dollars to the mayor’s nonunion charter school cronies—all in the name of the kids. Of course. 'Cause the kids is what this is all about. I have a feeling that the script might have to change, if only cause we're on the eve of a presidential election. We can't have President Obama ripping Mitt Romney for ripping teachers while, back in sweet home Chicago, the president's former chief of staff's hell-bent on crushing the teachers union.
While I haven't exactly seen or heard Obama ripping Romney for teacher bashing (or union bashing), Ben still makes a good point. However his post drew sharp criticism from someone calling themselves, Original IAC. Original (I'll use his first name) comes out in defense of the mayor, claiming that Rahm IS offering "a 2% raise over two years" and then "merit pay increases after that. You may think that isn't large enough. But it is a raise."

As I point out to Original:
Uh uh, IAC. Remember, Rahm arbitrarily took back the 4% raise which was agreed on during the last contract negotiations. Do the math. -4+2=-2%. Not a raise. Especially when you consider no cost of living increases over the next five years, cuts in benefits, a top-down imposed increase in working hours, and a Rahm-led hit on the teachers pension fund and health coverage.
While Sun-Times writers, Marin and Spielman have done a good job of reporting on the negotiations, their bosses on the editorial board (remember, Rahm's patrons own the paper) are siding with the mayor and  editorializing against the union.  A June 11 editorial, "Time for teachers union to bargain," makes it appear as if the CTU is somehow impeding the negotiations by raising issues of concern by teachers, parents and students other than salary demands.

Karen Lewis
In this morning's S-T, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis responds:
The truth is that the Board of Education has refused to bargain on issues of vital importance to students, parents and teachers. They have outright refused to negotiate about class size, even though Chicago has some of the highest class sizes in the county and the state. The district has refused to bargain about art, music, world language and physical education classes, even though 40 percent of our schools are without a full-time art or music programs. The city has refused to discuss playground facilities or libraries, even though 98 schools have no playgrounds and 160 schools are without libraries. The board has also refused to negotiate staffing levels for nurses, counselors, school psychologists and social workers even though the ratio is at levels set in , one-third of the number of school specialists currently needed in our schools. 

The CTU would be in dereliction of our duty if we did not demand high-quality public education and dignified learning conditions in our contract negotiations. Instead of allowing CPS to hide behind its right not to bargain important matters to our schools, the Sun-Times, and others, should demand that they do.
Other observers, outside of Chicago, are raising pretty good what if questions. One of Diane Ravitch's blog readers asks her, "What if they strike and they lose?" Diane's response is right on time:   
" is true that they might lose. But there comes a time when a person must assert his or her dignity. There comes a time when people take risks for what they believe in their heart is right. This is that time."
Another good what if comes from Harold Myerson in today, Washington Post: "What if America loses its unions?" Myerson answers:
Understandably, some liberals are searching for ways to arrest the economic decline of the majority of their fellow Americans in a post-union environment. I fear they’re bound to be frustrated. If workers can’t bargain with their employers, it can’t be done. If and when Big Labor dies — it’s on life support now — America’s big middle class dies with it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reporter asks Rahm: Will your assault on CTU turn Chicago into another Wisconsin?

Rahm Emanuel at Tuesday's news conference at Cesar E. Chavez elementary school. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune )
Rahm's anti-union spin machine is spinning in reverse. Even though his pals now own the Sun-Times and even with a big-bucks propaganda campaign bankrolled by corporate "reformers", nothing seems to be spinning the mayor's way.

S-T political reporter Fran Spielman, can't quite hide her disdain for Rahm's assault on the CTU.
Emanuel pushed for a change in state law that raised the strike authorization threshold to 75 percent, a benchmark so high, at least one education advocate [SFC's Jonah Edelman--mk] with ties to the mayor predicted that it could never be met. Instead, the Chicago Teachers Union roared passed that benchmark, fueled by their anger against a mayor who stripped them of a previously-negotiated, four percent pay raise and tried to muscle through a longer school day.
"Stripped" and "muscled" is a long way from the usual Civic Committee-style rhetoric of "union thugs" and "greedy teachers." Spielman then asks the mayor, "whether the showdown with teachers threatens to turn Chicago into 'another Wisconsin?'” It's a question no Democrat dare ask and one that answers itself.

S-T columnist Carol Marin, writing a day earlier couldn't make the case any better or clearer.
If I had been a Chicago public school teacher last week, I would have done as 90 percent of them did — and voted “yes” for a strike authorization...Teachers in this town have been demonized, demoralized, and disrespected. No profession is beyond criticism and no public school system is without significant problems. But taking a sledgehammer approach to CPS teachers and their union has backfired on the Emanuel administration and his schools CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard.
And all the radio ads and robo calls funded by out of town, union-busting billionaires doesn’t alter that fact.