Friday, August 31, 2012

Media's take on CTU strike

"Enough is enough. We're done."

CTU President Karen Lewis has become something of a hero to teachers who are frustrated with recent policy directives such as evaluations and pay based partly on student test-score growth, turnarounds based on school closures, and charter conversions. Some of those teachers believe that the national teachers' unions have been too willing to compromise with management and other powerful interests on these issues. -- Stephen Sawchuk
CBS News
As the clock ticks down to a looming Chicago teachers strike, could the man in charge of the school district be on his way out? CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard says he's not going anywhere, despite a report that his job may be in jeopardy. -- Ward Room
Some 700 Chicago Teachers Union delegates thundered “aye” Thursday after CTU President Karen Lewis put forward a motion to set Monday, Sept. 10 -- the beginning of the second week of school for most kids -- as a strike date. The union hall fell silent as Lewis asked for “nay” votes, observers said.  The sentiment on the floor and in schools, Lewis told reporters afterwards, was: “Enough is enough. We’re done." -- Fran Spielman and Ros Rossi
Dallas Star-Telegram
Much of the teachers' frustration has centered on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who rescinded a 4 percent raise last year and then tried to go around the union in his push for a longer school day by asking teachers at individual schools to waive the union contract to work more hours. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board subsequently blocked Emanuel's negotiations with schools. -- AP Wire
Chicago Tribune 
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is considered a man of iron will who has a deep commitment to reform. He should show it. Push ahead with Chicago Public School reforms and decertify the Chicago Teachers Union if necessary. -- Sean Kennedy
S-T Letters to Editor
Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard. Let me get this right, there has not been a Chicago Public Schools strike in 25 years; so what’s the common denominator here? Rahm Emanuel and Jean-Claude Brizard. Every day I’m rethinking my mayoral vote. It’s time for an elected school board. --  Linda Hudson, Avalon Park

Read more here:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quotable Yong Zhao

To be globally competitive, we should all begin to use chopsticks because chopsticks produce better education outcomes as measured by the international gold standard of education the OECD’s PISA, which tests 15 year olds in math, reading, and sciences, and TIMSS, which assess 9-10 and 13-14 year olds math and science abilities. The top five performers in the 2009 PISA math (Shanghai, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan) all use chopsticks, so do the top five in TIMSS math in 2007 (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong), in 2003, and 1999. And PISA and TIMSS scores are what drive nations’ economic growth and back their global competitiveness.  -- Dr.Yong Zhao

Katie Hogan, Founding Teacher at Social Justice HS, speaks at Town Hall in Chicago

"...I'm standing before you unafraid...people who have lost everything, such as ourselves, and have nothing to lose, are really dangerous..." -- Katie Hogan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Enough is enough..." Strike notice given

Karen Lewis says, "Enough is enough!"

.4 bump in Chicago tests scores 'phenomenal' says Brizard

Dizzy with success
While Rahm and Brizard become delirious over a slight bump in ACT scores, Bob Schaeffer helps us understand why, "the stagnant trend in ACT college readiness scores just released is yet another piece of evidence that test-driven K-12 education in the U.S. is a sweeping, expensive failure."

According to the Sun-Times, Chicago’s average ACT score "soared" to its highest level in at least 11 years, jumping from 17.2 last year to 17.6. That’s still well shy of the 18 generally considered minimally acceptable and the 20 CPS officials have used as a goal.
Emanuel called the scores "great news," while his Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the growth was “phenomenal.” Brizard added, “I won’t take credit. It belongs to my teachers and principals.’’ -- Sun-Times
Thanks for reiterating the obvious J.C.

Neither Rahm nor Brizard everr mentioned the widening of the so-called "achievement gap" among white, Hispanic and African-American students. The percentage of white students who met or exceeded standards on the PSAE was 44.6 points higher than African-Americans and 32.2 points higher then Hispanics.

CTU V.P. Jesse Sharkey couldn't resist:
“Wow. If they are getting record success, why do we need a longer day?’’ asked Sharkey, among the CTU officials now negotiating a new contract with the district. “Now it turns out, before we had all these changes, we were actually improving at a record pace."
Schaeffer sums it up nicely:
But ACT averages for the high school class of 2012 (see chart below) show that neither of these predictions is close to becoming true. Overall ACT test scores are unchanged since 2008. Gaps between white and Asian American students, on the one hand, and African American, Hispanic and Native American, on the other, have grown slightly larger. Clearly current K-12 policies are not working. -- The Answer Sheet

Raise your hand

Great fun mixed with some serious politics at last night's Raise Your Hand Coalition fund-raiser at the Heartland Cafe.  (Sarah-Ji Fotógrafa)

Should-be mayor, Miguel del Valle and Don Washington dialogue at Mayoral Tutorial. (Sarah-Ji Fotógrafa)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CPS stonewalling FOIA requests on Clemente conversion

Matt Farmer on Clemente paper trail
My June 25th post about "Rahm's Monday Massacre at Clemente" caused quite a stir. As readers will recall,  Roberto Clemente High School was to be the city's third public high school converted into a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate (IB) school. The first thing that the new principal Marcey Sorensen, who was brought over from reconstituted Tilden High, did was to use the IB transition to "clean house", firing more than 20 teachers without any due process.The Clemente firings set the stage for the current firing of veteran teachers at another mainly-Latino high school, Social Justice H.S. in Little Village.

Lots of you responded with comments, many of which were heated, taking both sides of the firing issues. Then, as school prepared to open, things kind of died down. Back to business as usual? No way, says  parent-union activist-blogger Matt Farmer who is now locked in a battle with CPS as he tries to track the paper trail leading to Clemente's IB conversion. Matt posts at Huffington:
As a taxpayer and a public school parent, I want to believe that some thoughtful analysis went into that decision.Maybe a memo or two explaining why Clemente might be a good candidate for this program? Perhaps a couple of pieces of paper discussing the cost estimates associated with this proposed transformation? A few e-mails talking about things like staffing and training requirements for the new program? A summary of feedback from the Humboldt Park community?
As you might expect, CPS gives Matt the brush-off telling him where to stick his FOIA requests. Brizard says, we don't need no stinkin' transparency. But Matt is a bulldog, as any of you who heard his dynamite speech at the big union meeting in May will testify (no pun intended). 

His experience as a lawyer tells him what the rest of us know by instinct. Whether it is Romney stonewalling requests for his tax returns, or CPS making Clemente documents dissappear, there's something there, right?

Keep at it Matt.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Won't Back Down
In Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other cities, Democratic mayors have feuded bitterly with teachers’ unions and at times come to see them as enemies. And at a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors in June, Democratic mayors joined Republican ones in a unanimous endorsement of so-called parent trigger legislation, about which unions have serious reservations. -- Frank Bruni, NYT, "Teachers on the Defensive."
KIPP Superiority?
"What’s bad is the pretense, and KIPP’s constant touting of itself as superior to the public schools on which it dumps its rejects, and reaping of vast amounts of private funding from sources that are undoubtedly sold on the belief that KIPP is working miracles with all segments of low-income communities." -- Caroline Grannan on Ravitch blog, "The KIPP Boast"
Krugman on Christie
New Jersey’s own Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at the RNC, where he will be billed as a guy who gets things done. According to reports, however, one thing he won’t be talking about is the state of the New Jersey economy. -- Paul Krugman, "Comebacks"
Zero percent
A new poll suggests that Mitt Romney may achieve the nearly impossible: He may receive even less than the tiny 4 percent of the black vote that Sen. John McCain won four years ago...But as conservatives regained power — aided by the white South's shift from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican — black voters went the other way. As my father used to say, "We didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republicans left us." -- Clarence Page


From Mark Larson


An extraordinary high school English teacher needs and deserves our help finding a position. Her name is Katie Hogan, a founding lead teacher at Social Justice High School. Perhaps you have seen some of the turmoil at SJHS, recently. Last week, the principal and department chairs were summarily dismissed with this form announcement: “Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that your position is no longer available as of August 24, 2012. Your position is being impacted for Economic Reasons.” She is looking for a position “Anywhere outside of CPS as I'm in Unfair Labor Practice suit against them now.” Incidentally, Katie became a mother, this summer. She and her family need our help, quickly. Insurance runs out in 30 days.

You may have read Katie’s chapter in City Kids, City Teachers, or heard about the extraordinary work she has done, the impact she has on her students. She is a teacher leader, a gifted, skilled instructor, and any school would be fortunate indeed to include her in their faculty. I have known her a long time. Her level of dedication and skill, even among highly dedicated and skillful teachers, is in a class of its own.

I have attached her resume.

Please help us find her a position where she can continue her work on behalf students. Her fight is our fight. Contact me with any leads.

Thank you so much.
Mark Larson, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership
NLU/KIPP Program Coordinator
National College of Education at National Louis University, Chicago
Phone/Fax: (847) 947-5504 I

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rahm no "honest broker"

Rahm claims he's the guy who can step in at the last minute with his tough guy approach and prevent a strike.

The Sun-Times' Fran Spielman is painting Rahm as the broker, the one guy who can step in at the last moment, resolve the contentious contract negotiations in a closed door meeting, and by sheer will, prevent a teachers strike. At the same time, Spielman is portraying the mayor as the tough guy (unlike Mayor Daley) who can keep the union in its place.
Early next week, sources said the mayor plans to step it up a notch by having a “second level of negotiations with more senior people” away from the same cast of characters currently at the bargaining table. The second tier of negotiations is likely to include Beth Swanson, Emanuel’s point person on education, and “someone from Washington, D.C., who is a more moderate, outside senior level” expert capable of “driving this home,” sources said.
Translation: Since Rahm hasn't been able to get it done, party heavyweights are stepping in to make sure there aren't thousands of teachers and unhappy parents in the streets around election time.

Far from being the broker, Rahm is the problem. He's the guy the Civic Committee is pressing to take the hard line with the CTU and with all the city's public sector unions. And he's telling them just what they want to hear -- I'm not like that wimp Daley who gave away the store to avoid a strike. Or as a mayoral confident tells Spielman:  
“If we come to the end, and it’s a choice between a ridiculous settlement and a strike, we would take a strike."
By "ridiculous settlement" I suppose they mean, giving teachers more than a 2% raise (after taking away their 4% raise in the previous contract) and hiring back some of the veteran teachers they  fired, ahead of the lower-paid newbies.

Here's what Rahm's people fed Spielman about his rift with the Daley's:
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley never got personally involved in labor negotiations, unlike his father. Instead, Daley delegated the responsibility to negotiators, remained at arm’s length and inevitably ended up agreeing to contracts taxpayers could not afford to maintain labor peace. Daley was timid and notoriously risk-averse when it came to labor negotiations.
With the national election on the line Obama's people may be growing tired of Rahm's antics. His pot shots at his predecessor, Daley has made him lots of enemies within the ranks of the party hierarchy. So has his ultra-aggressive stance towards unions -- going so far as to make an anti-union video with T-Party extremists, saying "F*^k you" to CTU prez Karen Lewis, and hiring anti-union protesters at CPS board meetings.  Rahm is even taking credit away from candidate Obama for the auto industry bailout, telling Spielman that it was he who saved GM. Rahm also may have aggravated many of his minions by asking cash-starved CPS to set aside $25 million for scab money in the event of a strike.

According to Spielman, Rahm may not even attend the Democratic Convention, "if that’s what it takes to nail down a deal." Is it that or have Obama's people quietly told him to stay home and out of camera sight for a while?

I say, leave now for Charlotte and maybe something can be done here in Chicago to prevent a strike. You're the problem, Rahm. Not the solution.

SIDE STORY:  I love this headline -- Rahm on Casino: "I Want it For Our Kids"

The view from right-field on class size

Checker Finn (right) and his Fordham Foundation crew are upset at White House report.
“So it should concern everyone that right now – all across America – tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off....Think about what that means for our country. When there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start falling behind. And our economy takes a hit.” -- President Obama
Finn, Petrilli & Co. (pictured above) over at the right-wing Fordham Institute are freaking out over a recent White House report, Investing in Our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom, which they describe as"decrying lost teaching jobs that will allegedly swell classes around the country." In the latest edition of Fordham's Flypaper, TFAer (of course) Tyson Eberhardt goes off on Obama for his apparent flip on the question of class size. 
As the election heats up, the Obama camp clearly sees class size and teacher layoffs as promising lines of political attack and important ways to energize powerful labor allies less than thrilled with many of the White House’s education priorities over the last four years. Unfortunately for the Dems, however, strident infomercials and gloomy white papers can’t undo the now-awkward but still-sound remarks of Mr. Obama’s education secretary on the issue. “Class size has been a sacred cow and we need to take it on,” Arne Duncan correctly said in 2011, a year after arguing that “districts may be able to save money without hurting students, while allowing modest but smartly targeted increases in class size.”
Eberhardt has a point. Why has it taken until election time for the Dems to say the right thing on this crucial ed issue? Is this a real break from Duncan's blathering about the benefits of larger class size or just a bone being thrown to bring union voters back into the fold?

Either way, the fact remains that Obama has finally responded to Romney on an important issue of education. Will the Dems actually come up with a convention education plank?

With the loss of 300,000 teaching jobs in the past two years, resulting from budget cuts as well as from  the administration's own Race To The Top policies, class sizes in urban districts (not where Duncan or Obama send their children to school) have swelled to crisis proportions.  According to the report, "the national student-teacher ratio increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, rolling back all the gains made since 2000." But that doesn't even begin to tell the real story.

In urban districts with high concentrations of children of color, like Detroit and Los Angeles, class sizes are now reaching 45-60 students. Duncan, along with his pals on the right -- remember, Duncan first made ridiculous bigger-is-better comments at an American Enterprise Institute conference -- continue to pose the false choice between a good teacher or a rational class size -- a choice wealthy suburban or private school parents never have to make.

Whatever his motives, Obama has taken a meaningful step forward in this report. It's no wonder he has the flies at Flypaper buzzing. I'm sure the boys at DFER aren't too happy either.

For more info and the latest research on class size, go to Class Size Matters.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A strike now seems very likely

Photo by Jesse Sharkey
A teachers strike is looking more and more unavoidable. The Mayor has pushed the union to the wall by stonewalling serious negotiations, sticking to his 2% pay-raise offer, and seeing if he can force the union to fold at the last minute. By playing chicken with the union he is not only gambling with the lives of the city's children and families, but with Obama's election chances as well.

From the looks of things, fold doesn't appear to be part of CTU Pres. Karen Lewis' dictionary. At yesterday's meeting the union's House of Delegates gave Lewis the power to serve the CPS board with 10-day notification of a strike as required by state law. Hundreds of teachers are already manning informational picket lines despite board's campaign of intimidation and spying/reporting on teacher union activists.

Emanuel, who has resorted to using paid, anti-union protesters at board meetings has now enlisted his machine cronies at UNO in a divisive and cynical scab campaign directed at parents, using radio ads to boast that their charter school teachers will still be on the job while their public school brothers and sisters are walking picket lines. The mayor has also told his hand-picked board to come up with $25 million to be used to try and break the strike. The easily found the money, proving once again that the school district's financial picture was not nearly as dire as the mayor and the board members have said it was.

Lewis at news conference outside CPS headquarters | John H. White~Sun-Times
Ramifications of a teachers strike go far beyond Chicago since those leading the anti-union charge as well as the assault on teacher pensions and healthcare benefits are not wild-eyed Tea Party Republican radical governors, but rather, as my brother eloquently points out,  traditional machine Democrats, Emanuel, Quinn and Madigan. While the Republicans' convention in Tampa is threatened by Hurricane Isaac, the Democrats' convention in Charlotte could very well take place against the backdrop of raging union battles in the streets of Democrat-run Chicago.

CBS reports that  a union spokeswoman hinted to reporters that if an agreement isn't reached, teachers might take their signs all the way to North Carolina to the Democratic National Convention, where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to speak.
Behind the tough talk is a tense showdown between Emanuel and the teachers, with possible ramifications beyond Chicago at a time when most unions have seen their power slip dramatically. The mayor angered the teachers with his demands for a longer school day and other concessions, and the result appears to be an energized union that authorized a strike by a wide margin.
From my vantage point, it's clear that the union has enough support from its teachers as well as from many parents and community activists who are already organizing in support of the teachers and options for their own children in the event of a strike, to sustain a long strike if necessary. It's doubtful, in my mind, that Emanuel has that same kind of support from the national party leadership.

Solidarity activities are being organized by unions and support groups around the country. Here's a sight organized by a Network of  Teacher Activist Groups, where you can make a pledge of support for CTU teachers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

EdWeek notices SOS

Thanks EdWeek, for noticing the SOS convention. But why all the focus on divisions or on Bob George's  day job, which the article calls a "point of contention"?  It isn't? Bob, like most of SOS' leadership, was elected by a vote of the members. What company volunteers work for isn't an issue for EdWeek to gossip about. Shame on them.

Do they do this with other reform groups?  If you want to talk about who works for who, let's take another look at who underwrites specific EdWeek articles -- Gates, Broad, other power philanthropists. Is this ethical journalism?

Sawchuck shares the bi-line but this is really just a rehash of Heitin's earlier piece. It even lifts quotes from old posts. Still comparing turnout between last year's march and the convention? Why? What's the point? Also, that old quote about Deb Meier's hesitance on fund raising is way outdated. Deb now serves on the SOS Steering Committee and has been actively raising support for the young organization.

Yes, thanks for noticing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

There's a man going round taking names

There's a man going 'round taking names
There's a man going 'round taking names
He's been taking my father's name
an' he left my heart in vain
there's a man going 'round taking names
-- Leadbelly

By asking CPS principals to spy on their own teachers and report "lawful" union activity back to the central office, Rahm and Brizard have taken their anti-teacher, anti-union crusade to a whole new level. By doing it openly, in the form of a "confidential" memo, which they must have known would be leaked by union-friendly principals, the pair have sabotaged any possibility of trust between school leaders and their staffs as the school year opens. They have also made it clear that instead of bargaining with the CTU in good faith to try and reach a fair settlement and avoid a strike, the pair have instead decided to wage a campaign of intimidation. It's nothing less than an open declaration of war on the CTU.

CTU leaders plan to brief the union’s House of Delegates this Wednesday on what they are calling intransigent negotiations on the part of CPS— and possibly ask for issuance of a 10-day notice of intent to strike.

Last night, I asked AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten if she would take action in response to the spy memo. She called the CPS action "stupid, terrible" and promised to "reach out to the CTU" and "follow up."

Now I'm waiting to hear what the Principals Association is going to do. Brizard's memo more or less redefines the role of school principal from instructional leader anti-union spy. Brizard has already put in place  “performance contracts” for principals, setting specific goals in areas such as “effective school organization." I guess we now know what that means to the folks downtown.

A report in today's Sun-Times indicates that Rahm/Brizard are preparing to use CPS' 15,000 non-teaching employees as scabs in the event of a strike. In it, CPS liar-in-chief Becky Carrol tells reporters Spielman and Rossi Carroll that  CPS merely sent principals a “straightforward” email directing them “not to interfere with union activities.’’ As we all know now, here's what the memo actually said.

Bernie Eschoo, a 29 year CPS veteran, who was among dozens of teachers who picketed Monday outside six CPS schools, told the Sun-Times reporters, “when you get to the cliff, at some point, you have to make a stand, and he [the mayor] has forced us into that.’’

Joe Scotese, an English teacher at Whitney Young High School who picketed Monday at a school on the South Side, told the Tribune, that in addition to pay and working conditions, he's concerned about larger issues like taking a stand against the private companies that run charter schools.
'We all know the economy is tough, we all know we're in a recession, but part of the fight here is making sure this is an attractive profession for people to get into now and in the future."
When I asked one south-side principal about the memo, he responded, "are they out of their fu**king minds?"

Monday, August 20, 2012


Press Release: CPS Instructs Principals to Document Legal Union Activity As Teachers Fight For a Fair Contract

CHICAGO— A confidential email recently obtained by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) encourages principals to closely monitor school employees for union activity. All Union activity is protected under federal and state law. The communication was written and distributed by Chicago Public School officials as a precursor to a strike.
This communication is equally troubling because today, as CTU members conducted informational picketing outside various schools, some principals threatened to discipline employees as instructed by CPS’ legal department, according to CTU organizers who spoke with those school administrators.
The disturbing CPS directive instructs principals to report what CPS perceives as Union related activities “via E-Verify” and report the action as a “Harassment/Threat type incident.” It also reads: “We are asking you to report any activities that cause a disruption to the school day. Examples of such activity cited in the email include the following:
  • Slowdowns of work
  • Temporary or intermittent walk-outs or sit-downs
  • Refusals to perform assigned duties
  • “Sick outs” or other abuse of sick days
  • “work to rule” actions where employees perform duties in accordance with the expired collective bargaining agreement
  • Other job actions that undermine supervisory authority and deleteriously affect the mission and goals of the Chicago public school system…”
CTU President Karen GJ Lewis said, “I am highly disturbed by the contents of this email. We have been very open and honest about these negotiations and our efforts to prepare our members and the public for a potential strike. Chief among my concerns is what CPS plans to do with the information and how the database will be used.
“This directive could lead to intimidation of our public school educators, who are fighting for their voices to be heard,” she added.


Friday's failed pension grab
“We all look like idiots. I’ll say it again: We all — not the governor, not the other side, not our side — we all look like idiots.” -- Daniel Biss, Evanston Democrat 
L.A. charter cheating scandal
"Here I had been going around bragging about how awesome our school is, and now I wonder: Are we cheaters?" --Former L.A. Charter School teacher Lisa Sims. 
Racist voter suppression in Ohio
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Doug Preisse, chairman of the county Republican Party and elections board member 
Murdoch thrilled
Amplify, focused on digital teaching and assessment tools, is run by Joel I. Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor. Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corporation, has said he would be “thrilled” if education were to account for 10 percent of its revenue five years from now. -- N.Y. Times, "Media Companies, Seeing Profit Slip, Push Into Education"

Saturday, August 18, 2012

CTU printing strike signs

Nina Gapshis of Progress Printing said Friday the Bridgeport printer was busy doing a run of 20,000 to 30,000 strike signs for the CTU. The last time Progress Printing had such an order from the CTU, a long-time client, was in 1987, when teachers waged a 19-day strike, Gapshis said. According to the CTU news release, the union must “prepare its members for the worst” so it ordered the printing of “on strike’’ signs.

Friday, August 17, 2012


SOS National Press Release; Ongoing Organizing Roles, Platforms, Action

Save Our Schools: A National Call to Action

For Further Information:
Bob George (708) 692-5818

For Immediate Release August 16, 2012


Energized by the scores of grassroots leaders from across the nation who attended its national convention in Washington, DC earlier this month, Save Our Schools (SOS) will become an ongoing force working to protect public education. The group has released its first set of platform planks, which will be sent to political candidates, and launched a campaign to oppose “Parent Trigger” proposals that allow schools to be turned over to for-profit businesses.

To continue its efforts, the Save Our Schools Steering Committee will apply for tax-exempt status, raise funds, and elect officers to guide its growth. The group’s focus will be on developing strategies to ensure grassroots voices are heard on issues such as testing, privatization, and school funding. “We are building a united front to end policies that harm children, teachers and communities,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Hallmark from Rochester, New York, an SOS Steering Committee member. “We are fed up with the failed, ideologically driven strategies that have dominated public education for the past decade.”

SOS has posted several final platform planks, drafted and debated at the recent convention, on its website Adopted planks cover civil rights, labor, early childhood education, parent involvement and student voice. Platform proposals still under consideration will be circulated online for feedback and released when they are complete.

As its initial project, SOS is focusing on the Walmart-sponsored “Teachers Rock” fundraiser, to be broadcast on CBS-TV this Friday, August 17. The show will raise money for the controversial organization Teach for America (TFA). “While we support honoring teachers, we oppose giving a portion of the money to a group which undermines educator professionalism,” said Lee Barrios, a National Board Certified Teacher from Louisiana who also serves on the SOS Steering Committee.

“TFA puts poorly-trained, recent college grads into classrooms with the expectation that they will leave in two or three years. That’s not what U.S. schools serving the most needy students deserve.” Next, SOS will conduct informational picketing around the late September release of “Won’t Back Down,” a movie which promotes “Parent Trigger” legislation. Funded by charter school investors, the proposals have not improved student academic performance.

“Our children need positive solutions that help public school improve, not gimmicks that ignore the root problems of education,” concluded Lesley University Professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an expert on early childhood education, who was a keynote speaker at the recent SOS convention.

More information about SOS and its plans will be regularly posted online at

I agree with GOP on this

As thousands of teachers and other public employee unions gather in Springfield to oppose the big pension grab, I finally find something to agree about with Republicans.

Brother Fred sends up this pictures from the union pension rally:
PhotoPhotoPhoto: Gathering outside House chamber.

Students sit-in at SoJo to protest firings

Little Village hunger strikers and community members started the school.
Teachers for Social Justice posted a summary of the issues behind yesterday's student sit-in at Social Justice High School. This small school within Little Village High School, was born out of community struggle -- a 19-day hunger strike by parents in 2001.
Sojo's very existence as a neighborhood public school serving low-income African American and Latina/o students with the vision of community self-determination-as exemplified by its inspiring and dignified student sit-in-is antithetical and a threat to the current top-down, CPS corporate model of schooling. Read the rest here.
The Race To The Top teacher purges at LVHS actually began two years ago at the Multi-Cultural Arts School. The recent firings at SoJo are a continuation of CPS' top-down "reform" plan which leaves out the community when it comes to real decision-making. CPS has been trying to wrestle back complete authority over LVHS since it opened as a campus of small schools in 2005.

The SoJo students' action yesterday was heroic. But the students can't do it alone.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pension-grabber Quinn is now toast

Afterward, union leader and lifelong Democrat Ruby Robinson, of Aurora, was furious. “Not one other vote will I cast for a Democrat who is posing as a Democrat but who’s actually acting out as a Republican, as a Tea Partier, and that’s exactly what Gov. Quinn and his group is doing today,” said Robinson, a longtime Department of Employment Security employee and head of an AFSCME local. “They’re carrying out the same kind of activities as Gov. [Scott] Walker did in Wisconsin.”  -- Sun-Times
There is no Chicago Republican Party and statewide the GOP is in shambles. So it's been left to the Democrats to lead the state's great pension grab on behalf of the corporate reformers. They may pay a big political price for their class loyalty.

I almost felt sorry for Gov. Pat Quinn, watching him practically get run out of the State Fair yesterday by thousands of pissed-off union members --almost, but not quite. I'm only sorry that I wasn't there to join in the festivities along with my brothers and sisters from AFSCME Council 31, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois AFL-CIO, among others, as the Sun-Times reports, "all drilling Quinn for wanting to gut public employee pensions, lay off thousands of state workers and close state facilities."

Quinn, who I met years back as an LSC member at our daughter's elementary school, has gone from being a fairly progressive Democrat to a complete toady for the corporate interests. Oldest story in politics, I suppose. He's not the only one of course. But he and Democrats like Boss Madigan, with help from Rahm Emanuel, have been leading the leading the pension grab rather than taxing the giant corporations in order to balance the budget.

Quinn has even made up a cock-and-bull story about some alleged 87-year-old pensioner who's pulling down $120K in retirement payments, to make his case. MiC, posting on brother Fred's blog, does a pretty good job of debunking the guv's B.S.

Speaking of Brother Fred, he is heading down to Springfield tomorrow along with thousands of other union members, to raise even more hell in the pension fight.  Fred is now featured in a great video put together by the CTU, called "Chicago Teachers Union Vs. Astroturf Billionaires." You get the idea. Don't miss it. You'll even catch a cameo appearance by Rahm himself, fronting for right-wing union bashers EAG.

L.A. Quotables: Deasy vs. Fletcher

Taken from yesterday's L.A. Times story, "LAUSD, teachers union spar over voluntary evaluation system".

Supt. John Deasy (the man from Gates):
"What a shame we don't have a partner in the leadership of UTLA," Deasy said. "It doesn't really bode well that the leadership doesn't seem to be serious about teacher evaluations."
UTLA Pres. Warren Fletcher: 
Fletcher said the union objected to the program for a number of reasons. He said the district created it without negotiations, which UTLA said were required. The union has long argued that student test scores are too unreliable to use in such decisions as hiring, firing, pay and tenure. 
"We want to build an evaluation system that will be useful for years to come, and we want to do it together," Fletcher said. "The bargaining has been serious."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UTLA Pres. Fletcher advises teachers to Opt Out

UTLA Pres. Fletcher
I guess the teachers union in L.A. isn't buying into Randi Weingarten's new unionism. Instead the union is urging its members not to participate in a performance review program that ties student test scores to teacher evaluations.

L.A. Times reports:

In a recorded back-to-school message sent Monday evening to 38,000 teachers and healthcare service professionals, Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told members he "strongly advises" them to reject district efforts to find one volunteer at each school to participate in the new evaluation program.
"UTLA strongly advises against volunteering for this high-stakes program in the current scapegoating environment. LAUSD should be putting its efforts into negotiating a meaningful, research-based evaluation system rather than trying to impose a flawed program based on discredited methodology."
Well said, Pres. Fletcher.
Linda Darling-Hammond has been highly critical of D.O.E. plans to use test scores of graduates’ students to evaluate schools of education. In today's Answer Sheet, LD-H offers up a better, more authentic alternative.
An important part of this effort is the spread of the edTPA, a new performance assessment process that examines — through candidates’ plans, videotapes of instruction, evidence of student work and learning, and commentary — whether prospective teachers are really ready to teach. As highlighted recently in The New York Times, the assessment focuses on whether teachers can organize instruction to promote learning for all students, including new English learners and students with disabilities, and how they analyze learning outcomes to create greater student success.

How about a hand for Ga. schools chief Barge -- a Republican

Georgia's school chief John Barge has been a loyal Republican -- up 'til now. But Barge is breaking with his own party and with Gov. Deal over the issue of charter schools. AJC reports that Barge will announce his opposition to the proposed charter school amendment to the constitution today, becoming the highest profile Republican to break with his party on the issue.
"I cannot support the creation of a new and costly state bureaucracy that takes away local control of schools and unnecessarily duplicates the good work already being done by local districts, the Georgia Department of Education, and the state Board of Education," Barge said in a prepared statement. "What's more, this constitutional amendment would direct taxpayer dollars into the pockets of out-of-state, for-profit charter school companies whose schools perform no better than traditional public schools and locally approved charter schools (and worse, in some cases)."

"Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia's local school districts -- much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years (the annual average of the Charter Commission that would be revived if the amendment passes)."
 You can read Barge's full statement on Maureen Downey's Get Schooled Blog.


From Anne Pritchett in Kansas City:

We have hundreds of TFAs in Kansas City. 5 in my building - this is their second year. They are nice, dedicated young people who believe they are doing something noble. But the time the rest of the staff has to spend helping them is unreal. Imagine 5 brand new teachers - but none of them have any background in education. They majored in business, law, Spanish and psychology. The one who has a Spanish degree doesn't speak Spanish well enough to be any help with translation at parent conferences. Of the others the one who is doing the best was a psychology major. So she has a background in child development. But the others are clueless. Hard working but clueless.

The rest of the staff has spent lots and lots of time helping the TFAs. They needed less help as the year went on, but they still needed a lot more help than other beginning teachers I have worked with. I've been a mentor for about 15 years now and I have to meet weekly with the teachers I mentor and turn in a log of what we discussed. When I look at last year's log, I see a lot of the same topics all new teachers focus on, but many more as well. Since they had no experience in an elementary school setting since being students themselves, we had to talk about lots of basics. Recess supervision, how to organize an awards assembly, what to put on bulletin boards, classroom seating arrangements, grading papers, ---- lots of basics other new teachers have some familiarity with from student teaching and practicum experiences.

District wide, we have lost about 20% of our TFAs who quit either midyear or didn't come back for their second year. I don't know how that compares nationally.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A strike is avoidable if Rahm "finds" the money

Google hosted this "fireside chat" with Rahm when he was running for mayor. 
He easily finds it for corporate cronies

Rahm/Brizard have already folded in their attempt to force CPS teachers to work a longer day and year without additional pay. But a settlement in contract negotiations is still problematic and a teachers strike is still possible, especially if Rahm keeps claiming that there's no money for teacher pay increases, as recommended by the mediator last month.

Rahm keeps speaking out of both sides of his mouth, one day playing poor-mouth and the next day finding millions to lavish on his corporate cronies. Just last week, the mayor found 5.2 of those millions in TIF dollars (the mayor's personal slush fund) to give to his pal and appointed school board member Penny Pritzker, to help subsidize her new (anti-union) Hyatt Hotel.

Today's Sun-Times carries a front-page story bashing Rahm for the tax-break deal he cut with Google-owned Motorola. Rahm and Motorola promised that the deal to move company headquarters to Chicago's Merchandise Mart would produce 3,000 new jobs. Instead comes the news that Google is laying off 4,000 workers -- 750 of them at Motorola Mobility. That's 20% of the company's global workforce and rumors abound that Google is planning to sell off Motorola's cable division altogether (in case you thought it was just Bain and Romney who did that).

Since taking office 15 months ago, Emanuel has cut hundreds of good-paying, public sector jobs while relentlessly pursuing, low-paying, non-union, private-sector jobs which quickly evaporate.

Fran Spielman reports:
In the nearly three weeks since Motorola Mobility announced plans to move 3,000 employees from Libertyville to Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Emanuel has touted the jobs coup as “game-changing” proof that Chicago was poised to become the “digital capital of the Midwest.”
 Equally damaging, the corporation the mayor touted as the rock-solid anchor for the Mart’s “technology campus” has been unmasked as a somewhat shaky company in need of a turn-around after losses in 14 of the last 16 quarters.
Did someone say turn-around? Maybe Motorola needs to bring in school turn-around specialists AUSL, Rahm's go-to guys when it comes firing teachers and principals and using "school reform" to gentrify the black community.

As for money for schools and teachers pay, Rahm knows where to find it if he's pushed hard enough. If you read between the lines, he even admits it.

Spielman and Roz Rossi report:
As he has for weeks, Emanuel again declined to explain Monday where he will find the $40 million to $50 million needed to hire the extra teachers to staff the longer school day. He would say only that the system would find the money to protect his signature education initiative when it hammers out the rest of the teacher contract.
"Find the money" indeed. It's probably in an envelope somewhere in a desk drawer or file cabinet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Brizard says "it's practically settled." CTU says, "keep saving."

Teachers returned to work in Chicago schools without a contract. But CEO Brizard is telling everyone that the new contract is a sure bet. 
“I’m optimistic that we’re going to come to a resolution soon, hopefully before Labor Day,”’ Brizard said after ringing the school bell at Lindblom High School, 6130 S. Wolcott, one of the city’s elite selective-enrollment high schools. 
But many CTU members I've talked with seem to think otherwise. A post on the CTU blog urges members to keep on putting money away in preparation for a strike.
Despite the interim agreement, there are many open issues still on the negotiating table in which there has been little movement. Public school educators also remain concerned about the District’s refusal to provide adequate wrap-around services for students severely impacted by poverty and violence in addition to threats of ballooning class sizes. Teachers are concerned about the new evaluation process of which 40 percent of the review is based on how students perform on standardized tests. Job security, health benefits and teacher pay have not been resolved.
 Rahm's top-down imposed longer school day began for about one-third of CPS students today. But there's still no clarity on the content of that day or what if any new resources will be made available to the impacted schools.  So far the teachers have held their own in the contract negotiations and the union has forced several important concessions in an  interim agreement signed by the Rahm-appointed board.


Thousands of union members and workers rallied in Philadelphia's Center City Saturday afternoon. While labor is obviously supporting Obama's candidacy, the rally hit at anti-union policies of both parties including the holding of the Democratic Convention in anti-union North Carolina.
Rick Smith, CWA activist
"This is much like the tea party started out to be, These are people who are tired of being screwed over." -- Daily Times
 AFL-CIO Pres, Richard Trumka 
"Anyone who says America can't afford retirement security, or health care, or decent pay for honest work, or great schools, or a postal service, or cops or firefighters and teachers and nurses, well they don't know what they're talking about and we won't accept their defeatism!" -- The Mercury
Columnist Eric Zorn
Jesus Christ is said to have fed multitudes with a handful of loaves and fishes. CPS CEO  Jean-Claude Brizard is planning to lengthen the school day for multitudes with a similarly minuscule deployment of new resources. -- Chicago Tribune 
Charter school cheaters 
"We are a corporation that is winding down and we are not required to provide that information to you," said Crescendo board member Donna Jones. -- L.A. Times

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rahm sends millions in TIF money to Penny -- not to schools

I'm still on the road but trying to keep up on Chicago happenings. Stunned but not surprised to see that Rahm is delivering millions from his TIF slush fund to his billionaire pal Penny Pritzker for her new Hyatt Hotel.

Pritzker sits on the mayor's hand-picked school board. She's also Pres. Obama's chief campaign fundraiser.  Pritzker is also an anti-union hard-liner who's trying to bust the union at Hyatt. She's claiming that there's no money left in the budget for even small teacher raises. The union argues that TIF money can be used to help solve the crisis. But Rahm obviously has his own priorities. Pritzker obviously has a conflict of interests.
“This one example shows the fundamental corruption in the way things are done here,” said David Orlikoff of the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign, a labor and community coalition growing out of Occupy Chicago’s labor committee and supporting the Chicago Teachers Union. 
“Then they tell teachers they don’t have any money for anything, except the mayor’s pet projects.  It’s a conflict of interest – and it will be a conflict until the school board is elected.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SOS chatter

Keynoters Deb Meier & Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Asleep at the wheel bloggers

I tried to explain to Teaching Now blogger Liana Heitin who was reposted by Edweek's Stephen Sawchuk, that it was okay that last weekend's SOS Convention was actually smaller  and less celebrity-studded than last summer's march and White House rally.

Others told Liana (who I find to be an otherwise highly capable and astute ed writer) that a march and a meeting have two different purposes and that one is often smaller than the other and that SOS was fine with that.

It was also okay that Diane Ravitch, Matt Damen (and the British royals) weren't there. To their credit, Gotham Schools and several other bloggers picked up James Boutin's much more insightful post.

The always provocative Deb Meier makes the case that this year's meeting was actually more significant than our march and rally last July.
I’m still “high” from three wonderful days at SOS’s gathering in D.C. with wonderful people –morning, noon and night. We managed to even get agreement on some more substantive “planks”–filling out our agenda re schooling in America. We did one on early childhood, on labor unions, civil rights, assessment, etc. Keep in touch with SOS for the details. We agreed on a basic governing structure. We set a few key “targets” for this year–locally and nationally. A march has its values, but this was even better than last year–in terms of making me confident that we can sustain this work. Because there is no quick fix, and the powers against us are awesome. We need long-term distance runners.
All this is not to downplay the organizational weaknesses of SOS, which is only in its first year as an organization. Many teachers and activists are looking to SOS to be all things. It was with this in mind that the National Steering Committee voted to take a step back from marching for a moment and try and get it's own house in order.

Union panelists
Speaking of labor unions, Saturday's panel of teacher union activists, Fred Klonsky, Dr. Michael A. Walker Jones, and Xian Barrett, was over the top. Most of the controversy took place around the so-called new unionism or "results unionism" now being touted bysome AFT and NEA leaders. There was lots of anger and frustration in the room, over the quick concessions being made by union leaders on issues like  value-added evaluation of teachers and "merit" pay.

The panel discussion was followed by Sunday's labor workshop where attendees found consensus on the following draft resolution:

1. SOS supports the right of all teachers in every state to bargain collectively as members of the teachers’ union.  We oppose the current wave of legislative efforts to ban unions or to limit their ability to represent their members inside and outside of contract negotiations  including, but not limited to: rights for unions to collectively bargain; the rights of unionized teachers to due process rights; and the rights of unions to dues collection from their members.

2. SOS salutes our brothers and sisters in the NEA and AFT for signing on to the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing.
3. SOS opposes the unlimited expansion of privately-managed charter schools which bar their teachers from holding union membership so as to actively and illegally resist union affiliation.  
4. SOS also supports the early attempts to organize charter school teachers into unions.  Charter school unions should also have the right to affiliate with the NEA and AFT.
5. SOS stands with our union brothers and sisters in the fight for higher wages, improved working conditions, protection of their pensions, healthcare benefits, and job security (especially for veteran teachers). 
6. SOS opposes the current move to replace veteran teachers (usually members of the teachers’ union) with inexperienced, lower-paid, novice teachers, such as those provided by organizations like Teach For America.
7. SOS opposes al current initiatives, especially those put forward under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, to undermine existing collective bargaining agreements.

8. SOS supports a union position strongly opposing merit pay and value-added teacher evaluation based on student test scores. 
9. Currently, all eyes are on Chicago where the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) is setting a powerful example of “fighting unionism.” SOS supports the CTU in its current contract struggle and its fight against the powerful forces of corporate school reform.  If Chicago teachers go on strike, SOS will organize strike support actions nationwide. (add verbage supporting “fighting unionism.”
10. SOS believes that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we oppose the false idea that the interests at teachers and students are opposed. 
More to come on this.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Decompressing after SOS Convention

SOS Nat'l. Steering Committee closes out convention (James Boutin pic)
I'm taking a few days off, trying to decompress after an inspiring SOS Convention in D.C. and before the fall quarter starts. I also want to step back and think about some of the great things that took place over the weekend and what it all means for the future of this fledgling organization.

I mean, how do you digest amazing speeches by Jonathan Kozol, Deb Meier, Rose Sanders, Shanta Davis, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige all packed into 2 and a half days? Because I had to lead the Labor Panel/Workshop (more on this later but here's brother Fred's panel presentation) and introduce Kozol, I missed out on other presentations I really wanted to hear. Here's a great review of some of them by James Boutin.

Deb Meier, Stephanie & Me
There were some great student voices at the convention. Stephanie Rivera is s a 20 year old Junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where she studies Education and English, and engages in learning opportunities that involve social justice, public policy, and political science. Check out her blog post on the convention here.

I also got to meet Nikhil Goyal, 17, who will be a senior at Syosset High School. He took part in Saturday's student panel along with Stephanie. Nikhil is a fan of project-based learning, an end to high-stakes testing and the molding of an individual’s education around his or her passions. He's also the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School to be published in September 2012 by AERO

.I'm even lethal when I'm unarmed
'Cause I'm louder than a bomb -- Public Enemy

Langston Hughes
A revelation -- the convention was held at the Wardman Park Marriott where the great African-American poet, Langston Hughes once worked as a busboy. That's how my favorite D.C. hangout, Busboys and Poets, got its name. It's said that whenever Hughes had a pencil and paper in his hands, he would scribble poetry. He recalled an anecdote about how he was "discovered" by the poet Vachel Lindsay, who is considered to be the father of modern singing poetry. Lindsay was dining at the Wardman Park Hotel back in 1925 when Hughes summoned his courage and slipped several sheets of paper beside the poet's plate. Lindsay was obviously annoyed, but he picked up the papers and read a poem titled "The Weary Blues."
As Lindsay read, his interest grew. He called for the busboy and asked, "Who wrote this?" "I did," replied Langston Hughes. The rest as they say, is history. After my brother Fred discovered a plaque in the old Tower section of the hotel, recounting the story, and pointed it out to me, I worked it into my intro to Jonathan Kozol's speech. Readers of Jonathan's 1967 book, Death at an Early Age might recall that it was Kozol's introducing his inner-city Boston students to Hughes' classic poem, A Dream Deferred, that got him fired from his first teaching job. The firing led to a mass outcry, especially in the black community.

Jonathan told me it was the last line that got the authorities so upset.