Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More trouble for UNO

It keeps getting worse and worse for the UNO charter hustlers. Now that Gov. Quinn has turned off the $98 million spigot, the construction company and its workers have walked off the job, demanding to be paid. UNO's shiny new charter school has been stalled in mid-stream.

According to the Sun-Times: 
Patrick Cermak, the president of general contractor Wight & Co. of Darien, cited unspecified past-due payments in a letter to subcontractors explaining why it was halting work on the new UNO Soccer Academy High School at 51st and St. Louis, which is being paid for out of the state grant.
 The only questions now are, where are the indictments? And, who will UNO bring down with them?

Arne and Karen Duncan's Secret Log

Duncan & Daley used the city's elite schools as patronage.
During Arne Duncan's reign as Mayor Daley's hand-picked schools CEO, he kept a "secret log" to manage requests by clout-heavy political donors and VIPs, to get many of their otherwise unqualified kids into the city's elite "public" schools.

Although the log itself, (requests coming directly from Duncan appear as “AD” on the log. Petitions from Duncan’s wife, Karen appear as “KD” on the log) was only recently revealed by WBEZ, this is not a new story. It only got new legs last week when it was learned that Republican billionaire candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner made his daughter  one of Duncan's back-door clout recipients of a seat at Walter Payton College Prep.

The Duncan family's creative use of public education money has carried over to his policies at the DOE where he doles out billions in Race To The Top dollars to favored school districts based on their acceptance of his failed test-and-punish reform policies, which call for charter expansion, mass school closings, and teacher firings. The result -- the reproduction of a two-tiered school system of winners and losers and with it, a reproduction of the social order. The winners are the favored few. The losers are the rest. The gap grows wider as intended.

Monday, April 29, 2013

TODAY: Support Whittier School's Battle to Keep LSC-Selected Principal Zoila Garcia

Meeting Tuesday, April 30th, 3 PM at Whittier School 

On April 4, 2013, the principal at Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen, was removed by the Pilsen/Little Village Network Chief Stephen Zrike and reassigned temporarily to work from home. Principal Zoila Garcia had been at Whittier for 9 years and her contract was renewed by the Whittier Local School Council last year.

Faculty was informed of the decision on April 4th at 10:00 pm and an important faculty meeting was scheduled for the next morning at 7:15am.

At that meeting, staff were informed and introduce to the new "Administrator-in-charge." Parents were informed that afternoon by letter and then several days later in a meeting to introduce the new administrator.

The move is not supported by the vast majority of parents and faculty. It undermines the Local School Council powers and the democratic process. The community demands the reinstatement of our principal Zoila Garcia.

The Whittier Community will gather in the Xochiquetzal Garden, across the street from Whittier School, 1900 W 23rd St. at 3:00 on Tuesday, April 30 to discuss our next steps.

What's the not-so-hidden curriculum at Walter Payton College Prep?

I know that Payton kids score high on standardized tests. The question is, what are they learning? What's the hidden curriculum?

Payton was in the news twice last week. Once for being the school of choice for the rich and powerful within CPS's two-tier system of supposedly public education. The other for its refusal to allow their baseball team to play a game at predominantly-black Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in Roseland. Don't you love all this College Prep stuff?

Whether it's billionaire clout monger, Bruce Rauner buying his kid's entry through Payton's back door, from Arne Duncan, or parents' racist elitism (what else could it be? No north-side student has ever been harmed playing sports at Brooks) the school, which admits a third of its students from private elementary schools, has now become a poster child for this city's apartheid education system, a system that will only be reinforced through the mayor's closing of 54 schools, nearly all in the African-American community.

Walter Payton graduated high school in Mississippi in '72.
Kudos to Brooks coach, Herbert Redmond for calling the Payton snub for what it was -- "racism", and to coach Bryan Street for refusing to schedule any more games with Payton's baseball team. As a high school coach myself, I think all our school teams should follow suit and boycott Payton.

Shame on CPS liar-in-chief Becky Carroll and CPS officials who tried to cover-up the incident, telling the press it was a "scheduling and transportation problem."

Payton, which was built on the ruins of the formerly black community around Cabrini Green, should also be forced to change its name. Their actions dishonor the name of Chicago Bears football legend Walter Payton, who graduated high school in 1972 and had to play within Mississippi's segregated system of school athletics. Payton's own school, Jefferson High in Columbia, was "integrated" with neighboring Columbia High School, but Payton and his teammates boycotted spring practice when their head coach, Charles L. Boston, had to take an assistant's job to Columbia's white coach. Payton's battle against segregation left a lasting mark on him as I'm sure it will on many Brooks' snubbed student/athletes.

In fairness, it's not the students who are the problem here. Payton students have a great track record when it comes to speaking out against racism and elitism.


Patronage lives: Ald. O'Connor's sister i hired to run school closing transitions.
Ald. Patrick O'Connor 
“If I had a role in this, she wouldn’t be engaged in the work she’s engaged in."  -- Sun-Times. "Key Chicago Public Schools job for alderman’s sister"
 Matthew Johnson, heads Dewey's Local School Council
"For two days in a row, my son didn't come home with any books because they had to do their inventory, so they basically disrupted the culture of our school and our kids' education." -- DNAInfo
Rene Heyback, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
"I think 20,000 people have gone through a rigorous series of hearings over 21/2 months and they're getting the message no one is listening. People feel the Board (of Education) will rubber-stamp this." -- Chicago Tribune  
Prof. Paul Tractenberg
What a Catch-22! The worse the state runs the schools, the longer it needs to control them. -- Star-Ledger
Charles Blow
In his State of the Union speech in February, President Obama said that the “true engine of America’s economic growth” is “a rising, thriving middle class.”  It certainly looks as if that engine has stalled. -- New York Times

Friday, April 26, 2013

Has UNO's great charter school heist really ended?

Madigan greased the deal
FINALLY, the state has cut off money to the UNO charter school hustlers. After countless media exposures and with the IG and possibly federal investigators looking around the $98 million swindle pulled off by Juan Rangel and the d’Escoto brothers, Gov. Quinn finally turned off the money spigot -- at least for now.

But Rangel, who co-chaired Rahm Emanuel's 2011 mayoral campaign, still has the so-sue-me look of the cat who ate the canary. Why? Well, for one thing, Quinn's move is too little, too late. UNO hustlers have already pocketed and spent $54.7 million of the money much of it funneled directly to Rangel's pal Federico “Fred” d’Escoto. Fred's brother Miguel d'Escoto, a city transportation commissioner in the Daley administration, resigned from his $200,000-a-year position as UNO’s No. 2 executive after Sun-Times reporter began sniffing out the story.

Another reason Rangel is still smiling -- UNO hustlers think they are too connected to be taken down. They could never have gamed the system without political bosses Madigan and Rahm greasing the deal. 

The problem is that there are thousands of others who are being hurt in the process, including parents, students, teachers, and the entire school community. UNO relies on tens of millions of dollars a year it gets from the Chicago Public Schools to pay back the money it borrowed and to operate its 13 charter schools, with more than 6,500, mostly Latino students. This at a time when the board in closing 54 mainly black neighborhood schools, supposedly for budgetary reasons.

This also coincides with an apparently successful attempt to unionize UNO's teachers. Word is that 80% of them have signed ACTS union cards. See Brother Fred's blog for more on this.

There ought to be more severe consequences for UNO and their political machine backers, Madigan and Emanuel, as well as Rahm's hand-picked school board that approved the deal. There is still a possibility that Quinn will back off and keep the dollars flowing if UNO makes a few cosmetic changes, like shifting around the titles of top execs and removing Rangel from his official leadership post. Not only should that game be rejected, there should be a full pay-back of the million in ill-gottens gains from the taxpayers and criminal charges for this public heist.


Thursday, April 25, 2013


Kenyon students pack the college theater to watch plays written by 4th-graders who sat on stage and saw their play performed by college students .
I made the 7-hour drive back from Kenyon just in time to make it to class yesterday. The contrast between this pastoral Ohio campus and Chicago's urban school battlefield was never more striking. At Kenyon I helped advise students on their final projects. One of them, bound for a great teaching career (I hope) worked with 4th-grade public schools students in nearby Mt. Vernon, who wrote plays that were put on before a packed house at the college.

All power to the imagination and performance-based assessment rather than high-stakes standardized testing.

Back in the city, Chicago high school students are learning to find their voice the hard way. Hundreds of them boycotted the tests yesterday and marched at Board headquarters to protest the mass closing of schools in the city's black community. The protest was organized by two groups of students, Voices of Youth, and Chicago Students Organizing to Save our Schools.

The student protests come on the same day that hundreds of the city’s mostly young service industry employees went on strike for higher wages, with some students joining the service workers as they rallied.

At one point, students were kicked out of the district lobby by security officials who said they had failed to register to speak at the school board meeting Wednesday.

The not surprising response from schools CEO Byrd-Bennett:
“The only place that students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life.” 
This from the mayor's hand-picked top bureaucrat, brought into town to shut down those very classrooms and impose the testing regimen that's driving the protests. It was clear that the boycotting students were learning more about the workings of democracy than they ever could sitting in classrooms filling in the bubbles on the test.

Speaking of Wednesday's board meeting, its worth noting that there was actually a no-vote cast  as Carlos Azcoitia  became the lone voice against the expansion of charter schools in the face of the closing of 54 community schools. Thank you Carlos, one of the few real educators on the board of corporate yes men.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kenyon College

I'm at Kenyon College in Ohio, working with Prof. Peter Rutkoff's American Studies students and reviewing some student final projects. Super-prof Peter's new novel, "Irish Eyes" just came out. It's set in in 60's  N.Y. and tells the story of an Irish family living through those wild and radical times. Be sure and pick up a copy.

Even out here in beautiful, wooded Gambier, I still am battered by the news of another 15-year-old Chicago student, Cornelius German, shot dead blocks from President Obama home. As usual, the Sun-Times simply repeats police description of German as a "gang banger" and for most readers, it's on to the sports section.

Tell me again, CEO Byrd-Bennett and Chief McCarthy, how you're going to "guarantee the safe passage" of every child walking to their receiving school after you close 54 schools in the black community. I really want to know the plan.

Monday, April 22, 2013


U.S. Reps Bobby Rush and Danny Davis conducted hearings Saturday, on Chicago school closings
Congressman  Bobby Rush
"There is no way that you’re going to heal these neighborhoods. If it was just Henson [Elementary in Englewood]…but you're talking about 53 schools...all at the same time. It is unheard of in the history of this state." -- DNAInfo
Matt Farmer
Chicago’s school “reform” efforts have always worked best on other people’s children. -- Washington Post 
At the hearings (DNAInfo)
Ald. Robert Fioretti

"It has pitted neighbor against neighbor and community against community, having a severe psychological effect," People wonder, "What did my teachers do wrong? What did my principals do wrong? What did I do wrong as a parent, that our school had to close?" -- DNAInfo
Melinda Malone, Clark County School District spokeswoman 
 “We see what’s happening in Chicago and we think, there is a pool of great teachers who will be out of work. If teachers are willing to come to Las Vegas, we’d love to have them.”  -- Medill Reports, (h/t Chaya Rubenstein)
CTU Pres. Karen Lewis 
“We have to stop waiting for other people to do our work for us, so we need to find candidates who are responsive to the entire city of Chicago, not just the downtown business interests." -- CBS Chicago

Friday, April 19, 2013

NYT: More cops in schools wrong approach to school safety

Thank you, New York Times Editorial Board, for affirming what many of us have been arguing for years. School violence is not mainly a policing problem, and adding more cops in schools doesn't make those schools any safer. Instead, it tends to criminalize students, especially students of color, and raises the expectation of violence, contributing to a culture that is antithetical to teaching and learning.

According to today's NYT editorial, "Criminalizing Children":
The National Rifle Association and President Obama responded to the Newtown, Conn., shootings by recommending that more police officers be placed in the nation’s schools. But a growing body of research suggests that, contrary to popular wisdom, a larger police presence in schools generally does little to improve safety. It can also create a repressive environment in which children are arrested or issued summonses for minor misdeeds — like cutting class or talking back — that once would have been dealt with by the principal. 
Children as young as 12 have been treated as criminals for shoving matches and even adolescent misconduct like cursing in school. This is worrisome because young people who spend time in adult jails are more likely to have problems with law enforcement later on. Moreover, federal data suggest a pattern of discrimination in the arrests, with black and Hispanic children more likely to be affected than their white peers. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

'You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.' -- Rahm Emanuel


When the mayor can't find a good crisis, he manufactures his own. Taking a cue from House Republicans, he cooked up a budget crisis that, could only be avoided by shuttering 54 schools in primarily African-American neighborhoods. Despite all the evidence showing that boarded up schools and transporting tens of thousands of kids across dangerous territory, to overcrowded receiving schools, won't fix the city's money mess, the dye has already been cast. The crisis scenario worked. But now we have a real crisis facing us in the fall when schools open -- a crisis created by Rahm.

Lest we forget, this was the same city budget crisis scenario that led to the fast-tracked sell-off  by Mayor Daley, of the city's parking spaces to Parking Meters LLC. That arguably the greatest heist in Chicago since Al Capone.

Yesterday, Rahm used another crisis, the bombing in Boston, a thousand miles from Chicago, to do something he wouldn't have been able to do earlier. He announced that as a result of the bombing, he was going to hand out more contracts to cronies to plant even more security cameras around the city. The City is already up to its ears in camera/contract scandals. If the Boston bombing hadn't happened, Rahm would have simply waited for the inevitable next crisis.

The real rub here is that last week, Rahm's Communications Director Sarah Hamilton accused CTU leader Karen Lewis of "politicizing" the school closings issue after she announced a union campaign to register 100,000 new voters.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Can someone loan Chicago a city planner? How about you, Kansas City?

Memo to city mayors from Barbara Byrd-Bennett
Someone, please help me. I need to borrow a city planner ASAP. 
Our guy, Babbit or Babbitz, whatever his name is useless. We have no plan. Rahm is making me close 54 schools in the next few months and I don't have the slightest idea what do do with all those boarded-up buildings. Until we can sell them, we will have to spend $1 million a year just to heat and maintain them.
I've been telling angry community folks that this is a cost-saving operation and promised them that the vacant buildings wouldn't be turned over to charter schools. No believes me of course and my credibility rating has sunk lower than Rahm's -- if that's possible. 
We've already sunk the city deeper in debt over the next 20 years by borrowing $360 million from Rahm's banker friends at high interest rates, to make the receiving schools look more attractive. 
Plus, I already have 24 school buildings sitting empty which I've been trying to sell since last summer. So far, no one seems interested. Duh! The longer they sit empty, the harder it is to sell them. Now all I need is dozens more boarded-up buildings blighting the south and west sides and I will have a full-scale rebellion on my hands led by that big fellow over at KOCO. Rahm will blame me for his political woes and send me packing, like he did J.C. 
So please, send someone, quick. How about you, Kansas City? You loaned your own school district a city planner. How about loaning one to me? I hate to think we're modeling ourselves on K.C., but any port in a storm, as they say.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Funniest quote of the year

This from Rahm's communications director Sarah Hamilton in response to CTU prez Karen Lewis' call to register 100,000 new voters in time for the 2015 mayoral elections.
“Barbara Byrd-Bennett has proposed a plan for Chicago Public Schools, with Mayor Emanuel’s support, that finally puts our children first. This is simply not the time for politics.” -- Sun-Times
Hilarious! Oh please stop, Sarah. You're killing me.

BBA study shows market-driven reform is a bust

"Most of the students who would have attended the closed (NYC) high schools were not admitted to the smaller schools but went to other large comprehensive high schools, "which consequently became academically overwhelmed, making them additional targets for closure.'" -- Broader, Bolder Study
I got my copy of the BBA study yesterday, hot off the press. It won't be available on-line until April 18.

"You need to read this," NYU prof, Pedro Noguera, a speaker at the Reframing Reform Conference, said, as he handed me a copy of, "Market-oriented education reforms' rhetoric trumps reality."  So I did. Anything about trumping reality, especially early on a Monday morning, will catch my attention. Pedro was right. It was worth the read.

For those of you who aren't avid readers of ed research, here's the gist of it. The corporate-style reforms which have become the new status quo in urban districts under mayoral control like Chicago, New York, and D.C. "have delivered few benefits and in some cases harm the students they purport to help, while drawing attention and resources away from policies with real promise..."

Among the key findings:

  • Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more in "reform" cities than in other urban districts.
  • Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.
  • Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers. 
  • School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
  • Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students. 
  • Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.
  • The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. 
For those of you who follow this blog, none of this will come as a surprise. The findings are pretty much in sync and reaffirm reports from our CReATE group in Chicago, and The National Education Policy Center (NEPC). But nevertheless, this BBA report is significant in its scope, currency, and because of the access the group has to policy makers. After all, Arne Duncan himself, was one of the signers of BBA's founding statement. 

Of course, it's questionable what effect, if any, the mounds of education research have when weighted against the policy agendas and big money of the corporate reformers and power philanthropists. But we have to believe that the truth will set us free. Right?

Valerie Strauss at the Answer Sheet has more on the BBA study in today's Washington Post. 

Monday, April 15, 2013


Dear Friends,

Today I received a letter from my principal informing me that I will not have a job next  fall. This was after I received a letter from her dated March 12 confirming that she wants me to teach next year.

I've been effectively fired, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my performance. I have tenure and I've received a rating of outstanding" for each of the thirteen years I've been with CPS. I've been observed by principals, teachers and even principals from other schools and always the evaluation has been positive.

But the mayor has decided that our school is going to change into an IB school and apparently that means that principals can hire and fire who they want; and those decisions are all based on who these principals personally like or dislike.

Just an update. Take care.
Name withheld.

The Great Disconnect

Pasi Sahlberg
I went over to the Hilton this morning to take part in the Reframing Reform Conference.  Aside from getting to hang out with some of my favorite school activists, I was interested in hearing the conference keynoter, Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. In Finland, that's roughly the equivalent in rank to Arne Duncan, although the comparison stops there.

Pasi is a real thinker and a man of action. I've been a fan of his ever since I saw this interview with Andrea Mitchell back in Sept. 2010. He told an astonished Mitchell that the secret of Finland's celebrated school success was essentially doing everything just the opposite way from current U.S. school reform policies. Some of the major differences:  Finland puts the focus on collaboration rather than on competition. Finnish education policy supports public good and equity over privatization and school  choice. The Finnish school system de-emphasizes standardized testing. Finland has implemented high standards for entry into the teaching profession, rather than using mass purges of the profession and school turnarounds.

The message was pretty much the same this morning. Sahlberg was introduced by corporate lawyer and CPS school board member Jesse Ruiz, who applauded with the rest of us. Was he being polite or does he really like what Pasi is saying?

Sahlberg was definitely being polite, even generous, towards his host. But still, his words cut through the basic premises of  U.S. corporate-style reform like a scalpel.

The breakout sessions that followed were led by some of the nation's leading advocates against public school privatization, and corporate ed reforms. Andy Hargreaves, Pedro Noguera, Jitu Brown, Ralph Martire, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Jeannie Oakes, Kevin Kumashiro and others, carried on the critique of  current reform policies right up until lunch.

Jo Anderson
That's when, at least for me, the the other shoe dropped. Arne Duncan's senior adviser and former IEA Executive Director Jo Anderson got up to introduce the lunch speaker, Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA). But faithful apparatchik that he is, Anderson couldn't help but throw out a list of all the great things the administration is doing to support schools and teachers. I was OK with all of that.

But I almost fell out of my chair when Anderson offered that all of  "Arne's" policies and so-called reforms "were in step" with Pasi Sahlberg's earlier presentation. What!?

Anderson exited the stage before anyone could question such an outrageous proposition.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's the great disconnect between our Democratic administration's words and deeds. No need to go into detail on this. But there would be no better place to start than right here in Chicago, where all the blather about school reform being the "civil rights issue of our era" goes hand-in-hand with the whitenizing of the city and with accompanying massive school closings and disinvestment in communities on the south and west sides of the city.

Thanks, Jo, for offering a brief surreal counter to what was an otherwise interesting and inspiring conference morning.


Susan Ohanian.org
John Merrow
The erasures stayed buried for years. The official who had spotted the problem and urged Rhee to investigate has kept her mouth shut. Five months after she had informed Rhee of the widespread erasures, Deborah Gist resigned to become State Superintendent in Rhode Island. -- Michelle Rhee's Reign of Error
Jay Mathews
In the 42 years I have worked for this newspaper, I have adopted many of this town’s mental habits. One is a deep respect for inspectors general, those stewards of truth whose work we often herald in The Post. That is why I am disappointed by the failure of not one, but two, inspectors general to expose test tampering in the D.C. schools. -- Washington Post
Valerie Leonard, Lawndale Alliance
“I am concerned that when you close these [school] buildings, the effect it’s going to have is that people won’t want to stay in an area without a school they can walk to. Just like when International Harvester closed — people left in droves." -- "Are School Closings Racist?" Truthout 
Tom Torlakson, Calif. Supt. of Public Instruction
"People can call themselves Democrats for Education Reform — it's a free country — but if your agenda is to shut teachers and school employees out of the political process and not lift a finger to prevent cuts in education, in my book you're not a reformer, you're not helping education, and you're sure not much of a Democrat." -- L.A. Times 
Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity. -- New York Times

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jewish Community Letter Against School Closings

March 2013 / Passover 5773
“Rabbi Eliezer the son of Shamua would say: The dignity of your student should be as precious to you as your own.”
Pirkei Avot 4:12
Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett,
As members of the Jewish community and as Chicago residents, we are deeply concerned about the threatened closing of over 50 public schools in Chicago. Rather than invest resources to improve our struggling schools, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is proposing to shut down an unprecedented number of them. Public opposition to the closings has been overwhelming, and with good reason. CPS questionably claims the schools are “under-utilized”; meanwhile, it has contracted for dozens of new charter schools to be built instead. Of particular concern is that CPS plans to disproportionately close schools in low-income communities and communities of color - neighborhoods already underserved by the City. This continues a pattern of educational inequity: since 2001, over 80 percent of schools affected by CPS closure or “turn-around” plans have been comprised of over 99 percent students of color. And past school closings have had disastrous consequences, severely disrupting students’ education, spiking violence, and removing institutions that were stabilizing forces in their communities.
This is why we stand in solidarity with the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), students and teachers to demand loudly and clearly: NO SCHOOL CLOSINGS!
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Rabbi Daniel Grossman, Congregation Adath Israel
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Rabbi David Cooper
Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann
Rabbi Dov Taylor
Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay
Rabbi Menachem Cohen, Mitziut
Rabbi Alissa Wise, Jewish Voice for Peace
Cantor Michael Davis
Leora Abelson, Rabbinical Student
Jessica Rosenberg, Rabbinical Student
Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein, Rabbinical Student
Hannah Spiro, Rabbinical Student
Jewish Solidarity and Action for Schools (JSAS)
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
The Gan Project
Miriam Grossman, JSAS
Liz London, JSAS
Jeremy Siegman, JSAS
Lev Hirschhorn, JSAS
Wendy Mironov, JSAS
Marilyn Sneiderman
Ross Hyman
Adam Yalowitz
Amy B. Dean, The Century Foundation & ABD Ventures
Pamela Klier-Weidner
Daniel Kaplan
Hannah Chazin
Rachel Sumekh, Swipes for the Homeless
Scout Bratt
Abigail Weber
Allison Fisher, JSAS
Hannah Gelder, Avodah Alumna
Sarah Moskowitz
Eleanor Mulshine, Moishe House
Sarah Miles, JSAS/Moishe House
Amir Starr Weg
Jill Zenoff, The Gan Project
Martin Levine, Levine Partners Consulting
Stefanie Fox, JVP
Hasan Bhatti, AVID Chapel Hill
Yaniv Ron-El, University of Chicago
Laura Landau
Eleni Zimiles
Leila Shooshani, Moishe House Chicago
Haley Leibovitz, Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps
Jessica Schaffe, Jewish Child & Family Services
Mk Davis
Kelly Viselman, JSAS
Daniel Weyl
Elise Goldin, JRC
Shana Rubenstein, JSAS
Raphi Rechitsky
Elana Baurer, Georgetown University Law Center
Dani Baurer, Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps
Max Clemons
Sarah Richman
Erin Dubnow
Orli Ginsburg, Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.)
Elie Zwiebel, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
Aaron Simmons, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
Traci Schlesinger
Simon Fisher, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Eli Goldberg
Asher Miller, JRC
Ross David Jacobs, CIWC
Emma Schwartz
Staci Akselrod
Emily Feder
Adam Reisberg
Rachel Brustein
Lily Gordon-Koven
Rebecca Katz
Talia Stein
Annie Greene
Simon Swartzman
Matthew Ginsberg-Jaeckle
Martin Ritter, CTU
Francine Greenberg-Reizen
Yasmin Salmi
Michael Klonsky
David, CPS
Diane Horwitz, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education
Katherine Kampf, Respect Children's Rights
Robin Koloms
Sara Abelson
Tammie Vinson, CTU
Miriam Socoloff
Michael Presser
Sylvia Margolin, KAM Isaiah Israel
Bill Dolnick
Carol Goldbaum, Congregation Or Chadash
Paula Baronn
Don Rose, Don Rose Communications
Marlene Slavitt, CTU Retiree Delegate
Abby Rosenstein
Pauline Lipman
Dan Newman
Rico Gutstein, Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago)
Myron Perlman
Sherrie Tillmon
Arlene Gloria Hirsch, CTU
Steve Bild
Sandra Cruz
Craig Seip
Liane Casten, CAPOW--Citizens Act to Protect Our Water
Leo Gorenstein
Victoria M. Jackson, CPS
Tina and Joab Oberlander, Am Yisrael Congregation
Phillip Cantor, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Frank Rawland
Summer Hale
Kate S Goldstein, Americorps Alum
Elena Solomon

Note: Organizations listed after names are for the purposes of identification only.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Last night at Weegees

CTU Prez Karen Lewis called on the Mayor to raise taxes on the wealthiest Chicagoans rather than closing schools.
As advertised, we had lots of fun and raised some dough for the CORE Caucus of the CTU. Speeches were short and sweet. Lots of love and community building over good food and drink(s).

DNAInfo was there. Writes reporter Victoria Johnson:
Michael Harn, 45, a truck driver who came to show his support, said he thought Lewis and CORE have done a great job over the last three years, and wants to see them come back. "They ran the most successful strike in 100 years," he said, adding that failing to re-elect Lewis would be like "the Cubs winning the World Series and not bringing the managers back."


Our CReATE group has come out with another report exposing the continuing CPS disinformation campaign around school closings. This one shows that impact of the closings on the lives of students has been underestimated in media statements from the Board by more than 50%.

UIC researchers Josh Radinsky and Federico Waitoller prepared the report which further details the devastating effects of the proposed school closings in terms of student relocation and faculty dismissal. They show that CPS statements on this matter greatly underestimate the scale of the impact. One of the stunning facts this report reveals is that the number of African American elementary students to be impacted by these actions (34,946, elementary only, not counting the 8 high schools) represents over 27% of all African American children between the ages of 5 and 14 living in the City of Chicago.

The report on the Impact of Proposed School Closings is available at http://tinyurl.com/d86lzdx

A Sun-Times editorial nitpicks the report while at the same time, using it to demonstrate the lack of transparency of the part of the Mayor and his hand-picked Board.
Federico R. Waitoller and Josh Radinsky, professors at UIC, simply added up the students in the 133 schools affected by a shake-up. They also found nearly 7,200 impacted special education students, many of whom struggle mightily with transitions...The professors used slightly outdated numbers from 2011-12, and enrollment has dropped by about 2,000 since then. CPS argues that the impact on students will be less with turnarounds and co-locations. Maybe so, but any school shake-up, well, shakes up a school community.
I assume "shake up" here is intended as a euphemism for destabilize, blight, isolate, rob of resources...

But the main take-away from the research, however you want to play with the numbers, is that Rahm, Byrd-Bennett, and CPS Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll, aren't being straight with the community. If the school closings are such a great idea, if they are truly going to liberate poor and African-American students, "trapped in inferior schools," then why the steady flow of  lies and disinformation?

The question answers itself.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

See you tonight at Weegee's Lounge

Come join us at Weegee's Lounge in Logan Square tonight where a group of us are hosting the social event of the season:

Conversation & Cocktails with with the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

The event is all about supporting the CORE Caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union as they launch their re-election campaign to keep the teachers union on the right track. Let's raise some dough and raise the roof at Weegee's, 5:30 to 8 p.m., 3659 W. Armitage. Ticket available at the door. $30 to $50.

If you are still ambulatory after tonight's gig, be sure and come to CORE's election campaign kick-off on Sunday, 11 a.m. -2 p.m. at the Haymarket Pub & Brewery, 737 W. Randolph St.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thanks for listening, Carlos. But here's how you know the decisions have already been made.

Azcoitia just "listening"?
CPS board member, Carlos Azcoitia showed up at Amundsen High School, host to back-to-back community meetings for Graeme Stewart and Joseph Stockton elementary schools. Both are on BBB's chopping block. Carlos said he was there to "listen" and knowing him, I believe that is true. But Carlos was also running the party line on people who have heard it too many times.

He admits that "some disruption is going to occur when you close a school."
"But we're going to do it with educational enhancements, better facilities, and having safe passage for students," he said.
Well at least he didn't say the board was liberating students "trapped in bad schools." He must have missed the last meeting with Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll. But Carlos knows as well as I do that these hearings are meaningless at this point. Rahm even said as much.  But the real way you know that nobody, including Carlos, is really listening is by following the money. 

It all spilled out Tuesday in the meeting of the Public Building Commission (PBC) where veteran community activist Ed Gardner was pressing for more contracts for black contractors. The PBC had just  approved the Mayor's plan to funnel through the commission, $220 million in school construction projects that must be completed by fall. The Chicago Public Schools has set aside $155 million for an array of enticing physical and educational improvements at 55 schools designated to receive students. Credit Gardner with also raising the issue of blight if closed schools are simply boarded up and left vacant.

The capital plan also includes: $48 million for “co-locations,” $9 million for turn-around schools, $14 million to expand International Baccalaureate programs and $11.2 million to install modular classrooms to ready seven elementary schools to provide full-day kindergarten.

30% of the contracts were set aside for minority contractors but Gardner wants 50% since pretty much all the schools being renovated are in the black community.

I ask you Carlos, does that sound like the school-closing plan is still up for discussion. That's not listening. That's pacifying.

I hear there was an election yesterday. Who knew?

“We not only won an election,” Ms. Kelly, 56, said in her victory speech. “We took on the N.R.A., we gave a voice to the voiceless, and we put our communities on a brand new path to a brighter day.” -- New York Times
Congrats, I guess, to Robin Kelly on yesterday's 74% to 19% election win over Republican, whatshisname (a convicted felon who who served prison time for robbery and other charges). I don't know about giving voice to the voiceless, but I'm glad to see an African-American woman in Congress where she will become the least senior member of a House dominated by a gaggle of racist, male, Tea Party Republicans. She's only the second black female House member to come from Illinois. She replaces (convicted felon) Jesse Jackson, Jr. , the third congress person in the district to leave "under an ethical cloud" as they say.

A mainstream Democrat, Kelly campaigned heavily on  gun-control and was joined at her victory party by Nathaniel Pendleton and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old King H.S. student killed by gun violence on Chicago's south side.

Kelly had won the primary with $2.2 million in SuperPAC money coming from New York's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She obviously didn't need to spend too much on yesterday's race and it showed. Only 8% of city voters showed up at the polls. A friend joked yesterday that Kelly will use the war chest when she runs for senator from N.Y. She has as much chance getting real gun-control legislation passed is the House as... you add the rest. Hopefully, that won't stop her from speaking out loudly on the issue.

I have no idea on where Kelly stands on education issues. I don't think any else does either. Her district is being hit hard by school closings and privatization. But I'm assuming she will go along to get along with the rest of the Dems in support of Race To The Top and corporate-style school "reform". I can't say for sure since she has no voting record and never mentioned the issue during her campaign. And it doesn't really matter that much since there's as much chance of getting an education bill passed as... you add the rest.

The only other vote of note yesterday was in the suburb of Addison in heavily white, Republican DuPage County, where a referendum on shifting school pension costs to the township was defeated 83.6% to 16.4%.  Shifting pension costs to local districts rather than taxing the corporations,  has been a favorite theme of Republican and Democrat pension bombers down in Springfield. But it obviously isn't playing well in local districts.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Newark students walking out today

Valerie Strauss at The Answer Sheet:
Three years ago, thousands of Newark students chanting “Save Our Schools” walked out of class and marched down city streets to protest budget cuts by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie. Another student demonstration is set for today, this time to protest more budget cuts and the closing of public schools.

Sun-Times takes a tour of 'underutilized' school. Guess what they find?

“Our guarantee is that no child will go to a school that is lesser performing than the school that they’re in,” Byrd-Bennett explains, adding that for many years students have been “trapped in under-utilized and under-resourced schools.” 
The S-T editorial board goes from classroom to classroom at supposedly "half-empty" Garvey Elementary and finds every one of them in use.
 In fact, during a visit on Monday to the school, where colorful and neatly displayed student projects and artwork line bright yellow walls, we didn’t see a single room going unused. Garvey has air-conditioned classrooms, a well-stocked library, a garden, an art room, a computer lab, several small science labs and the kind of discipline and order in the classroom and hallway that tell a visitor this school has its act together. 
“They’re taking kids from a calm, family environment and putting them in a stressed one,” says Garvey parent, Krista Thomas. “This is not a wasteland.” (Kate N. Grossman photo) 
None of that seems to matter to Rahm's hand-picked school board which has been given its marching orders to vote in May, to close Garvey and send its students to ill-equipped and lower-performing Mt. Vernon, several blocks away.

The party line, shaped carefully in the office of CPS Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll, is that students are "trapped" in small, "failing" neighborhood schools and that consolidation will "liberate" them. Rahm uses that "trapped" line in every speech. BBB faithfully repeats it. As does board-member Andrea Zopp as she grasps at straws trying to deal with the research presented by CReATE's Stephanie Farmer on Channel 7's Newsviews.

 But listen to what the touring S-T editorial board members have to say:
On our visit, children sure didn’t look “trapped,” as the mayor and the schools chief like to say about students in under-enrolled schools. We didn’t see much flab, either. On a tour of the small building with a parent — the principal wasn’t involved — we saw an intimate school making good use of its space. Parents at many other schools, including Trumbull and Courtenay, also are making good cases for their schools.
The descriptors here, small and intimate, rather than underutilized, are telling. This is the language of the early (pre-charter) small schools movement which identified intimacy (knowing kids well), and personalization,  as keys to successful learning experiences and saw schools as learning communities, rather than brick and mortar.

All this makes you wonder how much of underutilization is a myth and how much is real? What's really behind Rahm's closing of 54 schools, nearly all in the black community? Is Rahm presiding over the continued whitenizing of Chicago? More to come on this.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Is Thatcher's ghost haunting the White House?

Margaret Thatcher with her pal PW Botha in 1984. Botha was first leader of the Apartheid regime accorded the privilege of a state visit to UK since 1961, a diplomatic coup for the white supremacist regime in South Africa. via @Tobias Agricoltore
I know that diplomacy dictates that when a former head of state passes on, our president has to pay his respects and not say anything critical. But today's statement by Pres. Obama on the death of Margaret Thatcher went way beyond the diplomatic call. It was instead, a paean to racism and imperialism.
With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend...And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise.
Thatcher and  fascist Gen. Pinochet
Yuck! Baroness Thatcher of course, was no "great champion of freedom," especially when it came to the 20 million black South Africans suffering under apartheid or to the thousands of British coal miners and their families.
Thatcher became synonymous with austerity economics as a close ally of President Ronald Reagan. She famously declared to critics of neoliberal capitalism that "there is no alternative." Her long-running battle with striking British miners dealt a major blow to the union movement in Britain and ushered in a wave of privatizations. On foreign policy, Thatcher presided over the Falklands War with Argentina, provided critical support to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and famously labeled Nelson Mandela a "terrorist" while backing South Africa’s apartheid regime. -- Democracy Now!
Could it be Thatcher's spirit that is now haunting the White House as Obama moves to cut Social Security benefits and Medicare and attack the living standards of this country's most vulnerable?


Just in case BBB's hearing problems are ongoing, this weekend's Quotables are all from Lauren Fitzpatrick's excellent reporting on the school-closing hearings in Chicago. 

Alida Diaz, a bilingual teacher at King Elementary School shares her concerns about school closings at the first Chicago Public School hearings for the school, April 6, 2013 at Whitney Young High School. King Elementary School with close into Jensen Elementary. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times
Nikkitoya Roberts one of the mothers who said her special-needs son is better since he got into Buckingham. 
“He’s more acclimated there than he’s been anywhere,” she said. “Those kids are going to have to start all over.” 
Jocelyn Alvarez, a King 6th-grader
“The walk to Jensen school is dangerous and scary."
Dwayne Truss of the Austin Community Action Council, boycotting the hearings. 
“Why show up?” 

Keyanna Gunnell
Keyanna Gunnell, a 13-year-old 7th-grader whose testimony about friends not having transportation to the new, more distant school, led her to tears. Her crying cost her another minute. The hearing leaders were firm: Two minutes a speaker. Afterward, a calmer Gunnell was angry. She had a paragraph left and no one else was waiting to speak, she said.
“It wasn’t fair.” 

CPS Liar-in-Chief, Becky Carroll 
"The hearings went off without problems"

Friday, April 5, 2013

Talk on the street

Congressmen Danny Davis and Bobby Rush lead walking tour to dramatize the daily trip students will have to make to their receiving school. Safety is a major concern of parents around the proposed closings. 

A cabbie who works 125 Clark St. tells me that in addition to the latest round of closures, CPS plans to open 14 new high schools next year, of which 12 will be charters.  One is actually called "Social Justice" (not to be confused with the real  Greater Lawndale High School for Social Justice on 31st and Kostner).  The other two schools are an IB school  and a school for the medical professions.

Cabbie's comment: "The madness has yet a new tentacle."


EdWeek blogger Marilyn Rhames is not a mathematician. But she can add. And when she does, the number behind Chicago school closings (and openings) just don't add up.
So I'm left to wonder, What does CPS really have up its sleeve? The district is obviously not being transparent about how it plans to attack its deep debt problem. We know what its five-month plan is—closing 54 schools, co-locating 11 others, turning around six. But we also know that the closures would do nothing to fix the district's immediate money mess.
“The wider repercussions of the Atlanta case are very troubling,” says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “The problem is that any school systems that have accomplished great turnarounds of schools are going to become suspect, and people will assume that there must have been some cheating involved.” -- EdWeek 
EdWeek'S Leslie Maxwell writes:
The Atlanta scandal, along with allegations of cheating on standardized tests in other school systems, such as the District of Columbia and Philadelphia, have helped fuel a backlash against standardized testing and the high-stakes sanctions and rewards attached to the results.
Yes, and well it should, so long as we keep looking at standardized test scores as the only, or even the main measure of school or district success. That's not to say that we can't make great improvements in schools and measure those gains using authentic assessments and evaluation techniques. But real, long-lasting turnarounds can only come with major and coordinated efforts to improve the living conditions of children and families, outside of school. Until then, poverty will continue to be the main thing that test scores are measuring.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Schools CEO Byrd-Bennett has a hearing problem. After 20,000 people turned up at neighborhood community meetings to voice their anger over proposed school closings, BBB heard it this way.
"Everybody got it that we really needed to close schools..."
Then when one parent after another got up at Tuesday's press conference voicing concerns about their children's safety, passing through dangerous neighborhoods to get to their receiving school, BBB responded by saying she no time for adults who use the "excuse of gangs to keep children trapped in failing schools."

When civil rights advocates insisted that school closing policies targeting black neighborhood schools violated equal protection and were a sign of institutional racism, BBB heard it as an attack on her own civil rights bona fides and responded this way:
"But what I cannot understand and will not accept is that the proposals are racist" ["They are!" voices call out]. She went on to say, charges of racism "insult her as a woman of color." 
The CEO is obviously hard of hearing, especially when it comes to listening to voices from the community.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bob Howard

I'm saddened by news of the death of Bob Howard, great civil rights attorney and leader in the fight for public school desegregation. My condolences to Sarah, David and the whole family. Bob will be missed.

From this morning's Sun-Times:
Attorney Robert Howard was called one of “the lawyers who reformed Chicago.” Mr. Howard used the law to fight police spying, help desegregate schools, and empower African-American police officers. He also campaigned for the election of two African-American “firsts”: Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and President Barack Obama.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

At City Hall this morning [Updated]

The press conference was a great success. One after another, parents from RYH and Blocks Together, came forward and gave compelling personal accounts of the harmful affects of Rahm's school closings. Then  Federico Waitoller and Stephanie Farmer from CReATE exposed the lack of any educational research base behind the closings.

Federico Waitoller and Stephanie Farmer from CReATE (Mike Klonsky photos)
I'm heading down to City Hall this morning for a 9:30 press conference outside the mayor's office. Wendy Katten from the Raise Your Hand Coalition and representatives from the research group CReATE will be releasing their latest reports on Chicago's mass school closings and urging Rahm's hand-picked Board of Education to back off the closings.

They and the mayor would do well to listen. But it's not likely. Rahm has made it clear that he's done negotiating (when did he ever begin?) and that he plans to march straight ahead with his ill-conceived, dangerous, and poorly researched plan.

The real impact of the closings has been greatly underestimated. The media continues to use 30,000 as the number of students likely to be affected by the closing of 54 CPS schools. But if you count the students at the so-called welcoming schools, who will face severe overcrowding, bigger class sizes and potential safety risks, that number could nearly double.

Among those most severely affected will be thousands of special education students and their families. The closings are likely to batter their IEPs in violation of federal law, and disrupt ties to in-place programs and relationships. Look for federal suits to start flowing in May.

I imagine even more suits being filed around the violation of civil rights and equal protection since the closing plan, the largest ever in the nation's history, targets schools in the black community almost exclusively. The prospect of more boarded-up school buildings, loss of jobs and more neighborhood blight while Rahm's so-called Infrastructure Trust funnels millions more public and private investment dollars into downtown and lakefront projects, is the stuff of which rebellions are made.

It has become near impossible to raise issues of racial discrimination in the public discourse. Those, like CTU leader Karen Lewis, who dare to mention the R word, have been branded by dutiful local columnists like Zorn, Mitchell, and Washington,  and editorial boards, as "bomb throwers" and "conspiracy theorists."  

NPR reports that the U.S. Department of Education is already looking into whether recent school closures in Detroit and other cities have disproportionately hurt black and Latino students. Let's see what these supposedly liberal columnists have to say when the civil rights suits hit the federal courts.

I'm thinking, maybe we should revert to double-speak and drop any mention of race or racism. Education writer Sam Chaltain refers to "the wrenching, culturally complex decision to close 54 public schools in Chicago."

Yes, culturally complex. That's what I meant to say.