Friday, May 31, 2013

Pension thieves fall out once again. SB1 bombs in the Senate

Angry Boss Madigan stomped out of the Capitol after his SB1 pension bill blew up.  Points finger at Cullerton. 
If you're a retired teacher, living on fixed income, or struggling to make your health care payments, you can breathe a little easier -- at least for a few months. Boss Madigan's unconstitutional pension-busting bill, SB1, bombed in the Senate once again. It fell short by a 16-42 vote, despite an alliance between Madigan and the Republicans who came around after first complaining that the bill didn't go far enough.  Thank you, all those who called their senators and put the heat on.

Madigan and Gov. Quinn are blaming Sen. Cullerton for his supposed "lack of leadership." Cullerton had his own "not-as-bad" pension busting bill, SB 2404, which unbelievably has the support of conciliatory NEA and AFT union leaders, waiting in the wings.

I think there's an unwritten law somewhere that thieves will fall out. The only difference here is that the falling out usually occurs after the robbery. But rest assured, they will be back to try again.


Budget Secretary Charles Zogby is urging lawmakers to disregard arguments from public sector unions and left-leaning groups, who have called the governor's proposals unconstitutional and say it will cost the state more to shift employees into a new kind of retirement plan.


Congrats to the young (at least to me) activists at Chicago Votes who did the heavy lifting leading to passage yesterday of a bill to enact online voter registration throughout the state.  Go to their website and send them a check.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where's the outrage over Kirk's 'jail-'em-all' plan?

Sens. Durbin & Kirk proposing the jailing of 18,000 more black men. (Sun-Times) 
Thanks to Congressman Bobby Rush for using plain talk to discredit Sen. Mark Kirk's latest plan to imprison 18,000 more young black men in Chicago. Rush called it "Kirk’s ‘white boy’ gang plan."  As usual, the Sun-Times comments section is filled with racist remarks and obscenities aimed at our heroic congressman. No one, it seems, is outraged over the Kirk plan.

I call the plan racist, bordering on genocidal. Aside from Bobby, there's been a deafening silence from local pols and from the Obama administration or from the media, in response to this "bipartisan" jail-em-all plan. Well, then again, there is Tribune's Eric Zorn:
"This idea doesn't seem, um, fully formed to me. "
On Wednesday, Republican Kirk and his liberal senator sidekick, Democrat Dick Durbin, approached Zachary Fardon, the nominee for U.S. Attorney in Chicago, and urged Fardon to begin rounding up every member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. Kirk wants the Senate Appropriations Committee to give him $30 million “to go after gangs like the GDs . . . and pick the biggest and baddest for a federal effort.”

From his language, you can tell that North Shore suburbanite Kirk is really a street guy, the biggest and baddest dude in the 10th Congressional District, who has a real handle on solving the gang problem. That plus his award-winning role as a Naval Intelligence Officer... Oh wait, he lied about that. Never mind.
Rush lit into the Kirk-Durbin plan, calling it  “ a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach.” If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for “job creation and job training,” to address the gang problem, Rush said. Rush said an arrest sweep “is not going to work. . . . It is not a law and order, lock ‘em up solution.”
Thank you, Bobby.

Incoming arrestees arrive at the incoming area of Cook County Jail on Wednesday. The jail is at a current 98 percent of maximum capacity. Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Where do Kirk and Durbin plan to put the 18,000 alleged gang members? Cook County Jail is already stuffed to overflowing, mainly with young black and Latino men. The court system is so backed up, some prisoners have been held for up to 10 years without  trial. Chicago's Guantanamo?

I've got it. Maybe they can use the 50 schools Rahm is closing this fall to accommodate the ever expanding prison population. With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25% of the world’s prison population – that makes us the world’s largest jailer. We incarcerate young African American men at a rate of 1 in 9 – higher than any other group of Americans.

See Michelle Alexander's excellent book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, for the real story behind the Kirk plan.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Graduation rates up in Chicago -- Great, if true

If it's true, I'm elated to hear that graduation rates have improved in Chicago. It's a tribute to the hard-working CPS teachers, principals and parents, who are currently being debased by the administration and in the media. It also indicates that public schools are not "failing" after all.
Chicago Public Schools announced Saturday that more than 60 percent of their 2007-2008 freshmen graduated last year, calling it a history-making record.  The current administration has only been in place for a year and therefore can take no credit for the increase in graduation rates. -- Catalyst
My problem with the numbers I see is that there's no analysis attached. I worry, for example, that the improvements may also reflect the changing demographics of the city. Here I'm thinking of how some school reformers cheered when test scores rose in New Orleans after thousands of poor and black students left the system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. You remember Katrina, don't you Arne Duncan?

What I would like to see is a school-by-school breakout of these numbers as well as some analysis of the widening or narrowing gap between white, Latino and black students.  I also want to follow the trail over the next few years to see what impact the longer school day and  mass school closings have on graduation rates and measurable learning outcomes.

Actually, closing schools and support services in already under-resourced black communities may produce a rise in test scores and a lowering of dropout rates as thousands of poor families are driven out of the city and replaced by middle class and professional families whose kids will attend selective enrollment or charter schools.

It looks like that's the strategy. Doesn't it.

A few other things...

1. No BBB, we will not "put this all behind us."
2. BTW, that guy with the badge in the waiting room is about to serve you with yet another suit filed by the CTU against the school closings. Looks like a long, hot summer ahead.
3.  Please tell your Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll to start humming a different tune. Nobody's buying her one-note mantra that the “union leadership remains committed to a status quo." It just gets old and stale. 

Finally got the news how my dues are being used

I'm a life-long union guy and always will be. It's in my DNA. I'm also a dues-paying member of AFSCME (Retirees)  the union I have counted on over the years to fight to protect my state university pension. 

Yesterday, I received an email from Chapter 31 President Virginia Yates and Henry Bayer, the Executive Director of AFSCME Council 31, both asking me to contact my State Representative to urge him to support the latest pension-bombing bill, SB 2404. The reason? They tell me that Sen. Cullerton's SB 2404 is a "much more reasonable approach" than Speaker Madigan's SB1 bill. Since neither pension bombing bill sounds "reasonable" to me, I wrote Yates this response:
Dear President Yates, 
If I indeed did call my representative urging him to support SB2404, he would probably think I was nuts on two grounds. First, if he had any sense, he might wonder why in the world would I want the legislature to pass any bill assaulting my meager pension and the health care coverage for me and my family, simply because it "wasn't as bad" as some other pension-busting bill. Second, he might wonder why I'm now asking him  to support a bill that I have been demanding he oppose for the past few months.
Finally, now even my friends and fellow retirees are questioning my sanity for being a member of an organization like AFSCME Chapter 31, which has no other reason for being than to fight for us retirees, and yet is using our dues money to support a bill which is not only unconstitutional, but could end up taking away thousands of dollars in pension payments over the next few years as I am made to choose between my health care and my badly-needed cost-of-living increases.
No, I'm not that crazy. 
Yours truly,
Michael Klonsky, member

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lipstick on a pig. The UNO makeover is complete

New board chair, Cabrera (right) says Rangel (left) will stay on as UNO boss, saying there is “no one more suitable to be CEO.”   John H. White~Sun-Times
“I am here today to apologize. "I have failed." -- Juan Rangel
" Oh that's funny. Oh please stop Juan. Oh, my side hurts from laughing..."  -- Mike Klonsky

In one of the largest and most outlandish school/political swindles of our time, the clout-heavy charter hustlers at UNO have made a few cosmetic changes in order to keep millions in taxpayer dollars flowing into their coffers. Gov. Quinn, Speaker Madigan and Mayor Emanuel are all playing along with the charade.

With investigators snooping around, Quinn had suspended all remaining payments from a $98 million school construction grant after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that $8.5 million of the state funding went to companies owned by two brothers of Miguel d’Escoto, a top UNO executive who resigned his $200,000-a-year post in the wake of the stories.

UNO political boss Juan Rangel, says he is stepping down from the boards that oversee UNO and its charter-school network, which is the biggest in Illinois. But amazingly, he will STAY ON AS CEO.

The Sun-Times reports that UNO's made-over board will be headed by Martin Cabrera Jr., head of a financial services firm that served as underwriter for a $37.5 million UNO bond issue in 2011.
Cabrera is founder and chief executive officer of Cabrera Capital Markets, one of Chicago’s leading Hispanic investment banks and a frequent recipient of pinstripe patronage from city bond issues.
Cabrera said Rangel will stay on in UNO’s top job, saying there is “no one more suitable to be CEO.”
Rangel has also been forced to step down from the board of the Public Building Commission of Chicago, which oversees construction of public schools, police and fire stations and other public buildings. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Rangel to the PBC board soon after being elected mayor in 2011. Rangel served as co-chairman of his mayoral election campaign.

To turn the money spigot back on, UNO is turning to "a little-known not-for-profit group", called IFF, which “will oversee the completion of the construction of the new UNO Soccer Academy Charter High School” and “will have the sole discretion to approve any and all contractors, subcontractors or material providers performing work relating to the project.”

Just reading the S-T article made me feel so dirty, I had to wash my hands. Yuck!

Picnic in the park

Sadly, I missed yesterday's school-closing protest picnic in Millennium Park. Despite the rain, it looked like great fun. I was still recovering from 70th birthday celebrations. Old rocking chair's got me.

ABC News also picked it up.

Chicago Grid has an interview this morning with CFL Pres. Jorge Ramirez who says that so-called pension reform is keeping him up at night. I hope so.

Says Ramirez,
“There’s going to be critics of what’s been put out there…. There’s a great likelihood that there will be lawsuits. But our mission is clear. How we got here is clear. Workers were the only ones that never missed a payment and did everything they were ever asked to do. It’s very simple for us. We’re supposed to fight to maintain those pensions.”
Let's hope he and the union leadership take themselves seriously and mean it. Their support for Cullerton's pension-busting bill SB2404 says they don't. There's less than a week left to go in Illinois' spring legislative session and it's once again doubtful that anything significant will happen.

According to a Reuters report:
The Illinois legislature, which over decades has built up a $100 billion unfunded pension liability, now is a study in gridlock. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each are pushing competing versions of a fix and each refuses to take action on the other lawmaker's bill.
A fight among thieves.

Asean Johnson
I love it that 9-year-old Asean Johnson is still all over the national news since delivering his stem-winder speech at last weeks protest rally. The 4th-grade student at Marcus Garvey Elementary has become a symbol of the new civil rights movement against the mass school closings in Chicago's black community.

I'm still amazed over NEA Prez Van Roekel's  comments about Rahm's school closings plan. VR compares the Mayor's so-called "safe passage" plan for kids moving to their new receiving schools, to the dangerous path "Palestinians have to travel from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip." I think it's a pretty apt analogy. But will the union bureaucracy really allow that kind of talk while they are bending over frontward and backward to keep their seat at the table?

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 27, 2013


 "I believe this was when I was telling the press I was embarrassed as a Jewish woman to have a Jewish mayor experimenting on black children after listening to a bunch of board members say that black parents don't know how to raise their children." -- Wendy Katten, RYH
Oklahoma teacher, Jennifer Simonds
"The children were asking why a train was coming through the school.The next thing we knew, the entire roof of the building was torn off and we were being pelted with all this stuff. I laid myself over my students to protect them, and I remember praying that God be with us and keep us safe, and asking please — let it be me who dies if something happens — and not any of the kids.” -- Sun-Times
NEA Pres. Dennis Van Roekel
What is a "safe passage route"? Google the term and you'll find essentially two definitions: It either refers to the designated routes Palestinians may use to travel from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, or it refers to special routes created by the city of Chicago so children can more safely navigate through gang territory to get to their new schools. -- Huffington Post
CTU V.P. Jesse Sharkey
“We must derive truth from facts here, so … we need the Board of Education to commit that you will not lose any students, that is to say, you should be able to account in one year’s time for where every student went. We need you to commit that you will own up to the declines in academic progress that will happen.” -- Sun-Times
Jitu Brown of KOCO
“There’s a legislative strategy and a street strategy. We are organizing in our communities to stand up for our children, to stand against disinvestment — which is what this is.” -- Curtis Black, Newstips
 Erica Clark, Parents For Teachers
“I don’t think anybody thinks this is the end.” -- Curtis Black, Newstips
 Anthony Cody
A few months back, Chicagoans discovered the Broad Foundation actually had published a detailed guide explaining how to go about closing schools in your community. -- EdWeek

Friday, May 24, 2013

'I thought these days were behind us' -- Rev. Tyson

From North Carolina to the streets of Chicago -- they are not behind us

They Canceled Class Today — All The Teachers Got Arrested While Protesting For Voting Rights

From the Sun-Times:
A group of parents — backed by the Chicago Teachers Union — wants Judge John Z. Lee to delay the closures for a year while they carry on their fight in court. They say in two class-action lawsuits that black and disabled students will be unfairly affected by the closures.
Lee on Thursday declined the parents’ request to issue a preliminary injunction against the closures before the school year ends, but he said he’d hear evidence at a hearing starting July 16.
During heated exchanges with lawyers for the Board of Education and the City of Chicago, parents’ attorney Thomas Geoghegan warned there would be “a bloodletting of special-educational needs students over the summer.”
BTW --- Judge Lee is an Obama appointee and a former associate with Mayer Brown. That's the Chicago (global) powerhouse law firm that handled Rahm's residency case when he was running for mayor.

At the time Obama appointed him, Judge Lee was a partner  at the law firm of Freeborn & Peters. Peter Mason, the founding member of Freeborn & Peters is one of  Bruce Rauner's top advisers as Rauner prepares to run for governor of Illinois. Republican billionaire Rauner, as you may know, had Arne Duncan clout his own kid into the exclusive Walter Payton  high school. Rauner, a close friend and big campaign donor of Rahm,  is Chairman of the Education Committee of the Civic Committee and is an active proponent of privately-run charter schools and a hater of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Good luck on that lawsuit, my friends.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Trumbull Local Schools Council member Ali Burke hugs Wendy Kattan of Raise Your Hand following the board of education's vote to close 50 Chicago Public School, May 22, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times
Sun-Times headline
In less time than it takes to boil an egg -- This morning
Columnist Mark Brown
In the end, the board was so tone deaf to its audience that on the crucial vote that closed most of the schools, they used the parliamentary maneuver of adopting the previous favorable roll call — instead of taking the extra 30 seconds to each say “yes” once more. The average person in attendance didn’t even know the closings had been approved until it was over. -- "CPS closings vote shows it’s time for an elected school board"

Whitney Young students hold vigil. (Sun-Times)
Prof. Mark Naison
One key component of this strategy is demographic inversion- moving the poor out of the center city into the periphery, where they will no longer be able to physically or politically threaten the global elites who will be working and playing in the redeveloped Center. This process is already well under way in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington and Milwaukee- with the result being that more poor people now live in suburbs than in cities...
 ... "Erasing History In Chicago and Other Places"
Prof. Federico Waitoller, Dept. of Special Ed, UIC 
This combination of factors will make school closings doubly hard for students of color with special needs. The sheer magnitude and speed of these changes will be especially painful for what is already the school district’s most vulnerable population. -- Letter to Tribune
Sports writer Dave Zirin
 It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. -- The Nation

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CPS Board Disgrace

Erica Clark is removed from the CPS board meeting after going over on her designated 2:00 minutes and sitting on the ground during the board of education meeting at Chicago Public School headquarters May 22, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times
“I’m worried all those hearings were a charade,” -- Ald  Fioretti (2nd).

Surprised? No. Outraged at the board's vote to close 50 elementary schools, nearly all in the African-American community? Yes. Rahm's 6 hand-picked toadies did exactly what he told them to do and  each earned a pat on the head.

As for Byrd-Bennett:
In the middle of Byrd-Bennett’s presentation, a woman walked out, saying “I’m sorry. I can’t take the lies no more.” She was followed by other protesters who yelled “This is a farce,” and “Children will die because CPS lies.” Byrd-Bennett paused to allow the hecklers to be escorted out, and then she continued as if nothing had happened. -- Sun-Times
Shannon Bennett
 Shannon Bennett, deputy executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, called the board’s vote “illegitimate,” and board members grew upset that KOCO members were speaking out of order. Bennett’s microphone was turned off as she said “You need to hear about this!” Security then removed protesters singing “We shall not be moved.”

This morning's protests were loud and militant. Demonstrators packed Clark Street's lobby. The line to get into the board meeting stretched all the way down the hall to the end of the building. Groups of protesters blocked traffic, moving from corner to corner to evade arrest after the police put out a "May Day" call.

Flash Mob?
Chilling is the only way to describe a comment from this officer who warned an NLG lawyer that, "we have to balance 1st Amendment rights with the law against flash mobs." He was referring of course, to the new law signed by Gov. Quinn, supposedly targeting rowdy black teenagers in the Loop, which makes organizing an "illegal" gathering that much more illegal, with stiff prison sentences, if the gathering is organized using social media. Will the inevitable protests and acts of civil disobedience leading up to the school closings be considered flash mobs?

This is what democracy, Chicago-style, looks like.

Divide and rule is a dangerous game

"Not without a fight..." -- 9-year-old Asean Johnson

t's a desperate, dangerous games that Rahm and Byrd-Bennett are playing. As today's vote approaches the Mayor's people and CPS "insiders" are having a ball, leaking inside information to from "unnamed sources" about which schools will be closed and which will stay open in the fall.

Last night it was Elizabeth Brackett on Chicago Tonight telling us that, "my sources" say that about 10 schools will be dropped from Byrd-Bennett's death list.

This morning's Sun-Times repeats last minute droppings from "a source familiar with the deliberations" (read liar-in-chief Becky Carroll) that BBB will spare only four -- Marcus Garvey Elementary School and Mahalia Jackson Elementary School on the South Side; Leif Ericson Elementary Scholastic Academy on the West Side, and George Manierre Elementary School on the Near North Side.

The rest of the schools will have their lives and possibly the lives of their endangered students decided by a series of votes taken by Rahm's hand-picked board, David Vitale, Jesse Ruiz, Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines and Carlos Azcoitia. Board members are expected to take a single vote on the group of 30 schools they supposedly all agree on. Where they disagree, they will vote school by school.

The purpose of the leaks is no mystery. In a scene out of Sophie's Choice or Waiting for Superman, parents and students have been thrown into an emotional whirlwind, hoping against hope that their school will be spared or that their child will survive the dangerous walk and return home safely from a receiving school. Whole neighborhoods along with local aldermen are waiting so see if their communities will be further blighted with boarded-up buildings and a rising toll of violent crime.

I'm heading down to Clark Street this morning, along with many others, to protest and bear witness to this crime against the public good. However the vote goes, I know the story doesn't end here. Rahm's cynical divide-and-rule tactics won't derail the growing resistance movement -- new Civil Rights Movement, if you will -- that is growing not only in size, but in scope as well.

Letter to principals

Yesterday, every CPS principal received this letter:
Dear Principal, 
As you may have heard on the news, certain members of the CTU have openly announced their intention to commit acts of civil disobedience in response to announcements about school actions. As shown below, they are actually training their members how do do this. Read the rest here

I hope the training goes beyond just CTU members. The rest of us will need it too over the long hot summer ahead.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The real Civil Rights Movement

Heroics in OK

Hardest thing to watch was the news coming out of OK this morning.  Total devastation of two elementary schools with terrified children, some of whom died. What caught my attention were stories of teachers covering students with their own bodies. At least one gave up her own life doing so. Other acts of selfless humanism by regular people before and after the tornado, people who see and feel disaster for what it is -- not as "an opportunity."

Not news to most of us

Peabody students (Klonsky pic)
Bottom line -- CPS lied. Their friends at the Tribune put it more politely:
"In many cases, the district appears to have selectively highlighted data to stress shortcomings at schools to be closed, while not pointing out what was lacking at the receiving schools."
If mass school closings in Chicago's black community really represent "the civil rights movement of our time",  the real fight against the "status quo" as Rahm and Byrd-Bennett claim, why the cover-up? Why all the lies from the self-proclaimed civil rights leaders? The answer, coming through loud and clear from thousands who marched (for three days through the south and west sides), rallied yesterday at Daley Plaza, and shut down City Hall with civil disobedience arrests, was: "Rahm, Rahm, we're no fools. We won't let you close our schools!"

The people's choice for mayor in 2025, 9-year-old Asean Johnson, fires up the crowd yesterday at Daley Plaza. Now the question is, who's the people's choice to knock Rahm's gang out of office in 2015?. 

Tomorrow, the mayor's six remaining (since Pritzker's departure) hand-picked school board members will be told to vote for the school closings, knowing full well that they are complicit in a plot that has little to do with saving money or improving learning outcomes for our kids. They will vote, knowing how they are being used against the very community they are supposed to serve. Yes, in the face of the size and ferocity of the growing community resistance movement and criticism coming from the media, the black and Progressive Caucus in the City Council, and a panel of retired judges, they may retreat on a few schools. But most likely their practiced obedience to the mayor and the Civic Committee will hold true to form.

What then? A long, hot summer of protest, expensive legal battles leading to injunctions, and resistance by parents, students, the CTU and community-based groups. The real Civil Rights Movement will once again, make its voice heard as it did yesterday.

Monday, May 20, 2013


"Safe passage"? Yale kids will walk  past this abandoned and boarded up building at 73rd & Princeton on way to their "receiving" school.  | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times
Rev. Marshall Hatch, in front of Tilton 
“That was a cartel, right on the side of the school. . . . This is where the folks know how to find them.” -- Sun-Times
Angelense Jones, a third-grade teacher at Overton Elementary
“You’re not taking them to a better school, to a better environment." -- Marchers, led by teachers union, speak out against school closings
Daniel del Pielago, Empower DC
“We are fighting not only to have equal access to neighborhood public schools but to save the fabric of our communities that is threatened by displacement and gentrification, This is as much about who gets to live in DC ten years from now as it is about our schools.” -- WaPo, "Judge declines to block D.C. school closures"
Fran Spielman, Chicago City Hall reporter
 Down was up and up was down as Emanuel joined business and labor leaders at McCormick Place to begin the formidable job of selling the concept of using more than $100 million in public money to bankroll a 10,000-seat arena near McCormick Place. -- Sun-Times
Award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in N.Y.
Creating bell curves of relative educator performance may look like progress and science, but these are measures without meaning, and they do not help schools improve. -- The Answer Sheet

Stomping on Rahm's school closing plan

Was that our mayor last seen trapped in a glass-encased parking meter box and dangled from a crane over the goby-infested waters of Burnham Harbor with hordes of Chicago public school parents threatening to tip the crane? 
  -- Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown

Poor Rahm. He can't even catch a break from his own pals at the Sun-Times. Check it out. Sunday's editorial headline reads: Editorial: The hollow promise of a better school.
Did Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett consider all this before deciding to close Manierre, along with 53 other schools that CPS says are under-enrolled? To be fair, she likely considered much of it, but her team nonetheless concluded that students would be better off at Jenner, and that the savings from closing an underused school justified the decision. The school board votes on all closings Wednesday.

We aren’t buying it. Manierre and Jenner students will be worse off in one school.
Then there's these stark photos depicting the dangerous route that kids from Yale Elementary in Englewood, will have to take to get to their receiving school in one piece.  The photo montage accompanies "SPECIAL REPORT: CPS closings create school danger zone" which includes this, from a Yale parent:
If anything happens to a single child who has to travel farther to get to Harvard, [Yale parent] Carr knows whom she will blame: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Heaven help him if it’s Jaleel.
Turn another page and you find S-T's top news columnists, Carol Marin and Mark Brown busting Rahm's chops on school closings, parking meters, murder rates, you name it.

Another front page Special Report this morning has this headline:
SPECIAL REPORT: If Marconi closes, students will have to walk past drug dealers on way to Tilton
We've watched as the mayor's poll ratings, especially among the city's black and low-income voters has sunk like a stone. But is Rahm quickly losing credibility and falling out of favor with the very rich and powerful forces that put him in in the first place? Is he now vulnerable in the next election? Is he becoming a liability to the Democratic Party nationally in the next election cycle?

You bet. All of the above.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Breaking: Bonaparte's Retreat -- Karen Lewis and CORE Win Big

Friday, May 17th marked another dark day for Emperor Rahm and his patrons. Karen Lewis and her CORE Caucus  have emerged victorious in a landslide victory (80%) over the Rahm/CPS-backed Whatsername Caucus (Sorry but their names still escape me).

Lewis and the CTU have been leading the charge against the mayor's massive school closing plan and have organized a 3-Day March of thousands, starting tomorrow.

The two civil rights suits filed by the union on Wednesday, along with today's revolt by the Council's black aldermen, plus a swift kick in the ass yesterday by Toni Prekwinkle, has a battered Rahm retreating on school closings like the little Napoleon he is. But as the Board vote on the closings draws near, the Sun-Times is reporting that some of the 53 Chicago Public Schools targeted for closing could be dropped from the list before Wednesday.

Remember, it was just a week ago, after a group of Rahm-appointed judges rejected the mass closing plan and named 13 schools they wanted left open, that Rahm nixed the idea and said he would make no compromises or negotiate any further.

But today the City Council’s Black Caucus demanded that the Mayor and his handpicked school board follow the judges' recommendations. To do otherwise, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) claimed, would be to “render the whole proceeding a joke” when Emanuel is the one who set it up.

The funniest S-T quotes come from "unnamed sources" who try and convince reporters Spielman and Fitpatrick that Rahm's backtracking has nothing to do with the Black Caucus revolt or with Preckwinkle. Then there's CPS Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll who "wouldn’t confirm or deny the predictions, calling them rumors. "

I will confirm them.

Rahm's latest catch phrase: 'Balancing equity'

'Some will pay less. Some will not.' That's balance. 
"We balance those equities. Do it in a thoughtful and sensitive way...What comes with the office is, you've got to make the tough decisions that balance a lot of different equities and do what's best for the city and everybody involved...Our early retirees--we're giving them a runway until 2017 as we transition people to the health care exchanges that will offer them the opportunity to buy health care. Some will pay less. Some will not." -- Rahm quoted in today's Sun-Times
Preckwinkle for mayor? Someone's got to run.
 “What was the point of having public hearings? Was it all a charade? If you weren’t going to pay any attention to the outcome of the public hearings or the recommendations of the public hearing officers, why would you bother to waste everyone’s time?”
 “I think he [Rahm] came into office critical of the teachers. If you spend the whole year before you have to negotiate a contract insulting your teachers, I don’t know what you expect. They had a contract that said they were entitled to a raise, and then the Board of Education that he appointed refused to give it to them.” -- Toni Preckwinkle rips Emanuel, says CPS closure plan ‘weakens our public schools’ 
Today's CTU Elections

Today's CTU elections are being watched by teachers and union members across the country. A win by the CORE Caucus gives some hope to those fighting to save and transform a labor movement on the brink. Under the leadership of Karen Lewis, the CTU is pointing the way forward. If you are a CTU member, today is the day to stand up and be counted.

'Tweeting is an art' and Fred is an art teacher

Don't miss Brother Fred's blog post today re: AFT Prez. Weingarten's bungling of the pension battle. After coming out in gushing praise of Cullerton's pension bombing bill, SB2404, she took Fred on in a Tweeting debate. Big mistake. She hadn't done her homework. Brother Fred, of course, had. When Rich Miller at Capital Fax called her on it, she handed it off to her spinner who blamed it all on Twitter.

It seems 140 characters are not enough for Randi to get her story straight. But more than enough to spread manure around.  Or as her handlers put it, "Tweeting is an art." Good thing Fred is an art teacher.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If this is the 'civil rights issue of our time,' who's who?

In this Oct. 15, 1957 file photo, seven of nine black students walk onto the campus of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., with a National Guard officer as an escort as other troops watch. (AP Photo, Fred Kaufman, File)
Education is the civil rights issue of our time. At least that's what the school reformers like to say. The phrase has been repeated so often by the likes of Secretary Duncan, Michelle RheeJoel Klein, and Condeleeza Rice-- that it's become meaningless.

I, for one, have always felt uncomfortable with this claim and especially with those who were making it. There is no one single civil rights issue that defines an era. There are many and they are all intertwined -- poverty, housing, jobs, voting rights, race and gender.

But let's go with it for the moment, especially in light of the closing of more than 50 Chicago schools, nearly all based in the city's predominantly black neighborhoods. Yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union, backed by several of the city's civil rights groups and civil liberties organizations, filed complaints in federal court on behalf of several parents and students. They singled out two groups in particular who face the greatest potential harm — special education and black students.

The lawsuits come as no surprise to the Sun-Times editorial board. Rahm's ready-fire-aim approach has them scared to death that the whole thing is going to explode.
No surprise there. What is surprising is how willingly CPS invited these suits. For months, this page has argued that no school system, much less one with a history of dysfunction like Chicago, can pull off mass closures in such a short amount of time.
 The idea that Rahm and CPS were "inviting the suits" is an interesting one. It's more than likely, especially with a panel of judges already dissing the closing plan, that the court will issue an injunction, thereby keeping the schools open in the fall. The suits will also keep the heat on the board as they move towards a vote on the closings. The court case will also be a motivating force in putting thousands of angry parents, teachers and students in the streets during the long, hot summer months, right up 'til school opens next fall. Mass closings could even be tied up for years in expensive court battles, while the lawyers duke it out.

Why would Rahm's team want this? I'm sure his legal team has pointed out  the likelihood of just such an outcome from his wild strategy. I don't know for sure, but handing it off to the courts does get Rahm off the hook with the Civic Committee,  which has been pressuring him to race ahead with the closings.

What the lawsuits cannot do is get Rahm off the hook with those angry parents, teachers,  and voters, especially in the black community. These are the very people who gave Rahm (and Democrats) his majority in the last election. It's those folks who really do see this as the civil rights issue of this moment in time. And it's not hard for them to understand who the civil rights marchers are in this case, and who's the demagogic politician barring the schoolhouse door, ax handle in hand.

Civil rights suits are "status quo" says Byrd-Bennett

I'm sorry that I bothered to call out Byrd-Bennett in yesterday's post. She took my cue and jumped out of Rahm's doghouse, if only for a brief moment, to defame those behind the civil rights suit.
“We have a shared responsibility to do everything we can to ensure a bright future for every child. And, yet these lawsuits demonstrate that union leadership is committed to a status quo that is failing too many of our kids.”
Status quo? Those demanding civil rights for black students and those with special needs? Yeah, right.

That toddlin' town...

Yesterday at 61st & Cottage Grove
Students 'die-in" to save their schools

Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, an organizer with Southside Together Organizing for Power, and others called the event — in which students blocked traffic in the intersection of 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue — a "die-in." Students wore mock-bloody clothes in an effort to show the effect they believe school closings will have: more violence and death for the young students forced to cross new gang territories.
"The message is that school closings are killing people," Ginsberg-Jaeckle said. "Everyone knows what will happen when these kids start crossing these gang lines."  The students laid down in the intersection, blocking traffic for several minutes before being taken away by police after refusing to leave, witnesses said.  -- DNAInfo Chicago
 High school student Pilar Castro was one of those who was arrested moments after she told fellow demonstrators, “All my great teachers taught me that if you believe in something, you can make change.” -- CBS Chicago
Rahm pushing former top cop Hilliard on New Orleans. Why?
Like their very unpopular move to close 54 Chicago public schools, their war with the Chicago Teacher's Union, their refusal to apologize to the African-American community on behalf of the City for decades of police torture, and their continued funding of Jon Burge's defense, Emanuel and Burke's advocacy for Terry Hillard is yet another galling manifestation of their abiding lack of respect for Chicago's African-American community. -- G. Flint Taylor, Huffington Post
From the Jersey Jazzman
Chicago teachers, I hope you understand how lucky you are to have this woman as your local's president. I hope you understand how many teachers outside of Chicago wish they had a strong labor leader willing to stand up for their rights. I hope you appreciate what Lewis means to the rest of us outside of Chicago. I saw Lewis speak to a group of teachers in New York City, and it was like watching a rock star; she is that beloved, and she is that good.
Do yourself a favor, Chicago: vote Karen Lewis and the CORE slate this Friday.  Read JJ's entire post here. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Byrd-Bennett under wraps? Rahm supports the 'thrust..."

“I support the thrust of what Barbara said. We’re 100 percent hand-in-glove ...
The glove metaphor is an appropriate one. Barbara Byrd-Bennett is under wraps again, like she was a year ago. We've hardly heard a peep from her since her comical and embarrassing comments which followed months of school closing hearings. You may remember, 20,000 Chicagoans spoke in one voice at those hearings---"Fix 'em. Don't close 'em!"

But BBB somehow interpreted that as: ""Everybody got it that we really needed to close schools..."

The buffo pronouncement followed her call to ban the popular award-winning book, Persepolis, from the city's middle grades reading lists.

The last thing we heard from the CEO was that she had this school-closing safety thing under control. That must have done it. Since then, nothing.

I see a short notice in Today's Tribune. Byrd-Bennett is due to come out of hiding on June 18th, 6 p.m. at the Chase Auditorium, 10. S. Dearborn, when she will join Trib editor Bruce Dold for a discussion about, "the performance and the promise of Chicago schools." Doesn't get any more softball than that, I suppose. But, readers are assured there will be time for "audience questions". The only catch is that you will be charged $20 just to get in the door to meet this public servant.

I guess they don't want a bunch of us, can't-afford-a-sawbuck riff-raff coming in and  doing mic-checks.

Yesterday's Tweets

Fred Klonsky toon.
Tweet from Randi Weingarten ‏@rweingarten
The Illinois Senate pension proposal is a good and fair agreement:  #1u 

Reply from Mike Klonsky ‏@mikeklonsky 
It's that much harder to fight cuts to our pensions and health care when @rweingarten is calling them "good" & "fair".. But we will.

Tweet from SmallSchoolsWorkshop‏@Smallschools
@rweingarten How can you call SB 2404 which calls for major cuts in retired teachers' pensions and health care, a "fair solution"?

Tweet from Randi Weingarten‏@rweingarten 
@Smallschools- have you seen the other proposals? This is the agreed upon bill-and I believe retirees were not impacted

Tweet from fklonsky‏
@fklonsky@rweingarten Retirees face a loss of cost of living increases and access to state health care. How do you not know this? 

Tweet from Randi Weingarten‏@rweingarten 
@fklonsky @smallschools -the bill that was negotiated is huge improvement over what others had planned- future retirees have some choices

Tweet from Mike Klonsky‏@mikeklonsky 
@rweingarten @fklonsky "Choices"? You mean between giving up COLA or health benefits? Are those the choices AFT supports? Both bills worse

Tweet from Randi Weingarten‏@rweingarten 
@fklonsky @smallschools - I understand - there's been real support in Ill for the Senate bill- don't let them do what happened in RI..

Tweet from Randi Weingarten @rweingarten 
@fklonsky -fred as u know,Ill pension system in bad shape-everyone doing something to save it-inc 2 year staggered cola holiday 


To be continued...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Plenty of money for another Rahm boondoggle

Former Westinghouse great, Mark Aguirre
I still teach at DePaul. I'm also a Chicago high school basketball coach, basketball junkie, and back in the day I was a huge fan of DePaul basketball.

I used to go regularly to the matchbox neighborhood arena, Alumni Hall, to watch the legendary Ray Meyer coach players he recruited right out of Chicago's Public League, like Westinghouse stars Mark Aguirre, Skip Dillard, Bernard Randolph, King's Teddy Grubbs, and Carver's Teddy Cummings. I watched excitedly as the Chicago city kids led the team to the final four in 1979. I saw city high school all-star games at Alumni Hall where Aguirre would face off against the great Isaiah Thomas from St. Joe's.

DePaul's program abandoned Chicago altogether in 1980, moving its games to suburban Rosemont to a bigger stadium where practically nobody goes. Look on the current DePaul roster and you won't find even one Chicago Public League player. Not a recipe for winning basketball nor for winning support from Chicago's fan base.

Mayor Emanuel claims he has to slash the CPS education budget by closing 54 public schools and nearly all of the city's mental health clinics to save money. But that didn't stop him from cutting a deal with the nation's largest, private Catholic university, to build them a new basketball stadium. Initial cost to the public, $100 million. And that's just capital costs. Arenas, like public schools, cost money to operate and maintain on an annual basis. That's so DePaul can play 18 games a year in its new digs.

Today's Sun-Times quotes Chicago-based sports business consultant Marc Ganis, who says he’s “stunned” by the mayor’s decision.
A basketball arena attached to McCormick Place is financial folly, he said. “Not only is it ridiculous having an 18-event anchor tenant, but it’s an anchor tenant that can barely sell 10,000 seats a game. It’s not like it’s a professional sports team or a well-established college basketball power. It’s neither of those two. That’s why there has to be something else going on. Because on its face, it’s a foolish proposition.”
Something else going on? Yes, you're right, Mr. Ganis. That something is more contracts and millions in public funds flowing to the mayor's friends and cronies. This time it's an even bigger boondoggle than the $86 million deal with UNO's charter school hustlers. Ganis is being too kind. It's not just "foolish." In the face of massive public school closings, nearly all in the city's black community, it's criminal.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Fired Crenshaw teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl

Dana Goldstein
At Crenshaw, a “politically and intellectually challenging” themed school-within-a-school reform was dumped and its leaders dispersed. That’s “discouraging.” -- Joanne Jacobs blog
UNO Lender Steven Levy
“It had to be more than just an appearance” of a conflict, Levy, whose firm bought bonds issued for construction of UNO’s schools, told Rangel during the conference call. “There must have been something else going on for [d’Escoto] to quit a job that was paying him 200K a year.” -- UNO charter-school scandal has Wall Street worried
Rahm Emanuel
"I don't create jobs. I create the environment, the atmosphere and the platform for success in the private sector." -- Emanuel not getting the jobs done?
Paul Vallas
 “Me criticizing standardized testing is like Nixon goes to China.” -- The Answer Sheet
Chicago Principal Rhonda Larkin
"I invested 10 years in my school, and it was my family. It was almost like my child. We were being phased out, but we always had hope we were going to be saved because we were doing such great things. It really hurt." -- Chicago Tribune

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rahm is bombing [Updated]

A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll just out shows nearly 60% of Chicago voters disapprove of Emanuel's school closing policies. Those numbers closely mirror negative feelings about Emanuel's approach to public education, which he has labeled a top priority. The general dissatisfaction was even greater among those with children in public schools — three-fourths disapproved.

In the minds of many Chicagoans, tough-talking Little Emperor Rahm is proving himself to be little more than a windbag and a corporate toady. He's like my old dog Bogart who barked loudly but shat near the house.

His "get-tough" approach with Parking Meters LLC was rejected by the City Council when it was discovered that it would actually add millions more to the hated LLC's bottom line instead of curbing their greedy grab of citizens' dollars . The same with his phony negotiations with the Cub-owning Ricketts' who are the Bain Capital of baseball sports team buyers.

Worse to the voters  is his moving forward with his  massive school-closing debacle, despite overwhelming opposition from the community. In other words, when the the Civic Committee tells Rahm to jump, the self-proclaimed "new sheriff in town" jumps, public opinion be damned.

Throw in the daily reports of neighborhood gun violence, increasing as the weather warms, the great UNO charter scandal, and the neutering of the IG, and the result is, Rahm's poll ratings are sinking like a stone and rapidly eroding his support in the black community. Even the Tribune's Eric Zorn is now talking about the Rahm's vulnerability in the next election. Of course Zorn puts such a negative spin on it (calling possible candidate Karen Lewis "bombastic" -- at least he didn't say "bomb-thrower") readers are left thinking that a closely contested  mayor's race is only possible if the world is on the brink of destruction in 2015.

I'm not so sure. I think Rahm can be had and I'm hearing lots of rumblings from community groups who agree. Will a viable opposition candidate emerge from ongoing meetings? I hope so.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Duncan Demagogy

In the world of ed politics, there are straight shooters and there are those who will say anything, depending on their audience. There's no better example of a straight shooter than Jonathan Kozol, who is being honored tonight by FairTest with the Deborah W. Meier Heroes in Education Award in recognition of his courageous activism. The event will be held at the Multicultural Arts Center, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at 41 Second Street, Cambridge, MA

Duncan at AERA
Then there's Sec. Arne Duncan, who came to AERA last week to try and cover his ass left flank. To listen to him talk, one would think, here's the man leading the fight against the current testing madness. Hilarious and irritating at the same time

I didn't go to San Francisco this year but it sounds like few were taken in by Duncan's anti-test double-talk. He was understandably received with a resounding chorus of boos by hundreds of ed researchers who daily bear witness (about all researchers can do these days) to the destructiveness of Race To The Top and who know better than to take this educational know-nothing at face value.

Arnold Dodge, chairperson of the Department of Educational Leadership and Administration at LIU-Post does a great job of exposing Duncan-style demagogy in yesterday's Huffington Post.

Dodge quotes Duncan:
"Some schools have an almost obsessive culture around testing, and that hurts their most vulnerable learners and narrows the curriculum. It's heartbreaking to hear a child identify himself as 'below basic' or 'I'm a one out of four.' "
Dodge responds:
 This observation sounds more like the Secretary is talking to a clergyman in the confessional booth than to a group of educational researchers who have been studying the destruction of children's self-concept as learners by the very policy that his office developed and promotes.
You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Closing Duncan's Chicago 'Renaissance' Schools

Obama came to Dodge School in 2009 and used the visit to announce Duncan's appointment as Sec. of Education
While Arne Duncan was whisking in the children of the rich and powerful into Chicago's elite, selective-enrollment schools, he was also pushing a system of new start-ups and charters under his Renaissance 2010 program.

But, according to WBEZ's Becky Vevea,  in the most recent round of proposed school closings, CPS is shutting down the very schools Duncan created.
Eleven years ago, on April 10, 2002, Duncan announced he would shut down three elementary schools—Williams, Dodge and Terrell—for chronic low performance. The idea was to start over from scratch in order to create something better.
I still remember Duncan speaking to Dodge parents who were angry over his handing their school over to private turnaround operator AUSL, without any input from the community, and promising them that they would be thrilled with his new Renaissance alternatives.

Writes Vevea:

In 2008, Dodge was where then president-elect Barack Obama announced Duncan as his pick for Secretary of Education.
“He’s shut down failing schools and replaced their entire staffs, even when it was unpopular,” Obama said at the time. “This school right here, Dodge Renaissance Academy, is a perfect example. Since this school was revamped and reopened in 2003, the number of students meeting state standards has more than tripled.”
But fast forward another five years, Dodge and Williams are closing  their doors.

CPS spokeswoman Molly Poppe said there was no one available to speak with WBEZ on the record about the proposals. She said CPS is “focusing on the challenges of today.”

Translation -- We don't need no stinkin' accountability.