Friday, August 30, 2013

It's hot in Austin (Texas, that is)

I'm at Saxet U. 
We're in Austin for a family wedding and to hang out with old friends.

That's the capital of Texas -- not Chicago's west side. Big difference. Check out the demographics. The last time I was here, the population was about 200,000. Now it's close to a million, mostly white, although not for long. Like Chicago, the Mexican population will soon be the largest.  One of the fastest growing American cities.  An economic boom town with lots of corporate HQs here. Very hip. Great music scene. Lots of college students partying tonight to get in shape for tomorrow's first football game of the season with pushover New Mexico St.
Austin, Tx. --
White: 68.3% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 48.7%)
Hispanic or Latino: 35.1% (29.1% Mexican, 0.5% Puerto Rican, 0.4% Cuban, 5.1% Other)
African American: 8.1%
Austin, Chicago's west side --
About 250,000, 87% African-American. High poverty and youth unemployment. Schools being closed, along with health clinics and other community resources. Population shrinking as Chicago under Daley and Rahm push black families out of the inner-city.
One thing common to both Austins is a two-tier school system where test scores are used to sort and track kids as well as teachers. This Austin Chronicle article, "In the name of Ann Richards", gives a graphic example of a top-tier school that "exits" those with lower scores.
"According to the principal, the goal is not to 'exit' students but rather help them become successful students at the school." He added, "There are times, however, where the parent, teachers, and student agree that ARS may not be the best place for them." Mason-Murphy sees it differently: that it was made clear to parents that their daughter was not wanted.
I'll be on Rag Radio this afternoon on KOOP 91.7-FM. We'll also be streaming. It's104 in the shade (if I can find some shade). So we'll head over to Maria's Taco Express, on Lamar, between Walgreen's and Matt's El Rancho, about 5 for something cool. If you're in town, stop by.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

View from right field -- The 'civil rights movement' for school vouchers

Finn (right) and his Fordham team.
As thousands marched in D.C. to commemorate Dr. Kings dream speak=h, Checker Finn and his boys at the right-wing Fordham Institute began spinning their own version of the civil rights movement. Their "dream" is all about the "right" to funnel money away from public schools to private companies and religious groups in the form of vouchers.

In the latest issue of The Flypaper, they bemoan the efforts of the Justice Dept. and  the Southern Poverty Law Center to overturn Louisiana's voucher program which has been found to reinforce school segregation.

Since the Fordham crew have absolutely no civil rights credibility of their own, they defer to a civil rights movement veteran from Alabama, Rev. H.K. Matthews, who has sadly lined up with Bobby Jindal in La. and former Florida schools chief Tony Bennett, to support vouchers.

They call the Justice Dept. move "folly" since it could have major implications for other modes of choice, including charter schools.

You bet.

Mantra of the corporate reformers: 'Teachers Wanted -- No Experience Necessary'

Noel Price teaching a class at YES Prep. Throughout YES Prep’s 13 schools, teachers have an average of two and a half years of experience. (NYT)

From the Times to Edweek, it seems like planted stories abound, hailing the coming of the new prototype teacher. You know, she's the one "most difficult to pick from of the group of students surrounding her", writes Edweek's Alexis Lambrau, about the subject of her photo shoot, Ferrin Bujan, a 24-year old teacher at the Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School.
She often feels like student test scores are all that matter in her district. Yet she has students who rarely show up to class, and their scores still factor against her. This is particularly difficult given that Bujan is up for tenure this year, a process that involves an increasingly rigorous application process. She feels pressure to do well by her principal. “It’s hard. The city wants so much and they give you so little,” she said. 
The Times carries a similar piece about young TFAers, 5-week wonders now filling the ranks of the charter schools. I call them "drive-by" teachers who are expected to to have "short careers by choice".
Tyler Dowdy just started his third year of teaching at YES Prep West, a charter school here. He figures now is a good time to explore his next step, including applying for a supervisory position at the school.
Yes, the goal is get out of the classroom as soon as possible and into a "real job."
Charter leaders say they are able to sustain rapid turnover in teaching staff because they prepare young recruits and coach them as they progress. At YES Prep, new teachers go through two and a half weeks of training over the summer, learning common disciplinary methods and working with curriculum coordinators to plan lessons.
As you might expect, you won't find a preponderance of  these "no experience necessary" prototype teachers in wealthy, white suburban districts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Movement Envy

Protesters rally during "Moral Monday" demonstrations at Halifax Mall near the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., in July. More than 1,000 people have been arrested while protesting against policies being enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
By Susan Klonsky

I admit it. We have a great movement here in Chicago, but still, I'm jealous of Mondays in North Carolina.

Reviving the spirit and moral compass of the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, protest has become the Monday Lifestyle in NC.  People  put their Monday evening rallies on the calendar. “Mon. 5:30 pm:  Sit in, get arrested @ State Capitol.” It’s becoming sort of normal.

For the past 4 months in Raleigh, every Monday  is Moral Monday. Late in the day, as people get off work, they surround the Statehouse with rings of protesters. Mass arrests are scheduled, followed on Thursdays by well-organized press conferences by those arrested.  Every Monday the protests get larger—now exceeding 15,000 in Raleigh, with big rallies throughout the state. The movement is multiracial and has spread well beyond North Carolina’s capital out to the mountainous west of the state, to small towns and tiny hamlets.

Reverend Dr. William Barber 
The leader of this movement is a Disciples of Christ minister, the Reverend Dr. William Barber III.  I had the pleasure of meeting Rev. Barber earlier this week. He is the latest in a bloodline of activist pastors who have fought racial segregation and its ugly siblings, poverty and violence, for generations. Rev. Barber, a giant of an orator, is the state chairman of the North Carolina NAACP. With the NAACP as its nucleus,  the Moral Monday Movement is an expansive coalition embracing an impressive number of organizations in all fields, labor unions, religious congregations, professional societies, and even fraternities and sororities. And they are on a roll.

“We’ve got a strategy. We never expected this thing to take off as it has. But we had to sit down and say, ‘where are we going with this?’” Barber explains. “We started off with one rally, and now we’re at the point of having 13 mass rallies in all 13 Congressional districts across the state. We’ve even had one of the county Republican party chairs renounce his own party,” as the result of the backward legislation the GOP has rammed through the North Carolina Legislature.

The Moral Monday folks have put their heads together and done the math. They’ve cooked up a plan for restoring the rights and hard-won protections that have recently been violated and nullified by the NC
state legislature. The Moral Mondays movement seeks to broaden and deepen the fight-back movement within the electorate. This will require a massive voter registration effort designed to boost the percentages of African American registered voters as well as a shift among a portion of white voters.
More than 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience. 
The plan involves mass participation in voter education and mobilization. Unions and professional societies will play a big part, by having their members trained to register voters (and to deal with the new and exceptionally stringent, obstructive regulations about voter identification). “If each of us does 50 registrations, we can make our goal of 45,000 new voters,” Barber explains. “That’s why we must start now. It’s totally attainable.”

Just as important as registering voters is awakening in the public a sense of moral indignation at what has been done by the legislature.  Basic human rights and Constitutional protections have been undone and the full implications and impact of these violations is beginning to be felt. "We seek to force a deeply moral discourse among the public--in every sector--youth and students, senior citizens, and everyone in between," Rev. Barber explains.

I asked Rev. Barber if he feels they can keep these Monday events going indefinitely. He explained that they are building for a few major events this winter. In particular, in December when the remaining major cutbacks to Medicaid in the state kick in, and again in January, he expects an uptick in mass protest against the attacks upon public education, social and health services, including reproductive rights, and state aid to the poor and unemployed.

Last month, Barber told us, the movement spread to some of the whitest, most heavily Republican parts of the state, where the Tea Party had until recently held sway. Now that people are beginning to experience the effects of budget slashing including removal of protections for teachers and other public employees, the picture is changing. “We were invited to speak up in rural Mitchell County, way up in the mountains,” Barber said, “and we found ourselves at a church way up there, in the evening, packed with several hundred people—an all white crowd—waiting for us.”

It used to be  Klu Klux country up there, and Reverend Barber admits he was somewhat apprehensive about what kind of reception he might receive.  He was greeted by the assembled joining together to sing Blessed be the tie that binds/Our hearts in Christian love.  “They were  fired up for Moral Monday.”

What brought them out, at least in part, Barber observed, was the attacks upon teachers. “They have 17 or 18 percent unemployment up there. And the schools are some of the biggest employers in these counties, and now they are having to lay off school personnel because of the state budget cuts to education. Plus, there is no more tenure or job security at all for them. A man got up at that meeting and declared, ‘When they hurt education, they really hurt us mountain people.’”

Moral Monday has lots of religious participants. But it is not a religious movement. “For me, this is a fight to uphold our deepest Constitutional and faith values,” says Barber. It is many things to many people. At public meetings throughout the state, people testify to their worries, anger and intention to be part of the fight in North Carolina.

The issues draw them together:
Voting rights, health care, education, jobs and poverty. The movement stands in defense of  LGBT rights including marriage equality. How does Moral Monday deal with religion and religious differences? “We are tired of the Christian Right which is so wrong trying to dominate the moral high ground,” Barber explains. “We challenge them:  Are you really ready for a moral debate? Are you ready to defend what you have done?  Of course they don’t want to debate. It most certainly is a moral issue. Cutting people off from health care, from their jobs, taking food off their tables. They have no integrity and they hide from debate.”

The budget slashing and violations of basic civil rights are shaped by the ALEC agenda--the same ALEC which we protested less than 2 weeks ago in Chicago. The same ALEC which designed Florida’s murderous “Stand Your Ground” law.  These people are extremists, Barber emphasizes. Their policies are dangerous. And people are beginning to see them for what they are, especially as the social and economic impact of the cuts of benefits and programs is beginning to be widely felt.

At the core of the Moral Mondays movement is a strong principle of anti-racism. It is inspiring to witness this principle beginning to penetrate a broad swath of the population, as people come together to win back the rights that have been denied.

Yes, we have a great movement here in Chicago, but I’m still a little envious.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rahm ecstatic. Nobody killed on Day 1

"This is true community policing." -- Chief Garry McCarthy

The Mayor's troops held the line on Immoral Monday.

Nobody was killed, at least between the hours of 7-8 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. when thousands of cops, fire fighters, Streets & San crews, yellow-vested $10/hr. new hires, and $85K/yr. business-suited CPS staffers manned the 92 Safe Passage routes at an estimated cost of $15.7 million.

However, a 28-year-old man was shot along one of the routes and a 14-year-old boy was shot to death near another one, the day before school started.

Actually, in all the years I've been in Chicago, sending all three of my kids to CPS schools, I can't recall any student ever being shot or killed on their way to the first day of school, even without the full-scale mobilization of troops to guard against the invisible army of "jaw-jacking" shooters supposedly poised waiting behind abandoned buildings to strike at dawn.

But that's probably because we've never had a mayor (and we've had some doozies) willing to put thousands of children in harm's way with such a disruptive, ill-thought-out, and arbitrary school closing strategy.

Rahm skipped the triathlon to prepare for Day 1.
Lost in all the high-fiving was the fact that 400,000 students were returning to a grossly underfunded, racially-segregated school system with over-crowded classrooms, dwindling arts programs and special-ed programs decimated. And good luck to thousands of kids and teachers stuck in non-A/C schools today as temperatures soar above 100.

Congratulations, Mr. Mayor. Now on to Day 2. The whole world is watching.

Closing schools diaspora

That's what WBEZ calls the dispersal of thousands of inner-city school children, scattered from closing schools to 287 schools in the system, many of them not designated as receiving schools or given any extra supports or staffing.
... numbers obtained through an open records request show some 2,200 students from closed schools have not enrolled in welcoming schools, suggesting that the ripple effects of the largest school closure in recent American history could  go well beyond the communities where the closures took place. 
 The scenario also puts at risk the district’s promise to send every student to a higher performing school. For instance, Beidler, which itself has been on the shortlist for closure in the past, now has to manage an influx of students from eight shuttered schools (Stockton, Ross, Pope, Marconi, Goldblatt, Garfield Park, Calhoun and Bethune).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Immoral Monday in Chicago

Streets and Sanitation workers made a gruesome discovery a half-block from a Safe Passage route this morning: 

Mayor cancels walk with students after confronted by protesters 
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was scheduled to lead a group of children from Cather Elementary School on the West Side to a nearby community center for after-school programs after classes let out this afternoon.
But after protesters from the grassroots group Action Now turned up at Cather with a bullhorn and pamphlets, urging a boycott of Chicago Public Schools, Emanuel abruptly dropped that plan, got back in his SUV and left. -- Tribune Live Blog 
Immoral Monday

What else could you call this day in Chicago when thousands of children were made to walk though a cordon of thousands of armed police, deputized city workers, minimum-wage hirelings and community volunteers, just to get to school safely? It was a scene reminiscent of Little Rock in 1957.

All this, the result of immoral policy decisions by an out-of-control mayor, disproportionately affecting the city's poorest and racially isolated communities and putting children in harm's way.

Reports are coming in of scattered protests, boycotts and acts of resistance across the city to the unprecedented mass closing of neighborhood public schools.

A school boycott has been called for Wednesday, the 28th to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Moral Monday

Rev. Barber
I think, what's needed is the kind of mass protests I wrote about recently from North Carolina on Moral Mondays.

A leader of the Moral Monday movement is Rev. Dr. William Barber III,  the state head of the NAACP in N.C.. Dr. Barber was in town today along with old friend and veteran southern civil rights lawyer Al McSurely. Barber addressed the convention of the United Electrical Workers as did Kristine Mayle, from the CTU.

We got to hang out with McSurely and the Rev. this afternoon and couldn't help but get fired up after hearing more about this multiracial movement that has mobilized tens of thousands across North Carolina. More than 1,000 people have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience in defense of voting rights, public education and economic justice.

More on this to come.


"My best meeting with him was off stage, away from the lights at a private table in a steakhouse." -- J.C. Brizard 
CPS grandmother Irene Robinson
"This is safe passage? No, this is murder city," Robinson said, shaking her head. -- Aljazeera
 Ex-Marine  Col. Tom Tyrell
There are obvious differences between closing 50 schools and starting a new country or fighting terrorism. But there are also similarities. "Surge teams are available." -- WBEZ
 J.C. Brizard
“We severely underestimated the ability of the Chicago Teachers Union to lead a massive grassroots campaign against our administration... It takes a ton of inner strength to watch 4,000+ people in red shirts outside of your window protesting while a very heavy police presence looked on." -- Flypaper 
Dave Zirin
The people at this march are the face of resistance to what Dr. King called the “evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism.” -- The Nation
Wilbur Millhouse 
 ...there are a ton of ideas pouring in about what to do with the 50 shuttered school buildings and the possibilities are somewhat unlimited.  I can’t say that if that community says they want to make it a charter school that we would say no. That hasn’t been given to me as a parameter to stop any community from turning it into a charter school. -- CBS News, Emanuel Names Panel To Decide Fate Of Shuttered School Buildings

Friday, August 23, 2013

The "perfect storm" hits Philly

In mid afternoon, more than 1,000 protesters, many in red T-shirts and carrying signs and banners, marched from the Comcast Center at 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard to the district's offices on North Broad Street.

Philadelphia streets were a sea of red yesterday as red-shirted teachers, parents, students and community activists marched to save the city's public school system from the "perfect storm" that is massive budget cuts, school closings, teacher firings and corporate-style ed "reform."

In today's Washington Post, Valerie Strauss interviews parent and schools activist Helen Gym about the impending storm threatening the very existence of public education -- and not just in Philadelphia. 

Strauss writes: 
...there is no question that the system is in agony, having been starved for funding by the state for years and used as a playground by school reformers who imposed one experiment after another, each which served to undermine the traditional public schools.
 Says Gym:
We’ve burned through countless dollars chasing after the obsessions and frivolities of this so called “education reform” movement – expensive consultancies, high stakes testing, new standards and curricula, Renaissance schools. We’ve become so obsessed with the structure and management of education that we’ve completely forgotten about the substance and practice of it. 
Buckle up Chicago, Detroit, NYC, L.A...

Thursday, August 22, 2013


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                            CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
August 22, 2013                                                                                                 (312) 329-6250
Teachers, labor leaders to conduct press conference at 4:30 p.m. Friday on South Side
CHICAGO—On Friday, August 23rd at 4:30 pm, more than 150 members of Chicago’s largest public service union locals will gather at Letter Carriers Hall, 3850 S. Wabash to get on the bus to Washington DC for the Realize the Dream 50th Anniversary March on Washington. Before boarding, the group will hold a press conference to talk about how they plan to take message about Chicago’s public school crisis to the historic event.
Calling themselves the Chicago Labor Freedom Riders, members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), National Nurses United (NNU), National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 11, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Action Now, and the International Socialist Organization (ISO) organized buses bound for Washington, DC this weekend to join sisters and brothers from hundreds of union locals as well as churches and community organizations to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Chicago Labor Freedom Riders began organizing in July, immediately following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Recognizing that the outpouring of anger and anguish over the verdict would find expressions of solidarity and a new activist orientation in the August 24th march, a small group of rank-and-file union members appealed to leaders in their union locals to support their efforts at bring buses to DC.
“Today’s attack on public services—including schools, public hospitals and the postal service—are a special threat to African Americans’ right to full equality, including a decent standard of living. Public service institutions are subject to greater scrutiny against discrimination of all kinds than is found in the private sector. For that reason, African Americans have found employment and achievement in public service to a wider extent than in the corporate world,” said CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson.

“So the current wave of austerity, anti-union attacks and hostility to government programs disproportionately targets the African American community. The attack on public sector unions has ominous implications for the Black community. That’s why labor rights and civil rights go hand in hand.”
The Realize the Dream 50th Anniversary March on Washington was initiated by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. The march is co-sponsored by dozens of national and international unions, church and community organizations. On Saturday, August 24th, participants will hear from the presidents of the American Federation of Teachers (CTU’s parent federation), SEIU the National Organization of Women, SEIU, National Coalition of La Raza and other political and community leaders.
The bus will travel overnight to Washington DC. Riders will participate in the Saturday events at the National Mall and take the return trip overnight to Chicago, arriving Sunday morning.
 The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve.  The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois.  For more information please visit CTU’s website at


Rahm's press corps reduced to doing damage control

My favorite S-T headline. But just who is EVERBODY anyway?
"If you want to throw something at the cameras, go ahead, have at it. You let ‘em know the City of Chicago is on watch for the children of Chicago.” -- Rahm Emanuel
The mayor's war chest is overstuffed with money. He has the political backing of many of the biggest and richest  players in both political parties, including the POTUS. He has as yet, no announced opponent in the upcoming election. His expensive City Hall and CPS media spinners need an entire floor to fit them all in and his golf buddies even own the Sun-Times. .

My question then is, why is his press coverage so bad? Why is his message so out of control? Why does it seem like his PR people have been reduced to doing damage control and just about every editorial in both papers are dissing him and especially his ed policies?

Possible answers--
  • It's because Rahm is such a a-hole that every reporter in town hates him.
  • It's because his policies, especially around the school closings, are hurting so many people that there's just no credibility left in positive news play.
  • There's so much internal corruption in this administration that no one wants to risk going down with the ship.
  • Rahm is losing it. Can't control his outbursts or be trusted to stay on message, especially when he's under pressure. 
But all this means nothing unless the city's scattered, local-issue oriented progressive forces can come together around a viable opponent or at the very least, a united voter registration drive. A hundred-thousand new voters -- not that hard to register under the new online registration law -- would go a long way in convincing such an opponent to step out there and start the fund-raising ball rolling big time. The CTU is in the best position to launch such a drive.

Today's best read

Chris Farone in Esquire tells why Boston is ducking ed reform...for now. 
As far as tragically perverted euphemisms go, "ed reform" makes "corporate personhood" look like an insignificant white (collar) lie.
 The mayor [Rahm Emanuel] pocketed more than $700,000 from [Stand For Children] SFC donors for his last campaign and subsequently aided in provoking a teachers' strike, closing 50 public schools, and urging for new charters to replace them.
 Perhaps most egregiously, New Orleans has four charters that advertise their corporate sponsor right in the school name. They're not doing so well. Of four Capital One-New Beginnings labs, two hemorrhaged half of their staffs last year, while only one retained its principal through spring semester.
Best FB post
Deb Meier reports:“Eye On Education” is offering to sell us the answer to our dreams in a series of 4 new books entitled: “Literacy, Rigor and the Common Core State Standards.” It’s got all the latest buzz words into one short unsurpassable sentence. The one of the four I like best is entitled “Rigor Made Easy”. The inventor of that title deserves a bonus.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rahm explains Monday's shootings. Safe Passage is only during the time the children come to school and leave school.

(AP photo)
"I'm like any parent — I'm wary," said Willie Dixon, one of several CeaseFire workers walking the Uptown streets around the shooting scene Tuesday. Dixon's 7th-grade son attends Brenneman. "I'm very concerned, but I've got to keep faith." 

When you leave home today, bring an umbrella. Why? Rahm's back from wherever. I know this because it's raining bullshit.  Yes, the BS was really flying yesterday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expanded Jones College Prep in the South Loop -- a ceremony from which 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti was purposely excluded even though it's his ward.

After hearing about Monday's shooting of five people along a safe-passage route in Uptown, Rahm called  the shootings "an early warning sign to all of us to be more on our toes than we were already on our toes."

An early warning sign? On your toes? What the hell does that mean?

Yes, stand on your tippy toes all you want. I mean the shooter's car was parked right in front of McCutcheon Elementary School, 4865 N. Sheridan Rd. and now there's bone, blood and bullet casings along the route was planned for children who are being moved to Brenneman Elementary from Stewart Elementary, one of 49 schools and one program closed by CPS.

I thought the real early warning, completely ignored by Rahm and Byrd-Bennett, came back in May, when one of their own appointed experts on school closings, retired Cook County Judge Charles Winkler, voiced his opposition to the closing of Stewart, saying school officials and police could not guarantee the safety of school children who will now have to walk farther to school.
“Is there really enough time to get everyone up to speed so the 14,400 children from the closing schools are provided safe passage,” Winkler wrote. "Will an understaffed Chicago Police Department be able to provide enough officers to assist the Stewart children? Will CPS hire a private security company to furnish properly trained personnel?"
Winkler had urged Rahm to at least put off at the planned shutdown of Stockton and Stewart schools in the Uptown community for at least a year.

Rahm explains away Monday's shooting by saying his battalion of yellow-vested volunteers haven't been posted yet along the Safe-Passage route. In other words, mass shootings in Chicago have now become the status quo.

Yes, take your umbrella.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Have we really made CPS a wing of City Hall?

It's like a bad dream...

A foul-mouthed megalomaniac is given autocratic control over the schools in the nation's third largest city. He doesn't particularly care for public education and certainly wouldn't send his own children to a public school -- especially to one that had implemented his own version of school reform.

"Reforms" like diverting public school funds to privately-run charter schools, a longer school day with fewer teachers, bare-bones budgets, over-sized classrooms, no libraries, banned books, and with less art and music. These "reforms" are for THOSE kids, not for the Emanuels'. He and his wealthy patrons are sworn enemies of public employee unions and he's fond of dropping F-bombs on the African-American woman president of the CTU.

The demolition of La Casita
This is a mayor who, like his predecessor, wants to privatize or sell off all things public, including the schools and their programs, while in the process, eroding public decision-making and collective bargaining rights.

What he can't sell, he closes, even if it means violating the civil rights and equal protection rights of the poor, those with special needs and communities of color. His massive school closings in those communities has put some 30,000 students in harm's way. 

In response to public outcry, Rahm has posted hundreds of Safe Passage signs and militarized the routes kids will have to take to their new, overcrowded receiving schools. Yesterday, in a scene that's becoming more and more familiar to parents and students, 5 people were shot in the shadow of one of these signs.

Why would we entrust our schools and our children's education to the corrupt patronage plantation that is Chicago City Hall? To a political machine that feasts off of public funds while bankrupting its public institutions? To an autocrat who operates with impunity and without public accountability?

Safe Passage
His latest attempt to neuter the city's Inspector General, in the wake of perhaps the largest scandal yet, even has his own loyalists shaking their heads in disgust. His misuse of  in public TIF money, meant to bolster economic development in under-resourced communities, as his own private slush fund -- funneling billions to cronies,  rich property owners and lakeshore developers for a DePaul basketball stadium--or to his pals at American Demolition to pay for the destruction of La Casita and Whittier School...

And the list goes on. The bad dream continues. Time to wake up and put an end to mayoral control of the schools, redirect that TIF money, get an elected school board, and take back City Hall in 2015.

Monday, August 19, 2013


CPS teacher Ed Hershey, arrested trying to save La Casita 
"We couldn't just let them sweep it away without at least doing what we could. The school doesn't have a library and they bulldozed it. There's 160 schools that don't have a library." -- ABC News
Lisa Angonese, community activist
“He’s [Ald. Solis] been giving us so many different stories. We want him to come out of hiding to face us and to listen to the demands of the community.” -- WGN
Glenn Greenwald
At the time the "security official" called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official - who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 - said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him. -- Guardian
Peter Cunningham
During the Obama administration's first term, I served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education, where one of my jobs was to monitor criticism of our policies and develop our responses. One of the people I monitored pretty closely was Diane Ravitch. -- Huffington
Valerie Strauss
It takes some degree of chutzpah to evaluate teacher preparation programs with data said to be “in-depth” and “comprehensively collected” and then bury in small type the fact that some of the data isn’t actually all that trustworthy. -- Washington Post

Saturday, August 17, 2013

American Demolition at La Casita

American Demolition -- What's in a name?
Rahm always seems to high-tail it out of town whenever he's about to drop another bombshell on the community. That way he doesn't have to face the media the next day or be held accountable for his dirty deeds until things cool down. I guess that what he pays his overpriced spinners/liars like Becky Carroll to do.

At around midnight, we heard that Rahm's wrecking team was over at Whittier Elementary in the Pilsen neighborhood, sent there to destroy La Casita, the building that has become the symbol of the community's fight for a decent school library. By the time we got there, hundreds of parents, teachers and community activists had gathered to try and once again, save the building. 

At Juarez H.S.
After police cordons  and barricades were set up protesters organized all-night and morning vigils. The wreckers then left, like thieves in the night, leaving a small group of cops behind to stand guard.

By the time we returned this morning, the wreckers had already returned and done their dirty deeds. Police cars and barricades had closed off access to  23rd St. from both directions and dozens of cops stood guard on the perimeter.

Cops block access to 23rd St.
Earlier, a heroic group of parents and activists had crashed the barricades and tried to block the door to La Casita. Cops immediately rushed in to arrest them and hauled them off to the District 10 for booking (Phone 312-747-7511)

The last I heard was that those arrested were being released on I-bonds.

Dozens of others marched over to Juarez High School where machine Alderman Danny Solis was holding his back-to-school fair.

More to come.

Friday, August 16, 2013

There's nothing wrong with Common Core Standards, except...


U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has joined other top education officials to warn the public not to be alarmed by dramatically lower test scores following new testing standards.                                                                                           

There's nothing wrong with schools having high academic standards There's plenty wrong with having those standards handed down from on high and then bringing in multi-million-dollar ramrods on no-bid contracts to "retrain" teachers and principals into passive compliance. There is even more wrong with Common Core and it "rigorous" testing regimen being used to sort and track kids, opening up doors to college and employment to the few and shutting them to the many.

Case in point: The New York Times reports that New York State, an early adopter of the new standards, released results from reading and math exams showing that less than a third of students passed.

Making matters even worse, CC testing is almost entirely in the hands of British textbook/testing mega-publisher Pearson. The Washington Post reports that Pearson just apologized for assigning wrong testing results to more than 4,000 students in Virginia.
Pearson issued a similar apology last spring for making mistakes in the scoring of admissions tests for gifted and talented programs in New York City public schools. Other scoring problems by Pearson in recent years caused delays in final test results in Florida and Minnesota.
Arne Duncan is out telling parents "not to be alarmed" by crashing test scores.
“We should absolutely not be alarmed if test scores drop as a result of these more rigorous expectations and higher standards,” said Duncan on a conference call. “That’s because these new assessments and standards are now aligned to mark and measure what it truly takes to adequately prepare students for the real world.”A source familiar with the city results said scores had dropped by about 30 points. “Very few city kids passed the test. And almost no kids of color passed the test. It’s a disaster.”
Yes, don't be "alarmed." Those crashed scores will only mean your neighborhood school may be closed, yourchild's teacher given a poor rating and possibly fired, and the value of your home bottoming out.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Not letting a good crisis go to waste, Philly Supt. goes after seniority rights

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste." -- Rahm Emanuel
If you doubt that the current school budget crisis is in large part, a manufactured one, just take a look a Philly where Supt. William Hite is using his crisis to suspend teacher seniority rights. He knows that lots of teachers are going to be called back to work if schools are to open in the fall. So he's asking the School Reform Commission to suspend parts of the state education code at an emergency meeting today.

The move would allow him to override the bargaining agreement with  the union and replace higher-paid, experienced teachers with cheaper 5-week TFA wonders and other newbies. The state's largest district has laid off about 3,800 employees, from assistant principals to nurses and guidance counselors, in an effort to stem rising costs and close a projected $304 million deficit.

The same strategy is being used by Chicago's Mayor Emanuel, who's hallmark quote above says it all. Rahm has become infamous for taking away a lot and giving back some, in exchange for workplace concessions and undermining the contract and the State Constitution (on pensions). Despite the claimed $1-billion budget shortfall, which is the excuse for the districts's planned massive school closures, Rahm is continuing to open dozens of new, expensive, privately-managed charters, at the same time, in the same neighborhood. Who would do that if the budget crisis was real?

In all this, Rahm and the Democrats are carrying out a right-wing political agenda hatched in ALEC's offices. His fidelity to his conservative corporate patrons is coming clear and is close to being an embarrassment and a political liability. In an ironic twist, conservative Republican candidate Bill Brady attacks his main primary opponent, billionaire douchebag Bruce Rauner, for being too close to Rahm.
According to the New York Times, Rahm once represented GTCR Golder Rauner, a Chicago private equity firm that was buying the business for an affiliate. Rauner, the firm’s chairman, had first met Rahm when he was still exploring job prospects in Chicago.  Instead of private equity, Rauner advised Emanuel to pursue investment banking, where his political experience might be more valuable in landing deals in regulated industries. 
Fred Klonsky art
Rauner also helped bankroll Rahm's mayoral campaign. In return, Rham appointed Rauner to the board of World Business Chicago, the city's economic development arm. According to the Tribune,  Rauner, an anti-union charter school advocate, was also placed on the board of the Chicago Public Education Fund. He reportedly met more than a dozen times with Chicago Public Schools officials during the initial nine-month period that new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard's team was organizing policy.

The question is, why is the Rahm/Rauner romance an embarrassment to the GOP and not to Rahm supporters?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Byrd-Bennett's sleight-of-hand on charter schools?

Barbara Byrd-Bennett has promised that no school closed this year will be handed over to a charter. -- Chicago Tribune (April 23, 2013)
When Byrd-Bennett was first pushing her plan to close hundreds of public schools, she promised angry parents and community groups that she wouldn't allow any of the newly-closed schools to become charter schools. But as we noted at the time, she was only playing verbal sleight-of-hand. When the charter operators cringed, BBB winked at them, whispering, Don't worrry. There will be plenty of money and opportunities for you. The Trib editorial board even called it, "A promise worth breaking."
Yes, we understand that the political heat on closings is intense and that many parents are furious that neighborhood schools close while charters expand and thrive. The vow not to open a charter in a shuttered elementary school was intended to defuse suspicion that this is just an exercise designed to promote charters over traditional schools
Even while some 30,000 students, most in African-American communities,were being targeted for ejection from their so-called "underutilized" schools, and even while neighborhood schools were facing draconian budget cuts,  the plans were already being laid to open dozens of new privately-run, non-union schools, Most of the new charters will open on the northwest and southwest sides, but many will be put in the very same neighborhood as closed schools.

The Sun-Times reports:
As Chicago Public Schools officials finish shuttering a record number of schools and leave many neighborhood schools to open their doors in two weeks with diminished budgets, the district has quietly issued a call for new charter schools.
In a 52-page PDF posted without fanfare on the district’s website, CPS is asking for new charter operators and campuses for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years mainly — but not only — in 11 so-called “priority communities” on the Northwest and Southwest Sides where district-run schools have been complaining of overcrowding.
For those of you who miss the distinction between handing closed schools over to charter operators and opening new charters around the corner --- so do I.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Organizing the disorganized

The cover of USA Weekend says it all. Doesn't it. 

Organizing the beleaguered

Word is that CTU organizers are kicking around the idea of organizing beleaguered CPS staff. BBB's non-union minions lately have been bombarded with memos and directives ordering them to work off hours for the mayor's political projects. Latest was a memo requiring staff to march  next to the CPS float in the south-side Bud Billiken Parade. MIA teachers were required to report to their "cabinet level officer." Talk about delusions of grandeur.

Lawyers should be looking into this one to see if there's a violation of the Shakman Decree which banned political hiring and firing on the basis of political loyalty.

Next mayor?

CTU Prez Karen Lewis' name keeps popping up along with that of Ald. Bob Fioretti in discussions about possible mayoral candidates who could beat Rahm in 2015.

"That's not happening," says Crain's Greg Hinz.
But despite her prior reluctance, Ms. Lewis leaves the door open to running for re-election as union president in 2016. “Everything I've said and done, I've said and done to make a point,” she says. “I'm not a politician. I'm not trying to be elected. But the people who send their kids to Chicago Public Schools are supportive of me.”
 My private poll, taken among Wednesday half-price hamburger night patrons at Dunlay's in Logan Square, shows that either candidate, plus Toni Preckwinkle are more than capable of beating Emanuel in a head-to-head showdown. Question is, who's going to register needed 200,000 new voters? Another low voter turnout would almost guarantee a Rahm victory.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fake Passage

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy on Thursday echoed Byrd-Bennett’s sentiments that officials aren’t starting from scratch, saying: “It’s not a new concept in the city of Chicago for school kids to cross gang lines on their way to school. Kids have been doing it for quite some time even when the schools were open. -- Sun-Times

With 2 weeks to go before another chaotic school opening, the Mayor's so-called Safe Passage plan is blowing up (literally) right before our eyes. Two of the 23 shootings (4 dead) over another bloody Chicago weekend happened right below newly-installed Safe Passage signs.

Chief McCarthy and BBB are already spinning for the worst.  Yes, "this is nothing new", they tell media (notice they've both got the line down pat). Students on the south and west side have always crossed gang lines to get to school. As if this offers some comfort to terrified parents. And all the Safe Passage signs in the world, along with community volunteers (not a bad idea) and some yellow-vested, minimum-wage temps on street corners aren't going to change that.

So long as you have a city of blighted, racially-isolated neighborhoods, awash in drugs and guns, with the highest unemployment rate of any major city in the country, young lives are going to be particularly at risk. The mass school closings, teacher and counselor firings, along with a horribly-organized safe passage plan will only make things worse.

Chaos and neighborhood instability still rule the neighborhoods as Rahm continues to divert money and desperately-needed resources from increasingly blighted neighborhoods and schools, towards privately-run charters and huge downtown and lakefront development projects like the DePaul basketball arena.

This is a recipe for chaos and violence. Carolyn Lang, a West Pullman resident tells what the closing of her neighborhood school means for her:
"I used to come home late from prayer meetings at my church, and just seeing the light on and knowing the engineers and the janitors were working, I felt safe because they were there. Now it won't be a safe haven anymore."  
 "It is a signal that resources are leaving the community," said Deborah Moore, director of neighborhood strategy at Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, a not-for-profit organization that helps people buy homes and keep them out of foreclosure.
"There is no way I can market the community to young families. They aren't going to move into a community with a closing school."
Over by Chopin in Humboldt Park, it's the same story. This, from DNA Info 
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy asked residents near the routes to "come out on their porch or sidewalk" to ensure that there is a "positive adult presence on these streets, on these routes before and after school.” 
“That’d be great if I didn’t have to be at work at 6 a.m.,” Kurek said. “The kids aren’t here until 9.”
Residents near Chopin said on Friday they haven’t received information from police, CPS or the local alderman. “They don’t get the word out until it’s too late,” said Anthony Noe, 51. “You hear about things like this after the fact.”

Shuttered schools, loss of thousands of middle-class jobs, chaos and instability for thousands, and pandemic gun violence -- this is Rahm Emanuel's gift to the city that works.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


The "Dream 9," eight of them wearing graduation caps and gowns to show their desire to finish school in the U.S., march to a U.S. port of entry last month. (Samantha Sais /AP)
Natalie Mendez
"It was hard for me,” she said through a translator. “My son was so far away ... I'm very happy because this is the beginning of real immigration reform.” -- Daily News, Bronx 'Dream 9' immigration activist released 
Ben Joravsky
 In the fantasy world created by the publicists, the mayor's a miracle worker who's working day and night on behalf of Chicago's children. Oh, thank you all-powerful Bwana. In the real world, the mayor's slashing school funding so he can spend the money on really whacked-out shit, like that South Loop property deal involving DePaul. -- The Reader
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd)
"TIF money is not the alderman's piggy bank, and it is not the mayor's slush fund. It belongs to the people of the City of Chicago." -- DNA Info
Kate Grossman, Sun-Times blogger
 We get that CPS is besieged – it’s being attacked for school closings and budget cuts — and needs a show of force behind its initiatives. But staff tell us they feel intimidated and threatened by these directives, particularly since CPS has been aggressively laying off staff. -- Voices
Carolyn Lang, West Pullman neighbor
"I used to come home late from prayer meetings at my church, and just seeing the light on and knowing the engineers and the janitors were working, I felt safe because they were there. Now it won't be a safe haven anymore."  -- Herald Standard, Chicago school closings worry poor neighborhoods 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Trib reports there's still no 'Safe Passage' in place for CPS kids

This morning's Tribune reports that security plans on new school routes are still in flux, with just weeks to go before schools open. The chaos within the CPS bureaucracy is threatening the lives and safety of thousands of children affected by Rahm's mass school closings.

CPS Liar-In-Chief Becky Carroll claims it's all good and that plans are on track to smoothly shift students from 47 schools being closed this year to nearby schools. But the Trib reports that, Safe Passage routes have not been released to parents. Several vendors hired to carry out the Safe Passage program said they have not received maps of the streets they will be patrolling. Also, a full complement of workers is not yet in place, with many in line for jobs awaiting background checks.
"Our concern is that we do not feel adequately staffed," said Laura Bass, program manager of Ebenezer Community Outreach. "We would like a minimum of 20 people."
 In the federal hearing over the CTU-backed lawsuit, Jadine Chou, CPS' head of safety and security, said she did not believe the students whose schools have been closed face increased risk going to a new school. "We are taking steps to pre-empt any potential risks," Chou said.

But gang expert John Hagedorn said he doesn't think the program is enough to protect children from gang violence. A criminology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Hagedorn said school closings will aggravate tensions in many communities.
"This is appearance management," said Hagedorn, who recently testified in a federal hearing on a Chicago Teachers Union-backed lawsuit fighting the closings. "They are managing the appearance of safety, but the reality of safety isn't there," he said. "You're saying you're doing something, but none of the things they've proposed are going to deal with rival gang members angered over people coming on their turf."

Common Core Standards not so common

CCCS were supposed to prepare students for a global economy by equipping them with critical thinking skills. They were touted as a way to even the playing field so that class, race and gender wouldn't determine what and who were being taught (See Jean Anyon on Social Class and School Knowledge).

But it appears that the implementation of Common Core standards reflects and reproduces the growing divide and inequities between have and have-not states and school districts. Given the expensive and redundant testing regimen that comes with CCCS, it's the testing,  publishing and training companies that are benefiting, more than the poorest and neediest kids.

A new study finds that, "cuts or freezes in state funding … have negatively affected CCSS implementation activities in some states," with 20 states reporting K-12 funding deceases. Twelve of these states reported that these reductions led to scaling back Common Core efforts. States also reported that their education agencies are struggling with capacity."
Although many states have already begun teaching content based on the Common Core State Standards and preparing school staff to implement the strict educational standards, they are also struggling to come up with the funds to properly train their teachers, according to two reports from George Washington University's Center on Education Policy. -- U.S. News and World Report
The CEP is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation and as you might expect, the report is overall favorable to Common Core despite these apparent inequities in its implementation.

Joy Resmovits writes in Huffington:
Only one-quarter of all states surveyed reported they had enough staff to support implementation, provide professional development and help school districts ease into the digital exams associated with Common Core. And 32 states indicated they're having trouble connecting the standards to a new wave of teacher and principal evaluations. "Funding levels in K-12 may be stabilizing, but most state education associations are under-resourced," [CEP Director Maria]Ferguson said.