Monday, September 30, 2013

Three reasons to stop drinking...

So let me get this straight.

Ted Cruz is a "Leninist."

Tea Party Republican are "anarchists."

And Eric Cantor "gushes effusively about Paulo Freire."

I've really got to stop drinking.


Charter backer Cong. Polis calls Ravitch "evil woman"

Diane Ravitch responds to Cong. Polis 
Even though he is a billionaire, I will pick up the check for breakfast, lunch, or dinner on one condition: read my book. If you don’t like it, Jared, I will give you your money back. -- Blog
 Bill Gates
“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” -- Washington Post
 Harry Reid
“The American people will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.” -- House Republicans vote to delay Obamacare for one year
Chris Hewitt, Local School Council member
"CPS has to realize that schools are more than scores. If there's a more qualitative approach, with district officials coming in and seeing how teachers and students interact, they'll see there's a lot of learning that happens informally." -- Chicago Tribune

Friday, September 27, 2013

How did this guy get hired by Arne Duncan? He had a guy.

Jesus Alanis sentenced to 20 years in Stateville. 
How did this child molester/pornographer land a high-paying job working for Arne Duncan at the top of the Chicago Public Schools system? That's an easy one.

The same way Arne Duncan got his own job. He had a guy. In his case it was venture capitalist power broker John Rogers who made a phone call and had golf buddy Mayor Daley tell schools CEO Paul Vallas to bring the unqualified Duncan on board as his assistant. Of course,Vallas obliged and the rest as they say, is history.

The same way billionaire pal of Rahm Emanuel and Republican candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner, got his kid into Walter Payton High School. He had a guy. All it took was phone call to Duncan.

The same way that convicted fraud and bribe-taker Amer Ahmad was hired by Rahm to fill one of the city's top financial positions, five months after he had been under federal investigation. He also had a guy.

In the same fashion, machine Ald. Danny Solis made a phone call to Duncan and said, "I got this guy, Alanis..."

What were Jesus Alanis' qualifications? None. Had he ever been a teacher? No. Did he have any experience at all in public education? No. Then, what in his background might make the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools want to put him in a high-paying job at the top of the city's school system?
He had worked since 2008 for the city’s Human Resources Department, where he made $80,904 a year in a post that, as a political appointment, was exempt from anti-patronage restrictions. 
Alanis says on his online profile that he previously worked for Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and for the United Neighborhood Organization, a community group that operates the largest charter-school network in Illinois. Alanis was a 2005 graduate of UNO’s Metropolitan Leadership Institute, a training program for young Hispanic professionals. According to profile information he provided to that program, he worked on immigration issues for UNO. His sister Veronica Alanis is a high-ranking Chicago Transit Authority official who, until recently, was a longtime member of UNO’s board. Jesus Alanis went to work for City Hall when longtime UNO lawyer Homero Tristan was commissioner of the Human Resources Department, city records show. -- Sun-Times
A couple of weeks ago, the city's Inspector General, Joe Ferguson, was reappointed for another four-year term — with the unwritten understanding that he’s likely to step down after next summer — in spite of his contentious relationship with the mayor. By mutual agreement with the mayor, Ferguson's job will be limited to, "end[ing] four decades of federal hiring oversight." 
Ferguson thanked the mayor for “agreeing to allow me to continue to work on wrapping up some unfinished projects, most notably achieving Shakman compliance and fully implementing the administration’s ethics reform bill.” 
If you ever needed a good reason to keep the Shakman Decree in effect, just think about Jesus Alanis.

Good news, rich people

There are still openings for your extra-special child at the new, 9-story, Oman-based Gem Academy (and a gem it is) downtown on S. Water St. And if you apply now, tuition is only about $30K. Caviar lunch is extra.

Rahm Emanuel is at it again. His game plan is to blame every school budget cut, every teacher he fires and school he closes -- and now his latest proposed property tax increase -- on those elderly and infirm who are resisting cuts to their pensions and health care. Trib reporters, Hal Dardick and Rick Pearson say that along with taxing home owners, Rahm wants to once again postpone city pension payments until 2022, "three years into what would be Emanuel's third term, if he decided to serve that long and was able to win re-election." But you can bet those greedy pensioners won't put a crimp into Rahm's $92M South Loop South Loop project at Cermak and Michigan that will feature a DePaul basketball arena and a Marriott Hotel.

CTU's Martin Ritter says that after a brief hiatus, the union is stepping up its voter registrar training. The next training session is planned for 5pm on Tuesday October 1st, at CTU Headquarters on the 4th floor at the Merchandise Mart. Public transportation is encouraged. If you're interested in participating, please RSVP directly to Marty at

Crain's Greg Hinz says a Springfield fight is resuming over whether to require publicly traded corporations to disclose how much they pay in state income taxes, and "it could be a doozy". Indeed. A similar bill was defeated in the same committee last year after clearing the Senate, where business groups have less influence. "The long-held benchmark of our tax system has been confidentiality," said Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mayor one-term?

The Ward Room's Mark Anderson (Chicago Needs a Mayoral Challenger. Or Five) offers up a rather gloomy picture of democratic possibilities for Chicago.
The next election for mayor in Chicago little more than 18 months away, and it’s time to face a hard fact: When it comes to mayoral politics in Chicago, democracy could be dead. 
I'm a little more hopeful. From my view, Rahm Emanuel's once-powerful political base appears to be coming apart at the seams. Polls I have seen, show Rahm faring poorly in head-to-head races against a number of potential candidates. His support in the black community is eroding. His disastrous school budget cuts, school closings, and mass teacher firings have brought the entire public school system to its knees. Throw in his attacks on the pension funds and Rahm has created a potential army of public employees, including cops, fireman, school teachers, parents and staff who could be the foot soldiers working against him in the next campaign.

School closings, primarily in the city's African-American neighborhoods on the south and west sides, threaten to further blight many of those communities, lead to more unemployment, neighborhood instability and more violence. Rahm can't go many places in the community these days, without being greeted with a chorous of boos.

Which brings up Rahm's biggest problem, the image of Chicago as an uncontrollable, corrupt and violent city -- bad for business. Sneed reports that a CNN national security adviser just called Chicago “the Mogadishu of the United States.” (BTW Sneed, Mogadishu is in Somalia, not Iraq). 
“All of these things that happen in Chicago go viral. People hear about it all over the world and we need to limit that because tourism plays such a big part in our economy, says Ald. Walter Burnett.
The images of thousands of school kids having to navigate "safe passage" routes and police and security cordons just to get to school and back each day, have shocked the world. The recent Cornell Park shootings  may have been a back-breaker for Rahm and Chief McCarthy's spin on the city's supposed drop in crime.

On top of all this, you have a widening rift with with the old Daley machine and an emerging split in the state Democratic Party as seen by the withdrawal from the governor's race by Lisa Madigan and Bill Daley and sub rosa support for Republican billionaire candidate Bruce Rauner coming from Rahm, Daley and even Hillary Clinton.

I could go on. There's Rahm's costly blown attempt to privatize Midway. There's the seemingly never-ending press accounts of major corruption scandals most recently involving UNO's Martin Cabrera and the hiring of comptroller Amer Ahmad. There's the shady DePaul basketball arena deal. And on and on it goes.

Despite his seemingly overwhelming advantage against any potential candidate in terms of money-raising ability, the possibility of a low voter turnout, and his (tepid?) support from Obama's camp, there are lots of reasons to believe that Rahm's political machine is a paper tiger, and that the mayor can be had in 2015 -- provided that there is a viable and willing opponent. And that's a big if.

My sense is that the deep dislike of the Mayor, the erosion of his base, especially among his typical north-side neighborhood supporters, plus an emerging movement of mainly young, urban voters (not just in Chicago) could shift the balance and run Rahm out of office. But there's a lot at stake and as we learned back in the Harold Washington days, the machine won't fall unless we hit it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The 'culture' of CPS

Byrd-Bennett ponders the “social-cultural aspects of children coming to school.” 

CPS' new per-pupil budgeting system punishes schools for being small. It's more of the same theory of "under-utilization" that led to the closure of 48 neighborhood schools. Rahm is also pouring millions into elite, small, selective enrollment schools like Walter Payton College Prep (you remember, the school where billionaire Bruce Rauner, with help from Arne Duncan, clouted his kid's admission), to make them bigger.

Dozens of CPS schools were facing the loss of $20 million in additional funding because they did not enroll as many students as the district had projected they would. But faced with mounting parent protests and opposition from the CTU, CEO Byrd-Bennett (where has she been?) announced Monday that she will give schools a one-year reprieve before she slits their throats. It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Where do all these millions come from in a system that's supposed to be broke?
“Those schools that did not meet their enrollment projections, we’re going to hold those schools harmless. They will receive the dollars that we assigned them based on the projected enrollment numbers,” said Byrd-Bennett. Schools that surpassed their enrollment projections will get their per-pupil increase. -- WBEZ
BBB says that CPS enrollment numbers are down and her instincts are to punish the schools. But as RYH has pointed out, CPS numbers are questionable. To the degree that enrollments have shrunk, it could be due in large part to the huge decrease in the city's African-American population as thousands of black and poor residents are pushed out of public housing and out of the city altogether. I also think that many students were lost in the school-closing debacle.

WBEZ seems to agree and refers to designated “welcoming schools” that got millions of dollars in capital and technology upgrades but actually took in far fewer children from closing schools than the district had said they would.

But BBB has her own theory. She says that there are “social-cultural aspects of children coming to school” that mean some students don’t show up until well after the first day. She also said the district had a group of “lost children” who left eighth grade and have not entered high school.

While she never says what she means by "social-cultural aspects" and apparently was never asked by reporters, the racial implications are clear. And as for "lost children", they're not lost. They've been abandoned or at least, "lost" in the shuffle. It's not about their culture, but the culture of CPS.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Emanuel cut short East Coast fundraising trip and flew back to Chicago after 13 people were shot at a South Side park.
Columnist John Kass
He was absolutely rolled by the Chicago Teachers Union in the strike, and his capitulation cost him credibility with business leaders. His closing of some four dozen schools cost him with African-American voters. Emanuel still found $17 million last week in extra funds for an elite Near North magnet school, while out in the Northwest Side bungalow belt, Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 36th, ran a "toilet paper" drive to help his neighborhood schools provide basic necessities to the children of taxpayers. 
And that $1 billion school deficit? -- Sun-Times
Melissa Harris-Perry 
 “Folks, if you want to do a re-enactment of slavery in your school, how about Nat Turner’s rebellion?” -- MSNBC
Diane Ravitch
"I Will Not Be Part of Education Nation." -- Blog
Barbara Ferguson, former New Orleans Supt.
“Whether the difficult-to-teach high school students are expelled by charter schools or whether they attended schools closed by the RSD, they are an outcast group, thrown into an abyss ..." -- Daily Beast

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chicago Republicrats

There are no real Democrats or Republicans in Chicago. The only symbol saluted here is neither the donkey nor the elephant, but the dollar sign. They've even abandoned the two-party system, for electing the mayor. And statewide, now you have two former Obama chiefs of staff and his former Secretary of State, seemingly cutting a deal to help a Republican venture capitalist candidate for governor defeat an incumbent Democrat.

Sneed reports that Bill Daley, the man from J.P. Morgan and former White House Chief of Staff, upon pulling out of the gubernatorial race — called incumbent Quinn "a loser" and pumped Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner as "the strongest contender". Rauner is also a long-time pal and patron of the mayor -- himself a former Obama COS -- who has been telling insiders he wants Quinn out. Then into the fray jumps Hillary Clinton, to fire a barb at Quinn ("He's the luckiest politician...").
Daley drops out of race.

I haven't seen anything like this since 1983 when the entire Democratic Party machine turned Republican overnight, following the primary election victory of Harold Washington, who would become the city's first African-American mayor. Their slogan was "Bernard Epton before it's too late."

Funny thing is, there's hardly a dime's worth of difference between Rauner, Quinn, Daley or Rahm on the main issues of the day, which include raiding retirees' pension funds and protecting the corporations from having to pay their fair share of taxes to support public education and solve the budget crisis. This is a falling out among thieves.


After trying like hell to get rid of his Inspector General Joe Ferguson, Rahm retreated under public pressure and allowed IG Joe to stay on. But only on the condition that Ferguson abandon his 4-year contract after one year and limit his "investigative work" to helping Rahm get out from under Shakman constraints on political patronage.

I don't know why Ferguson agreed to such a deal, but if there was ever a good reason to keep Shakman intact, it's Rahm Emanuel. Greg Hinz at Crain's gives us the most recent example.
The successor to indicted Chicago comptroller Amer Ahmad has jumped to a private company that he may have helped extend and expand a lucrative city contract... Earlier in the week, I reported that acting Comptroller Andy Sheils is moving to Florida to take a job at a Fort Lauderdale medical-services provider. What I didn't know then was that the company, via a subsidiary, is a major vendor for Chicago, netting nearly $19 million since 2007 on a controversial contract that Mr. Sheils administered and worked on extending.
Says the BGA's Andy Shaw, “Since this is indirectly connected to the alleged criminal activity in Ohio of Chicago's former city comptroller, the BGA hopes that federal investigators here in Chicago are watching these new local developments with their usual microscopic vision."

I hope so too. Where are you, feds? You don't need a microscope.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ravitch a Texas-bred Paul Revere

When it comes to schooling, Diane Ravitch is a traditionalist in most senses of the word. But a defender of traditional democratic education at a time when corporate-style reformers and her former conservative think-tank friends have all donned the label of r-r-r-revolutionaries and fancy themselves as educational "change agents", is not bad. They "monitor" her and target her as "an agent of the status quo." But nothing could be further from the truth.

In her latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools,  Diane plays the role of a Texas-bred Paul Revere warning the populace that the privatizers are coming -- and coming they are, tearing away at all public space and with it, public decision making. Diane lays it out, chapter by chapter.
Genuine school reform must be built on hope, not fear; on encouragement, not threats; on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on belief in the dignity of the human person, not a slavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not a regime of punishment and blame. To be lasting, school reform must rely on collaboration and teamwork among students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and local communities.“ (p. 325)
What I love and admire about Diane is that she's not just writing (she's prolific) but she's always out on the stump, uniting body and brain to get the message out. I don't know how she does it. I need a nap just thinking about it. Her book tour is turning out thousands for whom the message resonates. And it's been a pro-teacher message, resonating with the nation's teachers as no other. Her book provides all the ammunition they (we) need as we go into battle (and it is a battle, make no mistake) to save and transform public education.

In a smart marketing move, Diane and blogger/supporter Jonathan Pelto have mobilized a band of blogger/Tweeter allies (including me) to promote and review Reign of Error. I can't recall a book in recent times that's been reviewed by so many, from the complaintive mainstream press ("she's too loud") to her laudatory and grateful social media-based followers.

Ravitch shows solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union.
This review by my friend Deb Meier is one of the best I have read so far. Remember, it was largely through dialogue with Deb that Diane rediscovered her roots in democratic education and broke with her former allies in the right-wing think tanks.

I re-post Deb's review here in full:
Dear readers,

Definitely go out and buy Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Americas Public Schools by Diane Ravitch, which just been launched with proper publicity. She is a phenomenal woman—sending out a half-dozen e-mails a day, two books in the last decade, and traveling to speak throughout the USA. And….while she’s younger than me, she’s old enough to have rested on her laurels. Maybe it helps to change your mind, because my exhaustion comes (in part) from feeling it’s all been said before (including by me).

Reign of Error lays out step by step the relentless thirty year drive to either centralize the education of the young—on one hand—or divest it entirely into privatized hands on the other. Finally, the two sides have joined forces on a strategy that simultaneously does both. While this coalition has many old roots, in its current form it began with the fanfare around the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983). Ravitch was, at that time, a supporter of this bold statement that more or less accused America’s teachers and school boards of a plot to undermine American health and welfare of the international scene. We were, said the signers, at risk of becoming a second rate nation if we didn’t take this crisis seriously. I asked my colleague on the NBPTS, AFT leader Al Shanker, why he had signed on. He said it was a good strategy because only in a crisis is the nation willing to put the money into schooling needed to make it really first-rate. He said—as I recall (paraphrased), ‘It’s true our schools are not as bad as the report suggests, but we are entering a new period and they either have to change dramatically or what the report accuses them of will become true. We need a smarter citizenry.’

The trouble is that crying “wolf” has never been a great way to make sensible policy. Sometimes there is no choice (like Pearl Harbor). But the continuous claims that our public education system is destroying our nation has almost entirely led to bad policy.

And in the past few years Diane’s change of mind has been a particular blessing. She hasn’t, as her preset opponents claim, done a complete switch at all—she was always pro-union, pro-public education and always for standards. Fairly traditional ones. (In fact, her criticism of Progressive educators was that so many had abandoned all standards, she believed.)

Then lo and behold: no one has pulled it all together better than Diane—over and over again in the past few years she has led the challenge to the corporate reformers—right , center and left.. Her last two books Reign of Error and The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) pull it altogether.

In Reign of Error she spends the first 20 chapters laying out the case, and the last 13 offering some obvious and do-able responses to the oft-heard, “but what else can we do?” She’s more supportive of the “way things were” than many other educators (like me) have been, relying subliminally perhaps on the fact that if we eliminate the scores of children in poverty on international tests, the USA does quite well. Yes, Massachusetts scores put it number one in the world, or close, if it were a nation (like Singapore?) rather than a mere state of the union. But I think neither of us is truly satisfied with what has passed for a good education in its highly regarded school districts, much less the districts that served the least advantaged schools. She also overestimates, in my view, the degree to which Americans ever attended “common schools” That’s another story which all this crisis talk leaves untouched—or actually exacerbates as she ably documents, and where the promising fledgling progressive reforms of the 60s through 80s had focused attention on. As my mentor, and author of a study of American high schools, Ted Sizer said, “using one’s mind well” is the essential unexplored task facing the high schools for democracy. We have barely skimmed the surface of making either our schools or our democracy “belong” to everyone.

Thanks, Diane. We all need to keep this book handy so we can whip out the citations to make our case for the kind of reform America really needs, in your own words: “to prepare citizens with the minds, hearts and character to sustain our democracy into the future.”


Life of an ed blogger

"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy." -- John Dewey, School & Society
Every day my mailbox is filled with requests from different promoters, asking me to pimp pump their products, their programs, and their private and charter schools. Urban public schools have no publicists.

Looks like fun, doesn't it?
I have no idea why some of these folks think I would want to promote them. But sometimes I do, unintentionally. Case in point, this morning I got this missive from Glenn Gray, who promotes something called the Heritage Academy.

Hi Mike, [they always address me by my first name]
Heritage Academy – a progressive, coeducational school (grades 5-12) located on Hilton Head Island – announces a fall class representing 25 countries and 20 U.S. states. A record 11 different activities are featured this year, including aviation, ballroom dance, crew, equestrian, fast track education, golf, interior design, swimming, modern dance, tennis and volunteering. High res images are available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.
Tuition at Heritage is a modest $15K/year. Modest that is, when compared to Chicago's new elite GEM Academy, which runs from $32-$37K. Let's just say, it's not for everybody.

Usually, I just do a quick run-through of the morning mail and hit the delete button 20 times. Problem solved. But I couldn't help myself on this one. I think it was the word progressive that jumped out on me.

Few public schools would dare call themselves progressive in this, the age of Race To The Top, testing madness, and corporate "reform." They would run the risk of being "reformed" out of existence. Yet this chic private academy on Hilton Head, whose curriculum is loaded with every subject the children of the rich need to learn in order to join the country's ruling class -- did they forget polo and fox hunting? -- pitches itself to its target audience as a "progressive" alternative.

Jean Anyon
It brought to mind research by the late Jean Anyon on the class nature of curriculum. Anyon studied the experiences of children in working class, middle class and wealthy elite schools. In the elite schools, she found, for example:
While strict attention to the lesson at hand is required, the teachers make relatively little attempt to regulate the movement of the children at other times. For example, except for the kindergartners the children in this school do not have to wait for the bell to ring in the morning; they may go to their classroom when they arrive at school. Fifth graders often came early to read, to finish work, or to catch up. After the first two months of school, the fifth-grade teachers did not line the children up to change classes or to go to gym, and so on, but, when the children were ready and quiet, they were told they could go--sometimes without the teachers. -- Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work
Peter Orrell, President and CEO of Junior Sports Corporation, owner/operator of the Heritage Academy puts it this way.
“To position students for success at the next level, we promote individual and differentiated attention in each classroom.”
Yes, progressive in form. But missing progressive education's democratic heart. "Progressive" ed, learning through doing, connection with the world of work, for the elite. Race To The Top, testing madness and intellectual rigor mortis for the rest.

Glad to help, Glenn.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The politics of fear. The path of least resistance.

On my fridge today.
The politics of fear sweep Ventura Cty schools. Takes me back to '50s duck-and-cover days when they made us practice hiding under our desks in case the Russians nuked us. Definitely a downward press on test scores. Don't you think?

Good news for Chicago's elite. You can send your kindergartner to a new, IB-accredited school with an "an entrepreneurial focus" for only $32,000/year (a fifth-grader at the school opening in fall 2014 would pay $37,000). The GEMS World Academy plans to go K-12 and offers a good view of the lake shore, plus your kindy won't have to be near those kids, if you get my drift. You listening, Rahm? Better than Lab?

As Rahm continues to slash school budgets and shutter schools and public health facilities, he's shifting all responsibility for Chicago's debacle onto Springfield. Bombing the pension fund is his Plan A and Plan B. You cannot tax your way out of this," the mayor says, giving a wink to his corporate Civic Committee pals. Better to put it on the backs of retired teachers.

A little over a year ago in Chicago, in the midst of the teachers strike, I was surprised to see polls showing Windy City residents, including affected parents overwhelming supporting the union and blaming Rahm for the week-long stoppage of school.  I'm no longer surprised by similar polls in Philly. A Pew poll, released yesterday, found that 31% of residents blame Gov. Corbett and the Republican-controlled state legislature for the school funding crisis, 31% blame Mayor Nutter and City Council, and 21% blame school administrators and the state-controlled School Reform Commission (SRC). Just 11% blame unions representing teachers and other workers.

“It’s one thing to be, quite frankly, in the gallery, and it’s another thing to be on the dance floor,” Bill Daley said at a news conference he called on Tuesday to explain why he was dropping out of the race.
Here's mine: It's one thing to eat spaghetti with marinara sauce, and it's another to be losing in the polls to Quinn and being ignored by big Democratic Party funders.

Don't forget to pick up a copy of Diane Ravitch's new book, Reign of Error:The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

UNO charters, pension robbers

Martin Cabrera Jr., (right) resigned from UNO's board amid growing scandal. | Sun-Times File Photo
The Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund on Monday charged that the already scandalized United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) had failed to make contributions for more than 90 certified teachers in its charter schools.

Writes the Trib's Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah:
The teachers pension fund announced the results of an audit of the organization on the same day the network opened a new school, UNO Soccer Academy High School, whose construction was halted along with other new UNO campuses after Gov. Pat Quinn temporarily blocked a $98 million construction grant for the projects. Eventually, money was released after the Latino organization promised to put in place rules outlawing nepotism and conflicts of interest and added several new members to its boards. But two of those members recently resigned.
Jay Rehak, president of the pension fund's board of trustees, said a closer review of UNO came as part of a larger study of charters and their contributions to the pension fund.
While they continue to wring their hands over an impending pension fund crisis, Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Quinn and House Speaker Madigan continue to funnel millions in public funds to UNO pension fund robbers.

Where are the feds?


When asked why he is abandoning the race for governor, the man from J.P. Morgan responded:
“Is this really me? Is this really what I want to spend my next five to nine years doing?"
 Translation:  "I'm just another pension bomber, getting my ass kicked in the polls. Why throw any more good money after bad?"

And when Pat Quinn is beating you in the polls, you know all hope is lost.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Lake Mary, FL resident Santiago Rodriguez
"Zimmerman is a Sandy Hook, Aurora waiting to happen." -- Email to chief of police
UNO's departing Board Chair Martin Cabrera
Cabrera told the Sun-Times that he quit “because of a difference of philosophy and mission.” He declined to elaborate. -- Sun-Times
 John Wilson
 Secretary Duncan could learn from those who live in the real world of educating America's children. -- EdWeek/ California is Right; Duncan is Wrong
Broad (WSJ pic)
Eli Broad
"Artists see the world differently than us business people. If I spent all my time with bankers, lawyers and business people, it would be kind of boring." -- Wall St. Journal
 Chicago police torture victim, Darrell Cannon
“If a cattle prod can make a cow jump, imagine what it can do to a human being...I was ready to say my mother committed a crime.” -- Victims of Burge torture and other injustices ask for help

Anthony Cody
 Diane Ravitch has emerged as an iconic figure on America's political landscape. What Daniel Ellsberg was to the Vietnam War, Ravitch has become to the battle raging over public education.  -- Living in Dialogue

Friday, September 13, 2013

No Safe Passage... Guzzardi kicks off campaign... The face of poverty in Chicago

No Safe Passage for Javier
A 14-year-old boy was shot in the back outside a Chicago high school in the city's Ashburn neighborhood Thursday night after his mother said he denied having gang ties when confronted by a group of boys with a gun. Carmelita Rice told police her son, Javier Cameron, was passing by outside Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy around 7:45 p.m. Thursday to walk two girls home.  -- Huff Post Chicago
Guzzardi Campaign Kick-off

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown calls it "the race to watch" in Chicago and he's right on.

Will Guzzardi is up against the bloated power of Chicago's Democratic Party Machine. He's taking on pension grabber, Toni Berrios, the daughter of corrupt Party boss Joe Berrios.  He's also got Boss Madigan reportedly pressuring local pols to stay away from his campaign. But Guzzardi has shown he is a fighter, having come within 150 votes of knocking off Berrios in the last election. This time around, he's gained some campaign experience, broadened his base and has an army of young activists working the neighborhoods. He also got strong support from City Council's Progressive Caucus members like Scott Waguespack and John Arena who spoke at his campaign kick-off last night in Logan Square.

If Guzzardi can knock off Berrios in the 39th legislative election, things will be looking even worse for Rahm & Co. in the next mayor's race.

The face of poverty in Chicago

This study really caught my eye as I have been doing a lot of work recently in a predominantly African-American and low-income Chicago southern suburb. Lots of transplanted kids and families from Chicago's demolished public housing. More families with out-of-work parents in the wake of deindustrialization and economic crisis.
The numbers are from a recent study by the Social IMPACT Research Center, a program of the Chicago-based social service and advocacy non-profit Heartland Alliance. The study found a 50/50 split between low-income people who live in the city and in the suburbs, compared to a 66/34 split in 1990.
New Report Rips Race To Top

President Barack Obama's signature education initiative, the Race to the Top competition, is "impossible" at best and damaging at worst, argues a new, Broader Bolder (EPI) report. The authors's critique is strong but they are also little too diplomatic for my tastes, trying to find the bright side of RTTT and appealing to Obama to think about his personal "legacy." Good luck on that one.

Quote of the day

It comes from O2COOL exec Keith Jaffee whose company donated some 33,000 hand-held fans for distribution to Chicago's overheated students, victims of 100 degree temps and Rahm's longer-school-day dogma. Instead of closing schools or dismissing kids early, the mayor had some 17,000 hand-held fans distributed to kids in schools with no A/C. Shortly after the fans were distributed at Smyser Elementary School, where only the upper grades have air conditioning, a 6-year-old’s hair got caught in her fan and her teacher had to cut it out,

The quote:
“It was done with no connection to the mayor,” Jaffee said. “We had merchandise that we wanted to donate. It was a hot couple of days. … (So) we were like, ‘What the heck, let's just give it to the schools.'
Jaffee is also on the board of the International Housewares Assoc. and was formerly CEO of Focus Products Group International, LLC

The Tribune reports that Emanuel's campaign fund has accepted $35,000 in recent years from people tied to O2COOL, which provided the fans. In January, Linda Usher, an O2COOL executive, donated $5,000 to Chicago for Rahm Emanuel.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New York election victory points the way in Chicago

De Blasio's overwhelming win in yesterday's NY primary gives hope and new confidence to teachers and others who would like to see a similar outcome in the next Chicago mayoral election. De Blasio's stand on school issues seems closest to that  of some members of the City Council's Progressive Caucus.and other potential anti-Rahm candidates.

De Blasio is a strong advocate for public education; opposes charter school expansion and Bloomberg'a (read Emanuel's) corporate-style reform; wants to increase taxes on the wealthiest to solve the budget crisis; and says that inequality is the central issue of our times.” His strong stand against Bloomberg's racist stop-and-frisk policies resonated with many black and Latino voters. Sounds like a strong platform for a 2015 anti-Rahm candidate.

With his own poll ratings sinking like a stone, I'm sure that Rahm kept a close eye on the New York election. What he saw must have shaken him and his corporate backers, many of whom are expressing a lack of confidence in the mayor. While de Blasio's victory was making headlines, here's what Chicagoans were reading about their own mayor, all within the last 24 hours:

The clock is ticking for Mr. Emanuel (Crain's)
Rahm settles Police torture cases settled for $12.3 million (Sun-Times)
Mayor: 'Sorry' for Burge torture era (Tribune)
First-grader’s hair gets caught in fan handed out by CPS (Sun-Times) 
Rahm checkmates school chess teams (Reader)
Rahm's Midway privatization deal crashes and burns (Crain's)

Is it any wonder then, that this headline followed those above?
Rahm offers olive branch to Karen Lewis (Sun-Times) 

De Blasio's primary win must have also shaken Arne Duncan who has made mayoral control of urban public schools the centerpiece of the DOE's "reform" agenda. I'm anxious to see what he says about de Blasio and if he threatens to punish the nation's biggest school district for de Blasio's likely election.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Good riddance Bloomberg (and Carlos Danger)

Bill de Blasio wins NY primary.

There's a couple of reasons why I woke up on the right (left?) side of the bed this morning.

One: We are not lobbing missiles into Syria, much to joy of 90% of Americans, 100% of families and children living in Damascus, and the chagrin of war mongers in both countries and on both sides of the aisle.

Two: It looks like a progressive mayor has been (or will be -- still waiting on the final count) elected in NYC. Congrats to primary winner Bill de Blasio who had to overcome vicious, racist attacks on him and his family by stop-and-frisk mayor Bloomberg. De Blasio offers some hope to a NY's public school system which has been devastated by Bloomberg's charter school and privatization fanaticism.

WaPo reports:
Bloomberg’s dreamscape became the Democrats’ dystopia. In their telling, he was not a refreshing, fearless leader but an overbearing father who thought he always knew best. “The mayor,” de Blasio said Tuesday, “has been increasingly unwilling to address inequality in this city and that this is the central issue of our times.”
I, along with many other progressive educators, are still puzzled by the teachers union leadership's lack of support for de Blasio. I still have to analyze the vote count but it's already clear that many of UFT's own rank-and-file voted for him. Big disconnect there.

De Blasio is a pro-union guy with a good line on public education.
DeBlasio has made universal pre-K a centerpiece of his campaign, pushing for a tax increase on the wealthy in order to pay for it. He’s also the foe of charter schools — he’s said several times that the city has enough charter schools and that they should have to pay rent to use public property. -- Politico
GothamSchools has more on DeBlasio’s views on education issues:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In the mailbox


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 CONTACT:  Stephanie Gadlin  312/329-6250   

September 10, 2013                                                                                                                                 

Teachers ‘changed the conversation’ about the quality of public education in Chicago
CHICAGO – One year ago, nearly 30,000 public school educators took to the picket lines to fight for the neighborhood schools their students deserve. They also wanted to secure a strong labor contract and regain respect for their profession. It was the first teachers strike in the city’s history in 25 years and it took the city by storm. Led by Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis, a former chemistry teacher, the colorful demonstrations, which began September 10, 2012 and lasted nine days, garnered national and international headlines as the “sea of red,” flooded the streets of downtown Chicago in a unified show of force.
The 2012 teachers strike was perhaps the first time in the city’s history that a labor action of its kind garnered widespread support from the public, including parents of Chicago Public School (CPS) students. After weeks of dramatic labor negotiations, protests, news conferences and rallies at the Board of Education teachers walked away with one of the strongest labor contract in recent history, a more unified workforce and the distinction of haven taken on a powerful, media-savvy mayor and won.
For weeks leading up to the strike, teachers and other school employees organized internally, trained its leaders and began an outreach campaign for parents.  Lewis and other CTU leaders showed the public that a ‘good contract’ was paramount in having high-quality, neighborhood schools. The union consistently pushed the narrative that proved that poverty and severe racial disparities had significantly impacted the school district.  It released its ground-breaking education platform, “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” and advocated for reforms to the TIF program, additional wrap-around services for students, quality school facilities and more access to pre-school and kindergarten for low-income students.  The union pulled the curtain off the charter movement’s marketing campaign and called on the school district to hold the privately-held, publicly funded operations accountable for poor student performance and high teacher turn-over rates.
The events leading to the strike were equally dramatic. On May 23rd, more than 12,000 CTU members, parents and students took to the streets of Chicago in a dynamic display of solidarity. Weeks later on June 11, the CTU revealed that 90 percent of its members voted to give their labor organization the authority to call a strike.  A new state law had required a 75 percent of all eligible CTU voters to vote in the affirmative in order to provide strike authorization. The law proved useless as the city’s public school educators responded to a barrage of coordinated attacks from the mayor’s office, school CEO and the city’s wealthy, out-of-town corporate school reform assassins. After all night labor negotiations with the Board failed to produce an agreement, the union called a strike at midnight on Sept. 10 and teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals walked the picket lines until they returned to the classroom just over a week later; this despite, the mayor’s unsuccessful attempt to have a court force an end to the strike.

“This Union had survived an all-out attack on our very existence and our ability to advocate for our members, our students and their communities from a well-funded, well-orchestrated group of extremely wealthy people who saw themselves as the authorities on education,” Lewis reflected.  “We were vilified in the press and on paid radio ads which attempted to paint us as greedy and unknowledgeable. Our contractually agreed to raises were stolen to goad us into acting rashly.  Our members have been laid off, terminated and publicly humiliated all in attempt to turn public school educators and the public against us.  None of it worked.”

Added CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, “The odds were not in our favor. The state legislature had been conned by the corporate reformers into passing Senate Bill 7 which was nothing more than an attempt to bust our union and further decimate our public school system. Our members were angry but worn out from fighting their principals over the years; and, the public had not been given the whole story. People believed that teachers were lazy and were to blame for everything that’s wrong in our system.  No one wanted a strike, but we had to exercise our right to strike in order to strengthen our school district. This was bigger than taking on the mayor or the Board—this was about fighting for our students, and people finally understood that.”

For the first time in CTU history, the union was able to secure a number of gains for its members including, blocking the use of merit pay and standardized test scores in teacher evaluations; a principal anti-bullying clause; freedom to develop lesson plans; the hiring of art, music and physical education teachers to create a “better school day” for students as the year grew longer; significant cost of living increases; and short-term disability leave for pregnant teachers.  In addition, for the first time in nearly two decades, Lewis, Sharkey and the other officers, Recording Secretary Michael Brunson and Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle, were re-elected by 80 percent of its members following a contract negotiation.  Previous contracts had led to past CTU leaders being thrown out of office.

“We also gained international respect for our resistance to the struggle for equitable education.  We won the right for professional autonomy in lesson plans; we won a more reasonable evaluation system which was intended to use up to 50 percent for student test scores,” Lewis said. “We gained the ability to finally have due process in all discipline issues and the right to appeal evaluations.  We also won a real right for teachers to follow students when schools close—which proved significant when CPS closed 50 schools in a single year.”

Some critics believe the strike did little beyond addressing the bread and butter issues impacting teachers. However, the school district announced recently that last year’s test scores went up; the longer school day was a success and the overall quality of education improved in just a short year. This was due to the visible and vocal advocacy of rank-and-file teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians who fought for change the conversation about public education in the city.

While the CTU strike sparked similar labor protests throughout the state, including about eight teacher strikes in the region, the organization’s leaders say there is still much work to be done. The group will continue to expose the contradictions in public policy as well as broaden its base of support by working with parents, students, clergy, community-based organizations and others.

“Since the strike we have strengthened our ability to build power through a significant change in the political landscape including increased voter awareness, registration and candidate preparation,” Lewis said. “We’ve done remarkable work towards equitable funding by changing the conversation about revenue but now our focus is on securing fair taxes, closing corporate loopholes and holding the unelected, unaccountable school board to making budgetary decisions that do not destroy traditional public schools.”


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

On August 14th, I commented on Byrd-Bennett's "sleight of hand" on Chicago charter school expansion. BBB had promised that none of the 49 neighborhood schools she was closing would be "handed over" to private charter operators. A Tribune editorial had referred to this as a "promise worth breaking." And that's exactly what she has done by rapidly expanding the number of charters right on the heels of the school closings, with many of them opening in the same neighborhoods as the supposedly "underutilized" closed schools.

A h/t goes out to EduShyster who has come up with a couple of TFA internal documents which reveal that organization's Chicago expansion plans, including the placing of hundreds of lower-paid, non-union, 5-week-wonders into an estimated 52 new charter schools -- almost the exact number of schools closed this year by Byrd-Bennett.

Funny --TFA Chicago’s executive director, Josh Anderson thanks EduShyster for "reaching out" and then offers a shaky denial. Phoebe Anderson, who works for charter authorizer, NACSA, disputes some of the facts, in the comments section.

We'll see who's credible here. We already know it's not Byrd-Bennett.

BTW, where is BBB? We haven't heard anything from her since she responded to community protests over the consolidation of Jesse Owens school into Gompers (what's in a name, right? Plenty). She warned community residents not to "let this cause become a bureaucratic, never-ending process.’

Then radio silence. Is this J.C. Brizard ("Don't call me a puppet") redux?


I tried to stay up late enough to watch Rahm on Letterman last night, but no dice. Found out this morning that he used his appearance on late night to call for the bombing of Syria and to tell America to "stand tall" (I'm resisting the urge to make any Little Napoleon jokes here. I'm better than that.). He also gave Letterman the verbal flip-off when he was asked about pandemic violence in Chicago.
"What I hear about Chicago now is 'Oh, don't go to Chicago, the violence is unbelievable.' Now, tell us why people say that," Letterman asked. Emanuel laughed before making a joke: "Well, first of all they're watching CBS and you late at night," Emanuel said.
 Trib reporter John Byrne comments:
Then he turned to his oft-cited statistic that overall crime is down about 25 percent in Chicago this year. Left unsaid by Emanuel on the program was that homicides remain stubbornly high in Chicago compared to many other major American cities, with 53 murders in August compared to 59 in the same month last year, following a July that saw 48 killings, a drop of just two from the same month in 2012. The first six months of the year had seen an improvement over last year's spike in homicides that led to the unflattering national headlines.
Well said.

Monday, September 9, 2013


In Deer Trail, Colorado, it's hunting season. 
Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff 
"Let me tell you what this is not: This is not Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not Libya—a sustained air campaign. This is not boots on the ground." -- USA Today
Loretta Sanchez, Calif. Democrat
"Make no mistake about it, the minute that one of those cruise missiles lands in there, we are in the Syrian war." -- Meet the Press
Jay Rehak
 While some call for reducing benefits for our retired members, the actuarial reality says otherwise: reducing benefits, besides breaking a promise, will not solve the problem. A lack of revenue created this problem. Restoring revenue will solve it. -- Letter to Sun-Times
Michelle Rhee
 “Most of the teachers that I’ve talked to say that they feel like the reforms are being done to them instead of with them." -- L.A. School Report
Mike Rose
 The leaders of high-profile charter organizations and especially of Teach For America have a huge megaphone, lots of influence and media connections.  People listen to them. Perhaps this is not what these leaders really believe, perhaps they’re just trying to stir the pot, be “disruptive.”  But sometimes being disruptive is not transformative.  It is reckless, done without deep thought to long-term consequences.  And reckless is the last thing poor communities need. -- The Answer Sheet, "Forever young: the new teaching career"

Duncan pleads ignorance on Justice Dept. civil rights suit against La. school vouchers

Louisiana school deseg suit? He claims he never heard of it. 
Arne Duncan came close to channeling the old-line southern segregationists last week, by publicly opposing so-called, "forced racial integration."  That was bad enough. But it also brought back horrifying memories of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, when Duncan called the devastating storm that killed thousands and displaced thousands more, “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” 

What had enamored him with the storm was that by laying to waste the city's public education system, Katrina opened the door for Duncan's mentor Paul Vallas to crush the teachers union, fire every teacher in the district, and implant a system of privately-run charter schools. Post-Katrina New Orleans under Bush, would soon become the model for "reforming" school districts like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Duncan would later apologize for the transparency of his Katrina outburst. I know that there are some in his camp who are counseling him to "clarify" his forced integration statement, even as I write this. But Duncan said something else in that same radio interview which all the king's horses and men will not be able to put back together again.

Holder goes after La. resegregation. Arne pleads ignorance. 
When asked about the Justice Department's recent lawsuit to block Louisiana's school voucher program, Duncan pleaded ignorance. "I'm not familiar with that lawsuit," he told radio host Diane Rhem. "That's between the Department of Justice and the state of Louisiana."


According to the lawsuit, filed two weeks ago by the Justice Dept., vouchers "appeared to impede the desegregation process" in Louisiana.

Was Duncan really as ignorant as he sounded? Of course not. But he just couldn't very well come out in opposition to "forced integration" in one breath and then support Eric Holder's legal assault on Gov. Bobby Jindal's re-segregation juggernaut, in the other. So the Secretary did the next best thing. He pleaded ignorance.

But that didn't go far enough for disappointed conservative pro-voucher and segregationist Duncan allies who expected at least a tepid statement of support. A Wall Street Journal editorial, which called Duncan "one of the better" of Obama's cabinet members, came close to calling for his ouster.
But if he really did first hear about the Louisiana lawsuit from a reporter, then maybe it's time he returned to Chicago. He's clearly not interested in his job anymore. 
Rupert Murdoch's boys at WSJ were really upset when they learned that former Justice Department Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez, who is now Labor Secretary, was "nosing around" the state of Louisiana earlier this year.
If Mr. Perez is now also running education policy, it really is time for Mr. Duncan to leave.
I would say, it's time for Duncan to leave precisely because HE IS running education policy. But not back to Chicago, please. We've had enough.