Thursday, October 31, 2013

Despite all their boasting, charters missing from today's top-scoring schools list

Missing from today's published list of the top 50 highest performing list of Chicago area schools are any charters. All 50 of the top-listed schools (based solely on ISAT test scores of course), whether selective-enrollment or suburban, are public schools with union teachers.

OK, so where are over-hyped Chicago charters? Noble Street? Urban Prep? KIPP? Chicago Int'l? Well, you won't find any of them on today's list of top scorers and you won't find them at all, out in the wealthy burbs. Nor will you find any of Rahm's vaunted military academies or turnaround schools.

Best and funniest answer to the where-are-they question comes from top charter school hustler Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. According to his press release:
For the first time in Chicago history, this year the top 11 highest performing non-selective Chicago Public Schools high schools are charter schools... Chicago public charter schools are proving what parents already know: when it comes to academic outcomes, charter public schools are changing lives.
Wow! Changing lives. That's amazing. Well, not exactly. You see, 9 of those top 11 "non-selective" city high schools Broy refers to all belong to one network -- Noble Street. And for Broy to refer to his charters as "non-selective", well let's just all admit that's a stretch. You'll need a fine-tooth comb to find any kids who are English Language Learners, have disabilities, or severe behavioral problems. Even Chicago selective-enrollment magnet schools enroll more special-needs students than do the charters.

Plus Noble Street, KIPP and many other charter networks have become notorious for the way they push out low-scoring kids. They have among the highest attrition rates of any schools in the country which artificially boosts their scores.

And why does Broy only mention high schools? The top-50 list also includes elementary and middle schools, also all public with no charters in sight.

Yes, it's a fact that ISAT scores correlate more with poverty than with anything going on in the classroom. That's why Broy's charters, like all public schools, are all over the map when it comes to test scores. A tiny handful score relatively high. Most score low, depending on the kids they are able to recruit.
Side note:
And among the state’s high schools, Chicago rated six of the top 50, but 42 of the bottom 50. At least four schools that took in students from closed schools, including Jensen Elementary Scholastic School and Lavizzo Elementary School, are among the schools that had major drops in rankings between 2013 and last year, according to the Sun-Times analysis.
But, if you want to find most charters on the list, don't start with the top. Scroll down around the middle of the pack or at the bottom where you'll find the most segregated schools with the poorest kids.

Today's Sun-Times reports:
Five charter schools have been placed on the Chicago Public Schools academic warning list for failing to meet academic standards, CPS officials announced Wednesday. The schools are: Catalyst Circle Rock, Catalyst Howland, Chicago International Charter School Longwood, EPIC Academy and UNO Tamayo.
Best comment on that comes from the CTU's Michael Harrington who said the union is “suspicious” of the small number of charter schools on the list and said “Only five, really?”

He added accountability for charters should go beyond academic performance and said they should answer: “Where is the money going?”

Umm, I don't know. The d'Escoto brothers? I'll leave it to the federal investigators to answer that one.

Most sensible comment comes from top-scoring Payton Principal Tim Devine who says:
The focus on standardized tests at Payton is “somewhat minimal. We really believe if you just have a great curriculum starting from Day One of the school year, and you build that throughout the entire year and the student’s four-year career, great standardized test scores will be a byproduct of great teaching and learning.”
I'm sure Devine would admit that it helps to limit your school's recruitment to the top-scoring .5% of applicants.

Coach's notes: Playing field is uneven

“I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” --Michael Jordan

Today is the first day of freshman basketball tryouts. I wish they let me keep all the kids who try out for the team. I hate cutting kids. But CPS has sliced our sports budget so thin. They are threatening to cut freshman sports altogether and last year our kids got pushed out of the frosh league tournament when they cut it down to only four teams.

We only have uniforms for a dozen players and the ones we have are old. Coaches do the team laundry at home and often come out of pocket for kids who can't afford shoes. I will have to raise $380 so we can play in the Christmas Tournament at Whitney Young.

It's especially depressing when our kids take the bus out to play the wealthy suburban schools and see the kind of facilities and opportunities they offer -- massive and well-equipped sports complexes with multiple practice gyms, nice uniforms and sweats, matching shoes, trainers and training tables, video rooms, and big coaching staffs. I admit I try and use the obvious unfairness to motivate our players. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Probably a good meal in their bellies that morning would help a lot more. Of course it's not the other kid's fault they were born into privilege and along with teaching basketball skills, I'm mainly trying to teach sportsmanship and respect for the other team's athletes as well as self-respect. But it would be a lot easier if the playing field were level.

I love the game of basketball and want to make it as fun and rewarding an experience for our student/athletes as it has been for me. They have enough things in their young lives to be angry about.

Should be an interesting day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Byrd-Bennett reshuffles her bureaucracy. Yes, that'll do it.

It seems like every year CPS leaders come up with a new, top-down bureaucratic management structure to keep local schools in line. And every year we have to learn the new names for the sub-district or regional managers, ie. AIOs, Network Managers, Underbosses, Capos, etc... who are there to transmit and enforce the party line and report back on any principals who aren't team players.

Yesterday's memo from Byrd-Bennett. announces the latest restructuring:
Starting immediately, we are restructuring our networks to better align both our academic goals and geographies of existing neighborhoods. This will allow us to better engage our community stakeholders while improving the allocation of Network resources to our schools. To accomplish this, we are moving from the existing structure of 19 separate networks for elementary schools and high schools to a new configuration consisting of 13 networks that encompass Pre-Kindergarten education through Grade 12. Combining elementary and high school networks will allow for a more coherent, continuous delivery of instruction for students starting in Pre-Kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Some school types that require more specialized education supports will operate under their own organizational structure. The Alternative Schools Network, which has been renamed the Department of Option Schools, will report to the Office of Innovation and Incubation. Service Leadership Academies (Military) will be counted in the new Network structure, but will operate as a separate unit within the District. Lastly, AUSL schools will no longer be included under the new Network structure and will instead receive support directly from the Chief Officer of Network Supports.
After carefully studying the new network structure and analyzing all accompanying org charts and graphs, my advice to local schools bent on survival under this new bureaucratic set up -- put your students in fatigues and desert boots and call yourself Special Forces High or Seal Team 6 Elementary.

Remember, Byrd-Bennett's promise(s)?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain who said, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." The problem for Rahm and Byrd-Bennett is that they lie and we remember.

We remember, for example, Byrd-Bennett's promise that schools would be closed only if the displaced children could be sent to better schools.

But back in April, we knew something was amiss. The Sun-Timed reported that only 2/3 of the kids actually ended up at a higher-rated school.
Now you can toss those figures out as well. Sarah Karp at Catalyst has up-to-date numbers and the S-T wasn't even close. She writes:
Now, with the revelation that only 60 percent of displaced students enrolled in their designated welcoming school, the academic performance at the schools where they landed becomes an important X-factor, made even more critical by the fact that the Consortium on Chicago School Research has found that closings are only beneficial if students end up in the top-performing schools.
And of that 60%, only about half are enrolled in higher-rated schools. Abysmal!


We also remember CPS Board President David Vitale repeatedly assuring Ames Middle School parents that there were no plans to make Ames a military school. Ames parents celebrated the announcement along with principal Turon Ivy, who said he too was happy to hear the news. "That brings great news to us — not just to the school, but also to the community," he said, adding that there was still a lot to be done to improve the school.

The celebration's over. Vitale lied.

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to transform a Logan Square school into a military academy Tuesday, parents of Ames Middle School students chanted “Ames is not for sale” outside.
Rubbing more salt into the would, Rahm said he will use $7 million in TIF funds to make Ames the permanent home for the Marine Math & Science Academy. Chicago has become the mecca for militarization and leads the nation in the number of military academies. BTW, the Marine Academy, despite Rahm's claims, is not a high-performing school. Only 1% of their students exceeded reading standards and 0% in math.
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said in a statement Tuesday that the decision was “yet another betrayal of children by Mayor Emanuel and his appointing school board.” She said hundreds of Ames parents, students and residents have participated in several meetings to support the school, which she said had improved its academic standing in recent years.
Lots to remember here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Obama comes to Brooklyn. Warns students, 'the Chinese, Indians, Russians... are coming.'

Obama arrives at JFK on route to Brooklyn
S.T.E.M. schools are the flavor of the month and President Obama took the opportunity, while stumping for Bill de Blasio (not that de Blasio needs it), to make a speech at his favorite, Brooklyn's P-Tech. 

P-Tech bills itself as "the first school in the nation that connects high school, college, and the world of work through college and industry partnerships." The school has students from grades 9-11 and then offers them a program at CUNY leading to an A.A. degree (I have one of those from L.A. City College in the 60's but no one has ever asked to see it).

The school is run under a partnership between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York and IBM, and is being hailed by corporate execs and the President himself as the new model for schools everywhere. However, I'm not really sure what those outside partnerships mean to the school, since both CUNY and IBM have big problems of their own.
“This country should be doing everything in our power to give more kids the chance to go to schools just like this one,” the president said, calling the school, known as P-Tech, a ticket into the middle class. 
I didn't know you needed a "ticket" to get into the middle class. But given the current devastation and disintegration of the middle class, you might wonder why anyone would want in. I certainly doubt that going to a S.T.E.M. high school is the pathway out of poverty for most New Yorkers, and it's certainly unfair to put that kind of pressure of a false promise on schools alone. It was de Blasio who said "the city’s middle class isn’t just shrinking, it's in danger of disappearing.”

What Obama failed to say was that P-Tech and schools like it weren't meant to accommodate all kids. I'll give it to P-Tech, a good small school where at least they don't select on the basis of test scores. But there is still a rigorous application process which requires engaged and active parents who are aware enough and who live in the right neighborhoods to apply.

Obama and de Blasio at Junior's Deli
I also don't have a problem with math/science-focused schools. But I do have a problem with them being privileged over all others and sucking up so much of the shrinking resources available to city schools. It's reminiscent of the 1950s, when the Soviet launch of Sputnik sparked a similar Cold War demagogy and national paranoia along with a shift to specialization in math, science, and engineering and away from the liberal arts and small-d democratic education.

I'm actually glad to see the President out there in the middle of Brooklyn, speaking to and encouraging inner-city kids to get their education. However, I'm disgusted by the demagogic and chauvinistic "Chinese and Indians are coming" rationale he presents.
“Now, you’ve got billions of people from Beijing to Bangalore to Moscow, all of whom are competing with you directly. And they’re — those countries are working every day, to out-educate and out-compete us.” 
While IBM supposedly will offer P-Tech grads an "inside track" to jobs at the corporation, someone should have pointed out to the students that IBM is one of 10 U.S. companies cutting the most jobs and that nearly 10,000 IBM workers have been laid off. They might also have pointed out that those workers were all highly educated.

Students protest tuition hikes at CUNY
As for partner CUNY, as state funding has decreased, the CUNY system has relied more and more on tuition, which provides over 40% of its operating budget. Tuition at the school is rising at a rate that is making a real degree program much too costly for the P-Tech grads to complete.

 The N.Y. Times reports, "After his speech, Mr. Obama stopped at a Junior’s restaurant, on Flatbush Avenue, entering with Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor, and shaking hands with employees and patrons."

I wonder if Obama had a chance sit and discuss educational priorities and charter expansion with the next mayor of New York. The President could learn a thing or to about schooling and about the city's widening economic inequality and large areas of concentrated poverty -- something de Blasio talks about in every stump speech while Obama rarely mentions it.

Robert Reich has a good Tweet in response to the Obama visit to Brooklyn:
"O must connect the dots: need for better schools financed by higher taxes on rich, because of widening inequality." 
de Blasio Tweets:
 NYC has a booming market for luxury condos, and enough people who sleep in homeless shelters to fill Yankee stadium. #TaleofTwoCities

Monday, October 28, 2013


From left are Gap Chairman Bob Fisher, investor Charles Schwab and philanthropist Eli Broad. A state investigation found that the three were among secret  donors to right-wing, anti-public school, anti-union group,  Americans for Job Security.   (Times Wire Services)

Anthony York
San Francisco investor Schwab gave more than $6.2 million to the same group [Americans for Job Security]. Broad gave $1 million despite his stated support for higher taxes on the wealthy. -- L.A. Times
L.A. Teacher, Geronimo
 “Although there probably has never been a more self-aggrandizing, yet endlessly self-pitying superintendent than John Deasy, we will now have the spectacle of observing who is going to beg this prima donna to stay." -- Diane Ravitch Blog
GLN Co-founder Andy Thayer
“Because Speaker Madigan is so powerful, controlling access to jobs and contracts, most organizations are afraid to take him on and bluntly place blame where it’s due... Madigan controls the House as surely as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel controls the City Council." -- Capital Fax 
Kevin Welner
“Let’s challenge all students instead of tracking by ability” -- Seattle Times
 Kashmir Hill 
“He was talking very loudly and using words like ‘rendition’ and ‘black sites,’” entrepreneur and former MoveOn director Tom Mattzie told New York Magazine. “My ears perked up.” -- Forbes

Friday, October 25, 2013

Darling-Hammond on Common Core

Stanford prof Linda Darling-Hammond, who should have been our Sec. of Education, shares her thoughts on Common Core.
We should use the standards as guideposts and not straitjackets. And we should develop robust performance-based assessments of the kind I describe in my book that provide exciting opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning and for teachers to be engaged in development and scoring – used for information and improvement, not for sanctions and punishments. 
Read her entire post on Diane Ravitch's blog.

Nothing new here
Another federal charter school fraud trial begins in Philly. What else is new you ask? Look for more of the same in a city whose mass school closings, budget cuts and charter school expansion make it look like post-Katrina New Orleans. And I don't mean that in a good way, Sec. Duncan.

Speaking of Duncan, he made an appearance, along with Gov. Quinn and U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider at suburban Wheeling High School yesterday, for a photo op and to hail the school's makeover. Duncan labeled Wheeling as "a school of last resort" until this year.  Then it got on the receiving end of more than a million dollars in new STEM money, including the building last summer of a nanotechnology lab, an electron and atomic force microscope, an optical profiler, a 3-D printer and several pieces of advanced technology. According to Duncan, the addition of the lab and an introductory nanotechnology course this fall with about 30 students, has led to "a remarkable turnaround."
"We needed to strategically rebrand," said David Schuler, district superintendent.
Okay, say Chicago's inner-city high schools, many of which have also been rebranded as STEM schools. Where's our million-dollar makeover?

The man from Gates
The L.A. Times says that John Deasy, who was sent in by the Gates Foundation, is headed out the door in L.A. It's about time. He has left a train wreck in every district he's been. The teacher-bashing Deasy, who was a Broad-trained superintendent, will be remembered for imposing so-called Value-Added teacher evaluations based on student test scores and having them publicly posted in the newspapers besides teachers names. His failed game plan called for rapid expansion of scandal-plagued charter schools and  replacing veteran teachers with 5-week wonders from TFA.
Deasy was closely allied with former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who left office this year because of term limits. Deasy's political position weakened further in recent school board elections, when two candidates backed by Deasy allies lost. The newly constituted board has made no moves against Deasy, but quickly began to challenge more of his policies.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


www. t h e g r a s s r o o t s c o l l a b o r a t i v e . o r g

October 23, 2013
Contact: Nathan Ryan, Communications Organizer, 920-445-3920,

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Budget Address Continues Status Quo Instead of Addressing Growing Inequality

In this morning's budget address, Mayor Emanuel chose to continue the status quo policies that pile fees and fines upon the backs' of working and middle class families. Instead of making the truly "tough choices" to force banks and corporations to pay their fair share, the proposed 2014 budget places the burden squarely on Chicago residents, once again. Every year, the City of Chicago pays $76 million a year to Wall Street banks to borrow money. This money was taken from the open wallets of taxpayers in 2008, when we bailed the banks out for crashing our economy.  The City should protect taxpayers and re-negotiate these toxic deals.
Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are diverted away from schools, parks, and libraries through Tax Increment Financing dollars. The majority of TIF funds are spent on downtown development, funneled to selective enrollment schools, and given to large corporations who don't need the handout.  The TIF Surplus Ordinance must be codified into law – administrative orders that amount to drops in the bucket are not enough.

The education and health investments laid out by Mayor Emanuel are positive, but are greatly outweighed by the closing of 50 schools, the massive budget cuts to schools across the city, and the closing of 50% of the city's public mental health clinics. One step forward with five steps back is not progress for Chicago families.  Maintaining strong public services is key for Chicago prosperity.  The Privatization Transparency Accountability Ordinance puts in the protections that Chicago needs. Grassroots Collaborative supports strategies that keep dollars in the pockets of Chicago working families. We need good jobs in our neighborhoods, not job transfers that leave Black and Latino workers behind.  Mayor Emanuel can continue to talk about downtown jobs, but Grassroots Collaborative's study released earlier this month, ‘Downtown Prosperity, Neighborhood Neglect,’ shows that this is not a winning strategy for the majority of Chicagoans. “Chicago needs bold leadership willing to make the tough choices - where the corporate elite and Wall Street banks pay their fair share, and where ordinances that put the needs of the people over the greed of private interests get debated, not buried,” said Grassroots Collaborative executive director Amisha Patel. “We need strategies that invest in our neighborhoods, not further inequity.  Change is what Chicago needs, but unfortunately, Mayor Emanuel has only the status quo to offer our working families. “

Grassroots Collaborative is Action Now, American Friends Service Committee - GreatLakes Region, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Teachers Union, Enlace Chicago, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Service Employees International Union Local 73, Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois Indiana, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, UNITE HERE Local 1

Uh oh, Rahm is 'furious'

The Sun-Times' Fran Spielman reports that the Little Emperor is "furious." Why? Because people keep bringing up this Amer Ahmad thing and the Lois Scott connection. Remember, Rahm appointed Ahmad to be his comptroller based on CFO Scott's recommendation. Then we learned that Ahmad was indicted by the feds for money laundering, bribery and other public corruption charges related to his previous position as deputy treasurer in the state of Ohio. Scott, it turns out, had some nefarious dealings with Ahmad.
Writes Spielman:
A furious Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday likened media attacks on his Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott to the “drive by hits” that drove him out of the “crap town” that is Washington D.C.
Wow! Such language. So that's why Rahm left the White House staff. Drive by hits in a crap town? I thought it was because the Obama's and other staff members could no longer stand to be around him or put up with his guff.

Besides, Chicago is not "crap town" and people inside and outside the media have a right and a duty to demand transparency on the Ahmad/Scott scandal.

Ahmad, Emanuel & Scott
Scott who would have been the mayor’s point-person in selling the failed Midway privatization deal to the City Council, has been implicated in the Ahmad scandal. She's not only the one who recommended Ahmad to Rahm. it turns out that Scott's private financial firm worked on some $200 million in state highway construction bonds in Ohio and that Scott Balice Strategies LLC, co-owned by Scott, served as "financial adviser to the treasurer" on those Ohio deals.

After Scott came aboard as Emanuel's chief financial officer in May 2011, she selected a firm that employed Ahmad's onetime boss, former Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce, for hundreds of thousands of dollars in city bond work.When Boyce was a public official, Scott's firm profited, and when Scott became a public official under Emanuel, Boyce's firm profited. And Ahmad was at the center of it all.

Ahmad was also placed by Rahm on the  boards of all four of the City's largest pension funds and was the point man in Emanuel’s controversial decision to phase out Chicago’s 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care by 2017.

On Wednesday, Scott refused to answer questions about her relationship with Ahmad after joining other key members of Emanuel’s cabinet in the VIP box during the mayor’s annual budget address.

Yes Rahm is furious. After all his efforts to neuter IG Joe Ferguson, people keep bringing stuff up. Get over it Rahm. There's more coming.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Send lawyers, guns and money...

The shit has hit the fan
It’s shocking to hear that Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios’ name would come up in a discussion of questionable activity. SHOCKING, I say. -- Evening Rush 
Rahm & Joe "The Boss" Berrios
I no sooner finished responding to Laura Washington, who practically wrote off the anti-Rahm opposition in upcoming elections, than a significant chunk of the mayor's team imploded.

It started with reports of another layer of UNO scandal.
Sun-Times reported that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating UNO for possible securities fraud related to state-backed bonds used to finance school construction projects. This is the second time this year that Quinn has suspended UNO’s funding.
 D’Escoto Inc., is listed on the board’s agenda as a minority-owned business subcontractor for construction projects under CPS’ capital improvement plan. The $4.3 million project director services contract is slated to be awarded to the Jacobs Project Management Company, according to the agenda. If approved, D’Escoto stands to earn about 17.5 percent, or about $731,000, according to CPS spokeswoman Becky Carrol
Remember, UNO boss Juan Rangel, who's likely to take the fall in the SEC investigation, served as finance chairman of Emanuel’s mayoral campaign and has been involved in countless financial dealings with the mayor, Ald. Eddie Burke, and House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Berrios' favorite, "Lettuce Salad"
Then the story broke about Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe "The Boss" Berrios being implicated in a bribe taking, tax fraud sting. One FBI informant was taped boasting that he was “with Berrios... having lettuce salads.” I don't think he was talking arugula.
“You know, with the lettuce, say here you go, man — sign this. Put this through right away,” Hawkins was taped saying.
 A timely gift for candidate Will Guzzardi who is running for State Rep. against Berrios' daughter and protege Toni. Berrios has 15 members of his family on the county and state payrolls. I think she's toast.

And finally, the internal war within the state Democratic Party exploded with State. Senator Cullerton gang banging with Republican billionaire and Rahm's patron, Bruce Rauner over how badly to stick it state retirees.

Crain's Greg Hinz says: 
But for those who are really curious why nothing happens, take a careful look at recent comments by a political odd couple: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a true blue North Side liberal, and investment banker Bruce Rauner, the tough guy GOP candidate for governor who stands behind no one in his vows to put worker unions in their place.
 Thieves inevitably fall out. That's why there are no certainties in Chicago politics.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Defeating Rahm, Taking back Chicago. Tough, but It can be done.

Community groups rally to Take Back Chicago.
Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington paints a pretty grim, if not discouraging picture of Chicago's political future ("Despite woes, Rahm tough to beat"). She's right, of course. When it comes to elections in the Citizens United era, money doesn't just talk, it swears, to paraphrase Dylan.

Washington does a service by sizing Rahm up from a two-Chicago's perspective.
In one Chicago, they say Emanuel inherited and then revived an ailing city. He is an incorruptible, whirling dervish of government efficiency and accountability, single-minded about making Chicago a world-class city. Many in that Chicago dwell in the city’s prosperous inner core and are the wealthy and corporate interests Emanuel assiduously courts. 
The “other” Chicago — in the ’hoods — retorts that Emanuel disrespects those who disagree with him, governs by fiat and spin, and wields power to benefit his elite cronies, at their expense. 
She also could have mentioned the chaos and instability that have come along with Rahm's control of the city's public schools, his assault on the unions, especially those of teachers and public employees, and the pandemic gun violence plaguing the neighborhoods.

Mayor 1%
I would take issue with her on a couple of points. Even among Chicago's rich and powerful, there are factions who dislike Rahm (including the Daley clan) and some in business sector unhappy with his performance. The collapse of the Midway privatization deal is just the latest example of Rahm's ineptitude, from their perspective. The chaos, the tainting of the city's image and loss of business during the NATO summit is another. And then there's the dismal failure of his misnamed Infrastructure Trust.

Also remember, the mayor who is tied nationally to Pres. Obama and the Democratic Party hierarchy, has thrown in with Republican Bruce Rauner in the governor's race. Some Democrats, including some of his usual union allies can't be happy about that. While they will render unto Caesar, campaign contributions, many would like nothing more than to see him fall -- depending of course on a viable alternative.

And speaking of "incorruptible," let's wait and see how high up federal investigators are willing to go in the UNO scandal, Rahm's appointment of former comptroller Amer Ahmad, who was recently indicted in Ohio on conspiracy charges about directing state investments in exchange for bribes, and other City Hall contract mis-dealings. I could go on and on. But the point is, this is a regime up to its ears in conflicts of interest, Eddie Burke-style tax hanky-panky and political patronage. We'll see what happens when and if those who are plundering the city start rolling over on each other and jumping ship, and when those who have been kept away from the feeding trough start taking their revenge.

As for the "other Chicago", they we have problems of our own. While Take Back Chicago was an inspiring event, reminiscent of the early days of the Harold Washington campaign, which at least for a time, did take back Chicago, our weaknesses are transparent. Most notably, a movement still largely racially dis-unified and isolated like the city itself, and the lack of a viable candidate with name recognition, fund raising potential, and the ability and willingness to lead the kind of unified crusade necessary to pull and upset.

But I also think Washington is too quick to write off Ald. Fioretti as that candidate. While a progressive African-American, female candidate like CTU prez Karen Lewis or Toni Preckwinkle would obviously stand a great chance in a face-to-face battle with Rahm, neither has shown a willingness to run and each would have a lot to lose. In my mind, that leaves Fioretti who, along with the rest of the City Council's Progressive Caucus has been out front in standing up to Rahm, especially around support for public education and against TIF give-aways and the all-out privatization of city services. Could Fioretti be Chicago's Bill de Blasio? We'll see.

It will take a lot of work, lots of money, and a perfectly-run campaign (is there such a thing?). But I'm certainly more upbeat than Laura Washington. She's right. Rahm is a two-Chicago mayor. Let's hope he's a one-term one as well.

Time is running short. Let's get moving.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Daley doesn't know what he knew.
Classic Daley under oath
 “I don’t know what I knew.” -- Sun-Times
Diane Ravitch
NPR says Rahm Emanuel gets a “mixed” grade at midterm. On education, his grade is not mixed. It is a big fat F.  -- Grading Rahm Emanuel 
IL Sen. Pres. John Cullerton
The state's massive public employee pension debt is not a "crisis," but instead an issue being pushed by business-backed groups seeking lower income taxes at the expense of retiree benefits. -- WGN interview 
John Dewey
D.C. whistle-blower principal, Adell Cothorne 
I was a principal in a Washington DC public school when IMPACT was being rolled out. I knew of other principals who had their secretaries fill out the complex teacher rating systems for them. In other words, there were no safe guards to ensure that the system wasn’t being manipulated. How can we justify a rating system that can be gamed? -- EduShyster
John Dewey
"Democracy needs to be reborn in each generation, and education is its midwife." -- Chicago Tribune Commentary

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jeb Bush's "Mystery Guest"

What's Mayor 1% doing in Boston? Why he's the "mystery guest" at Jeb Bush's Education Forum of course. Throw in his support for Republican Bruce Rauner in the upcoming governor's race and it's pretty easy to see what kind of "Democrat" is running our schools and our city. Plus the Mayor always seems to be out of town when his shit hits the fan.

From left: Quinn, Rangel, Madigan, and Burke.

The Bond Buyer reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the UNO Charter School Network for potential securities violations apparently tied to its October 2011 $37 million bond issue.
The network issued $37 million of mostly tax-exempt new-money and refunding bonds in 2011 to help fund its ongoing expansion. The Illinois Finance Authority issued the bonds on the not-for-profit's behalf. Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. and Cabrera Capital Markets LLC served as underwriters with Kutak Rock LLP acting as bond counsel.
CPS oversees UNO's charter and provides funding support for the organization despite UNO's BBB-minus rating from Standard & Poor's, the lowest possible investment grade level. Standard & Poor's reports noted the state support of $98 million. UNO's school network has a total of about $67 million in debt.

The Sun-Times reports that Gov. Quinn has once again, pulled UNO's state funding. Good move. Although he's withholding only $18 million of their $98 million and he still has UNO egg on his face. Remember, Quinn, under pressure from (Quinn fundraiser) Ald. Eddie Burke, Mike Madigan and Rahm, restored the state funding in early June, saying he was "confident UNO had implemented reforms." Last month, Chicago "businessman" Martin Cabrera Jr. — whose appointment as UNO chairman, replacing Juan Rangel, was cited by Quinn as an important reform — resigned.

Now we'll see if the board will pull UNO's charter or run the risk of being legally complicit.


Even while feds are all over the UNO charter school scandal, the Noble Street Charter network hopes to pull off a similar scheme, using state money and connections with the Rahm and Rauner to do their real estate deal. They want zoning restrictions changed so they can build a new, expensive building to house a charter school across the street from Prosser Career Academy.

Yesterday, Rahm's hand-picked Chicago Plan Commission, which includes Burke as an ex-officio member and is chaired by none other than Cabrera himself, approved a zoning change that allows the Noble Network to build their new school and to try and recruit students and the money that follows them, away from Prosser.
That’s despite a boisterous protest outside City Council chambers by supporters of Prosser High School — including Ald. Nick Sposato — and of other neighborhood schools in Belmont Cragin whose budgets have undergone deep cuts this year.
 The protesters — mostly from the groups Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, and Communities United for Quality Education — pointed to a projected decline in high school-aged population in the Belmont Cragin area over the next four years, the presence of four CPS high schools within a 1.5 radius of the proposed site, and budget cuts at existing area schools totaling some $6.4 million. -- Sun-Times
Ald. Sposato
Sposato, whose ward will inherit Prosser High School in 2015 when ward maps are redrawn, called the plan “a recipe for disaster here to have two public high schools across the street from each other.”
“I worry about the impact on Prosser,” he said. “I worry about the safety of children.”
As usual, it's the Reader's Ben Joravsky who has the best take on the Noble Street Charter hustle.
With 14 schools and 9,000 students, [Noble founder Mike] Milkie's to charters what Ray Kroc was to fast food. If he keeps it up, he'll have an outlet on every block... But, c’mon, Mayor Emanuel—it's not like we're hard up for vacant lots in which to put your charters. There are hundreds and hundreds all over the city. Why stick a charter across the street from Prosser, which is a perfectly good, high-functioning school?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I found some of the disappeared school-closing kids

Whitenizing Chicago

Almost half the youngsters most affected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school shutdowns did not enroll this fall in the new schools where officials planned for them to go. Hundreds of them are MIA.

CPS spent $233 million preparing "welcoming schools" to receive thousands of new students who never came, and millions more on "Safe Passage" routes after shuttering 50 other schools on the south and west sides. But only about 60% of the displaced students have shown up at the receiving schools. After initially over-reporting the actual numbers in the consolidated schools, CPS leaders admitted  they had no idea where hundreds of former students have gone.

I was at a south suburban elementary school yesterday with classrooms bursting with 32 students in the lower grades. I was told by administrators that lots of these kids were Chicago transplants, newly arrived from Chicago's closed schools.

CPS Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll would have us believe that the thousands of no-shows is a good thing because closing neighborhood schools "empowers" parents to find new schools for their kids. But what does it mean for the city if school closings and other City Hall actions are forcing hundreds of African-American families out of the city and into poor, isolated and re-segregated black suburbs?

Severe budget cuts in city schools and city services, the closing of neighborhood schools and health clinics, growing food deserts, the replacement of good-paying union jobs with sub-living-wage service and retail jobs, and pandemic gun violence, are all making the city an impossible place for many poor and black families to live. That's got to change. We've got to Take Back Chicago beginning with City Hall.

Here come the feds

It's about time. The SEC is in town investigating possible securities violations involving the state’s largest charter-school operator, the machine-connected United Neighborhood Organization. But remember, UNO could never have pulled off its $98 million scam without the help of Eddie Burke, Michael Madigan, Gov. Quinn and Mayor 1% himself.

Burke, a major Quinn campaign fund-raiser, had urged the governor to restore UNO's funding after it was temporarily halted when the scandal first broke. The SEC also demanded documents regarding UNO from the Quinn administration’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity-the agency overseeing the group’s school-building grant. So far, the state has given UNO $83 million of the promised $98 million.

Juan Rangel, UNO’s $250,000-a-year chief executive officer, was Rahm’s campaign co-chairman in 2011 and also has close ties to House Speaker Madigan. These guys may be too big to jail but once the federal investigations begin, there's no telling how things will unravel or how high up they will go.

Interesting that UNO has hired ASGK, the PR firm founded by Rahm's pal David Axelrod, to come in and try and clean up Rangel's mess.

For starters, UNO should have its charter revoked and their schools should be either taken under CPS control or handed over to a non-criminal enterprise to run.

Best Tweet so far today
Dave Gilson ‏@daudig NSA director stepping down to spend less time with your family. …

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thousands vow to 'Take Back Chicago'

The headline in this morning Tribune summed things up pretty well -- Emanuel talks politics while activists rally to 'take back Chicago'. (M. Klonsky pic)
All that was missing last night, was a mayoral candidate to rally around as thousands filled the UIC Forum, vowing to Take Back Chicago. The activist base, mobilized by the Grassroots Coalition of unions and community groups, was there and the issues were clear. The crowd was loud and militant, cheering favored elected officials like those from the City Council's Progressive Caucus, while others, like Gov. Quinn didn't fare as well. He showed up late and was met with chants of "pensions, pensions" while hundreds were on their way out of the Forum. Earlier, organization leaders had shared the stage with elected officials, each put on the spot as roll was called on the issues of that mattered.

Kristel Kolmeder, "Corporations should pay their fair share" (ENLACE)
According to the Trib, Mayor 1% was across town talking to a much smaller, but richer crowd, who paid to hear him, "at an event sponsored by a private equity firm that boasts of having invested billions of dollars."
The two events offered a clear study in contrasts in Chicago politics: like-minded folks meeting in a controlled setting to see a self-styled reform mayor engage in political repartee versus a raucous gathering of activists promoting a populist, anti-administration agenda. It also offered a potential early blueprint of the opposition platform to the mayor in 2015, assuming a contender emerges to take on a highly skilled politician who had $5.1 million in his campaign fund to start October.
Couldn't have said it better.
 Brandon Johnson, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, fired up the rally crowd at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum, saying the 35 union and neighborhood groups were there to send a message to "the mayor of this city and his corporate, greedy elitist friends that this city belongs to the people in this room. Black people, brown people, poor people, working-class people."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


When asked about the data showing only 60 percent of 10,542 students from Chicago’s shuttered elementary schools ended up at so-called “welcoming schools,” CPS Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll had this to say:
Carroll said it is okay that many families chose not to enroll in the designated “welcoming” school. District leaders want to empower parents to choose which school their children attend, she said. “Thousands of parents every year choose to enroll their child at a different school in our district - or even outside the district and we support them in those choices,” she said. -- Catalyst
Yes, it's all about "choice" and "empowerment". Like when your home is foreclosed on by the banks, it empowers you to find other places to live, ie. in a rented storage bin, in your cousin Frank's basement, under the expressway bridge...

Taking back our city

Busy day today. I'm sitting in on a doc student's dissertation defense at UIC and then heading down the street at 5 p.m. to the UIC Forum for the Take Back Chicago rally and town hall meeting.

TCB is being organized by the Grassroots Collaborative, an alliance of neighborhood and community organizations who are working to develop a unifying vision for the city's future. I'm hoping that the coalition will be able to launch a new round of organizing around school and community issues and also be a force in the upcoming elections.

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative tells Gapers Block that Take Back Chicago plans to educate these city officials and push them towards political change that reflects the will of the people, not just the will of Mayor Emanuel.
"Mayor Emanuel isn't the king of Chicago. That's not how we make policy. We're pushing for real democracy."
Participating organizations include:
Action Now • AFSCME Council 31 • Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation • Brighton Park Neighborhood Council • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless • Chicago Teachers Union • Enlace Chicago • Illinois Hunger Coalition • Kenwood Oakland Community Organization • ONE Northside • Pilsen Alliance • SEIU Healthcare  •Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation • Southside Together Organized for Power • Southwest Organizing Project• Stand Up! Chicago

I'm told that many State and local officials will be attending, including Gov. Pat Quinn, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, State Representatives Andre Thapedi, Christian Mitchell, Mary Flowers, Kenneth Dunkin, and Monique Davis, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, and Aldermen Scott Waguespack, Nicholas Sposato, Roderick Sawyer, Joe Moreno, Toni Foulkes, Pat Dowell, William Burns, Bob Fioretti, and Ricardo Munoz.

Surely somewhere in this list is a mayoral candidate who can unite the movement to at least take back City Hall.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Safe passage to nowhere. CPS lied about receiving-school enrollment.

As a designated "welcoming school," Johnson School of Excellence on the West Side, an AUSL "turn-around" school, got upgrades to technology. But only 34 students out of 145 from shuttered Pope Elementary are enrolled. 
I'm reading about a gunman in a car opening fire on an on-duty Chicago Public Schools Safe Passage worker Tuesday. Gave me the chills. Thank goodness, nobody was hit. But the incident only touches the surface of the devastating impact of Rahm's mass school closings.

WBEZ reports:
Just 60 percent of 10,542 students from Chicago’s shuttered elementary schools ended up at so-called “welcoming schools,” despite efforts by the district to woo them with promises of improved education, safe passage to school, and sweeteners like iPads, air conditioning and new science labs.
There's 500 children, nearly all African-American, gone missing. No milk cartons. No Amber alerts. Just hundred of kids and families unaccounted for in the midst of the chaos and neighborhood devastation caused by this mayor. No one seems to know if they've dropped out, were scared off by unsafe passage routes, or simply pushed out of the neighborhood or the city.
496 grammar-school children from shuttered schools do not seem to be enrolled anywhere at all, inside CPS or in other districts. They are listed on district spreadsheets as “To be determined” and are from nearly every closed school. 
In their reports to Emanuel back in August, bureaucrats from the Public Building Commission (PBC), Department of Buildings (DOB), the Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) and the Department of Transportation (CDOT), had assured him that they would be ready to receive and service nearly all the thousands of displaced students from the shuttered neighborhood schools.
 "90 percent of Sending School students are already enrolled in CPS. Among them, the vast majority of students and their families have chosen to attend their designated Welcoming School – 80 percent."
According to WBEZ, even on the first day of school, CPS said 78 percent of impacted students were attending their welcoming schools. The district made $155.7 million in capital and technology investments at the schools, which it will pay off for the next 30 years.

But it seems that this was simply more politically motivated disinformation coming from the office of CPS Liar-In-Chief Becky Carroll.

WBEZ reports:
One school in North Lawndale provides a telling example. Just 12 students out of 196 from shuttered Henson Elementary enrolled at Charles Evans Hughes, the designated welcoming school. The remaining students have scattered to 34 different schools. Nine students left the district, and 12 are completely unaccounted for. At Johnson School of Excellence, a designated welcoming school for shuttered Pope Elementary, just 34 kids enrolled from Pope—77 percent of Pope students went elsewhere.
No transparency, hundreds of kids unaccounted for --- how many more reasons do we need to rescue CPS from control by City Hall?


Karen Lewis
"I believe there's this notion that if you have a lot of money that you can overwhelm your opponents and we don't believe that. We believe that the number of people going to vote is what's going to be important. His polling is what it is. He hasn't released the polls, but I think other people have been doing them, and we know what the numbers look like and they're not good for him." -- Sun-Times
Chicago Tribune Editorial
 In 1995, when many of this year's high school graduates were born, Mayor Richard M. Daley took control of public schools. Today's students attend schools reshaped by the reform crusades of Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, Jean-Claude Brizard and the current CPS leader, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. These reforms are designed to close achievement gaps, boost test scores, help kids graduate, ready them for college, career, life. All this reform has produced meager results. -- Fixing schools to fix Chicago
Moral Monday leader, Rev. William Barber
“It’s not like we were planning a bank heist. Mostly what we did was pray and sing.” -- Undercover Officers Spy On ‘Moral Monday’ Protesters
Valerie Strauss
So you think that Christopher Columbus discovered America in the NiƱa, the Pinta  and the Santa Maria and also, while he was at it, proved the Earth wasn’t flat? Wrong, wrong and wrong. -- The Answer Sheet
Bill di Blasio 
 “In fact, it’s ... $2 to $3 billion a year of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. That is fiscally irresponsible.” -- Daily News