Friday, February 28, 2014

Byrd-Bennett goes postal. Boycott movement grows.

Nice flight down to Austin this morning. It seemed like half the plane (slight exaggeration) was filled with Chicago, NPE Conference goers.  Hilarious -- there was $8 Wi-Fi available on Southwest and next thing I knew everyone on the plane was checking in on FB. I wound up sitting next to old friend Mike Charney, former Pres. of the Cleveland Teachers Union. Thanks Mike, for making the flight seem a lot shorter.

News out of Chicago is both grim and hopeful. Grim because schools CSO Byrd-Bennett has gone postal over the growing teacher/parent ISAT test boycott. She is threatening to yank certification (end the teaching career) of any teacher who takes part in the boycott or even (get this) "any employee who encourages a student not to take the ISAT or who advocates against the ISAT on work time." The Mayor wasted no time is backing up this idiocy, telling the press, "CPS simply cannot allow teachers to do their own thing."

In the words of the late Warren Zevon, "Send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan."

At Saucedo this afternoon
Hopeful, because today, teachers at a second school, Drummond, have joined the boycott and as I'm writing, the streets around Saucedo Elementary, where the current boycott began, are filled with angry protesters calling for BBB's head and for citywide support against threatened recession.

I'm fantasizing about thousands of teachers chanting, "I am Spartacus." Here at the NPE Conference, I'm hoping for a resolution backing Chicago's boycotting teachers. BBB's latest assault on the teaching profession calls for a national response.

I even got to mention the boycott and the conference during a session on Austin's Rag Radio with old friend Thorne Dreyer and UT Prof. Julian Vasquez Heilig.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Suspensions/expulsions key to building charter school 'culture'

"Charter schools should not be allowed to 'expel' their way to better performance if they are truly public schools." -- Ald. Bob Fioretti
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. attorney general's office released national guidelines on student discipline codes, acknowledging many urban school districts' zero-tolerance policies have created school-to-prison pipelines.

Chicago schools CEO Byrd-Bennett claims she wants to reduce expulsions and suspensions that hit hardest on African-American students. She claims that she "inherited a really punitive zero-tolerance code of conduct." But in fact, every district she has led, from Cleveland to Detroit became notorious for black-student expulsions and suspensions.

BBB and Rahm's problem now is, they're both afraid to take on the privately-run charter schools where, according to this morning's Sun-Times, students in Chicago are 11 times more likely to be expelled than students in traditional schools. They've both made their total political investment in the expansion of charter schools, at the expense of publicly-run neighborhood schools but can't move the needle on expulsion/suspension numbers without taking on the powerful charter lobby. Something they won't/can't do.
“I can’t make ’em. But, I can persuade them, show them a different model,” says Rahm. “And we think they’re going to be cooperative and work with us because it’s so promising what we’re seeing at CPS.”
I don't know exactly what the mayor thinks is so "promising" about 15% more elementary school kids being suspended last school year than in 2011-2012. Or about the fact that though black kids make up just 41% of CPS students, 75% of all out-of-school suspensions were handed out to black students.

But charters are 11 times worse. And they expel and suspend in larger numbers, not because their leaders aren't aware of "different models", but because their policies have been successful in boosting their performance numbers. Just listen to Noble Charter Network chief Mike Milke defend his expulsion policies as "heart-breaking" but central to building charter school "culture."
"What we cannot do, however," says Milke, "is compromise the culture and learning environment of the 99 percent of students for the disruptive 1 percent. We must not perversely disincentive our schools from addressing those who compromise the learning environment for the majority of students."
To better understand the kind of punishment culture Milke envisions, just take a look at his history. His Noble Network of Charter Schools charges students at its 10 Chicago high schools $5 for detentions stemming from infractions that include chewing gum and having untied shoelaces. Last school year it collected almost $190,000 in discipline "fees" from low-income parents, from detentions and behavior classes — a policy drawing fire from some parents, advocacy groups and education experts.

Milke previously had gained notoriety when he banned a gay/straight alliance group at his school until a federal law suit forced him to reverse his discriminatory policy.

Andrew Broy, the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said charters will work with CPS to "address the issue", but adds that stopping expulsions "isn’t a solution."

Maybe not, but it's a good start.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Saturday in Austin

I'm looking forward to the NPE Conference taking place Saturday and Sunday in Austin at The Thompson Conference Center at the University of Texas. I probably won't have much time for Mad Dog Margaritas at the Chile Parlor Bar as in Guy Clark's Dublin Blues.

But I will be moderating a Movement Building panel on Saturday morning, which includes:

Jitu Brown
Jitu Brown - formerly the education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) on Chicago's south side, Jitu has been a leader in the citywide movement against the school closings and their replacement with privately-run charters. He was recently named national director the Journey for Justice Alliance.

Ken Zarifis
Ken Zarifis – Recently-elected President of Education Austin, the largest organization of teachers and AISD employees. Created in 1999 Education Austin is the first merged local in Texas and is affiliated with the NEA, AFT, TSTA, Texas AFT, and the AFL-CIO. 

Jim Branson - community and union activist and organizer for 45 years. He is recently retired as the Assistant Organizing Coordinator for Texas State Employees Union/CWA Local 6186. TSEU is the largest local union in CWA. Jim has also worked with community based organizing in W.Va. with the Southern Appalachian Labor School on health care and toxic poisoning in mining communities and done cultural work based around traditional Appalachian culture with the Appalshop in Eastern Kentucky.

Courtney Koger - Membership Coordinator for the Workers Defense Project in Austin, Texas. Courtney is active in the local struggle in defense of immigrant rights. The WDP as recently featured in the New York Times. It was founded in 2002 and has emerged as one of the nation’s most creative organizations for immigrant workers. Its focus is the Texas construction industry, which employs more than 600,000 workers, about half of whom, are described as unauthorized immigrants.

I'll also be on a panel later that afternoon called Education Blogging as a Political Tool in the Debate with fellow ed bloggers, Jonathan Pelto (Wait, What?), Darcie Cimarusti (Mother Crusader), and Ruth Conniff (Progressive Magazine).

Oh, almost forgot. On Friday afternoon, I will be on Thorne Dryer's Rag Radio show, along with UT Prof. Julian Vasquez Heilig. It will be my second time on with old '60s friend, Thorne. You can listen to my first appearance, back in September, here. Prof JVH will be welcoming conference attendees on Saturday morning. Check out his blog, Cloaking Inequality: The Reformers Guide to Reforming Reformers Since 2012.

Saucedo test boycott -- 'A step towards reclaiming humanity, joy of learning and education.'

A SmallTalk Salute...This one goes out to the 40 teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy who voted unanimously Tuesday to boycott the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. Byrd-Bennett warns that they could face disciplinary action.

But CTU V.P. Jesse Sharkey says: “I think it would be outrageous and wrong. . . . The teachers aren’t doing this for any gain. They’re doing this because they want to teach." He promises the union will “mount a strong defense” if the teachers are disciplined.
“We are not afraid. We’re standing strong for our kids and what is right,” says boycotting teacher Sarah Chambers. “This is one step towards reclaiming humanity and the joy of learning and education.”

Rendering of new arts building at Lab.
I'm so happy for Rahm's kids... whose private school is getting a new $43.7 million arts building, courtesy of a $25M gift from billionaire George Lucas & wife Mellody. The new addition to Arne Duncan's alma mater, the Lab School includes a lobby/art gallery, 700-seat auditorium, 250-seat theater, 150-seat drama studio and four art studios and will even be named after an African-American photographer and movie director Gordon Parks because Mellody "is a deep believer in diversity".

As for our kids in CPS schools, not to worry Mr. Mayor. They don't need all that fluffy art stuff. It's not on the ISAT. A new survey of 170 Chicago public elementary schools by Raise Your Hand Illinois found that 65 percent do not offer the expected minimum of two hours of arts education per week, as Rahm and BBB claim.

The survey found that:
14%  of CPS students have no arts instruction
51% have less than two hours of arts instruction per week
26% have two hours of art instruction
9% have more than two hours of arts instruction
31% saw a decline in arts instruction this year   
 Raise Your Hand also found 68 art positions, 47 music positions, 19 performing arts positions and more cut from the budget for 2013.

Ah yes, diversity.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The war on teachers: Test 'em all, let God sort 'em out

Arne Duncan demands Value-Added teacher evaluation asking, “What’s there to hide?”
BUSH MENTALITY...Remember when Bush and Cheney decided to invade Iraq even though they knew Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and that there were no WMDs? Now that same mentality is being used by the current administration, only in this case, it's applied to teacher evaluation. A stretch, you say? Take a look. 

Well we already know how crazy it is to rate teachers' performance on the basis of their students' standardized test scores, using this insane Value-Added metric.
y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(ε) = 0, Var(ε) = R; Cov(v,ε) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xβ) = Var(Zv + ε) = ZGZT + R.
But here's where that kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em out mentality comes in to play. In Florida, where Bush Brother Jeb ruled the roost for years, about 70% of the Florida teachers are being evaluated, and often merit-paid, promoted or fired using scores based on test results from students they never taught and/or in subjects they don’t teach. 

There are numerous problems with using VAM scores for high-stakes decisions, but in this particular release of data, the most obvious and perhaps the most egregious one is this: Some 70 percent of the Florida teachers received VAM scores based on test results from students they didn’t teach and/or in subjects they don’t teach. 

Yes, you read that right: Teachers are being evaluated on students they didn’t teach and/or subjects they don’t teach. How can that be?
Yes, how can that be? For an answer, one might turn to former Defense Sec. Rumsfeld, who after 9/11 gave the order, "Go massive . . . Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

Different administration, I know. Same mentality, only now there's a war directed at teachers.

Evaluate teachers -- things related and not. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

"So if Christian didn’t like the pension bill, then why did he vote for it?"

In this morning's mail... Jay Travis asks a great question of her opponent, incumbent 26th Dist. Rep. Christian Mitchell. He's quoted in the Sun-Times as saying he “didn’t like Senate Bill 1”—that is, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s bill that slashed the retirement security of elderly teachers, social workers, and other state employees. Asks Travis: "So if Christian didn’t like the bill, then why did he vote for it?"

Answer: Mitchell is bought and paid for with big dollars from the union-busting group Stand For Children. In other words, he's one of those reformed progressives or sellouts, as we used to call them BITD.

According to the Trib's IL CampaignCash Tweet site, Mitchell recently received $56,683.53 in just 6 contributions. Here's the list.…

The Trib's Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah reports that despite promises made by Chicago schools chief Byrd-Bennett that closed schools wouldn't be turned over to charters, there are moves afoot to turn shuttered Pope Elementary School over to Legacy charter. Valerie Leonard, who sits on that council and is a co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance, was quick to rally residents against Legacy's proposal.
"It flies in the face of the promise CPS made," Leonard said. "They promised when those buildings would close they would not be turned over to charters. But before we can even get a repurposing policy in place by CPS, there's a proposal before us for a charter school."
A SmallTalk Salute... goes out to Philly high school senior Faheem Williams, 18, for speaking out about the desperate conditions facing his school, legendary Overbrook High School. Faheem is in a close race for class valedictorian with only a few months left before graduation. He's also an excellent defensive back on the school football team (I've watched his videos).

PhillyTrib reports:
The teen said the learning environment has changed in the four years since he was a freshman. In that time, the school district has lost millions in education funding, which contributed to serious debt and resulted in widespread layoffs and severe cutbacks in programs and services. Students, parents and community activists say funding cuts have translated into huge loss of educational opportunities for their children.
The school district shuttered 24 schools in 2013, forcing the reshuffling of more than 9,000 students. 


Michael Brenner
A feature of the Obama presidency has been his campaign against the American public school system, eating way at the foundations of elementary education. That means the erosion of an institution that has been one of the keystones of the Republic. The project to remake it as a mixed public/private hybrid is inspired by a discredited dogma that charter schools perform better. -- The American Public School Under Siege
Ald. Bob Fioretti
“There is a lack of respect for neighborhoods and lack of leadership.” -- Emanuel’s re-election nightmare
Dwayne Truss, Chicago community activist
“They’re blurring the line, big-time.” -- Charter school’s religious affiliation raises questions 
N.Y. Principal Carole Burris
No one would have predicted that the Common Core tests would close the achievement gaps, however, there is no defensible reason why those gaps should have grown. Every policymaker and researcher concerned with equity should question what exactly these new tests measure. -- The Answer Sheet

Friday, February 21, 2014

Calif. pension battle brewing. Sounds eerily familiar.

UC service workers, members of AFSCME Local 3299,  picket at UC Irvine Medical Center. The union has scheduled a five-day walkout starting March 3. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times). 
IN L.A. THIS WEEK… The weather's different, but the education issues sound pretty much the same here in Cali as they do in the IL tundra. The proposed so-called "pension reform" sounds eerily familiar. Like IL, the state has failed to meet it's payment obligations. Schools, for their part, are wary of paying more for pensions after suffering budget cuts during the recession.

It's a revenue crisis, not a pension crisis but "reform" always seems to mean placing the burden squarely on the backs of the retirees and sparing the wealthiest and the corporations any new tax increases.

The L.A. Times reports:
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders are pledging to repair and replenish the $181.1-billion retirement system that is supposed to finance more than 800,000 retirements for public school teachers, administrators and community college instructors. The second-largest public pension fund in the country, after California's primary pension system for public employees, it faces a $71-billion shortfall that worsens by $22 million every day, according to pension officials.
But the question is "repair and replenish" how?
Teachers do not receive Social Security, and the average retiree last year left his or her job at age 62 with a monthly pension of $3,980 after working 25 years. In the fiscal year that ended in June, payments into the pension fund were far short of what's needed to keep the system healthy, according to state reports.
The Legislature and governor must approve any increases in contribution rates, but negotiations will be fraught with political peril, especially in an election year.
Cali, like IL is heading for a showdown as corporate reformers try and break the public employee unions.

After following the 2-day faculty strike on the part of my former colleagues at UIC, I see that out here on the Left Coast, it's the UC's 21,000 AFSCME service workers and patient care employees who are carrying the ball. They are planning a five-day strike starting March 3 -- which would be their third and longest walkout in less than a year.

BACK HOME, IT'S JAY TRAVIS…asking who is Christian Mitchell?  Early voting begins on Monday, March 3, just over a week away, and we still don’t know the truth about Christian Mitchell.
Mitchell says that he’s a progressive who cares about working families. But he shares the same donor base as billionaire Republican Bruce Rauner… Christian has also received over $50,000 from Stand for Children, a special interest group funded in Illinois primarily by Lester Crown's family (as well as John Arnold, the Texas-based former Enron executive and notorious anti-pension activist).  
NEXT THURSDAY… February 27th, Women for Fioretti are hosting a breakfast at The Cliff Dwellers Club, featuring Guest Speaker Chicago Teachers' Union President Karen Lewis.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The view from L.A.

The way schooling is supposed to be-- I'm out on the Left Coast. taking a few days off from Chicago tundra, watching a school field trip to Leo Carrillo State Park.
I'm in L.A. but still envious (no, really) of those who got to join the UIC picket lines or march yesterday  in Springfield in defense of public employee pensions. This show of strength, especially in anticipation of upcoming state and local elections, is bound to have some effect.

Now the question is, can this positive motion produce the kind of unity and organization needed to put a hurt on Rahm, Rauner, Madigan and their gang? I don't think the progressive movement really has a horse in the governor's race, but we should be able to use the growing rifts in the enemy's camp to our advantage.

Locally, the Will Guzzardi (39th) and Jay Travis (26th) state rep races are strategically key. The machine, including Boss Madigan's thugs, have jumped into the Guzzardi/Berrios race with both boots as Guzzardi's poll numbers continue to grow. Madigan's people are apparently taking  messaging and propaganda duties away from Toni Berrios' own incompetents. As a result the panicky Berrios campaign is headed straight for the gutter.

This from Gapers Block:
Maybe the memory of a close margin explains the recent outflux of advertisements from the 2014 Berrios campaign that range from the sensational to the horrific. "Will Guzzardi doesn't want you to know where sexual predators are hiding" declares one 8-by-10 inch card in red letters above a man's face emerging from the dark. "Sexual predators could be living near the park where our children play," Berrios's message continues on the back, "...and Will Guzzardi doesn't think we should know."
My feeling is that Berrios' gutter politics will backfire and Will will be able to pull it out.

DEBTORS PRISON?…The Illinois unemployment rate is now among the nation's highest and even worse than midwest neighbors Ohio and Michigan. Wow! And as public employees have their standard of living reduced, pensions threatened,  and face mounting debt and trouble paying their bills, feudal lord Rahm puts the squeeze on them to pay up quickly or risk suspensions or firings. He's even using increased teacher debt as a reason to undermine the CTU contract. What's next, debtors' prison?

FACULTY POWER...The two-day UIC faculty strike appears to have had a major impact. Hundreds of classes were cancelled as tenured and non-tenured teachers and profs flexed their collective muscle. Hopefully this show of strength will force the administration to negotiate a fair contract with decent pay for university workers and empowerment of faculty over curricular and other decisions that affect teacher/learning and student well-being.

According to the Ward Room:
Instead of simply being about who gets paid what and when, the school’s first-ever strike is as much about what kind of an institution UIC is and will be, and whether or not educators are in the business of adding value to students or adding value to a university’s bottom line. 
Writing in Jacobin Magazine, however, two UIC English professors, Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels, make the case that UIC faculty are also committed to educating working-class students and say the strike is also about whether or not they’re able to fulfill that mission

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Hundreds of classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago were canceled Tuesday as part of the first faculty walkout in the school's history.

While faculty march outside UIC, busloads of teachers, cops, firefighters and other public employees are on their way from Chicago to the state capital this morning to confront legislators over their unconstitutional attack on our pensions.  The mass protest is being organized by the We Are One Coalition.

Real Deal...
I told you Jay Travis was the real deal. Running for State Rep in the 26th, she not just a good talker but will be in Springfield today rallying with thousands of teachers and other public sector workers.

The rally in Springfield comes on the heels of a Chicago Teachers Union report showing that public pensions generate tens of millions of dollars in economic activity across the city, and especially in some of the South Side zip codes that have been hit hardest by the recession, including in parts of the Illinois 26th District. Despite the vital importance of public sector jobs to the families of the 26th District, incumbent Representative Christian Mitchell voted last spring for Senate Bill 1, which slashed the retirement security of state-employed retirees and workers. Jay, who is challenging Representative Mitchell in the March 18 Democratic primary, is the only candidate in the race who supports efforts to overturn SB1.

Rauner/Duncan Soul mates...
Brother Fred takes note of the fact that billionaire, union-basher, public-space destroyer, Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner, talks to Arne Duncan "all the time." Don't miss his hilarious post. 

I deserve some kind of medal for successfully wading through Steans Family heiress Robin's interminable and vapid defense of Common Core testing madness. Steans somehow got the job of leading the corporate "reform" group, Advance Illinois, and was an architect of SB7. I suppose Catalyst has to print this crap or risk having their funding cut. But once you get the gist of it, you can skip down to the comments section where Valerie Leonard and others pose some good questions.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lesser-of-two-evils theory on crack

Lesser-of-evils theory on crack. IEA Pres. Klickna endorses ALEC leader Dillard for governor.
The union is understandably worried about a Rauner victory. But still... The union gave Dillard’s campaign $250,000 along with a cadre of political foot soldiers. "These are dark days for active and retired Illinois teachers. Sad, dark days," says blogger Ken Previti. 

Brother Fred writes:
I truly don’t get why the IEA leadership wants to throw away a quarter million bucks on Dillard. And worse, prettify his putrid record, including his chairmanship of Illinois ALEC. 
 They say they have a letter that says he resigned “last year.” But it turns out that “last year” was four months ago. I have asked for a copy of the letter but have not received one. And a Google search comes up blank on his resignation as head of ALEC in Illinois. I’d be interested in reading why he was Chairman of this group for so long and why he quit only four months ago.

UIC Strike...
Today  tenure track and non-tenure track faculty who make up the University of Illinois-Chicago faculty union UICUF Local 6456 are out on the picket line this morning, the beginning of  a two-day strike. The union is asking for a 4.5% pay raise for 2014, while the university is offering 3.25%. UIC Art Professor Therese Quinn said, “There are many people who have PhDs, who are full-time faculty here and I’ve heard that they’re earning $30,000 a year, which is very low for someone who’s spent so many years in school.”
"One of our issues in this strike is to take back decision-making power over the issues that matter to us — curriculum, teaching conditions, the distribution of monies, and the like.  The administration is fighting ferociously to retain that power — since giving it up would in effect be returning it from management to workers. " -- Read more at Jacobin Magazine
Pension Rally Tomorrow...
The CTU will join other public sector unions at a rally in Springfield Wednesday to lobby against pension reductions. --WGN

NPE Backs Baraka...
I'm heading for Austin, Texas in two weeks for the Network For Public Education (NPE) conference where I will be leading a Movement Building panel. This morning I was glad to hear that NPE has endorsed Ras Baraka for mayor of Newark.

Councilman Baraka had a long career as an educator – ten years as an elementary teacher, and twelve as an administrator. He also served as a teachers union representative for five years. This experience gives him a deep understanding of the challenges facing our schools, which was reflected in his responses to the questions posed by NPE.
Councilman Baraka said, “…our focus must be on strengthening, and enhancing our traditional public schools as the core educational reform strategy.” He is an advocate of small class sizes, and supports the right of parents to control their students’ private data. He is aware of the flaws in the corporate reform model now being implemented in Newark, and told us: “The notion that teachers are solely responsible for educational outcomes of children is a political view that is unsubstantiated by any research.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Great Chicago Pension Caper


New CTU study shows disparate impact of slashing teacher pensions in an age of austerity 

CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a report examining the true impact of pension cuts on the public sector workers living in our city’s neighborhoods. Three of the top four employers in Chicago are the City itself, the Chicago Public Schools and Cook County. These three entities employ over 90,000 people, all of whom depend on public pension plans to ensure dignified retirements and stable communities. The mayor’s proposal will amount to roughly $270 million in cuts to retirement income over a period of just five years.

The report, “The Great Chicago Pension Caper: Neighborhood Destabilization in an Age of Austerity,” was authored by CTU’s Research Department. It shows that when Senate Bill 1 is used as a model for so-called pension reform teachers, police, firefighters, librarians, social workers, engineers and other public sector workers in Chicago are likely to see their retirement incomes reduced by at least 10 percent over a 20-year period. Pension cuts will immediately harm retiree livelihoods and also disrupt current city workers’ retirement planning. [SB1 is the pension cutting legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly. If it survives legal challenges will reduce pension benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers in the state pension systems.]

“This report demonstrates the unintended consequences of misguided pension reform,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “SB1 and proposals similar to this will not fix the problem. We need sensible revenue solutions. People need to understand, that unlike many Americans, our retirees do not receive social security and have to pay for Medicare Part A out of our own pockets. We must put an end to this pension caper so that people can survive in an economy that is not kind to older Americans.”

Current public workers will have their pensions reduced the most. Many will face nearly a 20 percent cut in anticipated retiree income over their first two decades of retirement. These cuts will negatively impact not only public workers’ quality of life but entire communities.

“The Great Chicago Pension Caper” also shows:

• The pension benefits earned by teachers support roughly 6,000 jobs in the City of Chicago alone. A pension is not a gift, instead it is deferred compensation for years of public service.

• SB1, as applied to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, will see an average cut totally about $700 per month, or a 20% reduction in the average CTPF benefit of $42,000 per year.

• Retirees living in the city’s majority-Black zip codes earn over $600 million in annual pension incomes from the four public funds. The African American middle class in Chicago will be the hardest hit by reductions in retirement benefits.


Martin Ritter
Chicago Teachers Union
Local 1 AFT - IFT
desk 312.329.6283  cell 312.890.4891


Jordan Davis' mother, Lucia McBath leaves the courtroom with her husband Curtis McBath.
Ta-Nehisi Coates
The most mendacious phrase in the American language is "black on black crime," which is uttered as though the same hands that drew red lines around the ghettoes of Chicago are not the same hands that drew red lines around the life of Jordan Davis, as though black people authored North Lawndale and policy does not exist. -- On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn
Bill Daley 
“Rahm misjudged the public on this. What he didn’t seem to grasp was that the only good, middle-class jobs left for blacks in most of the neighborhoods are teaching positions in the schools. The closures cut deeply into whole communities. He could have shown greater empathy." -- FT Magazine
Brother Fred
"The Illinois Republican Party and all four of its candidates are in the grasp of the Tea Party Right. To make a distinction among them is looking for 'a needle in a haystack'... In pushing this Dillard endorsement, the IEA is praising Dillard as pro-education. What will the people think of us when we tell such lies?” -- Fred Klonsky Blog
Jersey Jazzman
 Let's be clear: Chris Cerf may be stepping through the public-private revolving door once again, but he's hardly alone. We now live in a country where gobs of public officials passing back and forth between jobs in government and industry is a normal state of affairs. - Blog

Friday, February 14, 2014

IEA backs Dillard. He's ALEC's go-to guy in IL

The union gave Dillard’s campaign $250,000 along with a cadre of political foot soldiers.

Yes, you're reading this right. The Chicago Tribune reports that the IEA is backing Kirk Dillard, ALEC's top guy in Illinois, in the Republican gov's race? You shouldn't be surprised. They endorsed him last time around as well.

Yes, I know, I know, he's "not as bad as Rauner" (really?), Rutherford is a crotch grabber (how do IL Republicans keep coming up with these guys?), and they'll give even more money to pension-grabber (even worse that a crotch grabber) Democrat Quinn in the finals. But still...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On the Wolverine

Heading for Detroit on the Wolverine for the NDSG meeting. I love trains. A ticket to Motown -- $28 each way. Plus I got free upgrade from previous trips. I can't drive it for that and the travel time is about the same. Wish we had high-speed rail with a Chicago hub. I'd hardly ever fly.

Detroit power outage. A metaphor?
Power Struggle… Detroit schools continue to be a disinvestment basket case, even more so since the state takeover. The latest news is about school power outages which shut down 30 schools in the city Tuesday. Before Tuesday, schools had missed 130 days collectively through the end of January because of power outages. Now that number has climbed to 160.

While in Detroit, I'm hoping to see the Grace Lee Boggs and Jimmy Boggs school, a small school named after two of the heroes of the city's freedom movement. In a good piece in Huffington, Laura De Palma described the beloved community being created at the school, largely based on Dr. King's legacy.

She writes:
Many Detroiters have been resisting the city's emergency manager laws and the downtown corporate takeover and fighting to reinvent the city in a way that is just, transformative and paradigm-shifting. Activists in Detroit have been asking, "What kind of revitalizing does Detroit need at this point in history?" Gentrification and social entrepreneurship that ignores history and context and does not address the root causes of the economic disinvestment in the city of Detroit is not the kind of change we need.

Front Page...Check out the front page of today's Defender. It's Prof. Timuel Black still looking great at 95.

Go Portland...It looks like it's on in Portland. PPS leaders say they will try and scab out the strike. "We expect our regular PPS substitutes to work during a strike and plan to hire replacement teachers on a temporary basis while you are on strike," the document reads. "Staffing will be deployed where it is needed most." 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rahm and Byrd-Bennett lied about shrinking suspension rate. It's worse than ever.

Rahm & Byrd-Bennett claim a 23 percent drop in suspensions. Really?
I didn't think it could get any worse. I thought the Daley/Duncan era of schoolhouse-to-jailhouse, Zero Tolerance and mass suspensions of African-American children in Chicago was drawing to a close. Why did I think that? Because the Mayor and his schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told us so just yesterday and you know that Rahm and BBB always tell the truth. Right?
Byrd-Bennett claimed a 23 percent drop in suspensions districtwide over three years, from 46,803 in the 2010-11 school year to 36,046 last year. This school year, through January, suspensions are down 36 percent from three years ago, according to CPS.
It didn't take Catalyst's Sarah Karp long to deconstruct that B.S. She got hold of some confidential data which paints a totally different picture than the one being spun by CPS leaders.

Writes Karp:
The statistic that officials are playing up is a 23 percent decline in high school suspensions, from 46,000 in the 2010-2011 school year to 36,000 in the 2012-2013 school year. But the drop occurred at the same time that enrollment in traditional, district-run high schools has fallen by more than 6,000 students.

The enrollment decline in traditional school is a critical factor because of the simultaneous increase in students at charter schools--where CPS does not collect information on suspensions. Charter schools do not have to adhere to the CPS discipline code and often have tougher discipline than in traditional schools.

When asked about the current disparities at Tuesday's press conference at Wells, Byrd-Bennett said district officials have yet to analyze last year’s data and that she would not comment until she has “accurate” information.
Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure...

According to the secret report, things are in many ways, worse than ever:

-- Among pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, suspensions increased 48 percent between school year 2012 and school year 2013, even though the Student Code of Conduct does not allow the use of either in-school or out-of-school suspension among young children.

--Every elementary grade level posted an increase in suspensions.

--Areas with predominantly black elementary schools saw the biggest year-to-year increases, while areas with white and Latino student populations stayed about the same or experienced a decline. The Englewood-Gresham, Burnham Park and Austin-North Lawndale areas posted steep jumps in elementary suspensions.

--Among elementary school students who were suspended, 80 percent were black in 2012-2013, compared to 76 percent in 2010-2011. In comparison, just 40 percent of students in CPS are black.

--Among high school students, 71 percent of those suspended last year were black, up from 66 percent in 2010-2011, according to state and CPS data.

Yes, you read it right. 80% of suspended elementary students were black. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                     CONTACT:    Stephanie Gadlin
February 10, 2014                                                                                                                   Desk:   (312) 329-6250

Chicago’s public school educators will not negotiate ‘at the point of a gun’
CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) vowed to stand firm in its defense of the retirement security of thousands of retired public school educators in the wake of new threats by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his legislative allies to fire another 3,000 teachers and raise student class sizes. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said instead of good faith bargaining, “that sounds like negotiations at the point of a gun.”  A salvo launched today by Illinois Senator John J. Cullteron is the start of what could be “The Great Chicago Pension Caper.”
While speaking at the City Club of Chicago and upon the heels of a misleading commentary published in the Chicago Tribune, the Senate president acknowledged that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) must make a $613 million payment to the pension fund by June 30, yet failed to mention that the money has already been budgeted for 2014. He also ignores the fact that teachers do not receive social security.  Pensions are not a gift they are the hard won earnings of employees who expect that money to be there when they retire.
Instead of calling on Mayor Emanuel to honor his legal obligation, Cullerton offers a guesstimate of future cuts based on a calculation that uses Senate Bill 1, the pension cutting bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly, as a template. The bill was passed last year to reduce the pension benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers in the state pension systems. When SB1 is used as a model for cuts, city workers and retirees in Chicago are likely to see their retirement incomes reduced by $400 million in five years. The CTU stands in opposition to that bill.
How is the firing of 3,000 more teachers good for children? Non-payment and underpayment into the fund created the problem. Pension issues in Illinois stem from revenues, not expenses. The district made no pension payments between 1995 and 2005 and then was granted relief from the General Assembly in the form of dramatically reduced payments. Their decisions will directly impact the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund with 30,000 active employees and 22,000 retirees.
“We’ve had cuts to the classrooms for the past three years,” said Sharkey. “On top of that we’ve already had thousands of teachers, clerks, teacher’s aides, security staff and other educational support personnel laid off.  Any change now won’t reverse those layoffs. On top of that they shuttered 50 neighborhood schools and implemented other cost-saving strategies like student-based budgeting. This isn’t an issue of whether or not there is money for this but whether or not there is the will to fulfill their obligation. We’re not going to stand by and let them rip off retired public servants.”
Further, the district has imposed 9-figure cuts on teachers and other staff each year since 2010. Teachers and district staff have sacrificed. The district has not. Despite claims of “billion-dollar” deficits, CPS ended FY2011 and FY2012 with surpluses in excess of $300 million. CPS could have used some of those budget surpluses to smooth out their pension liability. Instead, CPS officials chose to delay action and faced a huge cliff this year.
Irony is not lost on CTU members that while the district and the Board of Education cry broke it has found tens of millions of dollars to spend on the expansion of charter operations, high-stakes standardized testing.
CTU spent significant resources and time to craft a solution that would stabilize both the pension fund, retiree healthcare, and the CPS operating budget. In fact, CPS and the mayor would not agree with any of CTU’s substantive plans. They pledged minimal guaranteed revenue and wanted cuts so deep that active and retired teachers would pay for the district’s entire normal cost, plus add $50 million to repay the district for payments it failed to make in previous years.
Though the mayor and his political pals would have the public believe the CTU has been unwilling to negotiate the truth illustrates the opposite.  CTU proposed revenue solutions that would ensure a stable tax base that primarily targets corporations and those most able to pay, including closing corporate tax loopholes and ending corporate subsidies.
The CTU remains a good faith partner at the bargaining table but it will not negotiate alone nor at the “point of a gun.”   Impacted municipal employees from throughout Chicago will take a massive caravan to Springfield on Feb. 19th to encourage legislators not to raid their benefits while their wealthy, corporate allies reap the financial benefits of their hard labor.



Mayor de Blasio delivers his first State of the City Address. Offers "a future of greater equality and opportunity,” 
N.Y. Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't folding his post-election cards as many predicted, despite stiff opposition from Gov. Cuomo's gang up in Albany and even some attacks from some lefties on his plan for universal pre-K.

AP reports:
By virtue of a campaign focused on income disparity, de Blasio has become a leading spokesman in the global movement to address fiscal inequality but in order to enact some of his signature ideas, he must first get approval in a city 150 miles to the north. Albany lawmakers must sign off on de Blasio's hopes to raise the minimum wage for city residents and for the centerpiece of his agenda: a tax hike on the rich to fund universal pre-kindergarten.
B-BYE... New York's charter hustlers are borrowing a page from from their corporate uncles by threatening to leave town if BdB goes through with his plans to make parasitic privately-run charters pay rent in public school buildings and enforce tighter restrictions on how they operate. I hope the mayor calls their bluff.

De Blasio's administration has already revised it's education budget, reportedly pulling $210 million away from the charter hustlers and directing it to expanding preschool programs. He's even placed a moratorium on new charter school co-locations.

In his State of the City Address yesterday, the Mayor said New York would become the largest municipality to offer identification cards to residents regardless of their legal status, making it easier for undocumented immigrants to open bank accounts, lease apartments or borrow library books.

Jay Travis
AFSCME BACKS TRAVIS… Community organizer and Chicago Bronzeville neighborhood native Jay Travis on Monday announced a key campaign endorsement by AFSCME Council 31 (my union) in her Democratic primary race against State Rep. Christian Mitchell. Mitchell is being targeted by organized labor for defeat after taking money from Stand For Children union-busters and for  voting for pension-robbing SB1 legislation.

In addition to AFSCME, Jay has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union and Citizen Action Illinois.

On Friday, Travis reported $22,000 in campaign contributions from labor unions, including $10,000 from AFSCME; $5,000 from the CTU; $5,000 from the North Suburban Teachers Union COPE; and $2,000 from LCFT – COPE Local 504, IFT-AFTAF CIO.

'Oh, no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors'
I'm humming that old Charley Rich tune this morning as I'm reading the DNAinfo account of Rahm Emanuel's secret meeting with Chicago south side pastors. Probably should have been watching re-runs of Let's Make a Deal, at the same time. I wonder what it will take to head off any real opposition from an African-American opposition candidate (Toni Preckwinkle) as 2015 approaches?

Whatever the cost, Rahm can easily afford it. His campaign coffers have been swelled by big donations from city real-estate developers to the point where he has amassed a $6.2 million campaign fund more than a year before a February 2015 election in which there is no announced opponent. John Kupper, the mayor's political adviser, explained why Emanuel takes big campaign checks from developers.
"First, these are legal contributions," Kupper wrote in an email. "Second, the mayor does not take anything for granted relative to his election campaigns."
Toussaint Losier
This one goes out to Chicago housing activist Toussaint Losier who is out of jail this morning, after being arrested yesterday afternoon at PNC Bank on 87th and Cottage Grove. Toussaint was arrested without charges after being assaulted by a bank security guard during a petition delivery on the behalf of a homeowner currently fighting to keep her home.


Special thanks to Dr. Shelly Davis-Jones, Supt. of Dist. 149 (Dolton/Calumet City) and author of, Filling the Seat: The Pathway to the Superintendency for one African American Woman, for speaking in my class last night.

Monday, February 10, 2014


"Obamacare makes you lazy!" - Roy Blunt, US Senator, who will only work 126 days this year.

Lorna Brett Howard, N.Y. Democratic activist
...dismissed concerns that the tax increase [for Mayor deBlasio's proposed universal Pre-K] — a difference of $530 for every $100,000 in income over the threshold — was burdensome. “That is one trip on your private plane to St. Bart’s,” she said. -- NY Times

80,000 at N.C. protest 
Rev, William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP
“You may have thought you were going to discourage us, but instead you have encouraged us. The more you push us back, the more we will fight to go forward. The more you try to oppress us, the more you will inspire us.” -- The Nation
Marybeth Beller, a political scientist at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.
“I don’t think we’re going to have too many people running in 2014 in West Virginia who are going to be talking about anti-regulation.” -- NYT, One Month After Toxic Spill, West Virginians Face ‘Crisis of Confidence’
 Kathleen Ann, Freelance writer from New England 
I used to have a house. I used to go on vacations. I used to shop at department stores, get my hair done and even enjoy pedicures. Now, I don't. I'm a member of the American "Used-to-Haves." -- Huffington

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jay Travis is the real deal [Updated]

At Travis fundraiser last night. 
I got to meet 26th Dist Rep. candidate Jay Travis at a campaign fundraiser for her last night. I came away thinking, she's the real deal. She previously worked as the executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), which has been in the forefront of the battle to save public education in Chicago, and as a program officer for the Woods Fund. She's solid in her defense of retirees pensions and was outspoken in opposition to school closings and to SB1 and the great pension heist going on in Springfield and Chicago. She also supports an elected school board in Chicago. Travis is supported by the Chicago Teachers Union and Citizen Action Illinois among others.

Travis volunteers.
The CTU's Brandon Johnson has promised that union members "will be knocking on doors, making phone calls and raising cash" to help Travis win. Good. She will need that kind of support to win.

She's got a tough road ahead. She's up against an incumbent who won last time with lots of dirty money from the the likes of school privatizers and union-busters DFER and Stand for Children. Machine Democrat Christian Mitchell, figures to have four or five times the money as Travis, in his war chest.

We need to change that.