Monday, March 31, 2014


SAY JAY!...Travis concedes but the coalition that came close to electing her, meets and agrees to continue working together for honest and accountable elected leadership.
Jay Travis
"I could not be more proud of our campaign. I am writing to let you know that I am officially conceding... I look forward to continuing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in our fight to grow the economy for everyone, to strengthen our neighborhood schools and to govern them democratically, and to ensure that all families can live, work, and retire with dignity and peace. We have only just begun."  -- March 28th Statement
Diane Ravitch
 “They loved mayoral control when it was Mayor Bloomberg, but now it’s a progressive mayor, and they’re gutting it.” -- New York Times
S. Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley 
“It’s not something we want to see happen,” she told The Greenville News.“ We discourage any companies that have unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don’t want to taint the water.”… You’ve heard me say many times I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she continued. “It’s because we’re kicking them [unions] every day, and we’ll continue to kick them.” -- The Becoming Radical
Gary Orfield, co-director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project
“The children who most depend on the public schools for any chance in life are concentrated in schools struggling with all the dimensions of family and neighborhood poverty and isolation.” -- Crooks & Liars: Segregation Is Alive And Well In The Cities

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rep. Grijalva, first to support NPE's call for congressional hearings on testing misuse

Rep. Grijalva
Arizona Democrat-Rep. Raúl Grijalva became the first to support the Network for Public Education’s call for congressional hearings into the “misuse and abuse of standardized tests.”  Grijalva, a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, says:
"The need for an impartial and transparent hearing on mandatory testing and privatization efforts directed at public education, is critical.  We need to have an open discussion about the dismantling of public education. I hope the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will hold hearings that allow our public schools and the families they serve the opportunity to have an open and honest hearing." 
WHERE'S HILLARY?...Syndicated columnist Jason Stanford, backs Grijalva's stand. He writes:
Since the federal education budget rivals what we spend on defense, it might be nice to examine what we’re getting for all our tax dollars.
But none of that is what is grabbing the national headlines with it comes to education. That honor goes to Hillary Clinton, who just announced she will attend a higher education conference early this week with ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sec. Duncan at the George W. Bush presidential library. The public education advocates opposing test-based reforms are going to need a lot more firepower to convince Hillary she’s hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Your machine politics took a beating, Big Daddy. Get over it.

“Guzzardi was able to walk the district for four years, didn’t have to work, didn’t have to do anything.” -- Joe "Big Daddy" Berrios
My only response to Chicago machine boss Joe Berrios, after reading this inane piece in the Sun-Times, is -- You lost, Big Daddy. Get over it. That's right, Will Guzzardi (a "self-styled reformer" according to the S-T) demolished your kid and kicked the crap out of your ward machine and Michael Madigan and his boys who were running her campaign.  Will routed her in every single precinct but one and even ran really strong among Latino voters on your own turf. 

And no, despite what you keep repeating, it wasn't a race between "hipsters and Hispanics." If it was, than Toni would have surely won. Will got a big chunk of the Latino vote and believe it or not, there's no such thing as a hipster vote and Mike Madigan is no Hispanic. Why couldn't you and MM even turn out your own base behind your daughter? Because you ran a shameful campaign, that's why, spreading rumors about your opponent that nobody -- black, white or Latino -- bought into. Meanwhile, Will ran a stronger, smarter race and had a grass-roots, rank-and-file army out in the streets, going door to door and talking about issues that mean more to voters than hipsters vs. Hispanics

And no, Will didn't spend the last 4 years "walking around the district." I'm pretty sure he was working most of that time at a job, to keep food on the table and a roof over his head. 

Will Guzzardi at Johnny's Diner in Logan Square
And no, Will isn't a tool of the unions. But he is pro-union, unlike daughter Toni. That's why they supported him. He stood up against the pension cuts, something you and Toni haven't done, and that why the public service workers -- you know, cops, fire fighters, and teachers, supported him and don't support you.

And as for being outspent -- I can't imagine that you, the head of the Cook Country Democratic Party, with backing from not only Madigan, but the Mayor as well, would even admit that you couldn't raise more dough than independent Guzzardi or put a bigger field operation into play. 

You lost Joe, breathe deep and swallow hard. Put it behind you.

Mass school closings 'great success', declares Byrd-Bennett

“None of the negative predictions have come true. In fact the opposite has happened.” -- Byrd-Bennett
How do we know Chicago's mass school closings in black and Latino communities were a "success"? Because Byrd-Bennett declared them such. No one got killed, she says (at least while safe-passage workers were guarding school routes) and GPAs went up at the receiving schools.

Of course she never mentions the hundreds of students who never showed up at their receiving schools and who are MIA. Where did they go? Nobody seems to know.
“There are still 800 students unaccounted for from the entire move last year. These are things that are never discussed publicly that need to be discussed publicly.” -- CTU Pres. Karen Lewis
I think there are much more than 800 MIAs but am still working on it. More to come on this.

We also don't yet know or may never know the long-term physical and psychological affects on the thousands of children and families whose lives were destabilized or on kids with special needs who lost their programs and their relationships with caring adults.  I'm also looking at the consequences from the closings, on the real receiving schools in the mostly poor, low-resourced south suburban communities.

This push-out of black and Latino students and then claiming "improvement" in test scores and behavior is eerily reminiscent of post-Katrina New Orleans when Arne Duncan declared the storm to be "the best thing" for New Orleans schools.

The former Crispus Attucks Elementary School on South Dearborn.
Also going unmentioned is the fact that all but three of BBB's closed schools remain boarded up, unused hulks sitting in already blighted and resource-starved neighborhoods. WTTW's Elizabeth Brackett writes:
The closed schools stand silently across Chicago's neighborhoods. The vacant buildings add to the blight in some of the city's toughest areas. Only three of the more than 43 schools closed by CPS last June are now being reused. CPS Chief Operating Officer Tom Tyrrell admits that finding new uses for the closed buildings is difficult.
“There were supposed to be real estate brokers come to the closed buildings to do a walk-through,” said Cecile Carroll with the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force. “We came here for the Laura Ward visit and there was no one here. We got communications from city officials that it was no longer going to go through. So we're really confused about how that schedule is supposed to move forward.”
But don't worry Cecile and real estate brokers. BBB says it's all good.

Private charter operators are already clamoring to have the properties turned over to them. But remember, BBB promised that none of them would be. But BBB promises a lot of things. Doesn't she?

Now I'm wondering, could leaving all these buildings boarded up be part of a strategy to build pressure for giving them to charter operators? Hmmm.

Ames Middle School parents
SUN-TIMES REPORTS...Supporters of several CPS schools targeted now for [major staff and curriculum changes] rallied Wednesday morning outside district headquarters, and inside, they asked the school board to leave their schools alone. Christina Torres, a supporter of Ames Middle School in Logan Square, asked the board to reconsider its decision to convert Ames into a military school, presenting results of an advisory referendum on the March 18 ballot.

“The results show an astounding 69 percent of verified voters voted in favor of keeping Ames as a community school . . . rather than being converted to a military academy,” she said.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Helen Gym -- Honored at White House as Champion of Change

Gym is being honored by the White House next week. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
CONGRATULATIONS to Philly public school activist and parent leader Helen Gym who will be honored at the White House next week. Gym has been named a Chesar Chavez Champion of Change - one of 10 community leaders nationally who have "committed themselves to improving the lives of others in their communities and across the country," people who "represent the values and steadfast determination of Cesar Chavez to organize ourselves for a more just tomorrow."

Gym and the other Champions will participate in a discussion about how to expand opportunities for all Americans, according to a White House news release. The event, scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, can be streamed live at

Knowing Helen, I'm sure she will have plenty to say about Philly's mass school closings, privately-run charters and testing madness. In fact, she already has.
We’ve burned through countless dollars chasing after the obsessions and frivolities of this so called “education reform” movement – expensive consultancies, high stakes testing, new standards and curricula, Renaissance schools. We’ve become so obsessed with the structure and management of education that we’ve completely forgotten about the substance and practice of it. -- Washington Post interview
You can follow Helen Gym on Twitter at @ParentsUnitedPA

"The best way to hold down property taxes is to get school districts and local governments to live within their means." -- Sen. Kirk Dillard
In my post below, I referred to Carol Marin's interview with the man from ALECSen. Kirk Dillard, our so-called "friend of public education," according to IEA leaders. The Chicago Tonight video wasn't up yet when I posted, this morning. It's up now and starting at 2:30, Dillard shows us what a "friend of public education" ISN'T:

A retired educator speaks out. Quinn steps up.

No vote was taken yesterday on the bill to abolish the state's ALEC-initiated Charter Commission. Maybe today. Word is that we need 3 more votes. Still time to call senators: Senator Mike Noland (D-Elgin) - (847) 214-8864 Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) - (773) 463-0720 Senator Dan Biss (D-Skokie) - (847) 568-1250

Thanks go out to John J. Garvey, a retired Chicago public school teacher and administrator, for his powerful piece in Tuesday's Sun-Times, "Is this how we thank our teachers." I doubt that the pension busters in Springfield including Gov. Quinn (certainly not his billionaire political opponent Bruce Rauner) will even bother to read it. But I will share it with my students so they can enter the teaching profession, if they still choose to do so, with open eyes and a heart for struggle.

Quinn's budget speech
SPEAKING OF QUINN, of course I'm still pissed at him for signing SB1 but I liked his budget speech yesterday, calling for a spending proposal that would make permanent the 67% state income tax increase set to expire in 2015 and couple it with property tax relief for homeowners. The plan will hopefully generate enough revenue to increase badly-needed school funding. Quinn offers no real long-term solution to the budget crisis -- like a progressive taxing structure that makes the wealthiest and the corporations pay their fair share and shifting away from reliance on property taxes to pay for education -- but even this short-term patch should help keep schools open and save some teaching jobs.
"You've got to give the governor kudos for having the political courage ... to put the tax issue front and center in an election year when he knows his opponent is going to be screaming from the rafters the opposite message," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. "
As expected, Quinn's the speech was savaged by .01%er Rauner. But for me, the most interesting attack on Quinn's budget proposal came from Sen. Kirk Dillard who, in an interview last night with Carol Marin on Chicago Tonight, tried to outdo Rauner in opposing any tax increases and demanding that schools "live within their means" as a solution to the state's budget crisis. Dillard is calling for a billion-dollar cut in Chicago's education budget and for the "scrubbing of Medicaid rolls".

Remember, this is the guy, the man from ALEC, who narrowly lost to Rauner in the Republican primary due in large part to the help he received from the state's unions. They stuffed $3 million into Dillard's war chest and urged union members to cross over and vote for him. He's also the guy that IEA leaders are still calling a "friend of education." What?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's a nice kid like you doing in a place like this?

Kamryn (left) and her pal Delaney. 
A SMALL TALK SALUTE goes out to Caprock Charter School third-grader Kamryn Renfro who had shaved her head over the weekend to show support for good friend 11-year-old Delaney Clements who lost her hair from chemotherapy. The charter board in its wisdom, voted to kick her out of school until her hair grew back. It seems that baldness violates their school dress code. But Kamryn and her family hung tough, raised hell, got overwhelming public support, a social-media firestorm erupted and the family won a reversal of the ruling allowing her to take her rightful seat back. My only question is, what's a nice kid like Kamryn doing in a charter school run by such creeps? One board member even voted again to expel her.

Prof. JVH
MY FAVORITE UT PROF Julian Vasquez Heilig recalls our appearance on Rag Radio last month in Austin and somehow links me and host Thorne Dreyer to hippie-dom and the beat generation (Fighting for Public Education with the Activist Hippies, the Original Hipsters). He's only partially right. See my comments at the end. But thanks for all you do, Prof. JVH.

FURNITURE MATH...CPS plans to back up the truck at Staples and spend a cool $10 million on furniture for their new digs at the Sears flagship store at Dearborn & Madison. I can't say too much about that since I just bought my own "ergonomic" desk chair at Staples for about 200 bucks. But $10 million? I mean, that's furniture for about 1,200 central office bureaucrats. I'm no mathematician but that comes out to $8,333.33 per crat. OK, I realize that Byrd-Bennett, Col. Tim Tyrell and other top bosses will get nicer, more expensive stuff, but still.

BBB's current office chair obviously won't do.
While I have my calculator out, if they would just spend $5M on new furniture and use the other 5 for classroom needs, that comes out to hiring back  about 100 teachers, librarians & social workers.

For those who don't follow such things, Staples Inc. started with backing from private equity firms including Bain Capital and Bain co-founder Mitt Romney served on the company's board of directors for the next 15 years, helping shape their business model. In 1996, Staples became a member of the Fortune 500 companies as sales surpassed $3 billion.

I take solace in the fact that I'm sitting in a Staples ergo-chair trying my hardest to keep neighborhood schools open and improving, while BBB will be parked in a plush rich Corinthian leather chair behind her new brass-plated desk (I'm sure it won't come from the Staples catalog) plotting how to close them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Time to get rid of the IL State Charter Commission

On March 20th, HB 3754 that would dissolve the ALEC-created Illinois State Charter School Commission passed the House by a vote of (78-33).  Today the bill is being heard in the Illinois Senate Education Committee. You can tell members of the Senate Education Committee that you support the senate version of this bill, SB2627, by filling out a witness slip.

Reminiscent of Central Falls
TURNAROUNDS...Byrd-Bennett's loot, pillage and burn approach to Chicago school reform is just "school closings under another name", says the CTU. "Turnaround" has become reform-speak for fire everyone -- teachers, staff, janitors, lunchroom ladies. The mass firings at McNair Elementary and Dvorak Technology Academy on the West Side and  Gresham Elementary on the South Side represents the scorched-earth approach reminiscent of Arne Duncan's assault on Central Falls High School in 2010 and has little to do with school improvement. Rather, it's more payback against the teachers union with Rahm/Byrd-Bennett flexing their muscles because they can. Important to note that turnarounds are exclusively in Chicago black and Latino communities and those mostly people of color. 

They've dropped all pretense of using so-called data-driven reform or even their own distorted version of teacher evaluation based on student test scores. Now it's simply naked aggression on a public school system they never have supported -- fire 'em all, let God sort 'em out --- and handing public schools over to private school operators. 

Racial lines of Chicago
CHICAGO 4TH MOST SEGREGATED CITY...If the mayor's school "reform" and  two-tier education strategy is aimed at supporting and promoting gentrification and isolation of the city's black neighborhoods, it's working. Atlanta Black Star reports that Chicago remains in 4th place among the nation's most segregated cities. 
In Chicago, north side neighborhoods like Edgewater and the Gold Coast are nearly exclusively white, Black people lodge on the South and West Sides. Hispanics dwell in southwest and northwest areas of the city.
WHITENIZING CHICAGO...What the report doesn't mention is that the blue areas of the map, signifying the city's segregated black communities, are dramatically shrinking in size. Chicago has lost somewhere around 200,000 African-Americans in the past decade. 

Monday, March 24, 2014


Courageous Saucedo student speaks out against ISAT.  
Sun-Times editorial
...CPS damaged its credibility with parents, and undermined the trust that is so essential to good schooling, by choosing, foolishly, to interview small children on such a sensitive matter without even informing their parents — the ones who made the final decision on skipping the test. CPS had the law on its side, but wisdom was nowhere to be found. -- Terrible idea to interrogate kids 
Drummond Teacher Juan Gonzalez
 Drummond teachers have said they are afraid of losing their jobs, but felt obligated to take a stand. “I stand strong  in my decision. I feel I’m on the side of right,” Gonzalez says. “This boycott of the ISAT is not about the ISAT alone,” he says. “It's about the incredible amount of testing that we give our kids.” -- WBEZ
Liberal Teacher
Then I blew my stack and asked who is really paying you to say this. How can your daughter’s charter school be closed when it never opened in the first place? Mayor DiBlasio did not close any schools. How can one close a school that was never even opened? By the way, with all the money being paid for your fake grass roots campaign, jingoistic ads and commercials, your pal Eva could build ten more charters. Of course, she hung up in the middle of my rant. -- The Public Educator
CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey 
 “What we see are schools that are in the poorest neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. We see schools that are as a group 97 percent African-American. These policies will hurt the students they are meant to help and it will punish the dedicated educators that have made a point in their life to dedicate their lives to working with the student population.” -- Sun-Times, CPS CEO recommends turnarounds for three schools
Veteran teacher, Gerald J. Conti
With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that  “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. -- WaPo, Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’


Stock footage (DNAinfo)
Gun violence continues to plague Chicago's communities and with it comes a strange anonymity regarding both the dead and maimed as well as the shooters. Over the weekend, 21 more people were shot, 2 of them fatally. I hate to relate this story simply in terms of numbers because the huge weekend shooting count published in the press every Monday morning, along with the stock footage of yellow crime tape, keeps us from seeing this horror in personal terms. This for example is from this morning's report from CBS 5 morning news:
A 19-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy were shot in the right foot, and a 19-year-old man was shot in the left leg. All three victims were taken to Stroger Hospital in stable condition.
The worst part is that, like the Vietnam War's body-bag count, these numbers become the stuff of political campaigns driving our mayor and his police chief to spin them in a favorable way, ie. only 19 wounded, only 2 dead, a 19% decrease over last year, etc... They cover over the real human cost, not only the victims and shooters and their families, along with the incredible growth in our prison population, but also the psychological toll on the minds of our students and young children, especially in neighborhoods where shootings have become an every-day occurrence.

I'm reminded again of criminologist John Hagedorn's words, published in last week's Sun-Times:
But the reasons for Chicago’s medium to high homicide rate are not what police do, but what the city has not done. The problem isn’t gangs so much as the desperation of young black men. We don’t need magic policing tricks but real jobs, decent education, adequate housing, fair police and other steps on the long, hard road of reducing inequality and violence.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Creepy Rauner Dems

CREEPY! Rauner Dems
Interesting to see who showed up Thursday for Rauner's photo shoot of “Democrats and Independents for Rauner” besides Mrs. Rauner. Only surprise was that Bruce's buddy Rahm wasn't in this picture, even though everyone knows he should be.

Interesting names on the list include:

Rahm/Daley pal, billionaire James Crown -- President of Henry Crown and Company, he serves on the Board of Directors of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and General Dynamics who sits on the Board of Trustees at the University of Chicago. Crown's the guy who bankrolled Stand For Children's invasion of IL and who sat at the table at Aspen with SFC's Jonah Edelman, bragging about how they had hoodwinked IEA and IFT leaders into backing the horrendous anti-union bill SB7. The very same IEA leaders currently attacking their critics still call the bill, "a model of collaboration".

Lula Ford – Former Chicago public school teacher, principal and CPS bureaucrat under Paul Vallas. She probably should have been named CEO after Arne Duncan, but was passed over by Mayor Daley when he appointed Ron Huberman (BTW, what ever happened to Huberman's Culture of Calm?-- I digress). I'm surprised that she's not supporting her old pal Vallas, Quinn's running mate. But I guess money talks & bullshit walks in this case. Then again, Vallas, like Rauner, is a Republicrat who swings either way and is only serving as window dressing on Quinn's campaign.

Charter school hustler Phyllis Lockett - Founding President and CEO of New Schools for Chicago, corporate type, former Executive Director of the Civic Consulting Alliance, she previously held marketing, sales and business development roles with IBM, Kraft Foods and General Mills.

Rev. James Meeks -- No surprise here. Like Rauner, he wants to turn IL into a right-to-work state. He's a big voucher supporter and deal-cutter supreme. Meeks claims he never heard of Rauner before Eden Martin, President of the Civic Committee called on Rauner’s behalf about five years ago to request a meeting. A gay-basher, Meeks was named one of the "leading black religious voices in the anti-gay movement" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Newton Minnow -- Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under President John F. Kennedy. Invoked JFK's name to explain why he's backing proto-fascist Rauner. Oh my!

And the list goes on. Excuse me while I go wash my hands.

HOLD YOUR NOSE...As much as Quinn has earned the enmity and distrust of teachers and all union workers with his support for the great pension grab, he will obviously get union backing in his race against billionaire union-buster Bruce Rauner.

I too will have to decide whether or not to  hold my nose and vote for Quinn even as he works to pauperize me, my family and thousands of other retirees, teachers, and public employees. Until we are able to radically reshape the political landscape in this city, state and nation, these will continue to be the kind of choices we have. The result -- most voters will stay home and this will likely be the most expensive race, with the lowest turnout in history. A democracy up for sale to the highest bidder.

If I do vote, I hope I don't end up standing in the Quinn voting line next to IEA Pres. Cinda Klickna. No telling what I might say. Instead of directing her venom against Rauner, she used her first post-primary evaluation of the union's electoral efforts to attack the “naysayers" who she claims "called our involvement in the primary’s ‘a fool errand’ and suggested it was a waste of time.” She referred to us as “those folks who root for our union to fail.”

Hmm. Wants the union to fail? Seems like she is doing a pretty good job of that on her own. Who is she referring to here, anyway? No doubt, her screed was aimed at union rank-and-file dissidents, like brother Fred, a retired teacher and former IEA local union leader who righteously objected to her bone-headed strategy of spending $3 million of union members' money to support Kirk Dillard, the man from ALEC, in the GOP primary. Dillard, who Klickna calls "a friend of education" returned the favor 10-fold by calling for a billion-dollar cut in CPS's budget and for a "scrubbing" of Medicaid. With friends like that...

We can only imagine how that money could be used right now in the current battle against Rauner, who will surely outspend Quinn in his effort to buy the guv's mansion. Or how about in next year's race for mayor. My god, $3 million just might swing it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Guzzardi -- “The whole city is watching what we did here. This election didn’t happen in a vacuum.”

In These Times photo
A POWERFUL MOVEMENT IN CHICAGO... Dan Mihalopoulos gets it (sorta) in this morning's Sun-Times ("Victories few for Preckwinkle on Election Night") about Toni backing machine candidates on Tuesday. A while back I was chanting "Run, Toni, Run." I didn't mean run into the arms of Rahm/Madigan.

Mihalopoulos writes:
Still, you can’t help but contrast the gloom felt Tuesday night by many of Preckwinkle’s friends with the soaring rhetoric about Chicago’s “progressive movement” at the Guzzardi victory party in Logan Square. “The whole city is watching what we did here,” Guzzardi told supporters. “This election didn’t happen in a vacuum.”
According to the triumphant political neophyte, he’s part of “a powerful movement in Chicago.” Guzzardi has lived in Chicago just five years but referenced an event that occurred here long before he was born: The 1983 election of Mayor Harold Washington. Guzzardi claimed his win was another milestone for a movement that once elected Washington.
In his campaign and in the speech, the 26-year-old Guzzardi laid out the key issues he believes are motivating the movement these days: 
Improving traditional public schools, as opposed to opening new charter schools. Preserving pensions for public employees. Changing a tax structure in which “the very wealthy and the biggest corporations ought to be held accountable to pay their fair share, just like the rest of us.”
BATTLE'S NOT OVER...While we on the north side are still celebrating (and I am) Will's monumental victory, let's not forget that our brothers and sisters on the south side are still fighting. Jay Travis is within a few hundred votes of Christian Mitchell and is refusing to concede until "every vote is properly counted." Of course, as we know from our own experience on Tuesday, they haven't been. And shame on Preckwinkle for calling Travis's claims of poll irregularities "delusional."

From the very beginning,  Will's campaign and that of Jay Travis should have been essentially linked, targeting the same corrupt political machine. In the course of fighting and often winning these school and election battles, our eyes remain on the prize. We are building an independent, labor-led, community-based movement that can hopefully challenge Rahm Emanuel next year and help redefine politics in this city.

The Travis campaign is facing much tougher odds right now, including obscene amounts of money flowing into Mitchell's coffers from groups like Stand For Children, DFER, and even from California billionaire school privateer Eli Broad. For Travis to be this close to victory is testimony to the power of her message, her organization and her base of support in the community.

Thanks to my FB friend Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle for posting the following:
Little piece of research I just did, fascinating to see that Mitchell's entire base of support comes from the white areas of his district, pretty telling about our political system that the corporate-backed candidate can win a seat in state assembly by depending pretty much exclusively on the whitest areas of his district: Analyze where Mitchell's "victory" came from. He was CRUSHED in predominately black areas, in fact in most areas. His entire victory came from the 42nd ward which is 70% white, the 2nd ward which is 78% white, and the 43rd ward, which is over 80% white. Meanwhile, he lost in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th and 20th. 
Last year we waged an important battle against the school closings and won important victories here on the north side. But in the city's predominantly black communities, 50 schools were closed, leaving thousands of families' lives in turmoil and their neighborhoods further blighted.

Let's not let the politics of divide-and-rule undo what we've been able to accomplish. To my way of thinking, the battle in the 26th is over when Jay Travis says it's over.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jay Travis: 'It would be an injustice to concede before every vote is properly counted'

I just spoke with Jay Travis who was on her way out of the Board of Elections. She's there today asking for a full accounting of every vote taken in the 26th District. As of now she is said to be trailing the incumbent Christian Mitchell by only a few hundred votes.

Says Jay,
 Many were not given a proper ballot in over 15 precincts. In many precincts, including mine, voters were improperly turned away and told to come back later. We're at the Board of Elections to make sure that every vote is properly recorded and that this election reflects the actual will of the people. This campaign was clear example of a coalition that includes working families and labor organizations, youth, seniors and people seeking change as opposed to the influence of corporate interests.
We have fought a good fight and it would be an injustice to concede before every vote is counted. 
Hang in there, Jay.

Ames Middle School Victory despite Marines at polling places

D. McCoy photo
RUSSIAN TROOPS IN CRIMEA? NO... They're uniformed U.S. Marines standing outside of  polling places on Chicago's northwest side where voting was taking place on whether or not to turn Ames Middle School into a Marine military academy. According to reports, the Marines were pushing voters to support the militarization of Ames.

But the voters weren't intimidated (Marines weren't armed). Two out of three of them voted to keep Ames a community school, in yesterday's referendum. Although the referendum is nonbinding, those opposed to the militarization of Ames said they hoped it will send another strong message to CPS, the School Board and politicians that the majority of nearby residents truly do not want to see the school become a military academy.

"This is what democracy looks like," said neighborhood activist Leticia Barrera. Probably needs a question mark after like.

Guzzardi wins in a rout

-- M. Klonsky photo

State House - District 39 - Dem Primary

March 18, 2014 - 11:04PM CT
Illinois - 91 of 91 Precincts Reporting - 100%
Name Votes Vote %
Guzzardi, Will 5,245 61%
Berrios, Toni (i) 3,402 39%

All you had to do was walk into the Logan Square Auditorium on Kedzie last night and take a look around to see why Will Guzzardi won big. The room was packed, not only with a diverse, raucous crowd of celebratory election night supporters, but also with a cadre of skilled campaigners, strategists, media, supporting politicians and field organizers young and old, who knew how to win an election and did.

-- M.Klonsky photo
In the end, despite the usual last-minute polling place shenanigans,  it wasn't even close. Toni Berrios conceded early, a little after 9 p.m. In an election that was watched closely statewide and even nationally, Guzzardi won in a 22-point rout over the machine's ncumbent, Berrios, the daughter of Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe"Big Daddy" Berrios. Her confused and floundering campaign was taken over mid-stream by machine Boss Michael Madigan's professional election thugs who made Toni take a "vow of silence" and then threw every bit of smut and garbage they could muster at Will, but couldn't make it stick.

DNAInfo reported:
 But some voters said Berrios' advertising blitz worked against her, especially when it came to attack ads. "To see what Toni Berrios [is saying], it really makes me sick to my stomach, so that makes me come out and vote just because of how yucky politics is," said Logan Square resident Amanda Fitzgerald.
-- M.Klonsky photo
Guzzardi gave a rousing victory speech calling on supporters to keep the movement alive or "my victory will have been in vain."
"We said with one voice that every child deserves access to a great public education," Guzzardi told the crowd. "We said with one voice that the very wealthy and the biggest corporations ought to be held accountable to paying their fair share just like the rest of us. And we said with one voice that working people who have earned their retirement deserve to get it, right?"  
WGN is calling it a "victory for the unions," especially for the CTU which backed Guzzardi with money and field organizers. Chicago Party regulars, including Rahm Emanuel, are now worried that Guzzardi's successful campaign could mark the beginnings of an independent political movement capable of a new round of election victories. They are right to worry, especially with the mayor's race coming up next year. One of those capable of taking on Rahm is Ald. Bob Fioretti who backed Guzzardi and who, along with several other progressive pols, including Senator Willie Delgado, Aldermen Arena, Waguespack and Moreno, were celebrating with the crowd in the auditorium.

CONGRATULATIONS... to Jay Travis who ran a strong campaign in the 26th against great odds in her attempt to unseat incumbent Christian Mitchell. All the experts predicted this race wouldn't even be close, with Mitchell getting tons of money from school privatizing groups like Stand For Children and DFER as well as a last-minute gift from California billionaire power philanthropist Eli Broad.

But by midnight last night, with the press reporting a win for Mitchell, the race is so close that Jay isn't giving in. She says:
I am not conceding. Throughout Election Day, we constantly received reports of voter suppression and intimidation, judges tampering with ballots, wrong ballots, ballots missing my name, and illegal electioneering. I personally was turned away from the polls at 6 a.m. due to alleged problems with the voting machine, along with a group of elderly senior citizens who had been waiting in line to vote (I returned over an hour later and was able to cast my ballot at that time).
We have received these kinds of reports from precincts across at least five different wards in the 26th District. This scale is significant in a race separated by just several hundred votes. We will be at the Board of Elections with our attorney tomorrow. In the meantime, I want to thank those of you who did incredible work in the streets today and packed our Election Night party tonight. You inspire me to continue fighting for a more just and democratic world.
Win or lose, Jay Travis should be proud of the campaign she waged. This is only the beginning for her. Her race, taken together with Guzzardi's victory in the 39th, shows the way forward.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Early (but not too early) and Often

Jay Travis and friends.
When progressive 26th Dist. Rep. candidate Jay Travis went to her polling place to vote at 6 a.m. this morning, she and dozens of others, including lots of seniors, were turned away due to alleged "voting machine" problems and told to "come back later". Travis has mounted a fiercely competitive challenge against machine-backed Christian Mitchell.

Mitchell was supposed to win this one easy with a war chest full of money from corporate "reform" groups like Stand For Children and DFER. But Travis, a long-time community organizer, has organized a strong field operation and is showing much stronger than expected.

Arne & Eli
BROAD MONEY...The machine boys are now running scared, which might account for the polling place irregularities. It also might account for a last-minute $10,000 contribution to Mitchell's war chest from none other than California b-b-billionaire Eli Broad. Why would Broad be so interested in a local Chicago election? The former real estate tycoon and Wall Street (AIG) kingpin is in the market for pols willing to support his public school takeover and privatization strategy. And Mitchell is an eager taker.

This isn't the first sighting of Broad money working to influence Chicago school policy. Broad bankrolled the invasion of the Supes Academy here last year and CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett along with her predecessor J.C. Brizard are alums of Broad's Superintendents Academy. Broad is the subject of a  state investigation in California for his secret million-dollar donation to the right-wing, anti-public school, anti-union group, Americans for Job Security.

But as I pointed out back in 2010, Broad money comes "not just with strings, but ropes."

Yesterday's influx of cash to a nervous Mitchell campaign also came from the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co.PAC, Illinois Energy Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce PAC, and Ald. Joe Moreno, who just wants to be on the side that's winning it seems.

Here's hoping they just pissed away good money after Broad bad.

AMES VICTORY PARTY...This from Bridget Murphy of the Logan Square Neighbors Assoc. (LSNA)
After the polls close Ames referendum volunteers will gather at Weegees Lounge, 3659 W Armitage Ave, for a victory party. Come join in 7:30pm and after, as precinct captains bring in their tape showing a landslide victory for the SAVE AMES from becoming a military school referendum campaign! We are grateful for local businesses Weegees, Revolution Brewing, and Pixel Graphics for donating to Save Ames.  Contact: Maria Trejo 312-927-2207 or Leticia Barrera 773-727-9941

'Let's finish the job'

From Will Guzzzardi
Mike --Two years ago today, we came within 125 votes of doing what no one thought was possible. When I decided to challenge one of the most powerful political families in Illinois, I knew it wouldn't be easy. But what I didn't know was just how many people across the district -- parents, teachers, progressive leaders, young and old -- would come together to support this campaign.
Looking back on it, the reason that's happened is simple: this community is ready for change. Our neighbors deserve better than leaders who put political allies ahead of the people who elected them. And our families deserve better than the distasteful smear tactics that have been filling all our mailboxes for more than a month now. Today, we have an opportunity to prove that a better kind of politics is possible. Let's go finish the job.
Thank you so much.-Will

New Orleans teacher/blogger Mercedes Schneider opens up a can of whoopass on Bill Gates. Can she do that? Doesn't she know who he is -- the world's richest?
It seems that Gates has once again bought himself an audience; he offered his CCSS-indulging speech to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) at its Teaching and Learning conference. Why is Gates, a non-teacher, offering his non-expertise to an audience of nationally-certified teachers? Consolation prize for millions donated.
Hell yes, she can. If you don't know Mercedes, you should. Check her out at deutsch29.

More proof that privately-run charters are not really public schools.
Last Thursday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin ruled, in a suit filed by number-one charter hustler Eva Moskowitz, that state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli cannot audit New York charter schools because the schools are not technically “units of the state.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

Separate is Never Equal. A great kids book.

I get lots of great books in the mail. I wish I had time to read and review them all. Today I got one of the best. It's called Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation (Abrams Books for Young Readers). It's actually a kid's book, beautifully written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

It tells the story of the Mendez family's move to the farm community of Westminster, California in the 1940s, well before the rise of the southern Civil Rights Movement. When the school system refused to allow their children to attend their community school and were forced to go the inferior "Mexican School" the family refused to passively accept their fate, and the hurt and racist abuse their children were forced to  suffer.

With community support and the the help of a civil rights lawyer named David Marcus, they began a long and difficult journey, through the state's legal system that ultimately ended in a favorable higher court decision. Groups like LULACS, the NAACP, the Japanese American Citizens League, the American Jewish Congress and others lent their support and resources. In June, 1947, a Republican Gov. Earl Warren, who would later become Pres. Eisenhower's Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, signed the law that would overturn separate but "equal" schooling in the state.

While the separate-but-equal doctrine has long been overturned, de-facto school re-segregation is on the rise again along with urban gentrification, the spread of privately-run charter and selective-enrollment schools. Two-tier schooling called "choice" has become the favored policy by the U.S. Dept. of Education under Arne Duncan and schools in President Obama's home town of Chicago are as at least as segregated and even more so than they were in 1954.

Published in time for the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, Tonatiuh's book is the only picture book that tells this inspiring tale. I would say it's appropriate for children 7 and older. I'm going to make sure a copy lands in the library of my grandson's elementary school.

The Man From ALEC takes union $$$, then pledges to slash Chicago school funding

Okay, so what did AFT & IFT leaders get in return for their support for Republican Kirk Dillard? The Man From ALEC is now calling for a billion-dollar cut in Chicago school funding and a "scrubbing of the rolls" for Medicaid, the state's healthcare program for the poor.

In the bizarre world of Chicago politics, there's also lots of "liberal" money flowing into the war chests of machine candidates committed to union-busting and privatizing/charter-izing public schools. The Hyde Park Herald reports:
[Christian] Mitchell’s funds come from a diverse mix of labor organizations, corporations and special interest groups, as well as wealthy and high-profile individual donors... Mitchell’s top donor is Oregon-based special interest group Stand for Children — a supporter of charter schools that has attracted considerable ire from Travis and the Chicago Teachers Union. Since January 2013, the group has donated $66,000 to Mitchell’s war chest, and was his top donor during the last election. 
Other top donors to Mitchell include the Democratic Majority fund and the We Mean Business Political Action Committee (PAC), which have contributed more than $37,000 and $17,000 respectively. Donors to We Mean Business — a major supporter of Illinois pension reform [privatization-MK] — include Republican gubernatorial front-runner Bruce Rauner ($10,000), as well as the wealthy Steans and Crown families, both direct contributors to Mitchell.
Some friends were shocked to see our liberal Congressman Luis Gutiérrez endorsing machine candidate Toni Berrios against progressive Will Guzzardi in the 39th Dist. race. Not me. Luis claims anyone who opposes Berrios is trying to "silence Latino voices." But Berrios is simply carrying water for machine boss Mike Madigan who's running her campaign and who, last time I looked, isn't Latino. 


Hoboken Board of Education president Leon Gold
“We are creating separate but equal school systems." By capping property taxes and fueling charter expansion, Christie “is increasing the segregatory effect of charter schools, while raiding our budget.” -- Salon
John Hagedorn
UIC Criminology Prof. John Hagedorn
But the reasons for Chicago’s medium to high homicide rate are not what police do, but what the city has not done. The problem isn’t gangs so much as the desperation of young black men. We don’t need magic policing tricks but real jobs, decent education, adequate housing, fair police and other steps on the long, hard road of reducing inequality and violence. -- S-T Voices, "What's really driving down murder rate"
Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science
“For better or worse,” said Steven A. Edwards, a policy analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.” -- New York Times
 Chicago Magazine
Despite spending more than $1 million of his [Pritzker's] own money, he lost the primary to Jan Schakowsky. The experience left him feeling bruised—and eventually convinced him to take his uncle Jay’s advice. “He told me that I could accomplish many public policy goals by making money and going without the public life,” Pritzker told the Tribune a few weeks after the primary. -- J.B. Pritzker: The Other Mayor of Chicago

Friday, March 14, 2014

Killing rats and beavers

Word is that the mayor is freaking out and berating his staff over being outflanked by Ald. Fioretti in the rat fight.
"The rat problem in our city is out of control," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said Wednesday. "They carry diseases that negatively impact our communities. We urgently need to do more to stem the population growth. This is a quality-of-life issue that we should be dealing with more effectively in our city." -- DNAinfo
Fioretti, who could be readying for a run against Rahm in 2015, should also be nailing him on these damn potholes. I don't think I'm the only one yelling out expletives at the mayor every 50 feet as my car's suspension takes a beating,

Beaver Shot...Funniest Tweet comes from S-T's Natasha Korecki:
Rutherford would use an assault weapon on his property. "I’ll mow down the beaver. That’s my right as an American"
She's referring of course to Republican gov candidate Dan Rutherford, currently bringing up the campaign's rear (no PI), who used yesterday's candidates debate to let his yahoo base know he's a gun-toting beaver killer.

How our dues are being used...

There wouldn't be much else interesting in the GOP primary except for the millions of dollars being poured into the race behind Kirk "The Man from ALEC" Dillard, much of it coming from local unions including the IEA, IFT, and my own union, AFSCME, who are worried sick about RHINO billionaire and union-hater Bruce Rauner winning the primary.

I like that opponents have put arrogant Rauner on the defensive about his ties to Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago political machine.
Rauner was asked to explain his relationship to Emanuel, with whom he has vacationed and hired briefly at the investment firm Rauner once led. 
 “I’ve known him for many years. I’ve worked with him when he was in the private sector a little bit. And I’ve worked with him on school reform while he was mayor in Chicago. The mayors in Chicago control the schools. My wife and I have dedicated much of our life and our financial resources to school reform and I’ve worked with the mayors to do that,” Rauner said.
Problem is, Dillard's campaign, which received a big chunk of this union (and other) money directly, is using it to attack Rauner from the right, i.e., for his support for choice and marriage equality (see graphic above).

Critics within and outside of the contributing unions (including my brother Fred) have become the targets of embarrassed and discredited IEA leaders and their henchmen. Former IEA bigwigs like Bob Haisman and Ken Swanson are carrying water for current IEA Pres. Cindy Klickna and her crew, calling out any members or retirees  who dare question the policies of the leadership. It all started when IEA leaders supported anti-union legislation like SB-7 and touted it as a "model" of collaboration. Then there was their backing of a pension-robbing alternative bill to SB-1. Now it's all about the union's endorsement of ALEC leader Dillard.

This from blogger and pension activist Glen Brown:
 In the discussion over the IEA, the IFT and the AFSCME endorsement of ALEC’s Kirk Dillard, what has emerged is not so much the issue of who we should vote for. It’s also about the right to dissent from arbitrary, top-down decisions by the union leadership. And their vision of what our unions stand for. 
What seems to upset former IEA Presidents Haisman and Swanson is not so much the substance of the opposition to the decision to endorse, but rather that our voices are loud and that we create dissension. Shouldn’t a union member’s voice be loud? And what frightens them about democratic debate and dissent?
It should be clear by now that the IEA and NEA both need something like Chicago's CORE Caucus to fight for democracy within the unions and to have some say on how dues are being used.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


“This is a city blessed with such diversity. Our schools, especially our particularly exceptional schools, need to reflect that diversity.” -- Mayor de Blasio.

But black students continue to be pushed out or excluded altogether from top-tier urban schools and re-segregated charters as cities increasingly become whitenized. New York's selective-enrollment schools are a great example.

This from the N.Y. Times
Admission to the city's most exclusive specialized high schools skews white (26 percent) and Asian (53 percent), as usual, while black and Latino students, who make up 70 percent of NYC public schools, were offered just 12 percent of the freshman spots based on single test. At Stuy, offers to black teenagers dropped two, from 9 to 7, with Latinos down to 21 from 24. 
De Blasio has his work cut out for him if he is serious about reversing the Tale of Two Cities trend. From the moment he was sworn in as mayor, the city's powerful hedge-fund school-reform gang with chief charter hustler Eva Moscowitz as their spear carrier, has gone after him with a fury rarely seen. It's a tale right out of DuBois' Black Reconstruction in America, the story of how the overthrown southern slave-ocracy organized its counter-revolution against a budding southern democracy after their defeat in the Civil War.

N.Y. is a far cry from 1860's Black Reconstruction, but there are parallels. In this case, it's the so-called corporate "reformers" who ruled the roost under Bloomberg's regime, who are reeling from a surprise election defeat by de Blasio's army of progressives, labor movement and Working Familes Party activists. Their frenzied counter-offensive against the new mayor's tiny incursion into their privately-run charter school space is an overreaction. But it has the full backing of Gov. Cuomo and presumably of Ed Sec. Arne Duncan who early on claimed that expanding mayoral control of urban schools was his top priority.
"At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed," Duncan said. He offered to do whatever he can to make the case. "I'll come to your cities," Duncan said. "I'll meet with your editorial boards. I'll talk with your business communities. I will be there."
Of course Duncan wasn't talking about mayors like de Blasio. I don't see him being there for this mayor. Do you? And you can make that double if Ras Baraka wins in neighboring Newark.

Same story in Chicago (except that this mayor is the equivalent of Moskowitz-in-office) where the gap between Rahm's top-tier selective-enrollment schools and re-segregated black community schools is growing wider by the day. Chicago is the nation's failed great experiment with mayoral control. Rahm continues to demolish community schools in the black community and replace them with re-segregated privately run charters.

Among the most shocking stories was reported by Linda Lutton yesterday on WBEZ.

Students at the so-called Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city’s West Side,  have spent much of this year without key teachers.

Junior Uriah White has no science or English teacher.
If you ask seniors Kendale Brice and Janiqua Johnson to list the teachers they’re missing at Austin Business, it sounds like they’re reading from a job board: "We need a music teacher," Kendale says. "We need a Spanish teacher," Janiqua adds. "Last year we didn’t have a Spanish teacher, so we had to take Spanish online," Kendale says. "We need a science teacher—which is biology and forensic science," says Janiqua. "We need an English teacher for juniors and seniors." 
Keyshawn Fields, a junior slated to take the ACT exam next month, says he had a biology teacher “for maybe three weeks at the beginning of the year, then she was gone.” Music and Spanish—requirements for graduation—are offered online only, students say.
Austin Business was started inside the previously closed Austin High School, by charter operator Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, under Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010 program. But Bakalis has long abandoned the school, handing it back to CPS and leaving it depleted of resources -- a school that few students want to attend and where few teachers want to teach.
Austin Business—which was started as a Renaissance 2010 school after CPS closed down Austin High School in 2004 for poor performance.... All three schools that opened in the Austin High building under Renaissance 2010 are struggling to attract kids, and struggling to keep promises of a better education. One of the schools, Austin Polytechnical Academy, had to write a grant this year to be able to pay for a college counselor; per pupil funding from CPS did not cover the cost.
But ironically, Chicago is adding high schools. The district recently approved seven new charters—five of them with high school seats—meaning students will be spread even thinner across schools like Austin. 
Now, charter hustler Bakalis and other corporate reformers are blaming the failure of the ill-conceived and badly-resourced schools in Austin on their small size. But these schools are small because of attrition, not by design. They are the result of a shakeout in an increasingly market-driven, two-tier school system.

Under the present regime in City Hall and with mayoral control of the schools, there's no relief in sight.