Friday, May 30, 2014

Community Rejuvenation Muralist Desi Mundo

Desi Mundo
Strong coffee this morning with Desi Mundo, visionary artist and  founder of the Oakland-based Community Rejuvenation Project. Desi grew up tagging and writing on the walls of Chicago and eventually became an airbrush artist of renown. His work in Oakland and surrounding towns has covered the walls of schools, grocery stores, housing projects, bridges, and buildings threatened with demolition.

Desi was in town to complete a new street mural at 75th and Coles, and to present a series of 5 vivid portraits of Liberation Theologists of Latin America, created in collaboration with artist Lavie Raven. He also presented a portrait of the beloved late educator Sarah Spurlark to Hyde Park's Ray Elementary School, which Desi attended as a child while Spurlark was the principal.

Sarah Spurlark mural
The Community Rejuvenation Project in Oakland brings together artists to work with communities in creating new art that reflects the stories of residents and their institutions--schools, playgrounds, parks, housing projects and even grocery stores. CRP describes itself as a "policy to pavement organization that cultivates healthy communities through public art, beautification, education & celebration." To learn more about this work and the art of resistance to gentrification, privatization, and destruction of communities, visit:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

In the 'Post-Racial Era': The Pre-school-to-Prison Pipeline

Manual Arts Senior High School student Damien Valentine, 16, worked with community groups to pass a proposal last year that bans suspensions of defiant students in L.A. Unified. (Christina House / For The Times)
Black children make up 18% of preschoolers (mostly 4-year olds), but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. -- NPR
Quick-trigger suspensions of African-American students, especially boys, in vastly disproportionate numbers often for the same offense as other students, is a powerful indicator of (well why not call it what it is) institutional racism. It's also a precursor to what is now being called, the "school-to-prison pipeline". Kids who are suspended or expelled from school are more likely to drop out, and those dropouts are more likely to end up with criminal records. In many school districts, especially those with large black and Latino student populations, school discipline policies push kids directly into the juvenile justice system.

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, on discipline in the nation's public schools shows just how very early that gap is present. The Washington Post calls the findings "stark". Students of color, boys and girls, are suspended at three times the rate of white students, and the disparities begin in preschool. Black children make up 18% of preschoolers (mostly 4-year olds), but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions.

Discriminatory suspension policies in Los Angeles schools under Supt. John Deasy's regime, have caught the attention of Rep. Janice Hahn. In a letter made public to Deasy, Hahn asks him to "personally look into" what the L.A. Times calls, "racial tension" at Markham Middle School in Watts. Hahn reports that Markham parents are concerned about African-American students being "treated unfairly by being sent home for issues that do not require suspensions."

I hate the term "racial tension" which places the burden for racial injustice on the victims -- those feeling tense about the situation, in the case of Markham, the schools 1,100 black and Latino students. It's one of those terms that is used increasingly in the media now that we have supposedly entered the "post-racial era." In its story on Markham, the Times accuses the black parents of "fanning the flames of racial tension" by protesting discriminatory school suspension policies.
Headline from the Sun-Times: "Disparities in pot arrests reveal two Chicagos"
Similar patterns of selective enforcement based on race, transcend schooling. In a sense, racial discrimination in schools is simply preparing students for their post-schooling lives. There's no better example that Chicago where new drug laws give police the option of either writing tickets or arresting marijuana users. The results have been horrifying. Since the city ordinance was enacted almost two years ago — allowing officers to ticket or make an arrest — recent reports show officers have chosen to make an arrest 9 out of 10 times.

Yesterday's  Sun-Times reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is ordering top cop Garry McCarthy to "explain why misdemeanor marijuana possession means one thing on the North Side — and a very different thing on the South and West Sides." As if Rahm didn't know.

McCarthy might well have answered:
For the same reason your school-closings and opening of selective-enrollment and charter schools mean one thing on the North Side and something very different on the South and West sides.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For immediate release from N.C. NAACP

May 28, 2014

Contact: Sarah Bufkin, NC NAACP - or 404.285.3413

Workers and Clergy Members Arrested in Speaker Thom Tillis' Office for Petitioning to Repeal a Flood of Unjust, Destructive Laws Hurting North Carolina 

We Shall Not Be Moved | Tillis 15
We Shall Not Be Moved | Tillis 15

RALEIGH, NC - Hundreds of North Carolinians showed up yesterday to lobby their state legislators to repent for the harm they have caused, to repeal the flood of extreme policies passed last year and to restore confidence in our elected officials. Among them were 15 moral witnesses who visited Speaker Thom Tillis' office at 3:30 pm yesterday and who staged a sit-in when the speaker chose not to meet with them.

After nearly 12 hours of protest - and numerous warnings from the General Assembly authorities - eight workers from McDonald's, Wendy's and Bojangles; four clergy members; a nationally recognized housing expert and a retired public school employee were arrested in NC House Speaker Thom Tillis' office around 2 am Wednesday morning.

"Tonight, we put a face on the real harm these policies are inflicting across our state," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "Our state lawmakers should adhere two fundamental principles: first, that legislators should be governing for the good of the whole, and second, as our state constitution lays out, that 'beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate and the orphan is one of the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state.' Speaker Tillis, Senate Leader Berger and Gov. McCrory have broken with both of these principles, particularly in their decisions to deny Medicaid expansion, to repeal the EITC, to cut back unemployment benefits and to pass a tax plan that benefits only the wealthiest few. They pass extreme policies, and then they will not even speak to the people their policies are hurting."

The Tillis 15 went to the Speaker's office intending to speak to him about repealing and reversing the measures that are hurting them and their neighbors directly, but they were never able to see him. Speaker Tillis apparently came into the House chamber through another entrance, conducted a short session for about an hour and a half and then left the building through another exit.

Crystal Price, a 27-year old worker at a Wendy's in Greensboro, was one of the fourteen moral witnesses arrested today. She is a mother of two children living on minimum wage and also suffers from cervical cancer. Denying the Medicaid expansion and cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit have impacted her ability to make ends meet.

Rev. Julie Peeples, another moral witness arrested today, has seen the havoc these polices have wrought in the lives of her congregation at the United Church of Christ in Greensboro. She knows teachers who hold down two jobs to because they make so little in North Carolina public schools and hardworking North Carolinians without health care access because they fall into the Medicaid gap.

These arrests will not stop or dissuade the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement from pushing our state legislators to do the right thing and repeal these unjust laws. We will return to the General Assembly next Monday, June 2 for a Moral Monday action.

More information on the next Moral Monday to come.

The list of Tillis 15 moral witnesses is below:
    1. Rev. Julie Peeples
    2. Minister Rubye Harris
    3. Meyshon Payton
    4. Jesseia Jackson
    5. Amber Matthews*
    6. Crystal Prize
    7. Randolph Perry
    8. Norma Clark
    9. Norman Clark
    10. Jason McCullen
    11. Tyrek Pierce
    12. Rev. Dick Weston Jones
    13. Stella Adams
    14. Fay Daniel
    15. Rev. C. Anthony Jones
* One of the original moral witnesses, Amber Matthews, left the action shortly after midnight, concerned that she, as a single mother, would not be able to get her son to school in the morning.

To see personal testimonies from some of the Tillis 15, check out the new video from the sit-in HERE.


Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.   

As if Rahm didn't know...

MAYOR PLAYS DUMB ON POT ARRESTS... He asks top cop McCarthy to explain why misdemeanor marijuana possession means one thing on the North Side — and a very different thing on the South and West Sides. On North Side, cops write tickets for bogarting. On South and West sides its prison.

ANSWER: The same reason Rahm's school closings and selective-enrollment school  openings mean one thing on the North Side and another on the South and West sides.

In a recent Sun-Times poll, only 8% of African-American voters surveyed said they would vote for Emanuel. Gee, I wonder why?

A SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to Stuart Magruder. He's the architect, and  member of LAUSD'S Bond Oversight Committee who was ousted by Supt. Deasy and the board for questioning the district's idiotic spending of $1 billion for IPads. The money came right out of the district's 25-year construction bond fund, approved by the voters who thought they were paying for the construction and repair of public schools.

Diane Ravitch writes:
The useful life of the iPad was probably 3-4 years. How could the money come from the construction bond, and would there be money to build and repair schools if it was used for short-term technology purchases.? Would voters support future bonds if their purpose was so easily ignored? 

We need a living wage

R.I.P. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin - find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less. -- Note to self
 LIVING WAGE...While Rahm's appointed minimum-wage committee continues to "study" the issue, a group of progressive aldermen are submitting an ordinance to the City Council today, to raise the minimum wage in Chicago to $15-an-hour. Rahm wants to study the possibility of raising it to $10. I would argue that we need a living wage bill nationwide.
"I think it's time for us to present a real ordinance," said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) Tuesday, adding that members of the Progressive Reform Caucus will be submitting the ordinance at Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Watch Rahm, Burke and the boys shoot it down. But thanks for trying, aldermen.

TRAFFICKING IN TEACHERS...Don't miss the latest horror story by George Joseph, in In These Times, about the trafficking of Filipino teachers into Houston (Rahm's model district), St. Lucie County, Fl., and Maryland’s Prince George County (L.A. Supt. John Deasy was big on this when he ran P.G. schools), to name but a few. Joseph might have included the importing of Turkish teachers on special visas by Gulen's charter schools. 

Joseph writes:
The idea that new teachers should be imported from halfway around the world for yearlong stints, knowing no background about the communities they are entering and the content relevant to them, is only justified if the teacher is reduced to an instrument of standardized information transmission. And if teachers are just such instruments, why not search the global market for the cheapest, most malleable ones possible?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Christie tells Baraka, "We are the deciders..."
Gov. Chris Christie to Mayor Baraka
"I also made very clear to [Baraka] that it is the state government that runs the school system in Newark, and that while I will talk with him and hear his ideas, that we are the deciders on what happens in the school system.” -- Thom Hartman
Chicago Alderman "Slow Eddie" Burke
“There are a lot of weirdos roaming around..." -- Sun-Times
Times reporter Jennifer Medina
In the car, the police said, were three semiautomatic handguns, along with magazines loaded with more than 400 rounds of ammunition — all bought legally at local gun stores. -- New York Times
Pope Francis
"The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders." -- At Israel's Separation Barrier 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Are Prosser teachers 'gaming the system'? Or is this reporter gaming them?

"If anyone out there has been in Prosser for more than a second, they would see that you can't make a Prosser teacher do anything they don't believe in." -- Prosser teacher Maria Magdalena
After reading Ted Cox's piece (Prosser Staff 'Gamed' CPS Survey, Gave H.S. Leaders Inflated Marks: Sources) in DNAinfo yesterday, I had to use breathe-in, breathe-out techniques for anger management.

For one thing, I love Prosser Career Academy, where I used to coach basketball. Despite its relatively high achievement record and talented (CTU members) faculty and staff, the school, like so many others in Chicago, has become the target of privateers. The neighborhood has a burgeoning Hispanic population and the city's charter operators see it as a potential market and prime territory for expansion. There's even a new privately-run Noble charter school now under construction right across the street from Prosser, despite protests from parents and community residents. Freshman students at Prosser have told me that they've been receiving phone calls at home from charter people, trying to recruit them away from Prosser.

Protest at Noble charter school site
I hate to see teachers or principals unfairly debased or accused of high crimes and misdemeanors in the media and left with no voice in their own defense. That's exactly how I felt after reading Cox's piece. It wasn't just that he was surmising what teachers probably would do if confronted with a high-stakes survey. We can all do that. He was actually making accusations which could lead to charges of unethical behavior.

Using only hearsay and unnamed sources and without one piece of evidence, Cox claims Prosser teachers were intentionally lying and manipulating one of Byrd-Bennett's "surveys" to make their supposedly bad school look good and doing so at the direction of  principal Ken Hunter (now on medical leave).

Ironically, the only source named in Cox's article is Carol Caref, a CTU research consultant, who Cox says, "confirmed 'teachers reporting that they were told in meetings that, if they didn't want their school to be downgraded, they should fill out this survey in a positive way.'"

I asked Carol about that this morning and she assured me that she wasn't referring at all to Prosser. She said she hadn't spoken directly with any Prosser teachers and that she was only speaking generally about principals pressuring teachers to say positive things about their schools. Cox calls that a "confirmation."

DNAinfo then publishes the survey to show "evidence" of "inflated" marks from previous surveys. But real climate surveys aren't supposed to be made public even though CPS has displayed them for years at website of CCSR at the University of Chicago. Caref told me, "it's only in the past year that they've been used as a performance assessment."

Surveys aren't high-stakes standardized tests. They can't be "gamed" unless they're part of a game, with winners and losers. Teachers can't give leaders "inflated" marks unless those surveys are not surveys at all, but a backdoor way of doing principal evaluation. And if that's what they are, the results certainly should not be made public or published at DNAinfo, any more than teacher evaluations based on student test scores should be published in the L.A. Times. Where are you, Chicago Principals Association?

Who from CPS gave this story to Cox? Who put him onto to this "scandal"? Inquiring minds want to know.

Stories like this one (and others about teachers cheating on test scores) are very believable. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing and you don't need any evidence to understand how teachers might not be totally forthcoming in CPS "surveys." especially when it comes to saving their school or their jobs. This particular survey, the Five Essentials, is not meant for evaluative purposes. It's supposed to be a predictor of school success, and only an "indicator" of it. I wish surveys, instead of standardized test scores,  actually were used as measurements of success.

This from the survey itself:
The power of 5 Essentials comes from their prediction of school success, the intuitiveness of the overall framework components (Instruction, Environment, Leaders, Teachers, and Families), and the reliability of the survey measures... The 5 Essentials framework as measured by our survey instruments is a leading indicator of school performance now and predictive of the future. 
Here's more:
As detailed in the seminal book, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, UEI researchers determined that there are five essential supports for school success. These “5Essentials” detail the perspectives and processes central to the delivery and support of student learning.
The late Donald Moore, who first came up with the notion of 5 Essential Supports, would be turning over in his grave if he saw the way this survey was being used. The 5 Essentials were meant to support and improve schools, not to threaten them with closure, teacher firings and privatization. Surveys like this are supposed to be confidential. We already know that neither Rahm nor Byrd-Bennett give a rat's ass about teacher morale or school environment or culture, especially at schools they targeted for closure or "turnaround".

Cox got the story wrong. Somebody (I'm still trying to find out who) put him onto to this potential scoop and he was really too lazy to do more than make a few phone calls. He even called me and asked me if I knew anything about teachers "gaming" the survey. I told him no. I was a basketball coach, and wasn't privy to the teachers survey and told him I didn't know this one was even being given.

Turns out, Cox found no one who would talk to him on the record. Good for them. Like me, they must have suspected another hatchet job in the works. Why else would he be on this fishing expedition?

So what does a lazy reporter do when he has no facts? He does this:
A source familiar with the situation confirmed the school principal told teachers that by criticizing his leadership on the surveys, they were potentially hurting themselves by putting the school in the line of fire. The source said that after years of giving the school's leadership bad marks, the teachers were swayed that the surveys were reflecting poorly on the overall reputation of the school.
Then he Tweets:  Prosser teachers "game" #CPS leadership survey, sources say 
After breathing in and out for a while, I Tweeted Cox:
@tedcoxchicago Going after Prosser teachers, the principal and the school with "unnamed sources". #Slimejob
Cox Tweets back:
 @mikeklonsky Not "going after" anybody, Just reporting the facts on a smart, self-aware faculty. You know it's true.
Now I'm really pissed. I know it's true? He's calling me a liar on Twitter? Didn't he just interview me on the phone? Didn't I tell him straight up that I didn't know if it was true? Now he's pushed my wrong button. Not only lazy, slanted reporting but using me to cover his ass. Cox owes me an apology.

I make some phone calls and do some FB-ing of classroom teachers I know (doing Cox's job?). Here's one of them, Maria Melita Magdalena:
Maria Magdalena
As an actual teacher from Prosser, I was not party to any "gaming" of anything. I think, like most sensational reporting, something got twisted here. If anyone out there has been in Prosser for more than a second, they would see that you can't make a Prosser teacher do anything they don't believe in. One of Mr.Hunter's best qualities as an administrator, has been building a staff of talented people who work for their students and community. Teachers have his blessing to create and implement curriculum that not only demonstrate growth by district, state, and national standards, but engage students in meaningful ways.
I invite folks in all the time, who cannot believe all the good work we do. If Mr. Hunter was pointing out inequities in these rating systems, I don't think that's news to anyone. I know plenty of teachers that didn't complete the survey last year, or this year and then, nothing happened. After the last few teacher-bashing years, if your administration tells you to take yourself seriously and respect the school you helped build, then you might rate him or her highly, and I did. And I would again. And no person instructed me to do so. And no one high-fived when I was done.
I asked Maria if I could quote her directly? She responded, "Please. Use my name. Twitter is cool too. This makes me feel sick."

I said, thanks, check my blog tomorrow. If anyone else wants to speak out, let me know. Maria responded,  "They will. Thank you. Clearly, we need a voice."

More to come on this.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

'When you close a school you open a prison'

THE PIPELINE... Hundreds marched Monday night from Lawndale to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center to call for an end to what they call the “school to prison pipeline.” Activists began their march with a rally at Paderewski Elementary, a school that was among the more than 50 closed in 2013, down Ogden Avenue to the detention center.

Members of nearly 30 different community activist groups said they wanted to see more investment in education alternative programs for youth, rather than in prisons.
“Somebody once told me when you close a school you open a prison,” said Malcolm London, a member of the group Black Youth Project 100, as demonstrators placed and tied small padlocks to the fence in front of the school. “We’re placing these padlocks to symbolize being locked out of our systems,” said another demonstrator. -- Chicagoist
SPEAKING OF PADLOCKS... Byrd-Bennett changed the locks on the door at Gresham Elementary and won't give principal Diedrus Brown the keys. Silly, petty BBB. Doesn't she know that if parents want to stage another sit-in, Brown can just open the door from the inside and let them in?

WANNA BUY CPS? It's for sale. And here I thought the hedge-funders and corporate reformers already bought it.

FROM SEIU Adriana Alvarez has worked at McDonald’s for four years and makes just $8.75 an hour. She’s fighting for $15 an hour to win a better life for herself and her two year-old son Manny. This afternoon, Adriana was arrested outside of McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, where hundreds of workers refused to be silenced before the company's shareholder meeting.

Call McDonald’s and tell them you stand with Adriana and the other workers who were arrested right now: 888-979-7395.

AMARA ENYIA is running for mayor of Chicago. That's who, writes Joravsky in the Reader.
"There's not one, single thing that Rahm did that made me want to run," she says. "It was an aggregation of things that he'd done. Closing the schools. Closing the mental health clinics. The cuts. The firings.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chicago, a year after the closings

“School closings have done nothing to improve the education of CPS students, nor have they saved money, but the same policies that led to massive closures continue to be implemented.” -- CTU Report
Two major reports came out of Chicago this week. The first, from the CTU, finds that despite promises, the closing of 50 schools last year made conditions worse for students in both the closed and receiving schools. The union’s report, released Wednesday, contradicts the victory speech CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett made in March, when she told the Board of Education that the closings made the district stronger. They didn't. The supposed cost savings just meant that millions of dollars were spent elsewhere.

For example, every welcoming school was promised a library, a computer lab, iPads for every third- through eighth-grader. Four new libraries were installed, and several others were upgraded, but only 38 percent of all the welcoming schools have a librarian, compared with 55 percent of elementary schools districtwide, according to the CTU.

Computer labs were upgraded, but only a fifth of these schools have a technology teacher, the report said, and iPads were purchased but without many related training opportunities for teachers. A good deal for Apple. Not so much for students.
Of the $83.5 million spent on transitions in 2013 and 2014, only $9.3 million of that went directly to schools, with the bulk paying for the “web of supports made necessary to manage the chaos of the largest school closures the district, or any school district, has ever undergone,” including $30 million to a logistics company, the report says. 
CHARTERS & KIDS WITH DISABILITIES... The second study, authored by some of my colleagues at CReATE finds that Charters continue to enroll fewer special education students than do neighborhood public schools, but that percentage of students has increased each year. Students with IEPs are no longer under represented in charter schools to the extent that they were five years ago, particularly at the high school level.

But UIC researchers Federico R. Waitoller, Josh Radinsky, Agata Trzaska, & Daniel M. Maggin report that charters continue to under-enroll kids with disabilities, "suggesting a persistent pattern of differential services."
The tendency of charters to serve fewer students with extensive support needs combined with the closing of neighborhood schools, suggest that these  students may have fewer choices than their less disabled peers to be included in schools with their typically developing peers. This disproportionally affects black and Latino students with these disabilities as they tend to live in the neighborhoods most affected by the closing of neighborhood and opening of charter schools.
THE PRINCIPAL REVOLT... And don't miss Ben Joravsky in The Reader on the Chicago principals revolt.
I'm talking about the ongoing fallout over an op-ed in the Sun-Times on May 9 that was written by Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine, a grammar school in Lakeview. Man, oh man—LaRaviere's piece is the greatest tell-it-like-it-is putdown of phonies since Bob Dylan went off in "Positively 4th Street." You know how it goes: "You got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend . . . "
According to Ben, Byrd-Bennett told reporters "that she was shocked—shocked, I tell you—to learn that some principals felt so used and abused. Then she basically blamed it on the communications office—as though some press release writer had gone rogue and started beating up on principals."

But Joravsky is also merciless on principals for allowing themselves to be used by Rahm and BBB to hammer teachers, especially during the teachers strike, and on the Principals Association for its passivity.

Another Joravsky good read.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Randi tours Chicago with Karen Lewis. Leaves blasting the mayor.

"It feels that the Chicago mayor wants to kick the public [school] system in the teeth at every opportunity."

AFT's Randi Weingarten and NEA's Dennis Van Roekel have been trying to ride two horses at the same time, courting approval from Obama/Duncan while bucking their own rank-and-file in their support for Common Core. Feeling increasing pressure from below, they recently shifted their stand and now say they still support CCSS but "not how they're being implemented."

So CTU Pres. Karen Lewis took Randi on a tour of some Chicago schools to show her exactly how they're being implemented. Spending time with Karen seems to have had some affect. Randi responded by opening up on Rahm Emanuel (better late than never) saying "it feels that the Chicago mayor wants to kick the public [school] system in the teeth at every opportunity."
 Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of a Teachers, has supported Common Core. But on a Monday she defended the CTU's recent resolution calling on state officials and the AFT to reverse their approval, saying she had been expecting the move for months. "People keep asking for help, asking for resources, and none of that is forthcoming in Chicago," Weingarten said at the national Education Writers Association seminar in Nashville on Monday evening. -- Early & Often
After the CTU passed it's anti-CCSS resolution, Duncan used two of his former assistant ed secretaries, Carmel Martin and Peter Cunningham as attack dogs to go after the union. In her May 17th Sun-Times commentary, Martin, who served as Duncan's former assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, stooped about as low as one can go by insinuating the union was in bed with Glen Beck and the Koch Bros. Cunningham immediately joined in. He responded to a critical tweet by me this way:
@mikeklonsky @CarmelatCAP Simply pointing out that CTU is aligned with Beck and Koch against #CCSS and contrary to views of many teachers.
Former Duncan assistant Carmel Martin, says CTU in bed with Beck and the Koch Bros. 
I'll leave it to readers to decide who really speaks for Chicago teachers, Cunningham or Lewis and the CTU's elected delegates who, after much internal debate, passed the resolution on Common Core unanimously. Perhaps Cunningham would like to run against Lewis in the next union election. Place your bets.

The slime-ing of the union reminded me of when former Bush Sec. of Ed Rod Paige, called the teacher unions "terrorists" and when former N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg likened them to the NRA.

BRIDGING DIFFERENCES... I've been having a running dialogue over at EdWeek with my pal Deb Meier, see her piece, "Don't Write Off Everyone in the Tea Party" (good advice) over the issue of tactical alliances with the far right-wing opponents of Common Core. We both (especially me) oppose any such formal alliances. But while the teacher unions and community-based organization are in no danger of being mistaken for T-baggers, the question has come up among some in the anti-testing, anti-CCSS movement.

Just to be clear, I'm not just talking about engaging right-wingers in dinner party or bar stool conversations (see John Thompson's comment at Bridging Differences).

I have been pushing for us to draw a clear line between why and how we oppose Common Core and the testing madness that goes along with it. If for not any other reason than to get clear ourselves. Confusing our opposition with that of anti-government, anti-Obama, anti-public school right-wingers can only serve to discredit our arguments. The CTU resolution on Common Core offers a great critique from the teachers perspective.

CASE IN POINT...Check out anti-CCSS fanatics, like an Alabama Tea Party leader saying a vote for Common Core will damn lawmakers to hell, the American Family Association warning that children won’t “survive” Common Core, Eagle Forum saying it will promote homosexuality, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calling it “socialism,” and WorldNetDaily saying it will turn America into Nazi Germany. Glenn Beck believes the educational standards are “evil” and designed to “train us to be a serf state” under the rule of China and Islam.

Then there's Tea Party Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant who claims that Common Core will turn our children gay. Forgive me, but I just don't see any common ground or much room for engagement there.

BTW, I've actually heard the same thing about eating graham crackers.

Monday, May 19, 2014

WEEKEND QUOTABLES 60 years after Brown

Grandparent Ollie Clements at Gresham sit-in
Donna Brazile 
"Sixty years later, 'separate and unequal' is still alive...privatizing our school systems results in increased segregation, not improved opportunities." -- CNN
Gary Younge
Racism is far more than old white men using the N-word -- The Guardian
Ollie Clements, a grandparent of a Gresham student
“Not just books and textbooks and other materials. We need teachers. Why can’t we have music? Why can’t we have art?” -- CBS Chicago
Michelle Obama
“Many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools, and many communities have become less diverse, leading to schools that are less diverse." -- New York Times
Paul Tough
“Whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make.”  -- NYT: Class, Cost and College

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's the new, improved Rahm. 'Doesn't believe in personal insults...'

Here's Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere laying it all out on Chicago Tonight.

PARTY LINE...You can always tell when the line comes down from the 5th floor at City Hall. It's picked up quickly and echoed down the halls and through the cubicles at Clark Street -- "That LaRaviere guy and those other principals are in league with Karen Lewis and the teachers union."

But by the time flack Sarah Hamilton's message reaches the end of the line, it doesn't always come out the way it was intended. Yesterday it was first mouthed clumsily by Rahm's attack dog, John Kupper who came right out and called CPA Pres. Clarice Berry, "a CTU shill". Yes, and that was the message coming from Hamilton's newly-created version of the warm, fuzzy ("I welcome principals' concerns and ideas") Rahm.

After Berry fired back with both barrels, Rahm made Kupper apologize.
“I regret my reckless remark and offer Dr. Berry my public apology,” Kupper wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
BTW, Berry's full statement, which appeared in an earlier version of Fran Spielman's E&O report is now gone. But you can read it in full, here.

In a separate emailed statement, Hamilton wrote:
“Mayor Emanuel does not agree with what John Kupper said nor the sentiment behind it, and he believes personal insults have no place in public debate." 
Wait, what? Rahm doesn't believe in using personal insults in public debate? That's right. This is the new, improved Rahm. Not the one who dropped the F-Bomb on Karen Lewis. Not the one who called a group of liberal activists "f—ing retarded." Not the Rahm who repeatedly insulted Chuck Todd, suggesting he was ignorant about charter schools, was "backward" looking, and that being in Washington had affected "your brain." Not the Rahm who threatened to kill  Energy Sec. Stephen Chu if he talked about climate change.

C'mon Rahm. Don't wuss out on us now.

Next came this toned-down version of the line from gadfly blogger Alexander Russo. No he's not on staff but he's a quick study.
I keep wondering whether LaRaviere is an independent mind speaking out against CPS and anyone else who gets in the way of making Chicago schools better or whether he's one among many who've come to loathe the Mayor so much that he's allied himself with the union across the board.  
Yes, he was just "wondering."

LOVE THIS...Thanks WBEZ, Young Chicago Authors, Free Write Jail Arts and the Chicago Community Trust for helping Louder Than a Bomb give voice to the brilliant young poets locked up inside the Cook County Detention Center. And be sure and check out these amazing WBEZ photos by By Bill Healy.

Stay dry and have a great Rahm-less weekend.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rahm's attack dog, Kupper is on the loose

No sooner had Rahm tried to reinvent himself as a gentle, warm and caring ("I welcome principals' concerns and ideas") mayor, than his CPS plantation ignited once more. The arsonist this time was Rahm's own attack dog, John Kupper who in one single mouth-fart, attacked both the Sun-Times for giving too much play to the mayor's critics and Chicago Principals Assoc. Clarice Berry, for being a "CTU shill."

Chicago principals leader Clarice Berry
Here's Pres. Berry's response:
“I am appalled at the demeaning and disrespectful characterization by Mr. Kupper and, by extension, to my principals. That man does not know me. He’s never spoken to me. He has no idea what my relationship is to the CTU or Karen Lewis. We are colleagues. We respect each other and we’re friends,” Berry said.
“I want the mayor to direct his employee to make a public apology to me and to my members, whom he insulted in public. I hope the mayor reprimands him. He should work on the political side — not the education side. We want the politics out of our job.”
Berry accused Kupper of “engaging in the same kind of intimidation and repression of principals” that her organization and its members have been complaining about for the last week.
“We have every right as citizens of the United States to exercise our First Amendment rights to say things are upsetting us,” she said.
“What credentials does he have to assess that my principals’ complaints don’t have validity just because he works for the mayor? l invite him to shadow a principal in an urban school to see how tough the job really is.”
 If it's any consolation to Clarice Berry, she's not attack-dog Kupper's only target. He was actually brought on staff to plan the mayor's slime attack on Toni Preckwinkle in case she decides to take him on in 2015.

Good News! Judge Belz's Injunction and the New ('All-Ears') Rahm

GOOD NEWS...Circuit Judge John Belz has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the new state pension-robbing law, SB-1.
“I do think it has led to great confusion … almost across-the-board confusion,” Belz said in a Sangamon County courtroom as he issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the law until further action of the court or resolution of the case. “There’s just too much uncertainty.”
Sen. Cullerton (left) knew SB-1 was unconstitutional, calling his bill, SB2404,"less unconstitutional."
No surprise here. Everyone who cynically pushed the bill, including Madigan & Cullerton, not to mention Gov. Quinn who signed it into law,  knew it was unconstitutional from the get-go. Judge Belz's injunction just means that the final court decision won't be as costly and destructive as it might have been.

The decision takes the pension issue off the table, at least until after the elections. But it also allows pols to dodge the revenue issues -- like taxing the state's free-loading mega-corporations, Mercantile Exchange transactions, and/or implementing a fair and reasonable state income tax to support public works and pay the state's pension bills.

LOOK, IT'S THE NEW RAHM...Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere and all the Rahm-dissing principals who've signed their names to comments on LaRaviere’s blog have it all wrong. The Mayor's not trying to "gag" or "intimidate" them. In fact, he's all ears, he tells the Sun-Times.
He now says he welcomes ideas and even criticism from principals...Sorry, but I'm laughing so hard, I fell off my chair. There...ahem. Now where was I? Oh yes, Rahm and his puppet Byrd-Bennett have a democratic style of work and welcome criticism from his staff and especially from CPS principals.

Meanwhile, Rahm has his mad-dog  flack, John Kupper, out running in high gear, lashing out at the media for giving critics too much play. Referring to LaRaviere, Kupper wrote, “First, this guy got a full page in the Sun-Times on Saturday. Now, a story as well? When does he get a column?”

Wow, what a great question. Yes, S-T. When does he get a column?

Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, says, LaRaviere is “one of the few principals willing to stand up” to City Hall and the central office, and “may have opened the floodgates” among those who feel the same way about intimidation, budget cuts and unfunded mandates.

Kupper responds by calling Berry a "CTU shill.” There, see how Rahm welcomes principals' ideas and criticism? He's all ears.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Independent movement carries Ras Baraka to victory in Newark

Speaking to the crowd, Baraka wished his mother a happy Mother's Day and said he knew his father, who died in January, was "in the room tonight." He urged the crowd to "be the mayor" and work for positive change, a reference to one of his campaign slogans, "When I become mayor, we become mayor." -- AP Wire

Yesterday's historic victory of Ras Baraka over corporate-backed Shavar Jeffries, following on the heels of progressive mayoral wins in New York, L.A. and a string of other cities, has meaning way beyond Newark. Harold Meyerson, writing on Bill Moyers' blog calls it, "the revolt of the cities." Baraka, who served as principal of Central High School, in addition to his duties as councilman, made opposition to school closings and corporate reform an integral part of his platform.

Despite millions of dollars being poured into Jeffries' superPAC by panicked DFER and other corporate school reformers, Baraka was able to ride the power of an independent Working Families movement, built on an alliance between organized labor (teachers and public sector workers in the lead) and the black community. Believe me when I tell you that with the 2015 mayoral race approaching, we here in Chicago are watching Newark closely and hopefully drawing the appropriate lessons.

DUNCAN SILENT...Funny, I don't hear Arne Duncan even mentioning mayoral control these days. Remember when it was his no.1 priority? Now with Corey Booker out, Chris Christie under investigation, Cami Anderson's "One Newark" plan for school closings and charter school proliferation in the toilet, and Chris Cerf gone to work for Murdoch,  the DFER heldge-fund reformers must be in a state of shock and awe.

Max Blumenthal ‏@MaxBlumenthal Tweets:
Baraka's biggest line of the night: Today is the day that we say goodbye to the bosses... We have to keep the schools open. #BelieveInNewark

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

At today's all-hands-on-deck meeting...

Byrd-Bennett's response to the CPS principals revolt is to call an "all-hands-on-deck" meeting for this afternoon. I don't know what her agenda is, but I picture her doing her best James Cagney from the film Mr. Roberts:
Alright who did it, whooo did it. You are going to stay sweating at you're posts until I find out who did it.

The CPS principals revolt: A single spark can start a prairie fire

She [Byrd-Bennett] can't "get to the bottom" of it when the culprit is at the top. -- Principal Troy LaRaviere

A SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere for standing up and speaking truth to power. His May 9th letter in the Sun-Times, "Under Emanuel, principals have no voice", has sparked a firestorm and has Rahm and CEO Byrd-Bennett, once again running for cover.

It's not often you hear a CPS principal tipping his hat to democratic and pro-teacher educators, John Dewey and Linda Darling-Hammond, two names that strike fear into the heart of the CPS bureaucracy.
The world’s highest-performing school systems are built on the ideas of American education professionals ranging from John Dewey to Linda Darling-Hammond, ideas that recognize school improvement is not an individual race, but a team sport. Yet, our own elected officials have been ignoring those ideas in favor of teacher-bashing, privatized choice, fly-by-night fast-track teacher licensing and over-reliance on testing — ideas that have not improved schooling in any nation that has tried them.
LaRaviere said Monday that the way CPS treats its principals “is doing a disservice to our students. . . . Our rights are less of an issue than the rights of our students to get a quality education. That is what drives us. That’s why we got into this.”

Also on Monday, at least three other principals echoed LaRaviere’s criticism of the mayor's gag-order leadership style, leaving Rahm flack Sarah Hamilton speechless (Ah...) and causing the mayor's buffer, BBB threatening to "get to the bottom of this." 
“The privatization of education in our city and nation wide alarms me,” Heather Yutzy, principal at Belding Elementary, wrote on the blog, calling on fellow principals to organize. “Unfunded mandates (PE and art) weigh heavily on my shoulders as I prepare to present a budget recommendation to my LSC. My deep passion for differentiation and meeting the needs of all students is extremely difficult to make a reality with such a bare-bones budget . . .
“Principals and the Chicago Teachers Union should be working shoulder-to-shoulder and standing together at microphones on most matters in education,” Yutzy wrote. Deborah Bonner, principal of Dett Elementary School, 2131 W. Monroe, wrote on the same blog of feeling “like a puppet.”
“Why is there the need to treat professionals as if we work in sweat shops?” she wrote. “The annoying micro managing and finger pointing without the slightest bit of intelligent conversation and support . . .  I just wanted to write to you and say that you have sparked a great deal of conversation in many of us and I thank you for having the courage to do so.”
And in a lengthy piece published Monday at, Principal Adam Parrott-Sheffer of Mary Gage Peterson Elementary School, 5510 N. Christiana, wrote that administrators who have raised concerns in meetings — “such as what to do when we see lunchroom employees in tears from being overworked as the district cut school positions by 33 percent to 50 percent” receive no response.
(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)
Principal Troy LaRaviere was one of only a few principals to speak against budget cuts announced last July. LaRaviere says under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked schools administration, principals have been told they must voice support for policies such as the longer school day. 

Responding to BBB's get-to-the-bottom threat, LaRaviere's said:
“The thing I don’t want to get distracted from is, this is less about our ability to speak than what it is we want to speak up for. We want to speak up for the end of a school system that relies on shaming rather than capacity building ...”
And then there's his great tweet:

Also, listen to Linda Lutton's report on WBEZ which quotes Chicago Principals Assoc. Pres. Clarice Berry saying that principals are under a "gag order." The BEZ report also shows that there were other principals, like Gresham's Dr. Diedrus Brown, standing up and speaking out against the budget cuts months ago along with LaRaviere. 

Here's more from Berry:
“People are so frustrated and so angry. We were trying to get a count of the number of principals who have thrown their keys on the desk and walked away from the job in the last year. It’s in the double digits,” Berry said Monday.
A single spark can indeed start a prairie fire.