Saturday, August 30, 2014

Nine years since Katrina. Maybe some justice for New Orleans teachers.

On Sept. 4th, the State Supreme Court will hear the case of 7,000 teachers fired after Hurricane Katrina. 
"Katrina accomplished in a day ... what Louisiana school reformers couldn't do after years of trying". -- American Enterprise Institute. 
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast exactly nine years ago, New Orleans school chief Paul Vallas saw the disaster as an opportunity to carry out his long-standing mission  by replacing New Orleans' public schools with privately-run, union-free charter schools. He was brought in on the wake of  the firing of 7,500 teachers and other school employees -- most of them African-American -- and the crushing of United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), once Louisiana's largest labor union and its first racially integrated teachers' union.Vallas takes credit for installing the largest privately managed charter system in the nation.

His "grand experiment in urban education for the nation" worked, at least up until now and is seen by corporate reformers as a model for urban districts from Detroit to Chicago.. The so-called Recovery School District (RSD)  has become the first district in the nation to do away completely with traditional public schools, replacing most of its older, veteran teaching force with younger, whiter 5-week wonders from TFA.

But a class-action lawsuit could finally bring some justice for the fired teachers. The case will be heard by the State Supreme Court on Thursday, Sept. 4th,  following lower court decisions that held the employees were wrongfully terminated. Teachers and their lawyers are expecting a positive decision.

Quinn picked Vallas as running mate.
HE'S BACK...Now Vallas, the master of disaster and the king of school privatization, is gone from N.O., leaving behind a trail of lost, costly court cases and shattered public school systems from Haiti to Chile, from Philly to Bridgeport, CN. For some reason angry teachers will never understand, IL Gov. Pat Quinn has chosen  teachers-union-buster Vallas as his Democratic Party running mate in his upcoming election against right-wing Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner. Good luck on that one, Governor.

Cross-posted at Schooling in the Ownership Society.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Last night on the Patti Vasquez Show

I had a great time last night on WGN's Patti Vasquez Show even though I didn't get to say much. Great lesson there.

Dynamic rapper and political activist, Che "Rhymefest" Smith and the two outstanding young men he brought with him, Mike Taylor and Mammoth, carried the show which took off from the celebration of the Jackie Robinson West Little League Champs and then went global.

Rhymefest, who won a Grammy for his collaborative work with Kanye West, and who ran for Alderman of the 20th Ward in 2010, is doing great work with young people at Donda's House.

Thanks Patti and producer Craig Collins for pulling it all together.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Talking violence, trauma tonight on WGN

LATE-NIGHTERS...I'll be back on WGN tonight at 11:30, on the Patti Vasquez Show. Along with a few other noteworthy Chicagoans I'll be talking about gun violence. You can call in and join the conversation.

Doctors demand trauma center
I'm certainly going to take issue with the Univ. of Chicago getting approval from the State Board to build a new $67 million medical facility in suburban Orland Park. Meanwhile despite months of community protests, including some by doctors and med students, there is still no Level 1 adult trauma center on the south side to treat victims of gun violence who now must travel miles by ambulance to the North Side or West Side for emergency medical care. The University of Chicago Medical Center closed its adult trauma center in 1988. And though it moved into a new $700 million building last year, officials say the hospital lacks financial and other support to reopen a trauma center that can treat patients 17 and up.

I still remember Damian Turner, who died of a gunshot wound sustained in a drive-by shooting in 2010. Though the 18-year-old was shot just blocks away from the UC Medical Center, he was taken eight miles away by ambulance to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries, because there are no adult trauma centers on the city's South Side.

Sen. Durbin knows who butters his bread. 
It's shocking, yet predictable, that Sen. Dick Durbin won't support the trauma center.
“To say, ‘Let’s go open a trauma center two miles from here’ is not a casual decision. It has to be done very carefully, with a dramatic investment. So I don’t want to push them into something that is not practical,” Durbin said. “I understand the community concerns, because of all the violence and bloodshed, but we need to look at this in honest terms.”
Yes, Sen. Durbin. Let's be honest about where your campaign funds come from, including millions from the medical industry, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, and related PACs and lobbyists. UC is one of Durbin's biggest patrons. No, I'm not surprised.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Duncan's unsolicited confession: He's choking education.

EPIPHANY...Arne Duncan has been talking with lots of teachers, principals and other educators, he claims, and has had an aha! moment. In his blog post, he offers this unsolicited confession:
"I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more."
Duncan, the biggest oxygen sucker of them all, then allows a one-year reprieve on test-based teacher ratings. Thank you, Lord Duncan. I'm sure a year from now, the oxygen will be back.

What Duncan refuses to recognize is that his Race To The Top/Common Core testing regimen is also sucking wind when it comes to equity in the schools. Even with a one-year reprieve on federal test-based teacher ratings (will school districts follow suit?), dramatic cuts in funding will still leave poor, inner-city schools and districts at a disadvantage. Take Philadelphia, for example.With an $81 million budget gap, Philly schools are opening minus hundreds of classroom teachers, social workers, and librarians. Students are sitting in uncleaned classrooms. Sports and after-school programs are being decimated. Unlimited expansion of the city's privately-run charter schools is another oxygen sucker.

A year's reprieve on testing won't change any of that. A year from now, the gap will be a year wider, no matter how you measure it. Civil rights is still the civil rights issue of our generation.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Atty. Gen. Holder meets with students from St. Louis Community College

Eric Holder
“History simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.” -- New Republic
 Lesley McSpadden (Michael Brown's mother)
“We couldn’t even see him. They wouldn’t even let us go see him. They just left him out there, four and a half hours, with no answers. Wouldn’t nobody tell us nothing.” -- N.Y. Times
Tyona Fields 
“I’m praying to God we can get these kids in school because kids have been out too long,” said Tyona Fields, one of the cafeteria workers at Griffith Elementary School. School is scheduled to start next Monday. -- N.Y. Times
Rahm Emanuel
 “The narrative is: We’re the murder capital. Not close." -- Politico

Cornell West on Obama
"It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G..." --- Salon
Stephen Mihm
When we see broad areas of inequality in America today, what we are actually seeing is the lingering stain of slavery... Today, in the 21st century, it still casts an economic shadow over both blacks and whites: “Slavery.”  -- Boston Globe "Where Slavery Thrived, Inequality Rules Today"

Friday, August 22, 2014

Public support for Obama's school policies is plunging

That's the good news.

If you combine Bush and Obama, which is easy to do when it comes to education policy, we're coming up on 15 years of No Child Left Behind/Race To The Top (with waivers).

That will make 15 straight years of corporate-style, top-down, metrics-driven, test-based reform. That includes more than 6 years of Arne Duncan's unfettered, single-handed use of federal dollars to impose a system which promotes  mayoral control of   the schools, coupled with the closing thousands of public schools and replacing them with privately-run charters. This strategy, based on the notion of a speedy "radical disruption," has steamrolled along like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no need for a bipartisan consensus and with token opposition from Republicans.

It's likely that, in upcoming mid-term elections, it will be the Republicans who benefit from the growing public disenchantment with current education policies. (This despite the fact that mainline Republicans like Bush and Christie have been strong supporters of Duncan-ism.)

The Hill reports that Obama/Duncan school reform is faring poorly in the arena of public opinion -- meaning among the folks who use and pay for the nation's public schools and the folks who vote. Public support for President Obama’s education policies is plunging, according to the latest Gallup/PDK survey.
Only 27 percent of people give Obama an “A” or “B” for his support of public schools, down 9 percent from last year, in a new poll from PDK/Gallup that was released Wednesday. An equal amount of people — 27 percent — said Obama deserves a failing grade on education.
The survey shows a growing disenchantment with top-down reform including imposed Common Core standards. Opposition to Common Core seems evenly distributed between right and left.
Fifty-six percent of respondents said they believe their local school board should have the greatest influence in deciding the curriculum. Only 28 percent of Democrats said the federal government should have the greatest control, while 45 percent of Democrats said the local school board should be in charge.
The Gallup poll found that 81% of the public had heard of Common Core, with 60% opposing it. The most common reason cited for opposition was the belief that the standards limit the flexibility of teachers.

This administration, despite its call for "better" tests, will go down as the greatest over-testers of children in history. The attachment of Common Core to a never-ending battery of standardized tests doesn't sit well with teachers or parents, and has cost Obama a splintering of his previously formidable base among teacher unions--the largest unions in the land.
An area where a majority of Democrats and Republicans agreed is a negative view of standardized testing. A majority of all respondents in the poll — 54 percent — said they don’t think standardized testing helps schools or teachers. And parents of public school students viewed testing even more negatively, with 68 percent saying it isn’t helpful.
Among the likely political victims of Duncanism are a group of big-city mayors who capitalized on the mayoral-control fad to push local versions of corporate-style reform. In addition to control of school policy, these mayors captured control over school contracts, prime real estate, and thousands of patronage jobs.

Case in point:  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now heading into an election campaign with sinking ratings, mainly resulting from his faithful implementation of Obama/Duncan school policies--despite massive public opposition.

Remember, it was Duncan back in 2009, who promised that he would make mayoral control his number-one priority.
"At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed." 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Schools play a big role in the Ferguson story. It's a teachable moment in time.

Fergson teachers would rather be with their students in their classrooms. Instead, they spend the day picking up debris, including tear gas canisters, from local streets. 

SELMA, Alabama -- A sixth grade teacher at a Selma elementary was placed on administrative leave after having students reenact the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown that took place Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. -- 
Ferguson schools remain closed today, 11 days after the killing of a local student and the ensuing protests. Why? It seems that the district leadership has abandoned its students completely to the streets. For many Ferguson students, school is where they get their only hot meal of the day. The Washington Post reports that a teacher in North Carolina has raised more than $80,000 in order to pay for food for kids in shuttered schools.

Ferguson-Florissant is considered a high-poverty school district because many of its students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches — 68% of them last year, though it is likely that the real percentage is higher as some families never filled out the paperwork.

CLASS WARFARE...The police shooting of Michael Brown and the ensuing protest is but one dramatic chapter in a much larger story of the widening black/white, rich/middle-class/poor economic and social divide and conflict.

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes in this week's TIME Magazine ("The Coming Race Ware Won't Be About Race") that Ferguson is not JUST about systemic racism, but about "class warfare" as well  and how America's poor are systematically held back.  But if there's class warfare in the United States, it's mainly one-sided. Brown's death changed all that in Ferguson.

Kareem cites a 2012 Pew Research Center report showing just half of U.S. households are middle-income, a drop of 11 percent since the 1970s; median middle-class income has dropped by 5 percent in the last ten years, total wealth is down 28 percent. Fewer people (just 23 percent) think they will have enough money to retire. Most damning of all: fewer Americans than ever believe in the American Dream mantra that hard work will get them ahead.

He might well have mentioned the schools in his portrait of growing economic inequality and accompanying racism. A look at Ferguson's two-tier school system would easily make the case. Michael Brown's own high school, for example, along with the district in which it resides, was stripped of its accreditation last year by the state, which then allowed students to transfer elsewhere with tuition and transfer fees paid by the unaccredited district, thus draining it of millions of dollars.

Compare this to Rahm Emanuel's closing of 50 schools, mainly in Chicago's black community. The only difference is that Fergusion's public schools system is suffering death by a thousand cuts rather than one.

EdWeek reports that black students in Ferguson schools are being suspended at much higher rates than white students and they are more likely to be stopped and arrested by white police officers outside of school. EdWeek also points out that these racial disparities in arrests and suspensions don't belong to Ferguson alone, but are repeated nationwide.

Art McCoy
There was some hope for Ferguson schools with the hiring of Ferguson-Florissant School District's first African-American school superintendent, Art McCoy. But the city's all-white elected school board (3/4 of district students are black) found itself at odds with McCoy's approach and soon forced him out. Students, parents and school activists have rallied around McCoy, demanding that the board to bring the superintendent back and even calling on them to resign.

McCoy tells Democracy Now:
As a school official and superintendent, part of my goal was to bring equity to the region by making sure that there was an adequate representation of principals and of teachers that matched the students that we served, and we made some strides in that area. The other initiative was to bring jobs. We were proud and I was proud to be a recipient of Harvard’s Pathway to Prosperity grant, one of three districts in the state to do so, to bring job-training skills, of advanced manufacturing and other skills, so that students can earn the skills, as well as receive jobs while they’re still juniors and seniors.  
More McCoy:
But I think riot is the language of the unheard, and protest is the speech act of a democracy that says, "You are a public servant and here to serve me, too." And I don’t blame those for voicing their opinion, but I do think we need people that are on the ground that represent all people, and not just by words, but by action, by deed, by creed, by ethnicity and intent. And so, I think that’s important.
ACROSS THE RIVER in Edwardsville, IL, teachers have been officially barred from talking to their students about the events in Ferguson. It's not a teachable moment, according to Dist. 7 Supt. Ed Hightower, who signed the memo banning any mention of Michael Brown's death or the ensuing protest. If students bring it up, ordered Hightower, "change the subject."
“Such comments have caused students and parents to lash out which is not healthy in the District 7 community,” says a memo to staff on Tuesday from Dennis Cramsey, principal at Edwardsville High School.
Teaching is not heathy. We get it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Battles are usually won or lost before they begin

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
For Karen Lewis, it's not just about a single election campaign but about laying the foundation for a movement. Ah music to my ears. Before she formally announces her candidacy, she wants to make sure she has enough troops in place behind her and a core group of progressives to run in city council races.

I've got a good one for her out in the 35th Ward -- solid, young, progressive Carlos Sosa who has the backing of State Sen. Willie Delgado and State Rep. (elect) Will Guzzardi, two guys who know how to beat the machine.

Forgive the war metaphor, but Karen should expect nothing less from Rahm Emanuel and his gang. One thing we've learned from many campaigns is that battles are usually won or lost before they begin, sometimes without firing a single shot (metaphorically speaking, that is).

While big money usually wins elections, it can't match the power of an energized popular movement fighting for a just cause. That said, I'm glad to see that the AFT has pledged $1 million to Karen's campaign, should she formally announce. Thanks Randi. Thanks rank & file. That's a big improvement over IEA leaders pouring money into the losing campaign of ALEC boss Kirk Dillard, the supposed "lesser-evil" opponent of Bruce Rauner.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today's test question: Why do police wear camouflage?

WATCHING FROM CAMBRIDGE, MA -- Worst Media Coverage Ever Award belongs to CBS News for this morning's headline: Michael Brown Protests in Ferguson Hijacked by 'Criminals' : Cops. Unless by "criminals" the headline was meant to refer to the Ferguson PD.

As the violent and terrifying Ferguson siege by militarized police forces, heads into Day 10, I'm still awed by the courage, anger, and desperate resistance shown by the mostly-peaceful and disciplined community protests against overwhelming odds. More live (on MSNBC) late night images of courageous youngsters ducking and dancing their way past armored vehicles, through the barrage of rubber bullets and tear-gas canisters, even daring to pick them up and return them to their rightful owners, jar memories of Watts '65, Harlem '64, Prague '68, Chicago '68, Tienanmen '89, Tahrir Square '2013 and Gaza last month.

Yes, 10 days since the murder of Michael Brown by Officer Wilson and still no arrest. Still no charges filed. What we know for sure from the various autopsy reports is that Brown was shot 6 times (including once in the palm of his raised hand and one in the top of his skull) as he stood passively, hands in the air. How many more autopsy reports do we need to see and how many federal investigations do we need to take place before an arrest is even made and charges filed? The struggle continues. No justice, no peace!

CAUTION... Three of Ferguson's four public schools remain closed but that doesn't mean children aren't getting Civics lessons from street teachers after being abandoned by city leaders and school administrators. A note posted on the Jennings School District website said the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution," and that the district anticipated starting the school year today.

No gas or shots fired against Cliven Bundy
I almost forgot another near-battle scene, this one handled with patience and restraint by authorities. That would be the confrontation in April between feds and an armed band of white-supremacists led by robber of public lands, Cliven Bundy. Yes, race matters when it comes to administering justice. Another Civics lesson for Ferguson kids.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Ferguson Protester Lisha Williams. 
"It was no fight, it was no shots fired. The only ones who fired was police. All we did was march to the command center to fall to our knees and say, 'Don't shoot.' And they started shooting." --CNN
Malcolm London
Chicago poet, Malcolm London
"They don't talk about white-on-white crime in the news." -- Huffington 
Attorney Benjamin Crump
"What we're really asking for is simple justice. We're not asking for anything extraordinary. They just want what anybody else would want if their children were shot down in broad daylight." -- CNN
Justice Taney
Melissa Harris-Perry
 In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney declared that [Dred] Scott had no right to sue because as a black man he was never intended to be an American. Speaking of the clause in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” Taney wrote:
“It is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration.” Taney went on to say that black men “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” -- MSNBC
 U.C. Prof. David Kirp
While technology can be put to good use by talented teachers, they, and not the futurists, must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element. -- Sunday NYT, "Teaching is not a business"

Friday, August 15, 2014

Militarization vs. the Network Society

I was deeply moved yesterday evening, to be standing with more than a thousand fellow Chicagoans, hands raised in a gesture of solidarity with the family of Michael Brown and the courageous people of Ferguson, MO. Similar demonstrations are taking place in dozens of cities and on university campuses.

GAZA, MO...Coming on the heels of the Israeli assault on Gaza, the events in Ferguson, after the police killing of Michael Brown, raise so many questions. So many connections are being made. For one, I am fascinated by the role social media has played in both events, as a participatory, community and movement-building alternative or supplement to an ever-more tightly controlled news media. The military and police attacks on and jailing of journalists and censoring of news reports were central to both.

SEARCHING...As I was posting this, I did a Google search to find the articles I had previously read from NYT and other sources regarding Israeli censorship of  Gaza reports. I tried searching, REPORTERS CENSORED IN GAZA. Do it and see what you get. All the stories from NYT and others, seem to have been scrubbed and most of what you'll get are stories about Hamas censorship of reporters via Hillary and Netanyahu. How did they do that?

CASTELS...Preparing for the fall quarter which begins in a few weeks, I've gone back for a look at the writings and research on the topic of the network society by Spanish sociologist and USC prof, Manuel Castells. He was awarded the 2012 Holberg Prize, for having "shaped our understanding of the political dynamics of urban and global economies in the network society." 

The social networks, including live, amateur video streaming were key is raising awareness about the transformation and militarization of many of our local police forces.

I was also amazed to see how Twitter lit up during the #Ferguson siege with tweets even coming in from the West Bank, (many thought they were coming from Gaza -- they weren't) offering advice to protesters and residents about how best to deal with tear gas and chemical attacks.

Yesterday in Chicago
MILITARIZATION goes way beyond the police departments. You'll find it in the schools -- Chicago leads the nation in replacing neighborhood public schools with military academies -- and across the culture (movies, TV, advertising, sports, etc...).

But the militarization of police departments is the scariest, especially in black communities, where all-white departments, armed to the teeth with Afghan war killing power, seem more like an occupying force than anything to do with serve-and-protect. See  Bill Moyers' piece"Not Just Ferguson: 11 Eye-Opening Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces." Moyers says:
The “war on terror” has come home — and it’s wreaking havoc on innocent American lives. The culprit is the militarization of the police...Through laws and regulations like a provision in defense budgets that authorizes the Pentagon to transfer surplus military gear to police forces, local law enforcement agencies are using weapons found on the battlefields of South Asia and the Middle East.
WAR COMES HOME...Driving much of this is the Department of Defense's 1033 program, which Congress passed in 1997 to expand on a 1991 initiative, initially aimed at encouraging private sub-contractors to sell surplus military equipment meant for Iraq and Afghanistan to police departments for use in counter-narcotic and counter-terrorism situations. Of course there's no point in cash-starved communities spending billion on this stuff unless they are to be used. Look for two-three-many Fergusons to follow.

This from the Washington Post:
"We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn't wear that much gear," said Kyle Dykstra, an Army veteran and former security officer for the State Department. Dykstra specifically pointed out the bulletproof armor the officers were wearing around their shoulders, known as "Deltoid" armor. 
"I can't think of a [protest] situation where the use of M4 [rifles] are merited," Fritz said. "I don't see it as a viable tactic in any scenario."
NOWHERE TO RUN...I'll end now. My head is exploding with the sound of low-flying bombers and fighter planes buzzing my humble abode in Logan Square. Yes, Logan Sqare, NOT Gaza or Kabul. Speaking of militarization, it's the damn Air and Water Show. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Waking up to a not-so-new American morning

"Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ...or the right of the people peaceably to assemble" -- 1st Amendment, U.S. Constitution
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” -- Dr. M.L. King

Shaken, disturbed, angry...that describes me this morning after watching the live streaming and follow-up news coverage on MSNBC of the violent, militarized police assault on the black community in Ferguson last night. The sounds and images of an unprovoked, small-town, 94%-white police phalanx moving on a crowd of unarmed, peaceful mainly black citizens, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades as they came, rekindled disturbing flashbacks of Watts 1965 and Chicago, 1968 -- two events that greatly shaped my own political consciousness.

Al Jazeera crew flees after taking a direct hit.
This was no police riot, but a well-executed Gaza-style assault on a defenseless community, still in shock after the cold-blooded police murder of Michael Brown.

High on the list of targets was the press with reporters being told to leave, turn off their cameras and stop recording well before the assault began. A camera crew from Al Jazeera was fired upon and reporters from the Huffington Post and Washington Post were roughed up, arrested and then released with no charges. A St. Louis alderman was also jailed. Many of the police had removed their badges and identification and arrested reporters tried in vain to get the offending cops to identify themselves.

 You can read WaPo reporter Wesley Lowery's chilling report of his arrest here. But while many in the media passively complied and others resisted as best they could, one courageous indy-media guy (I am Mike Brown Live) braved the bullets and gas and kept the live stream coming, capturing both the violent horror and the brave acts of resistance.

Twitter was also alive with reports and commentary. My own tweets were being re-posted faster and with greater frequency than ever before. I couldn't even keep them on screen long enough to read. Among the most interesting were the solidarity tweets coming in from Gaza, advising people in Ferguson on how to deal with tear gas.

 THE FIRE NEXT TIME...According the the Washington Post, St. Louis is among the most segregated metropolitan areas in the nation. Ferguson, one of the 91 municipalities in largely white St. Louis County, has seen its population shift in recent years. About two-thirds of the city’s 21,100 residents are black. That’s a significant increase from 2000, when blacks made up just over half of the population. White residents, who had accounted for 44 percent of the population, now make up just under 30 percent.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Chicago, and it's re-segregated inner-ring suburbs are only a hop, skip and a jump up I-55.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lazy-Ass Reporters (LARs) on top of Karen's vast real estate empire

Karen Lewis leads Rahm by 12 points in the polls. Desperation time.
After reading the "expose" in today's Sun-Times, one couldn't be blamed for thinking that poor Rahm's re-election campaign is really in trouble. Not only is he trailing even Mickey and Mike in the latest polls, but his meager $10M war chest is dwarfed by the vast real estate empire of none other than potential challenger Karen Lewis. At least that's the way lazy-ass reporters (LARs) Dan Mihaloupolos and Chris Fusco paint it.

According to the LARs, career science teacher and current CTU president Lewis and hubby (a retired Chicago physical education teacher)  have amassed, not only their own southside dwelling, but two (count 'em, two) time-share vacation getaways. One is in the  "upscale Harbor Country” area of southwestern Michigan (a short drive from Rahm's lakefront mansion) and the other in Hawaii, "a short drive from an oceanfront lined with Fairmont, Hilton and Marriott luxury resorts." Yes, both are that close.

And Lewis has the nerve to label Rahm as Mayor 1%.

My compliments to Rahm's army of media consultants for knowing just which reporters to call on this one. They somehow knew they would find the LARs at their desks with nothing much to do, who would be eager and willing to run with this crap. Nice going team Rahm.

Thanks to Mark Anderson at the Ward Room for setting things straight.
To be clear, let’s stake out who we’re talking about. On the one hand we have our current mayor, who, while positioning himself as a liberal Democrat, has in fact enacted policies that benefit corporations and campaign donors, slashed social services and public education, starve neighborhoods of resources, diminish public service pensions, spy on political enemies and more. There’s a reason why, in this town, Rahm Emanuel is known by some as “Mayor 1%”. On another, we have Chicago Teachers Union president and potential mayoral challenger Karen Lewis. Despite the fact that she hasn’t even announced yet that she’s going to run, the Chicago media has created a bit of a feeding frenzy around her, all in search of copy for political reporters.
Anderson takes a direct shot at the LARs:
 The one on Lewis, entitled “3 homes, $200,000-plus pay for possible mayoral candidate Lewis”, takes great pains to point out that the trappings of a solidly middle class lifestyle Lewis has earned after a lifetime of teaching and union service is somehow the equivalent of the multi-millions of dollars Emanuel made during previous careers as an investment banker and power broker in national Democratic politics.
 That’s not the job of journalists. Unless, of course, they’re just looking to fill some column space. 
Yes, Rahm's campaign is in trouble all right. You can tell by their desperation in trying to dirty-up his opponents even before they have announced.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quinn losing to the worst person in the world. Why?

Workers need more than a $1.75 raise.
Mimicking former MSNBC great Keith Olbermann, I'm willing to go out on a limb a say that billionaire Bruce Rauner is the worst person in the world. And few would disagree, although Pat Quinn's running mate Paul Vallas may have a lock on second place. While Quinn proudly takes credit ("I was born for this...") for slashing the pension benefits of the state's public-sector workers, Rauner has vowed to do away with collective-bargaining rights and unions altogether, a la Gov. Walker in Wisconsin. 

So why does the worst person in the world, hated even by most Republicans, have a double-digit lead over Quinn the incumbent with just 12 weeks to go? This in a state where only 27% of voters vote Republican. I would argue that it's not just the money factor. And it's not only because running-mate Vallas has hardly lifted a finger to help Quinn. Rauner can't even spend all the dough he's raising, even while saturating the market for almost a year now with trite, negative, sometimes laughable ads (what ever happened to Bruce-the-Hammer?). I mean, there's only so much money you can spend on a campaign without moving beyond your own base. The rest, he's has had to spread around to a host of ultra-right-wing, Tea Party and Koch Bros.-aligned groups

What ever happened to #Hammer & Shake?
My assessment? This is one of the worst the-other-guy's-a-crook ("unpatriotic") campaigns in recent memory, which has to work in favor of the guy with the most money. Quinn's campaign has been pitiful, giving even the most avowed Rauner haters little to get excited about. Despite receiving gobs of money from the state's unions, Quinn has done nothing to win back the trust and support of the state's 850,000 union workers and especially its 87,000 retired teachers who he shafted with his support for the (unconstitutional on its face) pension-robbing SB-1 legislation. That is precisely the group of angry, activist voters who could put Quinn back on top. 

Even Quinn's support for an increase in the state's minimum wage has been tepid. On an issue that could rally the base, the governor supports a measly buck-seventy-five-cent increase in the minimum wage (hardly livable) and that, only in a non-binding resolution. Pathetic. 

And barely a word since April regarding public education funding, charter school expansion, school closings or much of anything else. 

If it's his management team that's to blame for this weak stuff, Quinn needs to re-tool quickly.

Monday, August 11, 2014


NEA Pres.-Elect Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a
As educators, we believe in good testing. Almost every student in America will confirm that most teachers are neither strangers to, nor enemies of, tests. But great teachers know the difference between tests that help students and tests that harm students. -- AJC
President Obama
The United States is not going to be the air force of Iraqi Shiites or any other faction... And because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival... I think the question really is how does Israel survive. And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions... And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians. ... You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well.” -- Interview with Thomas Friedman
Helen Gym
Helen Gym, Philadelphia parent leader
But choice is just a sorry substitute when government gives up on equity. -- Interview in The Notebook
Bruce Rauner on indictment of his top execs
“You know what? Behavior inside large organizations unfortunately is not always perfect, and nobody can control every element and every behavior,” said Rauner at his digs at 212 E. 79th St., seeking to woo voters in the mostly African-American neighborhood. -- Early & Often
Sarah Palin responds to Elizabeth Warren [Video]
 "We believe”? Wait, I thought fast food joints, hurh. Don’t you guys think that they’re like of the Devil or somethin’ I was.  -- Daily Banter

Friday, August 8, 2014

Corks pop on Clark St. with a bump in reported test scores

They're jumping for joy and popping the corks down on Clark St. Why? Test scores for students in grades 2-8 reportedly showed some improvement in both reading and math. However, only seventh- and eighth-graders met national reading averages. About 51.5% of elementary school students are performing at national norms in reading and 49% in math, compared to around 46% in both categories in 2013.

If this keeps up, they will have to re-norm the test to make sure half the kids stay below average.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is already calling the overall results “incredibly encouraging.” Rahm chimes in: “Improvements in every grade demonstrate that we are building a strong foundation upon which Chicago students can grow and succeed.”

I'm not yet getting into the questions of why 2nd-graders are even tested (or why not 1st and Ks?), or how this will break out demographically? Is the gap between white, black and Latino students continuing to widen? What are scores like at the most touted charter schools, like Urban Prep?
 The key is getting more detailed information, said Paul Zavitkovsky, leadership coach and assessment specialist at UIC’s Urban Education Leadership Program. “Anytime test scores go up it is promising, but until they break it out on family income and race and ethnicity, then we do not know what is going on,” he said. “Those demographics make a big difference.”
Does this mean that CPS teachers are due for high evaluations and raises in pay? Does it mean that authentic learning is on the upswing in Chicago? Or more likely, that there's now a total focus on testing and test-prep, even down to the lowest grades?

I think the question answers itself.

The Sun-Times points out:
The district did not release school-by-school results for the Northwest Evaluation Association tests, as it has in past years. John Barker, CPS’ chief of accountability, said those scores will be released next Friday. That makes it impossible to see whether students scored higher across the district or just at certain schools. The analysis comprises all district elementary schools, including charters. 
As for scores in the so-called "welcoming schools" following last year's massive school closings, Sarah Karp at Catalyst reports:
CPS did provide some averages for the schools designated to take in students from closed schools. In general, there was little movement, and the schools remained substantially below national norms.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Top-ranked ed states all have union teachers. Rhee's legacy in D.C.

Former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, along with another ex-White House aide, Ben LaBolt, supports former CNN anchor Campbell Brown's fight against teacher tenure. 
Once again top-ranked education states have strong teacher unions and have the highest education budgets. Bottom states, mostly non-union and lowest spending. The ranking was based on 12 factors, including student dropout rate, pupil/teacher ratio, test scores, rates of bullying and school safety measures.

Then there's the legacy of union-busting Rhee-form in dead-last D.C. I don't know how or if they figured in D.C.'s cheating-skewed test results. Probably didn't go there.

IS ANYONE SUPRISED that it's former Obama aides picking up where Rhee and Tea Party govs left off, leading the latest national assault on teachers and public employee unions? I'm not.
We will take the Senate," said the GOP official, who asked not to be named to preserve his business options. "The future is bright for us. Shit, we may even take on the teachers unions with Obama campaign operatives-turned-lobbyists."

Weird Al
WEIRD AL… People keep sending me on-line petitions to sign. I sign them but I'm not sure what they do or who ever reads them. According to @Salon...

PLAYING THE BULLY...In case you didn't really believe he said it. N.Y.'s MORE Caucus has posted UFT Pres. Michael Mulgrew's "I'll punch you in the face" (if you try and take away my Common Core) speech. I'm not sure who it is he's threatening here besides his own members.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Malaria and good schools. 'Problem solved'

Reader Rufus responds to Bill Gates with a comment on my Schooling in the Ownership Society Blog. This one is too good to leave in the comments section.

Rufus August 6, 2014
Gates claims it's easier to find cures for malaria and other diseases than to “fix” American education.
Neither of those things are as difficult as Gates makes them sound. Just look in Bill and Melinda's neighborhood. No malaria and great schools. Problem solved. 

Teachers not teaching in subject areas? Why not?

One of the dumbest teacher-bashing headlines ever, appears on the front page of today's Trib. "Teachers may not know the subjects they cover". Are you kidding me?

According to the Tribune:
The assignment of teachers not properly trained and credentialed to teach a specific course — a practice that has come under fire nationwide — is facilitated by loopholes in state laws and rules as well as by district hiring practices. It has occurred even when applicants with the required qualifications were available, the newspaper found.
Teachers teaching out of their subject area? Well duh! Here's a flash for you. This isn't about incompetent teachers not knowing their subject area as the headline suggests. It's really about educational equity (not mentioned in the Trib article). It's about full and equitable school funding and an end to budget slashing. And it's about sub-contracting and privatization, including non-union, privately-run charters, where certification of teachers isn't always required.

Duncan applauds Vergara decision.
Finally, it's about official CPS policy fostered nationally, by Arne Duncan and his Race To The Top initiative which mandates the firing of thousands of experienced, certified teachers and replacing many of them with unqualified 5-week wonders from TFA. Duncan claims he wants all students to have access to "effective educators." Then he turns around and applauds the Vergara court ruling in California which essentially does away with teacher tenure and job protection and allows thousands of experienced, certified teachers to be replaced by principal and district favoritism (including racial and political favoritism).

Similar policies in Chicago have lead to a sharp decline in the number of African-American teachers. As the district's teaching force grows smaller and whiter, it is also becoming less credentialed. When Rahm and BBB fire hundreds of experienced, certified (even Nationally Board Certified) teachers, including dozens of special-ed, art and music teachers along with librarians and school social counselors and social workers, who do you think is going to perform those roles?

The Trib story continues, quoting Univ. of Penn prof. Richard Ingersoll:
The oft-cited reason officials give is that they can't find or afford educators who have the proper credentials for a particular position, in part because of teacher shortages in certain areas, Ingersoll said. Yet the practice is common even in disciplines in which shortages do not exist and in states with a surplus of teachers for available vacancies, he said. "It might be because of favoritism or poor planning or some principal who wants to get around the rules," Ingersoll said.
Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Yes, district leaders and principals are guilty of favoritism and poor planning to get around rules. What rules? Well union contracts, seniority and tenure laws to name a few. As collective-bargaining agreements are increasingly trashed, what you end up with is hiring on the cheap and the debasing and pushing-out of talented veteran teachers.

And don't forget dozens of charter schools which often pride themselves on hiring non-certified teachers or having an inexperienced TFAer filling in wherever needed.

Even if IL and other states begin an overhaul of teacher licensing to close the "loopholes" it will just mean that kids in poor communities and resource-starved schools won't have access to the same courses as those in wealthier communities. For example, a recent Sun-Times article reveals that only about half of the 577 schools run by CPS have an arts teacher for every 350 students, while less than a quarter of district-run schools even provide the recommended 120 minutes a week of arts education for every student.

Rahm's plan is to increase the sub-contracting and privatization of arts education as well as other academic areas to companies and non-profits that aren't required to hire certified instructors.

What about Segrue's credentials?
SUGRUE...What really amazes me is that this headline appears on the front page of the very paper that broke the story about Catherine Sugrue, the sister of Ald. Patrick O'Connor, who was approved by schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett as principal of a north side elementary school even after she had failed the principal eligibility assessment twice in the last 12 months, making her ineligible for the job.

Now is Sugrue supposed to enforce strict adherence to credentialing and have her teachers only teaching in their subject area?

She would have to start by firing herself.

Oh, and speaking of CPS credentialing, I almost forgot "Dr." Terrence P. Carter sent to us by Chicago’s New Leaders for New Schools.

In the 'trenches'

At the Hideout last night. 
It was another packed house at the Hideout last night for the Joravsky/Dumke Show featuring Chicago's three best education writers, Linda Lutton (WBEZ), Lauren Fitzpatrick (Sun-Times) and Sarah Karp (Catalyst). The three painfully/humorously ran through story after story about CPS' and City Hall's ongoing dis-information and obfuscation campaigns earning Rahm and his team the enmity of every reporter in town.

In response to a question from the audience, all three were united in their predictions that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett wouldn't last through March.

BLEEDING... Rahm's infrastructure is in shambles with many of his top experienced staffers bailing on him just as election season nears. From what I'm hearing, the exodus is just beginning. Most recently it was his top deputy for education Beth Swanson using the revolving corporate-reform door between City Hall and the Joyce Foundation. Swanson is usually noted for her "pivotal role in negotiating an end to the 2012 teachers strike." But as one of Rahm's top guns, Swanson could just as easily have carried the political epitaph, "played a pivotal role is fomenting the 2012 teachers strike".
"It's a good time to transition," Ms. Swanson said, referring to her personal life (she has three school-age children) and that Mr. Emanuel is gearing up for a mayoral campaign and will want to have a new education chief in place. -- Crain's
Okay, I get the usual more-time-with-family thing. Although I wonder just how easy her new gig at Joyce must be to give her all that time with her kids. I also wonder why in the world would Rahm want to push out his top City Hall education gunner as he heads into the election. Does he think a new face will help people forget the strike and last year's massive school closings? Really?

TRENCHES...Replacing Swanson is Arnaldo Rivera, billed as a "former teacher," for those who still believe that "wuzzas," as my brother Fred calls them, (as in I wuzza teacher) can't be used against their former colleagues. Yes, Rivera did spend three years teaching first grade at Walt Disney Magnet School, but then became a top deputy to both of Emanuel’s handpicked CEO’s: Brizard and Byrd-Bennett.

As Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman puts it:
Unlike Swanson, who spent much of her career with education-oriented foundations, Rivera earned his stripes in the trenches.
Yes, the "trenches." That's journalists' main metaphor for teaching. Easy to understand as the teacher body count grows in the mayor's war on public education and everything public. Appropriately, Rivera will be working closely with Rahm's school-closing ramrod, former Marine Col. Tom Tyrrell.

According to Spielman:
Rivera also helped devise logistics for the 50 school closings that so alienated African-American voters who helped put the mayor in office.
 Rivera has spent the last year as chief operating officer for the Chicago Public Education Fund. That’s a fund that bankrolls many of the education reforms near and dear to the mayor, including charter schools and teacher training. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The last laugh is the best laugh

Getting a late start this morning after doing the Patti Vasquez show on WGN Radio last night. Didn't get home til after 1 a.m. I really like her format and WGN's big late-night (11:00pm-2:00am) audience. Patti, a local  stand-up comedian, likes quick, both humorous and serious banter back and forth on topical issues of education and politics. Last night we wound from the mayor and gov races, to CPD's fudging of violence numbers, to Byrd-Bennett's waiving of principal eligibility requirements so that Ald. Pat O'Connor's sister, could be appointed as Gray’s interim principal. What fun!

'LAUGHABLE'...That's how the Little Emperor's courtiers responded to current polls showing Karen Lewis giving Rahm a run for his (obscene) money in next year's election. Austin Weekly columnist Arlene Jones offers the proper response to their guffawing.
When the witty people on the mayor's staff were told of the poll results, their response was loud and clear: Laughable. Now I must confess that I did agree with Rahm's staff. The image of a mayoral race featuring Karen Lewis vs. Rahm Emanuel did have me laughing. I was rolling all over the floor laughing at the image of Karen Lewis giving him her size eight right up the old keyster. 
Remember, the last laugh is always the best laugh.

That's me in Karen's corner.
RAHM'S NEW SUPER-PAC...Now that Karen has formed her committee and has begun raising some dough, the chuckles appear to have died down. Latest reports have Rahm's patrons creating a new super-PAC that has already raked in $1.35 million from a handful of business titans to “destroy” the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who also is mulling a race for mayor against Emanuel, calls “Chicago Forward” a thinly veiled attempt to stifle City Council dissent by “taking out” eight aldermen with the guts to stand up to Emanuel. The Progressive Caucus has been Emanuel’s most persistent critic. It includes Fioretti and seven colleagues: Leslie Hairston (5th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Toni Foulkes (15th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nick Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th).
I'm clearly in Karen's corner as you can tell from the picture above. But I don't think Fioretti jumping into the race will hurt her at all. They each bring a different base of support and a different group of funders to the table. And they both bring a powerful critique of the mayor.  Together they will tag-team Rahm without tearing each other down. Fioretti will pull lots of votes that Karen is unlikely to get -- at least in the first round. These are voters that otherwise might stay home or even go with the mayor. That will likely force Rahm into a runoff where a unity candidate (one throwing support to the other) would have a great chance to winning.  At least that's my perspective.