Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Philly's cancerous approach to school funding

As if making schools dependent on property taxes wasn't bad enough, now Philadelphia Public Schools will have to rely on cigarette sales just to make it through the year. Without the regressive $2-a-pack cigarette tax increase passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Corbett last week, the city schools and schools throughout the state are facing more draconian cuts in October. Much of the revenue generated by the new tax will be used to expand the already swelling ranks of privately-run charter schools in the city.

This from The Philadelphia Public School Notebook:
 Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Pennsylvania is not a poor state and is situated in one of the richest countries in the world. But many districts can’t provide our children with school personnel we once took for granted. Not to mention books, technology – and in some cases, soap and toilet paper.
That’s not just a Pennsylvania problem. The United States is unusual among industrialized countries in having it backward: We spend the fewest education dollars on the neediest students. If we want to spend tax dollars wisely and get results, we need to flip that script.
Three years of Rahm is enough... Andy Shaw, President & CEO of the BGA, tries to give a balanced assessment of the mayor's first three years. But he can't help conclude that Rahm's positives are mostly "low-hanging fruit" with "limited progress on the more daunting challenges, including comprehensive budget, TIF and ethics reform."

Shaw reports that under the current Chicago mayor's regime, "community participation is virtually non-existent, and there’s still a long way to go to eliminate pension woes, structural deficits, poor credit ratings and excessive long-term borrowing".

Worse yet:
The city hasn’t stopped using tens of millions of TIF dollars to assist wealthy corporations, institutions and clouted contractors in areas that aren’t truly blighted, when the money should be spent in struggling parts of the city that sorely need economic development.
Shaw might have included some mention Rahm's devastating closing of dozens of neighborhood public schools in black and Latino communities along with record levels of gun violence across the city.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Shooting the messenger

On Friday, I received the following missive from SEIU Local 73 Pres. Christine Boardman via the union's general counsel Tyson Roan.

First, I'm glad to find that the president of SEIU Local 73 is such an avid reader of SmallTalk. I remember meeting Mayor Emanuel at a social event a while back (got friends in low places) and as he shook my hand, he said to the hosts, "Yeah, I know Klonsky. I read his blog." I retorted, "...and you're still talking to me?" The mayor answered, "It's a free country. You're entitled to your opinion."

Pres. Boardman, a quasi-public figure like the mayor, is not so generous.

Not wanting to impugn anyone's integrity and certainly not wanting to face the full might and fury of SEIU's legal department (and after consulting with my attorneys at Pro, Bono & Plead), I took Pres. Boardman's charges seriously and reread my Sept. 16th post, "The rats are having a field day at CPS" (boy, are they ever). And you know what? I think Pres. Boardman raises two good points.

First, she says my statement that she signed off on an agreement between CPS and private custodial subcontractors" is "entirely false, and has no basis whatsoever in fact."

She's probably right if you take my comment literally. I have no evidence that Pres. Boardman actually "signed off," meaning signed an actual written agreement with Aramark and SodexoMagic. In fact, I'm pretty sure she didn't. So I can retract that statement.

Second, she points to my statement, "Ugh! She's dirtier than a a CPS bathroom," as evidence that I impute "a want of integrity" on her part (who talks like that?). It's true that I may have imputed such a want of integrity. But to say a politician or union leader is "dirty", means that they are actually on the take or selling out their constituents for a price or political reward. Since I have no physical proof of any such quid pro quo, I retract the "Ugh! She's dirtier than  a CPS bathroom" statement.

As my wife often reminds me: "Honey, you're better than that."

Also, have you been in a CPS bathroom lately? There's nothing dirtier.

Okay, so I'm trying to be better. I'm a work in progress.

But after watching hundreds of those hard-working and often, life-saving school custodians lose their jobs, after Rahm privatized CPS' custodial services (not to mention the hundreds of library custodians and lunchroom ladies before them), leaving schools filthy and dangerous, and all this without much of a peep from Boardman and the Local 73 leadership, I may have been overcome by anger. I'm working on that as well.

Chicago teacher Michelle Strater Gunderson makes a great point:
All of the coverage so far, though, has been focused on building conditions and mismanagement. I see yet another side of this issue – workers’ rights. The privatization of the work has made it almost impossible for workers to do their jobs. The hours and personnel in each building were cut drastically, and to make matters worse, Aramark just laid off 468 janitors last week.
So somebody tell me -- where was the outcry from the custodial unions defending their own members? I searched in vain, including on the Local 73 website, for any sign of protest or public resistance. If I'm wrong about that, show me. I welcome any and all public statements or actions taken by President Boardman or other Local 73 leaders,  critical of Rahm for his privatization or for recent firings. I will gladly post them without comment.

Rahm sells his pension deal. But who was buying?
Now Pres. Boardman might argue that her union doesn't represent the fired privatized custodians and indeed she would be correct. Over the years, CPS has reduced the number of its janitors through attrition. The board now employs about 800 and private companies about 1,800, according to union officials. The former belong to SEIU Local 73, while the private-company janitors belong to SEIU Local 1. But still...

Ben Joravsky writes:
You might not think that belonging to different SEIU locals would matter much, but lately it does. Among union activists, Local 73 is known as the mayor's—well, let's just say union activists aren't too thrilled with Local 73.
REMEMBER this all came after Boardman broke ranks with the broad coalition of union leaders who were fighting back against Rahm's attack on public employees retiree pensions. The mayor wanted to raise property taxes by $250 million — and increase employee contributions by 29%. One after another, union leaders and activists spoke out, from AFSCME to the FOP to the CTU.  But Boardman went along.

This from the Sun-Times:
 Christine Boardman, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, said she supports the “basic constructs” of the pension deal that impacts 10,000 of her members. “We’re in support of the increase in employee contributions. We’re in support of the Emanuel plan to try to fund it through property tax increases. The bill is going to pass. I know that. You know that,” she said. “We’re not gonna work against the bill. We’ve told that to Speaker [Mike] Madigan. We’re gonna be neutral, only because of the effect it has on retirees.”
Neutral indeed.

I guess the icing on the cake for me was when Boardman then kicked in with $25,000 of her members' hard earned money as a gift to Rahm's already swollen campaign fund. A real punch in the gut, not only to the mayor's needy progressive opponents, Bob Fioretti and fellow union president Karen Lewis, but to the janitors and pensioners being screwed by the mayor's privatization deals.

Brother Fred
More Joravsky
I guess I should have seen this donation coming. Earlier this year, Local 73 broke ranks from most of the other public employees' unions to endorse Mayor Emanuel's proposed pension plan. And last month Mayor Emanuel put Matt Brandon—secretary/treasurer of Local 73—on his minimum-wage task force.
To sum up -- I retract the two statements, as requested by Pres. Boardman and her lawyers: 1) that she "signed off on an agreement between CPS and private custodial subcontractors" and 2) that she is "dirtier than a CPS bathroom."

As for her claim that she has been a consistent advocate for the rights of the custodians, I'll leave that for her members and the readers to decide.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Rich Miller
A quick note to Bruce Rauner: The next time you try to claim that Gov. Pat Quinn is "personally" under federal investigation (an allegation that, as far as anyone can tell, is not true), it's probably best not to say it while standing next to a different governor who actually is "personally" under federal investigation. -- Crain's
Marian Wright Edelman
Racially discriminatory school discipline policies contribute to the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis with a Black boy born in 2001 having a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy a 1 in 6 chance of the same fate. -- Huffington
Chicago Trubune Columnist Eric Zorn 
I see that Emanuel's supporters are nervous enough about the prospect of a challenge from Lewis that they're already dialing up the histrionics, clutching their pearls and fanning themselves with premature and utterly phony concern over a "conflict of interest." -- Tribune
Doing "their jobs"
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson
 "I'm truly sorry for the loss of your son. I'm also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street. Investigators were doing "important work" trying to uncover the truth and collect evidence during those four hours...They were simply trying to do their jobs." -- CNN
NYT Columnist Frank Bruni
Around that same time, there were movements on scattered college campuses to attach so-called trigger warnings to texts whose evocations of, say, anti-Semitism or rape might prompt emotional turmoil in students. This echoed moves years earlier by officials at some elementary, middle and secondary schools to prune standardized tests of words that might distress students, either by summoning life’s harshness, reminding them of their deprivation or making them feel excluded. “Poverty,” “slavery,” “divorce,” “hurricanes” and “birthdays” were on a list drawn up by New York City educators, who later abandoned the plan. -- The Wilds of Education

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lesson Plans

Nice piece of writing by Chicago high school teacher and Louder Than a Bomb poetry coach, Dave Stieber at Huffington, "Lessons Learned in Englewood: 8 Years of Reflections From a CPS Teacher". Worth sharing with my students and fellow educators.

Dave Stieber's I Teach website is here.

THE POINT OF PRODUCTION... I did some classroom walk-throughs and observations (not evaluations) with a middle school principal yesterday. Watched him interact and give good, welcomed feedback to teachers. He's trying to help build a professional community based on trust and collaboration.

The classroom, for him, is where most good discussions of school improvement and teaching/learning start. But few principals I see are prepared or have the time or inclination to be instructional leaders, coaches, connoisseurs of good teaching, and many of the new ones, coming out of the power philanthropists' training programs, have little teaching experience themselves. They're increasingly sent in to become building managers and ramrods. Walk-throughs and observations, little more than gotchas, trying to affirm the dominant narrative about "bad teachers" being the problem. 

Thanks for that narrative, Arne Duncan.

ANOTHER REASON I'M A FAN of Karen Lewis. She's carrying on the legacy of our first black mayor, Harold Washington.. Chicago Reporter's Curtis Black writes:
The New Era Windows Cooperative was the perfect setting for Karen Lewis to deliver her core message to an enthusiastic group of supporters: What Chicago needs is “a restoration of participatory democracy.”
“When you have participatory democracy, people can determine what’s best for their communities, as opposed to waiting for years for some development from on high that may or may not be meaningful” in addressing issues faced by residents, the teachers union president and prospective mayoral candidate told a gathering sponsored by the McKinley Park Progressive Association this week.
Karen's rap got Black to remark:
 It sounds like she would restore something like the community hearings on the city budget that Mayor Harold Washington instituted in 1983. Mayor Richard M. Daley continued those hearings, though their number was reduced sharply and they became rather perfunctory. Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled them after his first year in office.
Remarkable isn't it, that 30 years later, Harold's name is still invoked by all sides as the model of good government.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

More name dropping

Jitu Brown and 10 other protesters say their arrest at City Hall Tuesday night forced the mayor to provide services for Dyett High School students. (DNAinfo)
"I f**ked up." -- Rahm Emanuel
Rahm's dream of a two-tiered public school system -- one tier for gentrifying neighborhoods and one for the rest of us --- is turning into a political nightmare.

The mayor has once again gotten himself into deep doo-doo with Obama's people over the naming of another proposed expensive new selective-enrollment high school for Lincoln Park. As I pointed out last week, Rahm thought that naming the school after the president would help mend his election campaign fences, both with Obama's people who dislike him and with black voters still irate over his notorious mass school closings.

But the response from White House staffers was quick and to the point. Valerie Jarrett reportedly told Rahm in no uncertain terms -- don't drag Obama's name into your mess. He's got enough problems of his own. And just like that, Rahm walked it back.

Yesterday, you could almost feel for the Little Emperor as he had to stand before the media, like a spanked child, and do his forced self-criticism. I'm only human, feinted the mayor, claiming that he had “made a mistake” in his “rush to honor” President Barack Obama — which is why he's now dropping plans to name the new, $60 million selective-enrollment high school on the Near North Side after his former boss.

A "mistake"? What mistake? Rahm never says.  Honoring his boss? With TIF money? Who on Team Rahm thought this was a smart way out? And now he's even tarnished Obama's library project with his buffoonery.

The Sun-Times reports:
Despite the naming controversy, Emanuel said he’s not wavering on his commitment to build the school and “probably in that area because that’s where the [TIF] resources are.” Ald. Will Burns (4th), one of the mayor’s closest  African-American allies, said Emanuel’s rare mea culpa can only help the mayor politically.
Fiddling while Rome burns (pun intended)... Ald. Burns has been carrying Rahm's water on the south side by closing Dyett, which will leave Bronzeville, Oakland and Kenwood without a neighborhood public high school while upscale Lincoln Park becomes saturated with elite high schools.

Help the mayor politically, indeed.

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Ald. Rick Munoz who has reportedly pilfered asphalt from various city work sites this week, loading it into the back of his car and using it to patch the most egregious of the hundreds of potholes in his Little Village ward that have gone unfilled.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Taking back Dyett and Chicago

As I'm posting this, south-siders, CTU members and community activists from around the city are sitting-in outside the mayor's office demanding that Dyett High School not be closed. If Rahm and Byrd-Bennett carry out their plan to close Dyett and turn it over to private operators, they will leave Bronzeville, Oakland and Kenwood without a neighborhood public high school.

Community activist Bob George writes from the sit-in:
For three years now Dyett students have been without the courses, staffing and funding afforded “normal” High School. They are being phased out. Turned about. Taunted and tempted to attend alternative schools. Abandon your neighborhood school. Close the doors. Shut the windows. Leave your memories behind. Dyett, the Mayor, the Superintendent, and the School Board, deem will not continue to exist. At present, Dyett is the only remaining Neighborhood High School available to the students in the Historic Bronzeville Community. This school is the only one in which students have a legal right to admission. Other learning institutions  insist that students qualify for admission, win a lottery to enroll, or be selected to enter after a rigorous screening.
You can help by calling or texting 312 399-5370 to tell deputy @ChicagosMayor to #SaveDyett high school! 

Worth a read is John Warner's Just Visiting blog series, Excellent Sheep Run the World, Parts 1&2). Writes Warner:
There are perhaps no better exemplars of the products of our current meritocratic system than three of the most important recent figures in the education reform movement: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “Common Core architect” David Coleman, and one-time chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee.
They are also all near-perfect examples of what William Deresiewicz labels as “excellent sheep,” in his new book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite.According to Deresiewicz, one of the chief problems with this miseducation is in these so-called “elite” individuals mistaking “being in charge” with “being a leader.”

Monday, September 22, 2014


Lots of teachers among 400,000 who marched in N.Y. yesterday. 
Linda Darling-Hammond
“The poverty rates of countries in PISA are associated with how kids do overall on the tests. The United States poverty rate far outstrips the other countries with one out of four children here living in poverty.” -- AZED News
Laura Washington
 If Chicago voters really want to divorce the mayor, a Lewis/ Fioretti union could be a marriage made in heaven. A Lewis entry would up the 2015 ante and deliver a potent one-two punch to Emanuel. Lewis and Fioretti would be friendly opponents. They talk, and they agree on most issues, such as taxing the city’s bigwigs and calling for an elected school board. -- Sun-Times
Ben Joravsky
It doesn't matter if Bob Fioretti or Karen Lewis or Bob Shaw or Amara Enyia or Brian Urlacher (why not?—the dude just quit his TV gig) are aiming for the same anti-Rahm vote. The only real issue is whether the anti-Rahm vote outnumbers the pro-Rahm one. If so, Mayor Rahm won't get the 50-percent-plus-one vote he needs to win outright. And we go to the runoff... Actually, in my moments of delusion, I convince myself that the anti-Rahm vote is so large that Rahm won't even make the runoff. -- Politics Early & Often
Janet Garrett
Public education is one of the foundations of our democracy. It is, arguably, the only equalizing force in an otherwise unequal system... People ask me from time to time what I think of the state of public education. I tell them we desperately need educational reform. What children need is not to be taught how to pass endless tests. They need to be taught problem solving, creativity and, most of all, a love of learning. We must give them the tools they need to learn. We are teaching children, today, for a world we cannot foresee. What we need is a new, child centered, not profit driven, education agenda. -- WaPo, "Why a kindergarten teacher is running for Congress"

Friday, September 19, 2014

Name dropping

The throat-slash sign? Really?  It's a 15-yard penalty in the NFL.
“It’s one more desperate attempt at trying to be relevant in places where he’s not relevant. You can’t look at a list of insults to certain parts of town — closing police stations, closing mental health clinics, closing schools — and make it seem like this one act is gonna change something right before an election. People are not so easily fooled.” -- Karen Lewis
 “I’m not gonna put words in his mouth. But, he [Pres. Obama] knows about it and he’s excited about it. That’s all I can say.” -- Rahm Emanuel
No matter what they call it or don't call it, one thing is clear. We don't need another selective-enrollment high school on the north side.

Now we read, first in the N.Y. Daily News of all places, that Rahm has dropped plans to name his expensive new Lincoln Park school — bankrolled by $60 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) money — after his former boss. Rahm had hoped that calling the new school, Obama College Prep, would help mend his fences, both with Obama's people who dislike him and with black voters still irate over his notorious mass school closings devastated their communities, leaving the mayor's polling numbers on the south and west sides in single digits.

He was wrong.

Fran Spielman writes:
The about-face came after Emanuel did what he, too often, fails to do before unveiling his grand plans: listen to the community and build consensus from the ground up... To potential and current mayoral challengers, it was one more stop in Emanuel’s rehabilitation tour—a pre-election effort to rebuild bridges burned over the last four years with alienated interest groups. But they argued that it won’t work with African-American voters because, while the name of the school will change, the location of the showcase high school will not.
Questions still remain: 1) Did the change come as a result of a phone call from Obama's people who may not want the president associated with Rahm's crumbling political fortunes? 2) If there's a rule against naming Chicago public schools after living people, why the exception for charters, allowing billionaires to buy naming rights? Aren't charters supposed to be public schools? Does allowing naming rights improve measurable learning outcomes?

The White House did not respond to Tribune's request for comment.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Deasy didn't start L.A.'s school militarization, but he didn't end it either.

Fred Klonsky
Readers have begun to ask me about LAUSD's acquisition of machine guns, grenade launchers and armored military vehicles and its connection with current embattled Supt. John Deasy. Deasy is already up to his ears, and ought to be, over his discriminatory suspension policies, the district's wild expansion of privately-run charter schools, and the ongoing ipad scandal.  But some have suggested that Deasy should get a pass on the militarization scandal because most of the combat equipment came to the district back in 2001, back when Deasy was still trying to scam a phony doctorate from the University of Louisville. I don't agree.
Adm. David Brewer III

In 2001, the district was led by former Governor of Colorado and Democratic Party chairman Roy Romer. It was Romer, himself a former U.S. Air Force legal officer, who made the original deal with the Pentagon to accept used military battlefield equipment under the 1033 Program, created by Congress in the early 1990s. The program was originally intended to bolster the crowd control capacities of local police departments in the face of impending civil unrest. But soon public school districts' security departments joined in the arms race.

Romer left L.A. in 2006, replaced by David L. Brewer III, a former Navy Vice-Admiral who served as head of the Navy's Education and Training Division and was in charge of the SeaLift Command. With no previous educational management experience, Brewer lasted only a year and a month. Then came Ray Cortines who was appointed acting superintendent after the school board decided to buy out Admiral Brewer's contract. And so it went right up to Deasy. The point being that L.A.'s school district has spent the past dozen years accumulating weapons of mass destruction. Deasy is only the latest to keep and build the stockpile. 

Deasy didn't start the militarization of L.A. schools. But he hasn't ended it either. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New school supplies from the Pentagon. Deasy in L.A. grabs some M16s and grenade launchers.

All San Diego schools got from the Pentagon was this one lousy armored vehicle.

But the Wall St. Journal reports that LAUSD did much better. Supt. John Deasy has stocked up 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, and a mine-resistant vehicle from the Pentagon.
But the district is getting rid of the grenade launchers, which it never intended to use to launch grenades or use in a school setting, said Steven Zipperman, chief of the Los Angeles Schools Police Department. The launchers, received in 2001, might have helped other police in the county disperse crowds by shooting rubber munitions, he said.
Hollywood High in L.A. 
As for the massive MRAP armored vehicle. Mr. Zipperman said his department thought it could be useful for evacuations and to save lives in a "sustained incident." Maybe like an ISIS attack or a sharp decline in test scores.

In Texas, near the Mexican border, the sprawling Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District has 34,700 students and operates its own SWAT team, thanks in part to military gear it received in recent years from a federal program. The gear included two Humvees and a cargo truck, as well as power generators, said district Police Chief Ricardo Perez. The district applied for weapons, too, but wasn't given any, so instead purchased its own M4 and AR-15 assault-style rifles, he said.

The weapons are given to schools through the 1033 Program, created by Congress in the early 1990s to allow law-enforcement agencies to obtain excess Defense Department supplies, paying only for shipping. The program has transferred $5.1 billion in items, including $4.5 million worth in 2013.

Granite School Dist. Police Chief Randy Johnson checks out new school supplies. 
At the Granite School Dist. in Salt Lake County, Utah, spokesman Ben Horsley said the security department carefully thought out its request for a handful of M16 rifles. "It would be irresponsible to send our officers into an active shooter situation with just a handgun," he said.

ARMING TEACHERS?...Speaking of Granite School Dist., a Taylorsville, UT elementary school teacher somehow shot herself in the leg last week while in a school restroom.
"Student safety is our primary concern and we are grateful that the injuries sustained by this teacher are not life threatening and that no students or other faculty were injured," the district said in a written statement.
Granite School District policy requires concealed weapon holders to have their guns on their person and "in their control" at all times.

Rahm Love and the Mess at CPS

GOOD READ...And at home I found a separate culture of intellectual achievement. This is the tradition of Carter G. Woodson, Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X. It argues for education not simply as credentialism or certification, but as a profound act of auto-liberation. This was the culture of my childhood and it gave me some of the greatest thrills of my youth. -- Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Acting French"

RAHMLOVE...If you're an alderman looking to win Rahm's love, the Reader's Ben Joravsky shows you the way. All you have to do is kiss his ass and answer all the questions right on (former CPS liar-in-chief) Becky Carroll's Chicago Forward questionnaire.
Chicago Forward is run by my old pal Becky Carroll, who used to be the mayor's chief spokeswoman at the Chicago Public Schools. In the last few months, it's raised more than $1 million from some of the mayor's closest and richest chums, including Michael Sacks, Kenneth Griffin, and other gazillionaires.
THE MESS AT CPS..."Aramark’s top priority is to make sure that CPS students, faculty and staff have clean, comfortable learning environments." -- Company spokesperson Karen Cutler

One way to win RahmLove is to shut up about the whole filthy mess at CPS caused by the mayor's privatization of custodial services, including the firing of hundreds of janitors. Principals and parents are outraged by the conditions schools are in. After hiding under his desk for a week and leaving the hemming and hawing over the privatization deal to Byrd-Bennett, Rahm is all of a sudden talking tough  to his buddies at Aramark, the company he funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to in his privatization frenzy (like he played tough guy for a day or two with Chicago Parking Meters LLC). He tells them, "if you don't clean up that mess by next month, why I'll, I'll, I'll..." What?

Aramark can't keep the schools clean because their custodians are spread too thin. Only real solution is to end the contract with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC ("Magic my ass" as I call them), apologize to the fired workers and rehire them. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis,says the privatization isn’t working, and that both contractors, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, should be fired.

There it is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The rats are having a field day at CPS

Dead rat, one of many at a Southwest Side elementary school having problems with rodents and roaches since janitorial services were privatized.
Aren't the 476 custodians being thrown out of their jobs by Rahm and his Aramark subcontractors, represented by SEIU Local 1? Can't help but wonder, where the hell is the union in all this? Why has it taken an all-out principal's and parent's revolt to push back on the mass firings which have left schools ratty filthy dirty? Rahm's mayoral opponents, Karen Lewis and Bob Fioretti, have each spoken out forcefully against the firings and the privatization of custodial operations. Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere and other principals are also raising some hell. But hardly a peep out of Local 1. Why?

It was SEIU Local 73 leader Christine Boardman who first signed onto Rahm's $340 million sub-contracting deal with Aramark and SodexoMagic (magic, my ass) in the first place. These two contracts combined make it one of the largest privatization moves of any school district in the nation. Under the agreements, SodexoMAGIC oversees 33 schools, while Aramark oversees the remaining 500-some district-run schools.

Boardman then put icing on her sell-out with a $25,000 contribution to Rahm's campaign war chest. Ugh! She's dirtier than a a CPS bathroom.

But what about progressive SEIU Local 1 Pres. Tom Balanoff? Why so quiet, Tom?

WBEZ reports:
CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the idea to board members as making schools cleaner with new equipment, such as “zamboni-like” floor cleaning machines, and making principals’ lives easier, with “Jimmy John’s-like” customer service when supplies run low.
But so far, the outsourcing seems to have led to dirty schools, property damage, poor communication and janitors being laid off. Those complaints came to light in a survey of more than 230 principals conducted by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.
Chicken-Poop Rahm who always seems to disappear in times of crisis, has once again dumped everything on Byrd-Bennett's plate. All a sputtering BBB can say is:
“Obviously it has not been as smooth as we would like. We have met with principals. We continue to do so and I think in a very short time, you will see a change.”
A change? What change? How about dumping the contract with Aramark, apologizing and hiring back the fired janitors for starters?

The bloody shirt. 
The holes are from 'natural wear and tear'...Count on Urban Outfitters to try and cash in with a faux-vintage blood-spattered sweatshirt with bullet holes that appears to reference the May 4,1970 shooting of unarmed anti-war protesting students at Kent State. Ads for the shirt, priced at $130, caused such an uproar that the company had to first list the shirt as "sold out" and then pull it from their website and offer a public apology, claiming--
 "The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray." 
Now some are popping up on eBay for as much as $2,500.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Bethlehem, Pa. NAACP President Esther Lee 
"We could end up with segregation in another form," [Esther Lee] said of charter schools. "It's not 1909, but it's close." -- Express Times
Chicago principal, Troy LaRaviere
The [custodial] cuts mean “residents of Chicago lose out, and the corporations profit from our losses." -- Chicago Public Schools to lay off 476 custodians
Karen Lewis meets Ras Baraka.
Karen Lewis
Lewis, a former chemistry teacher, pointed to Newark as a learning lab for the right formula for political victory. "Money doesn't vote, people do. I believe a lot of hedge fund folks dumped money into [Newark mayoral candidate] Shavar Jeffries' campaign. Baraka was outspent, but he won," Lewis said. "The key is how do you connect with people and the others that are important to them. That's what elections are about, ultimately." -- Chicago teachers union leader and mayoral hopeful comes to Newark to learn from Mayor Baraka
Bob Fioretti
“Our current mayor promised so much, and like many of us, I hoped he would deliver. But our schools are being gutted, our streets are not safer and so many are missing out on economic opportunities and jobs.” Fioretti promised to listen to teachers and make CPS class sizes smaller while striking against school closures that were “against the will of our citizens.” -- Ald. Bob Fioretti announces run for mayor, attacks Emanuel

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lesson from Teachout: It won't be as easy for Rahm to buy the next election

You've really got to go back to Bloomberg's narrow escape in his 2009 victory in the NY mayor's race over relative unknown, Bill Thompson. Bloomberg poured $90 million of his own fortune into the race, a sum without equal in the history of municipal politics that gave him a 14-to-1 advantage in campaign spending. He won by only 5%.

Without Bloomberg's billions in the race, money wasn't a big factor in Bill de Blasio's landslide victory last year. BdB won because he ran as a progressive and had strong organization on the ground in the form of the Working Families Party.

Teachout a winner.
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT just ran a strong race for governor against Republicrat Gov. Cuomo despite the fact that she was outspent 100-to-1 by Cuomo's Wall Street patrons. Cuomo raised $40 million to Teachout's $40,000 and political neophyte Teachout sill got 35% of the vote.

The New York Times described Teachout's strong performance as "an embarrassing rebuke to Mr. Cuomo, and it could put a dent in any national aspirations he may hold." I have no doubt that Cuomo, the favorite of the charter school hedge-funders and school profiteers like Eva Moskowitz, could have been beaten had Teachout received support from N.Y.'s chicken-poop teacher union leaders who are tied to Cuomo and the Democratic Party leadership by a thousand threads. Her defeat was also a defeat for the WFP which lost credibility when they endorsed Cuomo.

Lincoln Mitchell writes in the New York Observer:
Ms. Teachout’s strong showing, however, demonstrates the enduring relevance of the activist wing of the Democratic Party, reinforces the ability of a smart but poorly resourced candidate to use social media and less expensive forms of communication to significantly balance out a huge fundraising disadvantage, and shows that establishment Democratic candidates would be well served to run with clear and compelling messages, rather than simply on inevitability and incumbency.
In Illinois...The more of his own money billionaire Bruce Rauner pours into his campaign for governor, the worse he seems to be doing. Latest polls show him blowing his lead and now trailing incumbent Pat Quinn. It seems that the more money Rauner spends on TV ads, the more people remember how much they dislike him and what he stands for. Quinn's biggest problem isn't lack of money. It's the fact thousands of the state's rank-and-file union members and retirees (who all vote) still remember his sellout on the unconstitutional pension-robbing bill and want to punish him for it. He can still squeeze out a win simply because so many IL working people righteously fear devil, Rauner.

Similar problems exist for Rahm Emanuel even with his $11 million war chest and his huge army of professional media spinners. The more press he gets, the more his ratings suffer, especially in minority communities. Even as he tries to slide to the left, cut last-minute deals with ministers, the police union, and his few council opponents, Rahm seems vulnerable in the face of two likely credible, progressive opponents, Karen Lewis and Bob Fioretti -- no matter how many TV ads he buys.

A REVOLUTION OF VALUES...With the latest run-up to war, I'm remembering to words of Dr. Martin Luther King who spoke continuously about the "triple evils" of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM
“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” -- Dr. Martin Luther King (1967),  “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Byrd-Bennett promised not to close any more schools. But that doesn't mean she can't militarize them.

Study war no more...?

No teachers teach in this school. No students are enrolled. It has nearly no budget. The principal sits miles away in another school’s office. Yet, Chicago Public Schools insists that the Marine Math and Science Academy High School isn’t closed, so it hasn’t violated any state laws or reversed a promise not to close more schools by merging Marine’s students and staff into the former Ames Middle School building.
Chicago already leads the nation in its militarization of public schools. Ames was turned into a Marine academy despite months of protests and public outcry.

Today, Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the nation, with Cadet Corps for students in middle-school, over 10,000 students participating in JROTC programs, over 1,000 students enrolled in one of the five, soon-to-be six autonomous military high schools, and hundreds more attending one of the nine military high schools that are called “schools within a school.” Chicago now has a Marine Military Academy, a Naval Academy, and three army high schools. When an air force high school opens next year, Chicago will be the only city in the nation to have academies representing all of these branches of the military. But Chicago is not the only city moving in this direction: The public school systems of other urban centers with largely Black and brown low income students of color, including Philadelphia, Atlanta and Oakland, are being similarly reshaped. -- Erica Meiners

Why does the San Diego school district need this armored vehicle? I have no freakin' idea. This isn't Ferguson. Possibly preparing for ISIS invasion?

A ray of hope in Chicago

While the mayor and his City Council minions argue over which IG should investigate their own bad behavior, it's pretty clear now that there will be two viable, progressive opponents running against Rahm and his machine in next year's election -- CTU President Karen Lewis and the council's Progressive Caucus leader Bob Fioretti.

The Ward Room's Erin Carlson writes:
Should both Lewis and Fioretti challenge Emanuel, there's a chance the political progressives—who appeal to different segments of anti-Rahm voters—could together draw down the incumbent Democrat's percentage of the vote.
I hope she's right.

REFRESHING... Mayoral politics aside, it's important to know that out in the schools, teachers are still focused on teaching their kids. For most, it's not about Common Core, Charlotte Danielson, or which battery of tests is being imposed on them this year. Don't miss Chicago science teacher Phil Cantor's excellent piece in today's S-T on the work he and his colleagues are doing at North Grand High School (not a charter nor a selective-enrollment school). Phil and fellow teachers are focused on the social-emotional side of learning as opposed to current CPS testing madness.
When teachers get to know students’ lives, it’s easier to understand where a student’s bad mood or overreaction to a social slight might come from. When a teacher finds out a child is homeless and sleeps on a different couch each week, that teacher is more likely to take a problem-solving approach to student tardiness than a punitive one.
By scheduling weekly team meetings to compare how our students are doing emotionally we’ve been able to shift our school culture to be more holistic and more successful, even as standardized tests and impersonal data play a larger role in how schools are measured. 
There's hope.

Mighty Girl/Timeline photos
Happy 60th birthday to Ruby Bridges, As a six-year-old, Ruby became the first African American child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the South. When the 1st grader walked to William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960 surrounded by a team of U.S. Marshals, she was met by a vicious mob shouting and throwing objects at her. #Courage

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A real-estate and hedge-fund concern that happens to have a college attached

Annie Lowrey writes in NY Mag:
There's an old line about how the United States government is an insurance conglomerate protected by an army. Harvard is a real-estate and hedge-fund concern that happens to have a college attached. It has a $32 billion endowment. It charges its rich students — and they are mostly from rich families, with many destined to be rich themselves — hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition and fees. It recently embarked on a $6.5 billion capital campaign. It is devoted to its own richness. And, as such, it is swimming in cash.
If it wanted to maximize its $32 billion worth of utility, it could, say, admit more students, especially poor ones, reduce its focus on property development, and double down on its focus on research, which currently makes up $800 million of its $4.2 billion in annual operating expenses.
Harvard alum include a gaggle of current corporate school "reformers" and ed profiteers, including Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, TFA's Wendy Kopp, John Schnur, Geoffrey Canada and Joel Klein. This group alone may be reason enough to yank Harvard's non-profit status.

But it has also produced some of our best old (W.E.B. DuBois, Ted Sizer...) and current thinkers, researchers and progressive ed activists like... Well, I'm sure there are some (just kidding). There are some great and distinguished education faculty in the Graduate School of Education. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot comes to mind as does Linda Nathan, Eleanor Duckworth, Marshall Ganz, Howard Gardner, Patricia Graham and others too numerous to mention.

Susan Moore Johnson
Here's a good one. Harvard GSE Prof. Susan Moore Johnson has produced several studies showing the positive effects of teacher unions on school practice. At Harvard, Johnson directs The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, an ongoing research project addressing critical questions regarding the future of our nation’s teaching force. Since 1998, The Project has examined a range of issues related to attracting, supporting, and retaining skilled, committed, and effective teachers in U.S. public schools.

She dedicated much of her early career to the study of teachers unions, collaborative bargaining, and teachers’ working conditions. A modern pioneer in these areas, Moore Johnson has drawn attention to the contexts in which teachers perform their work, specifically highlighting the importance of schools’ collaborative culture in teacher retention.

Writes Johnson:
Many people think that national unions dictate school practice. They don’t realize how much is determined at the local level when contracts are negotiated. Contracts, each of which is locally negotiated, establish pay and working conditions — hours, class size, and evaluation — for teachers. Collective bargaining provides a legal, structured process in which local unions and management can develop reforms, such as peer review or performance-based pay.
Speaking of Kopp and TFA,
Members of  the Urban Teacher Education Consortium,  is a national consortium of teacher educators, have just released a position paper on the training of teachers, releasing it at a time of “encroaching dehumanization and disempowerment of both teachers and their students.”
The paper blasts some alternative teacher prep programs, including (though not by name) Teach For America, which gives newly graduated college students five weeks of summer training and then places them into high-poverty schools. -- Washington Post
WaPo's  Valerie Strauss has republished the statement in full including a list of signers:

Kenneth Zeichner – University of Washington
Esther Ohito – Teachers’ College, Columbia University
Lori Chajet – CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College
Robert Lee – Illinois State University
Heather Johnson – College of the Holy Cross
Ann Burns Thomas – SUNY Cortland
Dale Ray – University of Chicago
Joseph Featherstone – Michigan State University (ret.)
William Kennedy – University of Chicago
Thomas DelPrete – Clark University
Victoria Trinder – University of Illinois at Chicago
Karen Hammerness – UTEC Coordinating Committee
Helen Featherstone – Michigan State University (ret.)
Jennifer Robinson – Montclair State University
Bernadette Anand – Banks Street College of Education
Cecilia Traugh – Long Island University, Brooklyn
Klaudia Rivera – Long Island University, Brooklyn
Sheila Resseger – Coalition to Defend Public Education (Rhode Island)
Sandy Grande – Connecticut College
Lisa Gonsalves –UMass Boston
Amy Millikan – San Francisco Teacher Residency
Jonathan Osler – San Francisco Teacher Residency
Les Blatt – Clark University (ret.)
Sharon Feiman-Nemser – Brandeis University
Andre Perry – Davenport University
Kathy Schultz – Mills College
Anna Richert – Mills College
Marvin Hoffman – University of Chicago (ret.)
Kavita Kapadia Matsko – University of Chicago
Kate Bielaczyc – Clark University
Eric De Meulenaere – Clark University
Ricci Hall – Clark University partner principal, Worcester Schools
Sarah Michaels – Clark University
Patti Padilla – Clark University partner principal, Worcester Schools
Jie Park – Clark University
Heather Roberts – Clark University
Nastasia Lawton-Sticklor – Clark University
Thea Abu-El Haj – Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Dirck Roosevelt – Teachers College, Columbia University
Beth Rubin – Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Monday, September 8, 2014


Mary Mitchell
The way Mayor Rahm Emanuel reacted publicly to misconduct allegations against Chicago Police Cmdr. Glenn Evans shows he doesn’t have a clue about what it will take to rebuild trust between cops and the black community. -- Sun-Times
Rep. Luis Gutierrez
"Well, first of all it's clear that playing it safe is what is going on at the White House and among Democratic circles. And playing it safe means walking away from our values and our principles." -- Lynn Sweet, Sun-Times
Bill Gates
“We didn’t know when the last time was that somebody introduced a new course into high school. How does one go about it?" -- So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class ... NYT
Diane von Furstenberg
Clearly, there is work to be done. “I am sure we will seduce the new mayor, too.”  -- NYT Style section, The Courtship of Bill de Blasio 

Former Duncan Press Sec. Peter Cunningham
Education Post also will have a “rapid response” capacity to “knock down false narratives” and will focus on “hot spots” around the country where conflicts with national implications are playing out, Cunningham said.” -- No, Education Post Is Not About Conversation, Curmudgucation 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Our neighborhood rally with Karen Lewis

Karen at El Cid. 
THE DELUGE...This afternoon's  rally at the monument in Logan Square, was drowned by a deluge as a series of storms rolled across the city. Karen Lewis and some brave souls made a run for El Cid up the block and set up camp there to discuss the issues at hand. Even great organizing by the Logan Sq. Neighborhood Assoc. couldn't roll back the storm.

What fun!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A color-coded visual of Chicago's reform failure

Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere
Thanks to Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere for sharing this excellent color-coded visual on Reading Growth in Chicago's Public & Charter Schools. @TroyLaraviere on Twitter calls it a "visual of Chicago's Charter Reform Failure." He's right.

On one side, the chart shows the 45 CPS schools with the highest growth in reading scores. They are all public, with no charters, contract schools or turnarounds in the mix. On the other side are 45 schools showing the lowest growth, with 22 of them being charters, contracts or turnarounds.

This after more than a decade of test-based reform strategies under Daley/Duncan and now under Emanuel/Byrd-Bennett, leading to the closing of dozens of traditional public schools and the uncapped expansion of charters, contracts and turnarounds.

Given this data, how can Rahm and BBB possibly take credit for the slight overall bump in test scores reported last week? They can't, writes LaRaviere in this op-ed Sun-Times piece.
When mayor Rahm Emanuel recently heralded a small gain on the average Chicago Public Schools elementary “MAP” test results, I knew something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t what he said; it was what he didn’t say. You see, this is the first year the MAP scores can provide a more decisive apples-to-apples comparison of charter schools and traditional public schools.
Author Nye and family
Good Read in WaPo by Naomi Shihab Nye, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Growing up in both Ferguson, MO and Gaza has given her some insights few others share. I will definitely find a way to use this in my course this quarter. Thinking #FergusonSyllabus.
Ferguson was a leafy green historic suburb with a gracious red brick elementary school called Central. I loved that school, attending kindergarten through sixth grade there. All my classmates were white, of various derivations – Italians, French-Canadians, etc. My father was the only Arab in Ferguson. But he ran for the school board and won. 

Speaking of Charters...Feds from various agencies are bumping into each other investigating UNO's charter hustlers. This time around it's the IRS, according to the Sun-Times. Their audit involves nearly $37 million in bonds issued in 2011 for the UNO Charter School Network Inc., whose 16 campuses across the city receive a total of about $50 million a year in funding from the Chicago Public Schools.

In a letter to the Illinois Finance Authority, IRS officials said the 2011 bonds were "selected for examination because of information received from external sources or developed internally that caused a concern that the debt issuance may fail one or more provisions" of the federal Internal Revenue Code.

In June, UNO and its charter-school network settled a civil case filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission that accused them of defrauding investors who bought the bonds.

S-T's Dan Mihalopoulos reports:
UNO began in the 1980s as a Hispanic community activist group. Under Rangel, it moved into the lucrative charter-school business in 1998, expanding quickly with support from political figures including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), former Mayor Richard M. Daley and Emanuel.