Friday, October 31, 2014

School rankings: The more things change...

Guess what? 
After nearly two decades of mayoral control, testing obsession, and top-down, corporate-style reform of Chicago schools, the more things change, the more they remain essentially the same. Student test scores still correlate most strongly with parent income and the top and bottom ranked schools, with few exceptions, still correspond most closely to the number of high-scoring kids they recruit.

Community protests new charter across street from Prosser.
Today's Sun-Times reports:
Once again, Chicago’s elite high schools dominate the top of state’s high schools, with selective-enrollment schools taking the top four statewide spots. But 28 of the state’s bottom 40 schools are Chicago neighborhood or contract public high schools, according to a Sun-Times ranking of state standardized test scores.
The top open enrollment neighborhood high school, Lincoln Park High School, sits in Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhood, though its scores on the Prairie State Achievement Examination have dipped slightly from last year.
The same held true for the city's elite elementary schools which easily outscored the rest of the state. Behind them are the state's wealthiest suburban schools.

Jennifer Johnson, a former LPHS teacher and now special projects coordinator at the Chicago Teacher Union, summed it up best:
 “We already know that the selective-enrollment students have to meet a higher bar to get into those schools in the first place on standardized assessments. High test scores correlate with family income and the neighborhood in which students live.”
One interesting exception is Prosser Career Academy, in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, which is the top scoring high school that serves nearly all low-income students, according to the S-T rankings. I know Prosser well. I coached basketball there until last year.

But despite Prosser's gains, made by a great group of teachers, under the leadership of Principal Ken Hunter (now on leave), and despite ongoing community protests, CPS has approved a new privately run charter school being built right across the street. Even before the new Noble Street charter is constructed, there are already attempts to recruit away Prosser students.

Byrd-Bennett promised a better school.
Then there's the so-called "welcoming schools", which received lots of extra resources and funding in the expectation that students from the 50 closed schools would attend. Many of them never showed up, leaving those schools with extra money and fewer kids. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had promised that every child whose school had been shuttered would end up in a better place.

But the S-T report finds the receiving schools "a mixed bag at best."  Some of the city’s largest drops in Illinois State Achievement Test scores happened at some of these “welcoming schools.”

Charter schools weren't included in the S-T analysis. But my own quick scan of the charters found none among the top-ranked schools. More to come on this.

Finally, the report found --get this-- much of the the data being used by CPS to evaluate school progress, is full of errors and unreliable. It's a lot like Supt. McCarthy's crime data. So proceed with caution at your own risk.


Ben and Jesse
Ben Joravsky had lots of good questions for acting CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey at last night's Take Back Chicago event, organized by Parents 4 Teachers.

We were greeted outside the Luther Memorial Church by organizers from both the Fioretti and Garcia campaigns asking us to sign their petitions. What a dilemma! You can't legally sign both. Luckily, my daughter Joanna was with me, so we each signed one, avoiding my existential crisis. What a silly law.

Sharkey didn't speak directly to the union's endorsement in the upcoming mayor's race, but made his feelings clear that the more progressive candidates in the race, the better chance of forcing Rahm into a run-off. That comment drew the biggest response from the audience. The only announced mayoral candidate I saw in the room was long-shot Amara Enyia. I hope she does well.

Sharkey also made clear the union's support for a host of candidates running in ward elections and optimistically predicted an end to Rahm's super-majority in the City Council. He also predicted success for an elected-school-board initiative ultimately getting on the ballot.

I'm still struggling with this image for some reason. 
Joravsky had a busy day, yesterday. Aside from prepping for last night's forum, he also banged out some wit and wisdom in this timely Reader post, A reminder to Mayor Rahm's 2015 opponents: It's a runoff, dummies!
My point is that once Mayor Rahm fires up that propaganda machine to turn himself into the second coming of Abraham Lincoln, the best bet to beat him is to encourage as many people as possible to vote against him. No matter who they're voting for. And it's kind of hard to do that if Chuy's bashing Bob, and Bob's bashing Chuy, and so on and so forth, thus turning everybody off.
Phil Huckleberry's post at Gapers Block, Chuy Garcia Jumps In, Realignment Begins, has a similar, but slightly different ring than Ben's make-love-not-war plea to progressives. Huckleberry is realistic enough to know that the struggle for a runoff spot is bound to be intense. But he still sees a way for a common progressive strategy against belt-holder, Rahm.
What we see emerging is a classic WWE triple threat match. (If you think that high-stakes politics has little in common with professional wrestling, then you're probably not very familiar with either phenomenon!)
I'm not a big wrestling fan, but I get the point.

Gloomy Ben kept asking Jesse for some good news. Here's some. Everybody (including some 1%-ers) hates Rahm. Most polls I've seen, show the mayor's negative ratings up around 55%. Even Rahm's own hired gun David Axelrod, calls him a son-of-a-bitch. Only Axelrod thinks, that's a good thing.

S-T's Chad Merda writes:
And that's backed up by his dismal public support; an Early & Often poll showed he only had 29 percent support overall and 8 percent from African-Americans. “Thank God the election is not today," Emanuel said in August.
God's not on your side, Rahm. See picture above.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Latest polls show Rahm very beatable.

Chuy Garcia at UIC today says, "I'm a serious mayoral candidate, not just a protest vote." (Sun-Times)
I'm hoping my old friend (going back to the Harold Washington days) Chuy Garcia is able to gather enough signatures over the next 3 weeks to officially get on the ballot. His potential vote total, along with challenger Bob Fioretti's, together would likely be strong enough to deny Rahm Emanuel a first-round victory like the one he enjoyed in 2011, when he got 55% of the vote.

I'm no expert on polling, but neither am I blind. The latest polling I get from Fioretti's camp shows the Alderman trailing Rahm by just 4 points in a head-to-head contest. The Garcia camp has yet to do any polling.

Rahm - 38, Fioretti - 34,  Unsure - 28  (Margin of error = 1.4%)

This modeling survey of 4,797 voters shows a two-way race with the mayor’s support essentially unchanged from what we saw in a three-way race a month ago. Of course, this latest poll was done after Karen Lewis dropped out and before Chuy dropped in (he still hasn't officially). 

But it seems to indicate (at least to me) that Rahm has a hard ceiling of 40-45% no matter how much he spends, and a strong showing by Chuy (or even a moderate one) will throw this thing into a run-off with the combined support of the progressives likely beating the incumbent in the final election. What's unclear is who has the best chance to finish second in the first round -- Bob or Chuy?

Rahm's negatives are solid. 42% of those surveyed give the mayor a positive job rating. Over half (55%) give him a negative one. 

Now the election is only 3 months away and a lot can happen in 3 months, as we've seen in the last few weeks. We don't know if the progressive candidates can tactically focus on defeating Rahm instead of trying to cut each other's throats (wouldn't be the first time). I've been assured by activists in both camps that they're each focusing their fire strictly on the mayor. 

Even given all the potential black swans lurking in the reeds, prospects for a Rahm defeat in the final round still seem strong. But so much depends on how the two progressive candidates--and their supporters--play it. 

Waukegan teachers hanging tough. Cuomo vows to break public schools 'monopolies'.

At last night's board meeting, Waukegan board member Victoria Torres blows it. Tells angry striking teachers and parent supporters, "Sit down and shut up!" Probably not the best way for elected official to open dialogue. Meeting up for grabs. Quickly adjourned. At 10 p.m. teachers union releases a statement calling Torres’ behavior “abhorrent” and calling for her immediate resignation. Statewide support is building for teachers who are in 4th week of strike for a decent contract.

While N.Y. Gov. Cuomo is busy playing political games with quarantined Ebola health workers, he still finds time to attack public education with a broad brush. According to this story in the Daily News, Cuomo has vowed to break the public schools “public monopolies” and replace them with more privately-run charter schools.

That's really hard to understand since Cuomo has always been a big fan of monopolies. Take for example his love affair with Pearson Publishing, the British conglomerate that monopolizes Common Core and the standardized testing industry.

According to Alan Singer, writing at Huffington,
 Pearson is already creating teacher certification exams for eighteen states including New York, organizing staff development workshops to promote Pearson products, and providing school district Pearson assessment tools. In New York, Pearson Education currently has a five-year, $32 million contract to administer state test and provides other "testing services" to the State Education Department. It also recently received a share of a federal Race to the Top grant to create what the company calls the "next-generation" of online assessments. 
“Gov. Cuomo has laid clear plans to expand his frontal assault on our public schools through high stakes testing, starving our public schools and privatization,” says Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.
“It’s not that shocking when you look at the enormous pile of cash he has raked in from the Wall Street billionaires who are investing in charter schools. He is rewarding his financial backers at a devastating cost to our children.”
Please tell me again why the Working Families Party (WFP) thought it a good idea to endorse this guy? The Nation's explanation only makes me dizzy.

AFT Prez Randi Weingarten Tweets this follow-up to this week's teacher-bashing TIME cover:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

'Chuy' is running for mayor

Between now and February, we are in for a ride. Cook County Commissioner, former Alderman, State Senator  and old Harold Washington hand, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia announced last night that he is running for Mayor.

Emanuel’s nearly $9 million campaign fund dwarfs the $15,000 Garcia has in storage. He’ll need, he says, $3 million to be competitive.
“I think by the time that I register as a candidate we will be at least half way there,” he said. He is working he said with long time political strategist Don Rose, who helped Jane Byrne defeat Michael Bilandic in 1979. -- Ward Room
Chicago progressives have spent the past couple of weeks walking around in darkness with heads hanging over Karen Lewis' departure from the race. Now that Rahm is going to be hit from two sides by Garcia and Bob Fioretti, the likelihood of a runoff looms large. Both will be looking for community and union support -- and money. Buckle up.

All eyes are on Waukegan. The teachers strike in its 4th week. Against tremendous pressure, teachers are still united and hanging tough. Now is the time for the rest of the state's union movement to rally behind them and win this thing.

Thanks to Edushyster, I mean Jennifer Berkshire, for her guest appearance in my class last night. Jennifer is in town talking to all the right people, to get her Chicago story right.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Dave Zirin
Dave Zirin
"This is about the rot of for-profit amateurism... [It's] educational money-laundering of young black men...the organized theft of black wealth... Having the NCAA investigating the North Carolina scandal is like having Tony Soprano come in to deal with the neighborhood drug dealer." -- Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC

Nicholas Kristof
A new Pew survey finds that Americans consider the greatest threat to our country to be the growing gap between the rich and poor. Yet we have constructed an education system, dependent on local property taxes, that provides great schools for the rich kids in the suburbs who need the least help, and broken, dangerous schools for inner-city children who desperately need a helping hand. Too often, America’s education system amplifies not opportunity but inequality. -- N.Y. Times
Jitu Brown
Jitu Brown
“It is a testimony to the commitment from people that live in this neighborhood who not only developed a full academic plan for the school in absence of a vision by the district, but also demonstrated, turned out to town hall meetings and showed their overwhelming support of Dyett. It is not the result of elected officials". -- Early & Often
 UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl 
“You had him [former L.A. Supt. John Deasy] supporting this community movement that had been brewing for about 10 years around positive behavior support and restorative justice. But he didn’t invest resources into the staffing, training or school reform that would be needed to really bring those things into practice.” -- Capital & Main

Friday, October 24, 2014

More on the Sun-Times 'Breach in the Wall'

In this morning's post, I asked what Dave McKinney's brother and sister S-T reporters were going to do in response to, what Mark Anderson called, "the breach in that wall between owners and the newsroom." By this afternoon I got my answer.

McKinney's fellow reporters have asked S-T owners for reassurance that they won't seek to influence editorial content. The request comes in a petition that supporters can sign, posted on the reporters' union website. It reads:
Mr. Michael Ferro and Mr. Timothy Knight: 
We are deeply troubled by the situation leading up to Dave McKinney’s resignation. It raises incredible questions about whether Sun-Times reporters risk retaliation from management after writing stories unfavorable to a politician or our company's investors.
We have basic concerns about whether we will be able to do our jobs moving forward without interference. 
We want to know: did a politician or someone tied to that politician lodge a complaint with Mr. Ferro over a story? If there was indeed a breach in the firewall that is supposed to exist between owners and the newsroom, how do we know that will not reoccur? Would you or Mr. Knight address the newsroom to answers these questions and others?
Respectfully, Chicago Sun-Times Newsroom and supporters
I just signed it.

Now the question is, what will Rauner/Rahm pals who own the S-T, do to salvage its integrity and prevent an all-out rebellion on the part of its staff? The ball is in the court of Ferro and Knight.

A 'breach in the wall' at the Sun-Times. How will it play out for Rahm?

The Ward Room's Mark Anderson has the best take on the Sun-Times/Rauner/McKinney debacle. He's smart enough to look beyond its immediate impact on the (I know I am, but what are you) gov's race and see how things might play out for S-T editorial board pal, Rahm Emanuel in February's race for mayor.

SmallTalk salute for Dave McKinney
Anderson points out how the S-T editorial board sold its soul and the paper's credibility by doing Rauner's bidding, throwing ace reporter David McKinney under the bus and then endorsing Rauner over Quinn.

McKinney deserves a SmallTalk Salute for his resignation letter to Rauner-puppy-dog bosses, Ferro, Knight and Kirk. He's right on time when he writes:
Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times. It’s had a chilling effect in the newsroom. While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern. I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.
I'm waiting to see what McKinney's brother and sister S-T reporters are going to say in an attempt to salvage their own professional and political integrity. Here Carol Marin's Tweet:

As for the upcoming mayor's race, Anderson writes:
The mayor has deep ties to a number of Sun-Times board members, just like Rauner. Members of the board, including Michael Ferro Jr. and Michael Sacks donated heavily to Emanuel’s 2011 campaign. The mayor parties with members of the board. Michael Sacks has been described as the mayor’s “go-to guy” on everything from the city’s parking meter deal to economic development.
That’s not to say a mayoral endorsement from the Sun-Times will be done in anything but the most transparent, above board way possible. But what if it’s not? This one certainly wasn't. There’s little doubt both the city and the state are facing an abundance of critical and difficult problems right now. Voters and concerned citizens need institutions like the Sun-Times to fulfill their role as unbiased, unimpeachable reporters of truth—even in the messy world of politics.
Did he really paint a scenario where Rahm is trailing in the race by double digits? I doubt it, but I like it.

The very thing that makes them strong, makes them weak.

And speaking of no credibility... I'll let Brother Fred's take on the new Time cover say all that needs to be said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rahm can still be had

I'm happy and a bit overwhelmed to see Karen Lewis tweeting again. Way to go Karen.

I haven't seen any new polls since Karen fell ill, but my sense is that Rahm Emanuel can still be had in February and is beatable, either in a run-off, or head-to-head, by Ald. Bob Fioretti.

Nothing I read or hear tells me that Rahm, even with his bulging cash reservoir, has moved past the 50% mark with likely voters. He is still the most despised man in Chicago, especially in the black community where his legacy of school closings and failed education policies and sabotaged city services and programs are devastating entire neighborhoods.

Before Karen's illness, Fioretti seemed at least viable in the polls, even before actually campaigning. Some polls were actually showing him running second, behind Karen. Back in August, Tribune polls showed that,
"...even a mostly unknown potential challenger — 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti — has gained surprising traction... a sign that there's a sizable contingent of anyone-but-Emanuel voters. The mayor had 43 percent in the hypothetical matchup with Fioretti, while 23 percent were undecided."
Now, everything has changed except that Rahm most likely, hasn't gained any ground.

Can be beat. 
I know it won't be easy. Fioretti's campaign still hasn't really gotten off the ground and lots of us are still walking with our heads hung down and thinking more about Karen's recovery than about elections, The media naturally is focused on the governor's race, which hasn't exactly electrified voters.

And worse, the city's labor coalition still can't seem to pull itself together and get in sync with the parent and community groups who would like to see the Little Emperor fall. That includes the shame-faced leadership of SEIU Local 73 who contributed thousands of union members' dollars to Rahm's campaign chest.  The unions are the only force right now, with the money and organization to turn out enough voters for a Rahm upset, either by Fioretti or some combination of viable emerging candidates (Are there any? Rumors abound).

I'm also getting tired of "charisma" experts and those who tell me, "it's not about elections, it about building the movement." From what I can see, that kind of thinking leads to no election victory and not much of a movement. How can you fight Rahm's autocratic, two-Chicago policies in the neighborhoods while surrendering political power to him in City Hall?

Then there's the question of the viability of the many progressive local city council campaigns who are really up against it, without the money and dynamics of a strong run against Rahm. My hope is that after November's races, we will recover, get unified and get our act together behind Fioretti.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

92,000 arrested in U.S. schools. Chicago leads in filling school-to-jail pipeline.

Rashe France was a 12-year-old seventh-grader in 2012 when he was arrested in Southaven, Miss., charged with disturbing the peace on school property after a minor hallway altercation. His family is concerned the arrest will have repercussions in the future. (STEVE JONES FOR WSJ)
The school-to-jail pipeline is overflowing. Thousands of students, mostly black and Latino, are being arrested in school, many for what are considered minor violations of school discipline codes in white, wealthier schools. The result -- U.S. has the largest prison population in the world and nearly one out of every three American adults now are on the FBI's master criminal database.

Today's WSJ reports:
A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody...Over the past 20 years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.
 According to the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, 260,000 students were reported, or “referred” in the official language, to law enforcement by schools in 2012, the most-recent available data. The survey also said 92,000 students were subject to school-related arrests. There are no earlier comparable numbers—the Education Department requested the data because it couldn’t find good national research on the topic.

CHICAGO AMONG THE WORST...More so than in other large school districts, Chicago schools are quick to call in police to handle student misbehavior and conflict, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the 2011-2012 school year (the most recent available).  In Chicago, police were called at a rate of nearly 18 cases for every 1,000 students, while New York City’s rate was 8 per 1,000 students and numbers in Los Angeles were 6 per 1,000.

Overall, CPS referred 7,157 students to law enforcement in 2012, of whom 2,418 students were arrested, according to the federal data. As is the case with school discipline in general, black males are disproportionately targeted

Increasingly, issues of classroom management and discipline are being taken out of the hands of educators and turned over to law enforcement. This certainly doesn't bode well for the future of the teaching profession or for our society.

Monday, October 20, 2014


"Black Turnout in '64 and Beyond." -- 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration project. (NY Times)

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka
Gov. Chris Christie likes to say that he is “the decider” of what happens in Newark’s public schools. What that means is that he and his appointees now own the failure of the state’s policies. -- New York Times
Kristen Crowell
"Actions have consequences, and United Working Families is committed to a fifty ward strategy to ensure voters have their say,” Kristen Crowell, executive director of United Working Families, told Ward Room. “The City Council may not want [the question of an elected representative school board] on the ballot—but we are determined to put this on the ballot so all of Chicago has a voice." -- The Ward Room
Rousemary Vega
“When they closed Lafayette, we asked Alderman Maldonado to fight for our schools. He didn't listen. We asked the school board why they closed our school while they continued to spend money building new privately operated schools in rich neighborhoods, and while the city continued to give our tax money to private developers downtown. They flat out ignored us parents. [26th Ward candidate Juanita Irazarry]  is listening.” -- Grassroots Illinois Action Press Release
Prof. Mitchell Robinson
"When traditionally prepared teachers leave the profession, it’s a bug–when TFA recruits leave, its a feature.” --  Washington Post

Friday, October 17, 2014

L.A. Board 'doesn't believe' Deasy is crooked

From L.A. school board's statement on the departure of Supt. John Deasy:
The Board "does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts."
Not exactly the carefully-chosen words you want to see in a reference letter from a former employer. I mean, it should go without saying. Shouldn't it?

But if Deasy isn't greasy, why isn't the board sharing its internal probe of the iPad contracting process?

Inquiring minds want to know.

And here we go with the third go-round of Ray Cortines, the 82-year-old, don't make waves, utility manager, who will keep the seat warm until Bill and Eli can find another hatchet man for LAUSD.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rahm -- 'We don't need no stinkin' constitution'

“The Supreme Court…has thrown a wet blanket on further discussions.
RAHM BLAMES THE COURTS -- He asks his Civic Committee patrons: How do you expect me to grab public employee pensions if the courts keep ruling it unconstitutional?

Thanks again to Patti Vasquez and producer Craig Collins, for having me on the show last night on WGN. Patti got me talking about Karen Lewis and the upcoming race for mayor as well as the the latest study on Chicago charter schools. Here's the podcast (beginning at 17:23) for those of you who couldn't hang that late.

Comment on WGN website:
Patti:Glad you had Mike Klonsky on Wed nite. I strongly share his views in the major need to replace the current Chgo. Mayor. It is highly unfortunate about Karen Lewis, her own well being and the Mayor’s race. Mike is right, this guy can’t go soon enough, before he damages the city and residents (and pocketbooks) even further. Don’t give up hope!
Demographics...S-T's Lauren Fitzpatrick reports that for the first time in Illinois, white students no longer constitute the majority of public school students, the Illinois State Board of Education said Wednesday. And the percentage of students considered low-income has surpassed the halfway mark, according to the agency.
White public school students made up 49.9 percent of all of Illinois’ 2 million public school students in 2014 as the Hispanic population has grown to 24.6 percent, according to the state board. Of all Illinois public school students, 51.5 percent are considered low-income.
The strange thing about Fitzpatrick's piece -- it never once mentions African-Americans and makes no reference to their percentage of the state's school population. Since when did black students become invisible?

Just heard the news that John Deasy's contract in L.A. has been terminated. Let's see where Gates puts him now.
More broadly, critics have faulted Deasy for what they call an autocratic, punitive leadership style that they say has demoralized teachers and other employees. Still, Deasy has enjoyed strong support from key civic and business leaders, who have urged the Board of Education in recent weeks to retain him.
Ain't that the way it goes?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rahm's 'savage cuts' to public services

I just received this press release from Stephanie Gadlin at the CTU.

Chicago Teachers Union Response to Mayor’s Budget Address:
Emanuel’s seeks balance through savage cuts to public services by using accounting trickery

CHICAGO – Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement in response to the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Budget Address:

“At the end of today’s city budget address, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed with a comment touting downtown business growth. His perspective is particularly apropos: in a city where the top 5 percent of earners make 25 percent of the income and unemployment in some parts of the south and west sides nears 50 percent, three-quarters of those downtown jobs have gone to people outside of the city,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

“A budget for everyone would address these realities, but this budget continues a top-down imposition of two distinct cities, one for the privileged and one for everyone else. Similar to other Emanuel budgets, “balance” comes through savage cuts to public service and accounting trickery, as there is only minimal revenue generation in this budget, and what is included, like taxes on car leases and increased cell phone taxes, are incredibly regressive. The mayor’s proposals on crime, education, and the minimum wage make this two-tiered system clear.”

Overall statistical declines mask the intensity in which Chicagoans’ experience with crime differs, Sharkey noted. The reality on the ground is that neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city continue to struggle with daily violence. Budgetary allocations for police only cover positions lost to retirement and are nowhere near what the mayor promised during this first campaign.

Emanuel continues to support the failed policy of mandatory minimums as a solution to gun crime; such an approach only drives up the cost of incarceration, does not deter shootings, and absent sufficient support for re-entry, those with felony records have little opportunity for employment. Those incarceration costs are merely shifted to other tax payers, allowing the Mayor to take all the credit without paying any of the expense.

Furthermore, the mayor’s decision to shutter mental health clinics continues to shift costs to the county jail and county hospital while increasing risks to all Chicagoans. Last week’s blue line shooter had a history of untreated mental illness. A budget that worked for all Chicagoans would restore funding for mental health clinics, provide resources for real community policing, and would support comprehensive re-entry programs for parolees.

On education, Mayor Emanuel takes credit for policies that he did not start and hides the savage cuts he’s pushed. Graduation rates were already increasing prior to his election, and the real credit must go to the school staffs who daily work with students. These same school staffs have seen savage cuts to their budgets over the past three years, including hundreds of lost positions for the longer school day the mayor demanded. Students across the city are going without art, music, world language, and PE because of those cuts. Dozens of librarians have been shifted into teaching positions, so libraries go unused because of inadequate staffing.

These library cuts come on top of slashed Chicago Public Library hours. Furthermore, while the Emanuel touted After School Matters, elementary school after-school programs have been slashed across the city. For instance, Gale Elementary School suffered $1 million in budget cuts (the same as the expansion of ASM), eliminated all after school programs, and has to raise money for books. Also omitted from this budget address was the impact of the 50 school closures the Mayor rammed through that have not resulted in major financial savings but have negatively impacted the students and families forced to change schools (again, mainly on the South and West sides).

Finally, the so-called “universal” expansion of pre-K is much less than advertised. The mayor’s proposal only covers four-year olds (instead of three-year olds as well), is free only for the lowest-income families, varies widely in quality depending on whether in a CPS program with highly-trained and certified teachers or in a private day care with less qualified workers, and is funded with a complex scheme that rewards Goldman Sachs with additional profits on top of the millions from toxic swaps the economy-crashing bank has already received. The Mayor’s education policies have never deviated from a failed corporate reform model and have outraged parents across the city.


On the minimum wage, Sharkey noted, the Mayor’s proposal also shows the two-tiered nature of his overall approach to governance. There are no protections for tipped workers or domestic workers, two of the largest categories of minimum wage earners in the city, and these are often the Black and Latino workers who have been left out of the downtown boom. Worse, despite claims of eliminating the need for choosing food or medical care, the Mayor’s minimum wage proposal leaves low-wage families in poverty. The ordinance would only be above the poverty line by 2018, and by 2019, by the time the full $13 kicks in; low-wage workers would be 9 cents over that line. The economic impact of the Mayor’s proposal is half of the competing $15 ordinance. Chicago needs the $15/hour wage ordinance, and it needs that ordinance now.

“The CTU remains committed to policies that have real impact, including revenue-generating plans like the LaSalle Street Tax and TIF reforms that create real, fair investment streams rather than more of the same warmed-over conventional wisdom. We support the $15 minimum wage, the privatization, transparency and accountability ordinance, restoration of cuts to social services, and real funding for retirement security. These proposals are possible when we survey the entire city, not just those who can be seen from the fifth floor,” said Sharkey.

Want to improve student learning? Raise the minimum wage

An increase in the minimum wage was one of the key demands of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom 
There's already an abundance of research showing the link between poverty and measurable student learning outcomes. One of the best ways to help students and improve learning outcomes would be to raise the minimum wage to one that's livable.

A new study coming out of the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Peter Edelman's Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, makes the connection between the current struggle to increase the minimum wage to the historic movement for civil and human rights. A doubling of the current minimum wage would not only help lift millions of families out of poverty, it would also boost the entire economy while improving government balance sheets. According to the study:
...the choice by policymakers to keep the minimum wage low has been an important factor contributing to the dramatic and troubling rise in income inequality since the 1970s. For all these reasons and more, the civil rights community has a crucial role to play in the coming months and years in the fight to raise the minimum wage.
If you want to make the case for a $15/hour minimum wage you won't find a better resource than the bibliography at the back of  Improving Wages, Improving Lives: Why raising the minimum wage 
is a civil and human rights issue.

At Monday night's meeting (Progress Illinois)
While we're on the topic of Civil Rights...U.S. Department of Education officials heard first-hand stories about the impact public school closings and consolidations are having in Chicago at a South Side community meeting held Monday night with parents, students and their supporters.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is currently looking into a complaint filed by education activists alleging "racially discriminatory" school actions and closings in Chicago. Organizers with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School spearheaded the town hall meeting, held at First Unitarian Church of Chicago in Hyde Park. The discussion was designed to allow education department reps to hear directly from the people affected by the school actions cited in the complaint.

DEASY STAYS, FOR NOW -- I'm not sure what happened at last night's school board meeting in L.A. but what I'm hearing is not good. L.A. Times ed reporter Howard Blume tweets:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Time to unite and keep the struggle alive

By now, everyone's heard the news that Karen Lewis has come through surgery for a brain tumor and now faces the struggle of her life, a long, difficult road back towards recovery. Our thoughts are with her and her family.

We've also heard, loud and clear, that she's no longer in the race for mayor, a stunning blow with just a little over four months to go before the election. Despite this devastating set-back, the movement continues and hope remains that the young corps of leadership in and outside of the CTU will step up and fill the void.

As far as the election is concerned, Rahm is still not out of the woods. His poll numbers continue to plummet and Ald. Bob Fioretti is still in the race.
"I have the pleasure of calling her a friend, and I join many across this city in praying for her health today. I can understand the battle with illness, and how it can change the best thought out plans. But I also know that Karen is resilient and strong and will be back advocating for educators … students … and Chicagoans in no time," Fioretti said.
"With my friend in the race, it would have been a little bit different dynamics," Fioretti said. "I've always said ... the day after the February (election), if there was a runoff, it would have been Karen and I."
I think he's right. Time to unite and keep the struggle alive.
“Karen Lewis has decided to not pursue a mayoral bid,” Jay Travis, the head of her mayoral exploratory committee said in a statement Monday “Yet she charges us to continue fighting for strong neighborhood schools, safe communities and good jobs for everyone.
“The tens of thousands of signatures collected for Karen confirm what the polls have already said: Chicagoans from Beverly to Uptown want to feel safe in their neighborhoods; they want an elected representative school board; and they want political leadership at every level that is responsive and responsible.”
Rahm's Achilles' heel continues to be his disastrous school "reform" policies, including his engineering the largest mass school closings in history, a kick in the gut of black and Latino communities throughout the city, along with his infatuation with privately run charter schools (and all things privatization).

Those policies took another major blow yesterday with the publication of a major study coming out of the University of Minnesota's Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, headed by Myron Orfield. The study provides more compelling evidence that charter schools have worsened school segregation in Chicago and overall have had a crippling effect on the city's public schools.

According to Orfield's study:
Charter schools have become the cornerstone of school reform in Chicago and nationally.  Arne Duncan, who led Chicago schools and was a strong proponent of charters, became secretary of Education.  As Secretary Duncan has championed policies to dramatically expand the use of charters throughout the United States. Chicago, however, remains one of the nation’s lowest performing school districts.  Sadly the charters schools, which on average score lower that the Chicago public schools, have not improved the Chicago school system, but perhaps made it even weaker.  Further charters, which are even more likely to be single race schools than the already hyper segregated Chicago school system, have not increased interracial contact, an often- stated goal of charter systems.  Finally, the fact that Chicago charters use expulsion far more often that public schools deserves further study.  In the end it is unlikely that the Chicago charter school experience provides a model for improving urban education in other big city school districts.
And speaking of Duncan...his pal, Purdue University President Mitch Danielssays he stands by his efforts to keep historian Howard Zinn's work from being taught in Indiana schools, saying the actions he took while governor were meant to keep the book out of the hands of K-12 students.
Daniels told reporters after a meeting of the board that a statement he made as governor that Indiana should "disqualify the propaganda" he saw being used in Indiana's teacher preparation courses was meant only to keep Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" from being taught in the state's K-12 classrooms.
Duncan & Daniels
Readers might remember how Ed Sec. Duncan traveled to Indiana in 2011 to embrace Tea Party Gov. Daniels' version of school reform.
"Now, few states have done a better job of coping with the recession than Indiana and I want to salute you -- Governor Daniels -- for your leadership and management skills. I also salute you for your leadership on education issues. You are among the 42 states that have voluntarily adopted college and career ready standards. You knew the bar here was too low and needed to be raised, even if that was hard to do. You are among the 46 states that developed bold reform plans to compete for Race to the Top."
Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Kate Manne
When, three days after the shooting, another white officer called the (primarily black) protesters “[expletive] animals,” it cemented many people’s fears that Brown had been slain in a similar spirit — the thought being that the officer responsible, Darren Wilson, saw Brown as an animal, or at least as less than human. -- In Ferguson and Beyond (NYT)
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
But a path can be traced from slavery to the killing of Michael Brown. -- The Worth of Black Men (NYT Magazine)
Bob Herbert to Bill Moyers 
“People need to start voting against the excessive power of the great moneyed interests. But more than that, we need a movement, a grass-roots movement that will fight for the interests of ordinary men and women…” Restoring an America That Has Lost Its Way
Karen Lewis
Bob Fioretti
 "She is a fighter and I know that she will bounce back, stronger than ever... But right now, we should all respect Karen’s privacy and give her the space she needs to get better." -- WBEZ

Mark Rosenbaum of the L.A. pro bono law firm, Public Counsel
"These are kids who desperately want to go to college and have nothing to do. It's like you're asking for the moon if you ask for an art class, an academic decathlon class, a literacy class." -- Deasy's inaction on Jefferson High fiasco is shocking (L.A. Times)

Friday, October 10, 2014

And here I thought Cuomo and Duncan were already Success Academy lobbyists



a person who profiteers.
"a war profiteer"
synonyms: racketeer, exploiter, black marketeer

Joy Resmovitz at Huffington reports that charter profiteer Eva Moskowitz has hired a team of lobbyists in D.C. to pump up her Success Academy chain. Moskowitz currently pulls down a seven-figure salary for managing the chain.
Now, reports show that Success is being represented on Capitol Hill. According to lobbying disclosures posted this summer but not previously reported, the schools hired two affiliated Washington-based firms, EdNexus Advisors and Thompson Coburn, LLP.
The EdNexus lobbyist listed, Christina Culver, was an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign. 
What's that you say? Charters are truly public schools? You couldn't prove it by me

Moskowitz with former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein
And here I thought Moskowitz already had lobbyists in D.C. and Albany -- Arne Duncan and Gov. Cuomo.  And her lobbying effort seems to be working. Gov. Cuomo, has been the recipient of nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from backers of Moskowitz’s charters. Duncan just gave her another federal grant of $750,000 and part of an overall $39.7 million grant to privately-run charters nationally. 

Since 2006, Moskowitz has been running a small charter empire that has at least $50 million in government per-pupil funding, at least $30.9 million in total, end-of-year assets, and the support of hedge fund millionaires.

This week, the state approved 17 new charter schools for New York City,  substantially increasing the size of the city’s largest and most polarizing charter network and setting up a battle over where the schools will be located. The state’s charter schools committee, part of the State University of New York’s board of trustees, approved 14 new Success Academy schools, which will bring the network to a total of 50 schools serving 16,300 students by 2016.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Philly students walkout in support of their teachers

Our thoughts this morning are with our dear friend and sister in the struggle, Karen Lewis, who underwent emergency surgery last night at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago. The CTU has announced a press conference for 4 P.M. today to give us an update on Karen's condition.


Pearson has done it again. Another wrong "correct" answer on their high-stakes math exam. Sarah Blaine, the mom of a N.J. 4th-grader, tells us why this even matters in a post on the Answer Sheet.

I wrote about Pearson's mind-boggling and dangerous mistakes before, including this one, where they claimed in one of their text books that blood was blue. It took the work of a Chicago teacher and his students to debunk Pearson's text.

A SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to hundreds of Philly students who are holding student strikes and protests in support of their teachers. The city's so-called School Reform Commission (SRC), set up under the state's takeover of the city's school system, has unilaterally tossed out its collective-bargaining agreement with the PFT.
Philly students walkout
Dozens of students from Science Leadership Academy in Center City and as many as 175 from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia boycotted classes. They held peaceful, upbeat demonstrations outside the two magnet schools. Twenty-five students from the Franklin Learning Center in Spring Garden demonstrated outside district headquarters at 440 N. Broad St.
University of Pennsylvania history professor Thomas Sugrue made a detour on his way to work from Mount Airy to support daughter Anna, a junior at Science Leadership. "Their voices are the ones who have been less heard in the debate about school reform," he said before tweeting a photo of his daughter.
We're still waiting to see what the union's response is going to be.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rahm's council pups know how to sit up and beg, roll over, and more

Do Rahm's City Council puppy dogs really think they won something yesterday by keeping the Elected School Board referendum off the ballot? All they got was a biscuit from their boss and a deeper hole for themselves and for the mayor as election time nears.

A few progressive alders respond:
Ald. John Arena (45th) said he would “hate to think my colleagues are that crass,” but it’s obvious mayoral allies played “shenanigans” to block a referendum that would have shown overwhelming support for an elected school board.
 “They’re afraid of the question,” Arena said, blasting Emanuel for continuing to support a "non-participatory board not accountable to voters.” 
“This is a crowding out of a question that’s been discussed citywide for the last 13, 14 months,” said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).
 Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) noted that an advisory referendum in limited precincts of his and other wards sailed through with 85 and 90 percent support from Chicago voters.
“It’s not just the elected school board. It’s about the whole education system being put to the test and the policies that the administration espouses versus what a lot of the voters out there would like to see,” Waguespack said, apparently referring to school closings, charter openings and devastating budget cuts at neighborhood schools.
Barking the loudest was Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, who made sure that his boys knew they were supposed to vote NO. O'Connor even had the chutzpah to call the plan for elected school board, "racist."

You remember O'Connor. He's the long-time machine hack and north side ward heeler who served for many years under Mayor Daley as the chairman of the council's Education Committee. Now he's under scrutiny for getting his unqualified sister a principal's job on the northwest side.

The campaign to get an elected school board on the ballot is being led by the coalition of community groups called Grassroots Educational Movement, or GEM. It includes KOCO, the United Working Families independent political organization--which formed over the summer with the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Action Now, and Grassroots Illinois Action and others.