Sunday, November 30, 2014

The upcoming battle for the Latino vote in Chicago

Former UNO CEO Juan Rangel, Rahm Emanuel, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez at a news conference at Little Village High School
The Sun-Times' Natasha Korecki tries her best to assess the upcoming battle for the "Latino vote" (Is there only one?) between Rahm Emanuel and "Chuy" Garcia.

Korecki seems to give the edge to the mayor because he's wrangled some opportunist support from Rep. Luis Gutierrez. But Luis' record of political support is tattered. It certainly didn't do much for Gery Chico in the 2010 race. And wasn't Luis the one blasting Rahm not so long ago, for his key role in the Obama administration’s failure to move ahead on immigration reform. Remember, Rahm was the one who called immigration "the third rail of American politics," warning that Democrats who tried to work on the issue would suffer heavy political losses.

Now Luis claims Rahm has "evolved" on the issue. Evolution works in mysterious ways in an election year. Doesn't it? We may never know what kind of deal was cut between the two back in May.

It's also worth considering whether or not the so-called "Latino vote" only swings on the immigration reform issue. What about education? Gun violence? Neglected city services in the community? Environmental racism? All weak spots for Rahm.

UNO tied to Madigan
For example, in his first big media ad buy, Rahm tries to take sole credit for closing two area coal plants in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhoods, when in fact it had taken years of work by community activists.
"Rahm is a thief," said Gloria Fallon of Rising Tide Chicago. "He stole our photograph and our hard work for political gain." -- Chicago Tribune
Korecki doesn't even mention UNO in her analysis. Particularly in the Mexican community, UNO's support for Rahm may be a much more the lynch pin than the Gutierrez endorsement or support from proven losers like machine-boss Joe Berrios. But UNO support is a double-edged sword and the ongoing UNO charter school scandal, with direct ties to Rahm, Gov. Quinn and Speaker Madigan, may end up damaging the mayor, depending on how and whether or not his opponents raise it.

Chuy Garcia and his wife Evelyn
On the other hand, "Chuy Garcia" has a lot going for him (if you don't count money). For one thing, he speaks Spanish and can communicate directly with community residence.

More from Korecki:
Garcia already has the backing of Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union, which immediately helped put him into contention in a race where he will be significantly outspent by Emanuel.
“If Chuy can’t do it, I don’t know who can,” says Don Rose, a political adviser on Garcia’s campaign. “The guy is just extremely popular. North, south, east, west, he’s been around long enough, and maintained enough relationships. He’s got all of these relationships that really make him a citywide candidate who happens to be Latino. I’m sure he’s going to get a substantial Latino vote.”
Rose said Garcia can put together a coalition of support from Latinos, progressive whites and African-Americans. Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, is Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s floor leader. Garcia’s ties to the black community date back to the days of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.
The 63,000 petition signatures Chuy amassed in just 3 weeks is evidence of a strong ground game. He has a long, progressive history in the community and a successful track record as a politician. And polls show that together with Ald. Bob Fioretti, the two have a good chance on forcing Rahm into a runoff, where an edge for Garcia in the Latino community could push him over the top.

At least that's my most hopeful scenario.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

'The language of the unheard'

I contend that the cry of "black power" is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. -- Dr. Martin Luther King 
Obama: "Stay calm and accept..."
Obama in Chicago yesterday
He tells us again to stay calm and accept the grand jury's decision:
"Don't take the short-term easy route and just engage in destructive behavior. Take the long-term hard but lasting route of working with me, governors, officials to bring about some real change."
But who is the president talking to?

This hasn't been an "easy route," and we haven't engaged in "destructive behavior." Yes, there are lots of disaffected youth--many without jobs, education or hope for their future--rioting in anger over the events in Ferguson, speaking the language of the unheard. But Obama's scold means nothing to them. Speaking at the Copernicus Community Center on the north side of Chicago, the President is a hundred times removed from them and their experiences.

Here in Chicago, we had thousands of mostly young people in the streets demanding justice for Mike Brown and calling for respect for black lives. There were over a million people in the streets nationally yesterday, engaging in mainly peaceful protests. 

What "real change" is the president talking about? Who are these governors and officials we are supposed to be working with? What exactly have he and these officials done over the past 6 years to push this "real change"? And where is Holder and the Justice Department?

Six plus years and still waiting to hear, Mr. Obama.

And if you want to talk about 'destructive behavior'... 
Along with the decline in the standard of living for millions and the widening U.S. wealth gap, has come the militarization of local police forces in preparation for an anticipated rise in civil unrest.

According to yesterday's Washington Post, several federal programs are helping local law enforcement to acquire heavy weapons, either by making funds available or by providing the equipment directly. One program at the Pentagon transferred surplus military equipment worth nearly half a billion dollars to local police departments last year. Grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security total another $1 billion, and Holder's department provides hundreds of millions more.
"We do not condition that money on requiring real change in policing," said Sherrilynn Ifill of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in a press conference on Tuesday. "Taxpayer money to local police departments should come with the condition that the police take responsibility for improving."
The education piece
We need to replace Ownership Society education, testing madness and Racing to the Top with democratic education. Preparing children to think critically and act powerfully to shape the world they are entering and become agents of change.

For example, check out this curriculum piece from Rethinking Schools.

The events in and around Ferguson are a good place to start. Why? Because our students are interested. They are watching.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where's Holder and the Justice Dept. in all of this?

Jesus Mary, this Bob McCulloch guy may be the single greasiest public servant I've ever encountered. -- Esquire's Charles P. Pierce
 Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, wept after learning the grand jury’s decision.“They still don’t care. They ain’t never going to care.” -- CBS Chicago
 The father of Michael Brown appeared at a news conference Tuesday wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, “No Justice No Peace.” -- NBC News

Smirking McCulloch
Woke up this morning still sickened by faux-prosecutor Robert McCulloch's smirking, racist, interminable "explanation" of the Ferguson grand jury whitewash of Michael Brown's murder.

The churning in the pit of my stomach lasted all night, as I watched the exclusive club of seated, nearly all-white "journalists" softball McCulloch and play along with the charade. Then to top it all off, there was President Obama on one side of a split screen, giving what could only be called an exercise in uninspired acquiescence, while on the other side of the screen, the tear gas was flowing.

Never was the disconnect between Obama and the young black men and women in the streets of Ferguson, victims of relentless police mistreatment and violence, more obvious. The president's professorial (I mean that in a bad way) ramblings were never more out of place. Never were his calls for "calm" more hollow sounding.

Two things McCulloch said last night stayed with me through the morning. They were his insinuations that both the Brown family and Eric Holder's Justice Department were complicit in the whitewash.

The first was easily dispelled by the family's own denunciation of the process. As for Holder and the J.D., it's not so clear.

Holder insists the federal probe of the policeman is ongoing and independent of St. Louis prosecutors. But since his initial trip to Ferguson, which was little more than an administration photo op, we have heard nothing about the department's investigation.

Holder visits Ferguson
Here's what McCulloch said:
As Attorney General Holder and I both pledged our separate investigations follow that trail of facts with no preconceived notion of where that journey would take us. Our only goal was that our investigation would be thorough and complete to give the grand jury, the department of justice and ultimately the public all available evidence to make an informed decision.
 I detail this for two reasons. First, so that everyone will know that, as promised by me and Attorney General Holder, there was a full investigation and presentation of all evidence and appropriate instruction of the law to the jury, to the grand jury.
According to McCulloch,  Holder was involved directly in gathering and presenting "evidence" (of what?) to the sham grand jury, where Michael Brown and family obviously had no advocate.

So, since neither Holder nor anyone from the Justice Dept. has responded to or rebutted McCulloch's claims, we're left with the obvious questions:  To what degree, if any, were the U.S. Justice Dept. and Attorney General Holder complicit with this travesty of justice? And what are they going to do now, if anything, to intervene and help bring at least a semblance of justice to the Brown family and the Ferguson community?

Monday, November 24, 2014


Parents tell IL State Board to suspend implementation of the PARCC test for the 2014-2015 school year.
Wendy Katten, Raise Your Hand Coalition
 “Illinois is not ready for the PARCC and the PARCC is not ready for Illinois.” -- Early & Often
Jawanza Malone, of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
“When they look at us and say, ‘We don’t need an elected school board because that just puts politics in education’ — what do they think is there now? … You have one person controlling the lives of millions.” -- S-T,  Coalition pushing advisory vote for elected CPS board
Chuy Garcia
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia
 "Instead of closing that many schools, you should have looked at other options. I’m not saying none of those schools should have been closed. But that was too many. It was too drastic. And you obviously didn’t heed the advice of many parents and students who said, `Please don’t do this to us. This will snuff the life out of many neighborhoods.’"  -- S-T, Garcia Blasts Emanuel
Miguel del Valle
 It’s a big job just getting him [Chuy Garcia] on the ballot but I’m hoping some labor groups get behind him, that teachers and others will get behind him. The dynamics are always different. Their personalities are different. Karen had a different kind of base than Chuy does. How those two meld has yet to be determined. -- Catalyst interview

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rahm's campaign army of losers, low-lifes and crooks

Rahm Emanuel has enlisted an army of machine cronies, low-lifes, losers and thugs to help run his re-election campaign. This political rogues gallery includes state Democratic machine boss Mike Madigan, County party boss Joe Berrios and Patrick J. Ward, a former Metra employee at the center of the agency’s patronage scandal last year.

The Sun-Times reports that Madigan political workers who gathered signatures for Emanuel include:

◆ Ward, a key figure in the scandal that led to Alex Clifford getting a $718,000 severance package and leaving his post as Metra’s chief executive. Clifford accused Metra board members of forcing him out after he rebuffed Madigan about giving Ward a raise and refused to hire another Madigan loyalist. Ward left Metra and got a state job as a labor administrator after Madigan recommended him to Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. Ward is paid $69,996 a year. As a retired city of Chicago employee, he also gets a $57,591-a-year city pension.

Hugo Chavez (no, not that one) and William E. Nambo, who were hired as “staff assistants” for the Illinois Department of Transportation under Quinn — a job class the state’s executive inspector general determined was designed to skirt anti-patronage hiring rules. Chavez resigned in May after a reprimand for an “unauthorized” absence from work in 2012 and for “insubordination” for bringing his dog to work last year against his boss’ orders, records show. Nambo gave $600 to Madigan’s ward organization four months after being hired at IDOT in April 2011. He now works in Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office.

August A. Olivo, who has given $8,100 to the speaker’s ward organization and is the younger brother of former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo. August Olivo, 52, is retired from the Cook County Highway Department and gets a pension of $81,204 a year. Since 2011, he’s been working for the CTA, where he makes $80,194 a year.

But there's a couple of problems with Rahm's crew (aside from whatever STDs the mayor might catch from them). First and foremost, they are losers. Remember, Joe Berrios couldn't even turn out his own precinct to support daughter Toni in her failed run against Will Guzzardi for state rep.  Toni also had the support of Madigan's machine army -- such as it is.

Remember also, that this was the same gaggle of cronies who mostly backed Gery Chico is the 2011 mayor's race. The most powerful ward organizations from the South Side — including Madigan’s — stayed out of the 2011 race or backed Chico.

Finally, taking a cue from major league sports -- you don't want to build a team where most of your members are likely to be in prison or on their way before season's end.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

'Don't worry. I'll talk to the mayor' -- Ka ching!

Lucas and Mayor 1%
David Sirota at IBT continues with his great exposures of the "dark side" of Chicago politics. Is there any other? Nothing captures it better than Melody Hobson telling billionaire husband George Lucas, "Don't worry, I'll talk to the mayor. I'm sure he'll love it," referring to the plan to give Lucas publicly owned lakefront land. for his wacky blob of a Star Wars museum. Of course there was nothing to worry about. Lucas and Hobson had just deposited another $50K into Rahm's campaign bank account.

Keep 'em coming David.

Huffington Post reports that progressive City Councilmen Bob Fioretti, John Arena, Scott Waguespack  are calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct a full investigation of Rahm's accepting illegal campaign contributions from financial firms that manage the city’s pension funds.
Says Dick Simpson, a political science professor for the University of Illinois at Chicago, the allegations against the well-funded incumbent have the potential to cast a longer shadow over his campaign.
Simpson told The Huffington Post that Emanuel's fortunes may shift if his opponents decide to make the campaign cash allegations a bigger issue. First, however, Emanuel's opponents have to make the problem crystal clear to voters.
At last night's Chicago school board meeting...
Much of the heat from the audience was directed at Vitale, who previously served as CPS' chief administrative officer from 2003 to 2008. Vitale is also the former president and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade and the former vice chairman and director of Bank One Corp.
"Responsibility for pursuing such a risking financial course rests squarely on David Vitale," reads the city council resolution calling for hearings into CPS' borrowing practices.
Speaker after speaker, meanwhile, noted that the CTU and activists have been sounding the alarm on these deals for the past three years. -- Progress Illinois

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


This poll, commissioned by Rahm's own super-dooper PAC, Chicago Forward, which raises about $1million/day and sub-contracted to the Global Strategy Group (impressive name for a bunch of national Democratic Party hacks), still shows Rahm heading towards a runoff. Chicago Forward is headed up by former Obama bundler, Joe Gutman from Grosvenor's Capital Management.

While S-T's Fran Spielman puts the best possible face on Rahm's poll numbers, in fact they aren't that much different from last week's CTU poll which showed the incumbent mayor running at about 36%. Rahm's own super-PAC poll has him at 40% with a plus or minus 4% margin of error.

Neither poll tells us all that much, since Rahm has only begun shelling out some of the millions in his over-stuffed campaign war chest for TV ads and latecomer Chuy Garcia's campaign has barely gotten off the ground. He's already leading Rahm among potential Latino voters and close among African-Americans.

All this is encouraging news for Garcia/Fioretti since all polls show them both as viable opponents, especially if they can somehow combine forces in a runoff.

Spielman writes:
Emanuel has alienated African-American voters who helped put him in office by instigating Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years, closing 50 public schools, opening new charter schools and unveiling plans to build new schools and school additions, with the educational largesse heavily concentrated on the North Side.
 Neither candidate, nor any of us supporters and organizers, can afford to sit back and hope that Rahm stumbles or is beaten solely on his negative numbers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Try not to step in it. Rahm's first big ad campaign buy.

First, a SmallTalk Salute to the young guy who just rang my doorbell with a petition for an elected school board in his hand. I mean it's got to be 20 below out there with the wind chill. Signed it gladly and thanked him.

Just when you thought it was safe to turn the TV on again... S-T reports that Rahm is tapping into his $9M war chest for his first big ad campaign buy. Roll up your pant legs.
According to a new order, the campaign, working through AKPD Media, Chicago is buying a flight to run Wednesday through Nov. 23 throughout Chicago markets and through various cable networks. Longtime Democratic strategist David Axelrod founded AKPD.
Maybe one of the mayor's new T.V. ads can answer Ben Joravsky's question: Why did Mayor Emanuel stonewall the Tribune?
According to the Trib, the architect of the borrowing plan was David Vitale, former CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade, who went to work as the chief administrative officer for CPS in 2003, back in the go-go days of Mayor Daley's reign.
Mayor Emanuel was obviously so impressed with Vitale's money-managing acumen that he gave him a promotion, naming Vitale president of the school board.
Now Vitale is the guy who sits in his leather swivel chair at board meetings and tells parents—outraged over cuts and closings—that they don't understand the intricate nuances of running a big and complicated public school system.
Or how about this one by the Ward Room's Mark Anderson?
Isn’t it ironic that when it comes to pensions, two of the state’s most powerful politicians—Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner—are claiming to be reformers even as they continue to rake in campaign contributions from the very firms currently making millions by managing the public’s money in the first place? No? Well, I didn't think so either.
Me neither.

But I would like to see the Mayor in one of his ads being asked by a constituent, why he won't do anything to undo Vitale's disastrous "rate swap" which is costing the schools $100M in payments to Rahm's banker friends? The ad could have Rahm answering (as he did): “There’s a thing called a contract.”

An ad like that would bring great echoes of laughter from all the viewers who have watched him piss all over labor contracts and pension agreements.

We probably won't see that one either.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We have a shot

Brother Fred's version of the latest poll which shows Rahm to be very beatable. Fred says numbers don't add up to 100% because, "this is Chicago."

As I've been saying all along, despite his over-sized campaign war chest, Rahm Emanuel is beatable.

We knew that when CTU Prez Karen Lewis and Ald. Bob Fioretti were the presumed opposition candidates. We know it now that Jesus "Chuy" Garcia has stepped in and replaced ailing Karen in the race. The latest CTU poll says Mayor 1% will be hard-pressed to avoid a run-off election after the February primary. And in a head-to-head contest, Cook County Commissioner Garcia could be in striking distance of a victory. 

The telephone survey conducted by Lake Research Partners of 621 likely Chicago voters found that on a three-way ballot including Emanuel, Garcia and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), Emanuel would take 33 percent of the vote, Garcia 18 and Fioretti 13. In a head-to-head between Garcia and Emanuel, the difference narrowed to five points with Emanuel at 36 percent and Garcia at 31. 
Amara Enyia and William Kelly have also announced their candidacies for mayor. A vote total of 50 percent plus one is needed to avoid a run-off election. A large percentage of those surveyed -- 30 percent -- remained undecided.  
What's most interesting about those numbers is that Garcia's campaign hasn't even gotten off the ground yet and he is already within 5% of Rahm in a potential head-to-head runoff. And at least in my mind, Rahm is already at or near his peak while the others can go nowhere but up. 

Of course polls are one thing. Raising money, developing an aggressive media strategy and putting troops out in the field is something else. A lot of time has been lost and Rahm has gotten virtually a free pass with only Fioretti (and his Progressive Caucus) among the candidates, speaking out lately and loudly on issues like:
  •  The mayor being on the receiving end of campaign donations from financial firms managing city pension funds
  • Chicago Public Schools borrowing practices, specifically the series of deals engineered by Rahm's financial go-to guy, Board Pres. David Vitale, that ended up costing taxpayers as much $100 million more than more traditional borrowing methods.
  • Demanding the refund the $7.7 million in fines (hidden regressive tax) generated by red-light cameras after the timing of yellow lights was reduced from 3 seconds to 2.9 seconds. (Crap, I think they may have nailed me last night, driving down Sacramento). 

"Chuy" Campuzano
Speaking of Chuys...Thanks to my man "Chuy" Compuzano for having Brother Fred and me on his live podcast today. Chuy is a fierce Rahm opponent and a dynamic community organizer, especially within the city's disability community. The three of us make a pretty good team. I'm sure listeners agree. Let's do it again. 

Shame on Rahm, with single-digit poll numbers in the black community, for claiming credit for the new plaque in honor of the late Mayor Harold Washington that will hang in the Harold Washington Library. Pure political opportunism for the current leader of the same machine that fought Harold and now fights all that Harold stood for. 


Lily Eskelsen Garcia
NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen Garcia
”For students in all types of schools—traditional, charter or magnet—the key is having a sound structure for oversight and accountability, while providing educators with autonomy to create great learning environments for their students.” -- Education Votes
Nicholas Kristof
Can’t we at least acknowledge that in the case of race, William Faulkner was right: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -- N.Y. Times
Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the SEC
"The perception of Wall Street money going to state and city officials potentially undermines the faith of citizens and investors. Political contributions by any entities that do business with pension funds tends to destroy the confidence that is so fundamental to these markets....Contributions from firms to chief executives of states and cities violates the spirit of the law and it just looks awful...Maybe that’s how business is done in the municipal world, but it certainly smells.” -- Crain's
David Sirota
 The SEC rule prohibits firms from earning management fees from pensions if those firms' executives make political donations to public officials overseeing those pension systems. Emanuel and his administration appoint trustees to the boards of the Chicago city pension systems. -- IBT

Friday, November 14, 2014

Right-wing think-tanker Hess lectures Newark "rabble-rousers" on civility

Community "rabble-rousers" protest Newark One in Feb. 2014.
More lectures on civility from right-wing think-tanker Rick Hess directed towards Newark parents and community activists [Hess calls them "rabble-rousers". No really, he does.] who traveled to D.C. to protest Supt. Cami Anderson's speech at AEI. Once Anderson and the think-tankers caught wind that the angry community members were planning to make their voices heard, they quickly flew the coop and re-staged Anderson's performance in a room without an audience. It seems she can't go anywhere these days without be dogged by angry Newark residents.

Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, is the architect of  “One Newark”, a corporate-style reform plan to relocate neighborhood schools, convert others to privately-run  charter schools and re-engineer still more traditional public schools by replacing all their principals and firing hundreds of teachers in violation of the contract. It's a plan that devastates already resourced-starved Newark neighborhoods.

The Washington Post reports:
The plan for the 35,000-student school system has been the target of lawsuits, a federal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education and student boycotts. It was a central factor in last spring’s mayoral race, which led to high school principal Ras Baraka winning office in large part because of his opposition to One Newark. Baraka wrote to President Obama last month and asked him to intervene on behalf of the community.
"I’m opposed to all of it,” Baraka said by phone Thursday. “She has forced this down people’s throats, and the people don’t want it. We need a new superintendent.”
Tensions have grown so much in Newark that Anderson no longer attends meetings of the locally elected school advisory board, where her opponents regularly railed against her, hurling invectives.
Anderson & Christie
But to the why-can't-we-all-just-get-along-minded Hess, African-American and Latino families demonstrating peacefully but loudly to save their schools is equivalent to "vitriolic and even threatening tactics." To Hess, it's all about civil debate, so long as he controls the speakers and the agenda. To show how fair minded he is, he boasts:
 Over the years, I've hosted "reformers" including the likes of Arne Duncan, Rod Paige, Joel Klein, Kaya Henderson, Michelle Rhee, John Deasy, Jim Shelton, John White, Deb Gist, Howard Fuller, and Campbell Brown. I've hosted those who come at things very differently, such as Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch, Dennis van Roekel, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Debbie Meier, Carol Burris, Kevin Welner, and Larry Cuban.
He writes:
But it's the hypocrisy that bothers me the most. A group that claims it is disenfranchised and silenced, and wants only to be heard, adopts tactics that stifle debate.
"Claims it is disenfranchised and silenced"? Did Hess really say that?

Well, let's put it this way. They may still be disenfranchised, but they weren't silenced for long at AEI. Maybe he should have included some of them among his approved list of "reformers".

A real policy debate would have taken place BEFORE the schools were closed and privatized, not after the fact. Parents and community were excluded from the debate then and they were excluded (not invited) to the debate by AEI. Instead they made their voices heard the best way they could. They were heard again last May, in the city's mayoral election when they elected Mayor Baraka, a militant opponent of Anderson's and of "One Newark". And yet the program remains.

Hess should know that people still have the right to protest against oppressive government policies, while those bureaucrats enforcing those policies still have the right to run and hide from the community.

It's a free country.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Charter school churn leaves students and families in turmoil

"A lot of people in the school choice movement like the idea of accountability, but when accountability hits home, it's really hard to maintain your focus on results," said Brandon S. Brown, the director of charter schools for the Indianapolis mayor's office. "It's the authorizer's responsibility to hold an absolute bar for performance, which means that, sometimes, low-performing schools will not continue to operate." -- EdWeek
Privately-run charter school networks try and operate on a corporate business model, even though they are supposedly public entities, supported with public funds and accountable to public oversight. While their original charge was one of collaborating with their public school cousins to drive innovation and school improvement, their business model is one that puts competition ahead of collaboration and market measures ahead of public good.

In order to attract both public and private investment, charter operators need to manipulate competitive market measures, such as test scores and other comparative indicators of school success to show that they are supposedly outperforming, not only public schools, but competing charter chains as well. This high-stakes competitive drive has often led to a lack of transparencytest cheating as well as cooking the books and other forms of financial mismanagement.

Such market competition requires a continuous process of weeding out "low performers" in order to boost average measurable outcomes, gathered in various research studies and performed by willing academic or private research organizations. In the process, overseen by so-called authorizers,  thousands of children's and families' lives are disrupted as schools are closed and teachers fired (without due process) and new ones open. These children and families are often the ones most in need of stability. Teachers and students (overwhelmingly poor and students of color) become the flotsam and jetsam of charter school failure.

In 2011, conservative pro-charter Center for Education Reform reported: " Of the approximately 6,700 charter schools that have ever opened across the United States, 1,036 have closed since 1992."

It's a system that operates much like giant retailers Wal Mart, Target and Starbucks, which turn over their entire work force on average, nearly every six months. 

Edweek reports that in cities like Indianapolis, "failing charters closing abruptly, blindsiding parents and sending them scrambling to find new schools" has become a major problem.
The charter sector has long stood by the premise that if the independently run public schools fail to perform, they are shut down—an idea often referred to as the "charter bargain." But as the movement matures, it increasingly faces the messy reality of closing schools—a situation that could become more common.
In Ohio, according to the report, when the time between the announcement of a charter closing and the actual shutdown stretches the full academic year, it is referred to as a "zombie year." Teachers and administrators learn as early as September that their school—as well as their jobs—will cease to exist come May or June. That situation is generally a product of Ohio's closure law, which mandates the automatic shutdown of the state's poorest-performing charter schools, as well as the timing for when student-assessment data gets released.

The most telling piece in the charter school-closing puzzle is, that despite all the intentional disruption and churn, the great majority of privately-run charters fail to out-perform traditional public schools on every important measure.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Taking back Chicago

I'm still high off of the energy and unity shown at yesterday's downtown Take Back Chicago rally. School, labor and community activists packed the Chicago Temple and then poured out into the streets in a demonstration of strength. Now the coalition has to find a way to translate its militancy into a successful election strategy. With Rahm's ratings plummeting, there may never be a better time, not only to take back City Hall, but to build up and expand the Progressive Caucus in the city council.

Kari Lydersen at In These Times offers us some background on two of the groups, Grassroots Illinois Action and Reclaim Chicago, working to change the city’s political course by targeting the 50-member City Council, trying to elect more progressive candidates willing to challenge the mayor while also building a durable political grassroots movement.

On November 15, Reclaim Chicago will announce its endorsements in 10 to 15 aldermanic races. Group leaders have been interviewing candidates and deciding endorsements based on a platform that includes promoting a living wage, high-quality public schools, criminal justice reform and infrastructure spending; and opposing privatization, cuts to pensions and layoffs of public workers.

On thing that bothers me about this kind of endorsement process is that this same coalition endorsed phony progressive Christian Mitchell for state rep in the March primaries. Teacher pension robber Mitchell, with big corporate, anti-union money behind him, narrowly defeated real-deal Jay Travis. If the group is really about fighting pension cuts, we don't need any more endorsements like those.

And you know what? Mitchell is still at it. Check out Brother Fred's post today.

Tuesday's Take Back Chicago Rally
I ran into Ald. Fioretti at yesterday's rally. Today he released this statement on the mayor's and David Vitale's toxic rate swaps, which have cost the schools $100 million plus.
CPS gambled our children's future with taxpayer dollars and lost big, and Chicagoans are paying for it. The City Council needs to hold immediate hearings into the risky investment strategies CPS uses and get to the bottom of why the mayor and his appointed school board are leaving Chicago taxpayers on the hook for these shady deals.
Gambling with our children's future is not the same as investing in it. This is another in a long line of examples of the administration prioritizing private interests over the public good. The people of Chicago will not stand to have their children used as investment opportunities so bankers and billionaires can profit.
The CTU's Jackson Potter writes in Tribune:
Two years ago Chicago Public Schools officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel claimed they had to close more than 100 schools to save money. It turns out that the costs of the closings, along with the installation of countless Safe Passage routes to protect children moved to new schools, have far outstripped predictions. In addition, receiving schools like Chopin and Courtenay have seen their scores plummet and culture and climate deteriorate in the aftermath of the closings.
Potter points out that a union-led coalition raised red flags at the time, not only about the phony cost-saving estimates on school closings, but on toxic rate swaps as well. 

Potter says there's still time for Rahm to make it right.
Emanuel and his appointed school board have a tremendous opportunity to claw back nearly $1 billion for a revenue-starved city and school system from the banks that profited unfairly.
As for me, I'm doubtful. Replacing Rahm and his school-board cronies with a new mayor and elected school board remains a prerequisite to straightening out the mess at CPS.

Mihalopoulos' Poop Scoop
This post is getting kind of long, but I can't close without saying something about my least-favorite Sun-Times political writer, Dan Mihalopoulos. You remember, I tabbed him as a LAR (Lazy Ass Reporter) when he "broke" the bullshit story of the year, about Karen Lewis' supposed vast real estate empire..

Today, he's got an even bigger scoop (no pun...) about Fioretti's former law firm making campaign donations to both Democrats and Republicans a few years ago. What law firm in this city doesn't? And why not? I would still take former Gov. Ryan, who ended the death penalty in IL, over any Democratic machine pol.

If his point was that Fioretti called out Rahm for being a Republican, it's a dull point. Fioretti was right on. No Republican could come close to Rahm when it comes to school closings, tax breaks for the rich or privatizing anything in this city that bears the name public. This isn't about giving money to Republican or Democratic campaigns. In this town that simply amounts to rendering unto Caesar.

And this from a guy who writes for a rag that sold its soul and the paper's credibility by doing Rauner's bidding, throwing his colleague, ace reporter David McKinney under the bus and then endorsing Republican Rauner over Quinn. As far as I can tell, Mihalpoulos had barely a Tweet about that. He might have had a great scoop there. Maybe a Pulitzer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


As the nation prepares to commemorate Veterans Day, President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq. The plan will more than double the current U.S. force in Iraq and will reportedly cost $5.6 billion. That's enough to operate the Chicago Public School system, including the hiring back of all laid-off teachers and custodial staff.

Among the hidden costs
After all the parades and football game cheers have ended, Iraqi and Afghan war vets are still dying from suicide upon their return home at a much higher rate -- more than 22 a day -- then on the battle field.

More than half of the 2.6 million veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars struggle with physical and mental health problems stemming from their service,

This is no longer "Bush's war". It's Obama's. What is he thinking? The real cost will be paid in human lives in a war that's has no end, no victory, only victims -- including vets. They are returning home to communities with few well-paying jobs, deteriorating schools, and inadequate health care for them and their families.

Matthew Hoh, is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. He is a former Marine and State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over U.S. policy in September 2009. Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, he served in Iraq.

He tells Democracy Now's Amy Goodman:
 I think, in the United States, scratching their head and wondering: What are we doing? What does the United States government really think it’s going to accomplish by putting more American troops into the middle of the Iraqi civil war and into the middle of the Syrian civil war, particularly coming off of 13 years of war in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, in Somalia, in Yemen, etc.? So, my response, Amy, is more or less the same as most people’s, of a—very concerned and, you know, lack of a better phrase, this is crazy.
Support the troops. Bring 'em home. Provide counseling, health care, school and job opportunities at a living wage.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Strawberry Mansion High in North Philadelphia is one of 37 schools the school had slated for closing. 
Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite 
"Alarming. "This diagram suggests that children who are most in need of resources are receiving the fewest amount of resources." -- Philly Public Schools Notebook
Cassie Creswell, More Than A Score board member
“The state must administer the test but that doesn’t mean the kid has to take it. On a legal basis, the parent should have the right to refuse for the kids.” -- Sun-Times
Rev. Barber
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber
"When you look at Moral Monday and our movement, you see North Carolina and America in all of its beauty." --  NC Civil Rights Leader Questioned About Being Featured in Campaign Attack Ads

Danny Glover
 “Harry was a kind of bridge between the blacklist and the actors who were beginning to speak out.” -- Harry Belafonte Receives Humanitarian Oscar
Richard Berman, right-wing media guru
“I get up every morning and I try to figure out how to screw with the labor unions — that’s my offense,” Mr. Berman said in his speech to the Western Energy Alliance. “I am just trying to figure out how I am going to reduce their brand.” -- N.Y. Times
NYT Editorial
The economy is not working for those who rely on paychecks to make a living, which is to say, almost everyone. Steady gains in the October jobs report, while welcome, do not change that basic fact. -- Job Growth, But No Raises

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Will Rauner pull the plug?

This from today's Trib --
When the freshly elected Rauner assumes the Illinois governorship in January, he will gain control of the education bureaucracy of a state that, like most others in the nation, has set Common Core as a benchmark to gauge student achievement.
If Rauner tries to pull the plug, as he appeared to suggest, he could anger education reformers who think the program is a solid way to improve education. If he doesn't, he risks the wrath of a conservative political base that expected him to do otherwise.
And that's the least of his problems

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Name of the Game

Yes, I'm being facetious, but stay with me for a minute anyway..

The IL gov's race was basically bought by billionaire Bruce Rauner at $30.50/vote. Pension-buster Quinn lost to Rauner by 170,000 votes but spent only $17.31/vote. Does this mean that if the IEA and other unions had diverted the half-million or so they gave to Republican Kirk Dillard in the primary and to the Libertarian (Whatshisname?) to Quinn/Vallas, that extra million or so have bought another 170,000 votes?

Probably not, but it may be worth a rethink of IL union campaign strategy. Instead of pissing good money away after bad, how about some real real strategic support to progressive candidates, where a few mil could really make a difference? Like anti-Rahm candidates, Chuy Garcia and Bob Fioretti, as we head towards February?

As for SEIU Local 73, I hope Boardman's $25,000 check to Rahm's bloated campaign war chest, bounces higher than the interest rate on my daughter's student loans. Slavish union 'crats have donated more than $1 million to Emanuel since last year.

Union money spent smartly did help win an important victory in California, where pro-public school Tom Torlakson beat heavily-bankrolled Marshall Tuck -- the corporate suck -- for state school supe and in Pennsylvania where a strong parent-led coalition was able to knock out reactionary Gov. Corbett

It hurts to even mention WFP's endorsement of Gov. Cuomo in N.Y. who now swears that he will destroy the "public education monopoly". 

It's still worth remembering that the real power behind school privatization and the erosion of public space and decision making, can't be taken out in elections. They don't run for public office. As Caroline Howard at Forbes points out:
 Mark Zuckerberg has no term limit; no one can dethrone Gates or dismiss Bill Clinton.
Speaking of which...

Ald. Fioretti on the Lucas Museum:
"It looks like a palace for Jabba the Hutt. I was wondering what planet we are on." 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dems didn't put out for Quinn/Vallas

No car today. I had to cab it home from basketball practice this morning. Yes, I know I said I retired from coaching last year. I lied. But anyway, the cabbie Jesus, who moved here from Mexico a few years ago, is also the janitor at a CPS high school. Plus he works in a restaurant downtown at night. He tells me that his CPS boss, Aramark has fired lots of his co-workers, leaving the school with three custodians. He says, there's no way they can keep the whole school clean with only three people.

He shared some stories about his home town. I talked privatization and asked him if he knew about his namesake running for mayor. He didn't. But he does now.

 Rahm and Rauner outside the Paradise Valley Grill near Livingston, Montana
Please don't blame progressives, African-Americans, teachers, or my brother Fred (he was in Mexico) for the Quinn/Vallas defeat. They earned  it on their own because they couldn't excite their own base.

Never, at least in my memory, has there been a worse pair of candidates who pissed away more than $30 million, trying to match billionaire Rauner's negative ad for negative ad instead of spending enough time and resources on voter turn out in Chicago's south and west-side wards.

Quinn sent his own aide in a chicken suit to stand outside Rauner appearances, while Rauner swiped back by campaigning beside actual chickens. And that was the high water mark of the campaign. Quinn certainly had nothing to offer black and Latino voters or union rank-and-filers besides chicken poop.

I would suggest it was the party's support for pension grabbing (Quinn) and union-busting privatization (Vallas) that kept lots of folks home on election day. They were also done in by a total abandonment of the campaign by Rahm Emanuel's own ward organization machine and lost the downstate Democratic counties of St. Clair & Jackson.

By now everyone knows that the  Rahm/Madigan gang hates Quinn and Vallas and feels much more comfortable playing let's make a deal with Rauner running the state. Greg Hinz at Crain's writes:
What counts now is that the Big Dance has begun, in which winner Mr. Rauner and General Assembly leaders Michael Madigan and John Cullerton take each other's measure.
While the turnout was low, there were enough registered Democrat voters statewide to elect Quinn/Vallas -- if they wanted to. For example, Sen. Dick Durbin was elected easily over his Republican opponent, and got over 100,000 more votes statewide than did Bruce Rauner. But the same voters who punched Durbin's ticket didn't vote Quinn/Vallas. Why not? Isn't it obvious that IL Dems didn't really put out for them?

It's true, Durbin wasn't running against Rauner but his clone, the Oberweis dairy magnate. But still.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Why the cavalry didn't come to save Quinn/Vallas

If Gov. Quinn is still waiting for cavalry from inner-city Chicago to arrive and pull out the election for him, he's going to be waiting a long, long time. From here it looks like there was little in the Quinn/Vallas campaign that excited either the black community, young voters, teachers or much of the union rank-and-file even while running against the worst person in the world. The Rauner scare just wasn't enough.

That's understandable given Quinn's self-description of "born for pension reform" and Vallas' practically single-handed elimination of New Orleans' public schools. The barrage of negative T.V. ads by both sides had little popular appeal and Quinn/Vallas ads spoke not a word of hope or offered anything in the way of programs or policies for black or Latino neighborhoods or for the state's poor and working people.

From an early look at things, most either held their noses and voted after standing in long lines in poorly-run polling places or stayed home. It's also pretty clear that Gov.-elect Rauner's wine-drinking pal and erstwhile Quinn supporter, Rahm Emanuel had little if any interest in gearing up the machine for this one and that many aldermen and precinct captains, with a few exceptions, sat this one out.

Despite the obscene amount of money (over $100 Million) spent by both candidates on this election, turnout in Chicago was down as much as 10% from four years ago. Rauner ended up spending about $30.50/vote while Quinn spent $17.31. Not exactly a grass-roots, populist campaign by either side.



In predominantly African-American wards, turnout was not only was down but the GOP margin was up. For instance, Rauner got 10% of the vote in Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle's 4th Ward. The final numbers show that only 36.4% of registered voters in Chicago hit the polls on Tuesday. Chicago's 15th Ward has the lowest turnout at 22.2%. Turnout was also way down in the 3rd, 6th, and 8th wards. And all of that despite repeated trips to Chicago to stump for Quinn/Vallas by Pres. Obama, Joe Biden, and Michelle.
ONE OF THE BIGGEST questions of the night: How did Gov. Pat Quinn drop nearly 100,000 votes Tuesday night in the city and suburban Cook compared to 2010 numbers? -- Natasha Korecki

Bottom line is Quinn/Vallas lost by about 5% of the vote. We can only wonder how badly an authentic progressive Democrat (not just two pension-busting white guys) might have spanked Rauner and left his overpriced campaign and the IL Republican Party buried neath the neighborhoods, schools and union halls of Chicago.

More on the battle ahead coming up as Rauner tries to reach an accommodation with Boss Madigan, who still owns a veto-proof majority in the legislature and as progressives try and run a different kind of campaign to unseat Rahm in February.

As S-T columnist Mark Brown put it: "If he chooses to make the rights of working people his first target, though, he can expect a long four years."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Luis, Luis -- Rahm's got to go

Rep. Gutierrez is backing his pal, Rahm, for mayor. 

Rep. Luis Gutierrez has pulled another flip-flop, endorsing Rahm Emanuel after first attacking him as an enemy of the unions. No one should be surprised.

In his book, Overhaul, Obama's former "car czar" Steven Rattner offers an insider's account of the Obama administration's rescue of the auto industry. Rattner depicts then White House Chief of Staff Emanuel as a bully who disparaged unions and who could also be spectacularly blunt, once telling Rattner during a meeting about GM and Chrysler's massive problems and potential bankruptcies:
"Why even save GM?" When Rattner adviser Ron Bloom noted that tens of thousands of autoworker jobs were at stake, Emanuel huffed, "Fuck the UAW," referring to the United Auto Workers union.
Such Rahm outbursts were common in those days. Remember when he called progressives “fucking retarded” for contemplating primary challenges against conservative Democrats?

Now fast forward to 2010. Rahm has left the White House and returned to take over the Democratic Machine in Chicago and run for mayor. At the time, Rep. Luis Gutierrez was also contemplating a run. Luis went ballistic when he heard that then AFSCME Pres. Gerry McEntee had come out and endorsed Rahm.
 "I'm shocked that Gerry McEntee would endorse Rahm Emanuel, considering what Rahm has done to working people," Gutierrez told me. "This is the same Rahm Emanuel who said 'Fuck the UAW!'" Gutierrez characterized McEntee's endorsement of Emanuel as "a disgrace to the labor movement. ... What about all my years paying dues as an AFSCME member or all those year walking picket lines as Congressman? I guess that counts for nothing," Gutierrez continued.
Luis' outrage was understandable. Many of us felt the same anger a few months ago when we learned that SEIU Local 73 Pres. Christine Boardman had donated thousands to Rahm's over-stuffed campaign war chest. Didn't she know what Rahm had done to working people?

Gutierrez has been chastising Rahm for sabotaging immigration reform. Emanuel once infamously called immigration reform "the third rail of American politics." Gutierrez charged that  Emanuel--when he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee--had convinced House Democrats in close races in 2006 to support legislation that would have actually given law enforcement agents incentive to turn undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities.

So what are we to make of Gutierrez' own endorsement or Rahm last week over his former progressive ally, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

It boggles the mind how opportunist politicians can turn on a dime. But none of us should have been surprised by Luis' endorsement of Rahm. Remember, he had backed machine candidate Toni Berrios against progressive Will Guzzardi in the 39th Dist. race. Luis claimed then, that anyone who opposed the daughter of machine boss Joe Berrios was trying to "silence Latino voices."

Luis, Luis...