Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SpEd cuts delayed? If you don't hit it, it won't fall

At yesterday's board meeting... Parent Wendy Katten of Raise you hand says, "My son's school lost four positions, they have no change in their enrollment there. You are going to face lawsuits."

At least one Board member (Jesse Ruiz?) apparently agrees with Wendy. He mutters into a hot mic -- "Yes we will." Look for him to be called on the carpet today by Rahm's people who will remind him to "speak when we tell you to speak."

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) appeared on the parents’ behalf to offer a mild threat in language he thought the board could appreciate.
“These children need more assistance, not less,” he said, adding that “the lawsuits that will rain down” on the board by special ed parents will cost more than the cuts are projected to save.
Slick CEO Claypool is feeling the heat and moves to cover his ass. Now he's saying that CPS says it will delay the cuts until it "reevaluates every school's needs". A small victory. Shows that if you hit it hard enough, it will fall.

Cielo Muñoz, a special education teacher at Penn Elementary, described how the school security guard is now pitching in to change diapers. “Students are not getting the services they need,” she said after the board meeting. “I have three students with wheelchairs,” Munoz tells the Sun-Times. “They need diaper changes. Some of them are not verbal.”

"These teachers are going to be taken, but these students will still be there without the service," says Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary. LaRaviere says if the cuts go through, he will lose four Special Ed positions.
Others took their concerns to the school board today, including Special Ed teacher Sarah Chambers"My school lost a position over the summer now we are not able to cover our students' legally-required minutes," Chambers says.
Winston jukes stats. Ignores CPS's own report on SpEd needs.
CPS is juking the stats again...In justifying new cuts to special education, the head of the CPS Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, Markay Winston, tells the Board that there are 3,000 fewer special needs kids than there were a year ago.

But Melissa Sanchez at Catalyst writes:
Winston ignored one critical fact. According to CPS's own reports, district staff typically identify, during the course of a year, about 3,000 new students who need special services. That means the number of so-called “diverse learners” typically rises by about 3,000 by the end of the school year.
“They trot out numbers like this to give the sense that the district is losing students, and having a decline in the need for services … when their own reports shows that special education enrollment jumps up about 6 percent on average during the school year,” says Pavlyn Jankov, a researcher at the Chicago Teachers Union. “It’s completely part of their framing to justify cuts, but this is just a blatant lie.”
This is part of a pattern. Rahm's crew continues to use the whitenizing of Chicago and the forced outward migration of black families as a rational for cutting services to schools and communities.

If you are parent of a special needs student, Claypool says to contact CPS if you don't think your child is getting his or her services.

Don't worry, Forrest. We will.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown who is hot on the case, adds: "Another option would be to contact me."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is Rahm looking for a war on special ed?

As the grandparent of a CPS student with special needs, my message to the mayor is -- if it's a battle you want, it's a battle you'll get.

Our autocrat at City Hall appears bent on dismembering special education in Chicago by a thousand cuts. SpEd took its first major deep cut over the summer eliminating 500 positions at CPS. More cuts announced late Friday mean approximately 160 schools would lose special education teachers, while 184 would lose aides.

Rahm has put his bureaucrats and principals on radio silence regarding the latest cuts, says DNAInfo's Heather Cherone. 
CPS officials declined to answer repeated inquires from DNAinfo Chicago reporters Monday about the formula — apparently based on enrollment figures also released Friday evening — used to make those cuts, and ordered principals not to speak with reporters trying to figure out what the cuts would mean for special education students in neighborhoods throughout Chicago.
Originally, principals were given to the end of the day Monday to appeal the cuts, which sent parents scrambling on social media to figure out if their children's schools would have enough staff to meet the requirements of each student's specialized education plan.
The latest round of cuts, coming weeks after the start of the school year, further destabilize the schools (could it get any worse?), expand class size, and disrupt the lives of the system's neediest students and families -- the ones who need stability the most. Principals are outraged. But will more than a courageous few speak out? Doubtful.

News of the cuts "exploded across social media", says Cherone, with Wendy Katten, the co-founder of parent-advocacy group Raise Your Hand, leading the charge on Facebook. Katten is worried that only those schools where parents are able/willing to sue will get some of these positions back.

Nathan Pietrini, principal of Hawthorne Scholastic Academy in Lakeview tells WBEZ:
“No one told principals this was happening. All the sudden, I had five special ed teachers. Now, I’ve got three.”
Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere (my choice for next mayor of Chicago), who was chastised last month for criticizing the mayor and CPS, writes:
“Adjustments” is CPS’ latest euphemism for cuts to student services. If they keep it up, they’re going to “adjust” students out of their education entirely. CEO Forrest Claypool often repeats a talking point that the cuts CPS will “have to make” are “unconscionable.” If one thinks the cuts are “unconscionable” then one does not give those cuts a false euphamistic name like “right-sizing.” 
It also could put CPS in violation of federal law. Look for a wave of lawsuits and expensive legal battles (a re-run of Corey H?) to follow, wiping out any potential savings gained from the layoffs.

Billions in federal special-ed dollars flow to school districts and federal law requires public schools to meet the needs of all students with learning difficulties and to do so without isolating them from other children.

Rod Estvan, education policy analyst at the disability-rights group Access Living, predicts there will be fewer special education teachers to support the regular classroom teachers, which could lead to more students in isolated classrooms. If that’s the case, the district could end up out of compliance with federal law.
“They’ll be penalized by the federal government on next year’s allocation for federal dollars for  (special education). They’ll have even less money to function.”
 Without substantial funding coming from the State, as many as 5,000 more teachers could lose their jobs later this year.

CTU's Jesse Sharkey, on Chicago Tonight, says:
"Virtually every student will experience chaos as every school in the city will need to be reprogrammed in the middle of the school year. The educational experience of our students would be gravely damaged in ways that go beyond those immediate frontline layoffs."
SPEAKING OF EXPENSIVE LEGAL BATTLES...The Sun-Times reports that The Board will likely hire Ronald Marmer as its new lead attorney for the district who apparently has no public sector experience and has donated nearly $30,000 to CEO Forrest Claypool's past campaigns.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Mercedes Schneider
America needs less of Pearson. A lot less. -- Deutsch29
NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think Arne is decent and honest,” says National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, whose union has called for Duncan to resign. “But his reforms are so ridiculous, he’s uniting teachers, PTA’s, principals, everyone. We’re writing each other’s talking points!” -- Politico: Arne Duncan Wars
R.I.P Terry Rosenbaum
“My goal was to be a teacher of history in the New York City high schools. Which I did. I loved teaching.” -- NYT: Teacher Who Was Fired After Defying McCarthy, Dies at 97
Bob Quellos, one of the founders of No Games Chicago 
“They were there early, they were bulky guys, and they just didn’t fit the activist profile.” -- THE WATCHDOGS: Spy cops: Chicago police routinely spied on protesters
Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of Edbuild
“When you think of bankruptcy … this is a huge opportunity. Bankruptcy is not a problem for kids; bankruptcy is a problem for the people governing the system, right? So, when a school district goes bankrupt all of their legacy debt can be eliminated . . . Look, if we can eliminate that in an entire urban system, then we can throw all the cards up in the air, and redistribute everything with all new models. You’ve heard it first: bankruptcy might be the thing that leads to the next education revolution.” -- PR Watch

Friday, September 25, 2015

Chicago aldermen finally say 'no' to charter expansion

"The vast majority of aldermen oppose the opening of new charters this year, while we face a massive budget crisis and no path to adequately funding our neighborhood schools... The current system pits charters against neighborhood schools in a "zero-sum game." --Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th)

In a strong rebuke of current Rahm/Claypool school closing/charter opening policies, 42 Chicago aldermen have signed on to a resolution seeking a moratorium on new charter schools this year. 

Ted Cox at DNAInfo writes:
State law allows charters to open even if the local district doesn't want them. CPS has denied some charter applications, only to have them approved by the Illinois State Charter School Commission. At that point, CPS has to fund the schools, without having any say over their operation.
The resolution, submitted by Progressive Caucus member Roderick Sawyer, asks for a freeze on new charters both in the city and across the state through the Illinois State Board of Education. 

MORE SAWYER..."With so many neighborhood schools taking severe budget cuts, it is common sense that we should attempt to steady the ship before pushing forward with new schools," he added. "We need to slow this process down. Charter schools are also having problems filling seats, so the mission of these schools is becoming more about marketing than education. Let's deal with our current financial difficulties, see what is working and what is not working. and then do what is best for all our children."

Claudinae Hurt, Gage Park High School student, passes out information pamphlets after a rally against charter school expansion in Gage Park Tuesday. -- DNAinfo/Joe Ward
A previous attempt to pass a similar resolution back in 2013 was blocked in the Rules Committee ("Where good legislation goes to die") by Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) who asked for "more time and patience" and claimed the alders didn't have enough time to read it. I guess two years was long enough, even for this usually compliant crew.

Of course, the still simmering anger over mass school closings and anti-charter revolt in the neighborhoods on the north and increasingly on the south sides of the city, have plenty to do with speeding up the process. Not to mention, the recently-ended 34-day hunger strike by Bronzeville parents and activists, which forced Rahm/Claypool to reopen Dyett as a neighborhood public school, rather than a charter. 

The topper came this week during Rahm's budget speech when the mayor who had closed 49 schools for being "underutilized" complained about overcrowding. 
"Today, some of our schools are so overcrowded that children have classes in stairwells, in hallways – and sometimes even in converted closets."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gen. Tata led the efforts to re-segregate Wake County schools. But now...

Gen. Tata with his pal Palin. 
Remember Brigadier Gen.Tony Tata?

He was fast friends with Sarah Palin and Michelle Rhee's second in command in D.C. who then became the superintendent who led the school re-segregation initiative in Wake County, North Carolina.

For some reason, it became trendy a few years ago, to appoint former generals and colonels as school leaders. We did it here in Chicago when Rahm Emanuel appointed Marine Col. Tim Tyrrell and paid him $180,000/year to run his mass school-closing operation. Tyrrell also was charged with selling or finding new uses for closed school buildings, a project that so far has failed miserably.

BUT BACK TO TATA...After mass protests by the NAACP and court actions, the school board finally was forced to fire Tata. But he was then appointed by Tea Party fave, Gov. Pat McCrory to head of the State Dept. of Transportation.

Col. Tyrrell resigned in January.
It was Tata’s credentials as military man that helped him land the superintendent's job and become state transportation secretary, and the retired general continues to trade on his military experience as a TV news commentator and the author of action thrillers. But it turns out, Tata’s Army career included phony court order, at least 2 affairs, according to the News&Observer.
After Tata decided in June 2008 to retire from the Army, Pentagon officials were still asking questions about a mysterious, phony court document he had given investigators in 2007. An Army probe found that Tata had committed adultery with “at least two” women during his career, court and military records show. The adultery complaint against Tata involved affairs with three women and a son born out of wedlock.
Tata resigned as Department of Transportation secretary suddenly in July, citing the needs of his family and the demands of his burgeoning side career. He said he was considering a run for Congress.

According to Army investigators rejected Tracy Tata’s complaint that her ex-husband had failed to meet his court-ordered obligation to support their daughter, based on evidence in the general’s favor -- a court order that criticized Tracy for willfully burdening Tony with medical bills that “need not have been incurred at all” because Brooke qualified for free military health care.

But this court order turned out to be a fake. Military and court officials agreed later that someone had forged the signatures of two lawyers and the Georgia judge.

It remains a mystery.

Tyrell resigned from CPS in January to pursue an unspecified "opportunity in public service."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pushing Chicago's poor out of the city. Who will stand up to Rahm Emanuel's death budget?

At last night's Progressive Caucus community forum in Logan Square, Caucus members and community groups spoke out against Rahm's austerity budget and massive property tax increase. 
Will enough typically spineless Chicago Alders finally find their way out of Rahm's pocket to push back on his draconian budget proposal? Doubtful.
There are 11 members of the City Council progressive caucus who generally don’t side with the mayor on fiscal policy (including Arena); an 18-member aldermanic black caucus that plays nice with Emanuel but doesn’t back the garbage-fee proposal; and a handful of Hispanic aldermen, including Ald. Roberto Maldonado, who think the mayor’s budget proposal, as it stands, well, stinks. -- Mark Konkol, DNAInfo
Rahm's strategy, like his predecessor Daley's, includes selling off or privatizing everything that's not nailed down. Closing schools and getting rid of public space also weakens unions and public decision making.
His idea of privatizing the 311 call center came in his 2016 budget address, saying it would save the city "about a million dollars a year" to replace union workers with outside contractors. It was one of the few pieces of actual news Tuesday, after the mayor's administration had spent the past week dribbling out many of their financial proposals for the coming year. -- John Byrne, Tribune  
His budget proposal includes an unprecedented increase in property taxes and fees which will hit hardest on the poor (renters), the middle class whose incomes can't keep pace with increases on assessed home values, and those on fixed income (retirees and disabled). The wealthiest and the connected who pay the same tax rate as the working poor, will be fine.

How about a Mansion Tax like they have in N.Y., on sales of homes valued at over a million bucks? Fat chance.

As usual, it will be Rahm's cronies, his big campaign donors and downtown developers who will reap super-profits off the plan. The new budget represents another huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthiest.
Planned DePaul basketball arena.
The [DePaul basketball] arena, which was announced about a week before City Hall closed 49 public schools in 2013, has been controversial since it was proposed. City Hall approved $55 million in tax-increment financing funds towards the Marriott hotel... -- David Matthews, DNAInfo
The net result is the continued the whitenizing of Chicago, (already the 7th most expensive city in the world to live in) and the continued push of the poor out of the city.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Behind Rauner's call to 'end unfunded mandates'

Rauner and Smith

Unfunded mandates. I hate 'em. Schools and school districts hate 'em.

It didn't take our demagogic, education-know-nothing governor, with help from his much-smarter State Supt. Tony Smith, very long to figure that out and issue a call to end all unfunded mandates -- which these days virtually means ALL mandates.

Former Oakland supt. Smith is a veteran of the old Coalition of Essential Schools and founder Ted Sizer's less-is-more philosophy. In Oakland, he talked the Sizer Essential Schools talk in order to close public schools, fire teachers, and replace them with privately-run charters in their place.

Sizer's progressive vision, expressed beautifully in his book, Horace's Compromise (a seminal text and must-read, especially for high school educators) was about smaller schools (including charters) and classrooms which were more like learning communities than shopping malls, where skilled teachers were empowered to make the most important educational decisions (and yes, compromise between what's nice and possible), to teach and not just test, and where students could engage in meaningful learning based on their interests and experience.

For Sizer, who served as dean of Harvard's Ed School, less-is-more was never about union-busting or forcing schools to choose between basic necessities because of draconian state budget cuts to public education. It was never about austerity and do-more-with-less.

For Rauner/Smith that's exactly what the call to abolish mandates means. Rauner wants nothing less than to privatize all public space and eliminate civil rights protections and public employee unions altogether.

Yes, let's get rid of unfunded mandates like, Rahm Emanuel's longer school day, like Common Core and PARCC testing madness. But we need to keep mandates that ensure student safety, special education, ELL, class size ceilings, caps on charters, and school desegregation as well as all other fundamental civil and human rights -- including teachers' right to bargain collectively with elected school boards.

The response to necessary, but unfunded, mandates, should be to adequately fund them, not abolish them.

Monday, September 21, 2015

WEEKEND QUOTABLES Dyett hunger strike ends

Strike over. Struggle continues.

Aisha Wade-Bey
“We do have some other ways to continue to make sure we get this high school in our community, where it’s fair and that they have the resources that it needs for our children.” -- Sun-Times
Jeanette Taylor-Ramann
"I'm not an activist, nor a protester, or a hunger striker. I am a mother who wants what's best for my children and young people in my community."-- Tribune
Jitu Brown
"We decided that we will feed our bodies so that until we win sustainable community schools for all of our children, the mayor and cps won't get a moments rest,"
"We have changed the dialogue... We have exposed the inequality."
"We have had several key victories including saving Dyett as an open-enrollment public (not charter) school". -- Facebook
Biggest Weekend Laugher came from Peter Cunningham
Because Chicago does not have school board elections, board members are insulated from politics. -- Chicago Tribune
Fred Klonsky

Friday, September 18, 2015

Good riddance, Tim Cawley. Champion of privatization and disinvestment in neighborhood schools.

Fred Klonsky

Good riddance to Tim Cawley, the very worst of Rahm's army of CPS bureaucrats who's gone from Number 2 honcho under Byrd-Bennett, to under the bus. I hope readers won't remember that I predicted his demise two years ago. Wishful thinking, I suppose. He's even outlasted the guy I thought would replace him back in 2013 -- Marine Col. Tim Tyrrell, who engineered the mass school closings.

It was Rahm who allowed Cawley to skirt the residency requirement, much to the chagrin of the CPS Inspector General. He commutes from Winnetka and was somehow given a special waiver while other staffers and teachers were fired for violating the residency rule.

More importantly, he was the architect of the privatization of school janitorial services, a scheme that has left hundreds of CPS staff without jobs and many buildings ankle-deep in trash and principals screaming for mercy (Where were you, SEIU?).

Thanks, Tim Cawley
It was Cawley's mismanagement of the Aramark privatization deal that left the district on the hook for some $20 million more to Aramark than promised, essentially wiping out the $18 million Cawley said the district would save in the deal's first year. A bad deal all around.

It was Cawley who became the main cheerleader for disinvestment in neighborhood schools and replacing them with privately-run charters. These were the very policies that led to the closing of Dyett High School and the current hunger strike by parents and Bronzeville community activists.

Back in 2011 he told the Tribune:
 "If we think there's a chance that a building is going to be closed in the next five to 10 years, if we think it's unlikely it's going to continue to be a school, we're not going to invest in that building... We believe that we get more bang for our capital investment buck when we couple it with a program change in the building."
Cawley also came up with the brilliant idea of having CPS borrow $500 million from the Teachers Retirement Fund in order to pay the fund the billions it still owes because of pension holidays.

He's an old AUSL guy which makes this story timely indeed. Wednesday, it was announced that the group is once again the target of lawsuits over its "ongoing pattern and practice of systemic race discrimination".

It seems Cawley's problem at CPS is -- he's not part of Forrest Claypool's trusted inner circle, especially now that Rahm's new schools boss has brought over his loyalists from the CTA like old pal Ronald DeNard, who's pulling down $225,000-a-year from our broke-on-purpose school system.

BTW, DeNard lives in suburban Flossmoor.

Remember, this is all about the kids.

Hey Tim -- Don't let the revolving door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

HUNGER STRIKE, DAY 32 -- 70% fail PARCC exam. Duncan calls it 'telling the truth'

Test results for IL's 2,000,000 students have plummeted to their lowest point in a decade. They purport to show nearly 70% of them failing the PARCC. Pearson will deliver the rest of the test results on Monday and then it will take the state board two more weeks to check the data. But the results were a foregone conclusion long before the tests were given.

Rauner's schools chief Tony Smithwhistling past the graveyard.
"I think the promise of PARCC is greater than the promise of most of the other assessments we’ve ever had. Kids can test to the edge of their knowledge."
Arne Duncan agrees...
"It actually doesn't concern me at all. What Illinois and many other states are doing is finally telling the truth." (EdWeek)
Yes, the truth. Duncan doesn't even have to see the numbers to know that they tell the truth. In fact, numbers only confuse him.

DAY 32 of the Dyett hunger strike. Don't miss Carol Marin's excellent interview with hunger strikers Jitu Brown and Anna Jones.

Jitu on Facebook says that hunger strikers are meeting with CPS leadership over the next few days. He will keep us posted.

Here's an Open Letter to Alderman Will Burns on the Dyett Hunger Strike from Julie Woestehoff, former Executive Director of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE)
KOCO’s decision to sponsor a hunger strike is a reflection of their extreme frustration with you and other education policy makers. The fact that several members of your community have been willing to put their lives on the line to join them, and that others are actively supporting them, suggests that many share this frustration.
You can join the hunger strikers & NBC National Nightly News on a peaceful vigil to Obama's home, beginning at Dyett 555 E 51st, at 6 P.M. ‪#‎FightForDyett‬

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

After all the wasted test-prep hours and Common Core testing madness...

"We've been writing and meeting with ISBE officials for over two years to stop this madness. We've told them that our technology isn't ready, our Common Core curriculum isn't ready and the test will be hurting kids," said Argo Community High School District 217 Superintendent Kevin O'Mara, who also is president of the Illinois High School District Organization.

The results from last spring's PARRC exams are dismal by anyone's standards.

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. Statewide, even counting the wealthy high-scoring districts, selective-enrollment schools and privately-run charters, we're seeing single digits (2% of 3rd graders, 5% of high school students) in numbers of kids exceeding expected measurable outcomes in language arts/literacy. Nearly 70% fail rate across the state.

I'm still waiting to see how this breaks out in Chicago and by race and special ed. 

Millions of dollars spent on Common Core and PARRC testing (you're welcome Pearson). Thousands of classroom hours diverted away from teaching/learning and into testing and test prep. School districts threatened with loss of funding if parents opted-out. Teachers evaluated, paid, promoted and fired, using skewed value-added formulas based on students' test scores. And most importantly, nearly all of Illinois' 2 million students set up for failure.

The fallout could be disastrous. Early test failure usually leads to more kids dropping out. Chicago's school population is already down 100,000 students from a year ago.  

This is what decades of corporate-style "reform" and years of No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top has left us with. Thank you Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan

This isn't about failing schools or bad teachers. It's about a failed system with failed leadership. It's also about rising conditions of concentrated child and family poverty and the under-funding of schools.

Rauner's new state schools chief, Tony Smith, thinks this is all great. "A new baseline" he says, with the admonition that the scores should not be used to "shame or punish". Where has he been these past two decades? That's all they've been used for. 

Parents who opted-out were spot on. Subjecting children to hours of standardized testing when everyone knew the game was rigged, served no educative purpose. It's too bad there weren't more. Maybe next time there will be enough to stop the gears from turning. 

Let's get behind Rep. Guzzardi's Opt-Out bill. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chicago Jewish community members take message of solidarity to City Hall

This afternoon, I was with members of Chicago's Jewish community, who marched to City Hall to voice support for the Dyett Hunger strikers, now in their 30th day without solid food.

The group, mostly members of a new congregation calling itself Tzedek Chicago, sang and chanted "Shalom" outside the mayor's office. After joining hands with hunger strikers Irene Robinson and Mark Kaplan, they presented the mayor with An Open Letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education from Members of the Chicago Jewish Community) signed by more than 200 Jewish community members.

The best news I heard today was that The Chicago Teachers Union has agreed to represent the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff Local 4343 (ChiACTS) to provide bargaining and grievance representation for unionized charter school teachers. As of September 1, 2015, the CTU became responsible for contract negotiations and contract enforcement for more than 1,000 ChiACTS members at 32 Chicago charter schools.

According to the Chicago Defender:
This transition sets the stage for greater collaboration in the Union’s efforts to improve the education of 400,000 Chicago public school students. The IFT previously provided these services to ChiACTS, which were transferred through a servicing agreement with the state union signed by officers of the CTU and ChiACTS.
What a great step forward in uniting CPS teachers with charter school teachers.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Seattle teachers strike enters its second week.
Gary Younge
I delivered the Bernie Grant Memorial Lecture in London on Thursday on Black Lives Matter in the Age of Obama. The first question was about why parents were on hunger strike in Chicago to save their school. -- FB
Jackie Edens, director of The Inner Voice, a Chicago homeless agency
"I don't think it can be stated strongly enough how this turnaround budget is going to undo decades of progress moving forward... Things are bad now, but if these cuts go through at the level we're talking about - that they're talking about - things are going to be catastrophic. And guess what happens between now and the end of the year. It gets really, it gets really cold in Chicago." -- ABC News
Chuy Garcia speaking at Elgin Community College
 But in a city controlled by a Democratic Party "machine, were not accustomed to the brass-knuckle politics of the time." -- Tribune
Alma Harris, Yong Zhao and Michelle Jones
The things that cannot be copied are the things that often matter most. -- "Why borrowing from the ‘best’ school systems sounds good — but isn’t" WaPo

Friday, September 11, 2015

Study: Area Union Membership Can Predict Children’s Advancement

N.Y. Times
Low-income children rise higher in the income rankings when they grow up in areas with high-union membership.
As unions in this country continue to come under assault, a new study coming out of Harvard, Wellesley (of all places) and the Center for American Progress, finds that unions are key in enabling children from low-income families to escape poverty.

The study shows that unions are needed to push the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers and their families. Three cities that appear to reflect the union effect — San Francisco, Seattle and New York — are all jurisdictions where the minimum wage is rising substantially. This is especially true when you compare them with cities in so-called "right to work" states like North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.

Most interesting finding for me... Higher rates of unionization may give rise to certain norms that instill a greater sense of agency in workers.
For example, people who belong to unions are generally aware that they have certain rights in the workplace and are encouraged to speak up if they believe they’ve been mistreated. It’s the kind of norm that could leach out into a broader population — to both union members and their nonunion peers — if unions are sufficiently visible and active, which could in turn help boost economic mobility. -- From NYT story
The study also finds that daughters with a mother who belongs to a union may be more likely to work themselves, which means they’re more likely to have higher wages. Or, put differently, union membership is helping to change social norms.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thanks Kenyon... Hey where's J.C. Brizard? ... Day 25 for hunger strike

Thanks to Kenyon super Prof. Peter Rutkoff for inviting us to come engage with students at Kenyon College yesterday. Undergrads we met, including some from Chicago, were reading Jonathan Kozol's "Savage Inequalities", analyzing it against conditions in urban schools today, and brainstorming ways to support struggling schools, parents and students in Knox County and other communities in Ohio.

Peter helped to create the college’s interdisciplinary American Studies program in 1990. His books cover subjects such as the origins of Bebop, styles of baseball, and social theory in Europe and America. Some of his titles include: his novel, Irish Eyes, New York Modern: The Arts and the City, Shadow Ball: A Novel of Baseball and Chicago, and Cooperstown Chronicles: Camp and Other Love Stories.

Rahm bounced Brizard
CONNECTIONS...Former Chicago schools CEO J.C. Brizard was a disaster for CPS. He was bounced unceremoniously by Rahm Emanuel to make room for triple disaster, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. But don't worry. His golden parachute landed him on his feet and Brizard will be using his insider connections to try and hustle big consulting contracts for Cross & Joftus.

Cross refers to Christopher Cross, a former Education Department assistant secretary who now is connected with the Broad Foundation.

DYETT PARENTS and Chicago community activists are now in the 25th day of their hunger strike. Essence Magazine reports:
Though Mayor Emanuel, who has shuttered nearly 50 schools since 2013, says that the school closures are beneficial to students and allow them to attend better high schools, many parents feel that the reforms target Black residents.
You think...?

The group announced that three activists, Brandon Johnson with the Chicago Teachers Union, Susan Hurley with Chicago Jobs With Justice and Asif Wilson with Teachers for Social Justice have now joined the hunger strike.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

North Side/South Side. The pot is boiling over. Hunger strikers ask Obama to intervene.

Labor Day at Dyett...We gathered in support of the hunger strikers, now in the 23rd day of their strike. We heard Jitu Brown's progress report along with a reading of the demands the strikers are making which include greater community decision-making in all things Dyett. They say they're hoping for a quick resolution with Rev. Jesse Jackson handling the negotiations with CPS.

That won't be easy. Negotiations in this city are basically warfare without guns. Remember, CEO Forrest Claypool is already on record refusing to negotiate with the hunger strikers. That's what led to a continuation of the strike in the first place.

He's also blown up the Board's negotiations with the CTU as his first act in office. This, just as Karen Lewis was reporting that they were thisclose to a contract agreement.

This is obviously a man with white entitlement issues. Doesn't work well with people of color.

But shit happens. Remember in 2005, even though he was campaign genius David Axelrod's partner with goo-gobs of money, running as the great white hope with support of both daily newspapers, Claypool still lost his 2005 race for Cook County Board President to John Stroger. This even after Stroger suffered a stroke the week before the election.

Then in 2010, banking heavily on white suburban support, Claypool lost the race for county assessor, this time to wobbly machine boss Joe Berrios. I guess city voters didn't think Claypool was good at assessing. It seems white-skin privilege only gets you so far these days.

But Daley and Rahm still enjoyed Claypool's political loyalties and his willingness to reward their friends and take an axe to city services, so they started appointing Claypool to various manager jobs at the Park District, the CTA, and now at CPS, instead of making him run for office.

Beginning today, the hunger strikers will gather in Washington Park from 1-6 p.m. and then organize daily ("non-aggressive") marches to President Obama's home in nearby Kenwood. They are calling on Obama to intervene on behalf of the strikers. Jitu Brown and April Stogner just returned from D.C. where they met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who, Brown said, expressed his "sympathy" but offered little else. 

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, Sen. Iris Martinez & Ald. Milly Santiago support protest at Kelvyn Park H.S. today. 
This morning we were up on the north side at Kelvyn Park High School where parents, teachers, students and community supporters stood outside the school for an opening-day protest and press conference. As a result of budget cuts, the school is opening without badly needed counselors, coaches or programs.
‪"I've been waiting for 4 years to be a senior. I worked hard. Now, I learn that I won't have a college counselor. No one to help me figure out how to get to college. It's like they my wings are getting clipped before I could fly,” says Kelvyn Park High School senior Sherilyn Royce.
 “We are Dyett,” says Kelvyn Park teacher Jerry Skinner. “We’re starting the school year with a $2.2 million budget cut, on top of cut after cut, year after year. This is how neighborhood high schools get destroyed by design.”
Lots of media here. None yesterday at Dyett. Just saying.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association 
"Instead of diverting taxpayer dollars to unaccountable charter schools, it’s time for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools so that all of Washington’s children get the quality education the Constitution guarantees them." -- WA Supreme Court rules charters unconstitutional
Valerie Strauss
 Thus, while claiming to be “public,” and while having some elements that are public (most importantly, public funding for a no-tuition education), their operations are basically private. -- Washington Post
Jitu Brown on meeting with Arne Duncan
"He was sympathetic. He said that he would talk to the mayor. I think it was interesting 2008 Dyett had the largest increase of students going to college in all of Chicago Public Schools. And Arne Duncan and Mayor Daley did a big press conference at Dyett and he stood right next to me and asked me, "How did you all do this?" -- Melissa Harris-Perry interview on MSNBC
Jeannie Oakes
Jeannie Oakes, AERA president
I have reviewed the plan in light of my decades of experience as an educational researcher by training and profession. As a UCLA professor, I have spent years studying efforts to create high quality and equitable schools for young people living in communities like Dyett's -- communities of concentrated poverty and racial isolation. I currently serve as president of the American Educational Research Association, an organization of more than 25,000 educational researchers. Based on my experience and educational expertise, I find the coalition's plan to be outstanding. -- Answer Sheet 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hunger strikers say: It's not over 'til it's over.

Dyett hunger strikers meet this afternoon. Decide to continue the strike. 
"We need to unpack this," said Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, one of about a dozen activists who began a hunger strike Aug. 17. "But I think they have underestimated our resolve." -- Chicago Tribune
There's no doubt about that or about the fact that the Dyett hunger strikers scored an important victory yesterday when Rahm was forced to do a complete 180 and accept their demand for an open enrollment high school for Bronzeville. But if the mayor and Forrest Claypool thought the strikers would go home and end the struggle here, they were mistaken.

From the beginning, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett made it clear that their fight was about something much larger than just opening a school.

Remember, CPS leaders already had a school at Dyett and intentionally ran it into the ground as part of their planned neighborhood gentrification. To just let them have it back; to let them make all the important leadership and curriculum decisions as they had done before, with no community input would be a hollow victory.

Hunger strikers Jitu Brown and April Stogner had not even returned from their D.C. meeting with Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García when the announcement came down that Dyett would be opened as an "arts school". What duplicity, coming from a leadership that has for years, diminished and de-funded arts education throughout the Chicago school system.

There's been no report yet on what was discussed or resolved in D.C. with Duncan.

Catalyst quotes Brown on his return to Chicago:
“We are happy the school is opening as a neighborhood CPS-run school,” says Jitu Brown, a longtime activist with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and one of the 12 hunger strikers. “All is not lost. But what we want is what the community demanded.”

Invited to the CPS press conference were a handful of local pols who had done nothing to support the hunger strike. To make matters worse, the hunger strikers were locked out of the conference altogether -- Rahm's revenge for getting run out of his own budget hearing by protesters, the night before.

Claypool announced the plan for Dyett at the district's Loop headquarters alongside Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson, senior adviser Denise Little and a group of Rahm-loyal African-American elected officials including Congressman Bobby Rush, Ald. Will Burns, and state Rep. Christian Mitchell.

Jackson, who a day earlier had given all the reasons why no new school would never be allowed in Dyett -- too many under-enrolled schools in the area; we don't want schools competing for students -- now was proclaiming a "victory" for the community.
"We should see this as a win for the community, because after all, the request was for an open-enrollment high school that gives access to the children in the community which they so truly deserve," she said, portraying the decision as a resolution to the debate.
Then came the kicker:
 Jackson said, adding that the district will identify and install a principal for the school "immediately," someone who will be responsible for community outreach and building out the new school. "We believe that this is the best resolution, and the best solution to meet the demand," Jackson said.
Then came Claypool to explain the 180 turnabout. Earlier, he argued that the school would have trouble attracting enough students to keep it sustainable without harming enrollment at neighboring schools. On Thursday, the very same Claypool, showing amazing agility, said the district's proposal would be sustainable.
"Dyett may have been closed before for under-enrollment and poor performance, but we believe with this concept we're going to have good enrollment and without in any way hurting the other schools in the area that are struggling with enrollment issues." 
Brown on Friday announced today that the group will continue to fight for their demands, including green technology and global leadership in its curriculum; a ‘sustainable school village’ with a coalition of local school councils; for the school to be open until 8 p.m. every day with programs created by the community; an immediate publicly elected local school council; and at least six members of their coalition part of their design plans. The demands also include a voice in the hiring of the new principal.

The group has named Duane Turner as their pick. Turner is a former CPS teacher and principal who lives three blocks from Dyett and helped put the Green Tech proposal together.

They've also enlisted Rev. Jesse Jackson to serve as their negotiator.

Jitu Brown summed it up this way:
“When people say it’s a win. ‘You all won something. You should be happy.’ There was no negotiation with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett. There was no negotiation."
I think there will be now.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rahm runs for cover. Claypool must be having second thoughts. Hunger strikers in D.C.

Dyett hunger striker April Stogner speaks in front of Education Department in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. To her right is Jitu Brown (seated), another hunger striker who is national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. Behind Brown are John Jackson, president of the Schott Foundation; Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project; American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; National Education Association President Lily Garcia; and Martin Blank, director of the Coalition for Community Schools. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold -- W.B. Yeats

If Forrest Claypool knew what his first month on the job as Rahm's appointed schools boss would look like, he likely would have stayed hunkered down as chief 'crat at the CTA.

No one's buying Claypool's subtraction-by-addition move, stocking the supposedly broke CPS bureaucracy with expensive CTA political loyalists while he purges the remnants of Byrd-Bennett's crew. It's true, he cut 12 and hired 5. But those five are making double what BBB was paying the 12 and none of them know a damned thing about schools -- or as Arne Duncan likes to call it, the education business.

Ronald DeNard, Claypool’s new $225,000-a-year senior vice president of operations who was chief financial officer with Claypool at CTA doesn't even live in the city.

Rahm runs
Tough guy Rahm, who promised to have Claypool's back while he chopped the school system to smithereens, is having a tough time even showing his face in public after first ignoring and then trying to pacify the Dyett hunger strikers with a 30-minute meeting Wednesday night.

Neither Claypool nor the mayor can offer the community anything substantial after Rahm had painted himself into a corner on Monday by telling the media there would be no new neighborhood public high school in Bronzeville.

Now two of the strikers, along with AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten and NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García, are in D.C. trying to appeal to a higher power -- Arne Duncan. But it's not clear that Obama's guy Duncan has any interest in bailing out Clinton's guy Emanuel. The split within the Democratic Party has grown that wide. My god, they're running Biden against Hillary (but I digress).

Now Rahm is set to impose the largest property tax in Chicago history. That should bust the whole thing wide open.

The topper came last night as Rahm had to be hustled out of his own budget hearing by security after protesters rushed the stage.

Things fall apart.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hunger strikers on their way to D.C. to see Duncan

Last night's vigil. 

LAST NIGHT was that rare combination of a dazzling summer Chicago nights on Michigan Ave. and being in the belly of the corporate beast. A couple of hundred of us gathered at the foot of the Tribune Tower at a vigil in support of the Dyett hunger strikers.

We sang together, Marley's Redemption Song and Ella's Song ("We who believe in freedom cannot rest..."). I got to hang out with some of my favorite people and together, we renewed our commitment to stick with the struggle til we win. 

While Rahm was compelled to meet with the hunger strikers Monday night, he made no commitment to act on community proposals for a new school in the now-vacant Dyett building. So the strike continues.

But there's signs of movement. Now Rahm's office is putting out a softer line to the media than it did on Monday when they had CPS ed chief Janice Jackson get up in front of the cameras and say essentially, there would be no new school at Dyett. 

Now they're saying this: 
“The mayor appreciates there are strong feelings about Dyett, and he understands there is a desire for a quick resolution about its future, however what’s most important is the right decision. CPS is engaged in a thorough review of Dyett, and while they are closer to a decision, they continue to weigh all the factors at play in an effort to achieve the best outcome possible — one that will ensure a strong Bronzeville and a strong future for our children.” -- Sun-Times
A change of heart or testing which way the political wind is blowing? The latter of course.

Little Village 2001 hunger strike.
Hunger strikers Jitu Brown and April Stogner, now in their 17th day of life-threatening fasting,   plus AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, are traveling to D.C., to deliver a letter to Arne Duncan, urging him to push Emanuel “to do the right thing.”

Remember it was Duncan, who as Daley's newly-appointed schools CEO in 2001, was given the assignment of ending the 19-day Little Village hunger strike after predecessor Paul Vallas had failed to bring about a solution. Duncan showed up at the strike site and told the strikers, "OK, we found the money for your new school. Please eat now."
"I support them," Duncan said [afterward]. "I solved the thing. I actually have a hell of a lot of respect for them." -- Tribune
But that was 14 years ago. Let's see what he says now.

Today's a good day to give bully Rauner a kick in the ass

IL House members will vote today on overriding Rauner's veto of Senate Bill 1229. The bill was supported by AFSCME and passed by the General Assembly in May. It would put a potential labor-contract impasse in the hands of an outside arbitrator, rather than risk a strike or a lockout.

Rauner has been threatening to shut down state government as a way of busting the union -- like his hero Reagan did with the PATCO air controllers strike in '81. He would love to force the union into a strike or impose a lockout rather than negotiate a fair contract.

A veto override would be a major setback for Rauner and his union-busting gambit. The question is: Does Madigan and his veto-proof Democratic majority have the spine to stand up to the governor and do the right thing?

There's still time this morning to call your state rep and tell them to vote for the veto override.

Use the AFSCME Hotline at 888-912-5959 to call your state rep right now to urge a YES vote on overriding the governor’s veto.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rahm's budget hearing not exactly what he had in mind

Rahm finally meets with Dyett hunger strikers. But makes no commitments. Strike continues into Day 16. 
The Sun-Times  reporter Stefano Esposito keeps referring to last night's public response at Rahm's budget hearing, as a "gripe session". Strange, but not a surprising view of democracy.

The mayor says his current public meetings are "to discuss the City's current budget outlook and solicit savings, reform and revenue ideas from residents to assist in the preparation of the 2016 budget." But in reality, as David Vitale once told me, such meetings are really about "reining in" dissident community voices.

Well, that sure as hell didn't work yesterday. With the creditors and Moody's breathing down his neck and with Dyett hunger strikers now into a health and life-threatening 16 days without solid food, those voices were not about to be reined in. The budget meeting at Malcolm X College, was turned into a demand for Rahm to stop stonewalling the Dyett school process they themselves launched months ago, and to meet face-to-face with the hunger strikers and begin serious negotiations.

Tresser: "Where is our money?"
Others grilled the mayor about the lack of transparency over the city’s tax-increment financing districts (TIFs).
“The question I have for our mayor is: Where is our money?” asked Tom Tresser of the TIF Illumination Project
In the end, Rahm was forced to agree to meet with the hunger strikers or face direct responsibility for further risks to their lives. I hear it was Forrest Claypool, Rahm's new schools CEO who pushed for the meeting. He needs this to go away.

The mayor and Claypool did meet with them after the budget meeting. But according to hunger striker Jitu Brown, the meeting with Emanuel, Claypool and board Vice Chair Jesse Ruiz lasted only about a half hour.
“It was a cordial meeting, but they made no commitments,” Brown said. “That’s not acceptable. So we’ll be on this hunger strike.”
Brown said the mayor’s office asked the protesters to end their hunger strike.
“What we got from Claypool is that he’s new, the board is new,” Brown said. “We hear that from every regime. We are not going to be pulled on that string again.”
Where does that leave things? Last night was a small victory. The protests forced some movement on Rahm's part. Possibly some division in his camp. But hunger strikers are saying that token gestures are not enough. There needs to be some serious movement on a public high school for Bronzeville and more before this battle ends.

Speaking of serious discussion, don't miss this dust up between the brilliant former Chicago teachers and Harvard doc student, Eve Ewing and charter flack Peter Cunningham on WBEZ. Brilliant Eve is too much for over-matched Peter and his consumer model (smooth-or-chunky) of education. It's about Dyett and a lot more. Listen to the whole thing.

Nice job, Eve. Facts are indeed stubborn fellows.

More support is needed. Come to the VIGIL FOR DYETT this evening at 7:30PM, Tribune Tower 435 N. Michigan