Monday, November 30, 2015


Kim Foxx, running against Alvarez
Carol Marin
“The federal investigation of the shooting is active and ongoing,” the U.S. Attorney’s office assured us this week. 
Just remember. The feds never hurry. And Chicago is bleeding. -- Sun-Times
Kim Foxx
“She [State's Attorney Anita Alvarezwaited until her hand was forced by intense political and media pressure surrounding the release of this painful video. She waited even after City Hall was prepared to pay the McDonald family $5 million in damages.” -- Chicago Defender
Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, former member of "Anita's Army"
It was in this culture that Anita Alvarez and many other prosecutors (including Mayor Richard M. Daley) rose through the ranks of the Office of the State's Attorney, participating in its racialized rules of abuse and being institutionally rewarded with promotions and then, election wins. -- NBC News
House Select Committee on Indian Affairs
 “The goal of Indian education,” according to the committee, “should be to make the Indian child a better American rather than to equip him to be a better Indian.” -- Politico: How Washington created some of the worst schools in America
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka
Well, I always say, you know, most people who talk about schools have never been in one besides the fact that they graduated from an elementary school or high school. The reality is, schools get better when a community supports them. -- Democracy Now
Colleen Connolly
On Wednesday morning, the hashtag #ResignRahm was trending on Twitter in Chicago. -- Ward Room

Harvard News: 'Veritas'

Dean Minow
In the face of student protest following an outbreak of racist vandalism on campus, Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow has appointed a committee to consider “whether to continue” —the crest of the former slave-holding Royall family that endowed Harvard’s first law professorship in the 19th century.

The school’s seal, which features three sheaves of wheat under an emblem of “Veritas,” came under attack earlier this year when a group of students, calling themselves “Royall Must Fall,” demanded its removal in light of its connection to slavery.

There is no truth to the rumor that the racist seal will be replaced by one featuring three dollar signs. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Claypool on SpEd cuts: The 'formula' done it.

The great thing about Rahm's hand-picked chosen few who run the school system is, they can do no wrong -- unless they are caught, that is. Accountability is a one-way street, a word reserved for CPS' beleaguered teachers.

Case in point: In the face of mounting parent protest and appeals by principals, Forrest Claypool now says he's restoring nearly 150 lost special education positions system wide. And how did those positions get lost in the first place? It was "the formula", says Claypool. The formula done it.

Writes S-T's Lauren Fitzpatrick:
CPS said it based special ed positions on a “flawed funding formula” in late September and since has corrected the errors to make sure every child with an Individualized Education Program gets the services guaranteed to them under federal law. Following vociferous complaints from teachers and parents about shortages and cuts made for the first time ever after school began, CPS agreed to hear appeals and has begun notifying schools of the changes, the district announced Wednesday.
Of course, the 150 restored positions are just a small part of Claypool's announced $42 million in SpEd cuts for district-operated (not charter) schools, and 5,000 teacher cuts overall, set for February. And a question now is, how are you going to find 150 available teachers at this point in the school year?

But it's still amazing, the way parent/teacher protest can correct a "flawed" formula. Isn't it? I think it was Frederick Douglass who said: "No struggle, no progress."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Protest: '16 Shots. Stop the cover-up!'

When Black Friday comes
I'll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor -Steely Dan

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to holiday shopping madness, but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869. Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.

Today's Black Friday protest called by Rev. Jesse Jackson, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis and other ministers and community-based organizations, targeted ongoing police violence and the cover-up by political leaders of the brutal killing of a black teenager by killer cop Van Dyke, who pumped 16 shots in the body Laquan McDonald. 

Several thousand of us marched up Michigan Ave., rallied at the Water Tower, and disrupted business as usual on this, the busiest shopping day of the year. Our slogans called for the removal of those complicit in the cover-up and the delaying the release of the video and the charging of Van Dyke for 13 months -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, and States Atty. Anita Alvarez.

Be sure to read this commentary posted on NBC News by Temple Univ. Prof. Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve. who's the author of the forthcoming book, "Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America's Criminal Courts." Van Cleve's point is that this is a matter of institutionalized racism, not a case of a few bad apples.

She writes:
...they are merely the figureheads of an entire criminal court system fueled by racism. A court system where the death of another black boy barely makes anyone stand up and take notice and staying quiet about the police officers involved in the shooting is considered a professional courtesy amongst peers.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Justice delayed is justice denied

An aspiring Chicago poet and community activist walked out of a Cook County courthouse Wednesday to hugs and cheers from dozens of supporters after prosecutors in a surprise move dropped charges against him for allegedly punching a police officer during protests over the death of Laquan McDonald. -- Chicago Tribune
"Aspiring", my ass. Malcolm X. London is an accomplished poet and playwright -- called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West. He's a member of the Young Adult Council of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theater, and has appeared on PBS for the first ever televised TED Talk with John Legend & Bill Gates & has shared stages with actor Matt Damon & rapper Lupe Fiasco as a part of the The People Speak, Live! cast. He also appears on Season 2 of TVOne’s Verses & Flow.

Poet/Activist Malcolm London with supporters. 
In 2011, Malcolm London won the Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry slam in his native Chicago, scooping the top award as both individual performer & with a team. The poet, performer & activist recently wrote & directed a spoken word infused play responding to the Zimmerman verdict called Two Years Later at the Goodman Theatre with an ensemble of five youth poets. Malcolm’s work has been featured on national outlets including CBS, NPR, Huffington Post, The Root, and the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

And the list goes on.

Justice Delayed... While it took 13 months to for the administration to release the video and charge killer-cop Van Dyke with McDonald's murder, they had poet/activist Malcolm London yanked off the street, in jail and booked on trumped-up felony charges in the blink of an eye. But within 24 hours, States Atty. Anita Alvarez ordered all charges dropped, in the "best interests" of the city. And by "best-interests", she meant her own and those of the mayor and Supt. Garry McCarthy's. Her problem -- tons of community support for Malcolm; plus there was reportedly video of his arrest with cops using illegal "escort holds" and "emergency handcuffing" (Sun-Times).

Judge Peggy Chiampas who told Malcolm, he was "free to go", wasted no time in busting "Chicago Tonight" producer Chloe Riley and chastising her for "creating a media circus." By circus, she meant -- Riley took a few pictures of Malcolm walking down the courthouse hall with supporters, following his release from jail (THE HORROR!). Chiampas, apparently bitter of being forced to cut Malcolm loose, then threatened Riley with jail time unless she destroyed her pics. She complied.

The wheels of justice spin fast when necessary.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015



Joanna Klonsky

Members of the Progressive Caucus call for thorough examination of McDonald case

CHICAGO (November 25, 2015)--Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus members Ald. Leslie Hairston (5); Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6); Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10); Ald. Toni Foulkes (16); Ald. David Moore (17); Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22); Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and Ald. John Arena (45) issued the following statement on Wednesday to respond to the video of a Chicago Police officer shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times:

“We are mourning the violent death of one of our city’s young people, Laquan McDonald, and we are praying for his family.

“We call for a thorough examination of the apparent effort to withhold information about McDonald’s death as it moved through the administration of the Police Department. We are deeply committed to transparency and public accountability, and we urge all of our fellow public officials to recommit to upholding the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

“We ask why this officer is still on the public payroll. In the 14 months since the killing of Laquan McDonald, Officer Van Dyke has continued to live comfortably, facing no criminal charges until yesterday, all while drawing a paycheck at the expense of the taxpayers of this city. This is unacceptable.

“We are concerned that the delay of justice in this case has served to undermine the hard work of the police officers in our districts, who now must face deep distrust from some residents.

“At the same time, peaceful protestors were arrested during last night’s response to the release of the video. These young people came out to march, chant and draw public attention to the death of McDonald. Several of the march organizers were arrested despite multiple witnesses who confirm that they broke no laws. While we were pleased to see that the charges against protester Malcolm London were dropped, we ask that the charges against the other protesters also be dropped immediately.

“Unlike those who protected Officer Van Dyke, these young people were acting in the spirit of stewardship of our city, peacefully assembling, participating in nonviolent civil disobedience, and demanding justice.

“We call upon the leadership of this city and its police force to convene an inclusive, empowered panel to investigate the entire minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and day-by-day course of this apparent miscarriage of justice, which took the life of a young man and shielded his killer for more than a year.

“Furthermore, in order to revamp the institutional crisis of police discipline, we plan to convene a panel of experts to work with us on providing the City Council and people of this city a thorough change to the City code and regulations that oversee police officers, the Independent Police Review Authority, and the Police Board. We need to ensure that bureaucracy or union contracts don’t stop us from being able to remove bad police officers from the payroll. Changes must be made a priority in order to end the lack of effective and clear discipline practices and oversight that perpetuate these crimes.

“The public demands answers. We have a right to know, in order to put in place new policies and regulations to be applied in any future instance of misconduct.”


Protests (not 'riots') rock Chicago. Rahm covers his ass. Calls to fire McCarthy, dump Alvarez.

Toast, I hope.

It's time for Chicago's top-cop and the state's attorney to be gone.

Anticipating a wave of protest following release of their surpressed video, the Mayor and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy put on a long dog-and-pony show at yesterday's press conference, covering their own asses and doing their best to distance themselves from killer cop Jason Van Dyke.

Moments before releasing the sensationalized dash-cam video showing white Chicago police officer Van Dyke pumping 16 shots into the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Rahm and McCarthy stood up before the cameras claiming,
“Jason Van Dyke does not represent the police department...” 
The statement came in response to a question from Brandon Smith, the courageous journalist who had sued the city and forced the release of the video. It's hard to believe that Team Rahm could be this stupid and petty, but they actually blocked Smith from entering the press conference. He had to wait out in the hall while a local CBS News reporter asked a question about the wider culture of corruption in the police department on his behalf.
Malcolm London, a 22-year-old poet/organizer with the Black Youth Project 100, was grabbed off the street at last night's protest and charged with felony aggravated battery to a police officer after allegedly punching one officer. Police said the officer was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. According to the Chicago Tribune, those charges were dropped Wednesday afternoon.
As for that culture:

How about a quarter-million stop-and-frisks in the black community during a three-month period in 2014?

The Better Government Association reports that 300 people were shot by Chicago police between 2010 and 2014. Seventy of those individuals were killed. More people were killed by police in Chicago than any other of the largest U.S. cities.

More obfuscation:

Democrat super-flack David Axelrod sounds sincere when he asks on Twitter:
Why did it take a year to indict a CPD officer who shot a kid 16 times? Would it have happened today if judge hadn't ordered video release?
Chicago protest
But Axelrod is feigning naivete here. He knows full well who's behind justice-delayed for the McDonald family. It's his pal/client Rahm Emanuel, Supt. McCarthy and States Atty. Anita Alvarez, who all sat on the video for more than a year, releasing it only after a judge ordered them to do so.

Alvarez is especially complicit here, even charging Van Dyke one day before the video release, presumably to try and head off protests (riots). She badly mishandled the trial of Dante Servin, the detective who shot black 22-year-old Rekia Boyd in 2012, who she charged with involuntary manslaughter. But a judge threw that charge out in April, saying Servin should have been charged with murder. He hasn't been.

Need any more reasons to vote for Kim Foxx?

In my humble opinion, McCarthy is already toast. Sneed, who has a pipeline to the mayor's office, is already naming possible replacements and usually when that happens, time to pack your bags.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chicago teachers show strong, united, and ready to strike if needed

What a great night! Thousands of Chicago teachers and community activists packed Grant Park last night in a show of strength and unity reminiscent of the days leading up to the 2012 teacher strike. Check out DNAInfo for best tweeted pics from last night.

The Little Emperor is back after splitting town, as he usually does in times of crisis. He ran off to China. Remember, Rahm's the guy who said: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." What he obviously meant was, when things get hot, get out of town and let underlings like Forrest Claypool or Garry McCarthy, or whoever, take the heat.

And if you're going to run and hide, this is the week to do it. Panicked by the CTU's militant show of strength and the black community's possible response to Wednesday's court-ordered release of the video showing officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 rounds into defenseless 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, the administration is in full retreat mode. They're dropping crumbs along with way to soften or divert the protests, and pausing every few steps to take pot-shots at the teachers union.

Karen Lewis: "If we strike, we do so to protect our children."
Today, the day before the video release, charges are expected to be brought against Van Dyke. Coincidence? Yesterday, top cop Garry McCarthy (is he still here?) called for the firing of Dante Servin, the cop who pumped 5 bullets into the skull of unarmed Rekia Boyd. Servin was never convicted on murder charges. So, in the face of growing protests and the video release, McCarthy ordered him fired for "poor judgement".

Claypool's response to the CTU rally was, duck/dodge/divert. He claims the CTU should be joining hands with him in Springfield to push Gov. Rauner and the legislature to bail out the debt-ridden and broke-on-purpose Chicago. He tells the Tribune:
"It's a sad day when the Chicago Teachers Union is not fighting with us in Springfield for equal funding for the most vulnerable and impoverished children in the state of Illinois," Claypool said.
Is that some kind of joke? It's been Claypool who has stalled contract talks with the union as a signal to Rauner that he and Rahm are willing to beat down the CTU in exchange for a bailout. He could have easily come to an agreement with the union, headed off another strike and set the conditions for a united effort in Springfield. Instead, he's ended serious talks and is threatening to fire thousands of teachers and staff (especially in special ed), blow-up class size, cut after-school programs and sports, and open more privately-run charters.

Helping the "most vulnerable and impoverished" -- right.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, will speak at today's pre-strike rally in Grant Park amid stalled contract talks with the school district. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

CEO Forrest Claypool to the City Club of Chicago 
"We are at a breaking point." -- Tribune
MTA Pres. Barbara Madeloni 
“It [Common Core testing] is destructive to our students and our teachers and the very possibility of joyful and meaningful public education...We’ve really flipped the narrative in a year.” -- NY Times
Thomas Gattuso, principal of Sullivan House
We are looking for justice. If Laquan had shot the policeman 16 times, he wouldn’t have been at a desk job 13 months later.” -- Sun-Times
Rev. Jesse Jackson
" My greatest fear is not the protest, but if there is no protest.” -- NY Times
Donald Trump
"Maybe the guy should have been roughed up a little." -- Raw Story
Letter to Mark Zuckerberg from former classmate, teacher Emily Talmage
Let me assure you that “personalized learning,” as it is being pushed by the Gates Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Digital Learning Now Council, as well as countless educational technology companies, start-ups, and venture capitalists who have invested millions into personalized learning experiments (they call them “innovations”), is a far, far cry from the type of education we got at Exeter. -- Washington Post

Friday, November 20, 2015

Harish Patel, running against Mell's guy in the 40th, deserves support

Democrat Harish Patel working Chicago's Northwest Side neighborhoods seeking signatures on his petitions to challenge ward-boss Dick Mell's machine guy Jaime Andrade in the 40th.   (Illinois Observer pic)
I like Harish Patel and hope the young social-justice activist and community organizer can upset Mell-machine guy Jaime Andrade in the 40th Dist in the same way that upstart Will Guzzardi beat the Berrios machine in the neighboring 39th in 2014.

David Ormsby, editor of the Illinois Observer writes:
Community organizer, entrepreneur, and Guzzardi ally Harish Patel is seeking to duplicate Guzzardi's success in the neighboring legislative district hoping to oust freshman State Rep. Jamie Andrade. Patel is modeling his campaign on Guzzardi's as much as possible. He hits multiple progressive talking points on the campaign trail: education reform, an elected school board, skepticism towards charter schools, boosting state-wide minimum wage, and embracing immigrant rights.
I'm hoping Harish, who opposes pension theft, gets the support he deserves from natural allies (I would think) the CTU and SEIU. If he does, look for a  Guzzardi-type upset.

If he and other progressives like Jay Travis (running in the 26th) don't get that support, we're in for more years of politics-as-usual in Springfield.

Rising student homelessness not an 'excuse' but a brutal fact of life at CPS

Last night I was watching CBS News Chicago. I was surprised when I saw their report on the city's homeless children, putting the number at 11,447. It sounded low to me. I assume it's from the latest report by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. But that number includes only young people aged 14-21. ABC 7 reports that there are more that 20,000 homeless students in Chicago Public Schools.

To put that in perspective, that's about one in every 20 CPS students, the great majority being African-American or Latino.

CPS's Nancy B. Jefferson school and the Juvenile Detention Center, is packed with homeless kids, many of whom have committed no crime other than being homeless.

The number of homeless families in Chicago has tripled over the last dozen years, says CCH.

Corporate school reformers love to talk about their so-called, "no excuses" schools. But homelessness is not an excuse, but a fact.

There's only a  small body of academic research and literature that focuses on the academic achievement of homeless children. But everything I've read points to the conclusion that poverty and homelessness have a much greater impact on measurable student learning outcomes than any classroom variables.

It generally indicates that homeless children score poorly on standardized reading and mathematics tests and are often required to repeat a grade.

For one thing, homeless families with children move a lot, often from shelter to shelter. That often means lots of different schools, teachers, and high absentee rates. Many CPS schools, especially charters and selective-enrollment schools tend to push homeless kids out, or not accept them at all.
Fifty-six percent of the 118 homeless Chicago families with school-aged children that were surveyed said they moved between two or three times over a three-year period, and 20 percent reported living at four to six different residences during that time period.
Meanwhile, 57 percent of parents said their child lacked an adequate study area when they were homeless, and 66 percent reported changes in their child's behavior at school since losing permanent housing. Of the families surveyed, nearly 33 percent of the children missed six days of school last year and 17 percent missed more than 10 days.
This doesn't even touch the psychological effects of homelessness on children or their susceptibility to sexual abuse and violence.

Homelessness by the numbers from CCH report:
52.3 percent: The number of renters in Chicago who are “extremely low income,” making less than $22,000 per year.
$17,160: The annual salary for someone working a full-time minimum wage job in Chicago.
44 percent: The percentage of a full-time minimum wage worker's paycheck that goes toward housing at the median fair market price in Illinois.
629,454: The number of people living in poverty in Chicago with 298,403 of those living in “extreme poverty.”
Wednesday's press conference
At Wednesday's CCH presser, Latoya Ellis, a single parent of three whose family became homeless in August due to a lack of affordable housing, spoke to the educational challenges her children, ages 8, 14 and 16, face as a result of their housing status.
"Children need structure and routine, and due to homelessness, I as a parent cannot provide that, because I have no control over certain things like what time the lights go off. My children are often left trying to do their homework by the light of the cellphone, or on the bus on the way to school the next morning or sometimes even in class the next day," she said. "There are constant distractions that keep them from sleeping and getting a good night's rest so, as a result, they sleep during class time."
With Gov. Rauner's devastating cuts in support services for homeless families and children, those numbers will certainly go up. Consider it the next time you hear the words, "no excuses" or Mayor Emanuel's call for "better parenting" or for evaluating schools and teachers primarily on the basis of student standardized test scores.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Former CPS liar-in-chief leaves Rahm's Super PAC to start her own biz.

Substance photo
"She will be a real asset to those that work with her," says Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management. -- Crain's
Becky Carroll served as J.C. Brizard's and Byrd-Bennett's liar-in-chief at CPS before moving over to run Rahm's campaign Super PAC. Now, after a year and a half at Chicago Forward, Carroll is setting out on her own. Her new money-making venture is called Chicago Backward (just kidding) C-Strategies LLC and I assume her specialty will be union-busting, school privatization, and attacking progressive political candidates, as always.

Carroll's time at CPS was mostly spent trying to cover up Brizard's ineptness (admittedly an impossible job) and then keep a lid on the BBB/SUPES affair and the UNO corruption scandals. Then there was her CPS budget deception and her selling of the school closings (she named it, "right-sizing"). 

Oh, I almost forgot her efforts to spread dis-information about the Chicago teachers strike in 2012. Quite a track record.

After her relationship with local reporters crashed and burned last year, the mayor pulled her out of CPS' massive Communications Dept. and moved her over to run Chicago Forward where she headed the PAC's $5M effort to elect Rahm's favored puppy-dog aldermen. $2M of that was used to target two progressives, Scott Waguespack in the 32nd and Carlos Rosa in the 35th. Both won handily over machine candidates.

For more on Chicago Forward's failed run at the progressives, see Paul Blumenthal's piece at Huffington, "Chicago Progressives Emboldened After Rahm Emanuel's Super PAC Fails To Beat Them."

Despite this trail of losses, I'm sure Carroll, with investors like Michael Sacks behind her, will make a pile of money in her new venture. Carroll says she's already signed up 10 or so clients, including the Illinois Restaurant Association, who's leading the charge against increasing the minimum wage, and  union-busting education group, Stand for Children.

I can't say I wish her well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Warning: Be careful who you embed with

əmˈbed/ verb 1fix (an object) firmly and deeply in a surrounding mass.

No, my warning isn't directed at Charlie Sheen's "goddesses". Probably too late for them. It's also too late for GOP current poll leader Ben Carson whose ignorance on foreign policy just got exposed (as if we hadn't noticed) by his "close adviser" and professional embedded "journalist", Armstrong Williams.

So just consider this a warning to everyone who feels they may need it -- AFT, NEA leaders?

Armstrong Williams
For those too young (or too old) to remember, William's approach to journalism was to embed himself with the Bush administration and in particular with Bush's ed secretary, Rod Paige. In January 2005, USA Today reported that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Williams had been paid $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind. USA Today found that Williams was hired "to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same".

Now Armstrong has betrayed Carson. I guess Dr. C must not have left enough money on the nightstand.

Not to say that politics doesn't make strange bedfellows, or shouldn't. Just a reminder to use protection.

Case Studies... Billionaire Rauner is now the most hated governor in IL history. His budget terrorism and banning of Syrian refugees have been met with hostility and resistance across the state. But who will step up in this fight to save public education and salvage what's left of social support networks in the state? And what kind of deal will Sen. Cullerton and House Speaker Madigan try and cut?

I know CTU is watching to make sure we don't get sold out again on Cullerton's "compromise" SB318 like we did on the unconstitutional pension-theft bill.

Brother Fred says that the Supremes' latest oral arguments indicate that their next ruling will help insure us against another pension grab.
When the Court rules again in favor of our pension rights, as it is expected to do, it will now include what it did not have the opportunity to rule in SB1. They will not only protect us from the elected pension thieves in Springfield and City Hall. They will protect us from sell-out union leaders as well.
Ald. "Slow Eddie" Burke is still quick enough to know which way the wind is blowing on this one. He knows Rauner will take a beating on the refugee question, especially here in Chicago. For one thing, the governor doesn't have the authority to stop refugees from settling in Illinois. But he can push the legislature to cut funding for refugee aid.

So Burke is introducing a city council resolution reaffirming "Chicago’s historic role as a place of sanctuary and refuge". Co-sponsors are Marty Quinn (13th) and Progressive Caucus member, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). Should pass easily.

Ald. Waguespack
From Natasha Korecki at Politico -- 9:30 a.m. Progressive Caucus presser at City Hall. From a release:
"Members of the Progressive Reform Caucus will join Access Living Chicago in support of a resolution calling for hearings regarding the impact of financial cuts to special education programs in Chicago Public Schools. To date, Chicago Public Schools has cut approximately $32 million dollars in special education programs, and the budget cut announcements are not over."
-- Expect Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) to introduce a resolution calling for public hearings on special education funding cuts. "This resolution asking for hearings by the Education Committee will provide CPS an opportunity to clear the air and tell the public exactly what the state of funding and support for special needs students is at this point in time and throughout the year," Waguespack said in a statement. "The system supporting special needs students needs to be fully funded and CPS has an obligation to fulfill that duty today."
In case you missed the interview with Kim Foxx, candidate for Cook County State's Attorney on Chicago Tonight. Watch it here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Letter to faculty & staff from DePaul Pres. Holtschneider

Dear Colleagues,
The State of Illinois took the unprecedented step yesterday of temporarily halting Syrian immigration to Illinois.  Whatever you may think of the larger issue, I am writing to thank you in advance for your particular care and concern for our Syrian students, as well as any of our students from the Middle East region.  It is possible they may be subjected to popular misunderstanding and/or feel less safe than they ordinarily might as they travel to and from campus. 
As our faculty and professional staff, you are often the first to notice if our students are experiencing any distress.  Please know that you can always refer them to either the Office for International Students and Scholars (312-362-8376), the International Programs Office (312-362-8250), or the Dean of Students Office (312-362-8066) for assistance.
Thank you for your good hearts in this complex world environment. 
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.

New Study: Hungry kids score lower on tests. Shocking news?

Black Panther Party's free Breakfast Program, circa 1969.

Here's a shocker for you. Latest research coming out of Cardiff University confirms that kids who come to school hungry score lower on standardized tests than kids who are fed well. The latter group of the study's 11-year-olds scored twice as high as the hungry students.

More evidence that basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is bogus. What the tests are mostly measuring is student/family poverty -- not so-called "student achievement". Of course, by now nearly everyone in the field realizes this. Thus the growing movement of resistance to testing madness that have forced some small retreats in federal and state testing policies. Or maybe just lip service to change?

At any rate, Pres. Obama's call for "fewer and better tests" is welcomed by parents and educators. But it misses the point. That point being -- how high-stakes standardized testing is used to track and sort kids and to evaluate teachers.

Latest mini-retreat comes from one of the nation's greatest offenders -- N.Y. Gov. Cuomo himself.

According to NCPR:
New York State’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place by November 15, has been put on hold because 90 percent of school districts were granted waivers to delay its implementation. This represents the reversal of a policy championed by Governor Cuomo last spring.
Side Note -- In Wales, where the study took place, there is a free breakfast initiative in place for primary schools.

After watching Stanley Nelson's latest film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, I'm reminded that the Panthers most popular community initiative was it's free Breakfast For Children program. And that was back in '69.

Arne Duncan and the D.O.E. would do well to take a chunk of the millions it spends on testing and use it to recreate the Panthers' program. It would almost immediately lead to higher measurable student learning outcomes than have all the Department's current test-and-punish strategies.

As a parent and educator, I am repulsed by the idea that our society needs the testing rationale to make the case for feeding hungry children. But, whatever works, I suppose.

Without a focus on ending child hunger and poverty, current testing initiatives will continue to reproduce the system's inequities.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Ithaca College students in 'solidarity walkout'
Ithaca College Student Body President Dominick Recckio
"This movement has taken over the complete educational landscape of the entire institution. It has framed everyone at Ithaca College’s educational experience and will continue to do so." -- Democracy Now
Outgoing I.G. Faisal Khan
"We are the third biggest metropolis in the country. I would describe to you that the oversight in Chicago is comparable to the Wild West -- anything goes....
"...I could not believe how backwards the city was when it came to ethics. It needs to be blown up and started all over again ... I want Chicagoans to get their outrage back and say: 'enough is enough.'" 
Rahm & Ald. Joe Moore
Moore Khan...
Ald. Joe Moore called a female investigator from [Khan's] office a “bitch” and Khan himself a “bozo.” -- Politico
Sen. Ted Cruz
 “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror." -- Washington Post
Jesse Berney
Terrorist attacks in Western cities should make us more sympathetic to refugees fleeing Syria: The horror in Paris Friday evening is a daily reality of the civil war they're trying to escape. --Rolling Stone

Friday, November 13, 2015

One thing nearly all Chicagoans agree on. An end to mayoral control of the schools.

After Wednesday's forum on an elected school board for Chicago, DNAinfo conducted a survey. The results were pretty much in line with how citywide voting went in recent elections.
For those who missed it, here's the piece I did last week for Crain's on the topic. I've been hammering away on this for the past decade. Here's a piece I did at Huffington Post exactly five years ago. Back then, even before the board's devastating mass school closings and before the UNO and Byrd-Bennett/SUPES scandals, I pointed out:
After a decade and a half of Daley's top-down reform efforts, seven of those years with Duncan as the CEO, neighborhood schools remain pretty much as they were. Scores have flattened out. The so-called "achievement gap" continues to widen. Violence has reached pandemic proportions and the school system is on the brink of insolvency. Daley's pet reform project, Renaissance 2010, has been discarded and the phrase banned from usage within the bureaucracy.
Daley's appointed school board has been riddled with scandals, including probes of patronage and civil rights violations. Daley's former board president Michael Scott committed suicide when faced with an investigation of his misuse of school board funds.
Now spring forward to 2016, systemic corruption and instability have only grown worse under Rahm Emanuel's one-man rule. CPS is in steady financial free-fall and measurable learning outcomes have fallen even further.

Chicago's next Elected School Board Forum will take place  November 19th at 6:30 p.m. at the Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N Kedzie Blvd. Rep. Will Guzzardi presiding.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In The Mailbox: From State Rep. Will Guzzardi

Mike --

As you may know, in August I joined over 40 of my fellow legislators to co-sponsor HB 4268, which will create an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools. This has been an issue of the upmost importance to me for many years, and I’m happy to see the legislature finally respond to the thousands of dedicated parents and organizers in this fight. In an effort to help educate my constituents more about why this reform is so necessary — and to hear directly from you on the issue — I'm holding a forum on Thursday, November 19th at Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N Kedzie Blvd, at 6:30pm.

As I've stated before, CPS is the only school district in the entire state (and one of only a few in the country) that doesn't have an elected school board. That means that we're the only school district where the mayor gets to single-handedly decide what’s best for our students, teachers and parents. In every other district in Illinois, the people making decisions about our school are directly accountable to the communities those schools serve. Given the track record of CPS leadership, there's no reason why Chicago should be any different. We've had over 20 years of mayoral control, and it hasn’t produced any better outcomes. In fact, all we've seen is scandal after scandal, insider deals, massive over-testing of our students, and ever more money being dumped into charters with no positive results.
Let's discuss a better way forward!
What: Elected Representative School Board Forum
When: November 19th at 6:30pm
Where: Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N Kedzie Blvd, 60647

State Rep. Will Guzzardi

Missouri student protests shine a light on campus institutional racism

One positive outcome from the Univ. of Missouri student protests is finally more media focus and light shined on the racist culture often embedded in post-secondary campus life.

John Eligon, who has been covering the protests since Ferguson, does a fair job of getting at it in his yesterday's NYT piece, "At University of Missouri, Black Students See a Campus Riven by Race."

But even from the headline you can see that his focus is more on black students' "perception" rather than the reality of campus institutional racism. It's more about "racial tension" than racism. But why shouldn't there be "racial tension" on a campus with a long history of systemic racism that's become a part of the fabric of university life and where black students, many away from home and from their own communities for the first time, have to shoulder the burden of change, often in isolation. All this, not to mention the ongoing physical threats to their safety.

Eligon begins to make the case here [My comments in brackets]:
Missouri, where the state university began accepting black students in 1950 and hired its first black faculty member in 1969, has faced distinct challenges in overcoming racial divisions. [Eligon assumes that's what the administration is trying to do. We still have to consider the possible purpose of the institution being social reproduction. - M.K.].
With Kansas City to the west and St. Louis to the east, the state has two urban hubs that account for most of the state’s black residents, about 12 percent of the population. The rest of the state is overwhelmingly rural and white. Both blacks and whites are underrepresented [Not sure how both are "underrepresented". -- M.K.] at the university compared with the demographics of the entire state. Eight percent of students are black, while nearly 80 percent are white, compared with about 84 percent of the state.
Educational outcomes at the university have also not always been equal ["Not always" ?Have they ever been? -- M.K.]. While about 83 percent of black freshmen return for their sophomore year, nearly 88 percent of whites and 94 percent of Asians do. And black students have the lowest graduation rate of all races, less than 55 percent, compared with 71 percent for whites.
Black students are demanding the hiring of more minority faculty members which they say would help improve "racial understanding" [Eligon's words -- M.K.] . About three out of four faculty members on this campus are white, and only about 3 percent are black.

Yes, that would be a good start. 

The struggle continues. Look for it to spread to other campuses. I hope so. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Corporate media turns the 1st Amendment on its head in Missouri

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law... infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
Isn't it amazing the way giant corporate media, from TV news networks to NYT, WSJ, have been able to turn the University of Missouri black student protests upside-down in just a day?

Now the story is no longer about campus racism, threats of violence against black students, or an unresponsive school administration. No, now it's all about the new American paparazzi supposedly being denied its "1st Amendment rights" to photograph unwilling students and eavesdrop on their private conversations.

By whom? Not by the government "making any law...infringing on the freedom of the press." But supposedly by some black student protesters and a journalism professor.

How the script has been flipped.

The irony here is that this same corporate media totally blacked-out (no pun intended) any and all news coverage of the racist assaults on the students until U of M footballers stood up to be counted and the president's job was threatened. Is it any wonder that there's student distrust of the media?

This is not to say that the students and faculty member who jostled the ESPN stringer were right to do so. But either way, it's no federal case and after the initial hassle, it seemed like they worked things out. The faculty member apologized (she lost her job), and reporters were allowed entry to the gathering.

Now the Chicago Tribune, that bastion of 1st Amendment rights (remember their call for a Mussolini type to run the public schools) chimes in with an-- "How dare they!" -- editorial denouncing the students.
In a baffling display of dissonance, the protesters had pitched their tents in a public space — on a taxpayer-funded campus that is home to one of the best journalism schools in the nation — and posted a "NO MEDIA" sign.
The Tribune doesn't mention that the students had every right to this "public space" and, at least in my opinion, every right to defend themselves against violations of their own space and privacy. ESPN was the outsider here. I'm not even certain that the antagonist was a bona fide reporter. It's interesting that none of the real working journalists have made themselves the center of this story.

I can tell you from my own years as a journalist, I could never just walk onto a public school campus or any other "public space" and automatically gain entrance to meetings or take pictures of students without permission. It would have been a clear violation of school policy and -- dare I say -- journalistic ethics.

Journalistic ethics? What am I even talking about here? The Tribune Company, infamous for its Sam Zell-style buying/selling/takeover strategies and stripping its paper of working reporters and photographers, has none as far as I can tell. They're not the only ones. The Sun-Times fired each and every one of their photographers in 2013, replacing them with stringers with phone cameras. What could possibly go wrong?

The Trib's Eric Zorn, as usual, is the worst in writing about the protest. He refers to U of M President Tim Wolfe's resignation as "the fruits of extortion".

Eli Broad buys ed reporting in L.A.
The Trib's sister paper the L.A. Times is once again up for sale to the highest bidder -- most likely, the Koch Bros., Rupert Murdoch, or Eli Broad. And education reporting is now being directly underwritten by billionaire corporate reformers.

The Washington Post reports:
Three of the Times’ benefactors — the K&F Baxter Family Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation — have been major supporters of charter and school-privatization efforts that are strongly opposed by teachers’ unions.
Thus, you now have editorials like this one: "It's time to stop the whining about charter schools."

So much for "free press."

Yes, there are serious threats to our 1st Amendment rights and press freedom, but they're not coming from protesting black students at Missouri.

And while corporate media continues to make itself out to be the victims here, the racist threats against U of Missouri black students continue unabated. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Speaking Finn-ish: 'High quality learners' code name for...

You can mock these right-wing loonies and American Taliban all you want after tonight's debate (and I will). But remember, they still control both houses of Congress, lots of state houses and legislatures,  and dominate the Supreme Court. And we have a Democratic administration, including the Dept. of Education and some big-city mayors, that have abetted, enabled and imitated them for the past 7 years and longer.

Speaking of... Former Asst. Ed Sec. under Reagan, Chester Finn is targeting Finland's education system (progressives' favorite) for not spending more on "high quality learners." You don't have to speak Finn-ish to understand Finn's coded references or to see that he's not just talking about Finland, which already has lots of high schools devoted to the "gifted".

Finn, a senior fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institute, must love Dem Mayor Rahm Emanuel who is pushing selective-enrollment schools on every other block on the north side of Chicago. The north side obviously has more high-quality children.

Finn and his think-tank protege, Michael Petrilli at the Fordham Institute, are all about reproducing the educational system's inequalities.

Amanda Klonsky, who taught students in Chicago's juvenile detention center for several years, wonders what Finn would call her students?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Rahm's hidden corruption tax

As Rahm Emanuel is about to hit city residents with the biggest property tax increase in history, there's another hidden tax we already pay. It's one Rahm never mentioned in recent budget hearings. I  call it the corruption tax, and it's a big one. 

According to a recent study, everyone in this state pays an annual corruption tax of $1.308 and Chicago remains the "corruption capital" of the U.S. with 1,642 public corruption convictions from 1976 through 2013. That total has obviously risen in the past two years.

The latest installment of the tax will go to pay the lawyers defending the CPS Gang of 4, charged or implicated in the SUPES scandal. That's Barbara Byrd-Bennett and her three aides (who've also been named as perps in Detroit's Houghton Mifflin Harcourt corruption scandal) Sherry Ulery, Rosemary Herpel and Tracy Martin. While CPS isn't currently on the hook for Byrd-Bennett's criminal defense lawyers, they (we) are still paying a hefty sum for her salary, benefits and golden parachute contributions.

According to the Sun-Times, Chicago Public Schools’ lawyers’ bills for the corruption case that took down BBB have already topped $280,000. And things are just getting started.

The Gang of Four
Then there's the millions in lost services from SUPES and possibly other contracts steered by BBB, like the one to Global Workplace Solutions. They won the $30.9 million bid to help Rahm close 50 schools. A portion of the business was subcontracted to a company called The Robert Bobb Group, a company run by Robert Bobb, the former Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools. Bobb hired Byrd-Bennett in Detroit in 2009 as Chief Academic Auditor and paid her a salary of $18,000 per month.

Of course, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the more than $100 million the city has already spent on on settlements and legal fees in the case of of CPD torturer Jon Burge and his crew. But it still could add up to millions more by the time the trials and investigations are over.

CPS spokesperson, Emily Bittner says that the board, "covers legal fees for employees within the scope of their duties.” The implication here is that the Gang's SUPES dealings with Gary Solomon and Tom Varanas were "within the scope of their duties" and defined by the board and the Mayor. In that sense, I have to agree.

Who still thinks that making CPS a wing of Chicago City Hall, under the autocratic rule of the mayor, is a good idea?


The protesting students are demanding that the institutions live up to their values. How long did we think the students wouldn't notice? — John Warner (@biblioracle)
Hillary Clinton
Most charter schools — I don’t want to say every one — but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education. -- Washington Post
At Mizzou last night.
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten
 Success Academy charter-school chain has suspended or expelled elementary students, including many kindergarteners, often for minor infractions — and at a rate seven times higher than elementary students in New York City’s public school system as a whole. -- N.Y. Daily News
Vermont Ed Sec. Rebecca Holcombe
These tests are based on a narrow definition of “college and career ready.”... If your child’s scores show that they are not yet proficient, this does not mean that they are not doing well or will not do well in the future. -- The Answer Sheet
Time Magazine's Jeffrey Kluger 
You have to accept that a single thing can exist in two states at once—alive and dead, black and white—until it’s observed or measured in some way, at which point it instantly takes on one quality or the other. -- What Einstein Got Wrong About the Speed of Light
I made this one up...

Friday, November 6, 2015

The proper response to Rahm's plea for help. Prepare for a strike.

 "Look, we all want the same thing..." -- Rahm Emanuel
 "We cannot blow up schools because you don't have any money. You have to figure out some other way to do this." -- CTU Pres. Karen Lewis
On Tuesday the Mayor, with his poll ratings sinking like a stone, called on the CTU to drop talk of a strike and get behind him and House Speaker Madigan, in their so-far-futile attempt to get the governor to stop holding the state budget hostage.

Rahm & Madigan
His plea for help came one day after CTU leaders responded to the mayor's threats to fire 5,000 more teachers and staff by calling on the membership to get prepared for a "protracted strike." Yesterday, teachers were given, what was called a "practice strike vote." I'm waiting for the votes to be counted, but it's not that they need any practice. Last time around, CTU members responded to the leadership's call with a 95% yes vote. When pushed to the wall, Chicago teachers have shown their heart for the struggle and support for their leaders.

What Rahm is doing is using his threat of mass teacher firings to signal pal Rauner that he's willing to accept his budget deal -- money for union-busting, without losing what's left of his base of support and getting blamed by voters for another strike.

Oops, too late. Have you seen Rahm's poll numbers lately? They're down around 25%.

He's in no position to lead a beggars' delegation to Springfield. He has no juice down there. In fact, he's toxic. Deal with him, we must. He's still (hopefully, not for long) the mayor and maintains (hopefully, not for long) autocratic control over the schools.

But if he's serious, Rahm's got to do some serious bargaining. Unity in Springfield starts with his withdrawal of the mass-firings threat.