Thursday, June 30, 2016

Broke on purpose: The price of 'reform' at CPS.

Tim Cawley was Byrd-Bennett's and then Claypool's  attack dog. He cut the Children and Family Benefits Unit which provided support for CPS's neediest students. 
Late last summer, in its haste to implement savage austerity measures, CPS leaders eliminated the 10-person Children and Family Benefits Unit, saying it was not vital to the core mission of educating children. The move turns out to have cost the district millions in poverty money that would have directly supported its neediest students.

Diane Fager, who launched the unit in 2005 and retired from CPS in 2014, tells Catalyst that she and others repeatedly told leaders that the unit brought in more money than it cost.
“People should know that this was not an accident. The reality is that without assistance from these kinds of programs, kids are going to school hungry so they cannot perform as well at school, and without health insurance they’re sick a lot more,” she said. “This was pointed out over and over in numerous meetings, memos and reports, and ignored, even at the cost of giving up millions of dollars in federal and state revenue.”
According to Catalyst:
 The decision to eliminate the unit was made in what, even by Chicago standards, was a chaotic moment. Forrest Claypool had just been named CEO of schools, and had pushed through an operating budget that depended on a wish: an extra $500 million from Springfield. Contract negotiations were heating up with the Chicago Teachers Union. A small group of Bronzeville activists were drawing national attention for their month-long hunger strike over the fate of Dyett High School.
And jobs were getting cut left and right, says Taalib-Din Ziyad, vice president of SEIU Local 73, which represented the unit’s school-based liaisons. The unit's manager remained at central office — despite not having any staff left.
Diane Feger
According to Fager, the real culprit here, besides Forrest Claypool, was [then-chief administrative officer] Tim Cawley, who pushed to cut any unit which had a funding sources that left it outside of his bureaucratic control.

I have written about Cawley often in these pages. Appointed by Rahm Emanuel in 2011, he was Barbara Byrd-Bennett's and then Claypool's attack dog before retiring last fall. Cawley represented the city in contract talks that eventually resulted in the first Chicago teachers' strike in a quarter century. 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.

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 ensuing hunger strike by parents and Bronzeville community activists that forced the school's reopening.

The dismantling of the Children and Family Benefits Unit was just one more brick in the wall that has left CPS broke on purpose. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

SmallTalk Salute to FOTP and Judge Darrah

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Friends of the Park and it's fierce Ex. Director Juanita Irizarry, as well as to U.S. District Judge John Darrah for standing up to Rahm's bullying and the unlawful Lucas lakefront land giveaway.

Now that greedy billionaire land-grabbers, Lucas and Hobson have left town for the greener pastures on the west coast, local media seems to have finally come to its senses, here, here and here.

In case you don't know about Judge Darrah, Trib's Blair Kamin writes:
It was Darrah who let Friends of the Parks' case against Lucas proceed, thereby checking a "fix-is-in" political process that had Emanuel, the City Council, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly doing Lucas' bidding.
Though the case never went to trial, Darrah is the real hero of this titanic struggle. Without him, Friends of the Parks was powerless. Also without him, the case could have set a dangerous precedent. It would have allowed the powerful and wealthy to foist their vanity projects on the people's shoreline — and control those edifices for decades, even centuries, to come.
And shame on the usually stand-up Father Michael Pfleger for his brain-fart equation of FOTP with a notorious street gang and for being unable to distinguish "between Friends of the Parks and the Gangster Disciples?" I hope that $200,000 he took in church contributions from Lucas' foundation went for something positive in the community and was worth the embarrassment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

'Bailing out' schools

Metaphors...This is the second time in two days, I've heard the mayor's spokespeople refer to proper funding of Chicago Public Schools as a "bailout". Sounds too much like Gov. Rauner/speak to be a coincidence.
S-T's Fran Spielman writes: 
While lawmakers have been summoned back to Springfield this coming week amid talk of a potential stopgap budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner has repeated his opposition to a state-sponsored schools bailout and insisted CPS' fiscal woes are of the district's own making.
Well actually, both of the latest bailout references belong to Molly Poppe, from the city’s Office of Budget and Management. In response to Rahm's offer to have the city buy CPS debt, Pope tells S-T
“We’re not contemplating bailing CPS out or borrowing on their behalf or loaning them money — even temporarily."
They've obviously gone from viewing public schools as beggars to outright criminals. As in -- Let's not let these dangerous public institutions back out on the street where they can steal again from the city's most wealthy tax dodgers. 

Good Read... Don't miss Trib's Blair Kamin's take down of Assholes-of-the-Year, George Lucas/Mellody Hobson as the pair flees Chicago looking for new suckers on the west coast. 
Lucas himself was like the man behind the curtain in "The Wizard of Oz" — the unseen force pulling the levers, known to everyone but accountable to no one.
Well, this looks interesting... Chi Flack Night: City Hall Politics and Media - Chi Hack Night - The landscape has been rapidly evolving in Chicago City Hall in recent months, with the City Council taking up key legislation on everything from rideshare regulation to AirBnb to police reform. Communications strategist Joanna Klonsky is there for it all as communications consultant/spokesperson to many of the aldermen–most notably, the 11-member Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus. Joanna will talk about how the changing environment has created new opportunities to make progress in City Hall, and how she works with media to help advance the necessary narratives to make it happen.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Rev. Barber, now on a 22-state speaking tour, will be main speaker at the July 8th Save Our Schools March in D.C. 

Rev. Dr. William Barber, Pres. of the N.C. NAACP
Evangelicalism is about how you deal with policies that affect the poor, the least of these, the hurting. We need to challenge this perverted use of the term evangelicalism (sometimes, they even say "white" evangelicalism) which really has no biblical basis. -- MSNBC 
George Will jumps sinking ship
“This is not my party.” -- PJ Media 
Pope Francis 
"I believe that the Church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended,' the Pope told reporters, 'but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons." -- Talk to journalists
 Warriors coach Steve Kerr
“When 90% of our country wants background checks on gun purchases and we’ve got our senate and our house not only voting it down, but using the Bill of Rights as a reason for people to have rights to carry these automatic weapons, and we’re getting people murdered every day at an alarming rate. I just have to get this off my chest, our government is insane. We are insane.” -- Sports Illustrated
Reps. Conyers & Rangel
Reps. John Conyers & Charles Rangel
In 1948, the year we both put on U.S. Army uniforms, Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes as the nominee of the Dixiecrats. But Trump’s dangerous provocations—the forced expulsion of 11 million people and the creation of secret police and special religious ghettos for Muslims—represent crimes that we simply did not travel half a world a way to defend. -- TIME
Naomi Klein
If we don’t demand radical change we are headed for a whole world of people searching for a home that no longer exists. -- The Saturday Paper

Friday, June 24, 2016

Blog Fodder Rahm admonishes his alderman: 'Will yuze guys, keep some decorum?'

You've heard of the Godfather. Well for me, Rahm Emanuel is the Blog Fodder. He's the gift that keeps on giving for us bloggers and Tweeters.

Here's his latest. I know he's now residing at the bottom of the ratings food chain and trying to clean up his image. But really? Scolding Chicago aldermen for -- wait for it -- using profanity in public?

You all know what a high-class joint the Chicago City Council is. Right?

Fran Spielman writes:
Is the Chicago City Council “slouching towards Gomorrah,” as former federal appeals court justice Robert Bork once famously put it in a 1996 book by the same name?
You might think so from some of the debate at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. It prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is famous for his use of profanity, to admonish aldermen to maintain “decorum.”
 Emanuel has kept his tongue in check in public. But, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has accused the mayor of telling her, “F— you, Lewis” during their earliest meeting.
Then there was the time when Rahm, as Obama's chief of staff, said "F--- the UAW." I read that in Steven Rattner's 2010 book "Overhaul."

Or that time when he told Attorney General Eric Holder to "Shut the F--- Up" about gun control.

I guess Rahm means, don't use profanity unless your talking to black women or about unions.

I actually liked it when Rahm, in 2006, after Dems took back the House, told Republicans to "go f---themselves." The way I look at it, it was just his way of reaching across the aisle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Don't wade in the water, children.

"We'll spend whatever it takes to remove any devices or any piping that might pose lead hazard risk. Whatever that is, however much it costs, we will do it to make sure that our water pipes are safe and that our children, your children, are safe." --  Forrest Claypool
Claypool sounds like a guy trying to get out of a bad marriage after he's been caught cheating.

Lots of questions here. What does he mean, "whatever it takes"? What if it takes billions, like in Flint for example? I mean, we're only beginning to get a handle on the problem. Right? And why is that?

Every day, the number of schools found with leaded water grows. CPS is still awaiting test results from dozens of buildings but has disclosed that at least 27 28 schools have dangerous levels of lead in their water fountains.

Does Claypool have some unlimited mountain of money stashed somewhere that he's not telling us about? I thought the system was "broke". At least that's what he's been telling the CTU as an excuse for not settling contract negotiations with the union.

Does "whatever it takes" include making things right for the potentially tens of thousands of students, former students, and teachers who have drunk from those toxic fountains for years?

And finally, how can parents trust that current and past lead testing is on the up and up? The Guardian names Chicago as one of 33 U.S. cities that have used water testing “cheats” that potentially conceal dangerous levels of lead. It seems that the mayor's  water department testers have been using the same water testing methods that prompted criminal charges against three government employees in Flint. In one case, Chicago officials asked employees to test water safety in their own homes.

It's enough to make you wonder why Claypool brought over Jason Kierna, one of his cronies from the CTA, with no school building experience, to run the facilities department.

It also makes me wonder why State Senator Heather Steans suddenly rode in on her white horse last week to sponsor a new water-testing bill. Where has she and her bill been all these years?

Steans, who is exploring a run for governor, is right when she says:
“We know that exposure to lead can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities and many other significant health problems, and young children in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods are most at risk. That’s unacceptable. By mandating rigorous testing of water systems and communicating openly with the public, we can prevent our cities and towns from becoming another Flint – a community where children were poisoned unawares.”
But hasn't this horse already left the barn? Could lead poisoning be one of the causes of the so-called "achievement gap" in our test-crazy school system? The Steans testing bill, even if passed and signed by the governor, won't "prevent" anything for those like my former basketball players who guzzled water at practice from those fountains for years or for all those summer school students, going back decades, who tried to stay hydrated in 100-degree buildings with no A/C.

Steans claims that until her bill is passed, CPS is under no legal obligation to do lead testing. Who does she think she's protecting here? Does she really expect angry parents to buy the excuse that lead testing didn't go on, or that Chicago cheated on testing, because there was no legislation mandating it?

Do you think Claypool is at all worried about leaded water at Francis Parker, where where he sends his children?

No, this isn't just about  removing or fixing some water pipes. It's about trying to restore faith in the leadership of a school system that seems more concerned with political ass-covering than in the safety and well-being of other people's children.

Have we learned nothing from Flint?

A look back on the confederacy of racists, a year later.

Still no trial date for white supremacist killer, Dylann Roof. 

A year ago today, in response to Dylann Roof's act of racist terrorism in S. Carolina and the struggle to remove the confederate flag from the state house, I posted this: A Confederacy of Racists, which in my view, included the likes of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley,  Lindsey Graham, Mark Sanford, League of the South,, Judge Gosnell, Strom Thurmond (deceased) and others.

Neo-confederate Haley, who was a long-time defender of flying the confederate flag, was then mentioned as a possible Trump running mate. But in May, she endorsed fellow confederate, Marco Rubio causing Trump to claim she was never in consideration for the VP job.

But despite their unspecified differences, Haley, like others in the GOP leadership from Speaker Paul Ryan on down, remains committed to "supporting the nominee", Trump. It's still a confederacy of dunces racists.

A year after Roof's racist act of terror, and in the wake of last week's slaughter of LGBT and Latino club goers in Orlando by Omar Mateen, the S.C. mass murderer still hasn't been brought to trial. Federal and state prosecutors are bumping heads over who will get the credit for his conviction. Roof and his lawyers are using the conflict to get him tried in a jurisdiction that is historically less likely to execute him as well as giving him the best stage to offer his racist views to a sympathetic audience.

Both cases have now become election campaign fodder as Republicans try and preempt any gun control moves by Dems and paint both crimes as part of a religious holy war. Yes, even white supremacist, Roof's attack a year ago, on black church goers, is now being described in right-wing media as "an attack on Christianity".

The Confederacy lives.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Rauner runs
“Can’t understand why the DuSable Museum will allow Gov. Rauner to speak there on Monday,” [Father Michael] Pfleger wrote on Facebook. “This man has abandoned and raped the community of resources,”
Rauner Spokesperson: "Out of an abundance of caution and respect for the safety of visitors and the museum, we have regretfully cancelled the planned Juneteenth event at the DuSable Museum." -- NBC5 Chicago
Chicago billionaire Hillary bundler J.B. Pritzker
 “This isn’t about lifestyles of the rich and famous. There’s nothing fancy about it. People just want to mingle with the candidate.”  -- Sun-Times
"I Feel Like a Supermodel" -- NBC News
Florida Prosecutor Kenneth Lewis
"Downtown Orlando has no bottom. The entire city should be leveled. It is void of a single redeeming quality." -- Daily News
 From July 8-10, educators, parents, and activists will rally in Washington, DC for three days of action in defense of public education. Featured speakers include author Jonathan Kozol, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, and Diane Ravitch. I will also be speaking at the rally.
On July 8 there will be a People’s March for Public Education and Social Justice. Save Our Schools is organizing a conference for July 9 to be followed by a July 10 Coalition Summit and organizing session. The program for the rally and meetings includes full, equitable funding for all public schools; safe, racially just schools and communities; community leadership in public school policies; professional, diverse educators for all students; child-centered, culturally appropriate curriculum for all, and no high-stakes standardized testing.

Friday, June 17, 2016

'Reforming' the cities

Expensive condos go up where public housing used to stand in Chicago. 
In just two weeks, Illinois will start its second year without a state budget, threatening the opening of schools in the fall and pushing school systems to the brink. But it's impossible to understand the near collapse of urban public school systems like ours in Chicago, outside the context of the great transformation (whitenizing) of the cities.

The nation's biggest cities, once centers of industry and manufacturing, have increasingly become concentration points of great wealth and deep poverty. They are becoming places where most people can no longer afford to live resulting in the out-migrations of the poor, particularly of African-American families. This, even as the U.S. economy recovers from it's latest deep recession.

The dramatic shift in the the mode of production has resulted in increasing loss of well-paying jobs and union representation for millions of workers as well as an erosion of the tax base. Because politicians are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them, they are unwilling to increase taxes on the wealthiest. This unwillingness lies at the heart of cities' revenue problems. As a result, public schools have become beggars, looking, in the words of Gov. Rauner, for a "bailout".

A report released yesterday from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, shows that almost half of adults living in Chicago are spending more than they can afford on their homes or apartments, and have to deal with the burden by taking on second jobs, moving to less safe areas, or cutting back on food or the quality of their children's education.

The Tribune reports:
While the problem of finding affordable housing is most acute among people ages 18 to 34, African-Americans and households with incomes under $40,000, 49% of those in households with incomes over $75,000 said "it's challenging to find affordable housing in my area... Nationally, 76% of people noted more difficulty holding onto a middle-class lifestyle.
On top of this, Chicago's small property and business owners are being hit with massive tax increases to make up for the revenue shortfall. The average Chicago homeowner’s property tax bill will go up 13% this year, and it will keep going up for years.

That means even more foreclosures, more families leaving the city and more homeless students in Chicago schools.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WaPo's Strauss: Chicago's school system at the brink

Ed writer deluxe, Valerie Strauss at (Donald Trump's fave) Washington Post asks, "Is the nation’s third-largest school district in danger of collapse?" She's referring to Chicago, of course, even though technically, Puerto Rico  has the nation's third-largest. Chicago is fourth, especially now that so many African-American families have left the city.

But the answer to her question is a definite, YES.

Strauss writes:
Dozens of principals, including some from the district’s best schools, have decided to leave, but those who are staying were warned recently that they could see 39 percent cuts in funding. That goes for teachers, after-school programs and enrichment programs. Chicago public schools, long in dire financial straits, face a budget deficit of more than $1 billion and must contribute $676 million to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund by June 30, which, the Chicago Sun Times says, would leave only $24 million in the district’s coffers.
 Meanwhile, problems with facilities have been growing  since the district, in what it said was a cost-cutting move, privatized cleaning services two years ago by awarding more than $300 million in contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC (the latter associated with former NBA star Magic Johnson, who, incidentally, donated to Emanuel’s reelection campaign last year). Principals have repeatedly complained that schools were dirty and that complaints were not addressed in a timely manner.
Strauss gets it, that it's on Gov. Rauner, but not just on Gov. Rauner. 
Even as Emanuel fights with Rauner, public school educators are no fans of Emanuel. He has angered them for years by supporting key tenets of corporate school reform, including the privatization of public services, the expansion of charter schools and the closure of nearly 50 traditional public schools in a manner that infuriated parents.  In April, the union rejected an independent fact-finders recommendation that it accept a four-year contract offered by the city, and its president, Karen Lewis, said that the district’s financial problems could not solely be laid at the feet of the Republican governor, but also at the mayor’s and district leadership’s.
Good stuff, Valerie.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Jane Addams, American radical

From Merriam Webster
adjective rad·i·cal \ˈra-di-kəl\
of, relating to, or proceeding from a root: as
a (1) : of or growing from the root of a plant <radical tubers> (2) : growing from the base of a stem, from a rootlike stem, or from a stem that does not rise above the ground <radical leaves>
b : of, relating to, or constituting a linguistic root
c : of or relating to a mathematical root
d : designed to remove the root of a disease or all diseased and potentially diseased tissue <radical surgery> <radical mastectomy>

From the Guardian... "FBI and Obama confirm Omar Mateen was radicalized on the internet."
I still don't see anything radical about a homophobic psychopath with an AR-15. Seems pretty retrograde to me. It's certainly not in the tradition of American radicalism, ie. Radical Republicans who opposed slavery and the Confederacy, socialists like Eugene Debs, Jane Addams, labor organizers like I.W.W. and civil rights heroes in S.N.C.C.

From Merriam Webster
noun ren·di·tion \ren-ˈdi-shən\
: a performance of something

From the Daily Mail..."Under the rendition program, terror suspects were kidnapped on foreign soil and transferred to centers also outside the U.S., where they were interrogated and tortured." 
In CIA-speak, using U.S. embassies abroad to kidnap and torture people is now called "extraordinary rendition".

From CPS website:
Wanted: Executive Director of Personalized Learning 
Another example of how they've taken the language of progressive education and turned it into its opposite. One can only imagine what Personalized Learning means in an organization centered on standardization and testing madness. Possibly plopping more kids down in front of a computer screen for test prep while class size balloons to 40 in a class.

In 1916, John Dewey published “Democracy and Education,” which advocated for placing the child, as opposed to the curriculum, at the center of the classroom. Dewey saw education as a social interaction between children and adults, and believed that knowledge couldn’t simply be given to a child, but that a student must experience something and engage with it to learn.

Have Rahm Emanuel and Forrest Claypool suddenly become Deweyists? Answer: Only for their own kids who attend chi-chi progressive private schools. Not for other people's children.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Hundreds of CPS students walked-out of class and rallied at the Thompson Center demanding fair and adequate school funding. They targeted both Gov. Rauner and Mayor Emanuel. 
Sarah Jester, Payton College Prep student
"We live in a state where our governor calls our schools 'crumbling prisons,' but refuses to actively improve public education. We live in a city where our corrupt mayor appoints only his good friends to our Board of Education, although boards are usually elected in many other districts." -- Hundreds Of CPS Students Protest Against Rauner, Rahm On Education
Dave Zirin
To hear about the remorseless killing of predominantly Latino LGBT people during Pride month is shattering enough. To then see Donald Trump and a collection of the worst anti-gay bigots be boastful, almost gleeful, about it because the shooter was Muslim is all the worse. -- The Nation
Greg Hinz
The bottom line truly is a tale of two cities inside one.... Chicago's white population now appears to be growing while African-Americans are fleeing town. -- Crain's
Ken Burns at Stanford
Filmmaker Ken Burns 
"As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making the other wrong." -- At Stanford commencement
 Gary Younge
Some will say it is about Islam. Mateen was Muslim. But mass shootings are not unique to Islam or alien to America. There were 330 last year alone. -- The Guardian
H. "Rap" Brown
 “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” -- July 27, 1967 SNCC Press Conference 

Friday, June 10, 2016

High School Walkouts and Rally Today

FOR IMMEDIATELY RELEASE!!! Shut Down the Failed System

Nidalis Burgos, 18 Lincoln Park High School 
Sabah Hussain,  Lane Tech College Prep   773-961-6029   
Sarah Jesterk, Walter Payton College Prep 

Students from Chicago Public Schools all over the city, will gather at 100 W Randolph St on June 10th at 3:30 pm. The students will first walk out of their classrooms and arrive at the Thompson Center with their respective schools. The walkouts will happen at different times throughout the day in the afternoon of the schop’day. Students will be leading, delivering speeches, and showcasing the positive aspects of the schools that would be cut with the proposed budget cuts.

After the report of millions being cut from each and every school in Chicago, it's clear that the only plan the officials have for our education is failure. Over the years CPS schools have continuously been under attack, from school closures to staff layoffs. This demonstration is concentrated on the stalled budget announcement implemented by Bruce Rauner. Chicago Public School students will not settle to be labeled as failures. At this demonstration students will demand better learning environment and appropriate funding for all schools. With numbers the students of Chicago Public Schools will achieve our demand.

There are schools without hygienic products and no room in classrooms, but what has become even more evident is a city run by individuals who care only in front of the cameras. Numerous principals from all around the city have had to divert meager resources-that were meant to be used to improve the quality of the school- to simply keeping the doors open, but our city’s administrators are too busy searching for the doors that will get them re-elected.

Students are here today to open those school doors, prepared to show the world how much they value their education even though our elected and unelected officials do not. 

Sarah Jester, a student from Walter Payton, states that, “"We live in a state where our governor calls our schools 'crumbling prisons' but refuses to actively improve public education. We live in a city where our corrupt mayor appoints only his good friends to our Board of Education, although boards are usually elected in many other districts.” 

In addition, Lane Tech junior, Sabah Hussain notes, “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power”. 

Lincoln Park senior, Nidalis Burgos adds, "this is where the bullying starts and ends, where students come together is where the politicians come to a halt. this is our education they're toying with, and we refuse to allow it. we understand the state is monstrous for denying our funding, but we can't forget about the monsters in our city: mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CPS board of education. we're here today to prove to everyone in office that we are not to be labeled as failures and surpassed."

Thursday, June 9, 2016

No, Gov.Rauner. Schools are not 'crumbling prisons'. But they are in big trouble.

When asked by reporters to name any ‘Crumbling’ CPS schools he’s visited, he couldn't come up with one.
Gov. Rauner is delusional if he thinks equating Chicago's public schools with "crumbling prisons" is a political winner for him. He has succeeded only in uniting forces, from classroom teachers to parents, unions, Rahm/Claypool and Dem machine pols, AGAINST HIM. The same forces that a year ago were at war against each other.

#Notaprison tweets have gone viral with hundreds of snapshots and positive stories of great teaching by great teachers and wonderful learning opportunities for city kids, despite old, dirty, worn out, and toxic facilities in which teacher/learning take place. Chicago teachers are responsible for the many gains that have been reported (some exaggerated for political purposes) in measurable learning outcomes.

Most recently, for example, we learned that it's the neighborhood schools (not charters), as run-down as many of them are, that have been driving increased graduation rates.

And all these great achievements by students and educators, are now being threatened as Rauner holds school budgets hostage for the past year.

When pushed by reporters to name even one school he visited that was like a "crumbling prison", Rauner couldn't come up with one. How could he? He's more familiar with elite selective-enrollment schools like Walter Payton H.S., the school he clouted his own daughter into, with the help of Arne Duncan. Payton certainly is no crumbling prison.

As we pull together in opposition to our sociopath governor, let's not lose sight of the fact that there are still two tiers of public schools in Chicago, by design, and that many of our schools, serving the neediest children and families are  crumbling and badly in need of repair. Code violations, peeling paint (some of it lead-based), health code violations, fire alarms that don't work... these are just a few of the problems facing schools in the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Let's not forget also how building maintenance and repairs were neglected for years at schools targeted by the board for closing.

Many others are blighted, and strewn with trash as a result of the privatization of the custodial force.

Lead has just been found in the drinking water at a dozen more schools, even while Chicago's whole water testing system is being called out for cheating.

I could go on.

CEO Forrest Claypool is now threatening possible 40% cuts in school budgets and there is a strong possibility that schools may not open in time in the fall. He's used the threat of cuts to attack the CTU and force concessions from teachers in the ongoing contract negotiations.

Rauner is the main enemy of public education in the state and his school=prison demagogy is aimed at playing off suburban and downstate school districts against Chicago and out maneuvering his rival, Mike Madigan. He's even calling adequate school funding a "bailout" (as if Rauner was ever opposed to corporate bailouts). But let's not prettify the horrid conditions that exist in many neighborhood schools.

Fighting Rauner can't mean taking the heat off of Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked board of education, who are using austerity as a rationale to gut schools, privatize operations, and debase teachers and their union.

Let's fight for our schools with two fists. Not just one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

If school reform is the 'civil rights issue of our time', it's been a dismal flop.

During Arne Duncan's seven-year hitch as Obama's Ed. Sec., while he was using federal funds to punish mostly black and Latino, inner-city schools for their low test scores under Race To The Top, he was fond of calling school reform, "the civil rights issue of our time".  It's a claim being repeated by his successor John King.

Well if corporate-style reform, ie. testing madness, turnarounds, school closings, mass teacher firings and charters, is aimed at promoting equity and civil rights, it's been a dismal failure by all measures.

For example, there been a strong link established between "school choice" programs and an increase in student segregation by race, ethnicity, and income. Studies in a number of different states and school districts show that charter schools also contribute to increased school segregation

A review of the today's release from the Civil Rights Data Collection, also confirms the point. It shows the damage left in the wake of RTTT.

According to this report, Nationwide, 2.8 million students were suspended from public schools during the 2013-2014 school year. But black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, and nearly twice as likely to be expelled. The same pattern showed up in preschool: Black children represented 19% of all preschoolers but accounted for 47% of those who received suspensions.

I know what you're thinking: "preschoolers suspended?" Yes, especially black preschoolers.

The latest data show that even as the nation's high school graduation rate has risen, many students lack access to college-preparatory classes in math and science. Just 48% of the nation's high schools offer calculus, for example, and the figure is even lower -- 33% -- among schools with predominantly black and Hispanic populations.
School Discipline
Black public preschool children are suspended from school at highrates: Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to receive one or moreout-of-school suspensions as white preschool children.
• Black children represent 19% of preschool enrollment, but 47% ofpreschool children receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions;in comparison, white children represent 41% of preschool enrollment,but 28% of preschool children receiving one or more out-of-schoolsuspensions.• Black boys represent 19% of male preschool enrollment, but 45% of malepreschool children receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions.• Black girls represent 20% of female preschool enrollment, but 54%of female preschool children receiving one or more out-of-schoolsuspensions. (2013-14 CRDC DATA HIGHLIGHTS: A FIRST LOOK)
According to the data, predominantly black and Latino schools also have more more cops and fewer counselors on staff.

Black students were also three times as likely to be enrolled in schools where more than
20% of teachers have not met all state certification or licensure requirements.

As for students with disabilities, they are more likely to be physically restrained or secluded than others, according to the data. They also are more than twice as likely to be suspended.

Schools are more racially segregated than at any time since the 1954 Supreme Court's Brown decision. Latinos and blacks, the two largest minority groups, attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago. In Latino and African American populations, two of every five students attend intensely segregated schools.  For Latinos this increase in segregation reflects growing residential segregation. For blacks a significant part of the reversal reflects the ending of desegregation plans in public schools throughout the nation.

So what good is reform if it only widens the gap?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Chicago neighborhood schools, not charters, the driving force behind rising grad rates

Well, it's that time of year when the media spotlight in all the privately-run charters schools that supposedly enroll 100% of their students in a college program. Of course they fail to mention they mean 100% of the 25% or fewer that make it from freshman year to the graduation ceremony.

I wonder how many of those 100%-ers actually show up for college classes, can afford skyrocketing tuition, or graduate some time down the road. Urban Prep, for example, continually boasts about it's college-acceptance rate for the few that graduate, but rarely about reading and math scores which are among the lowest in the city. This year only 24% of students at this school are considered proficient in math and/or reading.

Check out the number of Urban Prep Charter Academy (Englewood) 9th-graders in 2014, compared with the number that make it to senior year.

Or the high-flying Noble St. charters which lost about half their students by senior year.

Here's the latest from U of Chicago's research consortium on the city's graduation rates:
Chicago’s open enrollment high schools were the driving force behind a steady rise in graduation rates citywide over the past 15 years. In fact, new findings by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research say graduation rates at schools that have to accept anyone have just about caught up to publicly funded, privately managed charter schools.
 “Notably, we find significant growth in graduation rates at neighborhood high schools. It does not seem this progress has come at the expense of student achievement; in fact, graduates are more qualified than in the past,” said Elaine Allensworth, the lead author of the study on high school graduation rates. (Sun-Times)
This, despite all the advantages -- smaller size, outside funding, few special needs and ELL students -- given to the city's charter school operators and massive cuts in neighborhood school budgets.
While the report acknowledged that charter and selective-enrollment schools attracted some top students, researchers noted that even as charter schools gained students “the gap in graduation rates between charter and neighborhood schools has diminished.”
Makes you wonder about the continued expansion of privately-run charters and selective-enrollment schools which skim the top-scoring students.


Muhammad Ali
"My conscious won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father... Shoot them for what? ...How can I shoot them poor people, Just take me to jail." -- Common Dreams
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
 “It was like a used car dealership—except that’s not fair to used car dealerships,” Warren said of Trump University. “His playbook said to look for people with problems; they make good targets.” -- Politico

Rick Miller
“Bruce Rauner’s ‘helpless victim of Michael Madigan’ act won’t work much longer.” -- Reboot Illinois

Steve Earle
I’m going to support Bernie Sanders until he’s out of the race and I don’t think there’s any harm in doing that and he’s going to stay in to the end just exactly like Hillary did and she’s not going to be able to say a word about it. The Democratic party is going to have to deal with both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren when they get to the convention. They’re both keeping themselves in a position to have an effect and that’s fucking democracy. -- Real Clear Politics
Donald Trump hearts Rahmbro
“[Ari Emanuel] is a very good friend of mine. He calls me a lot. I call him a lot and we talk. He’s very political. Even though he’s not political, he’s political...He gets it.”  -- NBC Chicago

Friday, June 3, 2016

Urban school district austerity based on colonial model

Austerity is the forerunner to colonial-style takeovers of the cities, urban school districts and democratic decision-making. What the banksters are doing in Puerto Rico is setting the stage.  

The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, backed by the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, (opposed by Bernie Sanders) and Republican congressional leaders, would create a new bankruptcy-type process for PR. It imposes a seven-member oversight board with dictatorial powers. Any new laws that are passed have to be approved by the control board. Any capital investments on the island have to be approved by the control board. If passed, the legislation will be geared to protecting bondholders and paving the way for massive cuts in the island’s public services.

Sound familiar? Maybe like the Control Board established for D.C.?

Newark in '05?

New Orleans in 2003?

Philly in 2001. 

Or Michigan's Public Act 436 in 2012, that allowed criminal Republican Gov. Rick Scott to appoint emergency managers with near-absolute power in cash-strapped cities, towns, and school districts. Emergency managers who can supersede local ordinances, sell city assets, and break union contracts -- leaving local elected officials without real authority.

It's the act that led to the takeover of Detroit schools, the Flint lead-in-the-water crisis, and the end of democracy (such as it was) in the state of MI. 

After "emergency" takeover in Michigan
According to Democracy Now's Juan González, there's one big difference. 
The governor of Michigan did have the power, under the laws that existed, to do that. Puerto Rico supposedly is a self-governing territory, that was granted self-government by Congress back in the 1950s. And so, this is a situation not just of a state imposing itself on a city, but of one nation imposing colonial control on another nation. 
Now we're seeing similar plans emerging for colonial-style takeover and privatization of debt-ridden urban (mostly black and Latino) school districts like Chicago and Baltimore..

Baltimore City school officials said the district will save about $14 million from cutting 171 positions this year, which included 111 staff members who were notified Tuesday that their jobs were being eliminated. The new details about the layoffs were released to The Sun on Wednesday, one day after the school system executed the third round of layoffs in two years.
There have been several attempts to takeover Baltimore schools in the past decade. So far, all have been beaten back. 

Schools may not open in the fall in Chicago where sociopath Gov. Rauner has kept the state without a budget for nearly a year, forcing massive, up to 40% cuts in local schools

Rauner is also pushing legislation aimed forcing Chicago schools into bankruptcy and allowing a takeover and ultimately privatization while busting the CTU. So far, the Democratic majority in the legislature hasn't given in. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Don't worry. Chicago violence problem 'only 1,500 people in a big city', says Rahm.

 Here's the updated numbers on the city's Memorial Day Weekend gun violence: 6 dead, 69 wounded. 
 The month of May saw 66 murders, 318 shootings, and 397 shooting victims in the city. CPD doesn't even count the shootings now happening with increased regularity out on the expressways since these are handled not by CPD, but by the State Police. 
So it turns out that all the gun violence in Chicago is driven by just 1,500 people. This out of nearly 3 million Chicagoans. Not bad, right?

That's according to Rahm and one of his top cops, John Escalante. And not only that, but Rahm knows exactly who the 1,500 are. He's even got a list. It's scientific. Based on the Culture of Calm model that former schools chief Ron Huberman back in 2010. And you know what happened to that, don't you?

The Huberman model of predictability. (Substance pic)
Huberman had claimed that it was possible to identify statistically 10,000 or so students who would most likely be either shot or shooters. It was his recipe for a preemptive strike against school violence without need to go more deeply into the roots of community and school violence. It was a total bust. So was Huberman.

So now Rahm's new list is down to 1,500. There's also no need for all those stop-and-frisks of mostly young black men on the south and west sides (250,000 S&Fs in just three months in 2014 with few arrests or guns found).

No need for the roundup and imprisonment of 18,000 young black men as Sen. Kirk (with Sen. Durbin by his side) has called for either.

Also, no mention by either Rahm or Escalante about the need to deal with the rising tide of youth joblessness, battered communities, lost social services, closed schools or easy access to guns.

Just round up the 1,500 hundred on the list, I guess,  and the violence problem is solved. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Right Rahm?
"It's a big city and it's a safe city," says Deputy Police Supt. John Escalante. "It's about 1,500 people driving this violence. I'm confident we'll be able to turn this around."
Safe city? For whom is it safe?

I must admit, that despite his reassurances, I'm worried. Not so much for my own safety (not many old, north-side, white guys are being shot) but for the city's youngsters. I have a grandson who goes to high school in the city and one of his 15-year-old schoolmates, Veronica Lopez, was shot and killed the other day, while riding in a car on Lake Shore Drive. Her killing was basically written off as "gang-related".

The Guardian reports:
At North-Grand high school on Tuesday, students returned to classes in blue and white clothes, the same colors Lopez was wearing when she was fatally shot while sitting in the passenger side of a car on Lakeshore Drive. They held a vigil for their fellow student, a few days before the end of the school year.
“I just want my baby back, she was everything,” Lopez’s mother, Diana Mercado, told reporters.
I don't know if Veronica was on Escalante's list or not.

Tune in this evening for my SOS webinar with Jonathan Kozol

Save Our Schools Coalition Webinar 
Jonathan Kozol
Guest Moderator Mike Klonsky 
June 1, 2016  
8 PM Eastern Daylight Time [EDT] 

JONATHAN KOZOL received the National Book Award for Death at an Early Age, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Rachel and Her Children, and countless other honors for Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace, The Shame of the Nation, and Fire in the Ashes. He has been working with children in inner-city schools for nearly fifty years. His newest book is The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time.

Tune in. Ask questions. Spread the word. 

Please Join Us!


July 8th in Washington, DC&The SOS Coalition Activists Conference July 9th at Howard University