Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Storm clouds on the horizon as schools open in Chicago

Another teachers strike now seems likely.
As the new school year begins in Chicago, there's dark storm clouds on the horizon. Public schools have been hit with a devastating 1-2 punch delivered by Gov. Rauner and Mayor Emanuel. The first punch has schools operating with no state budget for the second straight year. The second has teachers working without a contract for the past 13 months.

These, combined with the latest round of state and school board-imposed austerity measures and policies like lump-sum budgeting to schools, have led to the lay-offs of 1,000 more teachers and staff just three weeks before school opens. The impact of the lay-offs will be felt well beyond the classroom and will ripple throughout the city's economy.

Principals have been complicit in the process, getting rid of their most skilled and experienced (highest-paid) teachers and replacing them in the classroom with unqualified newbies or administrative assistants, with barely a word of protest.

Hopefully new militant leadership of the Principals Assoc. in the form of Troy LaRaviere will help rebuild that organization which is now just a shell. Be sure and read Troy's blog post on this topic,  "Dear Mayor Emanuel: I resign my position as principal of the #1 rated neighborhood school in Chicago." 

Ben Joravsky's latest piece in The Reader illustrates what happens to a school system that doesn't value veteran teachers like Rob DiPrima.
DiPrima was getting laid off because apparently we've reached the point where certified social studies teachers are a luxury some Chicago public schools can't afford.
But Emanuel changed that funding formula in an effort to save money in the classroom—leaving him free to spend it on things like the new Marriott Hotel and DePaul basketball arena he's building with TIF funds in the South Loop.
CPS is going the way of everything with the adjective public in front, as in public space, public health, public housing and public decision making.

With no contract agreement in sight and teachers being pushed to the wall, an October strike now seems likely. Everyone will be watching to see how the rank-and-file votes this week. The state's anti-union laws require that 75% of CTU members vote yes for a legal strike. A strong show of unity and community support may offer the only glimmer of hope.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Thoughts on the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans family waits to be rescued. 

On this date 11 years ago, the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina, hit the Gulf Coast, leaving more than 2,000 dead and thousands more homeless or displaced in its wake. But as Chicago poet Roger Bonair-Agard @rogerbonair tweets, "The tragedy only began with the hurricane."

He's right. What followed was not so much a tragedy -- as caused by the gods in Greek drama -- but rather a manmade disaster, still being felt, especially in the poorest black communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. For more on this, see Gary Rivlin's excellent N.Y.T. Magazine piece, "Why New Orleans’s Black Residents Are Still Underwater After Katrina".

However, not everyone saw it as disaster, or at least not entirely. Univ. of Chicago free-market economist Milton Friedman said of Katrina:
"This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system". 
His statement was immediately taken as a call for groups of ed-entrepreneurs to flock to New Orleans where charters for publicly-financed, privately-run schools were being handed out to all comers. Shades of the California gold rush of 1850.

The ed-privateers came to town on the heels of the mass firing of every teacher in the city, basically wiping out the largest sector of the city's black middle class. Next came the de-certification of UTNO the first integrated teachers' union in Louisiana

Their dream was to replace the storm-battered, public school system, which had educated generations of New Orleanians since the city's public school system was founded in 1870, during the Reconstruction Period, with networks of non-union, privately-run charters.

It's worth noting that for the first seven years under the Reconstruction government, the public schools were racially integrated. I bring this up in response to those who claim that racial desegregation is "too difficult" or those who claim they want to "take politics out of education." More on that below.

Then Sec. of Education Arne Duncan took Friedman's meme and ran with it. telling interviewer Roland Martin:
I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.
An embarrassed Pres. Obama forced Duncan to walk back his racist remarks and he did. Duncan told TV host Joe Scarborough that the remarks were a "dumb" thing to say and that he had expressed them in a "poor way."

Friedman's and Duncan's sentiments have been echoed in recent months here in Chicago. Tribune columnist and editorial board member, Kristen McQueary @StatehouseChick wrote,
"Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth." 
And then this:
I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops. That's what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.
Yes, the great storm has been the battle cry for top-down reformers and disaster capitalists everywhere, a rationale for the most gross anti-democratic putsches, seizures of power and school takeovers from Louisiana to Michigan. They are all justified in the name of efficiency and product quality.

I was reminded of this, this morning when Duncan's former assistant at the D.O.E., Peter Cunningham @PCunningham57, posted this.

Cunningham has lately been on the attack against what he and fellow reformers call "local control", meaning popularly-elected local school boards which he fears could undermine systems of top-down authority and "accountability" imposed on schools. Examples of these top-down accountability systems include, Duncan's Race To The Top, mayoral control of the schools in Chicago, or Gov. Snyder's state takeover of schools and entire elected local governments in Michigan.

He even blames this country's legacy of public school segregation on "local control" and then asks the question: "Is School Integration Necessary?,

I'll deal with that one more in coming posts. But Patrick Dobard, who succeeded Paul Vallas as superintendent to the Recovery School District in New Orleans, takes off and runs with Cunningham's anti-local control theme. He calls local control, "the rallying cry for many folks on all sides of education debates, from Tea Party libertarians to Bernie Sanders progressives."

Funny, I haven't heard this rallying cry from either of those sides. The closest to a rallying cry I've heard is from 90-something percent of Chicagoans who come out and vote regularly for an elected school board to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel's autocratic rule over the schools.

If that's what they mean by local control--yes, bring it on.

Dobard claims that local control is "political" (meaning elections) and overriding local parents and teachers can be justified when it produces "quality schools."
The risk, of course, is that a newly elected school board will default to many of the same practices that produced one of the most troubled school systems in America prior to 2005, rife with corruption, instability and academic stagnation.
Have the hundreds of charter school corruption and financial mismanagement stories blown right past him? Maybe watching John Oliver's charter school takedown might help him back down to earth.

But what I really take issue with is what I would call the Dobard Rationale -- that the raison d'etre for public education is efficiency or "high quality schools" outside of any political or social context. I'll credit Dobard with what appears to be, a (self?) criticism of top-down reformers.
Shortly after the 10th anniversary of Katrina, several of us started to work together on the governance question. Our goal was to avoid the mistakes of the early reform movement where change was more often done “to” people rather than “with” people. Our larger goal was to keep New Orleans on track to excellence.
But his (their) goal now seems simply to "redefine local control" so that an elected board is powerless when it comes to challenging the reformers' control over the schools.

I think Doubard's got it backwards or maybe inside-out. The road to "excellence" can only be traveled with the people. Excellence and school quality are not "larger goals," abstract entities that can be done TO people.

Democracy necessitates that public schools educate students as future participatory members of that society. Overriding participatory democracy in the name of "quality" is to deny both quality and democracy. And that principle cannot be washed away by a storm.


Elizabeth Warren on lifting the charter cap
"Public officials have a responsibility not just to a small subset of children but to all of the children, to make sure that they receive a first-rate education," Mass Live
Donald Trump
"African-Americans will vote for me after Dwyane Wade's cousin killed in shooting." -- Politico
Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial
“… many children in the GNETS Program are consigned to dilapidated buildings that were formerly used for black children during segregation…” -- Think Progress Justice Department Sues Georgia For Segregating Disabled Students
Dana Milbank on ham sandwich
They’re not defending the indefensible Trump but accusing me of being in the tank for Clinton. And I do support Clinton — but only in the sense that I would support a ham sandwich for president if it were the only thing standing between Trump and the Oval Office. -- Washington Post
Maine Gov. Paul LePage's war on POC
When you go to war... you try to identify the enemy. The enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of hispanic origin." -- Tribune
Rev.  William Barber

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Training time

Lori Lightfoot, head of the Police Board and the Police Accountability Task Force at yesterday's city council meeting.
More Training?... I'm having a hard time following this city council debate. How many training and sensitivity sessions do you need to attend before you stop shooting an unarmed black kid 16X or gunning down an alleged teenage car thief with a bullet in the back?

Cunningham responds... Be sure and read Peter Cunningham's lengthy response in the comments section of last Thursday's blog post. Peter begins by conceding that "concentrated poverty and segregation are part of the problem." But then admits he's lost when it comes to a political strategy to solve either one.

That's a strange admission coming from someone who spent the past seven years as a policy maker at the highest levels of government. It seems to me that should have been one of the first questions Obama's people asked when interviewing him for the Asst. Sec. of Ed post. It shows that deseg and anti-poverty were not very high of the current D.O.E.'s list of priorities.

But since Cunningham is frank about being strategically clueless, I will respond to his comment more fully in the next few days. Readers are, of course, welcome to join in.

Best Tweet of the day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

27 children shot in Chicago. But no pics going viral.

Photo of Syrian child, victim of bombings, has gone viral. 
The number of Chicago shooting victims this year is approaching 2,700 after 57 were shot over the weekend. Twenty-seven of the victims have been children, all of them children of color. Since the beginning of June, Chicago has averaged about one child shot each week. So far, no iconic photos of any of them to capture hearts and minds. Why not?

CTU members are marching out in the rain this morning, ahead of school board meeting where the district's $5.4 billion budget will be voted on.

The proposed budget, with massive program cuts, is laden with property tax increases and largely reliant on heavy borrowing against future property tax revenue, as opposed to taxing the wealthy or finding other new sources of revenue.

All this while Gov. Rauner continues to hold the state's school budget hostage.

Also protesting is Access Living, a disability rights group, upset about the new way the district is doling out special education money to schools as a lump sum. That's a departure from past practice, when special education budgets were paid for through the district's central office and CPS distributed teacher and classroom assistant positions to schools based on legal requirements and each building's needs. This will put the district in violation of federal law and leave it open to law suits on the part of parents.  In addition, the district is leaving school principals in the difficult position of deciding what gets cut.

Check out this WaPo story about D.C.'s Ballou High School using restorative justice rather than suspensions, to deal with student infractions. A readers' poll shows 88% favoring restorative justice and 12% favoring out of school suspensions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The voice of corporate-style school reform

Peter Cunningham (right) flack for corporate reformers like Arne Duncan & Eli Broad
Last week, I got into a twitter spat with former Asst. Sec. of Education Peter Cunningham over the issue of school desegregation. He claims that in his heart he's for it, but that it's a lost cause. Better to stop wasting money and energy on fighting segregation and poverty and just focus on creating new "good schools", argues Cunningham.

He accuses me of fighting "yesterday's battles". I'll cop to that, I suppose. Then claims that I'm an agent of the status quo. That's funny.
He's a teachers union basher and part of the "no excuses" crowd who claims we're just using issues of racism and poverty as excuses to keep from working hard on school reform.
He even wrote a major piece on the topic, "Is School Integration Necessary?, published in U.S. News & World Report.

I maintain that concentrated poverty and racial segregation are at the very root of our country's school problems and that it's impossible to build "good schools", charter or public, apart from the ongoing community-based struggles for equity and against segregation.

Cunningham thinks I'm picking on him. He even claims that I and his many critics are "obsessed" with him. That's a little weird.
The reason so many progressives are taking aim at Cunningham is not that they're obsessed. Rather it's because he's become the main flack for corporate-style school reform.

I'll say one thing for him, he's prolific on Twitter (like me) and likes to engage with lefties. Sees that as his role.

He was the public voice and often the script-writer at the DOE for Arne Duncan's Race To The Top and his efforts are now totally underwritten by anti-public-school power philanthropists like Eli Broad and the Waltons. 

Now that Duncan has virtually disappeared from the education policy debate and the words Race To The Top are taboo for any politician hoping to win an election, Cunningham has become the most visible national target for public education advocates and social-justice activists.

He shouldn't be complaining about all the heat he's taking. That's why they pay him the big bucks.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Trump's real estate flop in Chicago
Film maker Carol Black 

Science is a tool of breathtaking power and beauty, but it is not a good parent; it must be balanced by something broader, deeper, older. Like wind and weather, like ecosystems and microorganisms, like snow crystals and evolution, human learning remains untamed, unpredictable, a blossoming fractal movement so complex and so mysterious that none of us can measure or control it. -- Answer Sheet, What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning
Leanna Diggs
We can no longer teach a whitewashed history. We can no longer pretend we live in a post-racial society. Not in math class, not in any class. -- Washington Post
Pastor Bullock
David Bullock, Highland Park, MI pastor
“I think one of the things emergency management does, if it doesn’t destroy democracy, it definitely suppresses democracy. It suffocates the civic impulse. Why would I be engaged in a process where there’s no accountability for the person who runs the school? The school board has no power.” -- School takeovers leave parents without a voice

Trump's appeal to black voters
"What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose? You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?" -- Washington Post
Maureen Dowd does Trump apology
 I’m sorry I asked African-Americans “What do you have to lose by supporting me?” in front of a crowd of white people. I’m sorry I can never find my African-American. -- New York Times

Friday, August 19, 2016

GOP down-ticket candidates run from Trump, but not Trump-ism.

IL Senators, Durbin (left) and Kirk. 
Down-ticket Republicans are understandably swimming faster than Ryan Lochte to get away from Trump's sinking ship. But not necessarily away from Trump-ism.

In IL we have several of this type. There's our union-busting, budget hostage-taking Gov. Bruce Rauner for one,  and our faux-moderate Sen. Mark Kirk for another.

SJR reports,
 Kirk is quick to tout himself as a maverick for breaking with his Republican Party on several issues, including his decision earlier this summer to "de-endorse" GOP nominee Donald Trump... But ask Kirk where he goes from here, and things get more murky.
 For instance, if he truly believes Trump is unfit to be president, it's fair to ask what he's doing to prevent him being elected. If Kirk believes that the Senate ought to consider Garland's nomination, he must actively lobby his leadership to do so.”
Kirk un-endorsed Trump in June and said he would instead write in Gen. Petraeus, who resigned in 2012 and later pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information.

But after facing criticism for his Petraeus choice, Kirk reversed course and backed former Secretary of State Colin Powell for president.

Last week, Kirk said on CNN he could not vote for Hillary Clinton because he "can't support someone who is for the Iran agreement."

Turns out, Powell endorsed the Iran agreement, describing it as a "pretty good deal."

So now Kirk is back to supporting Petraeus.

Remember, Kirk was the one who outdid Trump in calling for the mass incarceration of 18,000 young black men, alleged "gang-bangers", without and trials or due process. If this sounds like Trump's proposal to round up immigrants from Mexico and the Middle East, you're on to something.

Where would Kirk put 18,000 new prisoners?
Back in 2013, Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin, approached Zachary Fardon, the nominee for U.S. Attorney in Chicago, and urged Fardon to begin rounding up every member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. Kirk wanted the Senate Appropriations Committee to give him $30 million “to go after gangs like the GDs . . . and pick the biggest and baddest for a federal effort.”

Where did Kirk and Durbin think they were going to put 18,000 more prisoners? Cook County jail was already stuffed to overflowing, mainly with young black and Latino men. The court system was so backed up, some prisoners have been held for up to 10 years without  trial.

Chicago's Guantanamo?

The answer wasn't forthcoming but worth considering, especially in light of Pres. Obama's recent announcement that private prisons would be phased out by the Justice Dept. Democrats have long attacked the Homeland Security Department's use of privately run facilities, particularly the detention centers that have housed thousands of immigrant families.

At the time, Congressman Bobby Rush lit into the Kirk-Durbin plan, calling it  “ a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach.” If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for “job creation and job training,” to address the gang problem, Rush said. Rush said an arrest sweep “is not going to work. . . . It is not a law and order, lock ‘em up solution.”

Kirk also outdid Trump on union bashing. He claimed that SEIU and other "big unions are already running the state."

Now Durbin is planning to run for governor and Kirk is playing Trump keep-away to retain his senate seat and maintain the GOP senate majority. Not happening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Claypool not worried about a strike. It's all good.

Claypool with top lawyer Mormer, the man from Jenner & Block
Given that Chicago schools CEO Forrest Claypool is under investigation once again, this time for funneling CPS contracts a connected law firm, you would think he would tone down his arrogance a notch or that the mayor would put someone else in front of the media for a while.

Claypool suddenly exudes a false sense of optimism after forecasting a deficit hovering near $1 billion less than a year ago. This even while Gov. Rauner, in a political death spiral himself, is still holding the state's school budget hostage.

After a year of CPS teachers working without of contract, Claypool still had the audacity to assure everyone that contract negotiations with the CTU were going swell with no need to worry about a teachers strike.
"We are at the negotiating table. I don't see any reason why we should not be able to come to an agreement. Teachers do important work. We want to give them as generous a contract as we can possibly provide given the dollars that are available."
Well here's one reason for no agreement. Claypool continues to push for an end to the 7% pension pick up which was negotiated in lieu of a pay increase. With no corresponding pay raise, this would mean a huge cut in pay for thousands of city teachers.

Here's another reason. Claypool just pink-slipped 1,000 teachers and school staffers, a blow not just to them and their families, but to the city's economy as well. That's a thousand paychecks that won't be spent on goods and services in city businesses each week. That's also a thousand school faculty and staffers like that won't be out there in the schools and neighborhoods, working to improve the lives of our children.

CPS has a debt load of nearly $7 billion and its debt service spending is estimated to consume more than 10% of operating budget funds in the 2016 fiscal year, more than any year since at least 2007. That translates into downward pressure on wages, more school closures and larger class sizes.

"It's not good government, it's not sound fiscal policy, " says Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. "It's not as if we are seeing a budget that is moving towards fiscal health. What we're seeing is a budget that's under significant pressure."

The CTU's Stephanie Gadlin responds:
"He seems to ignore the fact that we live in the city and pay taxes, and CTU members have seen their pay frozen and then cut with furloughs, have seen over $1 billion diverted from their pension fund, have seen contractually guaranteed raises canceled and have witnessed conditions in schools worsen throughout layoffs and privatization deals."
 "No educator wants to strike for the sake of striking, If they do so, it is because they must protect their students and their profession from technocrats who don't realize these are real lives they are messing with."
There are many options available to the CTU, including a strike. They can continue working without a contract as a holding action against the cuts. They can mobilize support from the base through street protests. I think it's Claypool and his boss, Rahm Emanuel, who are the ones on the ropes here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peter Cunningham's reform apologia: 'Fighting segregation and poverty too expensive'.

White ladies' signs read: "We want equal & segregated schools"
Peter Cunningham's latest apologia for school segregation, in U.S. News & World Report, is basically a defense of current reform policies that have been shown to re-segregate schools. It represents more than just the opinion of a lone education gadfly. Cunningham is paid millions to speak for some of the most powerful and wealthiest among those who influence national ed policy.

It's run up the flag pole at a time when corporate-style "reform" has come under attack from civil rights groups and teacher unions, and appear to be losing their cachet, even within the Democratic Party establishment.

Cunningham tries to come off as a tormented soul, torn between his personal and "pragmatic" side, the latter arguing that ending poverty and integration are just too "politically difficult and financially expensive" and therefore, instead of spending hundreds of billions more to reduce poverty and reduce segregation, we should just "double down on our efforts to improve schools."

At a recent DFER-sponsored forum at the DNC, Cunningham laid out his anti-deseg line in an obvious attempt to influence Clinton's education agenda. He answered a question about school integration this way:
"Maybe the fight's not worth it. It's a good thing; we all think integration is good. But it's been a long fight, we've had middling success. At the same time, we have lots and lots of schools filled with kids of one race, one background, that are doing great. 
There nothing original in Cunningham's comments. If they strike you as a throwback to Plessy v. Ferguson and the separate-but-equal doctrine, you're definitely on to something. As we learned back then, when it comes to schooling, separate is never equal. Following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, the difficulty and protracted nature of the struggle against de facto segregation and poverty has caused some to throw in the towel.

Cunningham is basically echoing the call of his boss at the D.O.E., former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan. It was he who tried to put the kibosh on a Justice Dept. civil right suit against the state of Louisiana, which would have blocked expansion of the state's school voucher system.

When asked about the suit being pushed by his fellow cabinet member, Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, Duncan said he was opposed to "forced integration," echoing the language of the old southern segregationists. The suit was then dropped, to the applause of segregationists.

Current battles are going on in states like N.C. where privately-run charter schools are being used to promote re-segregation and evade civil right law. The Voting Rights Act itself has been dismembered by a conservative-led Supreme Court in 2013. And now, the new K-12 Education law, ESSA, has shifted much more authority back to the states and away from federal oversight, setting the stage for even more school deseg efforts.

It's in this context then, that Cunningham's "pragmatic" call to abandon the cause of school desegregation is all the more pernicious.


Cédric von Niederhäusern
David R. Stone, special education teacher, Gallistel Language Academy
Yet the biggest sacrifice of all is one we tragically share with our students and their families. Violence increases when after-school programs, counseling services, special education, tutoring, and social workers are sacrificed due to CPS budget cuts. Since joining CPS, I personally have lost three of my students who were murdered before they could graduate. Nobody should be asked to share such sacrifices. -- Chicago Sun-Times | Sunday Letters
Kesi Foster, a reform advocate with the Urban Youth Collaborative in N.Y.
“Yesterday, we felt that, even if the city wasn’t ending the school-to-prison pipeline, it was committed to some progress. After last night, we’re not sure we’ve taken a step at all.” -- The Atlantic
Cédric von Niederhäusern
Maureen Dowd
The Republicans have their candidate: It’s Hillary. -- New York Times
Ben Jealous, former NAACP president
“Secretary Clinton’s decision to aggressively court Mitt Romney’s base has her looking more and more like Mitt Romney every day. That’s not a good thing.” -- New York Times
Neil Gross
Union decline has left the working class politically and economically vulnerable, and it’s this vulnerability Mr. Trump has been able to exploit. -- NYT Sunday Review

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Following layoff of 1,000, Rahm demands 'more sacrifice' from teachers.

Rahm to big Chicago banksters -- Don't worry, you'll be first in line to get paid. 

Rahm to teachers and staff after laying off 1,000 -- Don't Strike, "Be Part of the Solution."

And by part of the solution, Rahm means teachers should accept a 7% pay cut to cover pension costs and bear the burden of years of the city and state missing required contributions to the pension fund.

According to the Tribune:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday joined his Chicago Public Schools chief in calling on teachers to start contributing a chunk of their salaries toward their pensions." 
Who at City Hall thought telling teachers to give up a chunk of salary, was a good idea? Are they trying to provoke a strike? Or is this the kind of bullying needed to appease Gov. Rauner in exchange for a budget deal?

CTU Pres. Karen Lewis dismissed schools chief Forrest Claypool's pledge of a budget with "no gimmicks," saying, "Was his mouth moving when he said it?"

Patricia Scott
Dark day for homeless students. I remember Patricia Scott from my days coaching at Prosser.

This from Mark Brown's column in today's S-T.
At the end of this past school year, Prosser counted 68 homeless students among its 1,400 enrollees, 26 of whom were seniors. “They all graduated,” Scott told me Wednesday. “I’m very proud of that.”
That group of 26 seniors will be the last class of homeless students Scott shepherds to their high school degree at Prosser.
On Friday, she was among 1,000 Chicago Public Schools employees to learn they were getting laid off.
Just multiply Ms. Scott's story by 1,000 and you begin to feel the impact the layoffs had on students and their families.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

New legislators' report on reform is a step up from current policies

“High-performing countries have consciously decided to prioritize education over testing.” — State Senator Joyce Elliott, D-Ark.
Will a Clinton administration bring a shift in federal education policy? Will we see a break from corporate-style reform practices--racing to the top, no child left behind, testing madness, school closings and the unfettered move to privately-run charter schools that marked the Obama/Duncan era? We can only guess right now.

Recent Clinton speeches to the teacher union conventions sounded good. But we've all been there before. The new party platform plank on education reflects some positive changes pushed mainly by Sanders members of the platform committee. But platforms are soon forgotten once November is in the rear view.

The latest indicator that change may be in the wind comes from a new report from a bipartisan group of state legislators who studied and were impressed by the most successful approaches in Finland and other developed countries. "No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State’. 

The 28 legislators and staff members focused on the highest performing countries on PISA to discover commonalities across their policies and practices. They met with education leaders from these countries, along with national and international experts who study their systems. They also visited several countries to see the differences firsthand.

I read the report with a skeptical eye, especially after I saw AFT President and Clinton cheerleader-in-chief Randi Weingarten giving it a giddy endorsement, calling the report "a model" and claiming that "the committee sets aside political ideologies to work together for what’s best for students and educators."


AFT is listed as a partner on the project though it appears, after scanning the list of partners and consultants, that no k-12 educators were involved in creating he report. So no, Randi -- not a "model".

Actually, the report does represent a step up from where we've been for the past three decades since A Nation at Risk" set us on our current destructive course. In some ways, both documents are similar with each taking globalism and the race for American supremacy as its starting point. The new report is filled with much of the same empty reformy rhetoric about our failing schools and the need for "world standards" and "alignment."
“In several of the countries studied, teaching is regarded as an honorable and respected profession, comparable to medicine and law, and not a burden on the local property tax.” — State Representative Mary Stuart Gile, -- D-N.H.
On the positive side, the report contains no mention of standardized testing, school choice, charter schools or privatization in its list of recommendations. Instead it calls for "a strong early education system, a re-imagined and professionalized teacher workforce [I sensed Linda Darling-Hammond's presence here], robust career and technical education programs, and a comprehensive, aligned system of education."

Most importantly, there was a strong statement on the effects of poverty as a key determinant in student academic success.
In the United States, children in poverty now account for about a quarter of all children in public schools. Large numbers of American children enter first grade with disadvantages that may overwhelm the school’s capacity to provide an adequate education. Because high-performing countries provide supports to ensure that children are ready for school, their schools typically do not face similar challenges.
Once students in top-performing countries are in school, those who struggle receive extra help to reach the same high standards other students will reach more easily. Providing additional resources to schools serving disadvantaged, struggling students is a priority.
More teachers are typically allocated to such schools, with the best teachers serving in the most challenged ones. Resources are also reallocated within schools to reach those most in need of extra support. These countries demonstrate that, with added support, struggling students can meet high expectations. Inversely, American students from the wealthiest communities are most likely to get the best teachers and the finest facilities because of the way we structure our finance systems.
A far cry from the reformers' current "no excuses" rhetoric.

The report takes notice of Finland's focus on equity:
Finland prides itself on providing equity of opportunity to learn and inclusion. Resources are directed to the most high-need students and schools. Students with special needs are often mainstreamed in regular classrooms but receive significant additional support. Ninety-eight percent of the cost of education is covered by government.
However, no mention of the effects of race, racism or segregation. The word, unions, appears only once in the report. This, despite the fact that most of the countries investigated have a strong unionized teacher force. But the one reference is positive, a recommendation that unions have a seat at the reform table. No wonder Randi is so enthusiastic.

How much influence "No Time To Lose" will have is anyone's guess. With the passage of ESSA and the weakened federal role in influencing state ed policy -- in part, a backlash against Duncan's overreach, Common Core and Race To The Top -- it's doubtful that this report will have much weight in red states.

Unless of course, the Republican crisis that is Trumpism, turns many of them blue or at least purple.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Saturday's march in Chicago commemorated Dr. King's 1966 civil rights, open housing march in Marquette Park. That march was attacked by racist mobs. 
Father Michael Pfleger
“Then we go into Marquette Park, the first thing is all the hate I saw. I was scared out of my mind. I never saw that kind of hate. People throwing things, trying to turn over cars, throwing rocks and bottles. People up in trees.” -- More Than 1,000 Recreate MLK’s March In Chicago, 50 Years Later
CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner on the layoff of 1,000 teachers and staff
“Today’s staffing changes are part of the normal process of school planning, and there are more vacant positions in the district than staff who will be impacted today, with roughly 1,000 teaching vacancies to be filled.” -- Sun-Times
CTU spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin
Gadlin said the district continues to inflict damage with its layoffs, and the cutting of special education services among other programs. “The gutting of experienced educators and other school employees only weakens schools and puts children at a disadvantage.” -- Sun-Times
Peter Cunningham on why I should be grateful to Arne Duncan
In an exchange with me yesterday, in which I noted Duncan's top-down approach to the "business of education", former Asst. Sec. of Education @PCunningham tweeted:

Following the shooting of Paul O'Neil 

Friday, August 5, 2016

School 'reform' Chicago-style. 1,000 teachers/staff laid-off.

CEO Forrest Claypool, left, with CPS general counsel and former Jenner & Block pal Ronald Marmer 
Last week, we learned that CPS chief Forrest Claypool was funneling big contracts to his Jenner & Block law firm pals.

On Wednesday, CPS announced it was maintaining and expanding it's network of high-paid, mid-level regional managers called network chiefs. They're the enforcers who give school principals marching orders and ride herd over clusters of neighborhood schools.

On Thursday, we learned that more privately run charter schools will be opening, including a new $27 million charter that's part of the development around the newly-planned Obama Library in Kenwood. The goal is to give a boost to the real estate market and promote gentrification on the city's south side.

Today, Rahm/Claypool pulled the trigger on nearly 1,000 CPS teachers and staff. That includes 494 teachers — including 256 tenured teachers. The layoffs broke down this way: 302 high school teachers and 192 elementary school teachers for a total of 494; and 352 high school support personnel and 140 elementary school support personnel, for a total of 492.

All this, while Gov. Rauner continues to hold hostage the state education budget, city residents are being hit with record massive property tax increases and a myriad of regressive fees and hidden taxes, and at the start of a new round contract negotiations between the board and the CTU. Teachers have been working without a contract for more than a year,

 All affected teachers are from district schools, none from charter schools. I haven't seen all the numbers yet but previous CPS mass layoffs and school closings have resulted in dramatic reductions in the numbers of African-American teachers to a record low. 

Budget cuts and staff reductions have also led to a mass exodus of CPS principals. 

Even though laid-off teachers can re-apply to get jobs back in the fall, this is obviously a way to gut the system of veteran, higher-paid teachers. Look for an influx of unskilled newbies and TFAers to fill some of those slots. Also, watch class size explode in the fall.

Reform, Chicago-style. Get the picture?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

SEIU does the right thing. Gives Boardman the boot from Local #73

Readers may remember back in 2014 when I tangled with Local #73 Pres. Christine Boardman. At the time I was reacting to Boardman's sellout of CPS janitors and custodians by agreeing to Rahm's $340 million sub-contracting deal with Aramark and SodexoMagic ("magic" my ass). It was one of the largest privatization moves of any school district in the nation, leaving custodians out of work, schools filthy, and principals in revolt.

Boardman's threatening letter.
Boardman then put icing on her sell-out with a $25,000 contribution to Rahm's campaign war chest. Local #73 also tried to put the kibosh on other locals' support for Rahm's opponent, Chuy Garcia. 

"Ugh!", I wrote. "She's dirtier than a CPS bathroom" for "signing on" to the deal. I had searched in vain, including on the Local 73 website, for any sign of protest or public resistance.

Boardman flipped out, tried to bully me and even threatened to take me to court over my hyperbolic blog post. Her lawyer's letter to me argued that she never actually "signed off" on the deal and that in fact, she was not "dirtier than a CPS bathroom".

After consulting with my own attorneys at Pro, Bono & Plead, and having made my point, I retracted both statements. I had no hard evidence that Boardman had literally signed an acutal piece of paper on the Aramark/Sodexo deal or that she was indeed, dirtier than a CPS bathroom (a pretty high bar for dirtiness, I admit).

Other observers, like the Reader's Ben Joravsky, possibly fearing the bully's wrath, also chose their words carefully.
Among union activists, Local 73 is known as the mayor's—well, let's just say union activists aren't too thrilled with Local 73.
My brother Fred tooned it.

Now, nearly two years later -- too late perhaps for the local's 14,000 city employees or for students wallowing in filthy schools -- the chickens have come home to roost at Local #73. SEIU trustees have stepped in and put the local in receivership. Boardman, the bully, has been given the boot.

According to the union's statement on the takeover:
This time, it stems from “incessant fighting” between union president Christine Boardman and secretary-treasurer Matt Brandon that apparently “reached a boiling point and seriously disrupted the operations and functioning of the Local, putting members’ interests at risk.” 
 Boardman and Brandon “each challenge the basic legitimacy of the other’s authority to hold office or lead the Local,” resulting in a “debilitating dysfunction of the Local’s governance process as well as causing instability and confusion within the Local and its membership,” 
Now the local has a chance to regroup, get organized and become a voice for the workers who need them the most.

Please don't sue me for saying this Christine, but good riddance to bad garbage.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Keep your mouth closed and head up

I'm hearing warnings to "keep your mouth closed and your face out of the water!" Is this directed at Olympic athletes in Rio? Flint, MI residents? Or Chicago Public School students?

Monday, August 1, 2016



Stephen Hawking on Trump
“He is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.” -- The Daily Good
White supremacist leader Matthew Heimbach
 “… Hail, Emperor Trump and hail victory.” -- Think Progress
SNCC veteran Charlie Cobb
“No U.S. president will ever fully embrace their concerns. If you want a president to even be interested in your concerns, however, you have to organize to generate the pressure. That begins with the vote, in my view, although obviously it does not end with voting.” -- Washington Post
Troy LaRaviere
 "I get no satisfaction from Rahm's diminished role nationally," said LaRaviere, a Sanders delegate. "Except for the message that it sends to the people who have been behind him: They're wrong." -- Tribune