Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chicago has widest racial/wealth/income gap in the nation.

With the next mayor's race on the horizon and early stirrings around possible candidates to take on Rahm Emanuel, the issue of Chicago's gun violence pandemic and rising murder rate will once again, move to the top of the list.

And if you want to talk about Chicago violence, here's a good place to start the conversation. At least a much better place than talking about more cops or a Trump military invasion.

Our city has the widest racial income divide in the nation.
A report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development has identified the divide between the incomes of white households and minority households as wider in Chicago than the nation as a whole. And the national divide is large. Not only do Chicago's white households on average far exceed African-Americans, Latinos and Asians in income, but there is a sharp difference in the city between the wealth held by whites and that held by minority communities. -- Chicago Tribune
Medium income for whites in the city is more than double that of African-Americans.

Since whites make up only about a third of the city's residents, a continuation of the income and wealth disparity will weigh on the strength of the city, says Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, the director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative.
"With less ability to consume, it has an affect on businesses and it impacts taxes and the strength of city services — everything from schools to sewer services."
Factor in that nearly half of young African-Americans are unemployed compared with 20% of Latino men and 10% of white men in the same age group, according a report commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and the numbers begin to tell a story.

Why won't Rahm go there? He and his top cops are still talking "gang-bangers", "Facebook" and police "demoralization" for the record murder rates during his watch. As long as violence in the city continues to be discussed by the mayor and the media as a police vs. gangs issue, look for crime and violence to continue and for Trump to take full advantage in his war on the cities.

DeVos appointment is central part of Trump's coup. Say 'NO'!

Alaskans gathered outside U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Anchorage office urging her to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary Monday. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)
Unless the vote is postponed, today is the day of decision on Betsy DeVos. There are many reasons to oppose the appointment of right-wing billionaire DeVos, from her ignorance of and disdain for public education, her extremism in pushing privatization and "choice" (privately-managed charters and vouchers) to her imposition of religious fundamentalism into the schools, crossing the constitutional separation of church and state.

But more importantly, the DeVos appointment, along with the rest, should be seen as part and parcel of the Trump/Bannon/corporatist/white nationalist coup d'etat. This is not simply a matter of her competence as an administrator or policy adviser to the president.

Senate Democrats, who've been rendering unto Caesar on previous Trump appointments, appear to have united in opposition to DeVos. It's about time. But it's unlikely that they will pick up enough Republican votes to stop her.

Therefore, building the resistance movement to save and transform public education remains the charge of teachers, unions, parents, students, civil rights groups and community activists as it was under the Duncan-led D.O.E.. Only this time around, the stakes are even higher.

CREDO Action said Monday that 1.45 million people had signed a petition urging the Senate to block DeVos' nomination.

Why Trump will fail... Former Bush State Dept. guy, Eliot Cohen, writes in the Atlantic,
 He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Monday, January 30, 2017


O'hare Airport Saturday night. 
Donald Trump  
 [Muslim ban] "is working out very nicely, and we’re going to have a very, very strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.” -- Washington Post
Naomi Klein
Let us be clear: This is not a peaceful transition of power. It’s a corporate takeover. -- The Nation
Yonatan Zunger
 The inner circle is actively probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power; yesterday’s moves should be read as the first part of that. -- Trial balloon for a coup?
Bill Moyers
"In just a few days, Donald Trump seems to have set out to wreck government and turn over the remains to his plutocrat friends." -- Moyers & Company
Jeff Bryant
 What's sadly ironic is that these rural communities that will perhaps be most devastated by the school choice plan DeVos and Trump are about to foist on the nation are the very communities that voted Trump into office. -- Linkedin

Betty Downs, parent and ed activist in Athens, GA
 After years of supporting traditional Republican corporate education reform ideas, many Democrats seem to now realize how bad her [DeVos'] policies to “voucherize” American education would be for teaching and learning as well as the principle of educational equity. -- The Answer Sheet

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump election has reformers reconsidering 'groupthink'.

Credit: Creative Commons/AFGE
"Ed reformers are just waiting for their turn to talk. They only want to talk about themselves. Anything you say, they just want to tell you, 'Charter schools are great.' A parent can tell them, 'I broke my foot.' And a reformer will say, 'You know what's good for that? Charter schools!'" -- Education Post's Chris Stewart 
For most of the past three decades, school reformers have been focused on dismantling traditional, mainly urban public school systems, replacing traditional public schools with a hodgepodge of market-oriented, tech-driven, resegregated and union-free "choice" options -- mainly, privately-run charter schools and school vouchers.

The unintended, or sometimes intended, consequence of these reforms is a steady rollback of the genuine reforms won by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s (the second Reconstruction period in our history). It was those reforms, limited and fleeting as they may have been, which, from 1968-88, generated the greatest educational gains for poor children this nation has ever seen.

But what we're seeing now is an increasingly racially re-segregated, two-tiered system made up of unregulated selective, heavily-resourced, high-performing schools for the few, and a collapsing infrastructure of resource-starved public schools for the many, especially in areas of concentrated urban and rural poverty.

Market-driven reform crosses traditional party lines and is based within a handful of conservative think tanks and policy groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Fordham Institute, and underwritten by high-powered philanthropists like billionaires Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg,  the Walton Family, the New Schools Venture Fund, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), and others.

It's actually difficult for me to call them "reformers" since, for the past 16 years, they have captured (or been captured by) the U.S. Dept. of Education bureaucracy, which under a string of ed secretaries (Paige, Spellings, Duncan, and King),has become a bulwark of standardization, privatization and failed top-down initiatives. In other words, the status quo.

But the election of Donald Trump and his appointment of choice supporter Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education, have ironically thrown the current corporate and choice reformers into a state of panic and confusion. Why? Because even though they and Trump/DeVos share a common view of choice, charters and vouchers (a sticking point for some), throwing in with Trump's confederacy of alt-right white nationalists and educational know-nothings would widen the chasm between themselves and their potential customer base. A no-no for anyone working in the corporate world.

That potential base is mainly the sea of dissatisfied, largely black and Latino public school parents, many of whom have looked to charters and vouchers as potential escape routes from their faltering, underfunded and shuttered neighborhood schools.

The election of Trump has also thrown a monkey wrench into their efforts to organize, co-opt, or at least engage with that base as well as with union teachers, young progressive educators and policy people (ie. Teach for America alums) and school/community activists who are repulsed by Trump and the Republicans.

This hoped-for dialogue with progressives was a task assigned to former Duncan assistant Peter Cunningham and his on-line Eli Broad-funded journal Education Post.

So far, Cunningham's "let's find common ground" approach to the progressives has been little more than a veil. A trap set to draw them in without budging on any important issues. And the real problem is that it hasn't produced the hoped-for results. That's because the reformers are self-critical about style, but so far, not about content.

Sensing this failure, Cunningham has dropped all pretenses and sharpened his attacks on teacher unions, opt-out parents, and polemicising against school integration efforts. He's really sharpened his polemical knife for any and all who want caps on charter school expansion. Since the campaign began, national civil rights groups like the NAACP and Black Lives Matter have actually hardened their stance against charters and vouchers.

So much for "common ground"...

At a recent AEI conference, choice reformers appeared to taking a self-critical approach and re-evaluating their strategies. Among the hottest topics was, what they called, "race-based" reform.

AEI's Rick Hess, who hosted the conference, writes: 
There was a willingness to talk frankly but in measured tones about disagreements. Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute pointed out that, for more than a decade, education reform has been approached as a race-based endeavor and questioned the wisdom and the desirability of this shift...
 There was a recognition that groupthink is a problem for all of us. AEI's Andy Smarick observed, "We all tend to surround ourselves with people who agree with our views. Then we wind up with an echo chamber. 
It's nice to know that some reformers are reconsidering groupthink, at least for now, in the face of Trumpism. Maybe others will follow. As for civil discourse about race and reform...I'm not holding my breath.

But the Trump/DeVos assault on public education should push choice, charter and voucher proponents to reconsider, not only their style, but substance as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump's war on the cities

Why does Trump hate the cities? It's because that's his enemy's stronghold. Just listen to him, still pissing and moaning about his 3-million vote loss of the popular vote. He's a man obsessed.

He blames "millions of illegals" who supposedly voted illegally for Hillary. But deep down, he knows the truth. There wasn't one major city with a large black or Latino population that went for Trump in November.

This is the first time since 1920 that the Census has recorded that more people living in urban than in non-urban areas. And urban has become synonymous with black and Latino.

As Ronald Brownstein observed in The Atlantic:
Of all the overlapping generational, racial, and educational divides that explained Trump’s stunning upset over Hillary Clinton last week, none proved more powerful than the distance between the Democrats’ continued dominance of the largest metropolitan areas, and the stampede toward the GOP almost everywhere else.
Trump and the Republicans know they can only govern the cities with an iron fist. Four days in and Trump is already threatening to invade Chicago with federal troops to supposedly end the "carnage" of violence there. But threats of outside military and other interventions only build on Mayor Emanuel's failed policing and mass-incarceration strategies.

But the real "carnage" in Chicago took place during Trump's own election campaign. His being run out of town by 25,000 protesters at UIC back in March still gnaws at him. His experience in New York City was similar.

Then on Saturday, the largest protests in this nation's history kicked his inauguration off the front pages. Not counting the national Women's March in D.C., 250,000 turned out in Chicago. 600,000 in New York. 750,000 in rainy L.A.

Trump and the Repubs want to take revenge on the cities by 1) strangling them into submission economically, leveraging federal dollars and cutting even further their corporate tax base, 2) limiting their voting power with stricter voting measures, 3) shrinking the size of the cities through mass deportations of immigrants, and 4) challenging their sovereignty with federal intervention.

Trump signed directives Wednesday to build his $15B wall on the southern border and to begin his round-up immigrants. He's threatening to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities that act to protect their immigrant citizens from deportation round-ups, forced registration, and internment camps. While the threat probably won't be taken seriously in the biggest cities, especially in those where Trump has, or plans to have, his own personal investments (hotels and casinos), it will weigh heavy on smaller ones like New Haven, CT.

I must interject here... I think he learned this tactic from former Ed Secretary Arne Duncan who established a precedent when he used Race To The Top to threaten to withhold federal education dollars from states like WA that opposed privately-run charter schools or Common Core related standardized tests.

Several Democratic mayors and other polsare still playing footsie with Trump, hoping against hope that his threat to invade and impose some form of martial law will somehow turn into a money invasion to pay for more cops and infrastructure repair, and relieve city debt,  rather than a militarization. So far, there's no evidence for this.

Resistance... In a press release yesterday, Chicago City Council Black Caucus Chair Rod Sawyer called for resistance to Trump's threats to militarize urban communities.
“The threat to militarize our communities will be met with the same spirit of fierce resistance as efforts to increase ‘stop-and-frisk,’ register and ban Muslims, and deport millions of immigrants.
“We remain committed to working with all levels of government to fight for resources for our communities--but not at the cost of our civil liberties or our very democracy .

Monday, January 23, 2017


Quarter-million marched in Chicago
Donald Trump
Mentioned education only once in his inauguration speech, referring to, "...an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge." -- Transcript
 Elizabeth Warren
We Can Whimper, We Can Whine, Or We Can Fight Back. -- Huffington
KellyAnn Conway on Alt-facts
"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," she told NBC's Chuck Todd. -- NBC News
Dan Rather
These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. -- Facebook post on Alt-facts
Valerie Strauss
But the record shows that Democrats can’t just blame Republicans for her ascension. It was actually Democrats who helped pave the road for DeVos to take the helm of the Education Department. -- Washington Post
American First-er Charles Lindbergh in 1941
The “greatest danger” Jews posed to the U.S. “lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government." -- L.A. Times
Peter Leyden,  founder & CEO of Reinvent
I think the backlash will be fast and furious. And it won’t just be Trump that goes down — it will be large swaths of conservative Republicans who will be almost helpless to stop Trump or distance themselves from him. -- Medium

Friday, January 20, 2017

Global anti-Trump protests

Brit protesters hang banner across the Thames. 
"It’s growing by the day," says Politico's Natasha Korecki in Illinois Playbook. She's talking, of course, about Saturday's Women's Marches in D.C. and cities around the country.

Here in Chicago, 24,000 people have RSVP’d on social media for the rally in Chicago. Organizers are expecting more than 200,000 in Washington D.C. while New York City and L.A. are likely to attract some 70,000 each.

Actually, now more than 50,000 are expected to turn out in Chicago. I'll make it 50,001.

SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to the students at Glenbard East H.S. who have organized an anti-Trump walkout. They're also publishing The Glenbard Underground. Don't miss.

Chicago Public School students will walk out after their 7th period classes and head to the Resist Trump rally in Daley Plaza at 3:00pm.
CHICAGO (1/20) - The Chicago Students Union has coordinated a walkout across Chicago Public Schools today after 7th period to demonstrate to the Trump administration that the students of Chicago are prepared to defend their schools and communities.The nomination of vastly unqualified cabinet members like Betsy DeVos and the President's promises to deport their undocumented brothers and sisters has sparked widespread resistance. 
Following the walkout, students will head to the Chicago Movement for the 99%'s "ResistTrump" rally in Daley Plaza at 3:00pm. Sabah Hussain, a student activist, will give a speech at 4:10.
Email: chicagostudentsunion@gmail.comTwitter: @StudentUnionChiFacebook: Chicago Students Union

'NO TO TRUMP' shouted around the globe...In Buenos Aires,  a women's march is due to take place - one of hundreds planned across the world to coincide with the main marches in Washington D.C.

The “Marcha Solidaria de Mujeres: EdiciĆ³n Buenos Aires” will start in the neighborhood of Palermo at Plaza Intendente Seeber, near the U.S. embassy.
“We wish to make known that hateful and divisive speech and actions are not acceptable from anyone, and even less from our elected governors. We wish to announce our support for minority groups whose rights and safety are threatened by the policies and principles of this new administration in the U.S.,” organizers said of the event via Facebook.
“No to Global Trumpism” took place in Berlin, where protesters held a sign “Mr. President, Walls Divide. Build Bridges,” next to the remains of the Berlin Wall. Similar protests were expected in Paris, Madrid, Brussels and Prague.

While we take to the streets in cities around the world, the wealthiest and most powerful of the global elites sip their Cabernet at Davos in the Swiss Alps and try to come up with a response to the rise of global Trumpism, populism, and neo-fascism. It's really all about keeping the world in one piece long enough for them to spend their money.

There was even a panel on "Middle Class Anger".
“I want to be loud and clear: populism scares me,” Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio said. “The No. 1 issue economically as a market participant is how populism manifests itself over the next year or two.”
George Will in the NYT:
It has been well-said that Davos is where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class feels.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump's bikers on security. A 'wall of meat' or load of B.S.?

DT is counting on a right-wing biker battalion to pull security duty at his inauguration. He imagines a horde of thousands of "Bikers for Trump" are rolling into D.C. at this very moment, to save him from what he imagines as an assault from the half-million angry, but peaceful protesters expected at the Women's March on Washington.

Chris Cox, the founder of “Bikers for Trump,” promised “Fox & Friends” on Sunday that the group will attend the inauguration and will form a “wall of meat” if necessary, signaling that biker gangs would try to stop protesters attempting to disrupt the swearing-in ceremony.

It's a neo-fascist wet dream.

This from MediaMatters:

During the Chairman’s Global Dinner pre-inauguration event, President-elect Donald Trump bragged about the “record crowds coming” to celebrate his inauguration, including a group called “bikers for Trump.” Trump regaled his audience with tales of photos showing thousands of bikers purportedly making their way to Washington D.C., a fake news story uncovered by BuzzFeed hours before Trump went on stage.
I saw the bikers for Trump. Boy, they had a scene today. I don't know if I'd want to ride one of those, but they do like me. That's like additional security with those guys. They're rough... And they had a scene today where they had helicopters flying over a highway someplace in this country and they had thousands of those guys coming into town. 
And Trump even had the pictures to prove it. Only...
This picture and many others being tweeted to intimidate protesters, turned out to be fakes. This one, unrelated to Trump's inauguration, was published on a blog in 2013 about how to ride safely in large groups.

Rape, murder! / It's just a shot away / It's just a shot away

Not to say that there won't be some right-wing bikers coming to the inauguration. But before hiring them to do security, Trump would do well to talk to Mick Jagger and the Stones who have some experience in this area, dating back to their 1969 Gimme Shelter concert at Altamont, CA. The Rolling Stones’ management put the Hells Angels in charge of security and paid them in beer.

Big mistake... four fans died including one who was stabbed by the bikers. The resulting melee was captured in the 1970 film, Gimme Shelter.

I'm sure Team Trump and the Secret Service will come up with a better security plan. But these days, you can't be too sure.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Congressman John Lewis’s bestselling graphic novel March: Book One was inspired by a 56-year-old comic, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, that helped spawn the Civil Rights Movement. 
Rep. John Lewis
It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be, how he may speak to you... We need someone as attorney general who’s going to look out for all of us, and not just for some of us. -- Democracy Now
Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of International Crisis Group
"Regardless of how you view Trump and his positions, his election has led to a deep, deep sense of uncertainty and that will cast a long shadow over Davos." -- Business Insider
Singer Jennifer Holliday not going
“I was honestly just thinking that I wanted my voice to be a healing and unifying force for hope through music to help our deeply polarized country… Regretfully, I did not take into consideration that my performing for the concert would actually instead be taken as a political act against my own personal beliefs and be mistaken for support of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.” -- Raw Story
Dem consultant Robert Shrum: Hillary's going
“She will have a stiff upper lip.” -- Guardian

Friday, January 13, 2017

Participatory Democracy: When voting is not enough.

Democracy is not a sport where the two teams do battle every few years and we as spectators cheer our team on, hoping for the best and then watching the post-game show on cable. We're told, the best we can hop for in this case, is a "peaceful transition" of power  -- to the new oligarchs.

On the contrary, participatory democracy requires a citizenry that is both active and educated, with the courage to stand up for its rights and freedoms regardless of which party is in power. It's a 24-7 job. That doesn't mean of course, that we neglect the ballot. But you can only win at the ballot box that which you are willing to fight for and defend on your block, in your school, workplace, and in the community.

Case in point... in 2015 Chicagoans overwhelmingly voted for a referendum supported by the teachers union, calling for an elected School Board and an end the mayor's autocratic rule over the public schools.

An elected school board bill passed the IL House in March in bipartisan fashion, by a 110-4 vote. But the measure was blocked by an unholy alliance between Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Rauner and Senate Pres. John Cullerton, who never allowed the bill to come to a needed vote in the IL Senate. You'll notice that two of the three blockers are Democrats.

From DNAinfo:
With the 100th Illinois General Assembly sworn in Wednesday, state Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Jefferson Park) vowed to reintroduce the bill "immediately" and begin working to bring it to a vote in the Senate.
Martwick has said the lack of an elected School Board has "eliminated democracy in Chicago."
The fallout... Today, the mayor's hand-picked, self-interested board basically spit on the recently-signed teachers collective-bargaining agreement and imposed a 4-day, unpaid "furlough" on teachers and staff.

CTU responds:
“It’s the second year in a row they shortened the school year and cut our pay,” said Jesse Sharkey, the union’s vice president, angry that CPS leaders still won’t seek new revenue sources. Sharkey said the days off were to allow teachers to complete grades at the end of each quarter, work he assumes will still have to be finished and handed in.
“I’m hearing hearing from teachers who are outraged because they see this as a reduction of pay without a reduction of work,” he said. “We’re looking into whether it’s wage theft.”
No point in looking into it. Wage theft it is. Question is how will the CTU respond? Bigger question is, how will we force a senate vote on an elected board?

Last point... Donald Trump's victory, albeit with a massive loss in the popular election, followed by shrinking poll ratings, and Republican control of congress, necessitates an electoral strategy for the upcoming 2018 and 2020 elections. But it also calls for mass actions in the streets and in our communities, beginning with mass protests at Trump's inauguration.

Voting is not enough. #Resist

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Not buying the Pritzker library union bashing story

Pritzker School Loses Librarian And Union Blocks Parents From Helping Out -- DNAinfo headline

From the headline, one might think that Pritzker school librarian was lost, maybe wandering the library archives somewhere or buried under a pile of books. One might also think that the CTU, weapons in hand, were somehow fighting off parent volunteers who wanted to help out in the school. Both assumptions would be wrong.

The story gained national attention after Pritzker parent, Michael Hendershot, who is also a lawyer (I'm guessing with little time to work pro-bono in the school library), wrote an angry, and a little more ideological op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal with the headline: The Library Lockout at Our Elementary School. 

Actually, the school's newly-hired librarian wasn't lost. Like hundreds of other Chicago teachers and educational professionals and para-professionals, she was fired after the 20th day of school because Pritzker's enrollment was lower than projected. In a city that was once the center of the national small-schools movement,  schools are now being punished, closed or consolidated for being small. In 2012, the Mayor and his criminal sidekick, CEO Byrd-Bennett, closed 50 neighborhood schools, nearly all in the black community, for "underutilization".

The state's schools have been operating without a school budget for the past two years. Gov. Rauner has been holding the budget hostage, hoping to leverage his signature for a pound of flesh, meaning a cut in retiree pensions, the elimination of teacher collective-bargaining rights, and more privatization of school services.

There are currently hundreds of Chicago public schools operating without properly-staffed libraries, school nurses, special-ed paras or school social workers. Librarians are vital to the functioning of any school. If wealthy, mainly-whte suburban schools did away with librarians, replacing them with untrained, unpaid volunteers, there would be a parent revolt.

From DNAinfo:
Rachel Lessem, a member of the local school council at Pritzker, said each student used to have an hour of library a week, where they learned how to research, how to use databases and how to access other sources of information. The students had homework and grades in library as well
In Chicago's two-tier, racially re-segregated school system, libraries and librarians are considered fluff, wasteful add-ons that are the first to go in times of crisis.

School principals, like Pritzker's Joenile Albert-Reese are increasingly being forced to choose between cutting classroom teachers (increasing class size) or librarians, school nurses or field trips. Hopefully, now with Troy LaRaviere leading the Chicago Principals Assoc., more principals will find the courage to stand up to the cuts and defend their schools against these assaults. In this case it was the librarian.

In the meantime, all the teachers and staff have going for them is the CTU. When Pritzker union rep, Kevin Hough filed a grievance after Albert-Reese tried to run the library with unpaid parent volunteers, a clear violation of the district's collective bargaining agreement, the shit hit the fan. Now the union is being blamed for "locking out" students and parents from the library.

Ronnie Reese, a union spokesman, issued the following statement:
“Sadly, budget cuts and the lack of revenue for Chicago’s public schools continue to affect basic services for our students, but per the Agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education, bargaining unit work cannot be delegated to non-bargaining unit volunteers. The [union] has offered and continues to offer its full support to the Pritzker Elementary Local School Council in organizing and advocating for restoration of lost funding and its librarian position."
The notion of a library run by unpaid volunteers or a teacherless classroom is a wet dream for corporate "reformers" and efficiency mongers like former Asst. Ed Secretary Peter Cunningham who has spent most of the past two days bashing the union over the supposed lock-out of Pritzker parents.

Cunningham, like Hendershot, puts the blame for the crisis on greedy teachers who won a small pay increase and are trying to protect their pensions "at the expense of students".

He tries to come off as a parent advocate while playing off Pritzker's parents against the teachers. But those who have followed Cunningham since he left Arne Duncan's D.O.E., remember how hard he  and Duncan  bashed the tens of thousands of parents who dared opt-out of the nation's testing madness. His posturing as an advocate for parents is laughable.

Another bit of irony... The school is named after the late Chicago billionaire A.N. Pritzker. The Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt Hotel chain, is one of the city's most powerful families and notoriously anti-union. Penny Pritzker, now Obama's Commerce Secretary, was previously hand-picked by Rahm to sit on the school board. She voted for the mass school closings.

The irony is that if the Pritzkers and the other city oligarchs paid their fair share of taxes, Pritzker Elementary would still have its librarian and then some.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Former Peltier prosecutor calls for his release. 
Author Yaa Gyasi ("Homegoing")
 The history of America has involved figuring out new ways to subjugate black people since the beginning. In this post-election in-between space, as Donald Trump takes over, we are wondering what fresh hell may be about to be devised. -- Guardian
James Reynolds, former U.S. attorney involved in the case against Leonard Peltier
“I just thought that it was time. With all the circumstances that have gone down, both good and bad, it was maybe time for the president to grant clemency and to end the justice part of the case.” -- Free Speech Radio News
Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes
Streep  noted that one "performance" stood out this year: that of Donald Trump when he publicly mocked The New York Times' Serge Kovaleski, a disabled reporter.
"There was nothing good about it, but it did its job. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can't get it out my head because it wasn’t in a movie; it was in real life. That instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone in a public platform, it filters down into everyone's life because it gives permission for others to do the same." 
"Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."
Rep. Katherine Clark (MA)
"After discussions with hundreds of my constituents, I do not feel that I can contribute to the normalization of the president-elect's divisive rhetoric by participating in the inauguration." -- Ward Room 
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL)
"I could not look at my wife, my daughters or my grandson in the eye if I sat there and attended as if everything that candidate Donald Trump had said about women, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims ... is OK or erased from my memory." -- Ward Room 
Rudi Giuliani
 “President-elect Trump is going to be the best thing that ever happened for school choice and the charter school movement. Donald is going to create incentives that promote and open more charter schools. It’s a priority.” -- American Prospect 
Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education
The fundamental problem with the free-market model for education is that schools are not groceries. -- L.A. Times 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

U.S. schools get a C on Quality Counts Report. Here's why.

Massachusetts defends schools from privatization. Ranks #1 in Quality Counts.
Edweek's annual Quality Counts report gives the nation's increasingly two-tier school system a letter grade C, as it almost always does. Thirty years of corporate-style school reform under both Democratic and Republican regimes hasn't moved the needle very much.

My problem with the report is that,in reality, there is no national school system or one set of standards for them to be graded on. This will be increasingly so during the Betsy DeVos era.  So Edweek creates its own, as well as its own grading metrics. 

As you can tell, I'm skeptical. What they've done here, as most of these studies do (without a mention of race or poverty, by the way) is to throw together into one pot the nations's wealthy schools with those with concentrated poverty, as if they were all one thing that could be graded on the same rubric. If the nation's wealthiest schools were separated out, they would likely get an A grade, using Edweek's indices. Resource-starved, racially isolated schools with high concentrations of children living in poverty would likely get an F. Mush them all together and you inevitably wind up with a C.

Here are the indices they use:
• The Chance-for-Success Index uses a cradle-to-career perspective to examine the role of education in promoting positive outcomes throughout an individual’s lifetime.
• The school finance analysis evaluates spending on education and equity in funding across districts within a state.
• The K-12 Achievement Index, last updated in 2016, scores states on current academic performance, change over time, and poverty-based gaps.
A case could also be made for giving an F for having a highly segregated, two-tier public education system in the first place.

When the study looks at schools on a state level, it's more compelling. While the national grade is always a C, there's slightly more mobility and variance in state grades. Massachusetts, for all its social inequality, is still a wealthy state and spends more on public ed and early childhood ed, has strong teacher unions, and generally defends its public sector against privatization with a cap on charter school expansion. So as expected, Massachusetts takes first place among the states for the third year in a row, with aB grade (A- in Chance for Success).

At the bottom, as you might expect, sits Mississippi with a limited safety net, itslegacy of segregation and Jim Crow, the highest concentrations of poverty in the country, few dollars spent on public ed and no teacher unions allowed.

You don't need much of a study to figure how this will turn out. Rich will get richer.  The poor will be taken over or privatized

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 will be a year of resistance

Alabama NAACP leaders arrested after sit-in at Session's office. 
After months of suffering in despair and taking badly-needed recovery time from Trump shock and awe, many left and progressive activists, including education activists, are awakening, finding their bearings and hitting the ground running in the days leading up to the inauguration. A new resistance movement is building and gathering momentum.

Signs of the awakening this morning...

Full-page ad in today's Times
A full-page ad in the Times this morning reads: "In The Name of Humanity, We Refuse To Accept A Fascist America". The call to action is signed by activists and celebs like Ed Asner, Cornel West, Thurston Moore to Debra Messing, Saul Williams, Henry Giroux, Bill Ayers, John Landis and hundreds more. I signed it, as I hope you will, without any hesitation or concern over which "left" faction or sectarian group initiated it. When it comes to resistance, let a hundred flowers bloom.

In Alabama, six NAACP activists, including President and CEO Cornell William Brooks have been arrested during a sit-in staged at the Mobile office of Sen. Jeff Sessions, protesting his appointment as Trump's Attorney General.

Sessions's appointment is also opposed by more than 1,100 law school professors nationwide who sent a letter to Congress urging rejection. Signatories include: Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California at Irvine School of Law.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington estimate 200,000 people will participate in its inauguration weekend protest, according to a National Park Service's list of First Amendment permit applications. Same deal here. I have no idea who these march organizers are. I'm told they are mainly young women of color who are working on this for no pay. Dazzling!

Big protests are also being planned around Betsy DeVos' scheduled confirmation hearing which begins on Jan.11 at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for rallies all across this country on January 15th, in opposition to the Republican budget which calls for throwing 30 million people off of healthcare during their insurance away our part privatizing Medicare making massive cuts in Medicaid and at the same time giving you tax breaks to the wealthy.

Sanders also praised new Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) for spearheading leadership in the Democratic party.

The biggest impediment to the resistance movement is still the capitulation by many in the current leadership of the Democratic Party. Most notably, Bill and Hillary Clinton, who announced yesterday, that they will be attending Trump's inauguration. This show of class solidarity, even while countless performers, artists and celebrities have refused invitations and while hundreds of thousands are protesting outside, should make clear to most Democrats, the need for change at the top of the DNC.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

It's Trump who should be worried. #NoDAPL shows up in Pasadena

Lots of folks are worried about the fate of the #NoDAPL movement once Trump takes office. I understand their fears. But from my vantage point, it looks like Trump and Dakota Access Pipeline are the ones who should be worried. They thought the movement had gone into hibernation for the winter. They were wrong.

With hundreds of water protectors still dug in up in Standing Rock, look who showed up at yesterday's Rose Parade.

From the L.A. Daily News:
 Hundreds of local water activists, Native American tribes and veterans pushed a float adorned with a “Water is Sacred” teepee and carried the plastic black pipeline as they marched down Colorado Boulevard chanting “Water is life” and “We are water protectors,” among other things.
The protest was organized by the Bernie Sanders Brigade, which marched in support of the then-presidential candidate at last year’s parade. 
“It was important to take over the end of the Rose Parade to unify people to get the message out and most importantly to get people to defund the (pipeline),” said Lydia Ponce, a representative from the American Indian Movement of Southern California.
On Sunday, at the Bears/Viking game, some daring pipeline activists rappelled from the roof of the Vikings' stadium to unfurl a DIVEST -- #NoDAPL banner for millions around the world to see. They were released from jail Monday with charges pending.

Chicago Tribune reports:
Minneapolis police spokesman Officer Corey Schmidt said a 32-year-old man and 26-year-old woman were arrested Sunday for allegedly sneaking up on a truss connected to the roof and rappelling down to unfurl the huge banner. Schmidt declined to discuss the alleged role of a third person who was arrested, a 27-year-old woman, citing the ongoing investigation.
#NoDAPL and Fight For 15 are in the forefront of a movement for social justice that isn't being cowed by Trump and his gang of plutocrats. They're setting the tone, even while Democratic Party leaders are sitting on their hands or rendering unto Caesar. 

Happy New Year! See you in D.C. on the 21st.

Monday, January 2, 2017


#NoDAPL banner dropped at yesterday's Bears/Vikings game
Shaun King
I do not know exactly what 2017 will bring. I agree that it will be problematic and fierce, but I believe in myself, I believe in you, I believe in us. We have endured, survived, and thrived before, and I’ll be damned if Donald Trump is going to stop us now. -- Daily News
Van Jones
 Naming Kamala Harris and Keith Ellison, the CNN commentator then stated that Hillary and Bill Clinon’s influence on the party was done. 
“The Clinton days are over,” Jones noted. “This idea that we’re going to be this moderate party that’s going to move in this direction, that’s going to throw blacks under the bus for criminal justice reform and — or for — for prison expansion, that’s going to throw workers under the bus for NAFTA, those days are over. You can’t run and hide." -- Mediaite
Nikhil Goyal 
 By this time next year, the US public education may look very different. With Betsy DeVos almost certain to be confirmed by the Senate as the next secretary of education, fundamental planks of public education could begin to be dismantled. -- Guardian
Jeff Sparrow
All over the world, pollsters report deep unhappiness with the institutions of liberal capitalism. Yet somehow the left – a movement dedicated to social transformation – has become the defender of a status quo that no one much else likes. -- Guardian
Peter Greene
The dream of unified national standards, measured by uniform national standardized tests, is dead. The Common Core has gone into hiding, afraid to even speak its own name, and the national testing framework is a shambles. -- Duncan's failed education legacy

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Stopping the nomination of Betsy DeVos

From Thomas Garrard at Moveon.Org
Dec 31 at 3:02 PM
To: Michaelklonsky@...

Thank you for standing up for public education by signing this petition urging senators to oppose the DeVos nomination in committee. Thank you also to the National Council of Urban Education Associations for its endorsement, and to Diane Ravitch, Kim Mead, and many others for their support.

Next Wednesday I will be delivering over 30,000 signatures to the Seattle office of Patty Murray, top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. The petition will also be delivered electronically to the other Democratic committee members, including newly elected Maggie Hassan (NH). I will send you one more email to report back on the responses we receive.

In the meantime, please consider taking these additional steps to fight this horrendous nomination:
call your senators (most effective),
email your senators,
sign the Network for Public Education letter, the joint NEA-AFT letter, and another MoveOn petition,
contact me if you can personally deliver a copy of the petition to a senator’s office in DC or in your state.
Whether or not this nomination is confirmed, the children and the country will need us to keep fighting to preserve public education in 2017 and beyond. Thanks for all you do!

Thomas Garrard