Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You say you want a revolution? Go to post-Rhee D.C. says Toch

Okay, now that I'm done FBing about #convfefe, I can get down to more serious business -- revolution. It seems a revolution has taken place in D.C. and I somehow missed it.

But Tom Toch didn't. Toch, a leading pro-reform, education policy expert and a highly regarded education writer, has published his study of the progress of school reform in the district, titled, "How D.C. Schools Are Revolutionizing Teaching." 

I'd say, it's about time somebody did it. But who?

Toch says, it all began with former D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, who, despite her various "mistakes," cheating scandals and unfortunate picture on the cover of Time Magazine, got the ball rolling. But Toch's study concludes that it was her successor chancellors who carried the rev forward, bringing radical changes to the teaching profession and miraculous gains in student achievement. DCPS has not merely revolutionized teaching, says Toch; it has created a "reform blueprint" for the rest of us to follow.

No credit given to teachers, of course. In fact, Toch clearly sees bad teachers and their over-protective unions as the problem, and different performance-based evaluations with high stakes attached as the r-r-r-revolutionary solution.

According to Toch:
Building on Rhee’s early work, and learning from her mistakes, her successors have effectively transformed it into a performance-based profession that provides recognition, responsibility, collegiality, support, and significant compensation—features that policy experts, including many of Rhee’s harshest critics, have long sought but never fully achieved.
Ironically, Rhee’s successors at DCPS have redesigned teaching through some of the very policies that teachers’ unions and other Rhee adversaries opposed most strongly: comprehensive teacher evaluations, the abandonment of seniority-based staffing, and performance-based promotions and compensation. They combined these with other changes, like more collaboration among teachers, that these same critics had backed. Just as notably, the transformation is taking place not at charters but in the traditional public school system, an institution that many reformers have written off as too hidebound to innovate.
At last, a reformer who offers the possibility hope and transformation within the public schools themselves. A ray of sunshine in a very gloomy period.

Toch reports that as a direct result of performance-based teacher evals, daily attendance in D.C. has reached 90%, up from 85% in 2010–11. Chronic truancy is down by nearly 40% over the past four years and graduation rates (however they're defined) have climbed to 69%, the highest in the city’s history.
And student achievement has begun a long climb toward respectability. While Washington’s test scores have traditionally been among the lowest in the nation, the percentage of fourth graders achieving math proficiency has more than doubled on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past decade, as have the percentages of eighth graders proficient in math and fourth graders proficient in reading. Scores have risen even after accounting for an influx of wealthier students. And DCPS has caught up to the middle of the pack of other urban school districts at the fourth-grade level on the national exams.
In addition, the school system’s strongest teachers are no longer leaving in droves for charter schools. In many cases, the flow has been reversed, leaving even Washington’s most prominent charters struggling to compete for talent.
Now, don't mistake my cynicism about the "revolution" for the joy I feel over any reports of progress in urban school districts, especially when that progress is reported in neighborhood schools competing for resources, students and teachers with privately-operated charters and private-school voucher programs like the ones started by Rhee in D.C. and now championed by Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos. Yes, I'm glad D.C. 4th-graders are scoring higher on the NAEP and that the district has finally made it to the middle of the urban school district pack score-wise.

If that is really happening, and I have no reason to doubt Toch's numbers, credit should mostly go those hard-working and dedicated teachers, not just to the string of top-level administrators like Rhee and her mentee and former D.C. Teach For America Director Kaya Henderson, and the others who followed in Rhee's wake, usually lasting about 2 years each before they are run out or quit.

But as Toch himself points out:
Achievement levels among Hispanic and black students, who make up 82 percent of enrollment, lag badly behind their white peers. Only 15 percent of black students scored “proficient” in reading last year on Washington’s new, more demanding, Common Core–aligned exams, compared to 74 percent of white students.
If that's his idea of  a "revolution," leave me out.

But it's mostly Toch's line about how his study "takes into account the influx of [white] wealthier students" that gets me twitching. It's such an easy way of dismissing the effects of concentrated poverty on measurable learning outcomes, and of the most dramatic democratic changes in D.C., Chicago, Philly and dozens of other large urban school districts. It's what I and others have referred to as the whitenizing of the cities.

In Chicago, for example, where a quarter of a million African-Americans have been pushed out of the city over the past three decades, by gentrification, de-industrialization and job loss, lack of social services, closing of neighborhood schools, gun violence, etc... Mayor Emanuel and his appointed school district leaders are also now reporting corresponding "miraculous" gains in reading scores and graduation rates.

In 2008, DCPS was reportedly 84.4% black, 9.4% Latino, and 4.6% white.The racial breakdown of students enrolled in 2014 was 67% black, 17% Latino, 12% white, and 4% of "other races".

Now, for the first time in decades, the district itself no longer a majority-black city. Gentrification and demographic changes in many D.C. neighborhoods has increased the white and Latino populations in the city, while dramatically reducing the black and lowest-income population.  And isn't this the exact recipe of today's school reformers who claim poverty is just "an excuse" for low scores?

Of course, as anyone who went to D.C. schools back in the day will tell you, things weren't so great in the district's predominantly black and poor, racially segregated schools back before reform. And any improvements are welcomed, especially by parents and community members.

But good researchers never claim more than they should, especially for a small-scale study. Tom Toch should know that. A few reforms do not a revolution make. And if we are really serious about reform or revolution, we need to look well beyond the classroom for answers.

Monday, May 29, 2017


Teachers at Passages Charter unionize and win their first contract. 
Rahm Emanuel asked if Clinton should run again.
"It's not a good question. OK? So the question is, it's not a good question." -- CNN 
Gina Mengarelli, a member of Passages Charter School’s bargaining team
“Had we not unionized, we could never have gotten to this tentative agreement tonight — and taken such strong steps to begin to improve classroom conditions and win fair pay for our members.” -- Sun-Times
Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal
Asked if he was considering right-wing militia groups as security providers, Buchal said: “Yeah. We’re thinking about that. Because there are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis.” -- Guardian
Charles Pierce
 Betsy DeVos does not know anything about public education except that she doesn't believe in it as a concept. -- Esquire
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
“You don’t want to be sitting too comfortably in Trump’s boat, or in Trump’s boat at all, because Trump’s not liked here."  -- AP Wire

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If Chicago could vote, Claypool wouldn't have been CEO in first place.

Marching through the rain yesterday through Chicago Loop. 
Visitors in town yesterday from the west coast were awed by this city's political life. First by the march for immigrant rights and Fight For15 march they encountered on their drive in and second, by the vote of "no confidence" in schools CEO Forrest Claypool, they read about this morning.

The conversation made me recall the reasons I left the warmth, smog, the earthquakes and my beloved Dodgers in L.A. for the frozen winter tundra and steamy summers of the Windy City back in 1968 and then again in 1975.

Yes, I explained, if you miss the protest today, stick around. There will be another tomorrow. This is a vibrant political and cultural community, a union town and a sanctuary city. It was here that candidate Trump met his first major sign of mass resistance, turned a fled the city.

I've grown to love Chicago.

If Chicago could vote, Claypool would not be here. 

THE 99% VOTE OF CTU MEMBERS sent another powerful message both to the mayor and city and state officials, that Chicago teachers are a force to be reckoned with and that his hand-picked CEO has no juice as far as they are concerned.

The vote may give the mayor the excuse he's been looking for to get rid of this, his 3rd CEO and the 7th so far under mayor control began under Daley. We recall how Rahm Emanuel's second CEO, J.C. Brizard was hired after suffering his own vote of no-confidence back in his previous district of Rochester. Rahm and the Civic Committee must have taken that vote as a feather in Brizard's cap and a sign that he wouldn't be afraid to put the hammer down on the CTU and be a buffer for the mayor against political blow-back.

The result was Brizard's botched handling of the 2012 teachers strike leading to Rahm tossing him under the bus and J.C. himself getting back-stabbed by his own former friend and colleague, Barbara Byrd-Bennett. BBB was slipped in through the back elevator to replace Brizard in the contract negotiations. She then went on to close 50 schools four years ago this month. Then she committed fraud, bilking the city's school children out of millions.

She's on her way to prison. Claypool look like he's toast. But we will have to wait til the next election to get rid of Rahm Emanuel.

How will this vote of no confidence play out is anybody's guess. But it's already a win for the CTU, another show of unity in the face of Gov. Rauner's drastic budget cuts and the mayor's own failure to respond beyond making teachers bare the burden of the funding crisis.

It's also an indication of the mass support needed to end the budget crisis and win the right to an elected school board Chicago. If citizens could elect our school board here, Claypool wouldn't have been here in the first place.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An important fair housing victory in Chicago yesterday

I was part of the large crowd that packed the City Council chambers yesterday in support of Ald. John Arena's affordable  housing initiative in his 45th Ward. In past hearings, we've been out-organized by fear-mongering and (yes, I'll say it) racist groups who have spread fear of  an "invasion" of  renters, war veterans, people with disabilities, immigrants and people of color.

In this case, the fear mongering was led by John Garrido, who lost twice to Arena in previous elections and neighboring 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano. Garrido's forces have been organized into Northwest Side Unite and the Northwest Side GOP Club. Another local group, the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, which opposes the project, has a longtime policy of opposing up-zoning in the area. The opposition gets it money from Liberty Principles, a right-wing PAC funded by Dan Proft. 

Their arguments at yesterday's Zoning Committee hearing, often began with the disclaimer, "I'm not a racist..." A dead giveaway. And then there are some who claimed they would support the project if it was reduced to only four stories. Others claimed they were defending "local control" of their Jefferson Park, Addison Park and Portage Park neighborhoods against the "outsiders" from other areas of the city, bent on stirring up trouble. It's a tactic right out of Saul Alinsky's playbook and a reason I never bought into his model of community organizing. Ironically, Alinsky's book, Rules For Radicals, is the featured book for GOP Club's May reading group. 

Ald. John Arena talks with supporters 
The developer of the building at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. has agreed to make 20 of the apartments fully wheelchair accessible. Another 20 will be reserved for veterans. But if the height or number of apartments were reduced, the set-aside apartments would become unafordable.

The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law warned the city’s Law Department that rejection of the project could be viewed as fair housing discrimination under federal civil rights laws.

Open and mixed income housing has always been more than a local ward issue in Chicago, often referred to as the most segregated city in the nation (see video below). This was clear to progressive groups like the Chicago Housing Initiative and Access Living who provided most of the troops at yesterday's hearing.

The hearing itself was almost painfully democratic, with speakers from both sides holding forth from two in the afternoon, into the early evening. But the final vote in support of Arena's plan was unanimous.

An important victory.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Teacher Patrick J. Kearney
You’ve now been the Secretary of Education for a few months and I have to say, we’ve moved from being freaked out to understanding that you are who we thought you were. -- Open Letter to Betsy DeVos
Kellyanne Conway after defending Trump
"I need to take a shower." -- Morning Joe
Anderson Cooper to Jeffrey Lord
 'If he took a dump on his desk, you'd defend it'. -- CNN
Trump to Russian officials
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off...I’m not under investigation.” -- New York Times
Trump to reporters in Saudi Arabia
“One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment, because nobody makes it like the United States.” -- Washington Post 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In L.A. another blow to public education

In the most expensive school board election in history, billionaire Eli Broad just bought himself a school system.

Insuring, for the first time, a pro-charter board majority, Nick Melvoin, the candidate of the charter industry, beat Steve Zimmer, 57-43% and Charter teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez beat Imelda Padilla, 51-48%.

 At least $14 million was spent, most of it by the Broad-led charter forces to defeat Zimmer. In the two districts, only 75,000 people voted. 

In the 2013 elections, candidates supporting keeping public schools public, were able to overcome the big-money assault on board elections. But this time the flood of campaign spending was overwhelming.

With millions in his war chest, Melvoin was able to run an effective, but dirty campaign against Zimmer, who was backed by the teachers union. He falsely accused Zimmer of responsibility for the iPad debacle, which was in fact the pet project of corrupt former LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, a supporter of Melvoin. Deasy currently works for billionaire Eli Broad, who has proposed to put half the students in Los Angeles in privately-run charter schools.

As we work to pass elected school board legislation here in Chicago and put an end to the mayor's one-man control of the schools, the L.A. election should serve as a warning. There needs to be caps on board election spending. Otherwise it's too easy for corporate "reformers" and privatizers to buy CPS. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rahm's great ideas

Rahm considering taxing "high net-worth individuals". What a concept! 
Just to prove that I'm not a Rahm hater, I'll give a SmallTalk salute to two things the mayor said this week.

The first was meant as a warning to fellow Democrat bigwigs. Stop focusing so much on Trump and start fighting for middle-class and working families.
Emanuel is worried. He thinks everyone in Washington is too focused on the crazy around Trump to see what’s actually going on — and what’s not... “Talking to ourselves and persuading ourselves,” Emanuel said, “is not going to be the way you get to a majority.” (Politico)
Of course, he then went on and spent the rest of the interview talking about Trump.

But then this:
“I think there are certain things we as a party wandered off from as it relates to being a party that fought for hard working families." (The Hill
Okay, so that's one thing. Here's the other:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel may seek new taxes on downtown businesses, “high net-worth individuals” or both to dig the Chicago Public Schools out of a $596 million hole without state help, City Hall sources said Monday. Sources said the new taxes Emanuel is exploring would raise $400 million to $600 million in annual revenue. (Sun-Times)
Wow, what a concept! Making the super-rich and the giant corporations pay their fair share of taxes. I tell you, the man's a genius. Why didn't we think of that?

Oh wait a minute. We did.

As a matter of fact, it was almost three years ago to the day that CTU Prez Karen Lewis proposed a "LaSalle Street" tax to help get the schools and the retirees pension fund out of debt.

Then, in 2015, it was the people's mayoral candidate, Chuy Garcia calling for a "financial transaction tax". 

As you might remember, both calls were met with great disdain by City Hall, the city's newspapers, and of course, by the business sector. The state legislature went so far as to knowingly pass an unconstitutional pension-theft bill rather than reform the tax code so that the wealthiest paid their fair share.

But that's all in the past. This week, with the rest of the school year hanging in the balance, with the city council demanding an explanation, and with the governor still holding the state's school budget hostage, Rahm came up with a stroke of brilliance.

Tax the rich. Of course it's just an idea. But still...

Monday, May 15, 2017


"President Trump, please don't fire Sean Spicer"-- CNN

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to Howard University students
 “You are graduating into a very different time than it was when you arrived a few short years ago,” said Harris, a graduate of Howard. “We have a fight ahead. It’s a fight to determine what kind of country we will be. And it’s a fight to determine whether we are willing to stand up for our deepest values.” -- Washington Post
Carl Bernstein
"It's a different dynamic than we've ever had to deal with before. Richard Nixon was a criminal president. Donald Trump is a president with whom there is grave question about his fitness and ability to conduct the office of the president -- and that's going hand-in-hand with the possible coverup into collusion with a foreign power." -- 
 NYU Prof. Nouriel Roubini ("Dr. Doom")
"Now, the biggest elephant in the room is the United States," Roubini argued that the "biggest uncertainty in the world and biggest tail risk comes from the economic, foreign and security policies of the Trump administration." -- CNN
Henry Scott Wallace
Nonsense, my grandfather said in that speech: We Americans “are no more a master race than the Nazis.” -- American Fascism, in 1944 and Today (NYT)
 Donald Trump at Liberty University
“In America we do not worship government, we worship God.”  -- The Atlantic

Thursday, May 11, 2017

B-CU students turn their backs on DeVos

Less than a week after Pres. Trump threatened to cut off funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), his ed secretary, Betsy DeVos was invited to Bethune-Cookman  to deliver the commencement speech. At her side, hoping to run interference, was Trump cheerleader and "highest ranking" African-American in the White House, Omarosa Manigault.

The outcome was predictable. Both Manigault and DeVos were greeted with a chorus of boos which continued throughout DeVos' speech even as B-CU administrators threatened to withhold the graduates' diplomas if they kept it up. The more they threatened, the louder grew the jeers.

Much of the students' anger was directed at B-CU Pres. Edison Jackson who has jumped into bed with Trump in hopes of winning favor and getting some alms for his beleaguered school.

Trump has tried to make the case that HBCUs are "unconstitutional" and discriminatory against whites. Two nights later, after a storm of criticism, the White House "walked back" the threat in a statement that declared the president’s “unwavering support” for such schools.

Back in February, DeVos caught hell for her ignorant description of HBCUs as "real pioneers" of "school choice" rather a righteous a response to Jim Crow and blacks being excluded from all-white colleges and universities. Yes, you guessed it. Another walk-back. She even misspelled the name of W.E.B. DuBois in her statement.

DeVos opened her speech with this:
 “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.”
This has been a theme over the past few months as campuses from UC Berkeley to the Univ. of Chicago have been overrun with gaggle of highly-paid or powerfully-positioned, racist or neo-fascist speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. When students or community activists turn out to peacefully protest, they are accused of being "disrespectful" or denying them their right of free speech. The very people who monopolize the media and who tightly control the reins of power, try and play the victims. DeVos is a great example.

DeVos didn't come to Bethune-Cookman to have a dialogue with the students. She was there for a political photo-op, carrying water for Donald Trump and a regime which has total, 24/7 access to mainstream media. It's the black students whose voices have been silenced. But not this time.

The day before her speech members of the B-CU community delivered a petition that had been signed by over 50,000 people requesting DeVos’ removal as commencement speaker.

She closed her speech by warning students not to join the "chorus of conflict" and to face her regime's assault "with a mindset of grace."
“You don’t send your graduating class out into the world like this,” said Tyler Durrant, a 2017 graduating senior at Bethune-Cookman University, to The Daily Beast. “Commencement is a monologue and not a dialogue, and that is one of the most important things we’re trying to bring to light here. After she speaks, we won’t speak.”
People are outraged, said Fed Ingram, vice president of the Florida Education Association and a graduate of the school. Ninety percent of students who attend Bethune-Cookman were educated in public schools, he said. “This is a woman who throughout her ‘career’ has condemned public schools, has said these are dead-end schools.”

A side note... AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten who has been supportive of DeVos' school visits and has been critical of anti-DeVos protesters, nothing to say about the Bethuse-Cookman student protest. Her comment to the Washington post was critical of "choice" without mention of DeVos.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday, “The kids have worked really hard at a historically black college without the resources they need to get an education in a school that was created because of segregation and discrimination.” The choice movement grew out of segregation, she said. “Those of us who are neither students nor alums are just a megaphone,” she said, for that message.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Protests greet Ryan at charter school photo-op in Harlem

Ryan comes to Harlem
It looks like Eva Moskowitz's Success Charter Academy has become the photo-op, stop-off point favorite for Republican pols anxious to demonstrate their fealty to so-called "school choice".

Latest to duck in and out of Harlem under heavy security was House Speaker Paul Ryan, fresh from his initial triumph over millions of people's health care coverage. What Ryan, Moskowitz and the charter network's publicity department probably didn't count on, was the large gathering of protesters, organized by the Working Families Party, that turned out to greet him with chants of "shame! shame! shame!".

His hourlong visit on National Teachers Day also included a brief meeting with special-needs students at P.S. 149, a public school that shares a building with the charter school. These are the very same students whose programs are being gutted by Trump's Sec. of Ed, Betsy DeVos as her budget shifts about $20 billion from public schools to charters and vouchers.

Ryan, who banned the press from covering his visit,  described the tour as “special.”

Ryan came at the invitation of Moskowitz who pulls down about $500K/year as the charter network's director. A faux-Democrat, Moskowitz was a runner-up to DeVos as Trump's choice to run his DOE. Previous photo-op invitees include Ivanka Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

According to Newsday, 
...protesters, including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, rallied across the street from the school, on West 118th Street. They waved cardboard cutouts of tombstones bearing messages that denounced Ryan’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. They chanted “health care for all, not just for Paul.”
As Ryan exited the building after his visit, protesters chanted, "health care is a human right, how can you sleep at night?"

Monday, May 8, 2017


Bethune-Cookman students petition
“With all the facts provided, why on earth would Bethune-Cookman University invite Secretary DeVos to be the commencement speaker for their spring graduation ceremony? Bethune-Cookman University doesn't need a photo op from the Trump Administration, we need action done by this administration for all HBCUs.” -- 
Education reporter Becky Vevea on Byrd-Bennett
"I think there’s a lot more to this story and that there are a lot of layers to peel back on, not just this one company and this one superintendent, but all of the companies that do business with the school district, and all of the people who go in and out of positions, both inside the school districts that they work with and into the companies that then they go work for." -- Chicago Newsroom 
"Invest early and immigrate to the U.S."
Nicole Kushner Meyer in China
“Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules...Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.” -- Washington Post 
 Ed Pilkington
The defeat of Le Pen pricks the bubble of populism that had swept the UK with Brexit and the US with the rise of Trump, and as such may have adverse knock-on effects for the new incumbent of the White House. -- Guardian
 Retired N.Y. science teacher Annette Marcus
The original concept for charter schools imagined that they would serve as an experiment, and if successful, be an example that public schools could incorporate. As long as charters have more funding and are in direct competition with public schools, public schools will suffer. And have. -- Letter to NYT

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trump's latest target. Historically black colleges

Graffiti at Howard University criticizing its president for meeting with Trump.
It only makes sense that a day after gutting health insurance coverage for million of mostly poor, sick and elderly Americans, Trump would make historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) his next target. Along with threatening to take away federal funding, he's also targeting after-school programs and other ed-related initiatives that support Native Hawaiian and Alaskan Native education on the grounds that they are "race-based" and therefore "unconstitutional".

As if all education in this country hasn't been largely race-based since the days when it was unlawful to teach black slaves to read. It wasn't until the Reconstruction period in the south after the Civil War that freed slaves brought us the first truly public school system in this nation's history. The defeat of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era that followed, along with the failure of post-Brown v. Board integration, north and south, has left us with the widening two-tiered school system we have now.

HBCUs were and continue to be a response (one of many) to the long history of what I call, white affirmative action. So much for all the Trumpian rhetoric about "school choice".

It's also important to note there’s been no court finding or litigation suggesting racial discrimination at HBCUs regarding admissions or faculty hiring.

W.E.B. DuBois, writing in 1935 pointed out:
Theoretically, the Negro needs neither segregated schools nor mixed schools.  What he needs is Education.  What he must remember is that there is no magic, either in mixed schools or in segregated schools.  A mixed school with poor and unsympathetic teachers, with hostile public opinion, and no teaching of truth concerning black folk, is bad.  A segregated school with ignorant placeholders, inadequate wretched housing, is equally bad. 
Lots have changed since then. But not that.

In February, Trump invited more than 60 HBCU presidents into the Oval Office, where he signed an executive order proclaiming his support of the schools. Turns out, he meant support in the way a rope supports a hanging man.

Enter Trump's newly-appointed schools chief Betsy DeVos, the bible-thumping billionaire, grand dame of  vouchers, privately-run charters and other forms of "school choice". Her photo-op visits to public schools were met with protests and rightfully seen by many parents, teachers and ed activists as a kiss of death for public education. The same can be said about her appearances at HBCUs.

Now I see that DeVos has been invited to give the commencement speech at HBCU Bethune-Cookman, a school founded by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune to provide African-American students with the opportunity to gain access to higher ed at a time when black students were refused entrance into colleges and universities across America.

It was back in February when DeVos called HBCUs, "real pioneers of school choice", as if the long, continuing history of institutional racism and official segregation in higher education had never existed and that black colleges were simply a matter of private entrepreneurship or "bootstrap" self-help. The uproar that followed forced her to try and walk back her statement.

The New York Times called her statement, "a gaffe" and to some degree it was. But I think it was also a testing of the waters, as is Trump's statement on Friday.

It's not just about the elimination of federal funding for HBCUs, but Republican plans for a complete and total roll-back of the hard-fought gains of the civil rights movement on the grounds that equality for African-Americans and other oppressed minorities poses a threat and is discriminatory towards whites.

It's in some ways understandable that administrators at HBCUs, the United Negro College Fund (and urban public schools) would invite DeVos to speak. I'm sure they are hoping her appearance will bring their schools badly needed support (maybe a private donation from DeVos or Trump himself) and possibly delay the coming assault on historically black institutions.

But it will be interesting to see how DeVos is received at Bethune-Cookman by students and faculty who see through all the "bootstrap" rhetoric. I doubt that her appearance will go down smoothly.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


Tomorrow on Hitting Left, I will be missing my co-host, brother Fred, who is off to New York where he's taking part in a 40-mile bike run across the boroughs. I know, right?

But joining me will be three of my favorite people, Harish Patel, Anne Emerson, and Ald. Scott Waguespack. Not too shabby.

Harish will be my co-host and my Klonsky brother for the day. He's an Indian-American, Muslim local and international social activist based in Chicago, a former candidate for state rep and the deputy director of the non-partisan policy group New America Chicago. I'm sure we will be hearing about his recent up-close and personal exchange last week with Barack Obama.

The two of us will be digging political dirt with Chicago political strategist Anne Emerson and the alderman from my own 32nd Ward, Scott Waguespack. Scott is an outspoken member of the city council's Progressive Caucus and a major thorn in side of Mayor 1%.

A stunning victory...We'll also hear from SEIU organizer Larry Alcoff on today's victory for Chicago's nursing home health care workers. At the 11th hour, just before what would have been the largest strike by nursing home health care workers in the U.S., a settlement was reached between the management of 103 nursing homes across the Chicago area and 10,000 SEIU members. Tune in and hear Larry and Brother Fred talk about the significance of this important labor struggle.

Obama to Patel...
Mr. Obama wanted to know why Harish Patel, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, had chosen to run for state representative last year as a young man. The answer, he replied, was in part that he did not see very many Patels in office and wanted to fix that. 
“There are lot of Patels in India,” Mr. Obama interjected, prompting more laughter from the audience. “There are lot more Patels than there are Obamas."

So tune in to hear the Klonsky Bros. Hitting Left on Friday at 11 a.m. CDT, on WLPN 105.5 F.M., streaming live at Lumpen Radio. If you have an IPhone, download the Lumpen Radio app. If you miss the show live, you can always listen to the podcast 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Crimson Tide. A Trump parable?

I'm not big on submarine movies. I watched Das Boot on a flight to Europe once and between the depth charges on the screen and the air turbulence over the Atlantic, I almost lost my dinner.

But DT's latest ravings have me thinking back to one in particular. In Crimson Tide, Denzel, who plays Hunter, the nuclear-armed sub's Lt. Commander, organizes a mutiny of sorts and strips the ship's war-crazed Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman), of his command to stop him from launching a preemptive nuclear strike against Russia.

It's kind of a crappy movie, even with two of my favorite crappy movie actors, but I won't give away the ending in case you want to watch it for the first time on Netflix or wherever.

Reflecting back on Crimson Tide, I'm wondering just how long Trump's own minions are going to tolerate his dangerous nuclear war fantasies? Where is their Hunter who will confine their
Capt. Ramsey to his quarters in order to keep their leaky ship afloat?


If you're a teacher trying to make lemonade out of Trump's lemons, his ignorant rants about Pres. Andrew Jackson and the causes of the Civil War, can be teachable moments. Trump's ignorant statements are all over the media. Why not let students have at them?

h/t Alan Spindle
Most common response to Trump has been simply..."The war was about slavery." Yes, in large part true. But it's important to know that northern leaders, including Pres. Lincoln, weren't abolitionists or necessarily opposed to southern slavery. Lincoln was a latecomer to the abolitionist position. But when the southern aristocrats and slavers moved to secede from the Union, war became inevitable. The war began in 1861, But the Emancipation Proclamation wasn't signed until 1863 and the 13th Amendment, which legally ended slavery, wasn't ratified until 1865.

When thousands of black slaves took up arms and joined the Union cause, the war transformed into a war for liberation and victory was assured.

Trump implied that the was was avoidable and that his role-model president,  Andrew Jackson was the man who could have prevented it.
"I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War....he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said 'There's no reason for this.'"
Actually Jackson, a vicious slaver himself and a genocidal murderer of Native Americans, had been dead for 16 years when the war started. But Trump is a believer in the great man (deal-maker) theory of history. This theory, which is used to counter the theory that oppressed people, with support from their allies, are the real history makers and shapers.

Definitely worth some class time for research, study and discussion. I will be talking to middle school students in classrooms next week about this very topic.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rahm let Byrd-Bennett take the rap by herself in SUPES case

Point well-made by Raise Your Hand's Wendy Katten in today's email...
On Friday, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for defrauding students and taxpayers with a no-bid contract with SUPES, her former employer---a contract approved unanimously by the unelected Chicago Board of Education. BBB's connection to SUPES was considered "a plus, not a negative" by the Board, according to Andrea Zopp, board member at the time.
That's why I feel no joy in BBB's well-deserved 4.5-year prison sentence. Another black person in prison does nothing to repair the damage that's been done to the students, parents and educators victimized by the SUPES scam engineered by her partner in crime, Gary Solomon.

If justice were really to be served, its hand would have reached much higher, not only to Rahm's hand-chosen board members like Zopp who approved the deal, but to the mayor himself who knew full well what his CEO was up to and obviously OK'ed the deal, and then let BBB take the fall.

If we don't succeed in ridding our city of mayoral control of the schools and establishing our right to an elected school board, the jailing of Byrd-Bennett and her crew will amount to little.

 Writes Katten:
An elected school board bill HB1774 passed committee 18-1 in March in the IL House, but a lot of pressure is needed to ensure it keeps moving. We simply cannot let Springfield inaction kill this bill again.
What can you do? Channel your outrage into action:
Canvass with us - We're talking to neighbors about why we need an elected board in Senate President Cullerton's district this Saturday 10am-3pm. More info and RSVP here.
Call your state representative and state senator - Demand that they get the elected school board bill passed by the end of May. Find your rep and senator's contact info here.
Visit Springfield with us - RYH Action is planning an in-person advocacy day on Tuesday May 16. Let us know if you can commit to making the trip to talk to legislators face-to-face.
Nine out of ten Chicagoans want an elected board. Help us make that happen.


Sunday morning news panel. (Fred Klonsky)
Barbara Byrd-Bennett
"I ought to be punished." -- Sun-Times
Donald Trump
“I love my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier." -- Washington Post
 Katherine Hayhoe, Texas Tech climate scientist
“It’s hard to understand why facts require revision." -- Washington Post
Dr. Raynard Sanders
“Despite numerous complaints from [New Orleans] parents stating they want neighborhood schools state education officials have ignored their cries and continue this dangerous daily student migration.” -- Salon
Hassan Minhaj
“A lot of people in the media say that Donald Trump goes golfing too much. . . which raises a very important question: Why do you care? Do you want to know what he’s not doing when he’s golfing? Being president. Let the man putt-putt! . . . The longer you keep him distracted, the longer we’re not at war with North Korea.” -- White House Correspondents' Dinner