Wednesday, August 30, 2017

IL voucher vote reversal shows Dems stand for nothing

Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan, left,visits with House Republican Leader Jim Durkin after the education funding bill passed. 
"In a lot of ways, the state Dems' endorsement of scholarships for private schools reminds me of Conor McGregor: lots of talk before the fight and not much resistance once it got going."-- Ben Joravsky in the Reader.  
The passage of the IL school funding bill, which included $75M for private school vouchers, is being hailed as a "model of bi-partisanship" and "compromise" by both Gov. Rauner and Speaker Madigan. It was neither. It was instead, an exercise in duplicity on the part of state Democrats and a lifeline for a Republican governor who had become totally isolated and ripe for a 2018 election defeat after his initial veto of the same school funding bill.

Democrats demonstrated once again that they're a party that stands for nothing and that their campaign slogan of  a "Better Deal" as opposed to resistance, is little more than a call for more opportunism. It's a recipe for disaster in the upcoming elections where Republicans shouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Remember how Rauner was elected in the first place after Democratic incumbent Quinn showed the same duplicity by signing the unconstitutional pension theft bill.

And speaking of disaster, it was the manufactured crisis caused by years of inadequate and inequitable funding of state schools and the pension fund, that provided the rationale for this stunning sellout. A model of what Naomi Klein called disaster capitalism in her book, Shock Doctrine. A drowning man will grab onto a rope, not  caring who or what is on the other end of the line.

As Rahm says:
"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
In this case, using the public fear over the prospect of schools not opening on time, to somehow realize a school privatization plan, in the form of vouchers, which Democrats supposedly hated.

The Madigan/Rahm engineered flip-flop by Democrats on the voucher bill vote, all within a few hours on Monday and then yesterday's senate vote, reveals the rank opportunism of the party's leadership and the spinelessness of those who voted yes after first voting no.

There was no "compromise" to be made since the voucher deal between Chicago's mayor and Cardinal Cupich, had been in the works for months, specifically since Rahm's closed door meeting with Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos back in April. Monday's two House votes were mere Madigan-choreographed theater.

While the funding bill does pump badly-need cash into the to state schools which have largely been operating on heavy borrowing and without a budget for the more than two years, it was more a case of one hand giveth which the other taketh away.

The bill only partly addresses the historic bleeding, or what the Tribune calls, the "growing structural deficit" in IL schools and provides some pension relief for Chicago. But school funding in the state will remain inadequate for years to come. That's because IL still ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to paying the state's share of school funding.

So, while the mayor claims the bill's passage would give cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools what they wanted and more. continue to look for more cuts in school programs, more teacher firings, more attacks on special education and after-school programs.

The bulk of funding still comes from local regressive property taxes. It's a formula that reproduces inequality within a system where high-poverty, mostly black and Latino districts bear the brunt.

This bill did nothing to change that, offering no new revenue sources. Instead of raising taxes on the wealthiest, the bill offers them another massive tax break while homeowners are in for another round of massive tax increases. In order to get to an adequate funding level for the state’s schools, IL will need to come up with at least $6 billion over the next 10 years. The bill authorizes the Chicago Board of Education, comprised of mayoral appointees, to impose a property-tax hike worth $125 million without any involvement whatsoever from the Chicago City Council, whose members are elected.

Wealthy investors will get a massive tax break, $.75 on every dollar donated to the so-called "scholarship fund" for private school tuition. The millions in the fund, taken straight out of public school classrooms, will supposedly help students "escape" from "failing" public schools.

And here, the mayor was just boasting about the magical jump in CPS test scores and graduation rates. Makes you wonder why, at the same time, he'd be greasing this "escape" route.

Monday, August 28, 2017


Saying "no" to school vouchers on Friday's Hitting Left radio were parent activists Wendy Katten and Cassie Creswell along with a group of Chicago high school youth organizers. Listen in here. 
32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack
 "No self-respecting Democrat should accept this brazen Rauner-Trump-DeVos tactic to decimate public schools, rob our children's classrooms of resources and weaken teachers' unions." -- DNAInfo
State Rep. Will Guzzardi
 "Giving rich people a tax loophole for driving students out of public schools and into private schools goes against many of my core beliefs." -- DNAInfo
State Sen. Daniel Biss
 “The private school voucher program doesn’t help create a more equitable education system—it’s a false choice, and just the latest example of Rauner putting millionaires over the middle class." -- Capitol Fax 
47th Ald. Ameya Pawar
 “It is dead wrong to give vouchers and tax credits to private or parochial schools. Using taxpayer money to fund private schools benefits the children of wealthy families at the expense of the rest of the state.” -- Capitol Fax
Rex Tillerson
 'The president speaks for himself'. -- Guardian
Editorial Observer Elizabeth Williamson
Mr. Trump’s staff can’t control him, so they coddle him. They make sure he starts his day with a packet of good news about himself, compiled by Republicans who get up early to search for positive stories, headlines, tweets or, failing those, flattering photos. “Maybe it’s good for the country that the president is in a good mood in the morning,” one of the Republicans said. -- NYT Sunday Review

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Saying no to vouchers in IL

CTU cartoon.
As expected, IL speaker Mike Madigan didn't have enough votes yesterday, to override Gov. Rauner's veto of school funding bill SB1, so he postponed the vote until next week. He's now claiming that in the interim, eight Repugs will jump ship. If that's true, there's no need for any further compromises on the part of Democrats. Right?

Rauner hates SB1, even though it is essentially a Republican bill that fails to bring any new revenue (higher taxes on the state's wealthiest). He claims it's a bailout for Chicago schools -- it isn't --and as we know, Rauner is only interested in bailouts for billionaires.

But not so behind the scenes, an alternative bill, hatched originally by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cardinal Blase Cupich which would inject the same inadequate immediate funding into the school system while throwing a lifeline to the politically isolated governor (his own education proposal, didn't get a single "yes" vote last week). The win for Repubs would be a school vouchers or "scholarship" plan that would pull an estimated $75M in tax credits, away from public schools and into the pockets of private and Catholic school operators. It would also further the state down the school privatization road.

When we asked Democratic State Senator and candidate for governor, Dan Biss about vouchers on Hitting Left a few weeks ago,  he called vouchers, "a catastrophe" and "unacceptable". He said, for him, vouchers are "a red line" that he, and assumedly other Dems wouldn't cross.

Protesters in Springfield along with the CTU are trying to make sure they don't cross it.

Another HL alum, @Ameya_Pawar_IL, also running for governor, tweets:
#SB1 is a funding equity bill. Adding school vouchers undermines equity. School vouchers is not a compromise. Override @GovRauner racist
We will be continuing the conversation on SB1 and vouchers tomorrow on HL with parent activists Wendy Katten, from Raise You Hands, and Cassie Creswell from More than a Score. Brother Fred will be out of town. So my co-host, back by popular demand, will be CTU political organizer Brandon Johnson.

Don't miss.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump's speech heralds a continuation of eternal 'war on terror'

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. -- Donald Trump on eternal war
Since this blog is supposed to be mainly about education politics, I feel it necessary to reiterate -- war is the mortal enemy of education. Case in point: The greatly underestimated 16-year Afghan war price tag currently stands at $1.72 trillion. 

I know. I know. A trillion doesn't go as far as it used to. But still, that's enough to fund the Chicago Public Schools for the next 300 years, with enough left over to resolve the pension crisis, provide handsome raises for teachers and staff and replace all outworn facilities.

Trump's speech last night never mentioned the assumed cost in human lives and treasure of his "plan" to escalate and continue the war indefinitely. He also never uttered the words, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, or Venezuela. Oh yes, those were last week's wars. The generals, it seems, love the Afghan war because it drags on indefinitely with minimal political fallout and no big domestic anti-war movement to worry about.

Trump offers no rhyme or reason for his grand campaign flip-flop except to blame it on the generals. He seems to recognize (or if he doesn't, he should) that war in Afghanistan is a no-win proposition, as all previous invading imperialists and colonialists have learned the hard way.

The Trump escalation is essentially a continuation of the Bush/Obama plan to keep enough troops and mercenaries in country to keep from "losing," and to prop up the corrupt drug-dealing regime in Kabul. But there is one added dimension -- Trump's naked attempt to provoke a new war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

Unlike the neocons and Clinton Democrats, Trump says he's not a "nation builder" trying to force U.S.-style democracy (such as it is) on Afghanistan.

He says:
I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. [So therefore, I will continue the policy indefinitely.]
We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
 And by "killing terrorists," he means...  173,000 dead, with 183,000 others seriously injured so far. An estimated 31,000 of those have been civilians, including women and children.

Trump's speech is also a break from former adviser Steve Bannon's populist wing (that correctly refers to it as "unlimited war," and compares Trump's strategy to that of former President Barack Obama) and the Republican Party's libertarian isolationist wing.

As for the Democrats, there was hardly a token peep out of them. The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island criticized the speech as "too vague." Ouchie!  Nancy Pelosi said the speech was "low on details but raises serious questions." Sizz! What else could they say? Trump was echoing their own war policy under Obama.

U.S. Marine sniper unity in Afghanistan (Guardian)
So what did a politically isolated Trump have to gain by going on national TV with his escalation plan? One explanation is that he's trying to shake his image as a KKK, white supremacist apologist by cynically claiming that war and militarism brings the races together.
The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission, and one shared sense of purpose.They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together — and sacrifice together — in absolutely perfect cohesion. 
What a load of crap! The very same racist and pro-fascist forces who invaded Charlottesville last week often find a comfortable sanctuary within the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq and other battlefields. Thas has been well documented, including in this piece by the Guardian's Matt Kennard.

Kennard writes:
The neo-Nazi movement has had a long and tense relationship with the US military. Since its inception, the leaders of the white supremacist movement have encouraged their members to enlist. They see it as a way for their followers to receive combat and weapons training, courtesy of the US government, and then to bring what they learn home to undertake a domestic race war.
With his poll numbers plummeting into the low 30s, DT hoped to take Charlottesville off the front page and rally the nation around war patriotism. Why not? It's always been, as Samuel Johnson put it, the last refuge of a scoundrel. It may buy him time. I doubt it.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Dick Gregory in Greenwood, Miss, April 2, 1963 after a voter registration protest.
Dick Gregory, R.I.P. 
I waited at the counter of a white restaurant for eleven years. When they finally integrated, they didn't have what I wanted. -- Chicago Defender
CTU's Brandon Johnson on IL Senate Bill1
We're not having the real conversation which should be about revenue...We have a taxing system that is unfair and unjust. -- Hitting Left 
Steve Bannon
"The Trump presidency is over." --Weekly Standard
Netanyahu's hand-picked Israeli minister, Ayoub Kara
“Due to the terrific relations with the U.S., we need to put the declarations about the Nazis in the proper proportion... Trump is the best U.S. leader Israel has ever had. His relations with the prime minister of Israel are wonderful, and after enduring the terrible years of Obama, Trump is the unquestioned leader of the free world, and we must not accept anyone harming him.” -- Jerusalem Post
Historian Eric Foner
 “Obviously, we have some pretty deep divisions along multiple lines—racial, ideological, rural versus urban...Whether they will lead to civil war, I doubt. We have strong gravitational forces that counteract what we’re seeing today... People are not debating the Civil War. They’re debating American society and race today.” -- New Yorker: Is America headed for a new kind of civil war?
Former WI Senator Russ Feingold
 Even if the white supremacists are condemned, even if the entire Republican party rises up in self-professed outrage at white supremacists, if voter suppression and other such racist policies survive, the white supremacists are winning. -- Guardian 
 Gen. Curtis LeMay wrote:
 “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off, what, 20 percent of the population?” -- In “Strategic Air Warfare,” by Richard H. Kohn

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A union leader and a corporate school reformer abandon Trump's ship

"It's never met, we've never had a meeting," Trumka said.
The stunning events in Charlottesville have stirred so much public anger towards the Trump regime that they've driven many of his closest collaborators, including corporate CEOs worried about tarnishing their brand, to abandon ship. Trump's open support and praise for murderous white supremacists, anti-semites, KKK and nazis has become a source of concern and embarrassment, even for many Trump allies, staffers, and collaborators who have hung with him up until now, despite a long string of similar racist and chauvinist outbursts.

Two particular breaks, one in the last few days, have especially caught my eye because they involved, not right-wing conservatives, but a union leader and a Democrat corporate school reformer.

The union leader is Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest group of labor unions in the country, who quit Trump’s manufacturing council Tuesday evening, saying he refused to accept any tolerance of “bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

All well and good. But the question remains, what was Trumka doing as the only union leader, on that sham council in the first place? And why did he quit, obviously under pressure from below, only after the departure of the CEOs from Walmart [30 hours earlier -- h/t C.B.], Merck, Under Armour and Intel?

One answer is that Trumka has long been a fan of Trump's failed America First protectionist and racist jobs strategy. Remember, Trumka sided with Trump at Standing Rock in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, in that way diminishing the moral standing and political credibility of the labor movement. While most unions were taking the line of resistance to Trumpism, all Trumka wanted was a seat at the table, even one that didn't really exist. The council NEVER MET.

Now, only after Trump's promise to "bring back American jobs" has been discredited, and on the eve of Trump's disbanding the council altogether, did Trumka finally criticize it for not taking meaningful steps to help the workers he represents.
“It’s clear that President Trump’s Manufacturing Council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today [on Charlottesville] were the last straw.” 

"We would say to DeVos that public school choice is a great thing." -- Shavar Jeffries

The corporate school reformer is Shavar Jeffries, president of  the misnamed, Democrats for Education Reform. DFER, founded by a group of hedge-fund operators, was never really Democratic nor about school reform.

The group was the most influential force pushing so-called "choice" and school privatization policies within the Obama White House  and inside Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan's DOE. They were also a force behind Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy charters in New York, helping her rise to fame as a highly paid, anti-public school, anti-union superstar.

Moskowitz has become one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders and contended with Betsy DeVos for Trump's favor in a run at the Sec. of Education cabinet post. In return for DFER's financial support, Jeffries was given a seat on Success Academy's Board of Directors.

But earlier this summer, Jeffries resigned from the board.

According to POLITICO:
Moskowitz and Jeffries now represent the charter sector’s two ideological poles in the Trump era. While Trump and DeVos’ call for a national school choice system would appear to align them with Democrats who support an expansive charter sector, but the president’s controversial comments about minorities, and his education secretary’s plan to slash $9 billion from the federal education budget, have complicated that support.
 On one side, reform-minded Democrats have warned that Trump's embrace of school choice could eventually destroy education reform. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, who supports charters, has called some charter leaders’ embrace of Trump a potential “the kiss of death” for the movement reformers have been trying to build for decades. Jeffries said much the same shortly after Trump’s election: “the policies and rhetoric of President-elect Trump run contrary to the most fundamental values of what it means to be a progressive committed to educating our kids and strengthening our families and communities.”
So Jefferies' departure had little do do with Moskowitz's anti-union or school "choice" policies which have found a home inside DeVos' DOE. In fact Jeffries is in lock-step with most of these policies. Unlike most Democrats, he even says he's open to school vouchers as well as privately-run charters.
If they’re going pursue some sort of voucher program, we’ll examine it whenever they put it together...
Like Duncan, he's also a backslider on school desegregation, opposing "coercive" school integration and claiming, "There's not a political will to bring about integration..."

Like labor leader Trumka, DFER and other charter/voucher supporters have been hurt and embarrassed by their direct and indirect ties to Trump. It's all about the brand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Are IL Dems going to cut a deal with Rauner on vouchers?

Archbishop Blase Cupich and Mayor Emanuel have been talking vouchers.
What I'm hearing is that there's not enough votes in House to override Rauner's veto of school funding bill. Override requires 71 votes and Dems have only 67. It comes as no surprise that they can't find even 4 Republicans willing to break with our mini-Trump governor and support adequate and equitable funding for schools. Boss Mike Madigan doesn't seem to care that much or have any more screws to tighten,  even if he did.

Rauner is still committed to sticking it to Chicago and CPS. He claims that Chicago is getting too large a slice of the budget pie. It's the big lie, as Rich Miller points out in Capitol Fax. Chicago gets back only 80 cents for every dollar of taxes it contributes. The city is actually subsidizing the wealthy suburbs. But it's the sword Rauner's obviously willing to fall on in the upcoming elections. In the meantime, his strategy for public ed is loot, pillage and burn.

So with school opening only days away, I'm worried that a deal has already been cut between Republicans and SB1 author Andy Manar, Cardinal Blase Cupich and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a new "compromise bill" that includes school vouchers and restrictions on teachers collective-bargaining rights.

The Tribune has already sent up some signals and naturally would love such a deal. 

Rahm insists he's against vouchers but last week, he dodged questions on school vouchers, leaving reporters to wonder about his position even as his latest batch of private emails showed Cardinal Cupich lobbying the mayor on the subject and Rahm open to discussing the matter.

When he was our guest on Hitting Left, Dem gov candidate Rep. Dan Biss called any new compromise on vouchers, "a catastrophe" and "unacceptable". He called vouchers, "a red line." I hope he sticks by that.

All the denials lead me to believe the fix is in. Hope I'm wrong.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Shame of a nation

Trump's response

He characterized what was happening in Charlottesville as an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides." Whatever his motive, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis — the kind of villains that it takes virtually no political instincts or particular ideology for a mainstream figure to condemn — escaped even a token condemnation from the president. The Klan was treated instead as just one of several unruly partisan hordes. It was a remarkable moment. It seemed almost as if something in the country had shifted. -- Code Switch
Colbert King
That was your crowd down there in Old Virginia, Donald Trump. They were speaking your language, vomiting your sentiments, acting out what animates you from within. -- Washington Post 
National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro
 “There can be no doubt that the appalling display of white supremacy and hatred on display in Charlottesville today was the precipitator of the violence." -- NNU
Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser
Bossert said that people “on both sides” showed up in Charlottesville “looking for trouble” and that he wouldn’t assign blame for the death of a counterprotester on either group. -- CNN 
KKK leader David Duke to POTUS
 “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” -- Guardian 
 Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signor
"Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here's mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus." -- The Hill
Global Times editorial
‘If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.’ -- Market Watch

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rahm plants kiss firmly on cheeks of his Chicago bankster pals

As he was laying off nearly 1,000 more CPS teachers and staff, Rahm Emanuel, speaking at Wednesday's Chicago Investors Conference,  promised the city's hedge funders and investment bankers -- his biggest campaign contributors -- that he will continue to be their faithful servant.

Emanuel claimed the biggest challenge facing the city is the need to renegotiate labor agreements with 90 percent of the city's 30,000-member workforce, which expired June 30. Those up for new contracts include laborers, firefighters, police and other municipal employees.

From DNAInfo...
The unions must partner with the city to ensure those labor agreements "benefit the entire city," Emanuel said. "As we negotiate the new contracts, I expect … to see savings in wages and benefits, health care and other places that are key to the City of Chicago’s future."
 Emanuel used the speech to tout the greatest hits of his nearly two terms in office, including Chicago's status as the No. 1 city for corporate relocations and its bragging rights as the restaurant city of the year, as determined by Bon Appetit magazine. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are Dem leaders on the road to nowhere in 2018-20?

Sneed this morning on...
Dem presidential loser Hillary’s Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” which details an intimate view of her disastrous campaign, blasts and blames everyone . . . including herself.
And a disastrous campaign it was. Hillary turned out to be the worst possible candidate, although Dem leadership will never admit it. They're content to blame the November debacle on Putin/Sanders/Stein, an analysis that leaves them on the road to nowhere in 2018-2020.

I wonder if the book will hold accountable her top (all-white) campaign strategist/pollster team of Podesta, Mook, Benenson, Anzalone, Binder & Co., who somehow thought it was a great idea for her to bash young Sanders voters and then hang out in Arizona the last week of the campaign.

She ended up winning the national popular vote by 3M only to lose WI, MI and PA by a combined total of 77,744 votes and there's a sociopath with his finger on the nuclear button in the WH. The consequences of Dem arrogance and entitlement.

Speaking of same old, same old... it looks like Dem leaders in IL are all-in behind billionaire J.B. Pritzker in the party primary.

Sneed again... Picking Pritzker . . . and pricking Kennedy? [Perfect verb for Kennedy, the perfect prick--mk]
• Translation: Sneed is told top Cook County Dem slatemakers gathering Thursday and Friday for their biannual slatemaking meeting are predicting J.B. Pritzker will be endorsed as the party’s pick to try to unseat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“It’s simple. Pritzker has the financial wherewithal to mount a vigorous campaign against Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has limitless money to fund his re-election campaign,” the source added.
Makes perfect sense in a way, since there's little to separate the rest of the Dem primary pack from J.B. besides the size of their war chests in this, likely the most obscenely expensive gov's race in history.

Last point this morning...

Saw some progressive Chicago educators scratching their heads yesterday over the mayor's sudden, apparent support for vouchers. Rahm himself has played his cards close to the vest, since his not-so-secret meeting with Ed Sec. Betsy DeVos back in April. We wouldn't have known about their meeting, were it not for a recently released cache of Rahm's private emails that reveals he had been open to discussing a controversial voucher-like program that could divert millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Jay Rehak
Tomorrow at 11 CDT on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Bros...
Brother Fred talks pension theft with Chicago Teachers Pension Fund trustee board prez Jay Rehak and Teacher Retirement System blogger and activist John Dillon.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

CPS layoffs reveal Rahm's racist duplicity

Once again, Mayor Emanuel has topped Governor Rauner’s ruthlessness towards Chicago’s public school students with his own savage, short-sighted response, by further stripping to the bone schools that he’s forced to function in a climate of civic abandonment and the violence that his neglect has caused. -- CTU Blog
Evidence of the mayor's racist duplicity is mounting as he and his hand-picked schools boss, Forrest Claypool, deliver another gut-wrenching, crippling blow to the mainly black and Latino children, families, educators and workers of Chicago's public schools.

Yesterday came the announcement that CPS was laying off nearly a thousand more staff members including 350 teachers. According to the plan,  600 support staff positions will be eliminated, mostly in high schools. Additionally, 356 teachers will be let go, with 240 at the elementary level and 116 in high schools.

According to Stacy Davis Gates of the Chicago Teachers Union, 362 classroom aides were let go, along with 221 members of SEIU Local 73, which represents special education aides and security guards. Gates thinks more cuts will follow. She predicts that CPS plans for the upcoming school year will lead to the closing of more neighborhood high schools — and the layoffs of African-American and Latino teachers, most of whom are women.

Yes, it's true that the lion's share of the blame for the devastation of public education now taking place statewide, falls on our sociopathic Republican Gov. Rauner who just last week, vetoed the emergency school-funding bill. Then there's a Democratic-Party-dominated legislature, has long been gutless when it comes to making the state's wealthiest shoulder their fair share of the tax burden.

But when it comes to racist duplicity, the buck stops at the fifth floor of City Hall. Why? Because this latest round of cuts, which hits hardest at predominantly African-American and Latino high school students, comes on the heels of Rahm Emanuel's plan to make it more difficult for city students to receive their hard-earned high school diplomas.

The mayor mandates that kids without a job offer or college acceptance can no longer graduate from high school. There's an exception to the new rule. Enlisting in the military can fulfill the graduation requirement which could make CPS the nation's number-one military recruiter of black and brown youth.

Yesterday's layoff of hundreds of staff, follows last year's round of layoffs of 1,000 teachers and staff, including counselors, and will condemn that many more students to academic failure and loss of future college and job prospects. They're losing the very support network needed to help them fulfill the new mandates.

The Washington Post reported last month...
Critics say Emanuel’s idea is an empty gesture that does nothing to address the fact that many teenagers are graduating in ­impoverished, violence-racked neighborhoods with few jobs, or that the most readily accessible community colleges are ill-prepared to meet the needs of first-generation students from low-income families. They also point out that the 381,000-student district laid off more than 1,000 teachers and staff members in 2016, and it is in such difficult financial straits that it struggled to keep its doors open for the final weeks of the school year.
The CTU correctly points out that Rahm’s slash and burn response sets the stage for the closure of dozens of neighborhood high schools and accelerates the exodus of Black and Brown people from the city,

It's time to put an end to Rahm's racist duplicity and his unfunded mandates and put control of the schools into the hands of a popularly-elected school board.

Monday, August 7, 2017


A setback for union organizing in the south. The struggle continues. 
Dennis Williams, U.A.W. president
“Perhaps recognizing they couldn’t keep their workers from joining our union based on the facts, Nissan and its anti-worker allies ran a vicious campaign against its own work force that was comprised of intense scare tactics, misinformation and intimidation.”  -- New York Times
Boyah J. Farah
I came to America as a refugee from Somalia. I know what happens when a group of people is labeled as a threat -- Salon
Andy Borowitz
The special counsel, Robert Mueller, just called Donald Trump to tell the President that he was “the most innocent person ever,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. -- New Yorker 

Sen Biss on Hitting Left
Candidate for governor, Sen. Daniel Biss
I support a complete moratorium on charters. The notion that we're opening charters and closing public schools is wrong-headed.  -- Hitting Left 
Pasi Sahlberg
The idea that Finland recruits the academically “best and brightest” to become teachers is a myth. In fact, the student cohort represents a diverse range of academic success, and deliberately so. -- Diane Ravitch Blog

Thursday, August 3, 2017

State Sen. Dan Biss on Hitting Left tomorrow

Our in-studio guest tomorrow on Hitting Left will be IL State Senator Daniel Biss. He's the second Democrat in the upcoming race for governor, after Ald. Ameya Pawar, to appear on the show. Between us and John Daley's show on Lumpen Radio, we should be able to cover the waterfront.

Brother Fred and I are still searching to find any real distinctions among the candidates in the Democratic primary besides the size of their war chests. That's a big issue for some (not me) and probably the reason for so much early labor support swinging billionaire candidate J.B. Pritzker's way. He will have no problem matching billionaire Rauner dollar-for-dollar in what will be the most expensive governor's race in history.

Biss should have no trouble raising money, mainly from his liberal north-shore base and political PACs and, at least in my humble opinion, could defeat Rauner in a head-to-head election if he can expand his support base beyond liberal white suburban voters.

Mini-Trump Rauner's got all the money in the world but his numbers are miserable, as well they should be. His approval rating now stands at 34% and sinking like a stone. Polling this week shows him trailing 37% to 49% against a "generic Democrat" in the 2018 gubernatorial election. His support among Republicans is tepid, at 68% with only a handful who think he's doing a great job. His veto this week, of the education funding bill, should knock him down even further.
“Chicago’s is the only public school district in Illinois that does not have an elected school board. It’s time that we bring basic democracy to the state’s largest school district. I look forward to supporting this measure when it comes over to the Senate from the House.” -- State Sen. Daniel Biss
And "generic" Democrats seem to be all we've got to choose from in 2018. That in itself is pretty sad given how strong Bernie Sanders ran in the state's presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. He got a million votes and lost to Hillary by only 2 percentage points.

You therefore would think that independent party politics would be a major factor in the gov's race. You would be wrong. Dem leaders fear a divisive challenge from the left more than they do Rauner himself and the Sanders forces seem to have all but disappeared in this race.

Biss appears to be gaining strength as the progressive's choice against Rauner. He's taken on a toned-down version of many of Sander's positions, ie. free college tuition (community college only?) on minimum wage, education funding, elected school board for Chicago, tax reform (without specifics) and more. But so has nearly all of the Democratic pack.

Sticking points for us include his votes (sponsorship) for the unconstitutional pension-theft legislation. Is he self-critical? Why didn't he and other progressives speak out against the Level III pension privatization option in the recently-passed SB1 budget bill? I'm sure Brother Fred will have plenty to say on that one.

All this and more tomorrow at 11 a.m. CDT on Lumpen Radio. Tune in.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

If 'bailouts' are good for Wall St., why not neediest schools? Retiree pensions?

(BGA grafic)
Gov. Rauner has vetoed the school funding bill, thereby continuing to deprive the state's neediest districts of millions of dollars and threatening the opening of schools in the fall.

Rauner claims that the bill takes money away from wealthier white districts in order to "bailout" needier, mainly black and Latino districts like Chicago. He also claims, the bill,  "includes a bailout of Chicago’s broken teacher pension system.”

Both claims are false, says the BGA. 

In fact, under the new funding formula no school district gets less state money, but many low-income districts get more. With low-income students accounting for 80.2% of its enrollment, CPS is among the latter group.

The biggest problem with the bill as I see it, is that it fails to identify new sources of revenue, ie. a graduated income tax, making the wealthiest pay their fair share. But nevertheless, the bill, which passed both houses in Springfield needs to be signed, and fast.

Rauner's been using the big-lie technique to play off white students against students of color, urban schools against downstate and suburban schools and everyone against teachers, their unions, and retirees.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that his "bailout" claims are correct. What's wrong with bailing out public schools or other public institutions in distress? If IL paid its fair share of education dollars, a bailout wouldn't be necessary. IL continues to rank near the bottom when it comes to school funding.

The state, by constitutional mandate, has the primary responsibility for funding its public schools but has never come close to covering even 50% of the cost. In recent years, the state's contribution has dipped below 30%, forcing local school districts to raise their property tax levy or cut programs.

According to the group, Raise Your Hand, IL is 50th out of 50 in percentage of funding that comes from the state. So, public schools rely on local taxing bodies to make up the difference, which causes great inequity between poor and rich districts.

Illinois spent 9% less in real terms on general state aid per student this year than it did five years ago.

IL also has the most unfair school funding system in the nation. The state's school districts with the greatest number of students living in poverty receive substantially fewer state and local dollars than their more affluent counterparts — nearly 20 percent less.

Furthermore, the state hasn't been paying into the State Retirement Fund, as required by law, for decades. As it stands, the state pension fund is underfunded by about $130 billion. If IL had been contributing it's mandated share, no bail out would be needed and the TRS would be is good health. The same is true for Chicago's pension fund.

If a bail out was fine for Wall Street banksters and energy companies, many of whom didn't need it or even want it, why not bail out the schools? The Wall Street bailout does nothing to create jobs, create social equality, or eliminate poverty. A bail out of struggling (through no fault of their own) public school districts, would help do all of the above.