Friday, December 29, 2017

Year-end report shows CPS now top district (ever) in the U.S. and the world.

End-of-year tabulations are in from Chicago Public Schools. CPS reports that in 2017, 120% of entering freshmen graduated on time with every CPS grad being accepted at either Harvard or Yale on full scholarship.

To add icing on the cake, Stanford's Institute for the Study of Instant Success (ISIS) reports that Chicago's standardized test scores are now, 'the highest in the nation', even topping wealthy, white suburban high schools and totally eliminating the historic achievement gap between white students and students of color. All this, despite CPS remaining a racially segregated district with 90% of its students living in poverty, proving that “demography isn’t destiny “.

ISIS researchers attributed the miraculous gains to "early intervention". According to one ISIS team member, CPS leaders were able to identify entering kindergarten students who were coming to school "un-ready to learn" and encourage their families to relocate in the inner-ring southern suburbs or in Gary, Indiana.

Interventions also included the hiring of consultants who were well known to previous CEOs Forrest Claypool and Barbara Byrd-Bennett. 

Each deserves their share of credit for the district's turnaround, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and for what's being called the new "Chicago Miracle" (as distinguished from Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010 miracle and all miracles under previous administrations).

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Happy (dare I say it) holidays!

Escaping the Chicago winter for a few days in the Florida sun. I haven't had the time to do much blogging. Been too busy getting sand in my toes and worrying about finding a restaurant in Sarasota that's open on Christmas day. I think that's called a First World problem. Still tweeting though @mikeklonsky

Speaking of...Thanks to Pres. Trump for ending the war on Christmas and making it safe for us to say the C-word again and to sing White Christmas aloud again without fear of repression from the politically-correct, multi-cultural, "happy holidays" crowd. Next, DT should pardon all the C-sayers currently rotting away in America's prisons. #MAGA

I found myself nervous and fidgety yesterday with no Hitting Left show to do. Lumpen Radio is down for the holidays and doing re-runs. But Brother Fred tells me that we still had record podcast downloads of last week's show. You can listen to any and all of our 44 previous shows on iTunes or 

We'll be back on air at the usual time next Friday, the 29th, with in-studio guest, Chicago DSA activist Kenzo Shibata. Democratic Socialists of America, which claims a membership of more than 30,000, has experienced rapid growth on the heels of the Sanders campaign and Trump's election. For those unfamiliar with the organization, there's this recent, positive piece in The Nation.

One of the subjects I want to broach with Kenzo is DSA's electoral strategy which I've been critical of since they failed to support Democrat Doug Jones in the AL senate race against Roy Moore.

Tune in to Friday at 11 a.m. CT.

Happy holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A 'menu of disinvestment' leads to mass exodus of black students from Chicago schools.

The artist Jacob Lawrence depicted the Great Migration in 1941.
“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Kalyn Belsha's excellent piece (Thousands of black students leave Chicago for other segregated districts), in the Chicago Reporter helps explain so much about the dramatic demographic shifts taking place in American cities. The whitening of the cities, and of Chicago in particular, isn't happenstance. Rather, it's the result of conscious planning and implementing a set of policies initiated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel which include disinvestment, the closing of schools and elimination of basic social services in already devastated black communities.

The result in Chicago has been a mass exodus or reverse migration by thousands African-American families. That exodus is larger than in any other metropolitan area in the country. It's cleared the way for gentrification on a mass scale and a weakening of black community political power, historically a key oppositional base for resistance to both Republican and Democratic machine politics.

Belsha writes:
Chicago was once a major destination for African-Americans during the Great Migration, but experts say today the city is pushing out poor black families. In less than two decades, Chicago lost one-quarter of its black population, or more than 250,000 people.
In the past decade, Chicago’s public schools lost more than 52,000 black students. Now, the school district, which was majority black for half a century, is on pace to become majority Latino. Black neighborhoods like Austin have experienced some of the steepest student declines and most of the school closures and budget cuts.
A common refrain is that Chicago’s black families are “reverse migrating” to Southern cities with greater opportunities, like Atlanta and Dallas. But many of the families fleeing the poorest pockets of Chicago venture no farther than the south suburbs or northwest Indiana. And their children end up in cash-strapped segregated schools like the ones they left behind, a Chicago Reporter investigation found.
The loss of so many thousands of students living in poverty may also explain the sudden, "miraculous" bump in test scores and graduation rates at CPS, now being lauded by the mayor. This, in a school system marked by instability, where there's been no corresponding input of resources or classroom/teacher supports. Neither has there been marked improvement in the lives of most CPS students outside of school that would account for such a bump.

We can only conclude that this addition by subtraction has to do with changing the students rather than with the mayor's "reforms".

On the other hand, as African-American families leave Chicago, the percentage of poor black students in the suburbs has grown dramatically, straining already cash-strapped school districts.
High-poverty districts in northwest Indiana that took in many CPS transfers have also seen their budgets slashed in recent years after lawmakers rejiggered the state’s school funding formula and also spent more on charter schools and private-school vouchers. 
“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The message that public policy sends to black families in the city is that we’re not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away, that’s OK.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

One of the great misuses of the word 'Trust' ever.

Rahm flew Randi out to build union support for the Trust
"We've debated this long enough. I'm not in the position of analysis. I'm in the position of getting things done." -- Rahm to the City Council in 2012 
Back in 2012, Rahm Emanuel's proposed Infrastructure Trust got him him great press, especially with flack David Axelrod pumping it like it was the second coming of the Marshall Plan. The New York Times hailed it as the $7 billion plan that would "transform the city’s infrastructure from the skies above to the pipes underground".

This at a time when the mayor was closing half of the city's mental health clinics and school system was reportedly on the brink of collapse.

Rahm even flew in AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten to laud the Trust at Bill Clinton's Global Initiative Conference, even while the CTU was taking its strike authorization vote. Teachers were angry as hell after Rahm reneged on the 4% raise promised them the year before and the last thing on their minds was new grand privatization plan from the mayor.

I wrote at the time that this was one of the great misuses of the word trust ever.  I and others pointed out that rather than creating jobs or saving schools, the Trust would more likely line the pockets of a handful of Rahm's billionaire patrons and give the mayor an unregulated slush fund to use for his own political advantage. No city program had ever been rushed through the City Council without careful review since the great parking meter heist during the Daley administration. As it turns out, the Trust did nothing and all Rahm's big "investors" were all show and no go.

Why the question mark?
Fast forward to read today's headlineRahm’s trust a bust? Fails to raise a dime but has cost taxpayers $5M

S-T Watchdog Tim Novack writes:
But the infrastructure trust has fallen short of the expectations the mayor laid out. It has yet to raise a dime in private financing for a single public works project, records show. At the same time, it has cost Chicago taxpayers more than $5.1 million to pay for its handful of employees, offices on Wacker Drive, consulting fees and other expenses.
A top city official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, wonders why the mayor hasn’t shut down the trust.
“There’s no excuse for the mayor to avoid closing down this thing that’s been a complete failure,” the official said. “They’ve done nothing that can’t be done by [the Department of Fleet and Facilities Management] or the Public Building Commission.”
The agency’s five-member staff is overseen by a seven-member board headed by Emanuel’s appointed city treasurer, Kurt Summers. The board includes Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), four business leaders and Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which is an investor in the Chicago Sun-Times. There’s also a four-member advisory board that includes Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th).
 If this all sounds to you a lot like the mayor's current scheme to entice Jeff Bezos into moving his Amazon's HQ2 here with the promise of 50,000 new jobs, you're on to something. You get it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

...and the horse he rode in on.

Best headline: Alabama Voters to Roy Moore: F*ck You and the Horse You Rode in On
The real horse that he rode in on, of course, was the broke-back nag of racism, misogyny, religious zealotry, and confederate revivalism.

Listening to the Republican talking heads on cable news this morning whitesplaining Doug Jones' amazing win in AL, you get the feeling that the revolt by black, women and young voters had nothing to do with it. They're mostly bemoaning the coming Democrat "tsunami" in 2018 and finger-pointing at Steve Bannon, as if the so-called "mainstream" GOP didn't rally behind white supremacist, child molester Roy Moore. 

Their claim is that Moore was just a poor candidate and that Bannon somehow "dragged the president into a losing race” (Actually quoting the Guardian here). Trump hilariously plays along with this assessment, claiming that he wasn't really backing Moore after all and that he knew all along that Jones would win.
Maybe that was a typo and DT meant his dick was stacked against him.

But from my perspective, there was so much more to this race than individuals Bannon, Trump, or Moore vs. Jones. This was mainly a major body blow against the white supremacy and the resurgent racist and neo-fascist confederacy that Moore, Trump and Bannon embody and that have been a hallmark of the first year of Trump's administration.

I'd be careful not to overstate this. Alabama is still Alabama and still comfortably a red state steeped in segregation and Jim Crow. That didn't change yesterday and Democrats still have their work cut out for them in busting up the "solid South".

Campaign mastermind Joe Trippi, will get a lot of credit for Jones' win (as he should) as will the DNC leadership who came late, but came, with money and support for black voter turnout. The Sanders left and groups like MoveOn  were visible  in their support. But it was mainly black civil rights organizations like NAACP and black student groups that did the ground work getting people to the polls despite all the Republican-made restrictions on voting aimed specifically at black voters.

Showing off their white blindspot were some local DSAers who refused to back Jones because he wasn't socialist enough. 

It's one thing to dis the current Dem leadership, which needs to be replaced. It's another to show up on the battlefield.

Monday, December 11, 2017


CTU V.P. Jesse Sharkey on Claypool
“His own arrogance did him in...Because, in his mind, there was no such thing as unethical as long as it applied to him.” -- Sun-Times
Ald. Sue Sadlowski-Garza on hearing news of Claypool resignation
“I shouted out the F-bomb when the mayor’s office called me, like ‘F yeah!’ ” said 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, a CTU member and a school counselor of 22 years. -- Chicago Tribune 
Ben Joravsky 
 With the Cortland TIF, it seems as if Christmas has come early for Amazon. It's Rahm's way of saying "I love you, Jeff Bezos." Of course, the mayor's generosity would be backed by money that could otherwise go to dead-broke public schools. -- Reader
Barack Obama on rising fascist threat
The danger is "grow(ing) complacent," Obama said. "We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly." --  Q&A session before the Economic Club of Chicago
Paul Ryan
Providing free lunch to hungry school children gives them a "full stomach and an empty soul".  -- Time
Roy Moore 
Getting rid of amendments after 10th would "eliminate many problems." -- CNN

Monday, December 4, 2017

Are schools really 'too small' to succeed?

Blaming school closings on small size is like shooting someone and then claiming they died from a lack of blood.
We started the Small Schools Workshop back in 1991 based on an abundance of research showing that smaller, more personalized learning environments served children and their families better and were generally safer than large mega-schools. Then we worked with teachers, schools and school districts across the country who wanted to rethink school design, curriculum, assessment, and issues of democracy and equity to create small learning environments as a critical force within the public school system.

Parents and educators created hundreds of new, highly-autonomous small, many of them teacher-led schools and restructured large high schools into smaller learning communities. This was back before the power philanthropists like Gates, Broad and Walton entered the picture and leveraged billions of dollars in grants to turn small-by-design schools into privately-run charters where unions were banned and teachers disempowered.

The Small Schools Movement, was just that -- a movement of teachers -- with close connection to parents and communities. It was the antithesis of today's so-called "choice" movement, where schools choose kids and test-scores rule the roost.

Smallering urban schools...From the beginning, we made it clear that these new schools and learning communities needed to be small by design, not by attrition. So I once again got that bizarro-world feeling when I read this headline in Sunday's Chicago Tribune:


The article barely scratches the surface of the historical issues facing Chicago's racially segregated and inequitable school system and is basically a defense of the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school board for their latest round of school closings. Like the 50 closings in 2013, these latest are all in the black community and are being carried out under the banner of "under-utilization". Like their predecessors, the closed schools will leave thousands of students in limbo and neighborhoods blighted. They will also serve as an addition to the long list of reasons black families are leaving Chicago by the thousands.

According to the Trib:
In Chicago, where funding follows students, Tilden is one of more than a dozen shrinking neighborhood high schools that has been starved of resources, leaving students like Averett to prepare for their futures in largely empty buildings that can make dreaming big a daily struggle.
 Nearly all of these 17 high schools are deeply segregated, serving impoverished African-American and Latino students who already struggle to attend and graduate from college at comparable rates to their white or Asian peers. Yet many of these schools cannot offer what are considered basic classes elsewhere, including the bare trio of science courses that will soon be part of a new district graduation requirement.
Now, as many of these schools continue to shrink and Chicago approaches the end of a five-year school closing moratorium, civic and community leaders must weigh whether some of these buildings are too small to succeed.
The writers place the onus on the schools for being "too small to succeed" as if someone consciously chose 250 as the optimal capacity size for these high schools. Like this just happened and without even an attempt to question what "success" means under current conditions. It's as if surrounding these schools with privately-run, better-resourced charters and selective-enrollment schools had nothing to do with their decreasing populations.

And all that begs the deeper question of how these same schools went from being too big in the 1980s and '90s, to too small in just a couple of decades? Of course, they didn't just become small but were the product of planned isolation, disinvestment, and disempowerment of Chicago's black  communities.

There are many other reasons, including the out-migration of more than quarter-million African-Americans from Chicago in the past few decades. But none of them occurred just naturally. Most of the reasons are systemic and the result of policies of disinvestment, ie. closings of plants, factories and surrounding business, cuts in social services, closing of medical clinics and mental health facilities, and now schools.

The same monumental demographic shifts are happening in every major city in the country and are impacting investments and therefore measurable outcomes, often in dramatic ways.

So the question isn't whether some schools in disintegrating neighborhoods are now smaller. Of course they are. It's like shooting someone and then claiming they died from a lack of blood. Wealthy families pay a small fortune to get their kids into smaller, more personalized schools. Rather, it's about adequate and equitable funding and support for public schools and their communities during these times of rapid change.


Fred Klonsky

Fred Hampton 
(August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969) 
I'm not going to die slipping on no ice.
Sen. Orin Hatch after GOP killed Children’s Health Insurance Program
"I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves – won’t lift a finger – and expect the federal government to do everything.” -- Mic 
Sen. Bernie Sanders
 “This is class warfare, and we’re going to stand up and fight.” -- Washington Post
Steve Askin on Harold Washington
"Harold was a mensch. He reached into many different directions, listening to many different voices, many different people." -- The Reader
 Harper Local School Council Co-Chair Clifford Fields
"If these schools have to go, the mayor has to go." -- ABC7 News 

Prexy Nesbit, striking Columbia College part-time faculty
Students are having their best teachers laid off or having to live out of their cars because of low salaries. It's really sad. I also think about what it would mean to the founders of this great college to see where the current leadership has taken it. -- Hitting Left