Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The mayor's one-sided narratives about CPS progress couldn't save him

Citywide, 45 percent of black students attend Level 1 or 1-plus schools, while 91 percent of white students attend the top rated schools. (Tribune)
Rahm Emanuel may have dropped out of the upcoming mayor's race, but he continues to boast and take credit for the reported bumps in CPS test scores and graduation rates. I think, one of the reasons he dropped out of the race is because his (and CEO Janice Jackson's) one-sided narrative has lost credibility in the media, in the community and with the voters.

Open sessions at CPS board meetings have become a nightmare for the mayor and the board. So much so that they are making it much more difficult for school/community members to participate.

So why the loss of credibility?

First, because neither Jackson nor the mayor can offer any explanation or rationale for the claimed rise or why the mayor and his schools chief deserve credit for the bumps. After all, they reported come despite years of state underfunding of CPS.

Is there some new policy that came from the 5th floor at City Hall or from his hand-picked board that drove test scores up a notch or kept students from dropping out? Rahm may attribute it to "choice". But a closer look should debunk that theory. Thirty years of "choice" (privately-run charters, selective-enrollment schools, and now vouchers) have left us with this  --  45% of black students attending so-called Level 1 or 1-plus schools, while 91% of white students attend the top rated schools.

Also, is the reported bump system-wide? The answer is no. A new CPS report shows, the city's South and West sides have lower concentrations of highest-rated schools than other areas, and black and Latino students attend top schools at far lower rates than their white counterparts.

While at several selective enrollment schools, like Lane Tech on Chicago’s north side, 100% of students are testing at or above standards, at resourced-starved neighborhood schools like Englewood results were much different. At Nicholson Public School for example, only 13.8% of the students at the STEM Academy reached or exceeded math standards. At Auburn Gresham’s Barton Elementary School, 18.1% reached or exceeded standards, and at Dett Elementary near the United Center, just over 15% were meeting standards.

Stats like these leave us wondering if Levels are determined mainly by the color and family income of the attending students or by anything different going on in the classroom? In other words if the 45% and the 91% switched school and teachers, would the Levels travel with them? Or is reform simply another way of reproducing inequality?

Rahm's cheerful narrative omits any mention of the loss of thousands of students from CPS schools, mainly students of color, from low-income families and underserved or closed schools. CPS' own report also makes clear the district, which has seen enrollment dwindling for years, is operating vastly under capacity. There is space for about 150,000 more students in a district that last year had enrollment of about 371,000 in 650 schools. And enrollment is expected to decline by another 5% over the next three years. Could this exodus of poor and black students from CPS account for the reported jump in test scores? Yes, it could and likely did, minus any other credible explanation.

Finally, Rahm's political boasting ignores the continuing stories of widespread sexual abuse and cover-ups and mistreatment of children with disabilities often resulting from privatization of school nurses.  Neither of those things correlate with improved measurable learning outcomes.

I'm not trying to lay all this at Rahm's feet. Selective and political spinning of school data and lack of transparency have long been a central part of the culture of a school system run autocratically by the mayor. For example, the reported cover-up of sexual abuse at CPS goes back the Daley era, when current mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Gery Chico ran the mayor's school system. 

Now, with Rahm out of the race, it's important that we demand of all potential candidates, an honest, balanced assessment of school progress, a commitment to an elected school board, a cap on charter school expansion, and an end to privatization of essential school functions. If they can't or won't make those commitments, they don't deserve our support. 

Monday, September 24, 2018


Cal State Northridge students rally to protect cross-cultural courses.
Kathryn Sorrells, CS-N communication studies professor 
“Given the unpredictability, the executive order is experienced as an assault on the struggles, communities, histories and knowledge of students of color.” -- L.A. Times
Rev. Walter "Slim" Coleman
The nation has already reacted to the separation of 2300 children from their parents at the border. It is our task to make the nation see the seven million babies, children and young people who live and suffer under this same attack every day in our neighborhoods. -- This morning's sermon
Bill Ayers reviews Arne Duncan's book, "How Schools Work"
When you say "standards" to a normal person, that sounds like something good. I want high standards. But when you reduce standards to standardization, things come apart. -- Hitting Left with the Klonsky Bros. 

William Saletan
Donald Trump Jr. is right. People really are out to undermine the president—as they should be. -- Slate
Hadley Freeman
So while #MeToo has made some men re-examine their behaviour, plenty of others who thought their behaviour was fine before clearly still think it is fine now. -- Guardian
Beto O'Rourke references The Clash
“We’re not giving away to corporations and special interests. That’s what Senator Cruz would do, thanks to contributions he’s received from those political action committees. He’s working for the clampdown, and the corporations, and the special interests. He’s not working for the people of Texas.” -- Pitchfork

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A retro trend in Chicago politics

Bill Daley, the man from JPMorgan.
They used to call it "plantation politics." The Tribune's Clarence Page has traced the origins of the metaphor to refer to the old Daley political machine in Chicago, a regime built on racism, patronage and corruption that ruled the city for decades.
A Dec. 13, 1987, Chicago Tribune article traced the phrase to a speech that political consultant Don Rose wrote in 1966 for [then aldermanic candidate] Timuel Black's crusade against the Democratic machine of Mayor Richard J. Daley. It later became a rallying cry in Harold Washington's successful 1983 campaign to become the city's first black elected mayor.
It's hard for me to believe that more than 50 years later, this city's voters, especially African-American voters, will opt to return to Daley-style politics, especially at a time when progressive candidates of color are chalking up victories over old-guard Democrats here, and in cities and towns across the country. And yet, here we are, with Bill Daley--a personification of old plantation politics, only now with a boatload of corporate cash at his disposal, and a stint in the Obama administration on his resume--opportunistically jumping into the mayor's race now that Rahm Emanuel has pulled out.

“I would not do that to a friend,” he explained, as to why he didn’t enter the race earlier.

It must be noted that the inability of the city progressives -- the 2015 Bernie Sanders coalition -- to unite around a black or Latino candidate early in the race, has opened the door wide for a return of the machine. As has the inability of anybody in the current field to move beyond single digits in the polls.

TALE OF TWO CITIES...To those who would argue that we've moved beyond racial politics in Chicago, I would have them look at this recent survey showing how different the city looks, depending on which racial or class lens you're looking through.
One example: A stunning 97 percent of white college graduates—83 percent of them “strongly"—said they "would recommend living in my neighborhood in Chicago to a friend or family member." That’s near-universal approval, and an indication that parts of the city now have huge appeal, at least to certain demographic groups.
But among African-American college graduates, the “strongly agree” figure drops to 48 percent, and among all Hispanics (not just college grads) to 41 percent.
Similarly, 58 percent of white college grads indicated they strongly believe Chicago is a good place to get a job, but only 47 percent of non-college whites concurred, and 29 percent of blacks.
No matter the perception, Chicago's become a near-impossible place for many, if not most, to live, work, or raise a family. Not only is the plantation gone (too many revolts), but so is the industrial era as well. Thus, the shocking mass exodus of displaced African-American families from the city and its school system and the attempt to replace them with wealthier, corporate, white techies and professionals.

Crain's editorial graphic
A Crain's Chicago Business editorial posted their corporate agenda (Next mayor must keep business at top of City Hall priority list).
Here's hoping one of the mayoral wannabes takes a plank from Emanuel's platform and fights for the interests of business. And if none of the current contenders is smart enough to do so, here's hoping a better candidate emerges.
A day later Bill Daley announced his candidacy. Coincidence? I think not.

Monday, September 17, 2018


James Baldwin
Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military machine in order to be un-free when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important. -- Nobody Knows My Name
Rev. William Barber & Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign
While our nation once fought a war against poverty, now we wage a war on the poor...People are poor not because they are lazy, not because they are unwilling to work hard, but because politicians have blocked living wages and healthcare and undermined union rights and wage increases.-- Guardian Op-ed
Les Wexner, Ohio billionaire and longtime Republican donor 
“If you don’t think things are right, open your mouth...I just decided I’m no longer a Republican." -- HuffPost
James Bloodworth, worked undercover in Amazon warehouse
 In Amazon’s case, convenience evidently has a cost, and this cost is born by those toiling away in Amazon’s warehouses, rarely heard from in the media and invisible to the millions of people who every day submit orders through Amazon’s website. -- Guardian
Paul Vallas, on why he didn't act on CPS sexual assaults
His campaign released a statement that said the Lovett case was “not one that Mr. Vallas or any one of a number of other former school officials to whom we reached out, recalls other than vaguely as something that was fleetingly reported on the news.” Vallas’ campaign defended the lack of an investigation by saying it was a matter for police and child welfare authorities. -- Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

'Urban' as pathology

Students in my Urban School Policy class have been unpacking the word, urban. I had them make a list of descriptors for "urban schools" and let me just say, there was not much positive on that list. At first thought, urban schools are generally considered failing, poorly staffed and taught, under-resourced, low-scoring, violent... and the list goes on.

After some discussion, it becomes obvious to the students that these terms are mainly used as racial and class signifiers. Code language for predominantly poor, black and Latino schools. Because obviously there are lots of great urban schools as well as not-so-great, however you define great. In U.S. News annual rankings of high schools in IL, based largely on test scores and number of students taking AP courses, nine out of the top 10 are Chicago (Urban) schools.

My friend and colleague, Bill Ayers once asked a group of urban school principals,
“What is it, particularly, about the presence of poor, African-American, city kids in your school that makes the place wonderful?”
I asked my students to consider the same question when we visit a neighborhood high school next week.

On the topic of urban... Yesterday's Sun-Times story about the trial of Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald, blared this headline.
Will Chicago riot? Hoping to move trial, Van Dyke’s lawyer raises possibility
By "Chicago", who do you suppose the paper is referring to? Could it be the CPD? After all, they were the last group to riot in Chicago and that was 50 years ago at the 1968 Democratic Convention protests.

The Sun-Times is obviously just doubling-down on the racist fear mongering tossed out there by Van Dyke's lawyers. The want the trial moved from Chicago because, as we all know, the city is a dark and dangerous place, filled with the other, sitting in wait for a chance to burn the city down. 

If it was indeed true that black people riot whenever a white cop is acquitted after killing a black man, there would be continuous rioting, 24/7. 

It's pretty clear also, that by "riot" they mean protest. 

Monday, September 10, 2018


Employees at a Pacific Northwest burger chain triggered a new policy after employees wore buttons that read “Abolish ICE” and “No one is illegal” with their uniforms.

Marisa Novara, of the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council
“If mayoral candidates actually used the s-word, and acknowledged that segregation is rooted in racism, and acknowledged government’s culpability as a vehicle for and perpetuator of racism, then we might have a very different mayoral race. We might have candidates willing to embrace solutions that go beyond programs to actual structural change.” -- New York Times
Natalie Y. Moore, author of "The South Side"
[Harold Washington's] elections marked the last time an interracial coalition was forged to change who runs this city. I don’t want to dwell in nostalgia, but I do think that could happen again. -- New York Times
Northwestern Prof. Kari Lydersen
“In Chicago, from almost Day One, [Rahm Emanuel] was seen as Mayor 1%. He took on the unions right away. He came in and made clear he was planning to run the city as a business. He didn’t have time for regular people... Even now, people outside Chicago don’t get the extent to which he’s been Mayor 1%. -- Sun-Times
David Sirota
Emanuel’s administration also reportedly oversaw a police dark site where suspects were allegedly imprisoned without charge – and the Democratic mayor’s appointees infamously blocked the release of a videotape of Chicago police gunning down an unarmed African American teenager. -- Guardian
Former IL Gov. George Ryan
 “Hell, I’m 84 years old,” he chirped. “I’m just really looking forward to rekindling memories and  dreams we had back in 1999 for my first trip to Cuba in hopes of getting the embargo lifted." -- Sneed
 David Madland, Senior Fellow at Center of American Progress
“Unions boost wealth for all workers, and the wealth jump is the biggest for communities of color. It’s not just unions helping one group, it’s helping all groups and providing the most help for the people who need it the most.” -- Bloomberg

Friday, September 7, 2018


This morning on Hitting Left, Ja'mal Green. 
This morning from IL Playbook

A pathway opens up for Erika Wozniak...
If you thought the mayor's race was crazy, just wait a few weeks to see interest grow in city council races. A week ago, candidates might not have wanted to spend money running against an ally of the mayor. But with Emanuel out, aldermanic incumbents might be easier to beat. One race to watch, for example, is the 46th Ward, where Ald. James Cappleman—an Emanuel ally—faces Chicago Public Schools teacher Erika Wozniak.
I can't wait. Love Erika. Great teacher/activist and co-host of Girl Talk. 

Troy would dump Janice Jackson...
 — Mayoral candidate Troy LaRaviere says he’ll fire CPS CEO Janice Jackson if he’s elected. “I’m going to bring in someone who has a record of competence and effectiveness in running educational institutions,” he told Chicago Newsroom host Ken Davis. LaRaviere, a former school principal, criticized college persistence records under Jackson when she was a principal (before landing at CPS headquarters). “[It] does not bode well for her retaining her position.” LaRaviere called the CPS chief and Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson “highly paid” spokespeople for the “agenda of the mayor’s office.” Video here (with time stamp)
I feel you, Troy. But you've just split your base again, unnecessarily. The real question here is an elected school board to decide the fate of Jackson and the others on Rahm's board.

Rahm needs to get his resume up to date...
Kappos asks: But can any candidate match Emanuel’s ability to pick up the phone and talk persuasively to CEOs about bringing businesses to Chicago?
“Only the mayors of a few cities—New York and Los Angeles—are able to have a profile on a national level,” said Eric Sedler, of KIVVIT public affairs firm. “Like him or not, Rahm provided for Chicago. It’s hard to look at the current list of announced and speculated-about candidates and say that someone would naturally rise to that level.”
He may have CEOs and banksters in his rolodex, but last I looked, the bookies in Vegas had Chicago's odds on landing Amazon's HQ2 were 1400-1 against. Mayor 1% needs to get his rez up to date and start calling around. Maybe his pal Elon Musk will give him a job. Remember how Daley landed on his feet over at the law firm that did the parking meter deal?

We'll be talking about these and more this morning on Hitting Left with mayoral candidate and Black Lives Matter activist, Ja'Mal Green. Tune in at 11 on

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rahm, no heart for the struggle. Who will wear the crown?

Hey little emperor come down from you throne
And let another emperor climb on -- Steve Earle

After a brief celebration and a listen, or two, or three, to Little Emperor, I came back down to Earth and began considering the changes ahead in a post-Rahm Chicago and the reshaping of the upcoming mayor's race.

Most, but not all of my friends are exuberant over the news that Rahm is bailing after two terms. He claims he's trying to save us Chicagoans from a bloody election battle (no heart) and that he wants to spend more time with Amy and the kids. But we all know that's bullshit. I'm kind of sorry we didn't get a chance to give him a beating in the election. But I'll take it.

Like his predecessor, Mayor Daley, Rahm could read the numbers on the wall. His closest advisors and wealthy patrons have been telling him since May that his pathway to victory was closing and with the Laquan McDonald cover-up re-emerging around the Van Dyke trial, more protesters about to fill the streets and block up the highways, and more school-closing battles on the horizon... Discretion became the better part of valor. Tough-talking Rahm wimped out.

But we need to keep in mind, he's still there 'til February and a lame duck can do a lot of harm, especially in the schools. It's called, loot-and-pillage. Rahm can also use his campaign cash and his organization to back a candidate of his choosing. Somebody with like-minded politics but without all his baggage.

At first I was thinking, someone like Arne Duncan. He's been feathering his nest over at the Emerson Collective since his return from his Race To The Top days as Obama's ed chief. But talk about baggage? My god! And Duncan would be running, not only against the CTU and every conscious teacher in the city, but against charter and testing-loving Paul Vallas, the very man who first brought him into the ed game in Chicago. A three-way split in the white vote would leave Rahm's minions in the same shape they are already in.

So since a lot of you have been asking. My bet that the next wave of big election cash will flow towards Toni Preckwinkle and that a LatinX will enter the race, just like Ald. Rick Munoz told us they would, when he was our guest on Hitting Left. Possibly someone like IL Comptroller, Susana Mendoza.

Then again, as Susan never lets me forget, I thought Clinton would beat Trump.

The youngest mayoral candidate and Black Lives Matter activist, Ja'mal Green will be our guest on Hitting Left this Friday, 11-Noon. Lots to talk about. You bet. 

Monday, September 3, 2018


Stevie Wonder closes out Aretha's funeral. 
Rev. William Barber
Aretha's singing challenged the dangling discords of hate and lies and racism and injustice. Her singing was liberation and revolution in the major key. -- Aretha Franklin's homegoing
CTU Acting President Jesse Sharkey
"Bruce Rauner's front group [IPI] is asking CTU members to walk away from our power, and our members have an answer: no way, not now, not ever." -- 1IL
"They want to raid Medicare to pay for socialism," he says. The crowd cheers. -- Crooks & Liars
Jesse Jackson
Kaepernick’s grievance — if the courts are not as intimidated by Trump’s tantrums as the owners were — will expose the self-evident collusion that has locked him out of the league. -- Sun-Times
Gerde Schmidt, retired receptionist 
“I’m used to the neo-Nazis, but not seeing my neighbour or the plumber mixing with them in broad daylight. You can’t rule out anyone being here.” -- Fear in Chemnitz
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Wall: "If that was an option you might consider CPS for your kids?Emanuel: Again I want to say my job as mayor is for taking care of Chicago's children, my children are Amy and my responsibility we'll make the decision. I don't really think that's the question." -- Interview with ABC News

McCain was no 'hero' for labor or for public education

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney at the memorial service for Sen. John McCain.
Okay, I understand why liberal pols, former presidents, congressional colleagues and union officials are being "civil" and paying their respects to Sen. John McCain. Some, like AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, are spreading McCain-love around right now, in order to take shots at Donald Trump, his hated Republican competitor.

Others like neocon warmongers, Henry Kissinger, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman spoke adoringly at McCain's funeral in order to try and salvage something of what's left of the old GOP.

I'm okay with trying to take advantage of splits in the enemy's camp. I will even give McCain credit for being a voice for mild campaign finance reform and against the use of torture ("enhanced interrogation") of prisoners.  But gushing and going overboard in praise of McCain on the part of Democrats and union officials only makes them look like opportunists.

Case in point...Weingarten, who's not even running for office, lavished unnecessary praise on McCain, calling him "a hero of America". His heroism being all about his role as a village-bombing Air Force pilot and then a POW in Vietnam. I hope she can understand why those of us who fought so hard against that genocidal war, including many members of her own union, will take a knee on that one.

But the great irony here is that Randi's "hero" spent a career making war on organized labor, and teacher unions in particular. This piece from the N.C. AFL-CIO in response to the McCain/Palin 2008 presidential campaign, lays it out pretty well.

McCain rarely met an anti-union or anti-public-school bill he didn't like. He was the main sponsor of legislation supporting privately-run charters and vouchers. In his 2008 debate with Barack Obama, he called it, "the civil rights issue of the 21st century".

 And all this while more than 50,000 Arizona teachers were wildcat-striking for union rights and decent pay in one of the most anti-union states in the nation.

He was also okay with school districts opting to teach creationism. Supported the ban on teaching ethnic studies. Voted against the King holiday. And then there's his lifetime support of war, the greatest enemy of children and education along with massive defense spending, which takes billions of dollars directly out of American classrooms.

No, John McCain was no "hero" when it came to schools, teachers or their unions. Pay respects to the McCain family if you must. But no more B.S. please.