Sunday, June 30, 2019

After silence at the debate, Bernie puts out his ed plan and Warren defends Harris.

Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled his education plan during a visit to South Carolina on Saturday. (Travis Dove, New York Times)

Did Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren read my post from yesterday? You know, the post that chastised them and the rest of the candidates for their silence on education issues during the debates? Also the one that was critical of them all for not having Kamala Harris' back when she took on Joe Biden over the issue of school deseg?

Probably not. But by yesterday afternoon, as if on cue, Team Bernie released his full-blown education plan during a visit to South Carolina. His so-called, Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education includes opposition to for-profit charter schools and calls for an end to public funding for charter school expansion on the grounds that charters promote school segregation.

This, about the same time as Sen. Warren was tweeting her defense of Sen. Harris against the racist backlash she's facing for her confrontation with Biden.

Well, actually, Bernie's plan had been published in the Times well over a month ago so yesterday's story obviously had nothing to do with my blog. But it's nice to feel validated anyway.

However, the question still remains -- why nothing from him during the debate? And why did he, Warren and the others remain silent while Harris was confronting Biden? Still waiting for an answer.

Something in the comments section would be adequate, senators.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Education not an issue for Dem debaters until the Harris/Biden clash over deseg

Demand for School Integration Leads to Massive 1964 New York City School Boycott

"Forcing integration upon us is not a nimble concept."  -- Alabama Police Chief Eugene "Bull" Connor, 1956
For most of the 20 Democratic Party candidates onstage Wednesday and Thursday nights, or for the debate moderators, education wasn't an important enough campaign issue to deserve a mention. Not a word was spoken about the hottest ed issues like charter schools, vouchers, pensions or testing. Common Core Standards, ESSA, it seems, were yesterday's news. There was not even a poke at Trump's ed secretary, Betsy DeVos or at Trump himself.

That's nothing new for party presidential campaigns. I remember the 2015 debates when education issues never came up. At the time, Prof. Julian Vasquez Heilig wrote in the Progressive,
Perhaps the silence is due to the fact that the Democrats have basically adopted the Republican approach to education from the 1990s.
If anything has changed in the past four years, that hasn't. This week, hardly an ed word was spoken. Not a word, that is, until Sen. Kamala Harris stole night two with her devastating "That little girl was me," confrontation with Joe Biden. After prefacing her obviously well-planned punch to Biden's mid-section with "I do not believe you are a racist," Harris laid bare his role in the busing battles of the '70s.

Biden seemed totally unprepared or ill-prepped. He sputtered and lashed out at Harris personally.
I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor. I came out and I left a good law firm to become a public defender, when, in fact — when, in fact, my city was in flames because of the assassination of Dr. King, number one.
What the hell all that has to do with anything is beyond me. Was this whiter-than-white, male, former vice-president of the United States really throwing shade at an African-American woman for becoming a successful lawyer and prosecutor? Yup.

Then after invoking Dr. King's name and recounting his long history of civil-rights advocacy and his relationship with Pres. Obama, Biden actually doubled down on his opposition to the Dept. of Education's role in enforcing the Supreme Court's Brown decision. The argument went like this:
HARRIS: But, Vice President Biden, do you agree today — do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?
BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed. 
HARRIS: Well, there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.
BIDEN: Because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision.
HARRIS: So that’s where the federal government must step in.
BIDEN: The federal government ——
HARRIS: That’s why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act. That’s why we need to pass the E.R.A., because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.
This exchange brought back nightmarish memories of  Obama's former Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan claiming that he was for school integration but not "forced integration." Then there was his assistant, Peter Cunningham's apologia for school segregation in U.S. News & World Report, which claimed that "integration is expensive and takes money away from other necessary improvements."

In other words. Biden, while ill prepared, wasn't speaking out of school. He was simply repeating, in his own stumbling, bumbling way, the party line going back decades. It's just that his timing was off.

And it's not like any of the other candidates had Harris's back when push came to shove. The silence on their part (including on Bernie Sanders's part) was deafening.

How can they all be running against Biden, yet be so afraid to take him on?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Takeaways from yesterday's school board meeting

Sun-Times ed reporter Mitchell Armentrout's tweet seems to sum up the first meeting of Mayor Lightfoot's APPOINTED school board,
You'll notice, I put the word appointed in all-caps as a nod to the RYH scribe who felt it necessary to mention it in each live tweet from the meeting. Yes, we know that this board was appointed by the mayor and that we don't have an #ESRBNow. No need to rehash all the reasons why that hashtag is little more than hash. The main one being that after 10 years of struggle for an elected board, Sen. Martwick's bill calling for an ESRB, 4 YEARS FROM NOW, is going nowhere.

Don't get me wrong. As an educator, a CPS parent and grandparent of a student with special needs,  I'm eternally grateful for all the difficult work that RYH and other groups have been doing in trying to hold CPS accountable and for their push for a democratically-elected board. I'm also grateful for their and other reporters' on-site tweets from board meetings. For one thing, it meant that I didn't have to sit through this marathon affair.

I also really like this new, appointed board. But those of you who follow this blog already know that.

So my takeaway from Wednesday's board meeting is, it did what it's supposed to do. The new board, led by its president Miguel delValle, got input from the school community, thoughtfully discussed important proposed changes in school policy, demonstrated its independence from the mayor who appointed them, and after debate and struggle, reached unity and got some good things done on our behalf.

If you read my previous post, you know I'm not thrilled with the board's decision to adopt CEO Janice Jackson's proposed weak tweaks to the school rating system. But given the choices put in front of them, the board did the right thing in adopting the changes.

For someone like me, who's been to so many of these meetings as a reporter, an educator, and school activist, the board's democratic style of work represented an important sea change from the past Daley/Rahm years.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

We need a radical change in the way we rate our schools

You know, buy a house near a Level 1 school and pay $20K more for not much of a house. 
"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." -- John Dewey

Watching my 2-year-old granddaughter, Izzy, learn is one of the great pleasures in my life. Whether she's helping her grandma cook up some eggs, finding a worm while digging on the lawn, pedaling a trike, or stomping around with a tap dancer at a recent birthday party, it's a joy to actually watch her grow and develop physically and intellectually at the moment it's happening.

It's authentic learning. No standardized testing required.

I bring this up once more after reading about another CPS plan to tweak the way the system rates its schools; i.e., Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc...  in a high-stakes competition where the loser may have their school closed. I always thought these ratings were more for the benefit of realtors than educators. You know, buy a house near a Level 1 school and pay $20K more for not much of a house.

The new tweaked plan will be presented at Wednesday's first meeting of the mayor's newly-appointed school board.

According to Chalkbeat:
Chicago Public Schools has proposed tweaking its school rating policy to reflect how well elementary schools prepare students for high school and how well high schools help students plan life after graduation — and the district also will finally grade dozens of specialty high schools that had lacked rating systems.
CPS says its School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) is "a five-tiered performance system based on a broad range of indicators of success, including, but not limited to, student test score performance, student academic growth, closing of achievement gaps, school culture and climate, attendance, graduation, and preparation for post-graduation success."

To tell you the truth, I don't care that much whether or not the board tweaks or doesn't tweak. Neither do I care what indicators they add or take away behind student test scores -- the only ones that really count in the current system.

I certainly don't know what is meant by "post-graduation success." Success at what? Do schools even track their former students to find out if they have been successful (as good, productive citizens, small-d democrats, parents, lovers, artists, poets, scientists, athletes...)?

This whole approach to rating schools and pitting them against one another should be dumped as it does great harm to children and educators and hits especially hard at communities of color which have been devastated by mass school closings.

But there is one part of the current policy I especially take issue with. I don't like the language of preparation and how it's used in its narrowest form. The purpose of current schooling, it seems, is to prepare the student for the next grade, the next school, college, job training and then life. What that language misses is the value of authentic learning ("education is life") and the relationship between school, teacher, student, parent and society. Children learn best when they are engaged with other children and adults in important, meaningful, enjoyable work. Adults do as well.

If by preparation we mean preparing students to be good citizens and active participants in a democratic society, then I am down with it. If it's simply job training for prep for the next round of testing, then I'm not.

Yes, schools do it differently and some do it better than others. But current standards and tests don't seem to get at that. What the scores do reflect much more, is poverty.

I wish the new school board the best of luck in their effort to save and transform CPS. The mayor couldn't have picked a better group to take on this enormous task. I hope the board includes in its agenda, plans for a radical change in the way we evaluate schools.

Monday, June 24, 2019


Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia shake hands and hand out “know your rights” cards in Little Village.
Chuy and the Mayor
“The hateful words that we hear on a regular basis from President Trump and other people in his administration do great harm,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “Whether they’re intending to take action or not, we have to be diligent and we have to push back against the hate.”
Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., said the reversal it was “typical of the president’s bullyish ways.”  -- Sun-Times
Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier 
After visiting Ursula facility in McAllen, which is the largest CBP detention center in the country, Dr. Sevier wrote in a medical declaration: "The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities." -- ABC News
Sen. Dick Durbin (IL)
"I voted for the war on drugs. I know why I did it." -- Politico

Danny Green
When asked if NBA champions Toronto Raptors would visit the White House, he answered: "To put it politely, I think it's a hard no." -- Sporting News

 Mick Jagger at Soldier Field concert
  'I want to welcome Lori Lightfoot ... I'm sorry Ed Burke couldn't make it tonight." -- Sun-Times

Friday, June 21, 2019



June 21, 2019


Mayor’s Press Office



"We are all aware of the threat from President Trump regarding raids by ICE, and in response, Chicago has taken concrete steps to support our immigrant communities. I have directed – and Superintendent Johnson has confirmed – that CPD has terminated ICE's access to CPD's databases related to federal immigration enforcement activities. I have also personally spoken with ICE leadership in Chicago and voiced my strong objection to any such raids. Further, I reiterated that CPD will not cooperate with or facilitate any ICE enforcement actions. Chicago will always be a welcoming city and a champion for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities, and I encourage any resident in need of legal aid to contact the National Immigrant Justice Center."


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Chicago reporters broke the story wide open. Mayor Lightfoot went to New York!

Jet-setters? Really?
Chicago's ace political reporters, Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times and wing-nut Kristen McQueary of the Trib, broke the story wide open. It's all about Lori Lightfoot, the city's first black, gay, woman mayor and it's a doozie.

No, she didn't close 50 public schools or cover up a police murder, like her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel. No, she didn't sell off the Skyway or the city's parking meter business for pennies on the dollar like Mayor Daley. No, it's worse. So much worse.

You see, Lightfoot WENT TO NEW YORK, home of the hated Mets and Yankees, raised big money for city projects, Democrats and LGBTQ causes and then, wait for it... she went on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. 

She told the donors the Democratic 2020 presidential contenders have to put more on the table than just being anti-President Donald Trump. 

She got that right.
The mayor said in her DNC speech, “I’m proposing that we pledge to work together to defend our democracy, promote equality for all, and refashion the values that our movement forged so many years ago after Stonewall.
“Let’s stand together, stick together, and work together for justice of every description. Racial justice. Gender justice. Immigrant justice. Economic justice. Environmental justice.”
The Horror...

According to Lynn Sweet who sat in Colbert's audience,
 The audience of about 420 in the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Colbert is taped, gave Lightfoot a standing ovation after Colbert introduced her. They laughed at his jokes — and hers.
But McQueary, who once famously editorialized for a Mussolini-type dictator to run Chicago schools and prayed for a Hurricane Katrina to ravage the city, wasn't impressed:
Most Chicagoans didn’t expect Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor and non-fashionista, to be popping up in their Instagram feeds. But there she is draped in Oprah’s embrace in the foyer of the media mogul’s estimated $90 million mansion.
 But it is surprising to see Lightfoot, four weeks on the job, already hopping on and off airplanes...We’ve got plenty of problems in Chicago. They don’t require commercial airline travel. 
Actually, hopping on and off an airplane is not easy. Try it some time, Kristen.

Spielman, a born-again Lightfoot hater, then echoes McQuery,
Four weeks after taking office, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already stumbled in a way that might make it a bit more difficult for her to govern. From going to war with a police union that didn’t trust her to begin with, to hobnobbing with Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Colbert during fundraising trips to both coasts, Lightfoot appears to be repeating some of her predecessor’s early mistakes.
Then she sings a Daley praise...
 What former Mayor Richard M. Daley knew in his soul, but Emanuel never took to heart, is that Chicagoans believe the sun rises and sets in Chicago. 
She does have a point there. The sun does rise each morning and set each evening in our fair city. Doesn't mean we have to spend each day of our lives here, however.

Then for a topper, Spielman charges LL with spanking Eddie Burke publicly and having a nasty exchange with leaders of the Fascist Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). You know, the ones that supported Jon Burge and his torturing Midnight Crew.

It's about time someone took 'em on.

Nice work, Fran and Kristen. Could be story of the year. I see Pulitzers in your future.

Monday, June 17, 2019


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a plaque marking the location of the newest settlement in the Golan Heights on Sunday.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 
"Mr. President, you're from Queens. You may fool the rest of the country, but I'll call your bluff any day of the week."  -- Newsweek
"There's never been a time in the history of our country where somebody was so mistreated as I have been." -- Interview with George Stephanopoulos
Eliot Higgins, of the investigative group, BellingCat
While we cannot be sure whether this is a Gulf of Tonkin-style incident, we can say for certain this is not the slam-dunk evidence that some would like to claim it is. -- New York Times
Baltimore police Sgt. Ethan Newberg
After more officers arrived, Dotson struggled with the sequence of events and asked why he was being taken to jail. “Just go to jail and take your charge like a man,” Newberg called out. -- Washington Post
Political analyst Don Rose
 As we approach next week's Democratic debates, recent polling shows that despite Joe Biden's consistent double-digit lead, a majority of Democratic voters prefers a clear-cut progressive rather than a mainstream, institutional liberal candidate as personified by the former veep. -- Chicago Daily Observer 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Clock is ticking for victims of Rahm's closing of mental health clinics.

Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa, a clinical social worker and professor of social work at Dominican University, said at Thursday’s forum, “It has been difficult to account for what has happened to those folks who were receiving services at clinics that were closed, and what has happened to people who are continuing to need access to services.”
Time is running out for many of the victims of Rahm Emanuel's closing of our mental health clinics seven years ago. Many have already fallen through the cracks as public health care becomes less and less accessible. Now is the time to reopen the clinics.

More than half of the city’s mental health clinics were shut down in 2012, "leaving a void in parts of the city most susceptible to trauma", according to a report from last year.  Rahm also used the closings as a union-busting tactic.

Many of us took to the streets back then to protest the closings. We were met with abuse from the mayor who screamed at protest leaders, "You will respect me" (laughing as I write this).

In January, the City Council established a task force, led by Ald. Sophia King, to "take a hard look" the situation. But now it's June and still no movement to reopen the clinics. Enough with the hard looks. There's already an abundance of evidence showing the need and the community is demanding that the clinics and other cut social services be reestablished.

Now there just needs to be some will and determination on the part of our new city leaders.

Rahm's Health Commissioner Julie Morita is one of those who's been trying to prevent the reopening. All those clinics means more work, "more fires to put out" for the bureaucracy, claimed Morita. What nonsense! But she's on her way out the door this month, leaving it open for the mayor to replace her with someone who takes the task seriously.

I'm hoping this won't be another one of those four-year ramp-ups, like the $15 minimum wage.

Clock is ticking.

Monday, June 10, 2019


D.T.: "Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” -- Vox

Author, Rebecca Solnit
In my own dreams of educational reform, there’s a curriculum focused on how to research anything and check everything, how to understand what is and isn’t substantiated by the facts, when you do and don’t have the evidence to draw a conclusion, and how to live with the uncertainty and mystery that abound in all of us. -- The Curious Case of Elizabeth Warren and the "Charter School Lobbyist" Who Wasn't
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)
“Everybody makes mistakes and when you make a mistake or someone else makes a mistake, then you are not above apologizing to those people. Somebody’s got to apologize. I accept that role. Lori doesn’t need it, but because it may help somebody to resolve conflict, I apologize." -- Sun-Times
Natalia Salgado, senior political strategist with the Center for Popular Democracy
“What I have seen from Joe Biden is that he is running a campaign reminiscent of 1992 or 1993, the courting of the suburban white voter." -- Latino leaders sound alarms over Trump reelection in 2020
Fred Klonsky
 Waiting, waiting, waiting for the next person to tell me about too generous teacher pensions. -- Blog post

Sunday, June 9, 2019

After Rahm's legacy tour, he heads for Wall Street

The elite get all the breaks and are shown all the shortcuts. In the meantime, ordinary people are forced to pay full freight. -- Rahm Emanuel in The Atlantic
Rahm’s announcement of his new Wall Street gig comes on the heels of his phony legacy tour where he tried, with lots of media help, to rebrand his term in Chicago as a “progressive” era of good governance. It included this piece of centrist populism in the Atlantic where Rahm fakes a hit on "American elites" but actually goes after the growing "socialist" insurgency within the Democratic Party.

As many of us expected it would, the story ends with Mayor 1% laughing and flashing his middle finger at all of us as he boards his limo to the Wall Street investment firm Centerview Partners LLC, whose leaders are mainly Rahm cronies and campaign donors. They include Centerview founder Blair Effron, who contributed $61,500 to the former mayor’s campaign fund, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who has donated more than $70,000 to Emanuel’s campaign, and Robert Pruzan, another Centerview founder and Rahm pal for the past 20 years.

This so-called "boutique" investment firm Centerview (centrist Democrats -- get it?) is one of the most profitable on Wall Street. The company brags on its website that it has advised on nearly $3 trillion worth of transactions.

In 2014, Centerview served as an adviser to Time Warner on its proposed merger with Comcast that drew opposition from many who argued the deal would hurt consumers.

According to the Tribune, Emanuel penned an August 2014 letter to the FCC, encouraging regulators to support the deal, writing on city of Chicago letterhead that he believed the proposed merger would not “reduce choice, elevate prices or otherwise harm customers.”

Good riddance, we hope, to all that.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The mayor's current school board is a good one. How do we move on to an elected board?

The new board. 
Mayor Lightfoot has chosen some excellent people to fill the seats on the new Board of Education. It's a board that's dominated by progressives, including parents, ed activists and people, like Board Pres. Miguel del Valle, who see themselves as interim members until an elected board can be put in place.

What a change from the previous regime! No cronies or puppets on this board. As far as I can tell, no profiteers like Deborah Quazzo, using the board to enrich themselves. It's a board composed entirely of people of color and women. No white men. What a radical breach from the Chicago machine days.

As for Rep. Martwick's current Elected School Board bill, which was written without any input from the mayor, it is dead in the water. The start date under HB2267 is 2023, 4 yrs from now, at the end of Lightfoot’s first term, and it requires reauthorization even then. The coalition of ed activists, including RYH and the CTU, who drafted the bill, will have to go back to the drawing board and take into account the mayor's objections to the unwieldy size of the proposed board. Until then, the legislature isn't foolish enough to go against Chicago's first black, gay, woman mayor,  a mayor that has just won a landslide election and carried all 50 Chicago wards.

In remarks to the Sun-Times, del Valle raised the possibility that an elected board could be installed much more quickly than the four-year timeframe proposed in State Rep. Robert Martwick’s bill.
The current bill might have already been passed except for the fact that it's fatally flawed and even if passed, wouldn't take effect for four years or more. So we need a new bill that is reflective of the changes in the city and state political climate since the election.

Rahm Emanuel was the mayor and Republican Bruce Rauner was the governor. Some drafters of the current bill have admitted to me that the four-year ramp was the result of a compromise, a bone thrown to Rahm/Rauner. But they're both gone now. So a new compromise is in order if and when an elected board bill can be passed.

Unfortunately, some CTU leaders have turned their guns on Lightfoot over the issue. One goes so far as to claim that we don't need a good appointed board and that the mayor's new "okay" board is only a ruse, an attempt to pacify us and kill their elected school board bill.

Makes me wonder whether these union leaders are more interested in scoring some political points against a mayor they opposed in a vitriolic campaign, than they are in passing ESRB legislation? Some unity building is badly needed here. Let's see who's up to the task.

We'll be talking all about the mayor's board picks and an elected school board tomorrow, 11-noon on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Bros with in-studio guests Curtis Black and Jacqueline Serrato Flores from the Chicago Reporter. Tune in 11-noon CDT to WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. Streaming live at

Monday, June 3, 2019


Ald. Maldonado
Ald. Robert Maldonado, new chair of the Latino Caucus
“Some of our communities are being completely gentrified. We need to stop that, we need to slow it down.” -- WBEZ
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
"This awful, untrue line got boo'ed for a full minute. John Delaney, thank you but please sashay away." -- The Hill
Howie Klein
Maybe the tent really is too big. If it's big enough for John Bel Edwards to be stinking it up from the inside, why would a normal Democrat even want to be inside it? -- Crooks & Liars
Elizabeth Warren
 “It’s not just the mass shootings. It’s the ones that never make the headlines. It’s the kids who are shot at the playground, on the sidewalk, in their own homes. Gun violence touches families every day." -- Rolling Stone
Fritz Kaegi after corporate lobbyists kill his reform bill
 “Asking our office to continue using a broken system goes against the reform taxpayers and voters want. Opponents of the bill would prefer we wait longer, knowing that the longer we wait, the less likely the bill is to pass. Delays favor a broken assessment system, however, that prolongs inequality.” -- Tribune
Kevin Durant to rapper Drake
Drake was walking in the tunnel near the Warriors' locker room with his head down when Durant trolled him. "Keep your head up young fella. It's alright, it's ok. We have more games to play." -- ABC 7