Monday, May 2, 2016

Rahm's hand-picked school board. Where democracy goes to die.

Board Pres. Frank Clark (the man from ComEd), also chaired Rahm's School Closing Commission. 
“Often there are public meetings by the school board and hundreds of people may show up and testify. And the general perception is that the school board doesn’t listen, that the decisions don’t follow the will of the people who come before them, the teachers, the parents, the community.” -- Dick Simpson
For the past three years, parents and community members have been complaining about the board's policy of making people sign-up for the limited 2-minute speaking spots at board meetings, a full week before the agenda is posted.

When complaints were filed with Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s (potential candidate for governor) office, that the policy violated the state’s open meetings act, Madigan agreed. On April 13 she sent a letter to CPS, saying the requirement “unreasonably restricts the public’s statutory right to address the Board.”

Her letter seems to have gotten a rise out of Board Pres. Frank Clark (ComEd/Excelon) who now will allow those wishing to speak tosign-up on line (, at 10:30 a.m. on the Monday before each board meeting, a full half-hour after the meeting agenda has been posted.

Now for the first time in years, citizens will be able to speak -- wait for it -- directly in response to matters being voted on at the board meeting. Hallelujah!

But the question still remains. Is anyone listening.

Clark was so pleased with himself, he could pee. He lauded his own “steps to bolster public engagement” that include online tools to make appointments with board members and equal speaking time for non-English speakers — which followed a Sun-Times story about Spanish speakers denied more time to allow for simultaneous interpretation.

S-T's Lauren Fitzpatrick writes:
Board members also will begin holding informal office hours at schools instead of just downtown, starting the appointments at Earle Elementary School next week.
But unlike his predecessor, Clark has yet to hold a meeting after business hours out at a community school rather than at CPS’ downtown headquarters. And he has not yet ruled on suggestions to open up board briefings so the public can watch the mayor’s handpicked board members ask questions and challenge district staff before casting typically unanimous votes to approve CPS recommendations.
“Posting the public agenda before registration opens will allow community members to make informed decisions about their participation in meetings, which should foster more productive and focused meetings,” Clark said in a press release.
He might have added, ,,,which is why we have avoided doing it until now.

The real purpose behind this "reform" appears to be an attempt to slow down or head-off the push for a representative elected school board, which is gaining support in Springfield. Another purpose may be to make things easier for charter school proponents to mobilize support for more privately-run charters whenever that topic is on the agenda.

To Rahm's appointed head-nodding board members, it never really mattered what speakers had to say anyway. Board votes are merely all pro-forma and unanimous, with direction coming right from the 5th floor at City Hall through CEO Forrest Claypool, and certainly not from the gallery.


Coach tells Trump: Let's drop the big one. 

Bobby Knight compares Trump to Truman
“Harry Truman with what he did — in dropping and having the guts to drop the bomb in 1944 — saved billions of american lives.”  [Note to Coach Knight: Truman wasn't president in '44 and dropped the bomb in Aug. 1945. U.S. population has never reached a billion.]-- Mediaite
Hillary Clinton, yikes!
"I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak." -- Interview with CNN's Jake Tapper 
 Yesterday's May Day march in Chicago.
Larry Wilmore 
But I have to say, it’s great, it looks like you’re really enjoying your last year of the presidency. Saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors. That was cool. That was cool, yeah. You know it kinda makes sense, too, because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, right? What? Am I wrong?  -- At the White House correspondents’ dinner
Pedro Noguera
 “Like it or not, schools are competing for kids, and public schools don’t even realize it. Like it or not, that’s the set-up.” -- L.A. School Report
 Terry Mazany, the chairman of the NAEP governing board
 “This trend of stagnating scores is worrisome." -- New York Times

Friday, April 29, 2016

The lead/water crisis and Chicago's school children

CEO Claypool says testing not based on any "indication" of lead. Then why no transparency?
Exposure to even small amounts of lead as a child causes subtle brain damage that can trigger learning disabilities and violent behavior later in life. -- Chicago Tribune
And what about exposure to large amounts of lead, consumed daily in the tap water of old Public Schools over a period of years? This is the prospect we are facing and the question parents are asking as we enter the post-Flint era.

According to the city, about 80% of city buildings are still connected to water mains by lead pipes, which were banned in 1986.

CPS claims that while the district has not tested water fountains for lead contamination. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the system will begin checking water in a "small number of schools" this year. But it won't be the first time. Tests have been done before but the results have been kept from the public.

Schools CEO Forrest Claypool says it's no big deal. He says, “this is not because of any indication. It’s out of an abundance of caution.” Of course, Claypool sends his kids to ritzy private school, Francis Parker, where you can bet the drinking water has been fully tested.

Principals at several of those schools told the Chicago Sun-Times they learned of the testing from the press, and weren’t sure what to tell parents. I can't really blame them for being cautious, given what's happened to outspoken Blaine principal Troy LaRaviere.
Several principals, who did not have district permission to speak, said they had not been notified by CPS of the testing. Though the district typically sends letters home about such developments, the principals said they had been given no guidance on how to respond to parent questions this time.
Rahm's announcement Wednesday came more than a month after the Tribune requested the results of any water quality tests conducted by or for CPS since 2012. The school district failed to respond to FOIA requests, but in an email sent an hour before Emanuel's office released its statement a district spokesman said CPS "had no records to provide".

According to the Tribune,
The water crisis in Flint, Mich., has put new pressure on cities and school districts to address the safety of drinking water. Like Flint, Chicago and many older cities required the use of lead plumbing during the last century, and few have been required to replace those pipes with safer materials. CPS owns or operates more than 600 school buildings, some of which were built in the 1800s.
I'm told that lead and asbestos testing has gone on in the schools since 2003 but the results were never made public.

80% of city's buildings still connected to banned lead water pipes.
Similar lead scandals have emerged, especially in other poor, predominantly black and Latino school districts across the country. In Detroit, they've found elevated levels of lead and copper in nearly a third of its elementary schools, contamination that one expert says could be found nationwide, wherever school authorities spend the time and money to look.

In D.C. they've found 12 schools so far with lead levels that violate federal standards.

Boston Public Schools officials shut down fountains in four schools after a test revealed elevated levels of lead in the drinking water.

Obvious questions. Why are they testing such a small number of schools? Why has it taken so long?And why the lack of transparency? The answers: While testing is relatively cheap (we just had the tap water in our house tested for $35) the cost of necessary infrastructure repair and lead abatement, not just in the schools, but in many neighborhoods of the city (and nation) could require a national campaign with costs running into the trillions. Possibly parallel to what we're spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not to mention the costs of possible class-action lawsuits, criminal trials and political fallout (would this be happening in a wealthy, white school district?) resulting from cover-ups of the Flint variety.

Is Chicago and the nation willing to make such a commitment in these times of austerity and anti-tax, anti-government hysteria? Even with the health and well-being of our children hanging in the balance?

My bet is that Chicago's lead crisis will be used as an excuse to further erode public space, close or privatize more schools.

Schools being tested include:

  • Burr, 1621 W. Wabansia
  • Canty, 3740 N. Panama
  • Coonley, 4046 N. Leavitt
  • Crown, 2128 S. St. Louis
  • De Diego, 1313 N. Claremont
  • Dett, 2131 W. Monroe
  • Ericson, 3600 W. 5th
  • Evers, 9811 S. Lowe
  • Hefferan, 4409 W. Wilcox
  • Mahalia Jackson, 917 W. 88th
  • Jamieson, 5650 N. Mozart
  • Jungman, 1746 S. Miller
  • Kellman, 3030 W. Arthrington
  • Kozminski, 936 E. 54th
  • Lenart, 8101 S. LaSalle
  • Mays, 6656 S. Normal
  • Neil, 8555 S. Michigan
  • Nicholson, 6006 S. Peoria
  • Parker, 6800 S. Stewart
  • Pritzker, 2009 W. Schiller St.
  • Saucedo/Telpochcalli, 2832 W. 24th
  • South Shore ES, 1415 E. 70th
  • Stagg, 7424 S. Morgan
  • Sumner, 4320 W. 5th
  • Tanner, 7350 S. Evans
  • Harold Washington ES, 9130 S. University
  • Webster, 4055 W. Arthrington
  • Westcott, 409 W. 80th

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Did the Sanders campaign come all this way to hand itself over to Clinton?

Early in the campaign, when few took Bernie Senders' seriously, I heard this, over and over again from Hillary Clinton's people: "It's great he's running. He will push Hillary to the left."

But as the Sanders anti-Wall St. campaign began to resonate, especially with thousands of young activists (the very shock troops and organizers HRC so badly needs if she is to beat Donald Trump) the tone of her campaign changed. The attacks, not only on Bernie, but on his young activist base grew sharper.

Remember Madeleine Albright's "special place in hell" barb in February? Or Gloria Steinem telling Bill Maher that young women are attracted to Sanders’ campaign because "that’s a good way to meet boys"?

More recently came the charge that Sanders' unrelenting critique of Hillary's ties to Wall St. will only feed the Trump campaign.

From The Hill:
“You know who would really love it if Bernie Sanders kept attacking Hillary all the way to the convention?” Christina Reynolds, a Clinton campaign spokesperson, wrote in an email. “Donald Trump,” she wrote."
Sanders in Chicago with Troy LaRaviere (left) and Chuy Garcia.
They want the dynamic Sanders campaign, which is still drawing huge rally crowds and lots of new, young voters, to liquidate itself before Hillary's coronation in Philly.

How's that playing with Sanders base? Not well. Latest polls show a quarter of them declaring that they won't ever vote for Clinton. I'm dubious.

If the Sanders campaign was intended to push Hillary to the left, it's been a dismal failure. If it's about building a movement and offering an alternative to traditional pay-to-play politics, it's been an overwhelming success. This, even if and when Hillary gets the nomination.

I have no doubt that, in the end, Sanders will throw his support to Clinton and that great majority of his voters will vote for Hillary in November. The fear of a Trump victory is just too serious and the opportunity for Democratic victories, up and down the ticket is too great.

But the question is, on what basis can unity between the two camps be built. The Sanders movement didn't come all this way to hand itself over to Clinton with nothing in return.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The cat's out of the bag. CPS I.G. admits attack on Troy LaRaviere was political

CPS Chief Ed Officer Janice Jackson fronting for Rahm at Blaine. 
“I can honestly say this was not a politically motivated decision,” said Janice Jackson, CPS’ chief education officer, speaking to a crowd of about 300 inside the auditorium at Blaine. -- Sun-Times
How do you know Jackson is lying? Whenever somebody begins a sentence with, "I can honestly say...", nine times out of ten what follows is going to be a big fib.

The thing that jumped out at me while reading the Sun-Times' story of yesterday's Blaine parents support rally for their award-winning principal, Troy LaRaviere, was this sentence.
CPS’ inspector general Nick Schuler confirmed that his office was looking at LaRaviere’s participation in the Sanders campaign “to see if there are any possible violations” of CPS’ ethics policy.
Not politically motivated indeed.

I'm told that Jackson has finally informed LaRaviere about the dozen or so charges against him. They haven't been made public as yet. But no matter what they have, or think they have on him, the whole thing smells to Blaine parents and community, like another of Rahm's political hatchet jobs.

More from S-T:
LaRaviere is up for election in May to lead the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, which would give him a larger voice within CPS “and that’s something that a lot of people didn’t want,” [parent Betsy] Melton said.
He also has recorded ads for progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, as well as Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who ran against Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year.
Last year, sources said LaRaviere was reprimanded after the inspector general dinged him for “improper political activity” for Garcia, though he was not named in the annual report released to the public.
Could the motivation behind LaRaviere's firing be any clearer?

The mayor, who has turned CPS into a wing of City Hall, is pleading (according to Brother Fred) Et Ego Nescieban (I do not know). He more aptly should be pleading non compos mentis. Rahm and the beleaguered school district need this new debacle right now like a fish needs a bicycle.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Troy LaRaviere 
"For those who plan on taking some kind of action, please ensure it is purposeful and well-informed. I STILL HAVE NOT BEEN INFORMED OF THE CHARGES AGAINST ME. At this point, this should be at the core of any effort to support my case. Any protest or other efforts should focus on forcing CPS to tell me what they’re charging me with. 
 Again, since we don’t know what the alleged violations are, I believe ANY EFFORTS TO SUPPORT MY CASE SHOULD FOCUS ON FORCING CPS TO TELL ME WHAT THEY’RE CHARGING ME WITH [Troy's emphasis]. After they reveal the charges people can then decide what next steps need to be taken.
This is not about me. This is about corruption, and I am an obstacle to that corruption." -- Troy LaRaviere's Blog
Laughable quotes on LaRaviere firing
Janice Jackson, the chief education officer for the Chicago Public Schools: "We did not consult the mayor in making this decision."
Mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn: "CPS handles its own personnel matters, with which the mayor does not interfere." -- Eric Zorn, "The Sacking of Troy"
Rick Perlstein
Competitors compete: the proposition seems axiomatic. But charter schools don’t really compete with traditional public schools, which rely solely on tax dollars to operate; charters get slathered with private cash, too. -- The Chicago School
Kate Grossman
 Chicago has a poor track record of delivering for its weakest students but this latest chapter, arguably an inevitable and predictable consequence of school choice, may be a new low.  -- Atlantic
Bill Gates
 “We really haven’t changed [students’ academic] outcomes.” -- EdWeek Market Brief

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Road Runner...

I had a great time at Moorhead St. Spoke to local Fargo/Moorhead teachers, pre-service teachers and faculty on "Schools for Sale: Reform, Charter Schools and the Future of Public Education" along with great profs Isabel Nunez (Concordia) and Joe Ferrare (Univ. of Kentucky).

Moorhead has some talented ed faculty, including old friend Steve Grineski (who recently retired), Sheila Marquardt, David Tack and more. Thanks especially to Sheila, Emily O'Meara, Renee Fast and the rest of the EMSP leadership for hosting the event.

Left Minnesota, the birthplace of charters, before getting the news that the state's legendary cultural icon, Prince had died. Sad day. Would have been a great place to celebrate his life and music.

Next stop, New Haven for an event at Yale, "The Inner City School: Inequality and Urban Education." I'm speaking on a panel there along with one of my favorite social-justice educator/researchers, Michelle Fine. Can't wait.

Among other greats on the agenda: Conference host Elijah Anderson ("Code of the Streets"); UIC's own John Hagedorn, (Gangs and Institutional Change); former Chicagoan and now Great Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson, ("The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions"); Gloria Ladson-Billings, ("Dream Keepers"), Charles Payne, ("I've Got the Light of Freedom") and many more. This leaves me with great feeling of inadequacy. But excited to see them all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Need a new minimum wage ordinance in Chicago

Some days the encampment under a bridge just south of downtown and just north of Chicago’s Chinatown has the feeling of a bedraggled backyard barbecue. Men from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala cook frozen shrimp or crab over a fire, drink beers, joke and even sing. On this Saturday in February, however, the men are silent, and the fear and misery in the air are palpable. It is just too cold. -- The Guardian
Now that the Fight-For-15 Movement has gained such broad support and with 14 cities and states passing $15/hr. minimum wage laws in 2015, isn't it time for new legislation here in Chicago?

We had broad support for it here until Mayor Rahm Emanuel undercut a move by the City Council's Progressive Caucus by countering with his own $13/hr. bill. But Chicago workers won't see even  $13/hr. for three more years under the mayor's plan. This year Chicago comes up 50 cents from Illinois' $8.25 rate, which is already $1 higher than the federal rate. After that, the wage will go up by 50 and 2017, and by $1 in 2018 and 2019.

Now that Rahm is on the ropes politically, it seems to me that this is the time for a new $15 bill to be introduced. He would have a tough time opposing it, especially in a national election year. Rahm is already facing a probable teachers strike in May. The CTU has already called for a $15/hr. floor for all CPS employees. A united front of unions, City Council members, and the Fight-For-15 Movement would be pretty hard to beat.

Families can't survive at the current $10/hr. rate. The result is too many workers are still finding themselves homeless. Too many students are coming to school hungry or having to drop out of high school to find work. Too many black families (200,000 African-Americans) have left Chicago, many in search of livable wages.

Bernie Sanders has been leading the charge nationally for the $15 MW. Hillary Clinton, ever the triangulatorhas been resistant to such a federal law. Up until now, she's pushed for a gradually-imposed $12/hr. bill,  but now says she could sign such a $15 bill with "stipulations", if elected.

I guess this is what they mean when they say Bernie is "pushing her to the left". I'm doubtful.