Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rahm's school budget takes from kids with disabilities to give more to charters

Rod Estvan
“This budget does not even attempt to formulate a plan to address the structural deficit the district is faced with.” -- Access Living’s budget analyst Rod Estvan 
The latest proposed Chicago Public Schools budget, due to be voted on tomorrow will badly hurt children with disabilities, says Estvan.

The problem is part of the city's inability to generate enough revenue to run a high-quality, equitable school system. It stems in large part, from the mayor's unwillingness to fairly tax the city's biggest corporations and LaSalle St., choosing instead to balance his budget on the backs of those least able to bear the weight -- children with special needs and retirees.

Rahm's hand-picked school board intends to pass his budget in its existing form, which uses an accounting trick of collecting 14 months of property tax revenue to pay for 12 months of expenses. Tim Cawley, the district’s administrative officer, told a crowd at a state-required budget hearing last week that this one-time fix is intended to “buy time” until the state could resolve the pension problem.

Tricks and sleight-of-hand aside, Emanuel has failed to make a dent in the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers. 

The budget proposes cutting $67 million at neighborhood schools and adding $62 million more to charter schools over last year. Charters aren't required to enroll disabled students, kids with special needs or students who speak English as a second language.

Special education positions are actually down over the 8,890 in the district at the end of the 2014 fiscal year, according to Estvan. Among those cut were an occupational therapist, 10 school nurses, seven school psychologists and three social workers, according to the analysis. CPS also added 15 speech pathologists and three health services nurses. 

Rahm's likely opponent in next year's election, Karen Lewis is calling for a "LaSalle St. Tax" as part of a reformed and more equitable taxing system. She opposes Rahm's call for more pension theft. 

What else do you need to know?

Monday, July 21, 2014


Natasha Korecki
A new progressive movement that’s swept through New York; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Jersey City, New Jersey; Oregon; and Seattle has arrived in Chicago. -- Sun-Times
Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Illinois Action
“We’re building ward committees with everyday people who are wanting to take back their city from elected officials who don’t care about them. The city election coming up is an opportunity to really bring the kind of change you saw in New York City. That same kind of frustration is really high here in Chicago.” -- Sun-Times
Incoming NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García 
“We must measure what matters and put students’ needs at the center of the system once again. We can no longer allow politicians who have never stepped into a classroom define what it means to teach and learn.” -- MSNBC
Biden at Netroots Nation
V.P. Joe Biden
 Describing the American middle class as "the glue that has enabled us to be the most stable political and stable social system in the world", Biden raised the spectre of civil unrest, warning: "When that begins to fray, much more will fray than the loss of economic opportunity." -- The Guardian
James Fallows tweets
"When strategic message becomes ‘They’re forcing us to kill children,’ strategy is in trouble. As US learned [in Vietnam]."  -- Greg Mitchell, Pressing Issues

Friday, July 18, 2014

Greg Hinz has more sage advice for Karen Lewis. Really?

Harold Washington's 1987 victory speech at Navy Pier.
Although I rarely agree with his take on Chicago politics, I have generally found Greg Hinz  to be a knowledgeable, dispassionate and relatively sane pro-business commentator. That was, until he started writing about a possible Karen Lewis run for mayor. There's something about a Karen Lewis campaign for mayor that pushes Crain's main corporate blogger over the edge.

No sooner had she hinted that she was "seriously considering" taking on Rahm, then Hinz jumped out with a patronizing, borderline racist column, warning Lewis to rethink the prospect. In that post, Hinz portrayed Lewis as the stereotypical angry black woman who "needs to dial down her public persona."

Will Karen be standing alone on those bus stops?
In today's column, Hinz outdoes himself, debasing Karen's supporters and offering her some strange advice (coming from him at least). Instead of telling her to "tone it down", this time around Hinz asks Karen to "be more like Harold" and tell her supporters to "put up or shut up."
Right now, all kinds of folks are whispering in her ear that she's the one to take out Rahm Emanuel. Some mean it, some are hyperventilating, some just enjoy a good race. Whatever their motivation, Ms. Lewis' response ought to be the same: Charlie, how much can I count on from you? Five grand, ten? Will you work these five precincts in the 12th Ward? How about your colleagues?
If can get pretty lonely out there on those bus stops at 6 a.m. in January. For Ms. Lewis' sake, she'd better figure out if there will be anyone there standing with her.
Does the patronizing Hinz have some secret desire to become Karen's campaign manager? Is he suffering from delusions of grandeur? White, male entitlement syndrome?

As for the advice itself, it's downright silly. First, I don't know who the "all kinds of folks" are or who Charlie is, but I doubt anyone's whispering in Karen's ear, to run for mayor. Everywhere I've been, from Texas to New York and back to Chicago again, it's been more like a loud roar -- "RUN KAREN, RUN!"

Does Hinz really believe that nobody will be "standing with her" out on those bus stops at 6 a.m.? Has he forgotten the great Chicago teachers strike? Her landslide victory in the CTU election? The tens of thousands of parents and community activists who rallied with her against the school closings. Doesn't he read the polls? Did he miss Will Guzzardi's grass-roots campaign win over the Berrios Machine?

As for that Harold Washington thing -- All I can say is: Greg, you don't know Jack (or Charlie) about Harold or about his campaign(s). If you did, you'd be able to separate myth from reality. Not only that, but your people, the city's corporate interests, opposed Harold every step of the way. "Anybody but Harold" was their cry. But Harold won anyway. He didn't win with big money. He won by relying on a strong, unified peoples movement.

A lot has changed since then but that last part remains the same. Nobody is going to outspend Rahm. He's got more money in his golden war chest than he can use on his own re-election campaign. If history is any clue, Rahm will sprinkle enough of it around to pay for a few other phony candidates (See Sneed's column in today's S-T) to jump into the race to try and take votes away from Karen.

My advice to you, Greg Hinz, and whoever's whispering in your ear -- save your advice for Rahm. From what I can see from the polls, he needs it more than Karen does. Unless of course, you change your mind and want to support Karen Lewis. If that's the case, take your own advice and put up or shut up.


In response to the unraveling situation in Detroit, the United Nations issued a statement out of Geneva last month that said, “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”
Warring factions in Ukraine are using basic necessities of life, such as water, as weapons against the civilian population. Horrible! A clear violation of basic human rights. The U.N. reports that half of Gaza population, "without water supply". Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern over reports that water supplies in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo were deliberately cut off by armed groups for eight days, depriving at least 2.5 million people of access to safe water for drinking and sanitation.

It raises the question, how can anyone stoop so low as to deny people, including small children, the aged and infirm, access to water? Unthinkable here in the U.S. Right?
The average monthly water bill for a family of four in Detroit is nearly double the national average. Chris Hayes reported on MSNBC that, though the E.P.A. recommends that families spend no more than 2.5 percent of their pretax income on water and sewage, some residents of Detroit pay 20 percent of their pretax income for these services. Those who can’t pay face a shutoff—and a stigmatizing blue slash of paint in front of their houses, signifying that they are, in fact, waterless. -- The Nation
Congressman John Conyers says that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

At the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit this week, N. Carolina civil rights leader, Rev. Wm. Barber called for a lifting of the water blockade affecting hundreds of thousands of the city's poor and unemployed.

Retweeted by The Nation's John Nichols:
ABC News7 reports that poor and unemployed residents can receive assistance from the city if they can prove to a Water Dept. bureaucrat that they are truly deserving of aid. Even this offer of assistance came only after the city's bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, ordered Deputy Director Darryl Latimer to  "do something."

According to Latimer:
"When you're getting to the range of 40-50% of your customers in delinquent status, that becomes alarming so you have to react to that." 
But The Atlantic reports:
Residents targeted by the shut-off campaign have been reluctant to speak up. Some have stayed quiet because they’ve resorted to illegally hiring plumbers, and others—who are without water and relying on neighbors and friends for drinking water and showers—are afraid child-protective services may intervene, as a lack of running water is grounds for social services to immediately take children out of parents’ care.
Even those without children remain reticent. Some feel tarred by a general notion of shame and culpability for not being able to meet such a bare necessity as water. Last week, a headline in one of the local newspapers, The Detroit News, described delinquent customers as “water scofflaws.” 
Rev. Charles E. Williams II, in an interview on MSNBC's All in With Chris Hayes says:
 We celebrate this year, 50 years since the signing of a Civil Rights bill that gave Blacks access to public accommodations that were segregated by race. Now, 50 years later we are marching to maintain public services that are human rights, but being segregated by class. Detroit's water crisis should remind us that this is class warfare, that's waged on those who are at the bottom. In Detroit we will march and we will fight not just for those who are losing water daily, but for those who are being shut out and driven into poverty across the nation.
Rev. Williams II and National Action Network Michigan will lead a National demonstration today to call for a moratorium on water shut offs in Detroit. National Nurses United, which claims that the shut-offs will trigger a large-scale public health disaster, is calling on people to turn out for today's march.

You can join the movement by going to www.therevcw.com or http://detroitwaterbrigade.org/

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It was Duncan who launched Chicago schools on the trail of tiers

Rahm's closing of 50 schools, a stab in the heart for the city's black community, may be the very act that brings him down in 2015. Latest polls show that it's the mayor's (and Byrd-Bennett's) mishandled school closings, along with (related) pandemic gun violence, largely in those same communities, which account for his single-digit ratings among Chicago's African-American voters.

But the mayor's disastrous mass school-closing debacle (this according to a report, issued last month by the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force) should be seen as a continuation of a two-tier schooling and gentrification strategy that goes back to the Daley/Duncan years. Then it was called Renaissance 2010, a plan hatched in the offices of the Civic Committee, focusing on the rapid growth of privately-run charters and selective-enrollment alternatives to neighborhood schools. That same Civic Committee would later attack its own plan as an "abysmal failure."

It was the Civic Committee's chosen one, Arne Duncan, trained and nurtured by his predecessor Paul Vallas, who initiated the move to compel Judge Kocoras to get CPS out from under the desegregation decree. In 1980, the federal government had sued the Chicago Board of Education, arguing that the city ran a segregated public school system in violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was under that federal mandate that the city had been forced to consider race as part of magnet school admission policy and take other significant steps to undo decades of conscious racial segregation and discrimination. But Duncan argued that deseg was "too expensive" and that the city had already done all it could to remove the barriers of racial segregation. One of the great lies ever told.

AFTER DUNCAN DEPARTED to D.C. to push his opposition to "forced integration" nationally, Ron Huberman was brought in to seal the deal. Kocoras agreed and in 2009 Chicago's puny attempt at school desegregation formally came to an end (see Matt Farmer's excellent 2009 Huffington Post piece). Kocoras also halted the court's monitoring of the district's bilingual program which now is just a shadow of its previous self. 

Five years later, with Rahm Emanuel in charge of the schools and with no elected school board, minority enrollment is sinking in the city's 10 selective-enrollment high schools leaving the aldermen in black wards wringing their hands as election day approaches. The city and city schools are more segregated than ever, African-American families are leaving the city in droves, and the school system is on the verge of bankruptcy. 

The verdict is in as well on Rahm's school closings. Not only have they failed to save the system any money, but the gap between the tiers continues to grow. A new Root Shock report, by UIC researchers, shows public school closings have had a negative impact on students as well as parents who "played many important and varied roles in their closed schools"and now "feel excluded from new schools." Privately-run charters continue to get the lion's share of a dwindling school budget while neighborhood schools have to bite the bullet. 

Polls now show that CTU Pres. Karen Lewis will give Rahm a run for his money in 2015. There's a growing cry nationally for Duncan's firing. The chickens are coming home to roost. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A ray of hope

Donna Brazile
“The very premise of ‘market-driven education reform’ rests on the fallacy that the public school system is in crisis, and that the only solution is to let the market pick winners and losers.” -- Donna Brazile
Wow! What an amazing couple of weeks.

It started with the NEA, the nation's largest union, condemning current testing lunacy and calling for Arne Duncan to resign. The AFT delegates (when allowed to speak) essentially followed suit, except for leaders Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew's desperate efforts to hang onto a failed Common Core and to pull Duncan's chestnuts out of the fire (with delegates' wimpy call for his remediation rather than firing). UFT President Mulgrew even threatened to punch in the face anyone who tried to "take away my Common Core.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl
But the very fact that a real debate broke out at an AFT convention and that rank-and-file voices were heard (especially from Chicago) offers a ray of hope that union democracy will somehow triumph. I was especially impressed with the speech by new L.A. teachers union head Alex Caputo-Pearl, who aligned himself and his union with CTU President Karen Lewis in calling for “social movement unionism,” which he said is “explicit about fighting for racial and social justice." L.A. could well become the scene of the next great teachers' strike.

All this culminated in the formation of  new opposition group within the Democratic Party, led by Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland called Democrats for Public Education. This new formation is aimed at countering the influence of corporate reform, anti-union and pro-privatization groups like DFER, within the Democratic Party. It's about time. The announcement prompted DFER leader Joe Williamsugly response to Donna Brazile: "Welcome to the jungle, baby.”  

Who's laughing now? Not Rahm. 
MORE GOOD NEWS... And of course, then there's this.
Karen Lewis’ potential bid for Chicago Mayor has moved beyond just a thought — it’s  an “organic,” growing movement, the fiery Chicago Teachers Union president said. Lewis revealed on Monday she already has an unofficial exploratory committee in the works, a chairperson has been named and her camp is working to have a representative in each of the city’s 77 neighborhoods. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

More polls now indicate Rahm can be had

Emanuel's weakness has been known for months—he lost the left ages ago, and has lost Chicagoans more generally over basic competence issues. In the Sun-Times, his response to the poll is an anonymous insult, "laughable." But this same pollster nailed the 2011 race, which Emanuel entered late and won. -- Politico
h/t Brother Fred
There should be no question now that even with his bloated war chest and friends in high low places, Mayor 1% is beatable in his run for re-election. Wednesday's Early & Often poll conducted by We Ask America, shows Karen Lewis and Toni Preckwinkle either leading Rahm head-to-head, or if several candidates run, at least forcing the mayor into a run-off where he would be vulnerable no matter who finishes second on the initial ballot.
  If the mayoral election were held today, the lightning rod union leader who was the architect behind a 2012 teachers’ strike would beat Emanuel by 9 percentage points in a head-to-head contest, the survey found. Lewis was leading Emanuel 45 percent to 36 percent with 18 percent of the likely voters undecided.
And Emanuel could face an even steeper hill if he faces Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, long considered his most formidable challenger. A head-to-head contest found Preckwinkle in a romp vs. Emanuel by a stunning 24 points.
And Ald. Bob Fioretti looks formidable as well at this early stage, in sight of Rahm, with a 30% poll rating.

David Weigel at Politico writes:
When a politico's first on-the-record response to a poll number is "wow," you know it's good for them. "Wow" is what Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, told the Chicago Sun-Times after being informed that she would easily lead Rahm Emanuel in a mayoral election. In an automated poll of more than 1,000 voters, Lewis led Emanuel by a 45–36 margin, cutting into every group that backed him four years ago. She trailed by only 3 points with white voters, led by 4 points with Hispanics, and led by 18 points with black voters—a margin that might increase if Lewis ran and black voters discovered that she, too, was black. And Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (a black woman, like Lewis) led Emanuel by 24 points.
I would keep this early poll in perspective. It's only a "snapshot in time," as E&O is quick to point out. But it is an indicator that even before any viable opposition candidate has announced or spent even one penny on the campaign, Rahm is in trouble. And despite his staffer's "entirely laughable" comment, he knows it. If he's truly laughing at the results, Rahm's in even more trouble than I thought.

Again, Politico:
Here's the twist, which doubles as the reason we know Emanuel's camp believes the polling. At the end of June, Emanuel supporters launched a super PAC (yes, super PACs for mayoral races) to vacuum up hedge fund money. It worked, and in 10 days Chicago Forward announced $1 million in funds—from just eight people. Hedge funder Ken Griffin, who had just given $2.5 million to a PAC for the (independently wealthy) GOP gubernatorial candidate, gave $150,000 to Emanuel.
Washington Post analyst Philip Bump, sounding a little pollyanna, tries to minimize the poll results:
The Democratic primary takes place in February 2015, during the winter, when the level of violence in the city will almost certainly have receded. 
First, Mr. Bump, there is no Democratic primary any more in Chicago. The machine got rid of that two decades ago after Harold Washington won it twice to become the city's first black mayor. Where have you been? Secondly, even an expected drop in the violence numbers (does anybody believe them any more?) won't likely make people forget what's happened here this summer. Not to mention the school-closing debacle which has devastated so much of the city's black community.

The poll offers at least Lewis and Fioretti (and less likely, in my opinion, Preckwinkle) an open invitation to enter the fray. So far, only Lewis has publicly announced her intent. But the interesting thing is that, in an election of this type, even two or three strong anti-Rahm candidates won't hurt each other as much as they'll hurt Rahm, because of the wider range of voters they can turn out, leading to a likely run-off when two enter and one leaves the ring.

Another interesting survey, conducted by MoveOn.Org, of its 75,000 left/liberal Chicago members, finds that 85% of them want to see a progressive challenger to Rahm Emanuel. If that number somehow translates into actual voters and a core group of campaign workers, it could be another real incentive to Lewis, Fioretti or Preckwinkle to announce.


Tells AFT delegates, "We will go forward together."

Rev. Wm. Barber II, president of NC's NAACP chapter 
“If they’ve got to fight us this hard, we’ve got to be some bad somebodies,” Barber said eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd. -- Teacher union convention opens with fiery speech
Salim Muwakkil
Chronic poverty is criminogenic; the links are thick and reinforced by rigorous scholarship. In Chicago's communities, rates of violent crime correlate to poverty rates in ways that make that point irrefutable. There is little dispute that if violence prevention is the goal, reducing poverty is the most effective tactic. -- Chicago Tribune
Alex Caputo-Pearl, new UTLA pres. 
The new L.A. union leader framed his remarks around defining “social movement unionism,” which he said is “explicit about fighting for racial and social justice. It’s explicit in fighting against privatization. It’s explicit in taking people on who need to be taken on, including a lot of Democrats.” He added: “It’s a unionism that is willing to strike. It’s a unionism that is willing to build to a strike and strike if that’s what we need to do.” -- At AFT Convention 
Clarence Page
Obama has boosted border security and deported so many undocumented immigrants (a record-breaking 409,849 in 2012) that the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic rights organization, has branded him "deporter-in-chief." No, that was not a compliment. -- Chicago Tribune

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Want to get your unqualified kid a teaching certificate? You know who to call...

If you're a powerful suburban billionaire like Bruce Rauner and you want to get your daughter into one of Chicago's elite selective-enrollment high schools like Walter Payton, you give a call to Arne Duncan or to his wife, Karen. They each carry clout lists and with a phone call or two, they can and usually will make it rain. Likewise, if you want to get your child into a good college internship program or a paid summer job. Only there you need to call Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and tell him how big a contributor you are.

And in the same vein, if you're a campaign contributor to any one of a number of powerful IL pols and you want your kid to become a teacher or principal, without going through that bothersome qualification process, simply make a call to Mike Madigan's office and voilà, your child will likely be fast-tracked on the road to certification. Backdoor admission to the U. of I. is also one of Madigan's fortes.

This according to a Tribune investigation report.
State lawmakers have intervened repeatedly in Illinois' teacher licensing process, going to bat in some cases for candidates who did not meet state requirements and applicants with criminal pasts as well as for relatives, donors and constituents...
The newspaper found nearly 100 cases in the past five years in which lawmakers got involved in the system that determines who can work as classroom aides, teachers and school administrators or hold other jobs.
The cases are outlined in hundreds of pages of documents and email exchanges obtained by the newspaper, dating to 2009, when House Speaker Michael Madigan's office helped push a young woman's licensing case to the head of the line.
It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that these very same pols and corporate reformers are the ones screaming the loudest about how teacher unions are defending bad teachers and who are supporting bills to take away teacher tenure and to void union contracts and teacher collective bargaining rights.