Monday, July 28, 2014


"I am the decider, and you have nothing to do with it.” -- Christie to Mayor Baraka

Kristen Crowell
“Certainly, it is our opinion that the current leadership is not doing enough to take care of our folks." United Working Families will focus on “finding, recruiting and supporting candidates who are going to be with us.” -- Chicago Teachers Union, progressives form new Chicago coalition
Inquirer Editorial
No wonder 13 percent of the nation's 3.4 million public school teachers either change schools or quit the profession every year. Understanding the difficulties urban teachers face, many believe those educators in particular aren't paid enough for all they do. That sympathy has helped dampen criticism of Philadelphia teachers' refusal to agree to contract concessions. The estimated teacher attrition rate in U.S. schools has doubled in 15 years. In some urban districts, teacher and student dropout rates are almost identical. -- Teachers drop out, too
David Callahan (Inside Philanthropy)
Yup, we’re fascinated by the big money. And we’re especially focused on tracking the emerging billionaire philanthropists who’ll be creating foundations bigger than Ford and Rockefeller. Already you can see the philanthropic pecking order getting turned upside down by new money. That’s just a hint at things to come. --WSJ
Eugene Robinson
“Israel is acting as if it is free of moral responsibilities." The onslaught on a tiny enclave people can’t escape is “wrong by any reasonable moral standard.” -- Washington Post

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Patti Vasquez Show last night

Patti Vasquez and Pete Lee on WGN last night
Special thanks to WGN's Patti Vasquez for having me on her show last night. Comedian Pete Lee was Patti's co-host and we had a friendly and far-ranging discussion on ed issues. Patti and Pete are both very funny, but serious when it comes to schooling and other social issues.

I felt at times that I should be interviewing Patti who describes herself on Twitter as, Special Needs Mom. Also known as Latina Supermom, about the trials and tribulations of a parent with an autistic child in public school.

She definitely got it when I commented on the Board's new budget which robs programs for kids with disabilities and throws more money at privately-run charter schools. I also got to talk about the problems with mayoral control of the schools and the need for an elected school board.

I found common ground with Patti and Pete who carried the ball in response to a couple of callers who blamed lazy, greedy teachers for bringing down the school system. You know -- those teachers who make tons of money for only working 8 months out of the year. The shows co-hosts would have none of it.

Thanks again, Patti and Pete.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Budget vote: Another reason to get rid of mayoral control of the schools

WGN'S WALTER "SKIPPY" JACOBSON says he's seen everything now that the board has decided to hire more press secretaries as a way of dealing with the current fiscal crisis at CPS. 
Note to "Skippy: All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again. Never before has a mayor spent more city money on press releases, only to have his ratings sink lower and lower with every dollar spent.

AS IF WE NEEDED ANOTHER REASON to replace mayoral control of the schools with an elected school board, yesterday's approval of Rahm's $5.8B smoke-and-mirrors school budget gives us reason #842 by my count.

The budget once again cuts funding for neighborhood schools and programs serving kids with special needs, while funneling millions more into the pockets of privately-run charter school operators. It was passed by the mayor's hand-picked minions (at least by those who showed up) of bobble-heads despite loud protests from the gallery of angry parents and school activists.

The Tribune reports:
Board members seemed miffed over criticism about increased spending from two watchdog groups, the Civic Federation and Access Living. The budget is 3 percent higher than last year’s, despite the ballooning deficit.
The Civic Federation said Wednesday it could not support the spending plan, which it called “shortsighted” for not addressing the fiscal crisis with long-term solutions and increasing spending by $400 million.
Access Living, a disability rights group, said that while the district increased funds for special education programs, it failed to develop a plan to address the structural deficit.
George Schmidt does a good job of calling out no-show board members.
Considering that they only have to perform that public duty one day a month, and at a location conventient to their downtown offices, the seven members of the Board have seemed since the year began to be alternating "days off" so that they don't have to listen to the public criticisms of their hypocrisies and craven subservience to the mayor's privatization programs. And so it was on what is arguably the most important meeting of the year, July 23, 2014. That was the meeting at which the Board was to approve its annual budget. Deborah Quazzo, the millionaire financial planner, was missing, just as Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen and Mahalia Hines had been during the previous months.
But I don't see why they all don't just phone in their always-predictible votes since the public sessions bounce off them like water off a duck's back.

George Schmidt photo from Substance.
Board President David Vitale runs meetings like a military tribunal. He allows little for public voice since members serve entirely at the pleasure of the mayor. Parents and community members are allowed only in strict 2-minute sound bites which have no weight in the minds of the bobble-heads. And when the dialogue gets real --well, this picture of CPS parents being carried out of yesterday's meeting says it all. You can watch the video clip of the Board's actions here.

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 or

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.