Wednesday, November 25, 2015



Joanna Klonsky

Members of the Progressive Caucus call for thorough examination of McDonald case

CHICAGO (November 25, 2015)--Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus members Ald. Leslie Hairston (5); Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6); Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10); Ald. Toni Foulkes (16); Ald. David Moore (17); Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22); Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and Ald. John Arena (45) issued the following statement on Wednesday to respond to the video of a Chicago Police officer shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times:

“We are mourning the violent death of one of our city’s young people, Laquan McDonald, and we are praying for his family.

“We call for a thorough examination of the apparent effort to withhold information about McDonald’s death as it moved through the administration of the Police Department. We are deeply committed to transparency and public accountability, and we urge all of our fellow public officials to recommit to upholding the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

“We ask why this officer is still on the public payroll. In the 14 months since the killing of Laquan McDonald, Officer Van Dyke has continued to live comfortably, facing no criminal charges until yesterday, all while drawing a paycheck at the expense of the taxpayers of this city. This is unacceptable.

“We are concerned that the delay of justice in this case has served to undermine the hard work of the police officers in our districts, who now must face deep distrust from some residents.

“At the same time, peaceful protestors were arrested during last night’s response to the release of the video. These young people came out to march, chant and draw public attention to the death of McDonald. Several of the march organizers were arrested despite multiple witnesses who confirm that they broke no laws. While we were pleased to see that the charges against protester Malcolm London were dropped, we ask that the charges against the other protesters also be dropped immediately.

“Unlike those who protected Officer Van Dyke, these young people were acting in the spirit of stewardship of our city, peacefully assembling, participating in nonviolent civil disobedience, and demanding justice.

“We call upon the leadership of this city and its police force to convene an inclusive, empowered panel to investigate the entire minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and day-by-day course of this apparent miscarriage of justice, which took the life of a young man and shielded his killer for more than a year.

“Furthermore, in order to revamp the institutional crisis of police discipline, we plan to convene a panel of experts to work with us on providing the City Council and people of this city a thorough change to the City code and regulations that oversee police officers, the Independent Police Review Authority, and the Police Board. We need to ensure that bureaucracy or union contracts don’t stop us from being able to remove bad police officers from the payroll. Changes must be made a priority in order to end the lack of effective and clear discipline practices and oversight that perpetuate these crimes.

“The public demands answers. We have a right to know, in order to put in place new policies and regulations to be applied in any future instance of misconduct.”


Protests (not 'riots') rock Chicago. Rahm covers his ass. Calls to fire McCarthy, dump Alvarez.

Toast, I hope.

It's time for Chicago's top-cop and the state's attorney to be gone.

Anticipating a wave of protest following release of their surpressed video, the Mayor and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy put on a long dog-and-pony show at yesterday's press conference, covering their own asses and doing their best to distance themselves from killer cop Jason Van Dyke.

Moments before releasing the sensationalized dash-cam video showing white Chicago police officer Van Dyke pumping 16 shots into the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Rahm and McCarthy stood up before the cameras claiming,
“Jason Van Dyke does not represent the police department...” 
The statement came in response to a question from Brandon Smith, the courageous journalist who had sued the city and forced the release of the video. It's hard to believe that Team Rahm could be this stupid and petty, but they actually blocked Smith from entering the press conference. He had to wait out in the hall while a local CBS News reporter asked a question about the wider culture of corruption in the police department on his behalf.
Malcolm London, a 22-year-old poet/organizer with the Black Youth Project 100, was grabbed off the street at last night's protest and charged with felony aggravated battery to a police officer after allegedly punching one officer. Police said the officer was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. According to the Chicago Tribune, those charges were dropped Wednesday afternoon.
As for that culture:

How about a quarter-million stop-and-frisks in the black community during a three-month period in 2014?

The Better Government Association reports that 300 people were shot by Chicago police between 2010 and 2014. Seventy of those individuals were killed. More people were killed by police in Chicago than any other of the largest U.S. cities.

More obfuscation:

Democrat super-flack David Axelrod sounds sincere when he asks on Twitter:
Why did it take a year to indict a CPD officer who shot a kid 16 times? Would it have happened today if judge hadn't ordered video release?
Chicago protest
But Axelrod is feigning naivete here. He knows full well who's behind justice-delayed for the McDonald family. It's his pal/client Rahm Emanuel, Supt. McCarthy and States Atty. Anita Alvarez, who all sat on the video for more than a year, releasing it only after a judge ordered them to do so.

Alvarez is especially complicit here, even charging Van Dyke one day before the video release, presumably to try and head off protests (riots). She badly mishandled the trial of Dante Servin, the detective who shot black 22-year-old Rekia Boyd in 2012, who she charged with involuntary manslaughter. But a judge threw that charge out in April, saying Servin should have been charged with murder. He hasn't been.

Need any more reasons to vote for Kim Foxx?

In my humble opinion, McCarthy is already toast. Sneed, who has a pipeline to the mayor's office, is already naming possible replacements and usually when that happens, time to pack your bags.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chicago teachers show strong, united, and ready to strike if needed

What a great night! Thousands of Chicago teachers and community activists packed Grant Park last night in a show of strength and unity reminiscent of the days leading up to the 2012 teacher strike. Check out DNAInfo for best tweeted pics from last night.

The Little Emperor is back after splitting town, as he usually does in times of crisis. He ran off to China. Remember, Rahm's the guy who said: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." What he obviously meant was, when things get hot, get out of town and let underlings like Forrest Claypool or Garry McCarthy, or whoever, take the heat.

And if you're going to run and hide, this is the week to do it. Panicked by the CTU's militant show of strength and the black community's possible response to Wednesday's court-ordered release of the video showing officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 rounds into defenseless 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, the administration is in full retreat mode. They're dropping crumbs along with way to soften or divert the protests, and pausing every few steps to take pot-shots at the teachers union.

Karen Lewis: "If we strike, we do so to protect our children."
Today, the day before the video release, charges are expected to be brought against Van Dyke. Coincidence? Yesterday, top cop Garry McCarthy (is he still here?) called for the firing of Dante Servin, the cop who pumped 5 bullets into the skull of unarmed Rekia Boyd. Servin was never convicted on murder charges. So, in the face of growing protests and the video release, McCarthy ordered him fired for "poor judgement".

Claypool's response to the CTU rally was, duck/dodge/divert. He claims the CTU should be joining hands with him in Springfield to push Gov. Rauner and the legislature to bail out the debt-ridden and broke-on-purpose Chicago. He tells the Tribune:
"It's a sad day when the Chicago Teachers Union is not fighting with us in Springfield for equal funding for the most vulnerable and impoverished children in the state of Illinois," Claypool said.
Is that some kind of joke? It's been Claypool who has stalled contract talks with the union as a signal to Rauner that he and Rahm are willing to beat down the CTU in exchange for a bailout. He could have easily come to an agreement with the union, headed off another strike and set the conditions for a united effort in Springfield. Instead, he's ended serious talks and is threatening to fire thousands of teachers and staff (especially in special ed), blow-up class size, cut after-school programs and sports, and open more privately-run charters.

Helping the "most vulnerable and impoverished" -- right.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, will speak at today's pre-strike rally in Grant Park amid stalled contract talks with the school district. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

CEO Forrest Claypool to the City Club of Chicago 
"We are at a breaking point." -- Tribune
MTA Pres. Barbara Madeloni 
“It [Common Core testing] is destructive to our students and our teachers and the very possibility of joyful and meaningful public education...We’ve really flipped the narrative in a year.” -- NY Times
Thomas Gattuso, principal of Sullivan House
We are looking for justice. If Laquan had shot the policeman 16 times, he wouldn’t have been at a desk job 13 months later.” -- Sun-Times
Rev. Jesse Jackson
" My greatest fear is not the protest, but if there is no protest.” -- NY Times
Donald Trump
"Maybe the guy should have been roughed up a little." -- Raw Story
Letter to Mark Zuckerberg from former classmate, teacher Emily Talmage
Let me assure you that “personalized learning,” as it is being pushed by the Gates Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Digital Learning Now Council, as well as countless educational technology companies, start-ups, and venture capitalists who have invested millions into personalized learning experiments (they call them “innovations”), is a far, far cry from the type of education we got at Exeter. -- Washington Post

Friday, November 20, 2015

Harish Patel, running against Mell's guy in the 40th, deserves support

Democrat Harish Patel working Chicago's Northwest Side neighborhoods seeking signatures on his petitions to challenge ward-boss Dick Mell's machine guy Jaime Andrade in the 40th.   (Illinois Observer pic)
I like Harish Patel and hope the young social-justice activist and community organizer can upset Mell-machine guy Jaime Andrade in the 40th Dist in the same way that upstart Will Guzzardi beat the Berrios machine in the neighboring 39th in 2014.

David Ormsby, editor of the Illinois Observer writes:
Community organizer, entrepreneur, and Guzzardi ally Harish Patel is seeking to duplicate Guzzardi's success in the neighboring legislative district hoping to oust freshman State Rep. Jamie Andrade. Patel is modeling his campaign on Guzzardi's as much as possible. He hits multiple progressive talking points on the campaign trail: education reform, an elected school board, skepticism towards charter schools, boosting state-wide minimum wage, and embracing immigrant rights.
I'm hoping Harish, who opposes pension theft, gets the support he deserves from natural allies (I would think) the CTU and SEIU. If he does, look for a  Guzzardi-type upset.

If he and other progressives like Jay Travis (running in the 26th) don't get that support, we're in for more years of politics-as-usual in Springfield.

Rising student homelessness not an 'excuse' but a brutal fact of life at CPS

Last night I was watching CBS News Chicago. I was surprised when I saw their report on the city's homeless children, putting the number at 11,447. It sounded low to me. I assume it's from the latest report by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. But that number includes only young people aged 14-21. ABC 7 reports that there are more that 20,000 homeless students in Chicago Public Schools.

To put that in perspective, that's about one in every 20 CPS students, the great majority being African-American or Latino.

CPS's Nancy B. Jefferson school and the Juvenile Detention Center, is packed with homeless kids, many of whom have committed no crime other than being homeless.

The number of homeless families in Chicago has tripled over the last dozen years, says CCH.

Corporate school reformers love to talk about their so-called, "no excuses" schools. But homelessness is not an excuse, but a fact.

There's only a  small body of academic research and literature that focuses on the academic achievement of homeless children. But everything I've read points to the conclusion that poverty and homelessness have a much greater impact on measurable student learning outcomes than any classroom variables.

It generally indicates that homeless children score poorly on standardized reading and mathematics tests and are often required to repeat a grade.

For one thing, homeless families with children move a lot, often from shelter to shelter. That often means lots of different schools, teachers, and high absentee rates. Many CPS schools, especially charters and selective-enrollment schools tend to push homeless kids out, or not accept them at all.
Fifty-six percent of the 118 homeless Chicago families with school-aged children that were surveyed said they moved between two or three times over a three-year period, and 20 percent reported living at four to six different residences during that time period.
Meanwhile, 57 percent of parents said their child lacked an adequate study area when they were homeless, and 66 percent reported changes in their child's behavior at school since losing permanent housing. Of the families surveyed, nearly 33 percent of the children missed six days of school last year and 17 percent missed more than 10 days.
This doesn't even touch the psychological effects of homelessness on children or their susceptibility to sexual abuse and violence.

Homelessness by the numbers from CCH report:
52.3 percent: The number of renters in Chicago who are “extremely low income,” making less than $22,000 per year.
$17,160: The annual salary for someone working a full-time minimum wage job in Chicago.
44 percent: The percentage of a full-time minimum wage worker's paycheck that goes toward housing at the median fair market price in Illinois.
629,454: The number of people living in poverty in Chicago with 298,403 of those living in “extreme poverty.”
Wednesday's press conference
At Wednesday's CCH presser, Latoya Ellis, a single parent of three whose family became homeless in August due to a lack of affordable housing, spoke to the educational challenges her children, ages 8, 14 and 16, face as a result of their housing status.
"Children need structure and routine, and due to homelessness, I as a parent cannot provide that, because I have no control over certain things like what time the lights go off. My children are often left trying to do their homework by the light of the cellphone, or on the bus on the way to school the next morning or sometimes even in class the next day," she said. "There are constant distractions that keep them from sleeping and getting a good night's rest so, as a result, they sleep during class time."
With Gov. Rauner's devastating cuts in support services for homeless families and children, those numbers will certainly go up. Consider it the next time you hear the words, "no excuses" or Mayor Emanuel's call for "better parenting" or for evaluating schools and teachers primarily on the basis of student standardized test scores.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Former CPS liar-in-chief leaves Rahm's Super PAC to start her own biz.

Substance photo
"She will be a real asset to those that work with her," says Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management. -- Crain's
Becky Carroll served as J.C. Brizard's and Byrd-Bennett's liar-in-chief at CPS before moving over to run Rahm's campaign Super PAC. Now, after a year and a half at Chicago Forward, Carroll is setting out on her own. Her new money-making venture is called Chicago Backward (just kidding) C-Strategies LLC and I assume her specialty will be union-busting, school privatization, and attacking progressive political candidates, as always.

Carroll's time at CPS was mostly spent trying to cover up Brizard's ineptness (admittedly an impossible job) and then keep a lid on the BBB/SUPES affair and the UNO corruption scandals. Then there was her CPS budget deception and her selling of the school closings (she named it, "right-sizing"). 

Oh, I almost forgot her efforts to spread dis-information about the Chicago teachers strike in 2012. Quite a track record.

After her relationship with local reporters crashed and burned last year, the mayor pulled her out of CPS' massive Communications Dept. and moved her over to run Chicago Forward where she headed the PAC's $5M effort to elect Rahm's favored puppy-dog aldermen. $2M of that was used to target two progressives, Scott Waguespack in the 32nd and Carlos Rosa in the 35th. Both won handily over machine candidates.

For more on Chicago Forward's failed run at the progressives, see Paul Blumenthal's piece at Huffington, "Chicago Progressives Emboldened After Rahm Emanuel's Super PAC Fails To Beat Them."

Despite this trail of losses, I'm sure Carroll, with investors like Michael Sacks behind her, will make a pile of money in her new venture. Carroll says she's already signed up 10 or so clients, including the Illinois Restaurant Association, who's leading the charge against increasing the minimum wage, and  union-busting education group, Stand for Children.

I can't say I wish her well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Warning: Be careful who you embed with

əmˈbed/ verb 1fix (an object) firmly and deeply in a surrounding mass.

No, my warning isn't directed at Charlie Sheen's "goddesses". Probably too late for them. It's also too late for GOP current poll leader Ben Carson whose ignorance on foreign policy just got exposed (as if we hadn't noticed) by his "close adviser" and professional embedded "journalist", Armstrong Williams.

So just consider this a warning to everyone who feels they may need it -- AFT, NEA leaders?

Armstrong Williams
For those too young (or too old) to remember, William's approach to journalism was to embed himself with the Bush administration and in particular with Bush's ed secretary, Rod Paige. In January 2005, USA Today reported that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Williams had been paid $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind. USA Today found that Williams was hired "to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same".

Now Armstrong has betrayed Carson. I guess Dr. C must not have left enough money on the nightstand.

Not to say that politics doesn't make strange bedfellows, or shouldn't. Just a reminder to use protection.

Case Studies... Billionaire Rauner is now the most hated governor in IL history. His budget terrorism and banning of Syrian refugees have been met with hostility and resistance across the state. But who will step up in this fight to save public education and salvage what's left of social support networks in the state? And what kind of deal will Sen. Cullerton and House Speaker Madigan try and cut?

I know CTU is watching to make sure we don't get sold out again on Cullerton's "compromise" SB318 like we did on the unconstitutional pension-theft bill.

Brother Fred says that the Supremes' latest oral arguments indicate that their next ruling will help insure us against another pension grab.
When the Court rules again in favor of our pension rights, as it is expected to do, it will now include what it did not have the opportunity to rule in SB1. They will not only protect us from the elected pension thieves in Springfield and City Hall. They will protect us from sell-out union leaders as well.
Ald. "Slow Eddie" Burke is still quick enough to know which way the wind is blowing on this one. He knows Rauner will take a beating on the refugee question, especially here in Chicago. For one thing, the governor doesn't have the authority to stop refugees from settling in Illinois. But he can push the legislature to cut funding for refugee aid.

So Burke is introducing a city council resolution reaffirming "Chicago’s historic role as a place of sanctuary and refuge". Co-sponsors are Marty Quinn (13th) and Progressive Caucus member, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). Should pass easily.

Ald. Waguespack
From Natasha Korecki at Politico -- 9:30 a.m. Progressive Caucus presser at City Hall. From a release:
"Members of the Progressive Reform Caucus will join Access Living Chicago in support of a resolution calling for hearings regarding the impact of financial cuts to special education programs in Chicago Public Schools. To date, Chicago Public Schools has cut approximately $32 million dollars in special education programs, and the budget cut announcements are not over."
-- Expect Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) to introduce a resolution calling for public hearings on special education funding cuts. "This resolution asking for hearings by the Education Committee will provide CPS an opportunity to clear the air and tell the public exactly what the state of funding and support for special needs students is at this point in time and throughout the year," Waguespack said in a statement. "The system supporting special needs students needs to be fully funded and CPS has an obligation to fulfill that duty today."
In case you missed the interview with Kim Foxx, candidate for Cook County State's Attorney on Chicago Tonight. Watch it here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Letter to faculty & staff from DePaul Pres. Holtschneider

Dear Colleagues,
The State of Illinois took the unprecedented step yesterday of temporarily halting Syrian immigration to Illinois.  Whatever you may think of the larger issue, I am writing to thank you in advance for your particular care and concern for our Syrian students, as well as any of our students from the Middle East region.  It is possible they may be subjected to popular misunderstanding and/or feel less safe than they ordinarily might as they travel to and from campus. 
As our faculty and professional staff, you are often the first to notice if our students are experiencing any distress.  Please know that you can always refer them to either the Office for International Students and Scholars (312-362-8376), the International Programs Office (312-362-8250), or the Dean of Students Office (312-362-8066) for assistance.
Thank you for your good hearts in this complex world environment. 
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.

New Study: Hungry kids score lower on tests. Shocking news?

Black Panther Party's free Breakfast Program, circa 1969.

Here's a shocker for you. Latest research coming out of Cardiff University confirms that kids who come to school hungry score lower on standardized tests than kids who are fed well. The latter group of the study's 11-year-olds scored twice as high as the hungry students.

More evidence that basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is bogus. What the tests are mostly measuring is student/family poverty -- not so-called "student achievement". Of course, by now nearly everyone in the field realizes this. Thus the growing movement of resistance to testing madness that have forced some small retreats in federal and state testing policies. Or maybe just lip service to change?

At any rate, Pres. Obama's call for "fewer and better tests" is welcomed by parents and educators. But it misses the point. That point being -- how high-stakes standardized testing is used to track and sort kids and to evaluate teachers.

Latest mini-retreat comes from one of the nation's greatest offenders -- N.Y. Gov. Cuomo himself.

According to NCPR:
New York State’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place by November 15, has been put on hold because 90 percent of school districts were granted waivers to delay its implementation. This represents the reversal of a policy championed by Governor Cuomo last spring.
Side Note -- In Wales, where the study took place, there is a free breakfast initiative in place for primary schools.

After watching Stanley Nelson's latest film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, I'm reminded that the Panthers most popular community initiative was it's free Breakfast For Children program. And that was back in '69.

Arne Duncan and the D.O.E. would do well to take a chunk of the millions it spends on testing and use it to recreate the Panthers' program. It would almost immediately lead to higher measurable student learning outcomes than have all the Department's current test-and-punish strategies.

As a parent and educator, I am repulsed by the idea that our society needs the testing rationale to make the case for feeding hungry children. But, whatever works, I suppose.

Without a focus on ending child hunger and poverty, current testing initiatives will continue to reproduce the system's inequities.