Monday, July 6, 2015


In Chicago, 62 Shootings Over Fourth of July. Mostly all of the victims were young, in their late teens or 20s including 7-year old Amari Brown. #Chiraq

NEA Resolution
The NEA RA directs the NEA to support in ways it finds appropriate and effective, efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public spaces. -- Fred Klonsky blog
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Americans deify democracy in a way that allows for a dim awareness that they have, from time to time, stood in defiance of their God. -- Letter to my Son
Fran Spielman
Instead of building, what he hopes will someday be a “firewall” between the city and CPS, Emanuel alone is wearing the jacket for $200 million in school budget cuts that are only the beginning. -- Sun-Times
Emanuel spokesman, Adam Collins tells big lie
"There is no connection between the awarding of CPS bond work and contributions to the mayor’s political fund." -- AP Wire
Meg Anderson at Catalyst
The link between lower socioeconomic status and a weaker school climate was particularly evident within CPS, where 86 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. The Consortium reported that the more economically disadvantaged a school, the more likely it is to be weak in three or more of the survey’s school climate factors. -- Consortium Report on School Climate

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Buyer's remorse on Rahm's financial recovery plan

Fran Spielman on Rahm/Rauner in Thursday's Sun-Times:
Emanuel and Rauner are friends, education reform allies and former business associates who made millions together. Their families have vacationed together and shared expensive bottles of wine. Given that history and Emanuel’s difficult relationship with former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, the mayor had good reason to believe that better days were ahead for needy Chicago when Rauner used his personal fortune to defeat Quinn. Instead, the mayor’s petty fights with Quinn while Chicago came out pretty much ahead are beginning to look like the good ol’ days.
Remember how voters were sold Rahm's 'smart' financial recovery plan for Chicago? Well, it hasn't taken long for buyer's remorse to set in.

More Spielman:
Instead of building, what he hopes will someday be a “firewall” between the city and CPS, Emanuel alone is wearing the jacket for $200 million in school budget cuts that are only the beginning.
She seems to buy the line that despite the loss of 1,400 teachers and staff, "schools will open on time and class size will not increase.". The first part is questionable. Can teachers really be expected to work with no contract? The second -- ridiculous! Class size is already exploding and special ed is next on the cutting block.
And if the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund doesn’t agree to make a five-month, $500 million loan from next year’s pension payment, even more devastating cuts will be needed that could raise classes to 35 students, force more than 3,000 teacher layoffs and trigger system-wide furlough days.
She's right there. That's why the CTU has no other choice than to support the mayor's dubious don't-try-this-at home borrowing scheme.

I believe that most Chicagoans, including Rahm's big-money backers, would return the mayor, along with his financial plan, for a full refund if they could.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Rahm Hustle. Don't try this at home. Not with feds in town.

SHARKEY NAILS IT -- CTU's Jesse Sharkey responds to Rahm Emanuel's school cuts. He explains clearly how Chicago got into its financial mess, with the current mayor leading the way, and offers a way out through revenue reform. Here's a copy of CTU's Budget Brief.

I wonder if Greece or Puerto Rico could try this? Just borrow the money from your debtor to pay off your debt. Or maybe that is what they've been doing.

Rahm Emanuel, who learned his creative financing tricks, like  "scoop and toss" bond financing while working for Bruce Rauner at GTCR, plans to borrow $500M from the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, one day after paying the Fund $634M in overdue required city contributions.

The real cost of this trickery is felt right in the classroom with 1,400 teachers and staff being hit with lay-off notices yesterday.

The Sun-Times reports:
Although pension fund trustees expressed their “general overall support,” it wasn’t without a heavy degree of hand-wringing.
One trustee questioned the idea of “hoping Springfield can come through for us” in the toxic atmosphere of a state budget stalemate between Democratic legislative leaders and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner over Rauner’s demand for pro-business, anti-union reforms.
Another trustee warned that the teachers pension fund is “not a bank” and even if it were, “You’re [going to] a bank that, in the past, you haven’t been making your payments to for your mortgage to ask for a loan. I don’t think that would pass any underwriter’s approval.”
Rahm's plan is so crazy, it just might work. Like paying off your credit card bills using those checks the other credit card company sent you in the mail. I actually tried this back in my college days. It worked for about two months.

But please, don't try this at home. Especially with all those federal investigators, grand jury hearings, and the SEC in town.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bringing the City and State to Its Knees

Harvard Square
Posting from Cambridge, MA this morning and feeling a little guilty for ducking out on my city in its time of crisis. Between them, Gov. Rauner and Mayor Emanuel have actually succeeded in bringing the state and city to its knees today.

Mayor 1% finally made his long overdue payment to the teachers pension fund,  but not without extracting his pound of flesh -- 1,400 teachers being laid off and another $1B in borrowing, another windfall for his bankster patrons and another attack on the teachers union and teachers' collective bargaining rights.

Aside from the hardship the layoffs will bring to the teachers and their children and families, think about what the loss of so many union jobs means to the community and the continuing destruction of the city's middle class. Think also about spiraling class sizes and program cuts in city schools and what that will mean, especially for the neediest of students who need personalization more than ever. It also makes another teachers strike that much more likely.

By my figuring, 1,400 teacher jobs lost means minimally, about $84 million in yearly taxable income that won't be spent in neighborhood groceries, auto dealers, hair salons and shoe stores. That translates to hundreds more lay-offs from local businesses, millions more in lost revenue for the city and state and the further pauperization of the community's working class and small businesses owners.

This is the heart of the brilliant austerity plan that Rahm touted during the last election and that the mostly acquiescent press accepted as superior to Chuy Garcia's call for transparencywith hardly a peep.

Likewise for our sociopathic billionaire governor who will shut down the state government, with an even greater civic toll, rather than taxing his corporate and LaSalle St. cronies even one penny more on their speculative windfall profits.

Fr. Pfleger
I'll leave the rest to Father Michael Pfleger -- one of the few remaining public voices of sanity in this city of ours.
Today at Midnight The State Government will shut down, because a Multimillionaire Governor can't have his way and shut down Unions and programs that are literally life support to thousands of Illinois residents.....the problem is when you have 9 homes and you have millions of dollars in your bank account you will not be affected by a shut down.....but the millions of residents who are dependent on government to work for them and are living day to day. Will be.....Call the Governor 217-782-0244 or 312-814-2121 remind him he works for us and it's our money.....STOP THE CUTS

Monday, June 29, 2015


Bree Newsome
“For as long as I can remember, I just became aware that simply being myself was an act of defiance,” she said during a panel at Atlanta’s Spelman College in 2014. “The space that exists for many of us, as a young black girl, is so extremely limited so that you really can’t go very far without being an activist, without being in defiance of something.” -- Washington Post
Justice Anthony Kennedy
 “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.” -- Writing for the Court majority
Arne Duncan to National PTA
Every year, the U.S. spends $7 billion to $9 billion on textbooks that are “basically obsolete” by the first day of school. “We in education move too slowly to change...I know we’re not serving all children well today, and that’s heartbreaking to me.” -- Charlotte Observer
Howard Fuller on Post-Katina New Orleans
Fuller co-founded the Black Alliance for Educational Options and supports the reforms. Still, he said the firing of more than 7,000 public school employees, mostly African Americans, remained an open wound. He said black New Orleanians generally feel the reforms "have been to us, not with us," a disempowerment that threatens the schools' long-term success. -- Times Picayune
Michael Stone, co-CEO of New Schools for New Orleans
"We're trumpeting these gains that are getting us to the state average in a state that's 49th. ..If Louisiana were its own country it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and New Orleans has the highest incarceration rate in Louisiana."  -- Times Picayune
Donald Trump
"I love Mexicans." --  Guardian

Friday, June 26, 2015

Negotiations break down. But it's not over pay. Evaluations, testing & taxing.

CTU's negotiating team hanging tough.  

Four days ago, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis was saying, "We’re very close" to an agreement on a one-year contract. Yesterday, with the teachers’ contract expiring next Tuesday, Lewis announced that contract talks have broken off and the Chicago Public Schools’ “bargaining rhetoric is as empty as their bank accounts.”

Most interesting to me was that the deal stoppers, at least in the eyes of Rahm and his rudderless school board, were non-economic issues that wouldn't cost the board a penny. Remember, two education anti-union "reform" bills, one passed in 1995 and 2012 (SB7), supposedly limited the range of issues, with a few exceptions, that can be discussed during collective bargaining to economic ones. But that hasn't stopped the CTU from playing its role as a national model of the new unionism.

Even with major pay-raise concessions being offered by the union, Rahm and the board refuse to budge and inch on, 1) CPS's current discredited teacher evaluation system based mainly on students' standardized test scores as well as on the district's current over-testing regimen, and 2) CTU proposed revenue initiatives based on a more progressive taxing structure that would make the wealthiest pay their fair share.

Also standing in the way of an agreement by Tuesday is the simple fact that the board's leadership is in disarray. There's still no replacement for scandalized schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, which means for the second straight contract negotiations, the board side is basically leaderless. Plus the board's team includes Tracy Martin, who’s named in a federal subpoena into the $20 million SUPES contract scandal.

Only this time, there's no Byrd-Bennett waiting in the wings to come in a clean up the mess at CPS as there was in 2012 when Rahm gave J.C. Brizard the hook.

Not to mention Gov. Rauner's veto of the state budget and threatened shut down of state government entirely, which could change the game entirely.

I hope Lewis, Sharkey and team have some great strategies and tactics up their sleeves. They will need them.

Taking the fight right to Urban Prep's board. 'Bring the fired teachers back!'

It's been tough sledding for union organizers trying to help Chicago charter school teachers win collective bargaining rights. Even though charter schools were originally created by union teachers, state laws were soon passed barring charter teachers from joining their public school colleagues in the same union or local bargaining unit. This forced the union to start organizing efforts as the Alliance of Chicago Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS). Over the last five years, ACTS has led several successful organizing drives.

Privately-run, publicly-funded charters and their corporate-dominated boards and lobbyists have spent millions of their education dollars relentlessly fighting unionization. One of their most common legal arguments is that since their teachers are paid by private operating companies, charter teachers are not really public employees and therefore cannot unionize simply by a majority sign-up or card-check. Nationally, there are more than 4,000 charters, each with their own private board or network organization. This creates a daunting task for the unions, having to win agreements with each board school-by-school.

Charter operators have also used tactics of threats, harassment, intimidation and firings of even their best teachers to undermine organizing efforts. I'll go out on a limb here and say that privately-run charters have now become the center of union-busting efforts.

The irony hits you when you see dozens of charters named after people like the great union leaders, Cesar Chavez or Dr. King, who gave his very life while defending the union rights of public employees in Memphis.

Here in Chicago, eyes are on the successful organizing drive at highly-touted Urban Prep Academies where a majority of teachers recently voted to unionize and be represented by ACTS. But so far, Urban Prep's board has refused to recognize the union or negotiate a contract. Worse, they just illegally fired 16 teachers and staff, including several who have be actively supporting the union drive.

Yesterday I joined a rally outside the UP board meeting with more than 100 teachers, parents and students chanting, "Bring them back!" and "Union busting is disgusting!" Then we marched into the meeting where we made our voices heard in support of those who were fired. Board members, including Urban Prep founder Tim King sat stony faced and unresponsive while speaker after speaker came up to the microphone and voiced support for the fired teachers.

I think part of the reason King and the board are so union resistant is that contract negotiations require a higher degree of transparency and the school has been anything but transparent in response to questions about its overblown success claims or finances.

Samuel Adams, an eight-year veteran, one of the fired UP teachers, spoke at the rally as well as inside the meeting directly to the board. Adams said teachers at Urban Prep have an interest in communicating with the board and felt the union would help them get their voice heard. It would promote change, he told the board.
“It seems that when we brought these changes to you, that those teachers who brought those changes were let go,” said Adams.
Brian Harris, president of the charter union, said:
“The campaign is over. The teachers chose a union. You had ample time to make your call,” Harris told the board. “How is firing all these teachers negotiating in good faith? The Urban Prep creed says we choose to live honestly. Live honestly. Reinstate the teachers.”
Shoneice Reynolds, whose son will be a senior, said two of the fired teachers helped her son transition from elementary school to Urban Prep, providing constant emotional and academic support.

Several students also gave testimony about how their now-fired teachers had helped them turn their lives around and get them plugged into school.

Knowing how Tim King has responded in the past, I doubt that he and the board will willingly agree to a contract or bring back the fired teachers. It will most likely take legal action by the union and more protests.

*Be sure a read Jennifer Berkshire's (Edushyster) account of what happened when teachers confronted a union-busting charter CEO at the recent National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Join me today in supporting illegally-fired, pro-union charter teachers and staff

Urban Prep students support their teachers at a rally earlier this year.   (Arielle Zionts)

I hate bullies...
So today I'm heading over to the board meeting this afternoon to stand up for those 16 Urban Prep Charter teachers and staff who were illegally fired for supporting union activities. Two of those fired—Mathias Muschal and Natasha Robinson—are leaders of the organizing committee and exemplary teachers who had dedicated 6 and 7 years to students at Urban Prep.

On June 3rd, the teachers at Urban Prep voted over 60% “yes” to be represented by AFT Local 4343—Chicago ACTS, despite a very determined anti-union campaign. The firings are little more than the revenge of defeated bullies.

The union is fighting back by filing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. While we know we have a strong case, the legal process can be long and drawn-out, especially when fighting an employer so determined not to have to answer to its teachers.

Marty Ritter from the CTU tells me that a strong showing by education activists like you and me will go a long way toward not only getting these teachers their jobs back, but getting UP management to the negotiations table.

I hope to see you all this afternoon at 3:30 PM.  We will meet outside the meeting site at Urban Prep Englewood Campus, 6201 S. Stewart Ave.