Archive | March, 2013

The Chicago Police vs. The Sun-Times

30 Mar


I’m not a big fan of the Chicago Sun-Times or their education coverage.   They have some good reporters and I think Lauren Fitzpatrick gets things right more often than not, but make no mistake, the editorial board gives the corporate spin at all times.  They’ve had a few editorials agreeing completely with the teachers on the school closing fiasco and then concluding that it will happen anyway so the teachers should just be complacent.

However, I found it really interesting that after they described attendance at the rally against school closing as being in the thousands, the Chicago Police Department kept calling them to lower that number.  Mike Klonsky has a good description of the situation, but I heard it first hand from a Sun-Times employee last night.

I can’t tell you how disgusting it is to see the Chicago Police Department calling to try and lobby a newspaper to print a lie about something that really doesn’t even concern them that much.  Has Mayor Emanuel really co-opted the CPD to be part of his propaganda department?  It might explain why the crime statistics in Chicago are so absolutely horrible. 

Shifting the Mark: Why School Closings Are Wrong

“The Chicago Teachers Union will continue to challenge the status quo of keeping poor children poor and the purposeful and willful under-resourcing of schools. There is zero evidence that CPS has the capacity or the integrity to implement such massive changes, so stop throwing our children and neighborhoods into chaos and calling it reform.”

A Part of Us id Dying in Chicago

“By the same token, can anyone dispute that we have reason to worry about the state of our civic discourse when Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, allows the announcement of something as contentious as 54 school closings while he is on a ski trip in Utah? And can anyone blame local community leaders who wonder what to think of the Mayor’s plan to hold additional hearings on the issue? “If nobody is going to be heard at the hearings, what’s the use of having the hearings?” said Marshall Hatch, a local pastor. “If it’s a done deal, then stop wasting everybody’s time.”

State Investigating $98 Million Grant for UNO

“A conflict of interest exists if a grantee’s officers, directors, agents, employees and family members use their position for a purpose that is, or gives the appearance of, being motivated by a desire for a private gain, financial or nonfinancial, for themselves or others, particularly those with whom they have family, business or other ties.”

Shocking Rahm’s Shock Doctrine

“You see why Chicago teachers are angry. And why they’re not going away. And why they promise more civil disobedience. “So lemme tell you what you’re gonna do,” shouted Karen Lewis at the rally. “On the first day of school, you show up at your real school! You show up at your real school! Don’t let these people take your schools.” They just might. They’ve beat Rahm before. They could beat him again.”

Thousands Promise Protests Against School Closings Will Escalate

““Today our jobs are at risks, our jobs are more important, our children and our schools are important. GEM- Grass Roots Education Movement had a parent from May Elementary School speak. “I don’t care about what lies are coming out of our Mayor’s mouth. This fight is bigger than Chicago Public Schools. Public Schools should be Public Schools. All over the country they have been closing schools. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, You came with a hand shake , we’re going to send you out with a boot.”


So How Many Protesters Were at the Rally?

29 Mar

A lot of the media has been reporting that yesterday’s rally downtown had 700-900 protesters at the rally downtown yesterday.   I can’t blame them for spinning things too much as this was the number that the Chicago Police Department released.   The Chicago Teachers Union has claimed 4,000 – 5,000.  I can’t be exactly sure, but police offers who were actually at the rally as well as journalists who were there said 900 was way too low.  I would say the consensus was somewhere in the 3,000 range.  However, a lot of people went to the rally after wok and it continued to grow as it went along.   The CTU number may be a bit high, but I think it’s a lot closer than the CPD number.  The number is important because it shows just how bothered this city is by the closings and how willing its residents are to fight, but it’s definitely not the whole story.

Protest Draws Thousands

“More than 3,000 teachers, parents, students and other citizens rallies and marched against school closings in Chicago on March 27, 2013, and 129 were arrested during civil disobedience to protest the largest number of public school closings in U.S. history, according to a number of Substance reporters and other sources who were present at the events.”

An Embarrassment of Riches

“CPS is promising more resources for what they’re calling the “welcoming” schools—iPads and social workers and paint and books. Isn’t that lovely, you guys? And every student will ride a unicorn to school, over rainbows that help them skirt the rival gang territory.”

Watching Our Chicago Schools Close is Like “Being Stuck in a Bad Dream”

“Most frighteningly, studies of prior school closures in Chicago have found increased levels of violence in the neighborhoods surrounding receiving schools. These research findings would not come as a surprise to the students at the schools slated for closure. Dozens of their older brothers and sisters spent the first day of their spring break protesting, hand-delivering a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office that warned of the dangers their siblings will soon be facing.”

What to do with Chicago’s Abandoned Schools?

“Chicago has the chance here to become to incarceration what Silicon Valley is to micro chips.  Best of all, the private prison industry is growing almost as fast as the charter school movement hence our politicians will still have a steady source of campaign dollars. “

Chicago is Ground Zero for Disastrous “Free Market” Reform of Education

“The district insists that the current spate of closures is necessitated by declining enrollment, but plans to open new charters are continuing full-steam ahead. Charter operators like the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), for example, a close ally of Emanuel that runs 13 schools in the city and recently caught flak for giving millions in publicly funded contracts to executives’ close friends and family like a kind of 21st century patronage organization, was awarded a $98m grant from the state of Illinois in 2009 and recently applied for $35m. The network has big plans to open new schools in the near future, amassing huge amounts of debt (serviced with public money) to fund its expansion.”


Was Today’s Protest Futile?

28 Mar

ImageI heard today from a friend who knows about my blog, that another blog on Chicago’s education scene had referred to the CTU protesting as business as usual — basically, a lot of sound and fury ultimately signifying nothing. 

I can understand where that type of sentiment comes from.  The CTU already said they didn’t believe that one protest march was suddenly going to get Rahm Emanuel to give up his neo-liberal agenda and start looking out for this city’s least fortunate. However, this protest was not a waste of time. When injustice is being done, you can stand silently or you can try and get your voice heard.  You hope that you can create a movement and that you stop this mayor from doing this again and you make mayors in other cities ask themselves if they want this fight with the teachers, parents, and students in their city.

Maybe the 180 hearings that CPS is going to have about these actions area a waste of time.  The Board is a rubber stamp, but just maybe we can put the pressure on to make them back down.  I don’t know.  I know if Cesar Chavez had been realistic and pragmatic, he’d still be alive today and there would have been no National Farm Workers Association.  I leave you with the words that thankfully, Martin Luther King never said:

“I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.  Unfortunately, we all know George Wallace is a racist bastard and it’s not going to happen so I’m going to stop these protests and go home to bed.  Good night everybody.  Drive Safe”


I’ll be back to our regular format tomorrow with plenty of coverage of today’s rally.  I know that the Chicago Police said 700-900 at the rally, but most reporters there called it several thousands.  I can’t judge crowd size for the life of me.

We Can Change The World

27 Mar

In a land that’s known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair
Won’t you please come to Chicago
For the help that we can bring

I’m not an old hippie.  In fact, I never thought I’d march in the streets before advocating for my students required me to step outside the classroom and use my voice to call on those in power to do what’s right.   If you are a teacher and you remember the power of that rally in May when we all took to the streets and told Rahm we wouldn’t be pushed around anymore, you remember how powerful we all felt.  Tomorrow, we need to do the same thing for 30,000 students and 60 schools worth of educators and support personnel who are facing grave injustice.

Whether you are a teacher or not, please come down to Daley Plaza tomorrow, Wednesday March 27th at 4PM.  I know for many of us it’s our break, but as you’ll see in tonight’s first story, the powers that be are scared you will make the trip.
Somehow people must be free
I hope the day comes soon
Won’t you please come to Chicago
Show your face

From the bottum of the ocean
To the mountains on the moon
Won’t you please come to Chicago
No one else can take your place


This is part of the memo informing principals to spy on teachers and take note of media.   The principals were not happy, which is part of the reason that this memo was leaked in the first place.  Here’s is Diane Ravitch and CTU’s take:

Chicago Principals Told to Spy on Protesters Tomorrow

“The CTU obtained the memorandum from a source who has requested anonymity for fear of repercussions. “They’ve asked us to do a lot of things that I’m not happy with, but some of this is going too far,” the person said.”

Where Were You Ten Years Ago?

“How about some of these other advocates who are begging for CPS to please just come out and look at their school before they determine it is “under utilized?” Where were they one to two decades ago? Unlike me, I imagine many of the parents saying these closings are causing chaos in the lives of their children were children themselves 10 to 20 years ago.”

Chicago Public School Closings to Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion

“Based on estimates from the CPS budget and the CIP, it will cost the district approximately $750 million—$15 million per school—to provide 50 schools with computer education, counseling and social work, additional safety and security, and renovations. This figure includes $129 million in CIP costs for pre-kindergarten, students living with disabilities, libraries, play lots, air conditioning and computer labs.”

And finally, your passover related picture:


The Story of One Chicago School

26 Mar


The following comes to me from Luc Miknaitis who was a CPS teacher before he moved with his wife to New Zealand.  He was a teacher at Bethune Elementary School, which recently became one of 60 casualties of Rahm Emanuel’s crusade against the children of this city.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but I can certainly understand his frustration.  I think it speaks for itself:

I hate you, Chicago! I just found out that the school that I worked hard at for almost four years with talented, dedicated professionals is closing. That building has so much sweat and work put into it. Layers of new paint, air conditioners just installed (with electrical work redone), computer labs, and countless other efforts have physically transformed that building. All of which is just a shadow of the environmental and (dare I say?) spiritual change that we wrestled into it. 

For those that don’t know, Bethune was the school Arthur Agee (of Hoop Dreams documentary fame) attended. It was ranked the worst school in the state of Illinois four years ago and probably before that. The special education department was under two layers of state sanctions for failing to meet any sort of organizational or professional standards. So the school was turned around (ie new staff hired). 

That first year was spent teaching students that school was about learning and that adults cared and demand respect. It was a lesson that we had to teach and reteach time and again due to one of the highest mobility rates in the city. I, with one other staff, chased a 12 year old down and took a gun off of him after school, that first year. 

This neighborhood is rampant with drugs, violence and the pervasive sense of hopelessness. We gave that community something to fight that. We had battered mothers seeking refuge at that school. We had students staying around at all hours because it was safe and there were adults that cared about them. We taught the students that it wasn’t their fault that they were behind and that we were in the process of doing something about it. 

Now Rahm is throwing that all away. He is jamming our students into another school with others. I’m sure parent rooms, special ed/case manager’s offices, social workers’ offices (ie closets) will all be done away with. I’m sure that teachers will become disillusioned quicker and leave their career sooner. I’m sure that kids will lose even more trust in the system that has already failed them for generations. 

Chicago, you need to get rid of Rahm. He is a terrible human being whose ideas for progress are not only misguided in intent, but also tactically. How can he be saving money by closing a freshly redone school? 

I’m glad that I’m gone so I don’t have to deal with this. I’m actually sick to my stomach.

–Luc Miknaitis
“We had an amazing interview with Karen Lewis last night. Powerful. If you didn’t have a chance to listen here is the link.

Karen Lewis stops by to talk to Shaun and Tim. Why? Because we’re good looking of course.”

““This has been very difficult… There is a lot of anguish and I understand that and I appreciate it,” said Emanuel, who appeared to have windburn from his Utah skiing trip.”
“Chicago announced plans to close 54 schools; the most drastic number of closings at one time in the US. Does shutting down schools address the root of the problem?”
“Declaring themselves the Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, they marched from Chicago Public Schools headquarters to City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel demanding a moratorium on school closings and a publicly elected Board of Education.”

An Avalanche of Information

25 Mar


I have never really had the time to do a regular blog.  I knew that I couldn’t afford to spend an hour or two everyday writing about the ups and downs of life in CPS, so I decided to do the easy thing and aggregate other people’s writing.  Somehow, I’ve managed to break two big national stories, but original reporting won’t be the focus of this blog.   There are a ton of great posts and information online about the school closings.  I know that I’m missing a lot.  If you see something online that adds to the conversation, please post it in the comments section.

Maps of Note: CPS’ School Closures on Chicago’s Homicide Heat Map

“Opponents to CPS’ school closure plan have framed their argument as a public safety issue as much as one of quality education. The group Radicals Against Discrimination took the list of closures and overlaid their locations on Chicago’s Homicide Heat Map. The result is shocking, yet unsurprising. (Click the image to enlarge.)”

Study: School Closings Won’t Help CPS Students

“A study by Chicago area university professors has found, if history is any guide, the Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close 53 schools will fail when all is said and done.”

School Closings: The New Apartheid

The poor children of color who either opt to stay or are forced to stay in the real public education system are now being herded into crowded, underfunded, segregated, and distant schools. It’s the new American apartheid; I don’t think P.W. Botha could have come up with a better plan…”

It’s All About the Buildings

“We live in a city that is having a little problem with shootings, violence and homelessness at a time when it is cutting services in just the right way to make all those things get a lot worse and to this mix they wish to add sixty one abandoned buildings to neighborhoods that have what could euphemistically be called enough trouble.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Phony Poll Numbers on Reform

“The most popular answer to their question about what to do about underperforming schools was “devote more resources while keeping the staff intact” (37%). The least selected answers were “close the school and transfer students to a higher-performing school” (only 6%) and “allow an experienced nonprofit to come in and run the school” (18.8%) (question 24).”

54 Chicago Public Schools to Close

“54 Chicago Public Schools are on the final closure list released today. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm, and then we hear from parent and teacher representatives with reaction. View the full list of school closings in the PDF below.”

Low Income and Homeless Students Stand to Lose Most from CPS School Closures

““When a school, something that is supposed to be dependable, is uprooted, what stability does a low-income or homeless student really have, and how does that play on their psyche,” Malone asked.”

We’re Giving CPS a “B+” on School Action Plans

“Bottom line, while CPS is heading in the right direction, there is always room for improvement and plenty more schools to close.  Take a look! Do you agree? Because if you don’t, you obviously don’t care about the city’s children.  Isn’t it time you started caring about the city’s children?  What a selfish jerk you are.”

Mister Emanuel’s Opus

“Lafayette School is just one of 54 schools that the Chicago Public Schools are planning to close.  Lafayette’s Illinois School Report Card shows just what a colossal failure it is.  With 98% of the student population living in poverty, should they really be learning the upright bass?  Why not teach these students instruments that they could play on street corners and help their families out?  It seems to me fine arts money could be better used on more affluent students in the first place.”

Jesse Sharkey Talks Closings on Melissa Harris-Perry

A good interview on MSNBC this morning

Mayor Emanuel Enjoys Relaxing Ski Trip to Utah

22 Mar

ImageThey go every year at this time.   The Emanuels leave Chicago, strap on their skis, and head to beautiful Utah for a fun-filled vacation in Utah.  One of the most beautiful areas in Park City is known as Fiddler’s Hollow.  This is, of course, ironic because like Nero, Chicago’s Mayor has found a way to amuse himself while Chicago gets ready to burn.  It is easy to close schools you have never visited in neighborhoods you have never set foot in.  It’s even easier when you duck out of town and do it long distance.

Rahm on Vacation as School Closing List Links

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s spokesman Sarah Hamilton said the mayor takes a vacation with his family at this time every year and will be returning to Chicago on Friday.”

List: Chicago Public School, Program Closures

The Futility of Closing Schools in Chicago

Approximately 90% of the children who will lose their public school are African American.

Ironically, the decision was made public soon after the release of a report saying that school closings did not save money or help children.

Here is the report by Chicago researchers:”

Principals on School Closings: There’s Been no Planning.  Just Slash and Burn

“Berry said there has been little planning at schools that are expected to take in students whose buildings are shuttered. Principals have told her that nothing has been worked out to provide the libraries or air conditioning CPS has promised at all receiving schools.”

CTU President Karen Lewis’ Statement on School Closings

““Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit. We are the city of big shoulders and so we intend to put up a fight. We don’t know if we can win, but if you don’t fight, you will never win at all.”

Rahm Emanuel Losing Support in Chicago’s African-American Community

“”In any city that’s as segregated as Chicago, anytime that you destroy black schools and destroy black communities you can’t call it anything but racist,” the Executive Director of Action Now Katelyn Johnson said.”

CPS School Closings Protesters: ‘We Aren’t Going Down Like This’

“About 50 parents, mainly from the South and West sides, marched down rows of multimillion-dollar Lincoln Park houses before setting up in front of former board member Penny Prtizker’s home early Thursday afternoon. She was the last stop on the tour.”

3 Relatives of UNO Boss on Charter School Payroll

“The embattled head of one of the largest charter school operators in Chicago, the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization, has three relatives on his payroll, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.”

Yesterday, it was the Senate.  Today, the Illinois House is Killing Us

“Under the measure, current and future public employees would have to wait until age 67 or five years after retirement to begin collecting retirement benefits. State employees” annual cost-of-living adjustments would be capped at the lesser of 3 percent or $750 per year.”