Archive | November, 2013

One Teacher’s Look at Politics – The Governors

19 Nov


I remember when things got down to the wire in the 2010 election.   In the Democratic Primary, I had wanted Dan Hynes.  He lost in a heartbreaking election with no turnout and I was disappointed that teachers who should have known better had stayed away in droves.  At the last House of Delegates meeting before the election, a Chicago Teachers Union with very mixed feelings about Quinn who had already pushed through an attack on our pensions, had a very close vote to endorse him.

I pushed for us to endorse Quinn despite not believing he was a very good Governor.  I was scared of Brady getting in and when we saw what Scott Walker was able to do in Wisconsin, I think the movement of the teachers union and other organized labor to Quinn saved us from having a string of right to work states from Wisconsin to Indiana.  Some of my friends wanted to support any third party candidate.  However, a teacher who is gay, posted on a mailing list that I am on that she didn’t have that luxury.  She wanted to marry her long term partner and Quinn was her best chance of that happening.  In the end, supporting Quinn was a good move.

Things changed when Quinn chose Paul Vallas as his lieutenant Governor.  Even though they run separately in the primary, choosing an out of state Republican with a track record of education reform failures as his running mate was a slap in the face to the Chicago Teachers Union.  When local pundits analyzed it, they all said “well, who else are they going to vote for?”  We have other choices besides Rauner and Quinn and I want to go through them point by point.

Rauner – I believe he’d be like Emanuel, but worse.  However, the Governor has less control over us than the mayor does.   Also, it may be easier to fight a Republican Governor than a Democrat.   Voting for him is not an option

Voting for a more moderate Republican – There are none.  Senator Kirk has refused to endorse any of the candidates because he doesn’t think any our moderate enough for the state.  I think he knows.

Vote for third party – If you want to get behind a third party, that’s great.  I understand the desire to say a pox on both of your houses.  However, with so much at stake, I don’t see why I should give up a vote in order for the green party to go from 5% to 7% of the vote.  If the greens or any other party can run a quality candidate with a chance, I definitely would be for supporting them, but that’s a huge “if”.

Run our own candidate – To what end?  Do we want to play spoiler?  There probably isn’t enough time to really be credible a year from now.  Also, with limited resources should teachers be putting all of them here?

Vote for Mickey Mouse – The inability to find an actual candidate probably has as much to do with your unwillingness to be informed as it does with the quality of the candidates.

Endorse Pat Quinn – I think that ship has sailed. 

So what do we do?   I think we need to continue to advocate for our issues.   We should fight for a fair tax, for pensions that we can live with, for an elected school board, and for more funding for our schools.  We should get involved in the elections where we can make a difference and where there are candidates who have championed our issues or are willing to do so, we give them our full support.

In the race for Governor, we play the game.  Maybe we do endorse Quinn, maybe we don’t.  However, we don’t throw our resources into this election.  I will probably not take a Democratic primary ballot and will instead vote for Rauner’s closest challenger int he GOP primary.   We can vote for Quinn, we can choose not to, but I do think we need to get political.  We need to advocate for our issues and for those who champion them and let the race for Governor take care of itself.


One Teacher’s Look at Politics

14 Nov

ImageThis is the beginning of a series of blog post that attempt to put the political situation into context in light of today’s city council votes and Pat Quinn’s selection of Paul Vallas as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  I am looking at things from the point of view of one Chicago Public School teacher, but a lot of this will probably apply to parents and teachers in Chicago and in other school districts.

Today, we found out who are real friends in the Chicago City Council are.   Aldermen Fioretti and Arena attempted to rescue both the TIF Surplus bill and the Elected School Board bill from the rules committee today and though neither measure passed, we learned a lot about who our friends are in the City Council.

Voted Yes on Returning TIF Surplus



Voted Yes on Elected School Board


Are these are only allies?  I’d say “no”.  Some alderman like O’Shea are glaring in their absence.  Some alderman like Foulkes and Pawar who voted for one measure voted against the other.  I don’t think that a candidate has to be behind us 100% to be worthy for our support.  However, there is a track record and if a candidate is voting against me as often as they’re voting for me, it’s time to replace them.  Aldermen aren’t the most powerful public employees around, but aldermanic races are also the easiest ones for a dedicated band of teachers to influence.  Whether we’re talking about the district where you live or you teach (if you’re a teacher), you can make a big difference by volunteering.

Next time, I’ll look at the race for Governor. 

CPS Fun with Accountability

12 Nov

ImageSometimes, CPS misses the reality boat by so much, you can only shake your head and laugh before weeping and sobbing uncontrollably in distress.  It seems the Office of Accountability, which is brimming with 6 figure salaries, doesn’t have anybody who understands statistics. 

Last week, our school was given targets for improvement based on last year’s ISAT, NWEA, and attendance figures.  These targets were calculated by looking at the scores a grade achieved the previous year and figuring in a solid percentage growth to that score.   For instance, in 2013 the third grade had 42.6 percent meet or exceed on the NWEA so in 2014 the third grade has a target of 47.1.   The problem is that the 2013 third graders are now fourth graders.

This is roughly the equivalent of giving a doctor high marks because the patients that he saw on Friday were healthier than the ones he saw on Thursday or calling the Bulls a much improved basketball team because they did better playing against the Utah Jazz Friday than they did against the Miami Heat in the opener.  Students change for year to year and they are not only different people, but their classroom behavior and attitudes are affected by the other students around them.

As a result of the mathematical genius that is the CPS Office of Accountability, my grade must improve our students’ ISAT reading scores by 21.3 percent over the scores they achieved last year.  However, in math we only have to avoid a loss of less than 11.7 percent.  Did anybody even think about this or read these targets?   As a result, I will be going to my principal tomorrow during report card pick up and asking that we discontinue mathematics education at our grade level in favor of double reading.  Are they that starved for data at central office, that the quality of the data has become irrelevant?