Tag Archives: Education Reform

The Politics of Destroying Our Schools

10 Jul

ImageI find myself straddling two different worlds lately.  There are those who say that Republicans are out to destroy public education and that’s why we have to vote for Democratic candidates.  There are other people who say that there is absolutely no difference between the two parties,  I’ve been seeing it lately in the Bad Ass Teachers Union where the two schools of thought duke it out and I’ve also seen it on social media.

The answer, which will be unpopular with a lot of people who I really respect is that the Democrats are better for public education.  There was a pretty decent report in The New Republic about Michelle Rhee and Students First.  In the article the mentioned that Students First in Tennessee gave money to 57 Republicans and only 7 Democrats.  That’s not unusual.   One you look at the politicians who are defending public schools, you’ll find that they’re largely Democrats.

Unfortunately, there’s another side to that coin.  When people attack the Republicans for going after public education, they tend to overlook Mayors like Nutter, Emanuel, and until this past election Villaraigosa in Los Angeles.

There are Democrats all over this country who have either been bought or have fundamentally flawed views on education.  You can’t simply look at party affiliation,  We do not have a public education advocate in the Obama administration, for example.  

The only thing that works is for teachers to make sure they educate themselves.  President Obama made his views on public education known before he took office as did Mayor Emanuel.  Of course, there are always third parties, but I have no interest in putting in the worst possible candidate because I chose not to vote for the lesser of two evils and instead voted so that some candidate could get to 3% of the vote.  The time to support third parties has to start well before election day.

Teach for America’s Civil War

“Despite the endless outcry, no one has ever staged a coordinated, national effort to overhaul, or put the brakes on, TFA—let alone anyone from within the TFA rank-and-file. On July 14, in a summit at the annual Free Minds/Free People education conference in Chicago, a group of alumni and corps members will be the first to do so.”

Chicago Rising!

“To many national observers, this rebirth of the city’s militant protest culture seemingly came out of nowhere. But it didn’t. It’s the product of years of organizing from sources both expected and surprising. And while the radicalized CTU under the leadership of Karen Lewis has deservedly received much of the credit, the teachers union is just the current tip of the spear in a long and potentially transformative movement.”

As Schools Starve, Mayor Emanuel Finds $5 million for Hot Dogs

“That’s a compelling point—and exactly the opposite of what will happen with the mayor’s biggest TIF project, the DePaul basketball arena/hotel deal. In that case, Mayor Emanuel is planning to reduce the tax base by spending $55 million to buy taxable land and build a facility that’s tax exempt.”

Chicago Activists Speak Out Against Public Service Cuts, Offer Alternatives

“Every time we want to do anything good for people, they say there’s no money,” he said. “They said that about closing human service offices. They said that about closing mental health offices. They say that about just about everything else, and yet there always seems to be money for tax cuts for wealthy corporations.”




Rahm Bravely Goes to Israel

17 Jun

ImageJust as Rahm bravely skied in Utah when the school closing list was announced, he also bravely went to Israel last week, so that he could miss the 850 layoffs his closings caused.  When you want a news story buried, you put it out on Friday afternoon.   I don’t think the timing of these layoffs was any kind of accident.  The thing is, with the budget cuts, there are going to be a lot more layoffs in this city’s schools before this is over.  As teachers, parents, and students, we had better get serious about the mayoral election and we had better find a candidate, or there won’t be anything left of our schools.

Rahm Emanuel is Losing Control of His City

“Politically, the situation is disastrous, and some are (perhaps wishfully) taking it as the first real sign of vulnerability for his reelection chances. The Chicago Teachers Union is already spearheading a registration drive to turn a constituency that is already against the mayor into voters, and union president Karen Lewis labeled Emanuel “the murder mayor” because of all his cuts to vital services. Multiple lawsuits are also pending from families and the union who both say the mayor is violating the civil rights of special needs children and those living in poorer, marginalized neighborhoods. They say the closures are really a veiled attempt to weaken the union and expand the privatized charter school system.”

Hugs and Tears at Lafayette’s Last String Orchestra Concert

“It’s shocking,” said parent Rosemary Vega, choking up as she spoke. “I have no more words. We fought and fought and fought to keep this going, something so good for these kids, and it was snatched from under them.”

Budget Cuts are ‘Nightmarish’ for Wildwood School

“Principal Mary Beth Cunat said Friday the cuts to next year’s budget are a “nightmarish scenario” for the Edgebrook school, which is among the most overcrowded in the city.”

Chicago Dumping Hundreds of Teachers Just Inside for Charter School Job Fair

“Just as Chicago is continuing its attack on the city’s real public schools by dumping hundreds of veteran teachers and other schools staff, almost as a spooky coincidence Chicago teachers are receiving emails that they can participate in the “Charter Schools Job Fair.” Now that the Chicago teachers union, dozens of community organizations and tens of thousands of teachers, parents and students have realized that the six members of the Chicago Board of Education and the current “Chief Executive Officer” (this year’s version “RAHM 2.0 is Barbara Byrd Bennett) are engaged in overt sabotage of the real public schools of the third largest city in the USA, the evidence continues just to make a perfect fit.”

Pink Slips Flying at Chicago Public Schools

“The teachers who lost their jobs either lacked tenure or the high performance ratings necessary to follow their students to receiving schools in the system. All the employees may reapply for other jobs within the system, and 60 percent of teachers end up being rehired.”

It’s Time to Reform Father’s Day

“We at Last Stand for Children First love dads.  We believe they’re one of the two most important people in a child’s life.  That’s why, we don’t do any favors for the really good dads, when we call all of them great.   What incentive do parents have to strive for greatness when they’re not rated any higher than mediocre fathers who don’t even require their children to learn to play a sport or practice the piano?”

Happy Tuesday

12 Jun


Not much to report today.  One interesting thing I heard is that the boycotts over the school closings may be spreading.   I’m really impressed at the way parents and students have been stepping up to make their voices heard. 

Parents, Students Charge Charter Schools With Targeted Expulsions

“Jessica Schneider, of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which handles many expulsion cases pro bono, said she had recently taken the case of a Noble Network of Charter Schools student who had been expelled for posting a “Let’s go smoke” message on Facebook. She confirmed that charters tend to display “overly harsh discipline and what appears to be the targeting of students to push out.””

Despite Closing, Trumbull Parents Raise at least $5k for Summer Program

“But the LSC at Trumbull is also sitting on almost $120,000 raised for students. Last week, they voted to provide students transitioning to welcoming schools with “success packs” consisting of a bookbag, school supplies and an iPad or e-Reader.”

Freedom Lover Films

“Freedom Lover Films now embarks on a new project to document the largest public school closing in American history. This observational documentary seeks to capture the experiences of teachers and families as the educational landscape of Chicago changes. On May, 22nd the Chicago School Board officially voted to close 49 elementary schools. In less than 20 days many communities will be changed forever. How will they change is the question?”

Chicago Needs a Student Bill of Rights

“Although there would be many advantages to enacting a student bill of rights in Chicago, three in particular stand out: a student bill of rights would prevent chilling of protected activity; would provide useful guidance to school officials, many of whom might legitimately not be aware of the law; and would help reframe the Code of Conduct in a more positive light.”

The Madness Behind Mayor Emanuel’s Methods

“Alas, over the course of months of scrutiny by activists, parents, teachers, and reporters—most notably Linda Lutton and Becky Vevea of WBEZ—many of the mayor’s chief assertions have proven to be either questionable or false. At best, any savings will be a long way off, since initially it will cost more money to prepare schools for consolidation.”

The Bad Business of Education Reform

“But what’s worse is this.  Even if we say that students are products and that teaching can be broken down into an assembly line of measurable tasks, old-fashioned Fordism isn’t even how good business operations are done anymore.  That ugly, dehumanizing, and elitist way of thinking about factory work went out of fashion with the poodle skirt.  In contrast, the Toyota Production System, which business school students are taught is the best in the world, relies on a philosophy rooted in respect for people, teamwork and employee empowerment.”

The [Tuesday] Papers

“[B]oard member Mahalia Hines said just having a plan down on paper gets everyone on the same page.

“I think that my favorite part is that we actually have a plan that I can get my hands around,” Hines said.

Hines has been on the board for two years.”


Karen Lewis Continues to Impress Me

19 Apr


One of the links I have posted is to a great interview with Karen Lewis, but what’s really impressive to me as a bit of a science fiction nerd is this quote from Karen, “That’s where I throw in the Star Trek thing, the Kobayashi Maru. You’ve got to change the rules if you want to win.”

How many labor leaders drop a Kobayashi Maru reference like that.   The other day, I saw her correctly name the planet that the Death Star blew up in Star Wars (Alderan).  By the way, you know who else was a big Star Trek nerd?  Martin Luther King.  I think the idea of a positive future appeals to those who work for change.

Belabored Podcast, Episode 1: We Will Shut Down Your City

“Part of the problem is we don’t have counseling programs for children early enough. We have almost gotten rid of play in preschool and kindergarten because we’re so busy trying to get them to pass tests that we don’t focus on the things that actually build their social-emotional learning along with the academic piece. So some of the conflict resolution that you learn through play has disappeared…”

Report: Recent School Gains are Overblown

“A new report claims academic gains over the last decade in the New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. public schools were largely exaggerated by proponents of the current wave of school reforms.”

Protests Against Creating Disney II High School

“Approximately 100 community members turned out for a public hearing held Monday night at Schurz High School, the majority of them expressing opposition to the Disney II-Marshall co-location. Lachlan Tidmarsh, CPS chief information officer, and Peter Rogers, CPS chief financial officer, moderated the forum.”

CPS Can’t Do Math

15 Apr


My Gosh! There is no way that you can possibly believe CPS is going to save money on these school closings.  It’s going to cost this city and it’s going to cost us millions.  The numbers are mind boggling.  CPS is issuing a $329 million dollar bond to pay for improvements at welcoming schools.  This is pure insanity that will only serve to destabilize this city even further.   Even the Tribune sees this.  Wow!

Better Schools?

“Fuller Elementary was a rising school when students from Donoghue were sent there in 2003, Wilson said. Achievement gains were reversed, and after five years on probation, the school was subjected to a “turnaround” last year.  Results from the latest intervention are not in yet.”

What Could Go Wrong?

“They haven’t demonstrated to us that they can close 100 or even 50 schools,” an unnamed commission source told the Sun-Times.  “They don’t have the expertise to accomplish that in such a short timeframe.  When they closed down as many as 12 schools, it was a disaster.”

For the Record: Paying for School Actions

“Should it be approved by the Board of Education, CPS will issue a $329 million bond to pay for improvements at welcoming schools, turnarounds, schools with co-locations and a few other special district projects, according to a supplemental capital budget released last weekend. Though the bond details haven’t been worked out yet, CPS spokesman David Miranda says the district is projecting debt service payments, including principal and interest, of about $25 million a year for 30 years, starting in 2015.”

Study: School Reform in 3 Major Cities Brings few Benefits, Some Harm

“Many people paying attention to corporate-based school reform in recent years will not be surprised by this, but a new study on the effects of this movement in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago concludes that little has been accomplished and some harm has been done to students, especially the underprivileged.”

Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error

“This story is bound to remind old Washington hands of Watergate and Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It has a memo that answers an echo of Baker’s question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” And the entire sordid story recalls the lesson of Watergate, “It’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.”

Nine Schools in 12 Years: One Teacher’s Tale of Life in the Chicago Public Schools

“That’s not his real name, of course. I’ve changed his name because the first thing you need to know about teaching in Chicago is that everything and anything you say can and will be used against you. If for no other reason than it’s good for students to learn from their teachers what happens to Chicagoans who question authority.”

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.”


Karen Lewis Faces Opposition in Union Election

20 Feb

ImageSo, I see that Karen Lewis will face opposition in the CTU election made up of the remnants of the last two caucuses to run the union.   It’s great to see Democracy in action, but I wonder if they should be going after the contract in their campaign with their Vice President candidate Mark Ochoa was part of the contract team that negotiated the contract and voted to accept the Board’s offer.  I’ll keep an open mind, but I sure don’t want a return to the era of Marilyn Stewart and the huge public fight with Ted Dallas over who was ripping off the union more.  I’d hate to think what would have happened if Stewart had to face off against Rahm.

Karen Lewis to Face Opposition in May CTU Election

“We did our part. We spent weeks on the street, rallied and gave Lewis all the power she needed,” said Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, potential candidate for union president. “What did we get? Firings, closings, lower pay; her leadership is one without backbone or foresight. It’s time for a change. Our leadership is one that cannot only get headlines but results.”

The City Council’s Rules Committee: Where Good Legislation Goes to Die

“In most instances, it’s clear which committee should handle the proposal—zoning matters go to the zoning committee, for instance.

Logic similarly dictated that the charter school resolution—introduced by aldermen Matt O’Shea (19th), Pat Dowell (3rd), Rick Munoz (22nd), and Bob Fioretti (2nd)—would end up with the education committee.

But when O’Shea introduced the resolution at the council meeting last week, Alderman Danny Solis (25th) immediately moved to send it to rules.

And why does Solis have such authority? Because an unwritten rule in the council gives any alderman the authority to direct any proposal to any committee—which of course lets them dump shit they don’t want into a committee whose chairman will make sure it never gets heard.”

How the Waltons Could Contribute to Real Improvements to Kids’ Educations

“In 2006, Walmart director and Walton family member Greg Penner contributed $250,000 to an effort opposing a universal pre-kindergarten program in California. (It would take the average full-time Walmart worker 14 years to earn as much money as Penner dropped on this one race.) The program would have been funded through an additional income tax on the state’s very wealthiest people—individuals making individuals making more than $400,000 a year, and couples making in excess of $800,000.”