Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Parents' Message to de Blasio

Here's a video out of NYC, where they have a new mayor coming in, who ran on a pro-school, anti-privatization platform. Someday, we'll get a candidate like that here in Chicago.

As we learned in Leonie Haimson's forum, New York state is running full steam ahead with all of these things that parents want to have a slow-down on: the Common Core, the testing, the inBloom. They have a deeply ingrained ed reform aristocracy there. We have one here; it's small group of very wealthy people who have basically formed a shadow government over public education in Illinois. It's the way things are done now. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Message About Pensions

Have you ever heard the Illinois state song? It's lovely.

This isn't a pension blog, but we do care about fairness and the rule of law around here.

Word Is Spreading About UNO's House of Cards

In a significant breakthrough, La Raza has published a short piece by Antonio Zavala that talks about Byron Sigcho's hold-no-bars public forum series, which we will be repeating this Saturday at the West Belmont Branch Library, at 31004 N. Narragansett, at 1PM.

I've been trying to track UNO coverage, and I can't remember a Spanish language piece about UNO that dares to pull the wool back.  So, we're making a dent.

If you haven't seen the presentation yet, come out the the West Belmont Branch on Saturday. We're taking it to the Archer Heights Branch Library on Monday night, too.

Here's the Google Translate version of the article, and yes, I realize it's imperfect.

Public money is priority ONE

Although studied communications at Northeastern University and worked briefly as an illustrator, Juan Rangel is not an educator by profession.
Yet Rangel is leading a network of 13 charter schools with 6,500 students, most of them Hispanic, and about 400 teachers.
Rangel was released in the beginning of La Villita 90s, while working for Educational Party and then joined the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO).
It was there that he inherited political contacts UNO founder, Danny Solis, an ally of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Thanks to these political contacts, UNO has received millions of dollars from the city and state, while Rangel attacks public schools being overcrowded and lacking in quality.
But an analysis of what happens in schools UNO, performed by Byron Sigcho, University of Illinois at Chicago, shows that education is not the priority of UNO.
Only 45 cents of every dollar received goes to UNO education. So UNO cuts in other areas such as special education and avoids giving computer classes to adults.
Only 25 percent of the nearly 400 UNO teachers are certified to teach. Another 25 percent are students of Teach For America program. The rest of them, 50 percent, are neither educators.
Reportedly ONE gave them to their partners and friends $ 13 million in contracts.Another $ 8.5 million in contracts were awarded to a brother of Michael Scot, while he was vice president of UNO.
And while UNO Hispanic culture uses to promote their schools with names of Mexican writers, students are punished and fined for speaking Spanish. What would this Octavio Paz?
Antonio Zavala is a journalist and works as a correspondent for Reuters in Chicago.Comments or suggestions to

Monday, November 25, 2013

Urban Prep On The March!

Urban Prep has appeal hearings today in three suburban districts; I'm sure none of the people in these communities are aware of these hearings. That's one of the "benefits" of having an obscure, appointed commission empowered to over-rule locally elected school boards!

We need to get rid of the state charter commission. It's an ALEC invention; it's wrong for Illinois. Anyway, looks like Urban Prep has appeals at  a hearing in South Holland for these districts: 150, 133, 154.

Looks like I missed the November 20th hearing, which involved a couple other districts.

Here's the hearing notice.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Leonie Haimson on Data Privacy and inBloom

PURE held an excellent forum Thursday evening with the great Leonie Haimson, who has pretty much single-handedly pushed back the rush to upload and commodify extremely personal and private data on each and every one of the students in our public schools. Parent activists around the country have been able to rally around Leonie's work.

This thing started with nine "partner" states, but is now pretty much just limited to New York and Illinois, which is weird. I mean, you'd expect Illinois to be asleep at the wheel, but it's amazing that New York is still moving full steam ahead, given that Leonie is from NYC.

Her whole presentation is here; it's an excellent overview of a topic about which, in a normal democracy, there would have been hearing after hearing.

By the way, the Illinois Race to the Top districts to which Leonie refers are listed here. I believe the plan is for these districts to pave the way, and then for the rest of the state to follow.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Should SFER Come With a Warning Label?

(This organization may hamper your ability to discuss issues freely; prolonged contact may cause an inability to think critically, creatively and rationally)

A few days ago, another chapter of Students for Education Reform (SFER) disaffiliated from the national organization. According to the Teacher Under Construction blog, students at Loyola University notified SFER of this decision after concluding that SFER lacks transparency and promotes a pro-charter, pro-TFA, and overtly political* agenda. This follows on the heels of the DePaul and University of Chicago SFER chapters taking the same action a few months ago.

You can see the initial appeal of an organization like SFER on a college campus. The idealism that is necessary for aspiring teachers seeks connection. We WANT young people who are dedicated and idealistic and collaborative to become teachers and work to change the system. But we also want them to understand the system--with all its flaws and its potential--which cannot happen if they are simply working off a script, particularly when one of that script's chief authors is the Walton Foundation.

As a Loyola alum and Rogers Park resident, I was particularly grateful to read this news. Loyola students: join your neighbors at a Local School Council meeting, attend a community forum, or come to an RPNPS meeting. We don't always agree but we do welcome differing opinions and we are never on script.


*In their letter, Loyola students refer to the clear Democratic preference of the organization. As a spinoff of DFER, I thought this would have been obvious. At the same time, are Republicans and Democrats even discernible on this issue? We need a multi-partisan, not bi-partisan, dialogue.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Uniform Base of Customers

I've posted this before, but it came up again tonight. Here's Bill Gates talking about the Common Core. It's about opening up markets, plain and simple.

Update From The People's Board

It was a lovely evening last night at the People's School Board meeting, which was held, fittingly, at the People's Church, on Lawrence. The Board convened at 6:00PM, and there were several committee reports. Then there was testimony from parents and teachers around the city about the various phenomena plaguing their schools.  There are people working on the elected school board, on establishing school accountability committees around the city, the coming lsd elections, the debacle at Ames, and a number of other issues.

For me, the were three big moments. First, there was a moment when people acknowledged that we've all been set against each other by the Board's strategy--- it's true; I saw it with my own eyes in Uptown. Another striking moment came when a parent talked about how some of the disciplinary policies in the charter schools were akin to training kids for how to behave in prison. I've also seen that one with my own eyes. And then finally a young man spoke from the heart about what it meant to lose a particular teacher at his school, which was closed in the last round of closings. It was heart-wrenching.

As you know, we're living in an era where personal relationships don't matter in the whole teaching/learning equation because the mantra is that class size doesn't matter and that if you put one effective teacher in front of 60 kids, those kids will be better off.  Nevermind that the elites of our city continue to choose small class sizes for their own children. Nevermind that middle class people choose the same thing when they can. Poor people? Cram 'em in!

When CANtv posts the meeting, I'll link to it.

Let me just say that the People's School Board is an excellent idea. It gives people a chance to run through the kinds of scenarios they will face when the day finally comes in Chicago where we can vote for the school board, like people do in every other school district in the state. And, as I said last night, it's strange to be at a school board meeting where you're not the enemy, subject to being escorted out of the room.

There are just some of the faces from last night; I didn't have time to do much more than this. When I think about what a gift it is to be around such passionate people, I'm just grateful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

You Really Do Need To Go To Some Things

Absolutely critical events coming up, and I bet I'm forgetting a few...

1.  Tuesday, November 19, 2013: Meeting of the (Rogue) State Charter Commission, at the Concept Horizon Gulen Charter School, 2245 W. Pershing, 3-6 PM. We need citizens to attend this meeting and see what this ALEC-inspired, appointed, democracy-wrecking commission is up to. According to the notes online. they're going to be doing something about amending their own bylaws.  Of course, with what's posted online, it's impossible to tell what the new language is, so people really do need to go attend and document the atrocities. Film, if you can.

  Please make yourself conversant about the Chapa LaVia legislation to clip this commission's wings.  Chime in, send supportive messages, and organize.

2 . Tuesday, November 19, 6-8 PM: People's Board Meeting, 941 W. Lawrence. Go testify at the alternative school board--- it's a completely different experience from the appointed/dysfunctional school board.

3.  Thursday, November 21, 6:30  - 8:00 PM, ONE Northside is sponsoring a forum and teach-in (flyer below) about the proposed Passages Charter School in Edgewater. This is a charter high school that has been proposed to poach kids away from Senn, from what I can gather. Go to this meeting!

4.  Thursday, November 21, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM, at Fosco Park, 13th and Racine, Forum on Data Privacy, Sponsored by PURE. Guest speaker, Leonie Haimson. If you don't know about InBloom yet, and you're not aware that Illinois is possibly the only state left that is about to uplift incredibly personal student data into a marketplace for vendors, then you really need to get to this forum.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Declaring An Emergency

If this article is true, then it's time to get on the horn and tell your alderman to support these two Rule 41 maneuvers by Fioretti and Arena.

Fioretti is trying to get the TIFs audited, and the surpluses redistributed. Arena is calling for a citywide referendum on the elected school board.

If you live in a certain far north ward, there's an alderman who's always talking about choice. Well, with Arena's measure, people would get to express their choice on the matter of the elected school board across the city. As you may remember, a few of us walked around and got a similar question on the ballot in certain precincts in the 49th Ward. It passed by almost 90%.

His phone number is 773-338-5796.

Here's what you say: "I'm calling to let Joe know that I support Fioretti on the TIFs, and I support Arena on the Elected School Board ballot question, and I want Joe to support these things, too. There's no reason not to audit the TIFs, and there's no reason to deny the voters the chance to vote on the matter of an elected school board."

Of course, you'll be talking to someone employed by the very man who chose to bury an earlier city council measure that would have given people a chance to vote on whether or not democracy is a good thing.

But you gotta call. I've declared an emergency.

Also, if you haven't signed onto this petition, it only takes a sec.

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Alternative School Board For Chicago

The Peoples' School Board is having its second meeting on November 19th. Please come. The board was set up to serve as an alternative board for the disenfranchised citizens/parents/taxpayers of Chicago, where the official, appointed school board has stiff-armed the population for years.

It's a forum for people to testify about the problems their schools are facing, and to receive advice, acknowledgement, and support. In other words, it's the polar opposite of the actual school board.

I'm paraphrasing Rico Gutstein here--- this Peoples' Board is more than a protest; it's a chance for us to conduct ourselves as would in an actual democracy, to get our sea legs back in terms of being citizens whose votes represent actual democratic accountability.

Please come. Please testify about the problems your school is facing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How Bill Gates Bought CPS

Many, many excellent speakers at last night's Raise Your Hand Town Hall. I'm posting here an extended clip of Valerie Leonard, who gave a comprehensive overview of the Gates Compact, which has been driving public ed policy here for a few years now.

It's not too complicated: the Gates foundation dangled a bunch of money as a contest prize for cities; all the cities had to do was agree to the terms. The terms were all about opening a bunch of charter schools. CPS signed on to it under Brizard, and it appears to me that between the Gates Compact and the Broad playbook for school utilization, what we have is a cadre of two wealthy guys establishing CPS policy.

So, what you can see is that Bill and Melinda Gates have much, much more access to public policy than any registered voter here.  As for CPS leadership and management, their job is to follow orders, which they do well.

Valerie Leonard has been talking about the Gates Compact since it started. Google it. And here she is, with her handout below.

...and the handout.

For a little background,

Here's some 2011 coverage of the signing of the Gates Compact.

Here's some 2012 coverage of CPS losing out on the Gates bribe funding.

Here's Diane Ravitch in 2012 writing very bluntly about the Gates Compact.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Outrage, Outreach in Logan Square

This morning, Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Grassroots Collaborative assembled a room full of activists-- most of them students-- to move forward in the face of the recent mysterious upheaval at Ames, which is either being turned into a military-themed school or not. It’s hard to tell but if WBEZ hadn’t been asking questions, it seems likely that the mayor and Alderman Maldanado would have pulled off the change.

I tagged along with Wendy Katten from Raise Your Hand to support the effort; it was an interesting morning. The group sent thirty teams of door-knockers out into the 26th Ward to raise awareness about the situation at Ames, sign petitions related to the TIF Surplus Ordinance, and register voters. The people were generally supportive.

It seems likely that the group will also pursue an advisory ballot referendum on Ames, which you would think the alderman would support, but I’m not holding my breath.

The students were amazing and avid-- they were certainly ready to go door to door for the cause. I heard the young man in the video above explaining the downside of replacing Ames with a selective enrollment school; he was articulate and passionate. I know there are a lot of apathetic people out there, but the kids in this room gave me a lot of hope.

I understand the Ames LCS is meeting this week and that they’ve invited the alderman.

I doubt we'll ever really know what transpired over the past few days, given that CPS tells a highly Becky Carrollized version of things. It wouldn't surprise me if they end up shutting Ames down as a community school; we live in a city where the mayor's friends pay fake protestors, and buildings get bulldozed under cover of darkness.