Tuesday, May 22, 2018

U of C Study, out today, shows Rahm's 2013 school closings failed CPS students

Thousands of Chicago parents and community members protested the 2013 school closings. 
CPS’ current Schools Chief Janice Jackson called what happened “unacceptable.” But said the outcome will not deter her from closing schools in the future. -- WBEZ
Rahm Emanuel's mass school closings in have proven to be a disaster for the city and have offered none of the promised academic gains for the affected 12,000 predominantly-black students.

Aside from further blighting Chicago's south and west-side neighborhoods and likely contributing to the massive black exodus from the city, the closing of 50 CPS schools in 2013 led to a significant drop in student test scores. This according to a report being released today by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.

The report comes weeks before the city’s five-year moratorium on school closings expires. It's a moratorium that Rahm has already violated time and time again, most recently with the closing of high schools in Englewood as well as the National Teachers Academy.

According to the Consortium Report:
Despite the promised improvement in academic opportunities for students from the schools that were closed, the University of Chicago researchers found that their test scores fell in the wake of the closings and subsequent school mergers. And the drop in math scores lasted for four years. 
The researchers also said their interviews with CPS staff members revealed a “chaotic” plan for moving the students to other schools and too little support for blending the new and old communities of students and families, creating “challenging us-vs.-them dynamics.

The study concludes:
“Closing schools — even poorly performing ones — does not improve the outcome of displaced children, on average. Closing under-enrolled schools may seem like a viable solution to policymakers who seek to address fiscal deficits and declining enrollment, but our findings shows that closing schools caused large disruptions without clear benefits for students.”
CTU's Jesse Sharkey, said the report “validates” that the closures "were marred by chaos, a desperate lack of resources, lost libraries and labs, grief, trauma, damaging disruption, and a profound disrespect for the needs of low-income black students and the educators who teach them.”

Important to note... It wasn't just Chicago. Mass school closings were a requirement of then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's Race to The Top policy. Unless school districts closed schools, they were threatened with loss of millions of dollars from the D.O.E. An epidemic of closings and teacher firings, mainly in urban districts, followed in the wake of RTTT.

Monday, May 21, 2018

KIPP and KOPP join Duncan in telling parents to boycott schools until gun law is passed

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been another violent weekend in Chicago, with at least 6 people killed and 32 others hurt in shootings across the city. [None shot in school.]
KIPP leaders and other corporate school "reformers" like Arne Duncan and Peter Cunningham, are telling public school parents to "pull their kids out of school until we have better gun laws."
The boycott proposition received momentum online, including support from parents and the founder of Teach for America, Wendy Kopp... 
...“I’m in — let’s pick a date and start a movement no politician can ignore,” replied Jim Manly, the superintendent of KIPP Public Charter Schools in New York City.
After taking 14 years before firing their co-founder for sexual misconduct, it's no wonder that KIPP charter network is now forced to offer cash and prizes to parents as recruiting gimmicks. But their call for parents to boycott public schools, even in the wake of the Santa Fe school shootings, smacks of opportunism.

As brother Fred Klonsky points out in this morning's blog post:
For many Chicago young people, their public school is among the safest places Chicago parents can send their children each day. But more to the point, those like Cunningham and Duncan have a dismal history in proposing ideas for public school parents and  as public policy for others to follow.
 Yes, we need strong gun control laws passed. No, that's not likely to happen with Trump in the White House and Republicans (many on the take from the NRA) controlling both houses of Congress without pressure from mass protests in the streets. Telling parents to keep their children home until that happens may be provocative, but it's hairbrained. Not serious. Poor leadership as usual.

In the same breath they propose it, they are already walking it back. 
“It’s wildly impractical and difficult,” Duncan said. “But I think it’s wildly impractical and difficult that kids are shot when they are sent to school.”
 “We will see whether this gains traction, or something does, but we have to think radically.”
Yes, r-r-r-radically indeed. But there's nothing radical about punishing public schools for the sins of the politicians.

I'm recalling how Duncan and Cunningham blasted the tens of thousands of activist parents who actually won some important victories for their children by opting-out of school testing madness.

But Duncan claimed the opt-outers were simply...
"white suburban moms who—all of a sudden, their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."
I also recall how, when Democrats had even a slim chance to pass gun-control legislation during Obama's first term, Atty. General Eric Holder was told to "shut the f**k up" by none other than Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Oh, and speaking of guns, remember how Duncan tried to militarize the D.O.E. back in 2010? His purchase of 27 assault rifles had me wondering back then, if we needed an assault weapons ban on Arne?

I think Duncan's and the reformers' credibility as advisors to public school parents has been used up. Maybe it's time for them to to hold that thought. 


Police Chief Art Acevedo of Houston, center, walking with demonstrators during a “March for Our Lives” protest in March. After a school shooting in Santa Fe, Tex., on Friday, he wrote on Facebook that he had hit “rock bottom” about inaction on gun control.CreditDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press
Profs Joshua Dubler and Vincent Lloyd 
Locking any human being in a cage is a moral abomination -- Guardian
Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education
Peter Cunningham tells us not to blame any of the reforms he and his team of bloggers espouse.  In 2016, he told us what we need is “more rigor” and higher standards when twelfth-grade NAEP scores came out. On April 20, 2018, like Duncan, Cunningham blamed politics — specifically unions and local boards of education — for the lackluster NAEP scores.  --Washington Post
Sally Yates
 "There should be consequences when leaders feel they are not even loosely tethered to the truth. But when we normalize this..." -- CBS News
 Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo 
“I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue." -- Facebook post
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
Rocks falling into oceans, not climate, causing seas to rise. "And every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up." -- USA Today

And then there's this from the school "reformers"...
I should remind Mr. Duncan that his family is already "boycotting" Chicago Public Schools.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Wind River Arapaho Immersion School

To celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, Susan and I road-tripped out of Salt Late City, up through the Uinta mountains of northern Utah, to the the Wind River Arapaho Reservation in Wyoming. That's where our old friend Mary Headley runs the small Arapaho Immersion School.

I first met Mary and fellow veteran teacher Sadie Bell at the Standing Rock encampment in 2016, outside the encampment school. We spent a couple of hours talking about small schools and language acquisition and they invited us to visit Wind River. They told me about the work they were doing, trying to save Arapaho language and culture by starting a school based on language immersion.

Mary Headley and Sadie Bell at Standing Rock
The school serves a reservation community hard hit by poverty, unemployment, and high male incarceration rates. The town of Arapahoe itself has few businesses and no grocery stores. To shop or eat at a restaurant, you need to travel outside the reservation, to white-run Riverton. But the community has a proud history of struggle and cultural tradition that binds it together and has survived more than a century of genocidal attacks on Native American tribes.

Currently, this small school, which operates (at least for now), outside the public school system,and with little money and few resources, is a model for other tribal educators as far away as Oklahoma. For the veteran educators who created it, this school is a legacy project; today, they estimate there are fewer than 100 fluent Arapaho speakers. They are laying the foundation for what they hope will be a strong cultural identity and linguistic fluency and comfort among a new generation of Arapaho youth.

Children at the early-childhood school are immersed in Arapaho culture and learn literacy though play, story telling, song, dance, and other group activities. For many, the two meals a day at the school are their main source of nourishment.

We spent yesterday observing and talking with school leaders and teachers like former Principal Wayne C'Hair, one of the authors of the Dictionary of the Arapaho Language. The project of crafting a written language and preserving the language has been underway since the 1980s. Recently a team has launched a new Arapaho app for the iPad. Mary Headley and others are working on dubbed editions of several children's movies into Arapaho, the first of which is "Spirit Horse," soon to be followed by an Arapaho "Bambi."
Folkloric tales for children, especially animal stories, are being translated and published for use in the schools.

Monday, May 14, 2018


If elected, Lightfoot would become the city’s first openly gay mayor, and the first African-American woman to hold the job. She joins an increasingly crowded field of challengers looking to unseat Emanuel in the February 2019 election. She is the ninth challenger to announce a run.

Lori Lightfoot
“We have seen example after example of top-down dictates that do not reflect any interest in true partnership with parents, teachers and principals. How do we chart a new progressive course? How do we make sure we take our city on a new, different direction? I will start with listening to the needs of the people.” -- Tribune
Joanna Klonsky, Chicago political strategist
“There’s a misconception that you need to out-raise [Rahm Emanuel] to beat him." -- WBEZ
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
“Secretary DeVos has filled the department with for-profit college hacks who only care about making sham schools rich and shutting down investigations into fraud." --New York Times
CPS Parent Lawrence White
“We have to repair or try to regain those losses,” said White, who wasn’t even aware CPS had implemented a secret overhaul of special education until it was revealed in the WBEZ report. -- WBEZ
Eden Hebron, 15-year-old freshman at Stoneman Douglas H.S.
But since the March for Our Lives protest on March 24th,  the media attention to the issue of gun violence has also changed. “It’s starting to die down, a little, all the news and stuff,” she said. “When I see people moving on, it’s like, How can you?” -- Guardian
Dick Cheney
“I think the techniques we used were not torture. A lot of people try to call it that, but it wasn’t deemed torture at the time,” he told Maria Bartiromo. “People want to go back and try to rewrite history, but if it were my call, I’d do it again.” -- Crooks & Liars

Happy Mothers Day from D.T. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Can Lightfoot be the one?

Former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot is expected to officially announce today that she's joining a long list of candidates, including several other African-American candidates and progressives, running for Mayor of Chicago.

According to Politico's Natasha Korecki, Lightfoot has already brought on a powerhouse support team including:
Media Consultants - Snyder Pickerill Media Group. Ken Snyder and Terrie Pickerill are Chicago-based national political strategists who did work with the likes of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The group also handled three major mayoral races: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Pollster - Jason McGrath, of GBA Strategies, who's done work with Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos.
Finance Director - Gina Natale worked as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's finance director from 2010-2014 and recently worked for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington D.C.
Direct Mail - Adnaan Muslim of Deliver Strategies - Longtime lead SEIU Local 1 consultant on aldermanic campaigns. Firm's most recently worked on successful primaries for Jesus Chuy GarcĂ­a, Alma Anaya, Bridget Degnan, and Aaron Ortiz. And for other successful mayoral campaigns including mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms, Toni Harp, Sly James, Michael Nutter and Stephane Miner.
I'll leave it to you to parse the connections here to high-powered city Democrats. But the point is, Lightfoot isn't stepping lightly into this battle. While neither she nor any of the other candidates can match the size of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's war chest dollar-for-dollar, she apparently can raise enough to be respectable in that area and possibly find a pathway to victory.

Lightfoot, the only openly gay candidate in the race, says she's running a campaign based on the need for economic justice and police reform.

According to the Tribune:
Although she could struggle to find a base of support, Lightfoot indicated she plans to run as a progressive, a lane occupied in the 2015 campaign by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who pushed Emanuel into the city’s first mayoral runoff election. Lightfoot said she’ll work to promote neighborhood redevelopment, rebuild neighborhood schools and back Democratic governor nominee J.B. Pritzker’s push for a graduated income tax.
She notes that a recent study showed that on the West Side, the life expectancy plummets to 69 years, compared with 85 years for someone living in the Loop, seven “L” stops away. She lauded a group called West Side United, which she said came up with a plan to “significantly improve the quality of life and the life expectancy in those neighborhoods.”

In a Sun-Times interview, she came out against Rahm's planned $95M police academy, which she calls "an edifice to policing in the middle of one of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in our city."

She's also critical of the way the mayor has closed all the high schools in Englewood as well as National Teachers Academy (NTA), and blames Emanuel for hiring Barbara Byrd-Bennett as schools CEO without doing the diligence to know her track record as a "crook...trying to line her personal pocket."

If she pursues this line of attack, she will need a strategy that directs blows not only at the mayor, but at Paul Vallas as well. Vallas, Mayor Daley's former schools CEO, has a similar track record of school closings and replacing closed public schools with privately-run charters. He also is the former partner of Gary Solomon, Byrd-Bennett's accomplice. Going after Vallas as well as Rahm and former top-cop Garry McCarthy will be a necessary piece of campaign strategy for Team Lightfoot if they are to get her into a runoff with the mayor.

The big question remains: Can Lightfoot be the candidate who can finally rally enough unified support from progressives, unions, and within black and Latino communities to elevate herself from the pack and give Rahm a run for his money? Definitely possible.


We'll be talking about the upcoming mayor's race and more Chicago politics tomorrow on Hitting Left with another potential mayoral candidate, Ra Joy.  Tune in at 11am CT on WLPN 105.5 FM Streaming at www.lumpenradio.com. Download the app Podcast on iTunes.

Monday, May 7, 2018


Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA
... also pushed to arm teachers and called on schools to be “the most hardened targets in this country.” -- Washington Post
Derek Black
 We Shouldn't Call Teacher Salary Hikes 'Raises' -- EdWeek
Chicago Tribune Guild 
'We did it... We have a union' -- Statement
Charles J. Johnson, Tribune editor & union organizer 
 "We have been badly mistreated by a series of corporate owners, Tronc only being the most recent, and we've decided to take some control over the future of our journalism in the city of Chicago." -- NPR
Atty. Lorna McMillion
“You have a charter school that can, in one breath, say, ‘Hey, we’re a public school, don’t sue us,’ and in the next say, ‘Hey, we’re not a public school, don’t sue us.'” -- Texas Tribune
Greg Hinz
 I'm particularly interested to see if Police Board Chair Lori Lightfoot gets in [Chicago mayor's race] because, more than most candidates, she has a foot in all sorts of political camps. -- Crain's 
Afghanistan 17 years later...
 “They’ve got to screen everybody who’s going to be working directly with the [brigade],” said an Army officer who was involved in preparing bases for the new adviser teams earlier this year and who, like others contacted for this story, agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. “That means screening basically the whole damn Afghan National Army, and we’re way behind the power curve on that.” -- Politico
Steve Doocy
"Keep in mind, whatever [Gina Haspel] did" to torture detainees, "she was doing it as a directive and it was all within the law". -- Fox & Friends

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Vallas wanted Rahm to hire him to "fix" the Byrd-Bennett mess

Did Paul Vallas think we'd forget that he was Gary Solomon's partner? Former schools CEO Vallas, who, has already run losing campaigns for Governor (2002) and with Pat Quinn for Lt. Governor (2014), partnered with Solomon in forming Synesi Associates. Synesi was one of the indicted companies that hired Barbara Byrd-Bennett as a consultant, in return for her support in obtaining millions of dollars in CPS no-bid contracts.

It was Vallas who taught Solomon and many of the rest of his Chicago crew, the ropes in one of the great hustles of public schools ever. It often included placing Vallas underlings in district administrative jobs around the country, in exchange for lucrative consulting contracts, often to provide expensive, but worthless professional development (like SUPES) for district principals and teachers. Solomon, who once claimed to be using the "Vallas model", took Vallas' ball and ran with it, offering illegal kickbacks directly to colluding school officials.

When Vallas was Mayor Daley's hand-picked schools CEO, kickbacks for consulting contracts were common occurrences in Chicago schools.

Now Solomon and Byrd-Bennett are both doing time. Vallas is running for mayor against a weakened but still top-dog in the race, Rahm Emanuel. He tells the Tribune that he had the plan on how to control the mess caused by Solomon and BBB. Only Rahm, having brought the corrupt pair in to CPS in the first place, wasn't about the compound the fracture by hiring complicit, former Daley-guy, Vallas.

From Trib's Bill Ruthhart:
It turns out, though, Vallas has his own story of being rejected by Emanuel that left some lingering hard feelings. In 2015, when soon-to-be-indicted Barbara Byrd-Bennett left as CPS CEO amid a kickback scandal, Vallas said he called the administration to offer his services to help stabilize the district.
Those overtures, though, were rejected, Vallas said. Emanuel, whose campaign declined to comment on the matter, ended up tabbing Forrest Claypool as the next schools chief. He, too, left amid a scandal after facing a watchdog’s allegations he “orchestrated a full-blown cover-up” over a clouted legal contract.
“I was told that I did not pass the loyalty test. And, of course, I proceeded to tell everyone I know about that, because it really pissed me off,” Vallas said. “I knew what that was: It’s not about being loyal to the cause or the mission, it’s about being loyal to the individual. It’s all about politics first, and everything else takes a back seat. I didn’t forget that.”
From Sun-Times' Fran Spielman:
Notoriously thin-skinned, Vallas also tried to explain away the close ties he developed with now-convicted education consultant Gary Solomon.
Solomon worked with Vallas at schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans. In Chicago, he’s better known for master-minding a contract kickback scheme with then-Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Both Solomon and Byrd-Bennett are now in prison.
“Gary was the vice-president for Princeton Review, one of the largest education service firms in the country. They did business with hundreds of superintendents,” Vallas said.
“I’m not the one who gave Gary Solomon a $20 million, no-bid contract.”
True and yet...