Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dems leave teacher unions hanging on DeVos

IEA graphic.
Hillary has her picture on milk cartons since she went missing after election day.  SNL even picked up on it. Seems like the entire old-guard leadership must be out in the Chappaqua woods with her, especially when it comes to resisting the Trump juggernaut.

Most notably, at least from this educator's perspective, is their deafening silence around Trump's nomination of Betsy ("Make America Christian Again") DeVos for Ed Secretary. While NEA and AFT leaders, Eskelsen-Garcia and Weingarten, have been outspoken in the opposition to DeVos, they have been left dangling in the wind by the very Clinton wing of the party they risked their reputation for with their premature endorsements of Hillary.  

As you might expect, this rift is reflective of much broader post-election inner-party conflicts over who will lead the Dems forward towards the mid-term congressional elections. Of note is Weingarten's defense of Keith Ellison who represents the Sanders/Warren progressives against the Podesta old-guard faction, for party chairman. 

For the unions, it's not just a matter of the mid-term elections. DeVos represents an existential threat to public education itself as well as to the entire teaching profession. Her history in Detroit as an active supporter of privatization, Christianization, and vouchers has even garnered support from supposedly anti-Trump reformers and think-tankers like Fordham Institute's Michael Petrilli and former Arne Duncan aide, Peter Cunningham who calls DeVos the "champion of choice".  

Thankfully, the teacher unions aren't alone in their defense of public ed from the Trump/DeVos assault. The NAACP and other civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter and the Journey for Justice Alliance, have also been clear in their opposition to the DeVos program of vouchers and un-capped charter expansion.

Think-tankers go thumbs up on DeVos

Monday, December 5, 2016


Victory celebrations at Standing Rock. Struggle continues. 
Tom Goldtooth
“This isn’t our first rodeo with the forces of genocide,” said Goldtooth, a great-grandfather with long black braids sticking out from under the hooded sweatshirt ...Capitalism feeds on unlimited growth. It’s like this monster that’s always hungry and thirsty and devouring the earth. That’s what our message is here: We have to live in balance; otherwise we’re going to perish.” -- Voices from Standing Rock
Jim Peterson, leader of a delegation of more than 120 WA veterans
“There is a lot of praying, singing, dancing, fireworks; the camp right now is kind of a madhouse. There are so many people showing up, busloads, it’s mass confusion. But there is so much love.” -- Seattle Times
Energy Transfer Partners & Sunoco Statement
"Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way." -- Business Wire
Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser Center for Strategic and International Studies
 “My guess is that Trump himself doesn’t have clue...Having this mishap occur before he is president is better than having it occur after he is president. I expect Beijing to find a way to give him an education on Taiwan.”  -- China blasts 'petty' Taiwan call
Peter Cunningham, former aide to Arne Duncan
DeVos "has a lot of influence in the reform community. She is unequivocally a champion for choice."  - The Case for Betsy DeVos 

Friday, December 2, 2016

The bailout of Exelon nukes comes right out of the schools

Jobs creators -- 30 years after the nuclear meltdown, the Great Arch at Chernobyl is finally completed.

Natasha Korecki in this morning's IL Playbook: 
It’s probably fitting that the Legislative veto session concluded Thursday with just about everyone going nuclear. Gov. Bruce Rauner dropped the first bomb by vetoing a Chicago Public Schools bill that blows a $215 million hole into the school’s budget... Then there were the actual nukes. A bitterly divisive Legislature came together to pass a massive bailout of two unprofitable nuclear plants...
Almost the exact amount...
The measure provides Exelon with $235 million a year as a reward for the carbon-free energy its nuclear reactors produce — a prize Exelon argued it was just as entitled to as the "clean" energy producing wind and solar industries. Without the money — financed by an increase in electric rates — the company threatened to close nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities.
Yes, "carbon-free." Tell it to the people of Fukushima, Chernobyl, or Three Mile Island.  Yes, a taxpayer bailout for nuclear giant Exelon, who raked in $29.45B in revenue last year. Yes, another assault on teacher pension funds.

CPS Board Pres. Frank Clark.
So there you have it. An even swap. Nukes for schools. A win-win for former Exelon CEO Frank Clark who now is president of Chicago's Board of Education and even has a privately-run Noble charter school named after him, as does current Exelon CEO, John Rowe, and Rauner himself.

I'm sure Democrats in the Legislature and environmental lobbyists believe they did the best they could. I might agree with them on the school budget. This was the work of our Trumpian governor and his fellow Republicans, buoyed up by Trump's victory last month. And Dems no longer have a veto-proof majority in Springfield (not that Boss Madigan was ever strong enough to use it when they did).

I'm sure IL Dems (even the progressives) will tell us that rates would have gone up or that they saved some jobs that would have been lost if they voted NO. That's questionable. Nuke plant closings are labor-intensive and take years. But giant taxpayer bailouts of unprofitable nukes (like private prisons) are not a solution to structural unemployment. The towns around the nukes all suffer from high unemployment and Exelon doesn't hire many unskilled workers. DeWitt County and Quad Cities unemployment remains higher than the national average despite the presence of the nuke plants. Maybe that's because of massive cuts to school budgets and the laying off of thousands of teachers and school staff and social workers statewide. There's also no guarantee that these plants will stay open long after the bailout or that layoffs won't happen.

I'm sure Dems and even some environmental groups like the People's Lobby, will say that I don't understand realpolitik and will explain how they managed to finagle millions in green money into the bill for wind and solar R&D and that nukes are cleaner than coal. I guess that's an example of the kind of choices we're faced with these days. A touch of green in exchange for corporate bailouts of potentially devastating nukes and lung-choking, cancerous coal companies (now supported by the Trumpians). Look at this as a follow-up to the Trump scam in IN with Carrier and United Technologies.

Democrats nationally have long been complicit is this charade. It was Pres. Obama who, in 2013, made G.E. Chairman Jeffery Immelt, a Republican, his top outside economic adviser as head of the now-defunct Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. G.E., the largest corporation in the U.S., a giant in the nuke industry, and a company that rakes in about $15 billion/yr., yet pays not a penny in U.S. taxes. They're also a big underwriter of corporate-style school reform. Funny how things work out that way.

It's lose-lose for the people of IL, especially children and parents of CPS and the rest of us living downwind from the leaky and dilapidated nukes.

WHERE IS THE HUMAN SERVICES BAILOUT? -- The National Association of Social Workers released this statement: “We commend the hard work put into the bailout for a corporation who posted a 2.27 billion profit last year, but humbly ask where is the bailout for the human service sector providers who are running up large amounts of debt to cover the state’s commitments? … We applaud the environmental groups who are getting entirely new spending on green initiatives through a ComEd rate increase, but inquire from the general assembly where is the bailout to pay for the spending for contracts that human service providers have already delivered on?”

I would add -- and for schools?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

No more blockades

Havana yesterday
A step backwards...Shame on POTUS for not sending an official delegation to Fidel's funeral. Even though he has taken important steps forward in normalizing relations between our two countries, and ending the failed blockade, this snub will be taken as another insult to the Cuban people and the people of Latin America and the Caribbean for whom Fidel is a symbol of independence and anti-colonialism.

It shows that Obama is still too worried about what the Trumpy Republicans think about him to do the right thing. It's that fear, which helped paralyze his administration up until this, his last year in office, that will forever remain as part of his legacy.

It will now be left to the Republicans to move past Trump's alt-right rhetoric and finish the job of normalization (and take credit for it). If they fail and cave into Trump's campaign promises to roll back Cuba policy to the Cold War era, this country -- and not Cuba -- will be the losers. Chinese and European competitors will more than fill the void.

Remember, it was IL Republican Gov. George Ryan who lead our state's delegation to Cuba in 1999. The trip made the Republican Ryan the first sitting U.S. governor to travel to Cuba since the revolution 40 years earlier.

Ryan initially described the five-day trip as a way to foster a trade relationship someday between Cuba and Illinois, but the Bush regime frowned on that. It later was billed as a “humanitarian mission” to help Cubans and Illinoisans build bridges with one another. This was no "concession to communism" as the untra-right claimed. The delegation of about 50 included lawmakers, educators and officials from Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland and other businesses.

Ryan's trip cleared the way for my own officially sanctioned trip months later, accompanied by 30 American educators. We brought with us a trunk load of school supplies, visited schools and met with teachers and ed policy leaders across the island. We discovered that despite the U.S. embargo that meant children often coming without notebooks, pencils or erasers, Cuban schools had produced the highest literacy rate in the Caribbean. Having free, universal health care and college tuition helped.

I'm hoping the events of the past week will lead to many more such educator and people-to-people exchanges. The people of both countries have nothing to gain from Trump's anti-Cuba bluster.

Another blockade. No, this time not in Cuba... N.D. Gov. Dalrymple, taking a page from the Cuban blockade, attempted to block food and supplies from entering the Oceti Sakowin camp yesterday. His strategy, to starve or freeze the 6,000 water protectors into submission. Under national and international pressure, he was forced to pull back the physical blockade but is now threatening fines for those carrying badly-needed supplies to the camp.

If anyone is planning on driving up to Standing Rock from the Chicago area, I have two cartons of thermal blankets that need to be delivered. Please contact me before you go.

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to the 2,000 veterans on their way to Standing Rock to serve as human shields for the water protectors. NYT reports:
The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they may begin imposing fines to block supplies from entering the main protest camp after a mandatory evacuation order from the governor. Officials had warned earlier of a physical blockade, but the governor’s office later backed away from that, Reuters said. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why did Antwan Wilson leave Oakland for D.C.?

Oakland former Supt. Antwan Wilson seems nonplussed by parent/community protest. 
A friend in D.C. asked me why I thought Oakland Supt. Antwan Wilson would leave his $400K/year job to take the job in his town. Here's what I told him:
I'll tell you why he's leaving. Oakland (like the A's) is the farm team to the major leagues. They sent us Tony Smith to IL to do Gov. Rauner's bidding. DC is a plum job for pay and visibility (Wilson did ok in Oakland, pulling down a tidy $400K/yr. Look for him to make about the same in D.C.). Heartbeat away from the DOE and Ed Sec job (if Dems make a comeback). Oakland’s schools have been led by 8 people in the past 16 years — some named by the school board and others appointed amid state takeover. It's the Broad Academy MO. Make a quick hit, chop heads, and get out before the shit hits the fan. Collect golden parachutes along the way. D.C. will be Wilson's third. 
Good luck.

If you want to understand how this game of musical chairs is played, consider this. Wilson is being hired because of his alleged "success in raising achievement [test] scores" in Oakland. But remember, Wilson only lasted two years and left in mid-year. So they must be crediting him with raising scores on tests that were given before he got there.

Here's the real deal on Wilson according to Post News:
Wilson’s tenure in Oakland has been marked by conflict with parents, community groups and students over school privatization, the superintendent’s support for the expansion of charter schools and his close alliance with pro charter school organizations.
They left out Wilson's attempt to dismantle special education, which caused the loudest parent protests. Look for him to do the same in D.C.

WEEKEND QUOTABLES ... No chances for Trump

DFER Pres. Shavar Jeffries
“DFER congratulates Betsy DeVos on her appointment as Secretary of Education, and we applaud Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools. -- Press Release
Lee Saunders, chairman of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s political committee
"We underestimated the amount of anger and frustration among working people and especially white workers, both male and female, about their economic status." -- New York Times
Donald Trump
 “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” -- Washington Post
Frayda Levin, chair of Americans for Prosperity
“In creating the Koch network, I don’t think that we ever envisioned that we would be supplying staffers to this semi-free market, semi-populist president." -- Politico
Stephen Bannon's former co-writer, Julia Jones
 Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.
“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’" -- New York Times
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
“I like to compare this to conscientious objector status.We are not going to use our resources to enforce what we believe are unjust immigration laws.” -- New York Times

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Civil Rights group critical of recount efforts in WI and NC


National Civil Rights Organization Notes that Recount Efforts Do Not Address Impact of Voter Suppression on 2016 Election Cycle
In response to recounts underway in Wisconsin and North Carolina, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke issued the following statement:
“Current recount efforts do not address the discriminatory impact of voter suppression laws during the 2016 election cycle.  Wisconsin and North Carolina are states that were part of a coordinated campaign to make voting more difficult, particularly for African American and other minority voters. Wisconsin’s restrictive photo id law and North Carolina’s sweeping voter suppression law were among the most discriminatory efforts instituted prior to the November 2016 election.  The laws in both states were the subject of protracted litigation because of their impact on African American and other minority voters. It is no surprise that these states are places where some now feel a grave injustice has occurred. Yet, none of the recount efforts underway focus on the impact of voter suppression efforts or attempt to account for those who were blocked or deterred from voting as a result of voter suppression laws in those states.
Throughout this election cycle, we received complaints from voters in Wisconsin about the state’s strict photo ID requirement which a federal court found would impair the rights of 300,000 registered voters.  It is no surprise that Milwaukee County, Wisconsin shows that 51,554 fewer voters were able to participate in 2016, compared to 2012. In North Carolina, a 4th Circuit found that the state’s voter suppression law was discriminatory in purpose and effect. Yet, after the ruling on the state’s law, party official Dallas Woodhouse issued a directive encouraging local election officials to undermine the 4th Circuit’s ruling by using their discretion to cut early voting locations and hours down to a bare minimum. Officials across North Carolina heeded the call, resulting in long lines in many counties during the early voting period.
The recount efforts underway do not address pervasive discrimination that threatens American democracy.  The way to strengthen public confidence in our elections and to promote transparency is to lift barriers that lock out eligible Americans from the process.  This requires litigation and advocacy efforts that will uproot ongoing voting discrimination and voter suppression in our country. Among the most pressing needs is work to eliminate strict voter ID requirements, felon disenfranchisement laws that harken back to the Jim Crow era, and intimidation and harassment at the polls. This is also a time to closely analyze the Electoral College, an institution with roots that lie in debates surrounding slavery in our county.The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law remains committed to leading this important work to strengthen our democracy.”

 About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; and criminal justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving a good day to resist Trumpism

Standing Rock
On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful to be standing among so many good people willing to resist the wave of Trumpism sweeping over the land. First and foremost, the Standing Rock water protectors who are baring the brunt of it with power and dignity. We have to continue to stand with them, especially through this difficult winter.

I'm anxious to see what happens when they are joined by hundreds of veterans on Dec. 4th. Wish I could be there for that.

Pres. Obama still has the power to stop DAPL in the last weeks of his term. I hope he finds the courage. But not holding my breath.

I'm still surprised at how many liberal Clinton supporters still believe that Trump is "moderating" and are willing to "give him a chance". I don't know what else he has to do to them to show he's a for-real neo-fascist.

Trump lunches with NYTers. 
Case in point... NYT execs and staff held a lunch meeting with Trump in an attempt to find "common ground". The Times has been a favorite target of Trump, a 1st-Amendment denier.

Thomas ("Earth is flat") Friedman left the meeting somewhat assured that Trump was "rethinking" his extreme positions. Ie. on torture, not prosecuting Hillary Clinton,  and on environmental issues.

Not having any of it was NYT columnist Charles Blow who didn't attend the meeting but was overwhelmed by the "slime factor" as he read the transcript.

Writes Blow:
I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

DRESSED TO OPPRESS... Michelle Rhee and husband, Kevin Johnson leave Trump's golf club after being turned down for the Sec. of Ed job in favor of Betsy DeVos. Rhee assured Trump she's still on board with his program. 
On the eve of Trump's appointment of anti-"government school" extremist Betsy DeVos to the post of Ed Secretary, N.Y. charter bigwig Eva Moskowitz was still assuring us that, “There are many positive signs that President Trump will be different from candidate Trump.” Of course a positive sign to Moskowitz is Trump assuring her in a private meeting, that millions of dollars will continue to flow away from public schools and into the pockets of private charter operators like her.

And then, there are those corp-style school reformers like Peter Cunningham, who look at Trump purely from charter school perspective and wonder aloud, "is he really for "choice" or not? If he shows that he is -- and he will -- they will likely get on board the Trump train, even though he didn't hire their choice, Michelle Rhee as Ed Sec, and even while thousands of students (including their own charter school students) are being rounded up and deported.

I've also noted some cracks in their wall. First with a critical, but nebulous statement from the corporate-reform group Teach For America, following the DeVos appointment. Then from DFER Pres. Shavar Jefferies, calling on his people not to work for Trump.

But I wonder what TFAers and Jefferies will say and do when Trump and DeVos are pushing the very same legislation on charters and vouchers that they have supported all along. Tough choices ahead for them of they want to keep their base.