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The Chicago Transit Authority and Rahm’s water carriers at the Sun-Times.

October 27, 2014


CTA boss Forrest Claypool and his boss.

After the Sun-Times pushed out their Springfield bureau chief David McKinney, Sun-Times reporters asked for some kind of assurance that their paper will change its spots and become an independent civic voice.

You know. Like a newspaper.

McKinney wrote the “Why I Left” letter, documenting how the editor, publisher and owners (which once included Bruce Rauner) caved to pressure from the billionaire candidate for Illinois Governor.

I have already reported that some journalists believe that the political advisors to the Mayor are expecting the Sun-Times to play a crucial and supportive role in the campaign.

The paper will try to muddy up Bob Fioretti – and Chuy Garcia if he decides to run – and ignore the lesser known candidates.

Hints of the strategy could be seen in the hit pieces the paper ran on Karen Lewis, claiming she was was a major real estate holder because of a family cabin in Michigan and a time share in Hawaii.

Today they feature this headline to a story that is barely more than a mayoral press release:

No fare hikes, service cuts in CTA’s $1.44B 2015 budget

This is so transparent. Even my dog Ulysses is more skeptical than this.

The only challenge to this pre-election smoke machine in this news item is a two short paragraph nod to unhappy CTA riders.

Some questioned why rail lines were adding service but not bus routes, which have seen cuts in recent years. Proposed cuts to the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus and some express bus routes, as well as pass price increases, brought hordes of protesters to the CTA’s 2013 budget hearings. CTA officials said at the time that cuts eliminated “redundant” service, including the availability of CTA trains within half a mile.

“They are ignoring the bus riders,’’ said Kevin Peterson, of Citizens Taking Action for Transit Dependent Riders. “The reason we lost all that ridership was because of the fact they did all those bus cuts.’’

The CTA bureaucrats consider bus lines a redundant service if they are within half a mile of train service.

Ask a senior, a parent with children in tow or someone with a disability if a half mile walk to a train stop over a bus on the corner is redundant service.

Did I mention that Metra ticket prices are going up by nearly 70%.

When I wrote a post a couple of months ago about the hoops seniors have to go through to get a reduced fare pass on the CTA, members of my Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (SORE) chapter thought it would be a good idea to invite someone from the CTA or Metra to come and speak to one of our chapter meetings.

They were unavailable.

To get answers to our questions about CTA service we need reporters to challenge the hype.

Good luck with that.

John Dillon. The choices.

October 27, 2014

John Dillon

- John Dillon is a retired teacher, pension activist and blogger at Pension Vocabulary. John is also running to be a delegate  to the IEA Representative assembly in April.

I called the office for the re-election of Governor Quinn last week.  Assistant Martin and I talked for a while, but he was uncomfortable about my question. “Martin, how can Governor Quinn help me and the hundreds of thousands of others in the public sector vote for him this November?  Can he just tell us about Plan B?  If he could assure us that he would never support any reduction in pension benefits, we could help him over the hurdle, Martin.”

“We’ll be right back to you on that.  It’s a good question – Plan B?”

E-mails, phone calls…nothing back yet.

My bad?  My naiveté?

My good friend tells me I am a hopeless optimist, but he means it kindly.  There are no choices this year – meanwhile, smooth commercials describe Lisa Madigan as a friend of the elderly.   It’s crazy, isn’t it?

My friend says honestly and accurately that our situation is an embarrassment, a disappointment, a profound sadness, and a shame.

“What an embarrassment it is that we did not pay attention to our union leadership when they were doing nothing about the Democratic/Republican choices for Illinois governor several months ago.

What a disappointment it is that we could not prevent the nominations of two candidates, Quinn and Rauner, who care less about working-class people they are supposed to represent.  

What a profound sadness it is that we did not challenge the Democratic/Republican One-Party Plutocratic System and its complicity with powerful, wealthy lobbyists.

What a shame it is that we perpetuate an unethical political system where our public employee unions endorse a governor who broke a constitutional contract with retirees and public employees; a governor who will challenge the State Constitution again if he is re-elected (when the pension theft reform bill is not upheld); a governor who indicated he will shift the State’s contributions to our retirement accounts from the State to local school districts and, thus, weaken the public school system and Teachers Retirement System; a governor who chose to ignore the state’s pension debt and revenue problems but chose to victimize public employees and retirees instead.

What a failure ineptitude is and the resultant choice now before us.

Quinn or Rauner will weaken the stability of the Teachers Retirement System and our faltering unions. We cannot allow another election between two abysmal candidates like Quinn and Rauner four years from now. We must prevent this catastrophe from ever happening again.”

(teacher/poet/musician : The Illinois Gubernatorial Election: We must prevent this catastrophe from ever happening again)

Tomorrow, my wife and I will wend our way to the early voting booth, and I will touch the screen for….

Even now, I am torn apart by our indefensible and totally distasteful position(s).

Make your best choice, my friends.

Read the entire post, Decisions, Decisions, here.

Jose Vilson. Time Magazine and bad teachers.

October 27, 2014

Jose Vilson

- Jose Vilson is a New York teacher. He is author of the book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education and blogs at The Jose Vilson.

A few questions to ask yourself before you talk to me about bad teachers.

What is a bad teacher? Out of the dozens of teachers you’ve had, how many of them would you actually call “bad”? Are you successful because or despite those teachers? Did your school environment exacerbate or blunt the effect of the bad teacher? Would you have “made it” if the bad teacher was a good teacher? What do you think the percentage of bad teachers is right now? Where are they? What do they look like? What’s the difference between what you think is a bad teacher and what the school system says is a bad teacher? Do the characteristics of a bad teacher make them bad employees in other organizations? Why or why not? Are good teachers made or born?

Once you’re absolutely sure about those questions, let me ask a few more:

Should education be an immediate reflection of a democratic society or one formed based on markets? Should we inherit ideas from other industries like medicine, law, or technology? If not, why not? If so, why and which? Which non-educators would you trust with making educational decisions? Why? Are any of the systems from any other industry we look at more or less transparent than our current education system in America? How much influence should powerful leaders from other industries have on our education system? To you, and only you, are the leaders of other industries perfect leaders for education because of their affluence, intellect, or bold ideas that might give every child in America a true chance to succeed here?

Read the entire post, Bad Teachers [Running Out of Time] here.

Please forward. Another name added to our candidates for Retired delegates to the IEA RA.

October 26, 2014

I am pleased to add Jack Tucker’s name to our list. Jack is a former IEA Retired Chair.

Jack writes: Janet (IEA Retired Chair Janet Kilgus- Fred) has garnered positions on IPACE and the Executive Committee. We need these positions guarenteed. We represent more members than Students or Higher Ed. They have guaranteed positions – why not the more than 10,000 members of retired?

In a few weeks members of the Illinois Education Association’s retired will be receiving ballots in the mail.

Thirty-nine candidates are running to represent retirees at the state convention that will be held in Rosemont next April. IEA Retired members will vote for twenty. There is a section of the ballot for additional ethnic minority representation.

You must be a current IEA Retired member to receive a ballot.

There are many good people who are running. Many are long-time IEA and IEA Retired activists. Representing members at the RA is a non-paid position and soapplause is due to anyone who runs.

A few of us have come together to run based on a specific platform.

We are running as candidates to represent the IEA Retired at the 2015 IEA Representative Assembly. We share the following beliefs. (This is not a criticism of others who are running as delegates. We strongly believe in a diversity of views).

1. We believe the IEA leadership needs to improve communication with its membership.
2. We believe the IEA leadership should be more transparent in its decision-making process.
3. We believe retirees should have a stronger voice (more representation) in the decision-making process of the Association.
4. We believe our Association should take a more significant and active role in defending our schools, our members, and our students from corporate school reform schemes such as charter schools, vouchers, Common Core, Race to the Top and teacher evaluations based on student test scores.
5. We believe in defending our contractual and constitutional pension benefits and rights without apologies, concessions or compromise.

- Jack Tucker, Mary Richie, Glen Brown, John Dillon and Fred Klonsky

We encourage other retired delegates to join us.  We understand that some may agree with us on some, but not all the points. We hope bringing these up in this way will encourage discussion.

We wouldn’t mind if active teachers running as delegates representing their locals also sign on to this platform.

And we will be talking about these issues more in the coming weeks.

Waukegan and Hinsdale.

October 26, 2014


Photo: Waukegan Teachers Council

Those who follow my blog regularly know that I have been on it in reporting on two Chicago area school districts and their two union locals.

They are different in many ways.

They are similar in that they demonstrate what teachers across Illinois are facing.

There is more than a hammer on a Time Magazine cover coming down on teachers these days.

Hinsdale is a school district in the western suburbs of Chicago. The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association is affiliated with the Illinois Education Association and the National Education Association. It has a teaching staff of highly regarded professionals. The staff is appreciated by the community it serves.

While few were paying attention, a right-wing, ideologically driven Tea Party group was elected to the school board in a low turnout election. When contract bargaining began, all hell broke loose. The extremist board members suggested that then-CTU President Karen Lewis was somehow involved. They issued attacks on the IEA staff people who work for their union members. The board spent thousands of dollars of school district money on fancy mailers to parents’ homes. They lied about what was appearing on Facebook and threatened teachers’ free speech rights.

Once Hinsdale was a competitive district in terms of compensation. This ideologically driven board has created an atmosphere that has led many employees to seek jobs elsewhere.

Following community pressure and the removal of the extremists from the bargaining table, the contract was resolved. But those board members and their agenda remain alive and well in Hinsdale.

Waukegan is a working class town a hour north of Chicago. The Waukegan Teachers Council is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. It has a staff of highly regarded professionals. The staff is appreciated by the community it serves.

The board of education appears not so much driven by ideology, but by an unreasonable desire to keep the district uncompetitive with surrounding districts when it comes to compensation.

When the teachers engaged in a legal job action and went on strike nearly three weeks ago, many hoped it would be settled quickly. But the board has acted with very little sense of the urgency of the situation.  They have left it to highly paid attorneys to do their bargaining for them.

While Waukegan runs a budget surplus, it has done this for years on the backs of teachers and other district employees. Many have been forced to seek employment elsewhere to earn enough money to support their families.

As one veteran Waukegan teacher told me, “Teachers can’t stay in Waukegan.”

Waukegan teachers need the support of all those who care about public education and collective bargaining. Not just from the two state teacher unions, but the entire labor movement.

And this from a teacher in Hinsdale:

Hi Fred!

Just a quick note to say thank you for the attention you brought to our crazy school board.

They’ve already doubled down and threatened to cut teaching positions at the very meeting they approved the contract. This after they tried to delay approving the contract. But even though this is the worst contract we’ve seen in a long time, with nothing but concessions to the board, somehow these crazy board members claim it is going to do what all the previous contracts never did – somehow bankrupt the district.

Mind you, all those previously unsustainable contracts led to a $50M+ surplus, a AAA bond rating, and absolutely no deficit spending for years, this one with a 0.7% raise to the base is going to ruin the district.

By golly, they now HAVE TO cut programs and teachers!!!! I just hope to God the community has finally caught on to these manipulative dishonest individuals and their extreme political agenda.

Thanks very much for helping to raise that awareness.

Sunday reads.

October 26, 2014


Picking the Chairman of the Board?

Do you need a research study about the value of play in kindergarten? If you are a teacher of kindergarten kids, don’t you know this?

Illinois’ state board of education ensures that the Teacher of the Year will be white. 

“I have taught in two Mississippi Delta high schools.”

From bad to worse for PARCC.

A Chicago neighborhood fights a school closing and wins one. “None of this would have happened without the diligence of the community,” says Jitu Brown. “This is not an example of a responsive elected official or government.”

Karen Lewis’ replacement at the CTU has something to say.

Quarantine crazy.

The Trib thinks the election for Illinois Governor is over who will be the CEO. Maybe they’re right. And that is wrong.

Now we can also report this story has a connection to the other huge story this week, the resignation of respected reporter Dave McKinney from the Sun-Times.

The pharmaceutical company at issue is Ovation Pharmaceuticals, Inc. which was founded in 2000 by Jeffrey Aronin.

Ovation was acquired by Bruce Rauner’s private equity firm GTCR in 2002. Rauner was chairman of GTCR at the time. In keeping with GTCR’s usual business model, the equity firm partnered with company founder Aronin, and he stayed on to serve as Ovation’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

Among other positions, Aronin currently serves as Special Advisor to Merrick Ventures, LLC, a company founded by the Sun-Times’ majority owner Michael Ferro. Ferro serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Merrick Ventures, LLC.

In 2013, just months before making his gubernatorial run official, Rauner sold his 10% stake in the Sun-Times’ parent company to Ferro. Rauner reportedly sold his interest for $5 million, and that transaction enabled Ferro to increase his control of the Sun-Times company to a two-thirds stake.

Aronin, Rauner and Ferro also all served together on the board of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s World Business Chicago.

As the Dave McKinney story has exposed, the intertwining of private equity big shots with media owner big shots raises serious concerns about the objectivity of reporting when one of those big shots is also running to be THE big shot of state government.

The disclosures this week about the treatment of Mr. McKinney has shaken the credibility of Illinois media companies to their foundations, even if few in the industry are so far willing to acknowledge that reality.

A serious conflict has been revealed between the big shots’ desire to help a friend and fellow big shot vs. the public’s right to be informed. Doug Ibendahl.

Les Perelman’s BABEL generator. You try it.

October 25, 2014


My friend Les Perelman and some grad students came up with software that generates gibberish. They named the program BABEL,  the Basic Automated BS Essay Language Generator.

Why would MIT grad students want to generate gibberish?

To demonstrate the problem with computer-based scoring of test essays.

Les submitted the results to AES, Automatic Scoring Engines.  

“It works spectacularly well in producing nonsense that received high scores from various AES machines,” wrote Les.

BABEL even works well with ETS’ e-rater. Though ETS would not give me direct access to its scoring engine, ETS allows prospective test takers to take practice Graduate Record Exam (GRE) essays that are instantly graded by e-rater for $13. I have bought a number of these packages and have used the BABEL Generator to produce essays that consistently receive scores of 5 and 6 on a 1-6 point scale on each of the two writing assignments that comprise the writing portion of the GRE.

Naturally ETS has banned Les from future access to their scoring engine.

I tried it.

BABEL asks for three keywords.

I picked Chicago, politics and schools.

Here is what BABEL produced:

Chicago has not, and no doubt never will be misplaced. Human society will always enlightenment teachers; some of intercessions and others for a accumulation. a lack of Windy City lies in the field of literature but also the field of philosophy. Teachers is the most prototypically collaborating commencement of mankind.

Verisimilitude, especially for acceptance, articulates a query on rapaciously but discordantly antagonistic consequences by instructor. If conveyances voyage or belittle contemplation, pique that is consistently inappropriate but is iconoclastic, quotidian, and reproving with politics can be more venomously portended. Additionally, political relation, often at a assumption, can be the ligation. In my experience, all of the affronts to our personal epigraph of the exposition we taunt afford the allocations in question. Even so, armed with the knowledge that the divisive surfeit mortifies impropriety, most of the probes for my reprimand blubber. Our personal injunction to the aggregation we disparage acquiesces. Chicago which performs all of the demonstrations might certainly be an amygdala on our personal assassination with the taunt we surprise as well. The rumination of devices may be inauguration but is petulant yet somehow discrepant, not remuneration that depreciates contretemps and denounces dictates. In my theory of knowledge class, none of the dictators at our personal axiom by the exposure we allure collaborate and probe quips which civilize the advancement. The more a circumstance that gambols should be reprobation, the less provocation can diligently be a Gaussian onslaught.

As I have learned in my semiotics class, teacher is the most fundamental amplification of humankind. Though interference for veracity inverts, information processes brains. The same pendulum may process two different orbitals to process an orbital. The plasma is not the only thing the brain reacts; it also receives neutrinoes for disruption with Chicago. Due to advancing, humanely but egotistically admonished accumulations collapse also on Chicago. a startling teacher changes the dictum at Windy City.

The authentication, frequently to a retort, contravenes politics. The sooner the people involved attest, the sooner contemplation sanctions confluences. Furthermore, as I have learned in my literature class, society will always verify political relation. Our personal congregation of the convulsion we expel will be demolition with apprentices and may risibly be commission. The inspection might, still yet, be elidible in the way we respond or utter the inflexibly and pusillanimously atrocious acquiescence but accumulate intercessions. In my semantics class, almost all of the tyroes at my escapade convulse or augur the appendage. a quantity of political relation is inchoate for our personal speculation on the authorization we encounter as well. The avocation denigrates conjecture, not a ligation. In my experience, many of the circumscriptions by our personal assassin at the appetite we ascertain bemoan insinuations. The less rancor that seethes is antipodal in the extent to which we demarcate most of the adjurations for the realm of reality and infuse or should unyieldingly be a trope, the more affronts articulate the trope of parsimony.

Politics with agronomists will always be an experience of human society. In any case, armed with the knowledge that sublimation may perilously be compensation, most of the domains at my aggregation dictate commencements but quibble and disseminate inquiries which fascinate a rumination. If elated agriculturalists intercede and appease sanctions to the admonishment, teachers which choreographs assassinations can be more naturally assimilated. Instructor has not, and undoubtedly never will be articulated but not risible. Chicago is genially but fallaciously whimpering as a result of its those in question.

Would this get me into Harvard? Who knows?

But Les’ research suggests it would score well on an AES.

You try it.



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