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Hooray for cartoonists.

September 17, 2014

Dykes to Watch Out For cartoonist Alison Bechdel won the MacCarthur Award this morning. Hooray for cartoonists.



September 17, 2014


California public pension funds to hedge fund managers: “Drop dead.”

September 16, 2014


Deal Book:

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension fund, will eliminate all of its hedge fund investments over the next year on concerns that investments are too complicated and expensive.

The pension fund, which oversees $300 billion, said on Monday that it would liquidate its positions in 24 hedge funds and six hedge fund-of-funds — investments that total $4 billion and more than 1 percent of its total investments under management.

The decision, after months of deliberation by the pension fund’s investment committee, comes as public pensions across the United States are beginning to assess their exposure to hedge funds. It is likely to reverberate across the investment community in the United States, where large investment funds look to Calpers as a model because of its size and the sophistication of its investments.

Calpers oversees investments and retirement benefits for 1.6 million teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees. It said it had not decided where it would invest the money it divests.

“I’m a little shocked at what Calpers is doing,” Charles J. Gradante, managing principal of the hedge fund advisory firm Hennessee Group. “Hedge funds are the place to be now because people are expecting a major correction. You’re looking at a very bumpy stock market over the next five years and that is where hedge funds will prove their mettle.”

A growing number of pension funds and institutional investors have expressed concern that the fees that hedge funds charge are too high. While there is a range, hedge funds typically follow a “2 and 20” model where investors pay management fees of 2 percent of the total assets under management and 20 percent of the profit.

These concerns have become more pronounced as performance across the hedge fund industry has disappointed investors. Hedge funds have underperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index for the last five years, a metric that pension funds frequently cite as a comparison. In 2013, for example, the average hedge fund returned just 9.1 percent, according to the data firm HFR. That compares with a 32.4 percent increase in the S.&P. 500.

Calpers said it paid $135 million in hedge fund fees over the financial year that ended on June 30. The hedge fund investments returned just 7.1 percent, adding 0.4 percent to the firm’s total returns. For its hedge fund investments to have a material impact, Calpers would have to increase its hedge fund investments to at least 10 percent of its total portfolio, which was not a feasible option, according to Joe DeAnda, a spokesman for Calpers.

Even as some pension funds are reconsidering their investments in hedge funds, the industry has continued to grow to a record $2.8 trillion today, according to HFR.

Read the entire article here.

Chicago’s Marshall High School and Zombie education reform.

September 16, 2014


The firing (Barbara Byrd-Bennett calls it reassignment) of Marshall principal Angel Johnson is a metaphor for much of what passes as school reform.

Stuff happens and nobody is responsible.

Corporate reform has become a zombie. It is dead. Yet it lives on.

Angel Johnson, by all accounts a personable and capable principal, had to be fired because that’s what the School Improvement Grant requires.

Even though Johnson wrote the grant.

She is an Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) product, being replaced as interim principal by another AUSL alumni.

Nobody suggests Johnson has not been doing a good job. In fact, she has been praised by students and teachers alike.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says its not up to her. It’s the state. But Illinois officials claim ignorance. Which, in their case, is perfectly believable.

Nobody thinks the amount of testing is good for teaching.

But the Zombie lives.

Nobody takes any responsibility for NCLB.

But the Zombie lives.

Race to the Top?

It is the living dead.

From the right-wingers at the Fordham Institute to Arne Duncan himself. They all now distance themselves from this stuff.

Yet it lives.

A perfectly fine principal is fired from a west side Chicago high school that has been on probation for 16 years and nobody is responsible.

See. It is what the grant requires.

Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois opposes SB16.

September 16, 2014

For immediate release
For more information:
Bev Johns-217-473-1790


Senate Bill 16 would completely change how Illinois funds local schools. The bill has passed the Illinois State Senate, and is now being considered in closed meetings by the top Democratic members of the Illinois House of Representatives.

The Board of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois on Saturday, September 13th, voted unanimously to OPPOSE Senate Bill 16 as now written.
Bev Johns, president of LDA of Illinois, states, “Senate Bill 16 would directly harm students with disabilities and their parents. Illinois has a proud history in special education. Senate Bill 16 would tarnish all we have done in the past.”

The members of LDA are largely parents of students with learning disabilities (LD), dyslexia and related disabilities. Membership also includes college professors, and special ed teachers.

LDA of Illinois opposes Senate Bill 16 because it would completely eliminate special ed Personnel Reimbursement which provides local school districts $9,000 for each special ed teacher, each school psychologist, each school social worker, etc. that works directly with students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

SB 16 would replace special ed Personnel Reimbursement, and certain other special education funding, with a block grant limited to 13.8 percent of a local school districts’ students.

If a school district identifies more than 13.8 percent of its students as needing special education because of high poverty and/or because of a school district’s sincere attempt to identify every child with a disability, the school district would receive zero State dollars for each student in special education that exceeds 13.8 percent of its student population.

LDA of Illinois opposes this 13.8 percent limit because it is arbitrary and will actively discourage local school districts from identifying students for special education.

Some claim that the 13.8 percent limit will prevent local school districts from over-identifying students. It has been the experience of LDA of Illinois all over the State that local school districts do not identify more students so they can receive $9,000 (1/3 to 1/10 of a special ed teacher’s salary) as identifying students gives parents and students all the legal rights in Illinois law and in the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

S.O.R.E. field trip. Town Hall with Senators Biss and Manar on school funding, Special Needs.

September 16, 2014

biss and manar

Illinois State Senators Dan Biss and Andy Manar.

Members of our retired IEA chapter are concerned about our pensions. Not just our pensions. We are concerned about the preservation of public schools. That means we are concerned about funding.

In Illinois, there is a lot to be concerned about.

Illinois ranks at the bottom when it comes to state funding for public education.

The Illinois Constitution says the state has the main responsibility for school funding. The courts have ruled the language doesn’t mean the state has the main responsibility for funding schools.

I don’t get that either.

Every attempt  to change the way Illinois funds our schools has failed. So we rely mostly on local property taxes. Wealthy communities and those with casinos and atomic power plants do well. Those without local resources do worse.

Some do much worse.

Much, much worse.

Democratic State Senator Andy Manar has come with a bill – SB16 –  that addresses state school funding. The Senate passed  SB16 last session.

His plan is to take the existing crappy funding and redivide the pie. He says wealthy districts will get less. Poorer districts will get more.

But without a larger pie Manar’s plan will result in some serious costs to all our public schools.

The bill ends the requirement that schools offer instruction in drivers’ education; daily physical education; avoiding abduction; internet safety; the Holocaust and genocides; black history; women’s history; United States’ history; disability history; the disability rights movement; consumer education; natural resources; steroid use and prevention; requirements applicable to sex education courses; and violence prevention and conflict resolution.

We always complain about unfunded mandates. But this is just nuts.

Yes. U.S. History would become optional. Physical Education as well.

When there is not enough money you have to make difficult choices.

It’s just like your own family budget. If you are working three fast food jobs and still earning less than the poverty level, you may have to decide not to pay the heating bill.

It’s all about choices.

And one of the choices is servicing students will Special Needs.

Last night I received this from Beverley Johns, Special Needs advocate:

The Board of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of
Illinois on Saturday, September 13th, voted unanimously
to OPPOSE Senate Bill 16 as it would directly
harm students with disabilities and their parents.

The members of LDA are largely parents of
of students with Learning Disabilities, dyslexia
and related disabilities, plus college teachers,
and special ed teachers.

Within the next few days other major organizations
such as the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children
(Illinois CEC), largely special ed teachers, are
expected to formally oppose Senate Bill 16 because
it would completely eliminate special ed Personnel
Reimbursement which provides local school
districts $9,000 for each special ed teacher,
each school psychologist, each school social
worker, etc. that works directly with students
with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

It seems that one of the areas that is being severely impacted by SB16 is the mandate that local districts spend funding on Special Needs students.

We have been told that key House members have been meeting on SB16 during the summer. It will likely come up in the House after the election.

Tonight S.O.R.E members will be joining active teachers and parents at a Town Hall sponsored by Senator Dan Biss. Senator Manar will be present.

Join us at 7:00 at 1500 McDaniel in Evanston.

Richard Skoda’s dreams.

September 15, 2014



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