Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers episode #21.


I’m back with my brother to co-host this week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers, episode #21.

The guys at Bridgeport coffee noticed I was gone and it’s always nice to be noticed as missing.

We were joined on the show by intersex activist, educator and film maker, Pidgeon Pagonis.

Pidgeon’s own personal story brings to life the oppressive position of intersex folks who are as common in the general population as red heads.

They are born with a mix and a range of male and female components which has historically been treated as something to be fixed by the medical profession.

The fix consists of surgical interventions including genital mutilation.

But intersex requires no medical procedure and is nothing to fix.

While some may view the practice of genital mutilation as something done by others, in other countries and other cultures, Pidgeon points out that as an unnecessary medical procedure, genital mutilation was invented here.

Of course, we got into a discussion of the he/she they/them pronoun, which Pidgeon treats with a combination of good humor and seriousness.

Control of the language, the labels and how those with little or no power define and name themselves is power indeed.

Here is the podcast for listening or downloading.

Best. Show. Ever.


We’re talking gender issues on Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

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In-studio guest Pidgeon Pagonis (left) on the cover of January’s National Geographic.

Friday’s in-studio live guest is Pidgeon Pagonis, intersex activist, academic and artist.

11AM. 105.5FM in Chicago. Streaming live across the galaxies and podcast later in the day on hittingleft.libsyn.com

Coming up on future shows: former leader of the Illinois Bernie Sanders campaign, Clem Balanoff with Amalgamated Transit Union local presidents Keith Hill and Ken Franklin.

We are also talking with gubernatorial candidates Ameya Pawar on June 23rd.

Union-bashing charter operator wants equitable school funding? C’mon.


CTU legislative director Stacy Davis Gates and ChiACTS president Chris Bearhend on last weeks Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. 

No sooner had I posted the testimony that Bev Johns’ will deliver later today before an Illinois House Committee on SB1 (scroll down) when I came upon Michael Milkie’s op-ed in the Sun-Times.

Some legislators – even progressive ones – are confused about SB1 since it has been sold as bringing equity to state school funding.

It does no such thing.

It simply redivides crumbs but fails to provide adequacy.

First a word about Milkie.

He heads Chicago’s largest network of charter schools. When Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools tells the Tribune, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country,” he certainly has Milkie’s Noble Charters in mind.

Noble and Milkie are the epicenter of charter teacher union resistance.

Charter teacher union ChiACTS’ President Chris Baehrend, writing today in the Tribune explains, 

Charter expansion means that Chicago’s meager pot of education funding gets spread among even more schools, and each school gets less.

A major problem with the charter model of school governance is the lack of voice for the adults who know students best — parents and teachers. A union gives teachers a stronger voice, and with that voice, our members are demanding a meaningful voice for parents in the form of Local School Councils for charter schools. The charter industry likes to tout charter “choice,” but this is merely product choice, and more choices don’t necessarily lead to better quality.

Real choice for parents means having a say in such things as how funds are spent, budgets are managed and whether a principal is renewed or not. I am an elected representative of teachers in charter schools, and my salary — on the same scale as the colleagues in my school — is paid for by dues from educators who serve their children. Teachers and students speak for schools, and the teachers’ democratic voice is their union.

Our union has spoken. We say no to austerity and privatization. We say yes to fully funded, democratic schools. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Chicago Teachers Union in support of our schools and in defense of public education.

When Milkie says that he supports SB1 out of his concern for funding equity, it rings hollow.

Ever expanding charter schools in Chicago and Illinois work against funding equity. What SB1 would provide is expanded charter funding without democratic controls and with resistance to collective bargaining.

There can be no school funding equity without public school adequate funding.

As Bev writes below, claiming equity with dollars that are taken from dedicated funding for hiring special education teachers is just wrong.

SB1. Bev Johns testifies today before the House Appropriations Committee.

Testimony of Bev Johns
June 22, 2017
House Appropriations – Elementary and Secondary Education

Chairman Davis, Spokesman Pritchard, Members of the Committee:

Special education in Illinois faces a crisis that will be made worse if you appropriate money according to the line items in Senate Bill 1.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1 say it will cost $3.5 billion or $350 million in new money each year for 10 years.

Now one of its main supporters (Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability: CTBA) states in a June 20 fact sheet that the Downstate [quote] “adequacy funding gap is $2.617 billion…40 percent of the state’s adequacy funding gap is downstate…” [end quote]

If 40 percent of the state’s adequacy funding gap is $2.617 Billion, the total for the State is over $6.5 Billion. (And $6.5 Billion TODAY is about $8 Billion in new money spread out over 10 years, and even more spread out over 20 years.)

The question is not where $350 million in NEW money EACH year will come from, but where $800 million in NEW money EACH year will come from.


SB 1 would eliminate direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers and for Summer School for students needing special education.

Meg Carroll, the president of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois, just stated:

“Illinois has the proud history of requiring special education, even before there was a federal law, and of tying state money directly to both special education teachers and special education summer school.  Senate Bill 1 ends that tradition.”

She continues, “The most critical school factor for the success of students with learning disabilities is the specially trained special education teacher. Senate Bill 1 allows previously dedicated special education funds to be spent on anything that a school district chooses to call special education.”

“The definition of special education in SB 1 refers to an old vague part of Illinois law [Section 14-1.08 of the Illinois school code] that does NOT even mention the federal special education law, IDEA, or spending money as required by the individualized educational plan, the IEP, for each student.”

Therefore, the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois has recommended a VETO OF SENATE BILL 1.

Please appropriate money for next school year, Fiscal Year 2018, according to current law. Please fund direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers (Special Education Personnel Reimbursement), and please fund Special Education Summer School.

The ISBE recommendation for Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is $444,200,000, and for Special Education Summer School is $13,400,000.

Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is now directly tied to teachers – if a school district employs a special ed teacher, it receives $9,000 in State funds each year (in every school district except Chicago).

If it does NOT employ that special ed teacher, it receives nothing.

Money is now directly tied to specialized teaching.

Giving $9,000 to a local school district is NOT going to cause local schools to go out and hire too many special ed teachers as it is from less than 10 percent to at most 30 percent of a teacher’s salary and benefits.

Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is an efficient, clear, and accountable way to spend State money, and has some equity. $9,000 is a greater percentage of a salary in a poor school district than it is in a rich district.

In GA6, Russia wins another one.


Gary Ossoff.

The Democratic Party establishment is running out of excuses for failure.

Yesterday they put their money – and lots of it – on a horse who ran no better than the the one I picked in the 8th race at Belmont on Fathers Day.

That one finished last too.

I haven’t heard the Russian interference excuse yet. But it is only the morning after. Give them a few days.

The Party bosses can’t use the we were out spent excuse. They picked this race in a normally Republican district to focus on, then raised and spent $25 million.

They can’t blame Bernie bros.

No Green Party.

The New York Times came up with a new one: Too many of the district’s voters with summer homes.

Questions also lingered about whether the grass-roots coalition backing Mr. Ossoff — fueled by highly motivated anti-Trump activists who were, in many cases, new to political activity and organizing — could improve on its April showing in a runoff held at the beginning of the summer vacation season, in a district where people have the means to escape to the beach.

There could be truth in that.

If the Party leadership feels closer to and competes with the Repugs for Republican voters, this is what they get.




Middle school graduation and a travel day.

First there was the deluge.

Then came the rainbow over Coney Island as my granddaughter graduated with over 400 of her fellow middle school students last night.

And I mean the rainbow arched right over Coney Island.

In a covered open air arena a few steps from the Cyclone roller coaster and Nathan’s hot dogs.


The kids were great.

The school played a video tape of Nelson Figueroa, former Mets player, current sports announcer and alum.

“This past year has shown that anybody can be President. Anybody,” he told the students.

The assembled 1,400 parents and family members laughed.

Another DOE bureaucrat told the kids that they had just spent the last three years “mastering the standards,” only to be told by another that if they remembered just half of what they learned in middle school they would do fine.

A much lower bar. 

The DOE should make up its mind.

Of course, I may have been one of the few who was actually paying attention to what they had to say.

Among the students it was a mix of joy and sadness about moving on.

For a grandfather, it was a delight.

Worthy of a rainbow.

Now the plane home.


Confederate monuments, real heroes and Fathers Day.


My Dad’s house on Howard Avenue in Brooklyn with Lucy.

Fathers Day was a day with our kids, grandkids and friends at Belmont Race Track in New York. I was sure that Cosi Bella was the horse to put my hopes on in the 7th.

My hopes were dashed. Cosi Bella finished out of the money. It was not the only bad pick yesterday.

We ended the day at Belmont after the 8th race.

My horse in the 8th may yet spin out of the final turn. We didn’t wait to see.

Driving back, my kids had a surprise for me.

At the spot on Eastern Parkway where Brownsville meets East New York we turned on to Howard Avenue and pulled up in front of a brick house with a wrought iron gate painted white and a car parked in the front yard. The facade looked like it had seen several remodeling jobs over the past hundred years, most recently with faux stone over the original red brick and a tin awning over a second floor porch.

This was probably the house to which my Dad arrived from the hospital when he was born in 1918 and the house he left to go fight in the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Hundreds of women and men from Brooklyn did the same thing. In 1937 it was mainly a neighborhood of working class Jews who recognized the Civil War in Spain as the first battle in a world-wide fight against fascism and were eager to get into it. Three thousand American would go to Spain. A little less than half would come home alive.

They were genuine heroes.

There is no historic marker on the house on Howard Avenue. There are no monuments to the veterans of the Spanish Civil War in Brooklyn that I know of.

All the American veterans of the Spanish Civil War are now dead.

Oddly, there is a memorial in Brooklyn to the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee.

When the city of New Orleans took down its last Confederate statue, of General Robert E. Lee, Representative Yvette Clarke, of New York’s Ninth Congressional District, had a local take. She tweeted, “We should do likewise with General Lee Avenue in Brooklyn.”

Clarke was referring to a street in Bay Ridge that is also named for the Confederate Army leader. Half a mile long, and two lanes wide, it is the main thoroughfare inside the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Hamilton, the city’s only active military base, which is fenced off from the surrounding neighborhood. All of the base’s streets are named for generals: Pershing Loop, for John Pershing; Marshall Drive, for George Marshall; Washington Drive, for George Washington. Lee served at Fort Hamilton in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1841 to 1846. This fact is memorialized on a boulder at the base’s entrance, which, an inscription notes, was installed by the New York chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Actually, there are two Confederate memorials to General Lee in Brooklyn.

General Lee Avenue is not the only Confederate memorial in Bay Ridge. Another can be found just a few blocks away, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, on Fort Hamilton Parkway. In the church’s front yard, there is a maple tree marked with an iron sign that reads, “This tree was planted by General Robert Edward Lee, while stationed at Fort Hamilton.” The sign was installed in 1912, also by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

And then recently I learned that making Confederate memorials was a profit center for Northern businessmen, including more than a few in my home town of Chicago.

Traditional bronze foundries were predominantly located in the North, and likewise produced figures of Confederate soldiers. The Hall County Confederate Monument, located in Gainesville, GA and produced by the Chicago-based American Bronze Company in 1909, bears a biblical inscription that reveals the impact on the local community intended by erecting these monuments: “Tell ye your children of it, and / let your children tell their children / and their children another generation.” This epigraph indicates the desire for a very specific telling of history, resisting the truth that both memory and our reading of history shifts over time.

Some readers may know that I have this thing about memorials.

A couple of years ago, at a National Education Association Representative Assembly I introduced a New Business Item that called upon the NEA to support the removal of Confederate memorials from all schools and public spaces.  I did it in response to the killings of nine parishioners at the African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The New Business Item was watered down and eventually adopted. Nothing was ever done in implement it

Winston Churchill is known to have said, “History is written by the victors.”

Not always.