The Illinois pension debt is the issue not discussed in the race for governor.

North west side State Representative Robert Martwick.

What don’t Illinois gubernatorial candidates want to talk about?

The $130 billion public pension liability.

If you are at a forum and you press the question, as I have, you will get some generalities about pension promises being kept.

That is better than Bruce Rauner, of course. Or Mike Madigan and John Cullerton for that matter.

But specifics? Not much there there.

All of the Democrats, and now we are talking basically three – Pritzker, Kennedy and Biss – support a progressive income tax. But there is nothing in that change that would guarantee increased revenue would be targeted at the pension debt. History suggests it may not.  Pension payments have a way of being diverted.

Today’s Sprinfield Journal Register’s Doug Finke quotes Chicago State Representative Robert Martwick as suggesting three possible legislative approaches to the pension debt that might come up in the next session.

Martwick concedes that both sides of the aisle now get it that direct benefit cuts to current Tier I members of the state’s pension systems can’t happen based on the historic decision of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Martwick outlines three ideas being floated.

The first is a buy-out – a single cash payment in lieu of an annual compounded 3% raise.

Any retiree taking that deal is in desperate need of immediate cash or doesn’t know basic math.

It will not solve anything.

Martwick says that the legislature might consider issuing bonds to pay for the debt, hoping they can be sold at better than the current interest rate on the debt.

“This would be the largest bond sale in the history of the world,” Martwick told Finke.

That’s encouraging.

And then there is the sensible solution: Re-amortize the debt.

The idea has been promoted by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability among others. CTBA executive director Ralph Martire said the plan would set a slightly lower target for the pension funds to be considered adequately funded, although still meeting acceptable standards. The problem is the date for reaching those targets is extended.

“You do have pressure created by editorial boards and others who say if you don’t follow the current (payment plan) and you get funded to a lesser amount, aren’t you kicking the can down the road,” Martire said. “No politician wants to be accused of kicking the can down the road. That attack has a lot of political value and it really makes elected officials nervous.”

So, count on nothing being done.

Also count on those in the media writing another story on the top ten pension recipients.

That’s always good for a slow news days.

From Bev Johns: The ISBE and legislators turned a blind eye to CPS special education mess.

Hearings on CPS special education cuts and block grants in Springfield.

Imagine teaching a classroom or running a school without monitoring the students. Chaos would occur. Teachers and administrators are expected to supervise the students entrusted in their care.  Perhaps some students can be trusted to do the right thing when the teacher isn’t looking but there will be students who will become out of control. They will test the limits to see what they can do without getting caught.

Apply this to the State of Illinois and what has happened within the Chicago Board of Education.  The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois General Assembly are supposed to watch school districts. They are supposed to monitor and supervise.  Are they doing that?

While the blame game about who is responsible for CPS rewriting policies that resulted in the denial of services for children with disabilities, the bottom line is that the State Board of Education is responsible for monitoring that and when that isn’t being done, the Illinois General Assembly should be acting.  Many policy makers knew what was happening within the Chicago Board of Education.

There were independent reports that disclosed the information.  Many of us are grateful for the work done by the Better Government Association and WBEZ. That work that should have been done by the State officials entrusted with our children’s care.  They had a responsibility to read the expose from WBEZ and they had the responsibility to do something about it.  When they were told about the Better Government Association report, they had a responsibility to check it out.  Instead the State Board of Education didn’t monitor and the Illinois General Assembly turned their head the other way and pushed for more local control when they were working on the bill that was touted as “evidence-based funding.”

This author made a trip to Springfield to testify and explained the dangers of block-granting and removing special education personnel reimbursement. Did most legislators listen?  No, instead some of them, some lobbyists and some “professional” organizations retaliated against the author for speaking out against what was happening in Chicago because what was not working there would be spread throughout the state.

One of the legislators who was at Friday’s hearing about the actions of CPS claimed he didn’t know anything about what was going on there.  If he half way listened to what this author was saying he knew exactly what was happening. He now plays ignorant.  Many others knew what was going on and chose to ignore it.

How did we get into this mess, and more importantly why have children been denied services:

  1. The State Board of Education, for whatever reasons, has not been monitoring school districts as they are supposed to do.
  2. Policies and procedures for special education of local school districts used to be reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education. The regulations were changed so that the policies and procedures no longer have to be approved.
  3. Funding for the Chicago Board of Education’s special education programs was block granted in 1995; it doesn’t have to be spent on special education personnel.
  4. The State Board of Education has pushed Response to Intervention, a process that they required in the special education regulations; and pushed for every student to go through RTI. The U.S. Department of Education was clear in its guidance that RTI could not be used to deny or delay an evaluation when the team suspected a disability or knew there was a disability.  Some school districts saw RTI as a mechanism to avoid giving parents and students their due process rights. Children in RTI (also called MTSS) have no rights.
  5. Unfortunately some school district officials and advocates painted special education as bad and conveyed to families that they shouldn’t want their children in special education.

Just like in the classroom, some students will do the right thing when they are unsupervised, but classrooms still require monitoring of all students so those that choose to not follow the rules will be provided structure and routine. Students will know exactly what is expected and will be given consequences when they don’t behave.  In school districts, there are many wonderful administrators and then there are those who choose to break the rules, especially when they know that there isn’t anyone watching. We need rules and regulations that set boundaries and we need enforcement of those rules.  Local control may sound good but can also be disastrous for children.

Sunday after the Women’s March, week in review.



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This week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers with guest, Amber Smock, disability rights activist and advocate.

Next week our guest will be Aaron Goldstein, Democratic 33rd Ward Committeeman and candidate for Illinois Attorney General.

Director of outreach for Access Living, Amber Smock.




Blog posts:

This is not a drill.

When the board wanted our school district to get a waiver honoring the Reverend Martin Luther King.

On this Martin Luther King Day my now-retired teaching pal reflects on the vulgar and profane.

Hearing aids print money and executives steal it.

WTTW’s Paris Schutz and the myth of averages.

9,000 teachers are among those that face deportation without DACA.

Ahead of Janus, union haters are collecting teacher names.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #48. Amber Smock, people with disabilities advocate and activist.

We had our production meeting over coffee at Bridgeport Coffee. Apparently so does Alderman Eddie Burke. He is the one wearing the pin-stripe suit at the table behind us.

We had more important things to discuss than the guy in pin-stripes.

We were getting ready for episode #48 of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers with our in-studio guest, Amber Smock.

Amber is director of outreach for Access Living, an important Chicago institution that, among many other fine works, advocates for those with disabilities.

We got into issues of policy, language, education, movement building, self-identification and tons more in what is a fast-moving hour.

This was my first solo flight at producing.

Station manager Jamie Trecker described it as “true community radio.”

I think that means that on listening to the replay I counted at least half a dozen production mistakes.

Jamie probably counted more.

I will get better at it.

Meanwhile, I think Amber’s message game through loud and clear.

That’s what’s important.

You can hear and download the podcast here.

Ahead of Janus, union haters are collecting teacher names.

Is a group with connections to the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei using FOIA to gather names of union teachers in Illinois?

In a memo that was passed on to me, IEA locals around the state are being asked to closely monitor any FOIA requests.

The state union is warning local leaders that it is an “urgent” situation since the Supreme Court could rule on the Janus case as early as May. Janus would deprive unions of the right to fair share and agency fees in exchange for the right to due representation of members. If the court rules against teacher unions, it would be a devastating blow.

The IEA memo mentions a shadowy group called the Parents Foundation for Education as the one filing the FOIA request.

PFA has ties to the conservative Opus Dei.

This is to let you know that the Parent’s Foundation for Education has sent a FOIA request to a significant number of Illinois school districts asking for:
·  Campus (or office building name, for staff)
·  First Name
·  Middle Name
·  Last Name
·  Position
·  Grade Level(for teachers)
·  Subject Area taught (for teachers)
·  Certified in Area of Instruction (for teachers)
·  Any state certifications such as “LBS1, LBS2, ELL, etc.”
·  Home Address
·  School Email
·  Personal Email
·  Personal Phone Number
·  Gender
·  Race/Ethnicity
·  Hire Date
·  Years of Experience
·  Current Salary
Some of the districts received these requests as early as September 2017 and they are continuing across the country.  Because of that, the IEA is recommending the following:
1.       Find out from your district if they have received the request, and if so, ask for a copy of the request and the district’s response.
2.       Ask your district that it give you notice immediately after such requests for member information are made and provide you with a copy of the request.  Check your CBA for any language already mandating your district to provide your local with such information.  If your CBA has such language, make sure the district complies with the contractual obligations.
3.       If you determine that such requests have already been made or are made in the future, you should take the following actions:
a.       start 1:1 campaigns, in which every member is talked to by a local leader/supporter;
b.      conversations should include the value of their locals-IEA-NEA and unions in general;
c.       in these conversations, share that “Out-of-state” groups or “In-state” groups, such as the Illinois Policy Institute, affiliated and funded by out-of-state groups will likely be contacting them about dropping their membership;
d.      point out that these groups are funded by billionaires who are making decisions about their profession(s);
e.      talk about how these groups want to take away their freedom to join whatever professional groups members want to join;
f.        implicate corporations which want to harm working people who devote their careers to helping people;
g.       explain that these groups want to take away their pensions, paychecks, benefits, and voice in their workplace and before state policy makers;
h.      do NOT use the terms “right wing” or “conservative” to describe these groups.
These steps need to be taken now.  There is no time to spare.  These groups are ready to attack your membership as soon as the Janus decision is issued, which could be as early as May.


9,000 teachers are among those that face deportation without DACA.

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If Congress fails to extend DACA, and Trump refuses to agree, over 800,000 Dreamers, non-citizens who came to the U.S. as children and who have lived their entire lives here, face deportation.

From a fact sheet published by the Migration Policy Institute: 

With DACA holders set to begin losing their protection in growing numbers starting early next year—MPI estimates about 915 people on average will fall out of DACA status each day beginning March 6, 2018…

The study finds that college enrollment among Dreamers is roughly the same as the population as a whole.

55% of Dreamers are employed. Most DACA participants (62 percent) who are not in the labor force are enrolled in school.

ƒThere are about 9,000 DACA recipients employed as teachers or similar education professionals, and another 14,000 in health-care practitioner and support jobs.

Removing 9,000 Dreamers from the nations teaching corps will be brutal.

There should be no Continuing Budget Resolution without saving DACA.

Hold Senate Democrats’ feet to the fire on this.