Illinois’s governor. Keeping my powder dry.


Millions of union members dollars were spent by the IEA to rescue the pension thief, Pat Quinn.

On yesterday morning’s Hitting Left with my brother Mike, we spent a few minutes talking about the 2018 race for for the governor’s mansion.  Right now, that is all the time the issue is worth.

There was no discussion about Rauner. He’s got to go. And if the Democrats don’t screw it up, he will go.

Big if.

We, the Klonsky brothers, both agreed. There are a bunch of candidates who have announced for the Democratic nomination – a bunch claiming to be Progressives – and there may be more to come. There is no rush by us to support any of them.

The Illinois Representative Assembly, the state union’s annual convention is next weekend at the downtown Sheraton Grand.

I imagine that the place will be swarming with candidates for governor. I’m not sure why. The endorsement process in the IEA is fixed just as it was with the endorsement process in the NEA last year when Clinton was endorsed early with no strings.

The IEA’s endorsement process is a hapless one.

At the last local recommendation hearing I attended a few years ago as local leader of an IEA Retired group, the session was run by an IEA  Uniserv staffer who had no idea about the rules to be followed or what the issues were. Endorsement votes were cast by people who presented no evidence that they were empowered to cast a vote. That staffer was later terminated, I heard. But as an “employment related issue” we were legally kept from knowing the circumstances of the termination. But recommendations mean IPACE money is handed out, so it was worrisome to me.

In the lead up to the 2014 race for governor, the political arm of the IEA spent millions of rank and file member dollars.  First it was spent on the head of the Illinois chapter of the pro-business, anti-union  ALEC. Then they spent millions more of IPACE dollars on the pension thief incumbent Pat Quinn.

This electoral strategy was a massive failure, with thousands of union members and retirees voting Democratic but leaving the governor’s line blank.

In 2016 the IEA followed the lead of the NEA and endorsed Clinton over Sanders in the Illinois primary. Clinton entered the state’s primary race with a twenty point lead and with the help of the IEA squandered that lead in the span of a few weeks, barely winning the state by 30,000 votes and splitting the delegates almost evenly with Sanders.

Democratic hopefuls attending the IEA RA next weekend must be there for the chicken lunch because they can’t believe that the IEA leadership can actually produce anything for them.

And the rank and file membership will have little say.

So far, there is nothing about any of the Democrats that distinguishes them from one another. What do they have to say to the thousands of union members in the state? What solutions do they offer for a state that – even if we had a budget – doesn’t have the revenue to pay its bills? Our pensions carry a liability of over $130 billion dollars because of decades of failure to pay what was owed.

What do they have to say to the City of Chicago which continues to lose population, led by a massive exodus of African Americans who have been abandoned by the Democrats who ask for their votes?

I’m on hold and keeping my powder dry.

Keeping retirement weird. Schadenfreude.

God works in mysterious ways, I hear.

In spite of right-wing evangelist Pat Robertson’s declaring that he thought God was Speaker of the House, it turned out it was Paul Ryan.

I posted the word Schadenfruede on Facebook last week as it became clear the the Trumpists were on the verge of crashing and burning over repeal and replace.

It is a German word meaning deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others.

Reading that, some friends thought I was referring to the way Republicans in Congress and holding office elsewhere seem to get pleasure from the pain and suffering of working class and poor folks.

I was referring to the pleasure I was feeling watching TrumpRyan fumble, flail and fail.

There is another German word I know and like. Gemütlichkeit means having good cheer.

I’m feeling that at the moment too.

Health care in America is another one of those choice things.

The rich and wealthy get to choose. And so do we. They get the right to choose the kind of health care they can afford. So do we.

As a retired public school teacher my health care costs are manageable but in spite of what some think, my retiree insurance is hardly free.

I pay out of pocket for Medicare. I pay a monthly premium for the state teachers health insurance. I would not be affected by ACA one way or the other. But there is always the threat that I can lose what I have if the legislature acts.

There has been some talk from the Illinois legislature to take away the partial subsidy provided by the state to our health care costs.

As part of our teacher pension benefit, I believe the subsidy is protected by the pension protection clause of the state constitution. If the governor and the legislature try to take the subsidy away, I suppose the courts will have to remind them of Kanerva v. Weems.

As with the threats prior to the decision of the Illinois courts that current retiree pensions are protected, the threat to health care subsidies is particularly stressful on our older retirees.

Do the legislature and the Governor feel  a certain amount of schadenfreude over this? They must.

I am with those who continue to wonder why the United States is among the very few wealthy, industrialized countries without a national health care system that is affordable, not tied to employment or run by the giant insurance companies.

Saving ACA is a win.

It is surely a loss for the Trumpists.

But a national single payer system of health care would bring us all Gemütlichkeit.


Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers #8 with Diane Ravitch and Kevin Coval.

Here’s the podcast: Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers #8.

This week brother Mike talks to educational historian Diane Ravitch.

“Is Betsy DeVos someone we can talk to,” asks my brother, somewhat rhetorically.

“She’s an ideologue. If I were to meet with her she wouldn’t listen to a thing I said. Hit the streets and resist,” is Diane’s advice.

I can’t argue with that.

Our conversation with Kevin Coval covers a range of subjects from pedagogy to poetry.

Be sure to catch Kevin’s reading of his poem on the death of Mayor Harold Washington. It is one of my personal favorites and his reading made me a little weepy.

I loved Harold.

Kevin’s newest collection of poems is called A People’s History of Chicago, with a tip of the hat to the great historian Howard Zinn’s  A People’s History of the United States.

This week’s show includes a song by our friend Linda Boyle.

Anne says the show went by fast.

For me too

If it’s Friday, it’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

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This morning’s guests on our radio show/podcast, Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers are noted education historian and corporate education reform critic, Diane Ravitch, and poet founder of Louder than a Bomb, Kevin Coval.

Diane will be talking with my bro in a recorded conversation they had last week.

It was Ravitch’s awakening to the hoax and dangers of standardized testing that helped spark a national movement. Her standing as a respected academic provided ammunition to those of us in schools and communities, parents and teachers, who continue the fight against vouchers and charters and the threats to public education represented by the DeVos Department of Education and Trump.

I remember back in 2010 when Ravitch first published The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. Our local union purchased a copy for each of our board of education members.

Singer, songwriter and activist Linda Boyle came by the studio a few weeks ago to record some of her songs. We will be sharing that with you over the next four shows, starting today.

Kevin Coval will be in the studio with us at Co-Prosperity Sphere live and in person in the beautiful downtown Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.

Chicago Teachers Union President (a guest on our show a few weeks ago) calls Kevin’s latest collection of poems, A People’s History of Chicago, “a vibrant, dynamic collection of vignettes (that) exposes the naked truth of our fair city.”

A people’s artist, Kevin Coval is not only a poet. He is an activist, organizer and inspiration to young folks and many of us older ones too.

As we have said many times, our radio show/podcast is like a teacher’s lesson plan.

My brother and I have an idea of what today’s show is about. But it can take its own direction.

And we let it.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers can be heard at http://www.lumpenradio, 105.5 FM and streaming live all around the world at 11AM.

A few hours later it can be heard on MixCloud.

And you can download and subscribe to the podcast version of our show at Liberated Syndication and iTunes.

I have been told that if enough people click “loved” (it comes up if you click the little blue circle in the upper right), iTunes features the podcast.

I’m pleased that in the few weeks since we have turned Hitting Left into a podcast over 600 people have downloaded it and subscribed.

The Supreme Court says de minimus ain’t good enough.


Even Clarence Thomas told Gorsuch he was wrong.

The United States Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that de minimus ain’t good enough.

The decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District could have far-reaching implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States.

The case centered on a child with autism and attention deficit disorder whose parents removed him from public school in fifth grade. He went on to make better progress in a private school. His parents argued that the individualized education plan provided by the public school was inadequate, and they sued to compel the school district to pay his private school tuition.

The Supreme Court today sided with the family, overturning a lower court ruling in the school district’s favor.

The case was about whether public schools have a duty to do more then the bare minimum in providing services to special needs students.

Those of us who have worked with special needs students, even in the more prosperous districts, know that it is a constant battle when fighting for students with needs.

For me, each year the Park Ridge District 64 administration and board, including special education administrators, would cut support services and staff. And every year, even in the years we won, a full trimester would have been wasted waging the fight.

I received a copy of the memo from the Park Ridge District 64 law firm responding to the  SCOTUS ruling.

The United States Supreme Court vacated the Tenth Circuit decision in favor of the school district and remanded the case back to the Tenth Circuit for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

To this point, the Seventh Circuit, which is controlling in Illinois, has applied “more than de minimis” benefit standard to determine whether a student’s IEP is reasonably calculated to provide a student with a free and appropriate education. Therefore, the standard upon which IEPs are evaluated in federal courts in Illinois will change as a result of the Endrew F. decision. However, we believe that the standard is a reasonable one which school districts, with competent counsel, will have no problem meeting. We note that although the Court rejected the “more than de minimis” standard urged by the school district, it also rejected a more stringent standard put forward by the parents. All in all, we view that this case is a win for all school districts, although it was a “loss” for the Douglas County School District, which on remand may still come out a winner.

In the perverse minds of the lawyers and too many school boards, when it comes to special needs students, there are winners and losers.

Park Ridge’s lawyers believe “that with competent counsel” the district can remain winners when they deny adequate services to students, in spite of the Court’s ruling today.

Less for typical students. Less for special needs students. More for the lawyers.

The value of the Arts and Flat Stanley.

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Jon Stewart and Flat Stanley.

Yesterday I posted a found poem based on a reader comment to my blog, 

Then Katherine Kampf, Visual Arts teacher from Chicago wrote a crazy good response in the form of a poem.

“A mic drop,” as a Facebook friend put it.

Then I received this from Kitty McGrath, a teacher I worked with for many years.

All night, this has popped back up in mind. All night I have been thinking back to the ignorance and misinformation out there warping and misguiding the original poster’s comment. These are people who do not know and understand children, nor how they learn.
Recently I was working with a student, a sweet 3rd grade girl, but with significant reading delays. She was reading Flat Stanley, not without difficulty, but was giving the text all she had. For those familiar with Flat Stanley, they know that one of the author’s message is about kindness, and treating those with differences with compassion, big ideas in a simple novel, and this was where this girl shined. She paused here to share what she had learned in art and music about the underground railroad, through song and spirituals, through quilting and drawing, she grasped the very real devastation of slavery as well as any 8 year old could.
I’m sure she had been exposed to such ideas in class, during social studies, or by reading certain texts, but these experiences were not what left their mark. Art and music are the language this girl speaks fluently, and for her, that is where meaningful learning actually takes place.
8 year olds are not miniature college students. They learn through play, music, drawing, moving, experiencing, and experimenting.
I’ve worked with some fragile kiddos through the years, and sometimes they did the most learning when the crayons were out or when we painted. Sometimes that is when their thoughts flowed the best, and where they were finally able to share what was troubling in their lives. My little 3rd grader is not always able to articulate her thoughts about what we are reading, but you should see her drawings.
They are windows to a bright, beautiful, and intelligent mind.

Texas judge shoots down the fiduciary rule rollback.


Texas’ hanging  Judge Roy Bean. “The Law west of the Pecos.”

Texas has produced some notable legal minds.

In the 1800s there was Judge Roy Bean, known as “the hanging judge.” He was basically a saloon keeper and when he got older he was known as a man who gave away his money to the poor and always made sure that the schoolhouse had free firewood in winter. He died peacefully in his bed on 16 March 1903 after a bout of heavy drinking.

More recently there was Antonin Scalia. He was born in New Jersey but he died in Texas at a dude ranch. He passed in his sleep after a day of quail hunting. I don’t know what Judge Bean would have thought of Scalia. I imagine he would not have thought much of him.

Then there is Texas judge, Chief Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn of the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas.

Judge Lynn ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to rollback changes to the fiduciary rule which strengthens the rights of  those who depend on a fair deal when it comes to retirement earnings.

The great scandal in America is how few working people can even afford retirement savings. Those that do have them through their pension plans. Most retirement income comes from Social Security which was never intended to be much more than a safety net.

Naturally the Repugs and Trump are after Social Security too.

Unlike Judge Roy Bean, they could care less if there is wood in the school house in winter.

The fiduciary rule says simply that those who take your money to invest your retirement savings must act in your best interest.

Again, naturally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the Financial Services Institute Inc., filed a preliminary injunction earlier this month to stop the fiduciary rule change.

The Trump administration and the Department of Labor support the injunction and propose delaying implementation of the changes to the fiduciary rule and eventually killing it.

The Texas judge’s ruling will be appealed.