McHenry teachers are still out. A rare part of collective bargaining.


McHenry teachers and their board still couldn’t reach agreement last night.

Today will be day four of their strike.

This is the second strike this year in the Chicago area that I have supported by walking the lines. There are others, like in East St. Louis, that are too far for me to get to. And it seems like there are others in the pipe line.

Many retired union teachers do this kind of strike support and, trust me, it is appreciated.

My blog post from Sunday has been reposted by McHenry teachers and others around the state. That pleases me, since that is what this blog is for.

As I was driving the hour back to Chicago from McHenry on Sunday I had time to think about unions, collective bargaining and how impressive classroom teachers are as organizers.

This is important in light of the possibility that the US Supreme Court may rule against our rights to Fair Share and agency fees very soon.

I was impressed, but not surprised, at how well organized the McHenry teachers are. It reminded me so much of the strike our local had back in 2003. Organizing ourselves is what teachers are trained to do. And we do it well. Collectively, we have every skill needed to run a strike.

And although teaching is often a solitary act of one teacher with a group of students, it has gotten less and less so. Working in teams has become more and more a feature of teaching.

Collective bargaining, including strikes, is a team sport.

To preserve and improve their salary schedule and to guarantee it for future teachers McHenry teachers voted to strike and do whatever it takes to come to a fair agreement.

No Supreme Court ruling about agency fees will matter if our union leadership remembers that.

What Bruce Rauner and the union-bashers need to remember is that before we won the right to collective bargaining in Illinois thirty years ago, there were far more strikes than there are now.

The right to collectively bargain a contract brought a period of relative labor peace to school districts around the state.

Undermine that right and more teacher strikes are inevitable.

And teachers know how to do it well.

Chicago students walk out. “This is your building. They can’t do this to you,” says their teacher, Tim Meegan.

Roosevelt teacher Tim Meegan teaches democracy to his students on the street. Roosevelt students teach democracy to CPS.

Most of Roosevelt students are categorized as low-income.

But they know how to use social media.

They know how to organize themselves brilliantly.

And they know what democracy looks like.

CPS took nearly a million dollars from the school last July.

Last week the principal announced more staffing cuts.

Yesterday the Roosevelt students walked out.

Though Roosevelt had been on probation for several years, students said the school was on an upswing.

“Everything is improving,” said junior Gabriel Virella. “It’s worth fighting for.”

Senior Katya Borja, who participated in the walkout, said she and her classmates collectively achieved the highest ACT score Roosevelt had received in six years.

“We’re showing support for our teachers,” said Borja. “They don’t deserve this.”

The students also had another audience in mind when they staged their walkout: the mayor.

“This is more for Rahm [Emanuel] to see what he’s doing to the schools,” said student protester Erik Hernandez.



This story on school lockdowns in Slate made me remember my own experience with lockdown drills when I was teaching.

Let me start by saying that I strongly believe that the primary job of a school and its staff, more than raising test scores or learning math facts (or, in my case, teaching color theory), is keeping our children safe.

I always believed that I was doing a fairly good job if I returned the kids in pretty much the same physical shape as when they walked in my door.

I taught K-5. Trust me. That’s a big deal.

My district administration decided to institute lockdown drills in response to what continue to be the shockingly regular news reports of school shootings.

Whether this was a bad idea or just badly implemented is hard to say.

But its implementation was nuts.

Our principal decided that she did not want to frighten the students by announcing a lockdown drill over the intercom. So, she decided the code would be, “There’s a bear in the hallway.”

At that point I was to lock my door. My classroom door, which has a large glass window where anyone can see into my room, only locks from the outside. I had to grab my keys and open the door in order to lock it.

Then I was to turn off the lights and gather the students under the art supply table that was out of view of the door window and try and keep them quiet.

Students are always in and out of the room. One might be in the bathroom. One might be with the social worker. Or the nurse. Or the library.

I was to write the names of the students who were not in my room on a laminated red piece of construction paper and slide it under the door into the hallway.

I kept thinking that I was providing a potential gunman with a roster of children to look for.

Meanwhile the principal would come by and check that my door was locked. She apparently thought I might be shirking my responsibility of locking the door during a lockdown drill.

The sound of someone trying to turn the door handle during a lockdown drill put all the students at ease.

After about five minutes, the secretary would announce that the bear had left the building.

What happened to my NEA RA New Business Item on the Confederate flag? I just received an answer.

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Many delegates who attended the July NEA Representative Assembly in Orlando will recall the two-hour debate on my New Business Item 11.

Our meeting in Orlando came just days after the murder of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston.

The horrific murders led to nation-wide calls for removing the Confederate flag from public spaces. At the time it flew in front of the capitol building in South Carolina, among other places.

My New Business Item called on the NEA to support these efforts to remove the Confederate flag.

I have been told that no NBI debate ever lasted so long as the one over the Confederate flag.

After the long debate the NBI was passed by an overwhelming vote of the 8,000 delegates.

New Business Items normally sunset after a year.

In the three months since the Orlando RA I have made two requests for information about the implementation of NBI 11.

Today I received this from Carrie Lewis at the NEA:

Good morning:

Attached please find the preliminary report on implementation of New Business Items adopted by the 2015 NEA Representative Assembly.  This report is being sent to all makers of adopted NBIs.  An interim report will be provided in February and a final report will be provided in May and to the 2016 Representative Assembly in July.

Thank you,

Carrie Lewis

NEA Center for Governance

Since I have offered up other adopted New Business Items – well one. In support of the Chicago Teachers Union in 2012 – and never received a report like this, I can only assume this is either a new practice or a response to my blogging.

11. Confederate Flag

The NEA RA directs the NEA to support, in ways it finds appropriate and effective, efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public spaces.

NEA will work with our partners in the Civil Rights community on this issue. We will use EdVotes to highlight stories of actions in communities and states across the country to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public spaces. In addition, NEA will monitor any federal legislation that would accomplish this NBI.

I don’t know how the rest of their support work is going.

But as for using the web site EdVotes to highlight stories of action in communities and states across the country?


“This is a board that truly listens.” Open meetings with a Q and A can be so pesky.


Newly unelected CPS board president Frank Clark.

If the bully boys on the CPS board are going to shut up former acting board president Jesse Ruiz, why would we expect anything different from them when parents try to speak?

This un-elected group normally displays less internal dissension than the NEA board of directors voting on a presidential endorsement.

At a recent board meeting Ruiz had the temerity to quietly ask a question about the state’s charter commission. “I don’t know what our position is, in trying to reform, or frankly eliminate it.”

Newly unelected board president Frank Clark shot Ruiz a glance.

“With respect to this particular organization, Jesse, the more appropriate response I could give is not focused specifically on a particular type of school, selective enrollment, open enrollment,” Clark said. “The policy position that I advocate instead for this board favors quality schools. It’s a complex issue. We’re here to listen, to learn and ultimately decide.”

“Frank, that’s not my question,” Ruiz quickly responded. “My question is what is our position on the Illinois Charter Commission.”

For a school board discussion, that might be called nuclear war.


I guess Jesse Ruiz is still pissed about being so compliant to the Mayor’s wishes all these years and then getting passed over when the Mayor chose Clark to run the board.

I would be careful about talking stuff to Clark, Mr. Ruiz. I hear the Mayor’s got people.

The latest news is that President Clark has changed the rules about parents testifying at CPS board meetings.

Open meetings with a Q and A can be so pesky.

Araceli Escobedo approached the Board of Education last week, as she had before, to talk about options on the Southwest Side where she and her five children live.

She knew she had just two minutes to say her piece, and brought an interpreter so she could speak more comfortably in her native Spanish.

 But just over two minutes into the speech and interpretation, Escobedo was cut off by board secretary Estella Beltran.

“Ms. Escobedo, Ms. Escobedo, thank you for your comments,” Beltran said. “It’s past your two minutes. . . . Our next speaker, please.”

Escobedo was caught by surprise. She was not alone. Complaints erupted about how public speakers were treated at the monthly meeting Tuesday as parents and teachers lamented a sudden change of public participation rules:

  • Each registered group was told Tuesday morning they had to choose just one designated speaker, though at past meetings, they could name two or more.
  • Right at the time limit, a security guard bent the microphone away and escorted the speaker from the podium, a new strictness that did not go unnoticed.
  • And no extra time was allotted for anyone needing English interpretation.

The Sun-Times reported that when CPS board president Frank Clark told those who had just been cut off from speaking, “This is a board that truly listen,” laughter broke out.

We drove to McHenry this Sunday to support striking teachers in District 156.

It is an hour drive to the town of McHenry where high school teachers are on strike. A more organized and enthusiastic group of teachers would be hard to find.

At noon there was a rally to demonstrate support for the bargaining team. Speakers could barely be heard over the constant honking of supportive drivers rushing past.

The bargaining team and the board are meeting today, Sunday.

The team is hopeful and optimistic that they will be teaching tomorrow morning.

The issue, which seems to be the cause of most of the growing number of teacher strikes in Illinois, is the board trying to mess around with the salary schedule. McHenry Education Association leaders are holding fast on protecting their younger members and future teachers from being punished on the schedule.






Video and photo credit: Fred Klonsky

Sunday posts, pics and tweets.


On Saturday, as the NEA leadership met to endorse Hillary, Bernie Sanders showed up at the Massachusetts Teachers Association bargaining summit. MTA President Barbara Madeloni, who opposed the early Hillary endorsement, is on the left.


“I’m very disappointed,” said Marie Corfield, an art teacher from New Jersey, who had organized a lobbying effort against the Clinton endorsement. “I think the NEA is going to get a lot of pushback from its members over this.”


King led a series of school reforms that included a new teacher evaluation system using student standardized test scores that critics say is nonsensical  (for example, art teachers are evaluated by student math test scores) and the implementation of the Common Core standards, and aligned Pearson-designed standardized tests. King’s oversight of all of this was considered such a disaster that Cuomo last year wrote in a letter to top state education officials that “Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.”


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Cashing in on Special Needs kids.



On Chicago’s community Radio Q4 Saturday morning show, Revolution and Beer, with Bill Turck and Jack Hammond.



As you might have experienced, the colder months have broken down the front door quickly. And we’re busy.  Our shelter reached well over its occupancy in the first two hours of opening this last Thursday.  It’s a blessing that we have another “sister” church to send our guests to after dinner.

In our current state budget morass, the homeless are just one group of the many marginalized and impoverished who stand as serviceable pawns for the drawn-out battle between an intractable Governor Rauner and his nemesis Michael Madigan.  When will their suffering call forth enough pressure by the comfortable in our state to make one of the two uncomfortable enough to budge? – John Dillon


Nowadays, prison privatization is another U.S. “innovation” that has spread across the world, particularly to Australia, which holds the world’s largest proportion of prisoners in private facilities—about 19 percent of its 33,000 or so prisoners—and boasts a wholly private immigrant-detention system. From Thailand—where I spent time in women’s prisons overseen by an NGO headed by the princess of Thailand herself—to Brazil and even progressive Norway, where I met a young incarcerated man serving 16 years for heroin use, experts recited the same chorus: U.S.-style draconian drug policies, mandatory penalties, and “one size fits all” punishments are packing prisons in their countries, too. The end result is that between 2008 and 2011, the prison population grew in 78 percent of the countries included in the World Prison Population List compiled by the International Centre for Prison Studies. As of 2013, some 10.2 million people worldwide were behind bars, many convicted of nothing, waiting years to be tried and lacking access to legal assistance. -The Atlantic

In spite of opposition, NEA endorses Clinton.

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My fellow educators,

I wanted to be the first to let you know that your elected representatives to the NEA PAC Council and the NEA Board of Directors took action to recommend Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for President of the United States.  I am so proud of the thoughtful, thorough and incredibly rich discussion that your elected leaders held.  It was truly what democracy looks like.

I am also extremely proud of this decision because I know that Hillary is a strong leader who will do what’s best for the future of all of America’s students and public schools.

After an extensive review of the candidates and an in-depth discussion, your leaders saw what I know – Hillary Clinton will be a champion for students and educator in the White House. She has a 30 year history of standing up for students and strong public schools and has actively engaged in conversations with educators in this campaign.  Secretary Clinton told your leaders today that she won’t make a single decision about developing education policy without educators being in the room.

As a U.S. Senator, Hillary Clinton was a champion for our cause, earning an “A” grade from the NEA for her support on the issues most important to our students, but even before serving in the Senate, Clinton was a champion of the students we educate. While every first lady has an admirable cause, Hillary chose to stand up to the for-profit healthcare industry to advocate for children’s healthcare. Her campaign ultimately led to the largest expansion of public health care in decades, when millions of American children received health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Even before running for president, Hillary championed early education and affordable college, and she sponsored efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work and to make it easier for workers to join a union.

And in 2016, the stakes for strong public schools will be too high to sit on the sidelines! Right now, there are presidential hopefuls who have made a career of attacking educators and public education to the detriment of students. They have allies like the Koch brothers, who have committed to spend $1 billion to defeat a pro-public education candidate like Hillary Clinton and taking control of the White House.

With so much at stake, you cannot sit on the sidelines – America’s students need you today!

Together, we can help elect Hillary Clinton as our next president and ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed.


– Lily

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

National Education Association President


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