Jonah Edelman apologizes to my blog readers.

Jonah Edelman writes:

Fred Klonsky blog readers:

After watching the fourteen minute excerpt and then viewing the whole video of the hour-long session, I want to very sincerely apologize.

My shorthand explanation in the excerpt of what brought about the passage of Senate Bill 7 had a slant and tone that doesn’t reflect the more complex and reality of what went into this legislation, nor does it reflect my heart and point of view in several ways:

–It left children mostly out of the equation when helping children succeed is my mission in life, as I know it is yours,
–It was very unfair to colleagues leading Illinois teachers’ unions, and,
–It could cause viewers to wrongly conclude that I’m against unions (Note: I said later in the session – not in the “juicy part” — that I do not view teachers’ unions as the problem. If that were true, I said, schools in states whose unions are less powerful would be among the nation’s best rather than some of the nation’s lowest performing.)

Stand for Children and I share a common commitment with teachers and teachers’ union leaders to ensuring the most qualified individuals choose the teaching profession, that teachers have the preparation, tools, support, and school climate they need to do their best work, that teachers should be compensated at a level that reflects the high skill and intense effort required by the teaching profession, and that evaluations of teachers need to become more meaningful and useful. We share a common commitment to ensuring adequate resources for schools and early childhood education. And we share a common commitment to ensure school districts and schools have effective administrators that create healthy work cultures within which teachers are respected and can be creative and innovative.

You wouldn’t know that from excerpt and that’s my fault.

There are quite a few things that I want to take myself very strongly to task for and which I’ll learn from and improve upon in the future, but first
I want to emphasize how Senate Bill 7 will impact students and teachers.

–After the improved teacher evaluation framework stipulated by the Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 is developed through a collaboration of the state board of education, teachers’ unions, management groups, and advocates, Senate Bill 7 will make performance rather than seniority the basis for granting tenure and it will make performance the primary criterion for layoff decisions (with seniority being a tiebreaker in situations of comparable performance ratings). In addition, based on advocacy by teachers’ union leaders during our negotiations, with which I wholeheartedly agreed, tenure will be granted on an accelerated basis to teachers with three excellent ratings in a row and teachers with tenure who switch districts will be able to earn tenure in their new district within two years.

–The dismissal process for teachers with tenure with poor performance or conduct maintains due process while being substantially streamlined and improved to ensure that consistently ineffective teachers or teachers with poor conduct are not teaching children in Illinois. Before the dismissal process can proceed, based on advocacy by teachers’ unions, with which I again wholeheartedly agreed, a second evaluator must corroborate that dismissal is warranted. This will ensure fairness and should cut down on conflict and cost in the subsequent dismissal process.

–There will be more transparency in the contract negotiation process statewide, which will hopefully lead to fewer divisive conflicts and better, more student-centered decisions, and Chicago Public Schools’ will be able to lengthen its school day and school year in order to give teachers more time to help students learn and to plan and collaborate.

For committed, capable teachers throughout Illinois, all of these changes are incredibly good things, and it made complete sense therefore for teachers’ unions, who were at the table shaping Senate Bill 7, to back Senate Bill 7. Also, by virtue of negotiating in good faith for four months, Illinois teachers unions, management groups, and advocates achieved a much better law than Stand and Advance Illinois’ original Performance Counts proposal.

This leads to my self-critique, which is fairly harsh and extensive.

First, in a session I approached from the perspective of being brass tacks and blunt about politics, I deeply regret that I had an “us vs. them” tone. That tone contradicts my deeply held view that key aspects of the current education system are the problem, not teachers’ unions, and that the us vs. them far too often prevents real dialogue that results in better solutions like Senate Bill 7. As I said throughout the session (but not during the excerpt), my colleagues at Stand and I are always looking for opportunities for win-win rather than win-lose scenarios. That’s why I’m disappointed in myself for the way I framed the Senate Bill 7 story – a framing that does not reflect the good-faith and substantive negotiations that drove this process on all sides.

Second, I was wrong to state that the teachers’ unions “gave” on teacher effectiveness provisions when the reality is that, indeed, there were long, productive negotiations that led to a better outcome than would have occurred without them.

Third, I was wrong to make assumptions or comments about the unions’ political strategy. In future presentations, whether on video or not, I will refrain from supposing why a particular party made a particular decision. Having watched the video, reflected on it a lot in the past couple of days, and discussed it with my wife and colleagues, that was not only presumptuous but, in this particular case, wrong and ungenerous. I know from conversations with Audrey Soglin, Jim Reed, and Dan Montgomery that Illinois’ union leaders are deeply committed to teaching and learning, that they have exhibited that consistently in the past, and that they exhibited that commitment in spades throughout the negotiations on a series of Senate Bill 7 provisions that will improve teaching and learning. I want to apologize specifically to Audrey Soglin, Ken Swanson, Mitch Roth, Jim Reed, Dan Montgomery, Karen Lewis, and the other capable union leaders who represented their membership and negotiated creatively and seriously to help craft a bill that addressed tough issues in a fair and thoughtful way.

Fourth, the way I talked about the endgame wasn’t fair. I said we decided the fine print regarding the way the dispute resolution process will work in Chicago going forward but the specifics are that we submitted our proposal late at night on April 12th, Senator Lightford was receptive to it, got feedback from all sides over the next 24 hours, and made several changes based that feedback. The end product was similar to our proposal only because all sides judged it to be acceptable.

Fifth, and finally, I deeply regret what I perceived in watching myself as an arrogance in my tone. This underlies the other critiques and is the most difficult thing to admit, but it’s also the most important thing to hold myself accountable for if I’m to be worthy of the leadership role I’m fortunate to have. I was raised to be humble and respectful and reared on stories of my grandfather and grandmother’s service within the African-American community in their small South Carolina town, service which my mother always reminded my brothers and me is “the rent we pay for living.” Based on that upbringing, I view my role and the opportunity it provides for positive impact on children’s lives as a blessing and a privilege. Also, I am constantly aware and readily admit that I don’t have all the answers. I seek counsel from outstanding educators about what works in their experience, read as much as possible about what’s happening in all corners of the country and world that appears to be working, and have shifted my perspective on many issues as a result. Humility and respectfulness are hallmarks of effective leaders and I will ensure going forward that my tone always reflects the humility and respectfulness with which I seek to live my life.

Last thing – a word of apology to my wonderful colleagues at Stand, whose hearts, motivations, and approaches to the work in no way resemble the flaws I apologized for above. I fully understand your judging me harshly but I hope you’ll meet and engage them with openness.

Jonah Edelman

65 thoughts on “Jonah Edelman apologizes to my blog readers.

  1. Empty words – his truth was seen in his words and actions when he didn’t know he was in the spotlight.

  2. Here is the point. His words and apology are irrelevant. SB7 is exactly what Stand For Children wanted and is exactly what Stand For Children got. Even had Edelman been smart enough in the first place to sugar-coat it, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that Illinois’ teachers are stuck with SB7.

    Heck, I’ll even be a super optimist and believe that Edelman’s apology is sincere. But it still doesn’t change the facts. Our union has set the wheels in motion for every other state across the nation to reform education just the way Stand for Children wanted it to be reformed all along. I will leave that up to you to decide if that is a good thing or not. Before you decide, however, you may want to watch the video just one more time.

  3. Blah blah blah. I’m sure he does very, very deeply regret how his comments got out to the general public. Boo hoo.

    Super work with capturing that video, Fred.

  4. Jonah Edelman is about taking power and control, and money. He doesn’t give a damn about students. An apology? Are you serious?

  5. A bit verbose, Jonah. Perhaps a quick claim about being quoted out of context would have sufficed. Better yet, maybe the more dramatic checking in to a humility rehab facility of some sort would have been more contemporary of you.

    Apology not accepted.

  6. He does lay it on a bit thick, no? ” I was raised to be humble and respectful and reared on stories of my grandfather and grandmother’s service within the African-American community in their small South Carolina town…”

  7. I know people are smart enough to see through his apology. We teach our students that a person’s true character is shown by their actions when they think no one is looking. Edelman thought no one would hear his bragging. As a teacher, I am inclined to look for the best in everyone, but protecting public education has to come first. Why is it now acceptable to be deceitful and cruel? I want to live in a world where we can count on each other and where we take care of each other, but I don’t live on a cotton-candy cloud and ride my unicorn through the glitter. Reality sometimes is negative, and Edelman is an example of negative.

  8. Are you really sorry, Jonah, or just sorry you got caught? I learned all I needed to know when your video was pulled. End of story. Your apology is rather wordy but still pretty lame.

  9. Why the long apology, Jonah, were your owners upset that you revealed their strategy to break the backs of public school teachers?
    Or that the world is now aware of the entrenched fraud that your corporate masters claim is education reform?
    Or that your financial backers are fearful that citizens will learn how you and your bought and paid for elected officials set up public schools for an endless stream of public/private looting?

    Spare us your mea culpa and tell it to your hand.

    1. This is one TINY, ISOLATED example of what goes on behind thousands of closed doors every day in the U.S. when education “reform” is discussed. Jonah just outed a very small part of a dangerous, greedy, well-connected group. This should serve as a wake-up call to us all.

  10. Fred,

    I am out of town and just catching wind of what has been going on with SFC. I am astounded by IEA leaders’ and Soglin’s actions and will have my letter calling for her resignation drafted as soon as I get home. Just when we teachers think out union leaders can’t let us down any further, they do. Their resiliency to sell us out is inexplicable. When does the incompetence stop?

    1. This is only the beginning. Wait till all of the truth about profiteering on education comes out. Jonah spilled his guts about everybody and all he knew. It was wonderful to watch. I look forward to years more of this as education struggles to right itself from “reform”.

      The politicians and business heads of today are attempting to drag us down a path of greed and apathy. If we don’t sincerely care for ALL students, we will segregate our schools and our society as well. Very scary indeed.

  11. It has the same sincerity as when my children have to apologize to each other when they are caught doing something wrong. The biggest problem with this whole deal is that it flies in the face real data on this subject and it relies on a utopian management – employee relationship model. He obviously likes living in his fabricated reality.

  12. Is Mr. Edelman a children’s rights advocate? Does he actually think performance pay is good for children?

    I’m in a state that doesn’t have performance pay (yet,) but thanks to Race to the Top my administrator now sees our test scores, and uses them to pit us against each other. She shows us each other’s scores and makes it clear she values the teacher with the highest score, thinking that will get us to be better teachers. The result, of course has been the death of any collaboration and sharing amongst us.

    This past year, there were two new teachers at my grade level. I am a veteran teacher, and I normally take young girls like this under my wing and help them out. Not this year. I needed their kids to learn as little as possible and to do as poorly as possible on the testing. I couldn’t look myself in a mirror at the end of the day, but that is the atmosphere in my school now. It used to be a place where the needs of the kids come first. Not any more. I hope Mr. Edelman feels good about this, because I don’t.

  13. Hey Edelman: Knew who you were as I watched that wretched tape. Good try, no take. You are consorting with people with money whose only intention end of day is to totally, absolutely privatize the entire school system, and use tax money to do it. The whole damned billionaire boys club can go suck a rock. They have set education back 50 years at least. And Duncan is an absolute moron, an idiot and a total incompetent. Obama’s support for him speaks really badly for Obama. Nowhere in your video -I watched every minute of it – did I hear any sympathy for kids or teachers, only political manipulation. Then as it ended, it hit me, the teachers have no sugar daddies intent on making money on public education whilst sending their darlings to very high priced private academies. Where did the money come from – $300m your friend said. Did it come from the enemies of ecudation, the Devos, the Kochs, the Waltons, ad mausem. Closest I can come to placing you is on par with Rove for malicious purpose. Stop before you further damage public education.

    1. Hopefully everyone that supports public education will NEVER SUPPORT these businesses and politicians again. I had the chance to shop at Walmart today and drove 10 miles out of my way to avoid doing so. My money talks too.

  14. Jonah confirms my long term suspicion that it isn’t just misguided folks trying to “help”–there really are villains out there meddling with our public ed systems, including here in Denver. Thanks to his video, some of the villains have been identified. I would like to know more about the work done in Colorado.

  15. Full. Of. Shit.

    Thanks for exposing Ed Deform for what it truly is… a mean-spirited attempt to deflect from the fact that INCOME INEQUITY is the problem. Keep people distracted with “greedy teachers” and “welfare queens” and they won’t notice that their hard earned money is flowing uphill to the richest of the rich, but all that rolls down is sewage….

  16. He’s right about humility and respectfulness… that’s about it… Seems to me that someone is trying to keep his job… hopefully he will have a Union to ensure he gets due process..

    Too little too late Jonah… Peace be your journey.

  17. We’re not worthy, Jonah. Hell, I’m not even a teacher. So why you feel Fred’s blog readers are entitled to an apology, even one as qualified as that, strikes me, as well, strange. Frankly, I’ve not even seen the offending video, it being rather lengthy, and life being much too short, mine anyhow — We were all young once, and indiscreet more often than not, in seeking out our life’s lessons, as it were.

  18. What makes Edelman think that an apology makes “it” all better? Did he apologize for his tone? So… he is sorry that his tone was harsh, but he is not sorry for the information he spewed. I am insulted.

  19. Why, it didn’t sound like me AT ALL. It wasn’t clear that all I really care about is the children [whose education I am wrecking] and my colleagues [that I trashed]. Sorry you got that impression… I sounded arrogant, which I’m not. In fact, toss out my speech; nothing is as it seems, relax and we’ll wake you when we’re done.

    The tone of the speech is exactly that of Koch secret meetings, where they are more frank than not with each other about their true goals. No wonder the people who attend are sworn to secrecy and warned not to let a single page fall into outside hands.

  20. That’s pathetic. And disgusting. It’s not possible to damage-control your way out of selling out children and teachers in exchange for the favor of billionaires, Jonah Edelman.

  21. Yeah, he’s so “pro teacher” he never became one. How about some transparency and accountability on behalf of your pro business and anti union agenda.

  22. Dear Jonah,
    What I’d really like is an explanation of Stand’s agenda. Clearly going after Chicago’s right to strike was a big deal. The CTU hasn’t been on strike in over 20 years! Has that led to improved student achievement? Then let’s look at Performance Pay. Is there any data that indicates that teachers work harder if you pay them more money? Can you please present it somewhere because I don’t think it exists. While you are looking up the data, if you can show us which test actually can show the relationship between teacher and student performance and elimininates all the other variables? Oh…and while you’re at it maybe you can respond to the fact that unionized states have better student performance than non-unionized states, or does that screw up your conclusions? If you spent as much time trying to push a reform agenda that is fact based instead of corporate based you might be seen as an actual reformer. Your video makes it clear that like Speaker Madigan, you’re all about power. You guys make a great couple!
    Ed Rosenthal

    1. You may not have noticed that out of the six states with the worst record on educating kids, five of them have laws banning teachers’ unions.

      Out of the five states that have the best record on education, ALL FIVE have teachers unions.

      Now, what were you saying about data that indicates unions make for better schools?

      These corporate funded groups are not about making better schools for kids but moving the money we spend on educating those kids into the pockets of for-profit corporations.

      Maybe you should show us the data that shows charter schools and “parental choice” makes for better education?

  23. So you were lying then and telling the truth now? Or is it the other way around? I’m confused.
    Con men call this the “square-up”.
    Please stop hurting our kids with your deceptive power plays.

  24. I sent this note to Jonah.

    I’ve just finished reading Jonah’s incredibly disingenuous “apology”. Please pass this along to the little weasel and let him know that I’d debate him on his and your “education” policy anywhere anytime. You people should be embarrassed to even claim your own policies. But please pass this on.

    The truth of the matter is that Jonah did set parents at the throat of teachers and unions at the throats of each other and bought just the right combination of corporatist politicos together to get what you wanted. In the future everyone now understands what your organization is about.

    “My shorthand explanation in the excerpt of what brought about the passage of Senate Bill 7 had a slant and tone that doesn’t reflect the more complex and reality of what went into this legislation, nor does it reflect my heart and point of view in several ways:”

    Spare us Jonah, you’ve lied and misled and weaseled about enough already. Doesn’t reflect your heart, Jonah, who are you lying to now? You have no heart but you do have an ego that can be seen from space to write this letter in the first place. I know this theory of damage control my glib little friend Advance Illinois, Stand for Children, you folks have more money than God and more contacts than Satan so for right now you own the floor and you’ve destroyed the capacity for ordinary people to have a voice in their work place. Congratulations. You’ve also won a system that every mode of measurement have been proven not to work but you’ve opened the door to wholesale privatization and corporatization of the school system so some kids who don’t do well in market will just get screwed. Thanks Well done be proud, this bowing and scraping and acting like you are an honest and upstanding public actor is really beneath your stated level of villainy.

    We saw the real you talking to friend, among friends at the Aspen Institute. Be proud of who and what you are. We all need to accept it too. Your “common commitment” is not to teachers, that make too much money, they are too secure and they have too much healthcare. Every policy you stand for stands on them. You don’t care about kids learning. Every policy you champion has been proven not to work. You are steadfastly against changing formulas to put money INTO the system. So let’s be clear. You showed your true self and now you are embarrassed. Well, shame means that under the right conditions you might get your soul back but not here and not across a table from me. If we ever end up bargaining the first condition will be that you have to go and your little friends you kept thanking. Poor Sen. Lightford must feel like a prize idiot. I know the union Presidents should because now we all know that you are coming for collective bargaining and pensions. You’ve started. You just said so. Must feel good to know that you and yours will be responsible for tens of thousands of under educated and hungry children when their underpaid and powerless parents do a they are told or end up begging for change and a damn subway. Thanks Jonah and stop apologizing. It belittles the prick-rat-bastard you actually are and allows you to feel noble about taking the capacity to make a living or get an education away from people. Well frick-frackin’ done.

    May light prevail,


  25. Mr Speaker

    Lost in his apology is any explanation of the role our Speaker of the house
    had in this matter. Bragging that he got the speaker to call a public meeting
    The very next day after they planed the assault on public education is not
    only highly unusual but downright suspicious. Anyone who follows Illinois
    politics knows worthy causes sometimes have to wait years to gain the
    this forum .What did you talk about Mr. Speaker? What persuaded you to
    act so quickly?

  26. This guy is is so full of himself I cannot even get through the video. His analysis highlights the fact that over the past ten years the school reform movement has essentially been hijacked by the wealthy elite. I am so disgusted by the tone that both Stand for Children and Advance Illinois have perpetuated and amplified – one that pits advocates for reform against teachers and communities. It is shameful.

  27. Jonah Edelman just bit every hand that ever fed him in Illinois. I don’t care how much money you have, legislators and stakeholders won’t associate with political liabilities, like Jonah and Stand for Children have become. It’s too bad as Stand for Children was supposed to be representing the needs of children. Jonah’s comments show that he is like every other special interest group…more out for power and recognition than anything else. As a parent, I’m very disappointed.

  28. I just read all these comments and one thing comes to mind: TEACHERS ROCK!

    Why do these deformers think they can waltz in and pull this nonsense and we’ll all just sit in the background grading papers and remaining oblivious?? The comments here prove otherwise. Hooray for teachers!!

  29. You mentioned that the Unions had never been able to get more than 50% of it’s members to vote for a strike. Then used teacher’s fear of losing the right to strike as leverage to require 75% of members to vote for a strike making it effectively impossible.

    What does raisng the bar for teachers to strike to 75% have to do with providing effective teachers and standing for children?

    1. Read it again Winkandanod. I never said anything remotely close to what you say I said. When my own local went on strike in 2003, we received a 97% strike vote. The issue was Senate Bill 7 in Illinois, which now requires a 75% vote of all members (not just those voting) as a threshold needed to strike.

      Apparently your view of democracy and mine are different. But at least you should be honest and say so. You don’t believe in majority rule.


      I do.

      What does democratic decision making have to do with effective teachers and standing for children?


  30. Hey, uh, Jonah, can I offer you a few helpful words of advice? If you really want your apology to be taken seriously, it needs to be backed up with action that truly shows you understand the error of your ways. Flowery words don’t really impress anyone. As a model, I’d suggest you look to Diane Ravitch and her fight against the very charter schools and “accountability” standards she initially supported. If you want to be taken seriously, you could start by trying to get SB7 repealed and undo the other damage you’ve caused.

    We’ll be waiting.

    1. When these people start talking about what’s in the “heart,” you know it’s time to hold on to your wallet and grab a barf bag.

      It’s all too typical of that toxic mix of dishonesty and insipidness that characterizes so-called education reformers.

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