81% of AFSCME Illinois state workers vote for strike authorization.

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From AFSCME 31.

In the first-ever strike authorization vote in Illinois state government, an 81 percent majority of the members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 have voted to give their union bargaining committee the authority to call a strike.

The vote comes after Governor Bruce Rauner broke off negotiations with the union more than a year ago and has refused to even meet with the AFSCME bargaining committee ever since.

“We have come to this juncture for one reason only: The refusal of Governor Rauner to negotiate with our union,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said.

Instead of working toward compromise, Governor Rauner has been seeking the power to unilaterally impose his own extreme demands, including a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would take $10,000 out of the pocket of the average state worker, a four-year wage freeze and an end to safeguards against irresponsible privatization.

“Bruce Rauner may think he can dictate, not negotiate, but this vote shows that AFSCME members are determined to stand up for basic fairness,” Lynch said.

“I voted YES to authorize a strike because my family needs health care we can afford, because my community needs public services it can rely on, and because Governor Rauner needs to come back to the bargaining table,” said Stephen Mittons, a child protective investigator in the Illinois Department of Human Services in Chicago.

“As public service workers we are willing to do our part, but it can’t be Governor Rauner’s way or nothing at all,” said Nicole Power, an Illinois Department of Revenue employee in Springfield. “I can’t understand Bruce Rauner’s stubborn refusal to negotiate. He has to be willing to meet us in the middle.”

“We live in our communities, we care about our communities and we serve our communities,” said Steve Howerter, a counselor at Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton. “We understand the situation the state is in money-wise, because we are taxpayers too. And so we are willing to do our part, but what we’re not willing to do is give up our voice.”

AFSCME Council 31 represents some 38,000 Illinois state employees who protect kids, care for veterans and the disabled, respond to emergencies, help struggling families and much more.

The vote to authorize the union bargaining committee to call a strike does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. The bargaining committee will meet in the coming days to chart its path, and pending litigation could also play a role.

“State workers don’t want to strike. We are keenly aware of the importance of the public services we provide, and we are willing to compromise,” AFSCME director Lynch said. “But if Governor Rauner continues to refuse his legal obligation to bargain in good faith, he risks a strike that would shut down state government, and he alone bears responsibility for the harm a strike would cause.”

A win for Illinois special education students. We’re not done yet. Contact your Illinois legislators now.

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Illinois State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia.

– From Bev Johns

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia has drafted the Amendment to House Bill 2808 to maintain in Illinois law Special Education Personnel Reimbursement.

Please thank her (see below), and urge her to work to get her Amendment actually added to HB 2808.

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Please call/email with this message:

SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING SHOULD BE RELATED TO THE NEED FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION,

NOT BASED ON THE NUMBER OF GENERAL EDUCATION STUDENTS.

Say to State Representatives: HOUSE BILL 2808 NEEDS TO BE AMENDED TO MAINTAIN THE CURRENT SPECIAL EDUCATION PERSONNEL REIMBURSEMENT OF $9,000 FOR EACH SPECIAL ED TEACHER (and other specialized personnel).

Say to State Senators: FOR SENATE BILL 1 (NOW AN EMPTY SHELL BILL), THE AMENDMENT NOW BEING NEGOTIATED SHOULD NOT CONTAIN THE ELMINATION OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PERSONNEL REIMBURSEMENT.

(1) Immediately contact the Sponsors of House Bill 2808. 

State Representative Will Davis: 217-782-8197 708-799-7300

States Representative Robert Pritchard: 217-782-0425815-748-3494 bob@pritchardstaterep.com

State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia: 217-558-1002 630-264-6855

(2) Please send an email to the Governor’s Secretary of Education, Beth Purvis, with a copy to Sara Shaw. beth.purvis@illinois.gov  Sara.Shaw@illinois.gov

An easy way to get the telephone numbers of your State Senator and State Representative is to send a TEXT message to 520-200-2223 (you will also get those for your U.S. Senators and Representative).(3) Call your own State Senator and State Representative.

The TEXT message must state ONLY your Zip Code (nothing else) such as 62650-2479 OR 62650.

Almost immediately you will get a text message.

Listen to Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers on the radio.

Data driving me crazy.

As an artist and retired art teacher I believe that classrooms, like all the built environment, should reflect good design principles.

But what are those?

A tweet by Michael Antonucci intrigued me.

Some of you may know Antonucci as a guy obsessed by teacher unions and a writer on the same topic. As you might guess, he is critical of the NEA. Not like I’m critical. I believe in the value of teacher unions. He thinks they are an assault on individual liberty. We have met a few times at NEA national meetings, which he covers for his web site and other outlets. I enjoyed our conversations even though we rarely agreed on the main stuff.

Antonucci rarely gets into teaching practice which is why I was intrigued by the tweet.

I went to the source.

Two researchers at Carnegie Mellon did a funded research study comparing test success in a sparsely decorated classroom as compared to highly decorated classroom.

Students did better in a sparsely decorated classroom.

You can see the picture of the sparsely decorated classroom in the video. It looks like a jail cell.

The study consisted of 24 kindergarten students divided into two groups. They were given a science lesson and then tested.

Jesus. Aren’t there rules about the humane treatment of subjects in a research study?

For the study, 24 kindergarten children were taught in laboratory classrooms for six science lessons on topics they were unfamiliar with. Three of these lessons were taught in a decoration-heavy  classroom, and three lessons were given in a spartan classroom.

The results showed that children learned in both classrooms but they learned more when the room was not heavily adorned. Children’s accuracy on test questions was higher in the sparse classroom (55 percent correct) than in the decorated classroom (42 percent correct).

I want to stop for a second and comment on the two researchers in the video. It appears that one of them has arranged her books on the shelf by color spectrum. I’m sorry. But even for someone advocating sparse classrooms for kindergarten students being taught science, arranging books on a shelf by color seems to be behavior that is a little obsessive.

I don’t want to even get too much into the issue of what conclusions can be drawn from a study of 24 kindergarten students.

I taught art to kindergarten students. Way more than 24 of them. They are snowflakes. No two are alike. Generalizing from a group of 24 is dangerous.

What if a study showed that after teaching science (whatever that  means) to a room of 40 kindergarten students who came from poor families, had no breakfast, walked a mile through a safe passage zone in sub-freezing weather, then scored lousy while in a room with peeling paint, no heat and no books.

I suppose that is a different design issue.

There is a telling remark by one of the researchers. She says that since we can’t do anything about the impact of poverty, teaching in a sparse classroom is something we can do to improve test scores.

I’m sorry, but why exactly can’t we do anything about poverty?

Now there’s a research question!

In doing research it is important to define the question properly.

These two researchers wanted to know whether a highly decorated classroom distracted 24 kindergarten students from performing well on a science test.

I think the question was whether a science test distracted 24 kindergarten students from looking at things that interested them.

Listen to Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers on the radio.

This week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers. Exclusive interview with Yonatan Shipira. The journey of an Israeli from helicopter pilot to peace activist and musician. And Chicago education activist and musician Matt Farmer.

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Great show this week on Hitting Left with the Klonsky brothers.

My brother has a fascinating talk with Yonatan Shapira about Trump, a multi-national single Israeli state, Yonatan’s heroic role in breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza and his journey from Israeli helicopter pilot to peace activist and musician.

Also joining us will be Matt Farmer, Chicago education activist and also a musician. His latest Alternative Facts, is a chart buster.

Friday, February 24th at 11AM on lumpenradio.com 105.5FM and available for later streaming on MixCloud.

You can find all three of our previous shows here.

Coming up March 3 is our talk with CTU President Karen Lewis.

Gentrifying Chicago. CPS now targets Hispanic schools.

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Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School hit hard by CPS budget cuts that are targeting Hispanic schools.

The numbers tell the story.

A quarter of a million African Americans have left the city over the past two decades.

Several years ago the Mayor’s hand-picked school board closed 50 neighborhood public schools, nearly all in African American communities.

Now the target is neighborhood public schools in the Hispanic communities of Chicago.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool blames the governor.

But that is like Al Capone blaming Bugsy Moran for the increase in crime.

“Governor Rauner’s cut forced agonizing choices, including whether to lay off teachers or allow an uneven distribution of cuts from unspent funds,” district spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. “We chose to protect teachers. As a result of Governor Rauner’s abrupt and admittedly ‘emotional’ veto, his cut hurts the students who need funding the most but they are less painful than the other options we have available.”

Claypool told principals earlier this week that those options are to lay off teachers or cut days from the end of the school year — or both, Prussing Elementary School’s principal told his local school council members.

Bittner referred to Rauner’s veto of a bill in December that would have allocated $215 million for teacher pensions that CPS was counting on. The governor said lawmakers didn’t meet the agreed-upon conditions for the money. His office has said that CPS’ longstanding financial woes have led to its budget crisis.

The Sun-Times education reporter Lauren FitzPatrick writes:

Darwin Elementary School in the Logan Square community, where 81 percent of students are poor and 86 percent Hispanic, is losing aides who provide extra reading and math help, and some who supervise recess, Local School Council member Jeff Young said.

“It’s a cut — despite the fact that CPS calls it a freeze — because we can’t spend that money,” he said, characterizing the racial dynamic of the freezes as “disgusting.”

Darwin is my neighborhood school. Jeff is a neighbor.

But this isn’t just about Darwin or just about Logan Square.

Logan Square is a target for gentrification. But so is the entire city of Chicago.

And school funding and budget cuts reflect the Mayor’s gentrification and privatization plans.

Schools with at least 51 percent Hispanic students saw 1.8 percent of their total budgets frozen, on average — that’s about twice the average rate of 0.9 percent frozen at schools with at least 51 percent of white students, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the freezes.

The schools that lost the highest percentage of their remaining spending power — 1.8 percent on average — also serve the very poorest children, where nine out of 10 students qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch that is shorthand for school poverty. And schools where three out of four kids are poor lost 1.7 percent of their money; that’s roughly double the percentage 0.8 percent — that was lost by schools where just one of four kids is poor.