From New York City Educator. NYSUT follows in the footsteps of Rahm Emanuel.


While I’m on the road for the rest of August, I will be posting other bloggers. This is from my friend, NYC Educator.

As usual, there’s big fun in Chicago. Admin wants to make teachers fund their pensions, and pick up the 7% of the pension that the city had paid, when it felt like paying it. Essentially, this becomes a 7% pay cut. It’s funny how, when contract time comes around, there are all these deals that aren’t what they seem.

For example, if you get a 5% raise, and you work 5% more, you did not get a raise. Or if you get a raise and don’t receive it for 10 years, it has considerably less value than it would if you’d gotten the money up front. Don’t believe me? Try buying a car with the 30 or 40 K NYC owes you. Let me know how that works out.

It’s pretty reprehensible that the Chicago government is treating its teachers this way. CTU President Karen Lewis says they will strike rather than accept pay cuts. This is what happens when an employer doesn’t plan properly. It blames working people rather than itself, and asks them to suck it up, even while those in high places are highly compensated.

We all know what a loathsome reptile Rahm Emanuel is. We expect this sort of nonsense from him. It’s pretty shocking, though, to see similar talk from NYSUT leadership. After all, NYSUT is a union, and ought to take very seriously the priorities of union. In fact, NYSUT leadership has no problem circumventing local presidents to ask members for COPE money even as it fails to maintain their pensions. As PJSTA President Beth Dimino puts it:

From the same legislative department run by Andy Pallota that gave NY Teachers; tier 5, tier 6, 4 year tenure, and an evaluation system based 50% on flawed HST, they want more money from each of us to further screw ourselves! 

I actually sat across from Pallota at a 2014 forum in which he would not commit to opposing reformy Andrew Cuomo. In subsequent forums, I watched him evolve his message this way and that, but it ultimately didn’t much matter. Indeed, though his Revive NYSUT slate promised they opposed Cuomo, they failed to do so in not one, but two primaries. They followed up by sitting on the fence in the election.

Now they’re threatening their employees with the very same thing Rahm is holding over the CTU.  NYC is a very large union, and all contracts are negotiated by Michael Mulgrew and his merry band. There are a whole lot of smaller locals, like PJSTA, and the PSA supports them as they negotiate. From Beth Dimino:

PSA members are the people who provide field services to our locals. They are our labor relations specialists (LRS) and they help local presidents negotiate your contract and answer the day to day questions presidents face when they deal with Administration. I’m not exaggerating when I say that without our LRSs we’d be lost! 

A lot of small local members on Facebook have taken the PSA symbol as their profile pictures.

It is a fundamental responsibility of union leadership to improve conditions for its members. Clearly there are sometimes setbacks in negotiations. But I’ve been following NYSUT pretty closely for the last few years, and the only serious pension improvement over which its presided has been for the NYSUT officers themselves, who can accrue two pensions simultaneously. So even as teacher pensions are seriously degraded, Karen Magee and Martin Messner don’t have to worry they won’t be taken care of.

As for the rest of us, we’re on our own. Worse, they have failed to set an example for governments, and are now looking to degrade the pensions of their own employees. After reviewing public documents submitted to the US Department of Labor, Harris Lirtzman, former NYC teacher and deputy New York State comptroller, attributes this to poor planning:

NYSUT funds its pension plan, largely, on a pay-as-you go basis: money comes in through member dues and employee contributions and goes right back out to pay current year pension benefits. NYSUT stays solvent only through a complex network of loans and transfers every year to and from the AFT and UFT.

I don’t know what NYSUT does with all the dues we pay it, but that’s less than encouraging. Are they indulging in some shell game with our money and expecting PSA to help pick up the tab? Are the top people, like Magee and Pallota getting big bucks while the little people suffer? Are they, in fact, expecting working people to pick up the tab for their lavish lifestyles?

That’s not what I’d call setting an example. We need to be better than the likes of Rahm and Cuomo. We need to show them that things can be done better.

For my money, NYSUT leadership is doing precisely the opposite.

BKNation. Muhammad Ali: A Special Multimedia Tribute.


By Michael Cohen, BK Nation Editorial Director

Writing this opening proved to be an onerous task. I spent countless hours reading and editing the reflections of a diverse group of talented wordsmiths … and enjoyed every minute. As I prepare to watch the funeral of The Greatest, I reflect on his incalculable impact on those who came of age during the tumultuous 1960s and on the generations that followed. He commanded the world stage like no one before — or after — him by the sheer force of his indomitable will and magnetic personality, but never lost the common touch.

My brother Josh recalls an occasion when he and some friends were in the lobby of one of Manhattan’s major hotels shortly after Ali defeated Liston. Without missing a beat, the young superstar walked over to a group of nerdy White kids from the suburbs, put out his hand, and said, “Hi, my name is Cassius Clay and I’m the Heavyweight Champion of the World.” What a simple, magnificent gesture that captures the essence of a true man of the people … all people.

We miss you, Champ!

Thanks to the incredible team who curated this special package: Nikasi Doorn, Tayllor Johnson, and Kevin Powell. Original Muhammad Ali opening design by Marinique Mora.

All posts can be found here.

Thanks to Kevin Powell who asked me for a contribution which can be found here.

Keeping retirement weird. Rejection.


The brothers who run Baja Takeria in San Pancho.

The Marlin tacos at Baja Takeria on Avenida Tercer Mundo in San Pancho, Nayarit are pretty damn good. Pour on the chipotle crema.

There’s another taco place, Tacos Mango, two blocks down on Calle America Latina.  They offer three kinds of grilled steak tacos. We sat at flower patterned oil-cloth covered tables in a sweet open courtyard. Set out on a table are the condiments: A half dozen kinds of salsa, pickled red onions, diced white onions and cilantro.


To celebrate Anne’s retirement we took off for five days to get away from Chicago cold, sit in the sun and plan the next part of our lives together.

I posted here that I was off the grid. That really wasn’t true. San Pancho (officially, San Francisco) is well connected to the internet. I just wasn’t posting.

I did receive and send email.

Over the years I have had my share of internet stalkers. It comes with the territory. Remember Ben Velderman? He worked for a right-wing outfit in Michigan called the Education Action Group.

Ben Velderman filed a FOIA request for all my work emails hoping to find evidence of political use. He and EAG got the six years of emails, but no evidence.

Recently a guy named Theodore, a self-described actuary, has been sending me emails accusing me of being personally responsible for the two-tier teacher pension system in Illinois. He says I was a union boss who sacrificed the pensions of young teachers so that I could live my retirement years as a fat cat.

The closest I have come to being a fat cat is getting one Powerball number on Saturday.

I distinctly recall 2010 when I stood before the Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly begging the IEA president at the time, Ken Swanson, and the delegates not to permit IEA lobbyists to bargain a two-tier pension system. One of the many times I lost a vote. A few weeks later, Speaker Madigan pushed it through the General Assembly in twelve hours and it was signed by Governor Quinn.

Theodore doesn’t mention those guys. Just me.

Facts don’t matter much to Theodore. Checking my email in San Pancho I found this:

The former Tier 1 teacher becomes the rich tourist in a sunny location. Meanwhile, tier 2 teachers lower their thermostat in the hope of having enough money to buy cat food. And the tier 2 teacher doesn’t even own a cat.

Enjoy your vacation, fat cat.

He also said I was a Soviet-style Commisar.

Did I mention that Baja Takeria also has fantastic beer batter fish tacos. They are great with a margarita.

I received an email from the editor of Monthly Review. MR is a left-wing theoretical journal that has been around for more years than it has numbers of readers. I had been contacted by the editor several months ago and asked if I would write a piece on the unions and opt out.

At the time I wrote back and explained that I was a retired K-5 art teacher, not a theoretician. I write short blog posts with short sentences with short words and no footnotes.

In fact, my main theory is what the world doesn’t need are more education theoreticians.

He said it would be no problem. He said he wished more of their writers wrote like that. He could offer me no money and he would like four thousand words.

Four thousand words!

Short words.

For me, that is a lot of short words. But I agreed.

In San Pancho I received this email:

Hi Fred,

At our final make up meeting for the March issue on OptOut the Editorial Committee found that we had much more material than we could publish, or for that matter edit down.

With apologies, we decided that we cannot publish the piece you were so kind as to submit at our request.

We have another piece (which we had to cut down severely) on the UFT and OptOut in NYC that goes into detail on matters that you covered in passing. The committee decided that to publish both pieces, especially given the space problems we have, was not possible.

I much regret that we could not let you know earlier, but it was not possible to reach the decision before our meeting yesterday.

I hope you can make good use of the piece, and that you will forgive us for not publishing it.

Thanks for the work you put into it, and again apologies


Well, that’s swell. I don’t care about when they reached their decision.  I’m not on a schedule.

But, “make good use of the piece?”

What the hell am I going to do with four thousand short words about the unions and opt out?

Damn, I could use a Marlin taco and a glass of Modelo right now.

We are back in Chicago this morning and the wind chill is minus 25.

Top five posts of 2015.

Here are my five most popular posts of 2015.

Rahm screams at mental health activists, “YOU’RE GONNA RESPECT ME!”  82,000 page views.


Pearson to become the gate-keeper for student teachers in Illinois. 34,000 page views.


Breaking. Chicago officials are heading for Rahm’s office demanding release of donor emails. 26,000 page views.


Teachers. Back to school but not back to Staples. 14,000 page views.


Feds are expanding CPS investigation beyond BBB to corporate Chicago’s biggest names. Plus Rahm and Governor Private Equity. 12,0000 page views.

Looking back over 2015.

Some posts from the past year:

Before the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in our favor, I started 2015 out by saying if we want to win our pensions we must also fight for peace and justice.

The IEA might lose 600 adjunct members from Columbia College. And they did.

I was an early supporter of the Progressive Caucus in the Chicago City Council. And I still am.


With Bruce Rauner pushing Right to Work, my friend Lee Tally explained why unions were important.

2015 would be the last year I would be a delegate to an IEA or NEA Representative Assembly. The IEA was helpful for bargaining a contract, but they are not standing up for retirees.

I shaved my beard and kept my moustache for Chuy. That raised $500 for the Chuy campaign, half coming from CTU President Karen Lewis.


There was a lot going on out in Hinsdale with the crazy Tea Party members of the board of education.

With school corruption occurring at the highest levels, in Atlanta it was African American teachers who went to jail.


Rallying for Sue Garza in the fighting Tenth Ward. Photo: Fred Klonsky

We were told we would get the emails between Michael Sacks and Rahm within 77 hours. We are still waiting.


Bruce Rauner cut funding for Autism services on Autism Awareness Day.

The IEA would not support parental rights to opt-out of high stakes testing no matter what.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the $20 million no-bid contract.

CPS is a toxic work environment for African Americans.


We almost beat Christian Mitchell for State Representative. Bet on Jay Travis to do it next time.

CPS Principal Troy LaRaviere spoke out.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Baltimore.

CPS is broke on purpose.


We told you so. The Illinois Supreme Court was unanimous on pension theft.

…there is simply no way that the annuity reduction provisions in Public Act 98-599 can be reconciled with the rights and protections established by the people of Illinois when they ratified the Illinois Constitution of 1970 and its pension protection clause. Those provisions contravene the clear requirements of article XIII, section 5, as set forth in the provision’s plain and unambiguous language and construed by the legion of cases we have just discussed. In enacting the provisions, the General Assembly overstepped the scope of its legislative power. This court is therefore obligated to declare those provisions invalid.


Didn’t the Chicago Tribune support Mussolini last time?

A Chicago community fights for its park.

Glen Brown goes to the state union convention.

I keep saying it: CPS needs an elected school board.


I am an early adopter. Troy LaRaviere for mayor.

City parks and Black Lives Matter.


The Church in Charleston.

We forced a difficult conversation about racism at the NEA Representative Assembly.

My article on the NEA RA and the Confederate flag debate for In These Times.

Gina HarKirat Harris: “We’re swimming in a sea of racism.”

The court says the union can’t bargain away my pension rights.

Retired teachers don’t scab.


Photo: Fred Klonsky

David Coleman told our kids: “Nobody gives a shit what you think.”

IEA Communications Director Charlie McBarron stole my work.

Forrrest Claypool painted his office.

The weird fantasies of some Chicago journalists.


Sandra Deines on edTPA: Pearson is the gate-keeper for teacher certification in Illinois.

The Chicago Trib’s Eric Zorn accused #FightForDyett of taking hostages.


John Dillon: Bless your stars if you have not fallen under an unexpected illness.

Teachers went on strike in Prospect Heights.

I did an interview with Milwaukee school board member Larry Miller about the lessons of Wisconsin.


Chicago’s new Archbishop Cupich.

I didn’t like the NEA’s early no-strings of Hillary endorsement.

Mayor Rahm’s tax bombed the working families of Chicago.

The unions and Friedrichs.

Teachers strike in McHenry.

Bev Johns: Pay for Success pays a bounty to Wall Street for not providing special education services.

Remembering Leon Bellin.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s plea agreement.


EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuck was embarrassed by the Confederate flag debate.

They killed Laquan McDonald.  Then they tried to kill the story.

“Yikes!” said Peter Cunningham.

Chicago PD answered a domestic disturbance call with guns blazing.

Rahm’s favorite: Scammon’s Principal Mary Weaver.


Our Jedi Warrior.

I embarassed EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuk when I brought up racism and the Confederate flag at the NEA RA.

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I really wanted to have my mind on only one thing last night.  That was the post-season fourth game between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. We had managed to get tickets – good seats – to this historic event.


Chicago Cub fans are long-suffering, as you know. Our northsiders have not won a World Series title since 1908.

You now know the result of last night’s game. The Mets swept. We witnessed the season end.


Wait untill next year!

Earlier in the day I reposted a story by Peter Greene that he had written for his blog, Curmudgucation. I liked Peter’s post because he wrote about the latest privatizing scam, edTPA. He started the post referring to an article by EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuk on the potential for cheating with edTPA.

All during the game, my smart phone kept buzzing with tweets.

Sawchuk tweeted Greene’s post and then tweeted again, objecting to its snarky tone.

First of all, the blog is called Curmudgucation. Greene is snarky. Snark is what he does.

I got included in all the tweets because, unlike Sawchuk, I have been writing about edTPA for a while and Greene added me to the Twitter exchange.

But that’s not what I want to write about the morning of my Cub hangover.

There were a couple more Twitter exchanges, all of which could be called snarky. Sawchuk said I should get a hobby. He suggested macrame. I pointed out that the Gates Foundation has been known to subsidize EdWeek. He complained that I spelled his name wrong. I said that he claimed to have reported from the NEA RA but I knew he had left early and was only there at the start.

Then he tweeted that he had been at the RA long enough to “watch the embarrassing debate over your NBI.”

That tweet stopped me cold.


Let me remind you that I had introduced a New Business Item at the NEA RA calling for the nation’s largest union to support efforts to remove the Confederate flag from public schools and public places.

For nearly two hours – the longest debate at an NEA RA in memory – our union discussed racism and the symbols of white supremacy. The discussion wasn’t clean and it wasn’t always pretty.


But that was the point. Confronting racism and white supremacy isn’t pretty and clean.

And if it embarrassed Stephen Sawchuk, it says more about him than it does about those of us who brought it to the floor.

Would it have been better to avoid the issue so that Sawchuk could feel comfortable?

The discussion about racism and the Confederate flag at the NEA RA was not embarrassing. It was important. And more national organizations and unions in this country ought to have that discussion.

And the NEA should start acting on the NBI. It passed by the way. Overwhelmingly. The NEA leadership has done nothing to implement NBI 11.

For that, they should be embarrassed.

I just checked to make sure I spelled Sawchuk right.

Three-million day.


In a few hours this blog will receive its three-millionth visitor.

That could mean one person who keeps coming back over and over.

Or a lot of people who read it – which I hope is true.

When meeting a new person who tells me by way of introduction that they read my blog, I often go into that aw shucks mode and joke, “Oh! You’re the one!”

It is a bit of false modesty, because I know that what gets said here – and happily not just be me – has power to influence things.

I believe it was Karl Marx who said that our job wasn’t to just blog about the world, but to change it.

Three million is about the size of Chicago or Brooklyn.

But there are 40 cities in China – some you never heard of – that have more than three million people.

So I still have work to do.

A blog conversation about the myth of black on black crime.


“On behalf of Artists Against Police Violence we extend our thoughts and solidarities to the Black community in Charleston, South Carolina, and those murdered in the Charleston Church shooting.”

The more I think about that statement, the odder it gets. I mean: Does this group you speak for actually think the Police are somehow responsible for this? Why else would you use this language?

– A reader

Artists Against Police Violence is the name of their organization. It doesn’t mean they think the police were involved in the Charleston shootings. I think knowing the names and faces of the dead is a good thing. Don’t you?

– Fred

I had no issue with your main theme. I just found it odd the group would speak through you using that title, unless it was for the purpose of sending a themed message.

– A reader

I chose to post their graphic. Nothing odd about it. Many groups with a wide arrange of agendas have spoken out on what happened in Charleston. What on earth could be your objection?

– Fred

I had no issue with your main theme. I just found it odd the group would speak through you using that title, unless it was for the purpose of sending a themed message.

Wasn’t an objection; your choice to speak for that group (instead of, say, Retired Teachers) just raised questions in my mind. I guess you’ve answered them.

– A reader

I would want all retired teachers to speak out against the race-based murder of nine African Americans. Why aren’t you speaking out about it instead of focusing on my choices of graphics?

– Fred

Because, Fred, I would not suppose that anyone would speak FOR race-based murder. Why – every time some sick soul commits race-based murder – is it necessary for us/me to say we/I condemn the act?

What is it you assume about me if I fail to proclaim abhorrence at every instance of human depravity? I also condemn the plague of black-on-black violence that is a very serious, but largely ignored, problem – both nationally and in the City of Chicago. How about joining me in condemning that?

I questioned your choice of “graphics” because it seemed designed to send an implicit message about police responsibility – at a time when police are being criticized for racial insensitivity – that I had not understood to be the fact in this case.

You deny sending that message, so that’s that.

– A reader

Yes. We proclaim our abhorrence to every instance of race-based murder as a requirement be be part of the human community. The “plague of black on black violence” is a myth. Cite your source.

– Fred

I have looked at the sources and see they are ones you would be unlikely to accept. In fact, I will – instead – accept your contention that black on black violence is a myth, and no longer speak of it.

To quote Gilda Radner, “Never mind.”

– A reader

Ah. Not so fast my friend. Neither you nor I referred to black on black violence. You called it “the plague of black on black violence” suggesting that it is unique to one race. If you have evidence that this is true, share it.

 – Fred

Black on black violence is a myth…REALLY

 – Another reader

“Really” is not a source. Violent crime is function of availability of guns, proximity and poverty. A unique “plague of back on black violence” is not supported by data. Show me otherwise.

– Fred


Merriam-Webster defines “plague” (non-medically) as, “a disastrous evil or affliction”. Nothing about being unique.

Communicating with you (i.e., attempting a rational debate) is very difficult when you define your own terms on the fly, and decide (by “choosing” to use “graphics”) to be official spokesman for groups ranging from “Artists” to the entire “Human Community”. But as you often point out, it’s your blog, and you can make your own rules.

I, for one, give up.

– A reader

So you couldn’t find any evidence, huh?

– Fred

On the myth of Black-On-Black crime.