By popular demand: Klonsky brothers on the air and live internet streaming.


Due to popular demand, my brother, Mike Klonsky (who blogs at Small Talk) and I will be doing a live radio show, Hitting Left, on Friday, February 3rd at 11AM, CST.

Our in-studio guest will be Troy LaRaviere, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, former principal at Blaine Elementary and Rahm critic.

We and the good folks at WLPN, 105.5 FM Lumpen Radio, Chicago’s community radio station are trying this out as a pilot broadcast.

If you like it, let them and us know.

Proposed East Aurora charter would drain needed funds from the district.


Source: East Aurora Report Card.

Tuesday night’s East Aurora school board hearing on a proposed charter school had to be moved due to an anticipated larger than usual turn out for a board meeting.

The 7 p.m. was moved to the cafeteria at East Aurora High School. The hearing portion of the meeting was part of the Greater Good Education nonprofit’s application process to open a charter school at a proposed location within East Aurora district boundaries.

East Aurora is a mainly Hispanic school district serving mostly low income students where services are already stretched thin due to Illinois’ reliance on local funding for public schools. A charter school in East Aurora would be locally funded as well, taking funds away for redundant services.

I will report the results of the hearing as soon as I hear.

The following story appeared in the Aurora Beacon News.

Talking school funding issues with Ria Rai Harris on Straight, No Chaser.

Tune in on Monday, May 23rd at 6pm cst to The Straight No Chaser Show as I discuss the “pay for success” social impact bonds, Illinois’ formula for funding public schools, charter schools vs public schools and the failures of the Chicago Public School System with host Ria Rai Harris. H Cortez will provide us with part 2 of his 8 part special series in the “Money Moment.” View us LIVE at and subscribe to the YouTube page The Straight No Chaser Show.

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Has Learn Charters really withdrawn its appeal to the Charter Commission?

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From Tuesday’s blog post.

On Tuesday I posted about Learn Charter schools and their appeal of the decision of the District 187 board of education not to authorize a school in the district backed by Walton family money.

The District 187 board warned that the funding of the Learn Charter would bankrupt the district.

The charter appeal would go to the Illinois Charter Commission, the unelected group that has been given the power to overrule local school boards.

When my friend, Bob Zahnizer, contacted his state representative, Democrat Scott Drury, he received this response:

Dear Bob:

 Thank you for your email. Earlier this week, District 187 approved a negotiated compromise with respect to LEARN’s proposal.  As a result, LEARN has withdrawn its appeal to the Charter Commission.  Thank you for your continued interested in the success of our traditional public schools.

 If you would like to discuss this further, please let us know.

 Very truly yours,

 Scott R. Drury

Illinois State Representative

58th District

I will be following this closely to see if Drury’s information is correct and what exactly the negotiated compromise is.

There now appears to be no effective challenge to charter schools in Illinois.



-By Bev Johns

 For special education, charter schools admit and retain fewer students with IEPs, and usually completely lack the required Continuum of Alternative Placements.

So charter schools tend to be full inclusion in the general ed classroom schools, and tend to find ways to get rid of students with more complex needs and/or significant behavioral issues.

The original promise of charter schools was HIGHER academic results at a LOWER cost than real public schools.

Now those promises have been largely forgotten.

The state Charter School Commission reinstated three Chicago charter schools that Chicago wanted to close because of poor academic results. Even in my hometown of Jacksonville, a charter school that had abysmal academic results was closed with great difficulty and ONLY because the members of the Board of the charter school were convinced by influential community leaders NOT to appeal to the state Charter School Commission.

The Governor, the State Superintendent of Education and the Chair of ISBE are all avid supporters of charter schools,as are an increasing number of Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly (see below).

Illinois has received a $45 million Federal grant that will result in at least 25 NEW Charter Schools.

Despite a change in Illinois law last year to make clear that charter schools in Illinois were subject to Illinois special ed laws and rules, no one is actively enforcing it.

Jim Broadway, Illinois School News Service, states,

Bill to triple charter startup funding advances: HB 5918, a bill that ostensibly adjusts the time periods and other factors in the authorization of charter schools – but with language tripling state funded startup grants and loans from the current maximum of $500 per student to a new maximum of $1,500 per student, was advanced to the House floor by a 9-3 vote of the House PK-12 committee on Charter School Policy on Tuesday.

 Support for charter schools is growing in the legislature. While in the past charters were primarily a partisan issue, with support from Republicans and with Democrats either opposing them or just ignoring them, there are many Democrats in the House who now support the charter movement.

I will summarize the committee hearing:

Thapedi’s charter school bill, HB 5918, had very unusual testimony. Thapedi stated he had tried to work with the IEA, drafted Amendment 1 to meet the IEA requests, but did not offer the Amendment because “No matter how I amend they will not support the bill.”

The IEA representative stated the IEA was on record in support of charter schools if supported locally, but the amendment did not include the language it had given Thapedi on accountability for charter schools.

Thapedi stated that he had heard nothing from the CTU, and that he “never heard from anyone in the red shirts until now.”

The CTU representative stated he was unable to find Thapedi to speak with him.

NO ONE mentioned the tripling of charter school start-up funding (from $500 per student to $1,500 per student) that is in the bill.

In fact the IEA representative stated that the IEA and others “support per student funding” without mentioning any level of funding.

One State Rep stated she understood the Revolving Loan Fund

(1/2 of the Charter School start-up cost funding – the other 1/2 is a direct State grant of State funds) increase was for “community generated” Charter Schools.

The IFT representative stated the bill was creating a 2-tiered system.

HB 5918 passed by a vote of 9 to 3.

Democracy in Illinois. One unelected group overrules another unelected group on charter schools.


Some politicians, like 40th District State Representative Jaime Andrade, may prefer having their sponsorship of HB4268 on their campaign flyer without having to vote for it.

The Illinois Charter School Commission was established in 2011. Its members are nominated by the governor and appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

This unelected group has the power to overrule a local school board on charter school applications.

Everywhere in Illinois outside of Chicago it means the Illinois Charter Commission can usurp local control of schools, authorize a charter school after it has been denied authorization by the local community and then force the local community to pay for the school.

In Chicago we don’t have local control of our schools. Our CPS school board is appointed by the Mayor.

Chicago remains the only school district in Illinois with an unelected school board.

Yesterday we saw what democracy looks like in Chicago, where one unelected group overruled another unelected group. The SCSC ordered that three failing Chicago charter schools must remain open.

CPS will foot the bill.

Three charter schools the School Board sought to close for poor performance won a reprieve Tuesday night as the state charter school commission voted 6-0 to keep them open.

Amandla Charter School in Englewood and Betty Shabazz International Charter School’s Sizemore Academy in West Englewood both were granted permission to stay open for two years — the amount of time left on the charter agreement they had with Chicago Public Schools. Bronzeville Lighthouse, which was up for renewal, received a three-year charter.

Legislative attempts to disband or reduce the power of the Charter Commission have failed.

HB 4268 would establish an elected school board in Chicago. With a ton of sponsors, the bill has seen no legislative action other than to assign it to the Rules Committee.

It appears that many of the bill’s sponsors see it as more valuable as something to put on a campaign flyer than to actually have to vote on it.

Notes from a dictator.


Rauner’s campaign turn-around agenda to destroy public employee unions is clear enough.

But his speechifying has gotten more and more incoherent.

And is it me, or has he seemed to have lost some weight lately?

He doesn’t look good.

The other day he was babbling something about Chicago and teachers being dictators.

This was just as 500 Chicago teachers were handed pink-slips.

Dictators firing themselves?

What a lunatic.

In all the years I was a union activist – president of my union local for almost ten years – it never quite felt like I was a dictator.

Like every IEA local leader I was elected. Sometimes with opposition.

LIke most IEA local presidents it was a voluntary position. No pay. A bit of release time.

And God knows what local presidents did before there was email, texting and smart phones to communicate with their members in even a middle-sized local union like mine.

I do remember in my early days of teaching that the kindergarten teacher and union president, Mrs. Burke, would drop off her students in my art room and head straight for the phone booth which was located next to my room.

Yes. A phone booth. No internet. And no classroom had a phone.

She would spend the next 45 minutes doing union business. That was her planning time. She would do her classroom planning after school and at home because the only time she could talk to administrators and other teachers was on her own planning time.

In a phone booth.

Since most locals are voluntary organizations, things don’t always run like a well-oiled machine.

Bruce Rauner may think our dictatorship’s trains run on time.

Trust me. They don’t.

When I first got hired I had to go find my building rep so I could join the union.

Nobody seemed to know who he was.

But he was a volunteer too. So you work with what you have.

We changed that a few years later. We negotiated time for the union at our new teacher orientation. The superintendent agreed to give us the half hour just before lunch on the first day. The membership chair and I would give a little rap about the union and hand out membership slips.

I say “membership chair” as if she had a committee she was chair of.

There was no committee. Like most of our chairs, she was a committee of one.

A dictator, if you will.

The thing about being a union dictator in Illinois is that nobody has to do what you say.

No teacher has to join the union.

Some dictatorship, right?

What our local did was fight for the rights of teachers and against the whims and autocratic leadership styles of many of those who thought they were the educational leaders in our district.

But who rarely ventured into a classroom. Or even had a copy of their contract in their office.

Oh. Here’s some dictatorial advice for some new local union leaders. Always carry a copy of the contract with you when you walk into a principal’s office. Slap it dramatically on the principals desk just before making your point. They’ve never read it. They have no idea what is in it. Make a reference to it. They will have no idea.

I remember many a call to our union staff person who this dictator needed to go through before I could file a grievance.

“Well, Klonsky. That’s kind of a stretch,” he would always say to me after I described what had happened and showed him where it violated the contract.

“I know,” I would respond. “I don’t care if it strictly violates the contract. We may not win it. But they can’t treat teachers that way without us responding. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. At least we will show them we have some spine. And our members will know we have their backs.”

The words of a dictator. Who had to argue with a paid union staff person in order to file a grievance.

But the grievance would get filed.

I’m happy to say we never lost one.

Noble Charter Network is stopped by community resistance. Updated.

The Mayor’s aldermanic water carrier Joe Moore announced today that Noble Charter Network has thrown in the towel on plans to open a branch in Rogers Park or elsewhere on the north side.

The Mayor’s charter friends have been less cooperative on the city’s west and south sides.


Wendy Katten tells me that this DOES NOT apply to the Uptown location according to what she has been told.


Larry Miller: Would Alan Borsuk send his grandchildren to a “No Excuses” school?


Milwaukee school board member, Larry Miller.

– By Larry Miller. Larry is not only an old friend. He is a member of the Milwaukee school board. He also blogs at Educate All Students. Larry was a member of a panel that presented Saturday at the NPE conference along with Bronzeville community actiivst Jay Travis, Chicago alderman-elect Carlos Rosa and myself. The discussion was moderated by Mike Klonsky.

In an op-ed last Sunday Alan Borsuk criticized a vote I took at a school board meeting on April 23. It concerned a proposed charter school that he described as a “no excuses” school. Actually in the world of education, these are called “no-nonsense” schools.

What Borsuk does not tell you is that there’s a huge debate around the country, most recently described in extensive articles in the New York Times (See blogs Parent Testimony on Abuse of “No-Nonsense” Charter Schools and “No-Nonsense” Charter School Model Intentionally Causes Students to Feel “Misery” ) and in an Atlantic magazine article from 12/2014 by the former Journal Sentinel reporter Sarah Carr, titled How Strict Is Too Strict.

Borsuck uses an unfortunate journalistic technique of paraphrasing board members critical of the proposal while quoting those in support. I wish he had given me due diligence by quoting my final comment: “We have Montessori, Language Immersion and IB for white and middle-class students, while low-income African American students get a code of conduct.”

Questions for Mr. Borsuk:
• Would you send your grandchildren to one of these schools?
• Is absolute obedience the objective of good education?
• Do you support the high suspension rates at these no nonsense schools?
• Why did you not explain to your readers that these schools often have high attrition rates, where students leaving the program are not replaced, making it appear as if graduation rates are exceptional?
• Why do the absolute obedience schools have such low special education enrollment?
• Are you aware of the high teacher turnover at these schools?
• Which “discipline matrix” do you support?
• Are you aware of the civil rights complaints registered at these absolute obedience schools in New Orleans?
• Eva Moskowitz will operate 43 “no-nonsense” Success Academy charter schools in New York next year. Are you aware of the debate, described in a number of articles in the New York Times in the past month? (Your readers should be informed about this high profile discussion that is being closely watched by education experts throughout the nation.)
• Does the school board not have a responsibility to put in place programs that protect all children and provide a rich curriculum for all children?

Over the six years that I have been on the school board, I have come to the conclusion that I will always ask myself, would I send my grandchildren to a program I am voting to establish?

I’d encourage Mr. Borsuk to ask the same question.