Mike Antonucci, Peter Cunningham and the petty attacks on the Mass Teachers union following MTA’s win at the polls.


Last November’s election had few wins for progressives.

But in Massachusetts, against all odds, the grassroots organizing of the rank and file members of the state teachers union, led by a reform union leadership, did get a win.

They beat back a corporate reform ballot issue that would have lifted the cap on charter schools.

The pro-charter folks spent $24 million, including $2 million from the Walton family, $500,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and $15 million from the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools.

Massachusetts banks and other corporations donated $500,000 for the cause.

A few hedge fund managers and corporation CEOs wrote checks for a $1 million.

The NEA, the AFT and the MTA spent about $15 million, making it the most expensive Massachusetts ballot measure ever.

So, count on the union-haters like Mike Antonucci and the charter-lovers like Peter Cunningham to hold a grudge.

They are still licking their wounds.

When a Boston charter school teacher was chosen the National Teacher of the Year, some rank and file members of the MTA were suspicious of the motives behind a New Business Item congratulating her. The NBI was defeated and within 24 hours the news was being reported by every anti-union and pro-charter blogger and tweeter in the universe.

The National Teacher of the Year is chosen by the Council of State School Officers.

I wasn’t present for the debate at the MTA meeting, but doubt it involved challenging the National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee’s credentials as an excellent teacher.

Charter schools are full of excellent teachers.

No matter that the NEA will honor Sydney Chaffee, the charter teacher and this year’s Teacher of the Year at their national Representative Assembly this summer, as they honor the Teacher of the Year every year.

And so it was that when I tweeted that Chicago was now considered the charter union epicenter of the country, charter advocate Peter Cunningham launched into an attack on the MTA as being petty.

Apparently Peter has adopted the Trump tweeting style of ending his observations with, “How sad.”

And apparently the NEA, the nation’s largest teachers union, doesn’t count as a “big union.”

Some rank and file MTA members may have been suspicious that the proposed MTA NBI was presented as a provocation following the charter school expansion measure’s defeat at the polls.

Who knows?

Those like right-winger Antonucci and charter-lover Peter Cunningham have now joined forces to go after the MTA.

The teacher unions will keep doing what they have been doing: Organizing charter unions.

And apparently charter teachers are anxious to join.

Chicago is a union town, charter schools are no exception.


I heard this morning that the teachers at Passages charter in Chicago won a late night agreement on a union contract. If they hadn’t, Passages would have been the first charter school strike in the United States.

“Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country,” complained Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

We’re number one!

Andrew should have known. Chicago is a union town.

WBEZ reports that the Passages contract gives their teachers a 21% pay increase. More details will be released later.

Chicago Tribune:

“It’s not about destroying charter schools,” (CTU President Karen)Lewis said. “Charter schools are here; they’re not going anywhere. So the key is, how do you make them a bitter pill to their management companies? It’s the management companies we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents. The key is, organize people to fight for fairer conditions of work, and then that’s good for everybody.”

The CTU, which represents traditional public school teachers, is supportive of the separate union representing charter schools. That union is the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, a branch of the American Federation of Teachers and a statewide affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Chris Baehrend, president of Chicago ACTS Local 4343, said, “A growing number of teachers are coming to a realization that when they are organized, we are in a better position to protect conditions in the classroom.”

The Chicago charter union said it represents about 1,000 teachers at 32 charter schools in Chicago, which is about 25 percent of charter schools citywide. That’s double the national percentage: About 12 percent of charter schools nationwide are under a collective bargaining agreement, according to Aviva Bowen, spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

If the school privatizers are going to use charter schools as a weapon to destroy teachers unions, Chicago is as good a place to make our stand as any.

We are a union town.

NEA’s charter position is okay but a little like closing the doors on an empty barn. No mention of vouchers?

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NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia convened an organizational national task force on charter schools to reconsider the union’s statement adopted by the Representative Assembly in Los Angeles 15 years ago.

The wheels of the NEA turn kind of slowly. The past 15 years have seen a lot of battles around charter schools. The NEA board of directors will consider the task force’s document at their next meeting.

I posted a copy of the document last week.

In 2001, the last time the NEA took a national position on charters, there were around 2,100 charter schools operating in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Most were run by parent groups, nonprofit organizations and a few for-profit education companies. About a half million students attended them nationwide.

The landscape has radically changed.

Today, half a million students attend charter school just in California alone.

Between school years 2003–04 and 2013–14, the percentage of all public schools that were public charter schools increased from 3.1 to 6.6 percent, and the total number of public charter schools increased from 3,000 to 6,500. In addition to increasing in number, charter schools have generally increased in enrollment size over the last decade. From 2003–04 to 2013–14, the percentages of charter schools with 300–499, 500–999, and 1,000 or more students each increased, while the percentage of charter schools with fewer than 300 students decreased. Similar patterns were observed from 2012–13 to 2013–14.

So there we were. It was September of 2016. Two months before the presidential election. We had fifteen years of the Department of Education run by pro-charter secretaries like Rod Paige, Maggie Spellings, Arne Duncan and now, perhaps worst of all, Betsy DeVos, and the NEA thinks it might have something new to say about charter schools.

The NEA’s main observation is that charters are no longer mom and pop shops and have become corporate managed and profit centers, threatening public neighborhood schools and public control of what should be a public institution.

The result of these efforts has been a massive and burgeoning sector of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards as public schools. Frequently the resulting charters are operated expressly for-profit, or are nominally non-profit but managed or operated by for-profit entities. These charters are nothing like the original conception of charters as small incubators of innovation within school districts. Most importantly, the growth of charters has undermined local public schools and communities, without producing any overall increase in student learning and growth.

I can’t argue with that.

Some of us have been saying it for a decade and longer.

I assume the NEA board of directors will pass it.

And then what?

Will the NEA and President Eskelsen Garcia follow her friend Randi Weingarten in school tours and seek a seat at the table with Betsy DeVos?

Or will they fight like hell against the Department of Education and its Secretary which has become the Mother of All Bombs when it comes to public, secular, neighborhood schools?

One observation: The Illinois member of the NEA task force sits on the Illinois Charter Commission, which has the authority to overturn local school district decisions to deny charter applications and which we have been trying to get the legislature to disband.

One more observation. Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are not just charter advocates. Their other tool in the fight against neighborhood public schools is the voucher.

There is no mention of vouchers in this document.

I hope we don’t need to wait 15 years for it.

NEA’s charter school policy statement.

The NEA’s charter school taskforce policy statement will be discussed at an upcoming NEA Board of Directors meeting.

Charter School Policy Statement
As Recommended by the Charter Taskforce to the NEA Board of Directors


Charter schools were initially promoted by educators who sought to innovate within the local public school system to better meet the needs of their students. Over the last quarter of a century, charter schools have grown dramatically to include large numbers of charters that are privately managed, largely unaccountable, and not transparent as to their operations or performance. The explosive growth of charters has been driven, in part, by deliberate and well- funded efforts to ensure that charters are exempt from the basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools, which mirror efforts to privatize other public institutions for profit.

Charters have grown the most in school districts that were already struggling to meet students’ needs due to longstanding, systemic and ingrained patterns of institutional neglect, racial and ethnic segregation, inequitable school funding, and disparities in staff, programs and services. The result has been the creation of separate, largely unaccountable, privately managed charter school systems in those districts that undermine support and funding of local public schools. Such separate and unequal education systems are disproportionately located in, and harm, students and communities of color by depriving both of the high quality public education system that should be their right.

As educators we believe that “public education is the cornerstone of our social, economic, and political structure,” NEA Resolution A-1, the very “foundation of good citizenship,” and the fundamental prerequisite to every child’s future success. Brown v. Bd. of Ed. of Topeka, Shawnee Cty., Kan., 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954). The growth of separate and unequal systems of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools threatens our students and our public education system. The purpose of this policy statement is to make plain NEA’s opposition to the failed experiment of largely unaccountable privately managed charter schools while clarifying NEA’s continued support for those public charter schools that are authorized and held accountable by local democratically elected school boards or their equivalent.

Findings of NEA Charter Taskforce in Support of Proposed Charter Policy Statement_April 2017



This bill would stop charter school expansion in Illinois.

State Representative Will Guzzardi has introduced legislation that would all but stop charter school expansion in Illinois.

Guzzardi’s bill would block the opening of any new charter campuses in any school districts with the Illinois State Board of Education’s two lowest financial ratings.

CPS definitely qualifies for that.

Guzzardi’s argument is that if a school district like CPS can’t afford to run the school’s they have, they have no business paying for new charter schools which are paid for out of the district’s budget.

To illustrate the problem, Guzzardi held is press conference announcing the bill at Chicago’s Prosser High School.

Prosser has been hit hard by CPS budget cuts. Yet at the same time, Noble Charter Network opened at brand new school right across the street from Prosser with CPS funding.

Nearly one hundred school districts in the state would be covered by the bill.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) immediately went nuts over the Guzzardi bill. Their reaction suggests the bill has some legs and real support.


The Illinois Network of Charter Schools is pushing back hard against the Guzzardi bill that would limit charter school expansion in cash strapped districts like CPS.

At the presser Guzzardi was joined by state and local officials, including Omar Aquino (D-Chicago), Ald. Milly Santiago (31st), State Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Belmont-Cragin), Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th and home ward of Prosser) as well as local parents and representatives from community groups like Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Download and listen to our podcast: Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

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 www.IntellectualRadio.com 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.