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.

$250,000 a year to block and tackle teacher unions at charter schools for Governor Private Equity.


ChicagoQuest teacher Nancy Nassr speaks to her colleagues and dozens of other teachers during rally on April 28, 2014. Teachers sought union recognition and more transparency from Beth Purvis’ Chicago International Charter Schools, the non-profit group that oversees ChicagoQuest and 14 other schools in Chicago. Photo by Melissa Sanchez, Catalyst.

“I’ve been charged by the governor to create a more cohesive and coherent educational experience.”

And for that, former charter school hack Beth Purvis will be paid a quarter of a million dollars a year to be Governor Private Equity’s eduction advisor.

Most teachers in Illinois have that job description, only with a little more specificity and for a hell of a lot less money.

But with her history in charter schools, including the International Charter Schools in Chicago, her current salary is, she says, “commensurate” with what she was paid in the past.

No doubt.

Purvis says she won’t get a state pension in her new position.


Welcome to state government, Beth.

They’re trying to do that to me too.

Only she says it’s voluntary.

That is where we are different.

Robin Steans, director of the corporate education reform group Advance Illinois, says Purvis will “block and tackle” for the administration.

I think Robin Steans is confusing state government for the Chicago Bears.

The Bears could use somebody who can block and tackle.

Purvis’ history at the International Charter schools is interesting.

Her main role seems to have been to create a corporate structure to block and tackle attempts by the teachers to unionize according to a report in Catalyst.

Teachers and staff at Chicago Quest say they wanted to bargain on the existing terms for three other CICS schools – the first charter schools to unionize in Chicago. That didn’t happen. The schools are managed by legally separate entities. According to Beardsley, that means the teachers have separate employers.

The complicated management structure for CICS schools is a major point of confusion and criticism among teachers at ChicagoQuest and other schools that are part of the system.

The non-profit CICS holds the charter to operate Chicago Quest and 14 other schools in the city, but contracts out the management responsibility to five providers. One of the providers is Civitas Schools, a for-profit, limited liability corporation set up by CICS that manages operations at the three CICS schools that unionized in 2009.

When ChicagoQuest was created two years later, CICS formed another LLC to manage that school. Beardsley is the CEO of both management groups.

Chicago ACTS President Brian Harris, who teaches at a Civitas school, said the management strategy “is a way of keeping teachers divided. They keep us split up so they can just deal with tiny pieces at a time.”


Sun-Times exposes CPS charter corruption. The familiar names: Huberman, Daley, Rahm and Rauner.

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– Chicago Sun-Times. Dan Mihalopoulos.

After leaving city government four years ago, Ron Huberman started his own firm, which is getting business from some of the same government-financed charter-school operators he championed as then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s schools chief, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

Huberman, who is a member of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s transition team, founded TeacherMatch LLC in 2011.

The company has since gotten contracts worth a total of more than $200,000 from two of the largest Chicago Public Schools-funded charter operators — the Noble Network of Charter Schools and the United Neighborhood Organization’s charter network — and also has gotten work from some schools in the Chicago International Charter Schools network, records and interviews show.

TeacherMatch, which provides software to help schools screen job applicants, reported total revenues in 2013 of more than $286,000, according to school contracting records.

That same year, it got an infusion of nearly $1.9 million from investors, the records show — a sign of confidence in its future growth.

Huberman continues to serve as the company’s executive chairman, though records list its primary owner as Prairie Capital, the Chicago private-equity firm where Huberman has been a top executive since 2011.

Read the entire story here.

Charter school scams. Chicago, Milwaukee and NOLA.


CPS tampered with charter school MAP scores without apologies.

When it comes to charter school scams, it is hard to be shocked anymore.

But the report from Chicago’s Administrator’s Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education (AAPPLE) comes pretty damn close.

From Chicago principal Troy LaRaviere’s blog:

In August, AAPPLE analyzed NWEA MAP student growth results and discovered students in public schools were learning far more than their peers in charter schools. Our findings were published in a Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed. In addition, the Sun-Times published its ownindependent analysis, which affirmed our findings. Our analysis was based on a file containing the school level results of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. This file was released by the CPS Office of Accountability in early August. That original file is no longer available on the Office of Accountability website. At some point between the publication of our findings and the release of school ratings, CPS removed the original file containing school growth data and replaced it with a different version. There are no indications or acknowledgements on the site that the data in the file has been changed.

Fortunately, we saved the original version.

An analysis of both versions indicates massive changes were made to the student growth data for charter schools at some point during the last few months as CPS delayed the release of school quality ratings.

We found these changes led to certain schools appearing to have greater academic growth by lowering the average pretest scores while leaving the posttest scores as they were. For other schools, the changes raised the pretest scores and once again left the posttest scores as they were, giving the impression of less student growth.

The changes were made to the data for nearly every charter school while affecting less than 20 public schools. Charter school scores were changed by more than 50 percentile points in some cases while most of the public school changes were 2 points or less.

More shocking still is that CPS doesn’t even deny changing the scores.

Meanwhile up the road in Milwaukee, school board member Larry Miller reacts to plans to turn the Milwaukee school district into a Wisconsin version of New Orlean’s privatized Recovery School District (RSD). New Orleans neighborhood public schools were destroyed after Katrina. They weren’t destroyed by the hurricane, but by union busting privatizers, like Paul Vallas, with the blessing of Arne Duncan and the Obama Department of Education.

Miller takes a look at NOLA’s RSD on his recent blog.

Rumors of a New Orleans-style Recovery School District (RSD), aimed at Milwaukee Public Schools, are swirling around the Wisconsin political arena once again. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has been lobbying for this for some time. In 2013 the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute proposed the same idea in a report titled “Pathway to success for Milwaukee schools.” (See at

Right now there are RSD’s in New Orleans, Tennessee, Michigan and Virginia. In New Orleans it is called the Recovery School District. In Tennessee it is called the Achievement School District. In Michigan it is called the Education Achievement Authority. In Virginia it is called the Opportunity Educational Institution.

From the practice of these 4 states, the following outcomes have become evident:
• “Low performing” schools are removed from their school districts.
• Administration and teachers are removed from those schools. (In New Orleans 7500 teachers were fired. A large majority were African American.)
• Schools are turned over to charter management organizations (CMO’s).
• Schools operate independently, answering to the state with little accountability.
• Parents are disenfranchised without elected school boards for recourse. Large percentages of families leave these schools.
• Special education and “behavior problem/low testing” students are “counseled out.”
• Teach For America becomes a major source for teaching staff. Unions are not allowed.
• School districts continue to be responsible for past debt accumulated.
• Academic performance is stagnant.

He might want to look at the number of erased poor scores.


The Great Chicago Charter School Flop. Orfield report: It’s no model for school reform.


The number of Chicago charter schools has soared under Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel. Enrollment has grown sixfold from 2003 to 2013 – 8,647 students to 48,707.

But a report out today from Myron Orfield and the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School says Chicago charter schools are a huge failure.

This study, using comprehensive data for 2012-13, shows that, after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago’s charter schools actually underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways. Reading and math pass rates, reading and math growth rates, and graduation rates are lower in charters, all else equal, than in traditional neighborhood schools. This is true despite the fact that, because students self- select into the charter system, student performance should exceed what one sees in traditional schools, even if charters do no better at teaching their students. Although there is some evidence that charter students score higher on ACT scores, the finding is statistically significant for only one of four indicators – hardly reason to continue the rapid expansion of the system.

When all factors  are included such as racial diversity, language, income and whether the schools were open to all comers or had a selective enrollment, charters scored more poorly by almost every performance measure, including graduation rates, reported Orfield.


ALEC and Gulen. The soft underbelly of liberal charter merchants.


Nathan says I am against expanding opportunity.

“I do understand the effort to discredit charters by linking them to ALEC. Opponents of expanding opportunity have long used that approach,” wrote charter merchant Joe Nathan. It was in a message he sent following my posting of yesterday’s exchange about the Illinois Charter Commission.

Well. That didn’t take long.

The first part of the exchange between us was civil, friendly and general.

But the minute I mentioned how the Illinois Charter Commission was a word-for-word creation of the right-wing corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, Nathan turned personal and I became an opponent of expanding opportunity.

Nathan had been telling warm and fuzzy stories about how his kids went to public schools and how his mother worked at Head Start.

As soon as I brought up the connection between ALEC and charters, Nathan turned nasty.

Yes. That’s me: An opponent of expanding opportunity.

Or maybe it was because I brought up the Commission’s approval of the Gulen charters. Gulen, a Turkish political movement is the largest operator of charter schools in the United States and is currently under federal investigation. Gulen charters in several states, including Illinois, have been raided by the FBI.

ALEC and Gulen are the soft underbelly of the self-proclaimed liberal charter promoters.

The truth is that Nathan wasn’t posting here to convince you of the value of the Illinois Charter Commission, passed by the Illinois legislature based on model legislation provided by ALEC.

He is just trying to show his sponsors that he is on the job and earning his keep.

Annenberg, Blandin, Best Buy, Bradley, Bremer, Cargill, Carlson, Frey, Gates, General Mills, Joyce, Minneapolis, Peters, Pohlad, St. Paul, St. Paul Companies, TCF, Travelers, Rockefeller, Wallin, Walton Foundations and the Carnegie Corporation.

They are all listed on his group’s web page.

Check out the corporate sponsors on mine.

There aren’t any.

That’s because I am an opponent of expanding opportunities – for those corporate funders and foundations that pay for Nathan’s charter advocacy.

Tim Furman responds to charter debate.

– Tim Furman

Thanks for running my post, Fred, and for having the debate. I’m still chained to work here so my debate time is limited. Plus you argue the point better than I do.

It’s just plain wrong, this commission, and the other identical ones that have popped up across the land because of model legislation provided by ALEC. It is completely irrelevant that these commissions have this or that track record, or that a particular executive director is a good person. And the implied argument that there is some unenumerated right to establish a charter school, and that it is somehow on the same level as the gains made during the civil rights movement– well, that argument is obnoxious.

It is true that school boards do not have the final say in everything. There are state and federal laws with which they have to comply, as well as matters related to state and federal funding. But the question of how many and what kind of schools a district should plan for and build– that question is entirely appropriate for the local elected board. Candidates with opinions on the matter can run, they can win majorities, and they can implement policies when elected. That’s how democracy works, flawed as it is.

There are times when I wish I had a commission to overrule certain votes of the legislature, and there are times when I want to set up a charter library, based on my own reading interests, funded by the library budget. I am also pretty sure, at times, that my neighborhood would be better served by a charter police department, paid for by everyone but run by my special group, exempt from whole swaths of state law. And while this paragraph is written tongue-in-cheek, it wouldn’t surprise me if ALEC were working on templates for these impulses.

I believe that the history of the charter school commission is a lot more nuanced than Joe describes it; it was clearly part of a national trend based on the ALEC agenda, as you’ve said, and the Race To The Top (for example, the removal of the charter caps). It was not the result of a groundswell of Illinois voices crying out for a state charter commission. It was part of a deal to get federal funding. It is indeed also true that elected people established the commission; elected people will also get rid of it, or change its nature for the better.

Good debate, though. I appreciate Joe’s ideas.