CEO Forrest Cesspool must go.


On Tuesday the Chicago Public School Inspector General sent the Rahm-appointed school board a report that described CPS CEO Forrest Claypool as liar and as someone who obstructed the investigation into illegal hiring practices of his lawyer pals.

Upon receiving the IG report, board of ed president applauded Claypool for his “exemplary leadership.”

The Mayor dismissed the IG report detailing the corruption of the Mayor’s former chief of staff and the Mayor warned against “making snap judgments.”

The dirty-dealing in the IG report is just the latest for the unelected school board that has seen its previous CEO, Barbara Byrd Bennett, sent to prison for receiving millions of dollars in kick-backs.

Yesterday, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack posted this on his Facebook page:


CPS CEO Forrest Cesspool has to go.

Chicago needs a representative elected school board.

CPS meets with Austin community leaders about school closings then calls the plan rumors and suggests the meeting never happened.


Above is the letter from the liar Forrest Claypool and CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson denying that there was any talk about school closing in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side.

But the Sun-Times great education writer Lauren FitzPatrick reported the meetings. 

Who do you believe?

Meanwhile, CPS officials have been speaking with elected officials, including state Rep. La Shawn Ford and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) about Austin’s schools, which are not exempt from district-wide shrinking enrollment. Ford listed Spencer Technology Academy, Hay Elementary Community Academy, Lewis Elementary and Leland Elementary School on his meeting agenda as the possible targets for closing due to underenrollment.

He and about 30 community members — including the Westside Health Authority, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), the NAACP, and staffers from local schools, including charters — agreed to send a letter to school officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announcing their unity in demanding no more closures in Austin, which bore the brunt of the last round.

“We agree that no schools should close any more in Austin, can we do that together?” Ford asked at a community meeting Wednesday, prompting all hands to raise. “That’s an accomplishment right there.”

It’s like if Napleton Cadillac ran CPS.

I received a lot of reaction from decent people offended by the memo I posted here that Napleton Cadillac sent out to their striking mechanics.

The striking mechanics were told they would be replaced and “if they made an unconditional offer to return to work,” they would be “placed on a list should an opening occur.”

CPS sent out a similar memo yesterday when they announced the firing of 1000 employees, including 360 teachers.

They didn’t actually call it “firing.”  The 1000 employees including 360 teachers were “impacted.”

Schools were “impacted.”

Students were “impacted.”

The disruption to teachers, schools and students by these August staffing impactions is huge.

As a way of comparison, for school districts outside of Chicago, certified staff must be notified that they are being released due to reduction in force (RIF) 45 days prior to the last day of student attendance.

In our contract, we made it 60 days.

In Chicago, teachers get three weeks notice. Period.

Claypool and Rahm. Hand-picked is okay for blueberries. Not for school leaders.


Paul Vallas. “I shall return.”

There is some interesting stuff in this morning’s story by Sun-Times reporters, Fran Spielman and Lauren FitzPatrick.

CPS and “Wrong-way” Claypool.


Is it a reach to compare Trump’s bizarre response to North Korea’s nuclear testing and Rahm’s response to the CPS budget crisis?

You know that Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have sent $215 million to CPS. In response CEO Forrest Claypool, under apparent orders from Rahm Emanuel, has threatened to close schools June 1.

This is all the micro side of the macro problem of a state that hasn’t passed a budget for two years and probably won’t pass a budget until the current governor is gone.

It is a problem of a state that won’t raise sufficient revenue to pay its bills. There is too little revenue and too little spending on the real needs of the state.

It is also part of the bigger problem of national, state and political leaders, Democrats and Repugs, that don’t give a crap about public schools, especially public schools that Black, Brown and poor kids go to.

For parents, teacher and students, it is not so much the macro issue that is immediately important.

Students and teachers need to be in school for a full school year.

Pretty simple.

Back to the comparison to Trump and North Korea.

Friday, Trump threatened North Korea with a naval fleet led by an aircraft carrier, the Carl Vinson.

The only problem was that Trump’s general, “Mad Dog” Mattis sent the Carl Vinson in the opposite direction of North Korea.

Mad Dog is supposed to be one of the brightest stars in Trump’s military galaxy.

It seems that “Wrong-way” Mattis might be a better nickname.

And so it is with Rahm’s CPS CEO, “Mad Dog” Claypool.

The threats of a Chicago school shutdown is like a ship going the wrong way.

By the way, Claypool is one of those guys, like Arne Duncan, who never runs for office but is always around. Or, in the case of Claypool, did run for office, lost, and is always around.

Paul Vallas is another one of these guys. Ran. Lost. And keeps coming back like a case of Herpes.

Think about that the next time someone lectures you about teacher accountability.

Finally some Chicago Aldermen have had enough with “Wrong-way” Claypool and the Mayor.

“People in this city need an answer. This is getting ridiculous. … Where’s Mr. Claypool? Where is the board? And when are we gonna get an answer about the future of our children?” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), one of the Chicago Teachers Union’s staunchest City Council allies.

Waguespack said he is “sick and tired of taking all the calls without being able to give an answer” to parents who want to know whether the school year will be cut short.

“It’s just getting to the point of insanity where there is zero leadership from the people who are supposed to exhibit that leadership. What are we supposed to tell our kids and our parents? Wait another day? Wait another week? Wait until June 1, and let’s see if you’re lucky enough to have a parent who stays at home?” Waguespack said.

“If somebody from CPS, namely Mr. Claypool, would step up here once in a while — at least once a year — and tell us what’s going on, that might be a little more helpful. But we’ve gotten zippo from those guys.”

In a city of corruption at the top, they go after an activist teacher.


CPS teacher Sarah Chambers at an opt-out rally in front of Saucedo Academy, 2014. Photo: Fred Klonsky

On a cold February afternoon in 2014, dozens of parents, teachers and students gathered on the front steps of old Harrison High School in Little Village. The Harrison building now houses several small schools including Saucedo Academy where CTU member Sarah Chambers taught special education,

Until last week.

300 Saucedo parents had signed letters opting out of the standardized state test, then known as ISAT.

“The Saucedo educators have taken a bold step in refusing to administer a test that is of no use to students and will be junked by the district next year,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has already said the ISAT will not be used for selective enrollment, and therefore this serves no purpose other than to give students another standardized test. We know that parents all over the city are opting their children out of this unnecessary test, and we commend them for doing what is in the best interests of their children.”

Sarah Chambers was a union teacher and activist in that fight, and for battles over testing and special education.

Barbara Byrd-Bennet, by the way, is now facing 7 years in prison for corruption.

Sarah Chambers has now been suspended by the CPS board and faces termination for her activism.

That’s pretty much Chicago in a nutshell.

What else is the suspension and charges against Sarah Chambers but a message sent to all teachers, a Mother of All Bombs, targeting teachers who speak out against corporate reform and the cuts to special education.

I have no doubts that the Chicago Teachers Union will defend their member with all the tools that they have.

But never underestimate the power of our voices and the need to defend those who speak out for our kids.

Here’s the petition.

If you don’t like it when teachers work to the clock, why do you have us punch in and punch out?


Governor Rauner vetoed a $215 million payment to CPS earmarked for earned pensions.

The Mayor through his surrogate CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has threatened to close schools two weeks early and called four furlough days costing students valuable instructional time and a ten percent cut in pay for teachers.

The Chicago Teachers Union has responded by considering a one-day strike on May 1st and calling on teachers to work to their contract time and not a minute more.

Teachers work an average of 58 hours per week during the school year, according to a 2012 study conducted by Professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,

That includes nine hours per day at school on average — even though students are in session for no more than seven hours — and two hours at home during the evening, according to the study.

On weekends, teachers spend an average of 3 hours and 45 minutes on work, and 12 days during schools’ summer break, according to the study.

American schools are funded in large part by the free time of teachers working off the clock and by our out of pocket spending for books and supplies.

Who is the real enemy Peter? Rauner or Rahm? It is a Hobson’s Choice.

A personal memory: When our Park Ridge teachers union was engaged in difficult bargaining we too asked our members to work their contractual hours. It was the hardest thing they had to do. We would gather in the parking lot before school with coffee and muffins from Costco or Jewel and at the exact moment our contractual day began we all walked in together.

At the end of the day a bunch of us would walk through the halls and stop in on classrooms to remind colleagues it was time to go.

It was tough on folks. Some were nearly in tears.

Solidarity can be tough sometimes.

But solidarity is what we had.

And that year a strike was avoided.

Management installed the punch clocks. They bargained the contractual hours.

It always struck me odd that when we talked about being treated as professionals, they pointed to the contract and when we pointed to the contract they said we should act like professionals.

Download the podcast. Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

CPS winners and losers. Same old same old.


The great Sarah Karp, who now does education reporting at Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ, describes how the spirit of the felonious CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennet and SUPES consultant Gary Solomon still walk the halls of CPS’s Clark Street headquarters.

This is a story about how a savvy company came to Chicago and raked in more than $50 million in contracts from the school system in just four years, becoming one of the district’s biggest vendors.

Camelot Education runs six small schools that re-enroll high school dropouts or students who have been expelled. It’s a service the city needs, the school district insists, and by most accounts Camelot runs solid programs that are making a difference for some troubled teens.

But Camelot is also a for-profit company willing to play ball to get contracts, school buildings and students. The Austin, Texas-based company’s growth in Chicago is a textbook example of how private companies are working the system in Chicago — using and being used by city and community leaders for political and financial gain. Call it the new Chicago Way.

Chicago Public Schools is increasingly privatizing services, hiring companies and organizations who often promise cheaper and better services. But it can have troubling consequences. Private companies like Camelot are not subject to stringent reporting requirements, and most of the work is done outside public view. This makes it harder for the public to see how its schools are run and to ferret out conflicts of interest and shady deals.

A WBEZ investigation into Camelot’s rise in Chicago reveals the depths of those potential conflicts.

Meanwhile today’s Sun-Times explains how things have never been worse for CPS teachers paying for their own supplies.

Catherine Chacon — a computer teacher at James Ward Elementary School, where eight out of 10 students live in low-income households — has received money through DonorsChoose for technology like headphones and cameras.

Now Chacon has moved to more basic supplies. One of her most recent fundraising project — “Traveling Books” — is requesting $1,183 for school bags.

Chacon, who teaches pre-K through eight grade and has collected about $2,000 in donations, said the backpacks would help some of her students who can’t afford them or are homeless.

She, too, has invested her own money in her classroom, spending about $1,200 on school supplies last year.

But she and Foust both say they have no choice.

“Every day [my students] do something that makes me think it’s worth it,” Foust said. “When they come back on Monday they write me letters saying, ‘Thank you. This weekend I used the crayons you let me borrow,’ [or] ‘I read a new book you gave me.’”

Foust knows in other school districts, teachers don’t have to resort to buying their own supplies or asking strangers for donations.

“It’s awful,” Foust said. “They [CPS] are giving us no choice but to dig into our own pockets [or] to beg others. The state should be able to fund all these schools equally and fairly, so that we have what we need.”

Hear and download the podcast: Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #4

Gentrifying Chicago. CPS now targets Hispanic schools.


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.

That Chicago property tax levy? It’s going to the banks, not CPS students.


When Governor Rauner vetoed the agreement that would have sent $215 million to CPS it was money that was earmarked for pensions. The Democrats and Republicans in the legislature would not override the veto.

But the pension is just one bill that must be paid. If CPS doesn’t get the money from Springfield, it has to cut somewhere else.

Like your heating bill in January. It must be paid or no heat. Even if It means beans, not meat, for dinner. Or parents skipping  meals so the kids can eat.

But CPS just told the banks not to worry. CPS students may get beans. But the banks who lend CPS money for capital improvements? They have a promise to be paid no matter what.

A preliminary prospectus released this week contends that those investors have nothing to fear. That’s because the bevy of up to $938 million new school construction projects — including several brand new schools — will be financed by a $45 million property tax increase approved by the City Council last year for the sole purpose of school construction.

Remember the 50 public schools that Rahm closed because they were underutilized?

“The credit is secured by a new, unencumbered, limited purpose, dedicated property tax levy within the school district that will be statutorily limited to capital improvement. [It] cannot be used for operating expenses,” (Ronald DeNard, senior vice president of finance for CPS,)” said.

While normal CPS bonds have been rated as junk by bond rating agencies, these bonds are rated much higher to satisfy the fears of banks and investors who were skittish as a result of Governor Rauner’s threats of CPS bankruptcy.

Investment expert, Yvette Shields writes:

While current state law does not allow the school district to enter Chapter 9, Gov. Bruce Rauner has said such an option should be on state books and that CPS is an ideal candidate for such a filing.

Rauner’s comments on the subject earlier this year rattled investors ahead of a deal that drove up the district’s borrowing cost to a high of 8.5%, 500 basis points over the Municipal Market Data’s top-rated benchmark at the time and near the state’s 9% cap.

In the event the state added a municipal bankruptcy provision to state law and CPS landed in Chapter 9, the law firms say the special revenues designation would shield the pledged revenues from the code’s automatic stay on payments on pre-petition debt and should protect the bonds from a haircut in any confirmation plan.

The banks are protected.

The students? Not so much.