Chicago City Council’s Progressive Caucus forces CPS to finally act on special needs positions.


Dad and son attend and speak at special education mtg . This boy has been listening throughout the last couple hours. Photo: Alderman Scott Waguespack.

The parents weren’t leaving.

Neither was the press.

One veteran observer tried to explain to me how rare it was for 3 TV cameras to be present covering a Council education committee hearing on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend.

“Extremely rare,” they said.

This was all the result of the Chicago’s Progressive Caucus demanding – and after long delays, getting – a hearing on cuts to special education positions enacted under former CEO, Forrest Claypool.

The Caucus wanted hearings since WBEZ’s Sarah Karp’s report. last October.

A WBEZ investigation into that 2016 (sped) overhaul found officials relied on a set of guidelines — developed behind closed doors and initially kept secret — that resulted in limiting services for special education students, services like busing, one-on-one aides, and summer school. This overhaul was orchestrated by outside auditors with deep ties to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. They had no expertise in special education.

The Progressive Caucus was stonewalled since their initial request.

Finally hearings were scheduled for yesterday afternoon and then amazingly, just two hours before the start of the hearings, CPS’ new CEO, Janice Jackson, announced 65 new special education positions.

Like magic.

These positions could have/should have been filled at the start of the school year. It is criminal it took this long to do it.


CPS cuts to students with special needs. The continuing cover-up.

Tenth Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza blasts CPS on cuts to special needs kids.

Talk about double talk.

WBEZ’s Sarah Karp reported in October on the secret cuts to programs for CPS students with special needs. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool (who has since resigned in disgrace), said it wasn’t true.

Back then, Claypool insisted he was not cutting special education, but now officials admit they budgeted substantially less and spent less.

CPS is spending less on special needs kids, but they didn’t cut any of the CPS budget for special needs kids.

Telling lies is what Claypool does. It is why the CPS Inspector General said he should be fired.

It is why he resigned.

But the cover-up of cuts to CPS special education services continues.

CPS’ new rules made it even harder to get children what they needed in a system that has long failed to properly support special-needs students, said Matt Cohen, a lawyer who specializes in special education and has worked in the field for more than 30 years.

“The overall effect is really to wear parents down in every way that they can, and wear the staff down in every way that they can, so that the ultimate outcome is giving less,” Cohen said. “It is equivalent to the old fable about a death by 1,000 lashes. This is a death by 1,000 slow cuts.”

There is nothing to suggest that things have changed since October.

Including the cover-up, the secrets and the lies.

After the Sarah Karp story broke on WBEZ, the Progressive Caucus of the Chicago City Council demanded hearings.

Yesterday, the scheduled hearings were cancelled without notice by Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee. Brookins refused to say why he canceled the hearing, originally scheduled to be held at 11 a.m. today, Tuesday.

We are about to go into winter break. Four months into the school year. Fro Chicago students who need and who have been denied services, the delays are a disaster.

10th Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza nailed it when she told the Sun-Times, “To have an open hearing for everyone to testify about what’s happening behind closed doors —parents, teachers, everyone — would basically put CPS on blast. I don’t think the mayor wants that. It’s just another way to cover up the dysfunction in the Chicago Public Schools.”

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