Lies, lies everywhere. Arne Duncan’s book and the failure to hold himself accountable.


On this Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers radio show/podcast we will be talking about the current state of school reform both here in Chicago and nationally.

We were going to spend some time on Arne Duncan’s latest book about his tenure as Chicago schools’ CEO and then as Secretary of Education.

We even invited him to join us.

Through a spokesman, he declined.

UIC Professor (retired) Bill Ayers will be in studio.

I read his book. It’s short but not exactly a page turner.

His first chapter is called “Lies, Lies Everywhere,” which is very appropriate for this book.

I don’t want to ruin it for you but in this novella the protagonist did nothing wrong. He was never in doubt about his plans for fixing what we all broke.

And Duncan provides no quantitative data to prove it.

That was surprising to me.

Here was a guy who argued most enthusiastically for data driven decision making and data based accountability.

And then it ends up that there is none to be found in the far-from-epic story he weaves of battling the unions and suburban moms.

Nothing. Not even one bar chart or spreadsheet. No evidence other than his say so.

Not that I believe quantitative data alone tells the whole story.

But you can’t just make stuff up and claim everything you did worked and only failed when the evil forces allied against your vision of change were able to block you.

As I read chapter after chapter about Race to the Top I kept thinking about his decision to use federal funding to force states to evaluate teachers based on individual student performance on high stakes tests.

In Illinois, the results were disastrous.

It resulted in the legislature passing the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) in hopes of the state getting a piece of the Race to the Top money.

In the end, Illinois got peanuts and teachers got the shaft.

And apparently, nobody will be held accountable for that.

Our show is Friday at 11am. 105.5fm in Chicago. Download the Lumpen Radio app for internet listening. Or listen to the Podcast on wifi or download.

#Believe Women


Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode 80. Ja’Mal Green, Maria Gaspar and Chris Coleman.

Chicago’s political world was turned upside down this week with the announcement by he who has been labeled “the murder mayor” that he won’t be seeking a third term.

Ja’Mal Green is on this week’s episode of Hitting Left. He says he is more than a little disappointed that Rahm quit when he wanted the people to vote him out of office.

Ja’Mal is running for Chicago Mayor and wasn’t waiting around. A long-time (for a 23 year-old) Chicago activist, Green is claiming the title of the progressive choice.

On the second half of the podcast we are joined by artist and organizer Maria Gaspar and Christopher Coleman. Both are working on the 96 Acres Project.

The project is a collaboration between artists and incarcerated residents of Cook County Jail.

The Project will be doing a public showing of the work, including projections on the walls of Cook County next Saturday and Sunday.

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Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode 78. The Teacher Show with Jennifer Johnson, Clare Kelly and Trisha Connolly.

So, what’s my favorite thing in the world, almost, to do?

Sit around talking to teachers, especially those that like to fight for what is right and are doing just that.

Y’know. Sharing stories.

Jennifer Johnson was a high school social studies teacher for ten years and was one of the founding members of the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE caucus that took power and changed the face of Chicago and American public employee unions.

Jennifer has taken some time away from the classroom to become Chief of Staff of the CTU.

Trisha Connolly and Clare Kelly are rank-and-file members from two different Evanston locals of the Illinois Education Association.

Trisha is an elementary Librarian. Clare teaches Spanish at Evanston Township High School.

Both attended their first National Education Association Representative Assembly in Minneapolis this year.

Connolly tried to pass a New Business Item that would allow direct membership voting on things like presidential endorsements.

One of the tactics of union leadership when they want to kill an issue is to put a huge price tag on it.

Connolly proudly shared the news with us that her proposal set a record price tag of $7 million.

And was quickly dispatched.

Clare presented a proposal to allow each of the 3 million IEA members to donate $3 to a fund that would be used to support actions like the red state teachers who struck this past year.

That New Business Item passed.

She recently was told by a suit in the NEA that the issue was no longer hers and to essentially move along.

Kelly has an alternative plan that includes keeping an eye on how her proposal gets implemented.

Good idea.

The podcast is here.


Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode 77. Elijah Edwards and Ronald Kitchen.

My brother and I get frustrated sometimes with the fact that we only do an hour show once a week.

Sometimes an hour is not enough.

I remind him that it is always a good thing to leave folks wanting more than in overstaying our welcome.

And plus, we can always invite our guests back another time.

Thank you Lumpen Radio.

This hour was full. We had our old buddy, Elijah Edwards. Edwards is the youngest AFSCME president in District 31 and has a lot to say about life after Janus.

Janus, as if you didn’t know, is the case that Governor Bruce Rauner brought to the US Supreme Court and which led to ending Fair Share and agency fees.

“We have never had membership growth like we have had since Janus,” Edwards told us.

My Midnight Years is the title of Ronald Kitchen’s book that was co-authored by Thai Jones and Logan McBride.

Kitchen was one the Death Row Ten, a victim of the notorious Chicago Police Department’s Midnight Crew and Commander Jon Burge.

Burge and the Midnight Crew are responsible for hundreds of false convictions and torture.  At least 100 victims are still believed to be incarcerated.

The podcast is here.


Hitting Left: Wrongful convictions and life after Janus.

I met Elijah Edwards a few years ago for a podcast that never made it to the internet. We both were being interviewed about the pension fight in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court had not ruled yet that pension theft was unconstitutional.

Edwards is a member of AFSCME, sits on the District 31 Council and is president of Local 2858.

The other day we were confirming his appearance on this Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers and laughing about that podcast interview from years ago. Not only diid it never get podcast, another one of the people working on the show was a  young African American woman, a graduate student, who is now a well-known author and public intellectual.

But we knew her when.

I have been wanting Elijah to come on Hitting Left for a while. I want to talk to him about life after Janus. Recall that Mark Janus brought his lawsuit, backed by Bruce Rauner, against Edward’s AFSCME in Illinois.

The main question I have for Edwards is where do we go from here?

Sharing this week’s show will be Ronald Kitchen.

Ronald Kitchen was one of the Death Row Ten, victims of forced confessions and torture by the infamous Chicago police detective, Jon Burge.

In 1988 Deborah Sepulveda and her children, ages two and three, together with Rose Marie Rodriguez and her three-year-old son were found murdered in a home in Chicago. The victims had been suffocated and set on fire.

Ronald Kitchen was brought in for questioning based on a false tip from a jailhouse informant.

Kitchen was interrogated for sixteen hours. He was deprived of food and sleep while detectives beat him with their fists, a phone book, and a telephone receiver. He was repeatedly struck in the genitals with a nightstick.

These detectives were working under Commander Jon Burge.

It is cases like this that have made Cook County the wrongful conviction capital of the United States.

Burge was convicted in June 2010 of federal perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the torture.

Kitchen was fully exonerated and freed July 7, 2009. But not until twenty-one years of his live was spent in prison.

During Kitchen’s incarceration, his brother and other relatives died and his mother came down with dementia. She will never even know that her son was exonerated and freed. Kitchen also missed out on his son’s childhood.

He tells his story in the book, My Midnight Years.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Friday. 11am. 105.5fm. Streaming at Podcast on and iTunes.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode 76. Amanda Klonsky and Dan Cooper. The war on our neighborhoods and youth incarceration.

After three months of learning to produce and co-host the radio show and podcast, last week the station boss, Jamie, asked if Cole could shadow me as I produced the show.

Now recall that Jamie has never left without turning to me and saying, “Klonsky. Don’t F up!”

This morning I received a worrisome email from Jamie saying he needed to talk to Mike and me about something.

“I’m fired,” I thought.

But how do you fire someone who not only co-hosts a radio show for free, but also works the board and produces it for no compensation?

Even when I screw up now and then?

So, as we were going over last minutes plans at Bridgeport Coffee, Jamie came by.

It turned out that Jamie wanted someone to replace me for a couple of weeks, but not because I F up, but because he wants to get more experienced young producers doing real shows.

So. Okay. I’m off the board until September.

I hope I don’t suffer from the equivalent of summer learning loss.

This week we welcome Dan Cooper and Amanda Klonsky and it’s all about the economic war on our neighborhoods and mass incarceration.

It’s a tough subject. But these are thoughtful and engaging people to talk about it.

You can find the podcast here.

The war on our neighborhoods and the mass incarceration of our youth.


Daniel Cooper (upper picture right) and Dr. Amanda Klonsky (lower picture) will be joining us on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

In their important new book on Chicago, The War on Neighborhoods. Policing, Prison, and Punishment in a Divided City, Ryan Lugalla-Hollon and Daniel Cooper write:

Just between the years of 2005 and 2009, roughly 332,000 people were sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections from Cook County. The boom in mass incarceration began more than twenty-five years earlier, meaning hundreds of thousands of more were sent to prison before and after that time period. And that is in just one county. Though community leaders of all stripes have never stopped doing the vital labor of neighborhood building – from creating opportunities for youth to providing healing resources for those who need them – even their most successful efforts have struggled to receive the investments needed to be brought to scale. Instead, one conviction as a time, massive amounts of money have been poured into the punishment of African American residents from low-income neighborhoods.

The concentrated punishment is one of the most sophisticated operations of structural racism the world has ever seen. Rather than uproot poverty and disadvantage in urban areas, it has been a perverse attempt to manage it, which in turn has let to an extreme overreliance on the criminal justice system. In so doing, concentrated punishment extends a long legacy of antiblack polices and practices, one of the few constants in US history.

Daniel Cook will be our in-studio guest on Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. We will be joined by Dr. Amanda Klonsky, whose research and practice has been about and with incarcerated youth.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Friday, July 27th. 11am. 105.5fm in Chicago. Streaming on everywhere in the universe. Podcast later on and iTunes.


Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #75. Chicago Alderman Ricardo Muñoz.


Today’s show was a marker of sorts.

Number seventy-five.

My producing skills are such that the station manager Jamie sent young Cole over to shadow me.

Cole is majoring in chemical engineering at IIT, so that was sort of intimidating. But I didn’t screw up.

Our guest was Chicago 22nd Ward Alderman, dean of the Latino alderman in the Chicago City Council.

We are not a show that usually produces breaking news. Nobody has ever declared their candidacy for something on our show. Most the political figures we host refuse to declare their candidacy or declare their non-candidacy.

Which is what Ric did. He declared he was not a candidate for Mayor.

But the news he shared was that their definitely would be a Latinx candidate for mayor of Chicago.

As for the rest of our discussion, you will have to listen.

The studio was filled today. There was Mike, Ric and me plus Cole. And the Alderman brought along some young people who are shadowing him.

Learning from the dean.

The podcast his here.