The Trib is wrong again. Cutting services isn’t budget reform.


There is a huge corruption tax in Chicago.

Last week’s indictments of CPS leadership is evidence of that.

But the indictment of CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett is just going after low hanging fruit. The corruption goes deeper and higher.

Mayor Rahm is now engaged in a cover-up over how deep and how high.

While much of the picture remains missing, the email logs and documents the administration did release show frequent communication among key Emanuel aides, Chicago school leaders and the heads of the SUPES Academy consulting firm in the months, weeks and days leading up to Emanuel’s hand-picked school board awarding the contract in June 2013.

Now, turn to the Trib’s editorial today. They demand that alderman vote down the Mayor’s property tax increase until the Mayor cuts city wages, pension benefits and services to the most needy in the city.

It’s the Rauner turnaround agenda.

They applaud the Mayor for the cuts he has already made. Those cuts are just not enough, says the Trib.

Emanuel has taken some steps to make government more accountable. He curbed the city’s habit of selling off assets to balance budgets. He instituted a new way of collecting garbage that is more efficient. He is phasing out costly health care benefits for city retirees. He ended free water service to certain nonprofits.

The city also decreased its workforce under Emanuel — mostly through attrition, though, not layoffs. He tried to negotiate pension reforms with unions — some of those reforms are now being challenged in court — yet he had little success with police and fire, the two pension funds that make up most of the city’s unfunded liability.

Given the headlines of the past week, is takes a certain sense of the absurd for an editorial writer to keyboard those two paragraphs and consider it praise.

The Trib calls increased pain for the working people of Chicago budget reform. It is language that conceals. It is like bombing a hospital, killings doctors and patients and calling that collateral damage.

I agree with the Trib that aldermen should vote down this property tax increase. But what the Trib will never call for is increasing revenue.

Even with the totally appropriate rebate for low-income home owners, the burden of taxation falls too heavily on the working people of this city.

The Queen of England just bought a condo on Lakeshore Drive. She will pay the same property tax rate as us.

The truth is they don’t want us here.

Aldermen, particularly those who call themselves Progressive, should vote this tax burden down, defend services and fight for a tax policy in the city and state that stops protecting the rich and provides adequate revenue.

Ohio Governor Kasich’s reform plan. Banning the teachers lounge is not entirely a bad idea. It’s complicated.


It’s the silly season for school reform ideas.

We have heard a lot about the Hurricane Katrina reform plan. Piles of bodies in the morgue, according to Chicago Reader media critic Michael Miner.

I’m pretty sure that is not a good idea. I have yet to see any correlation between body counts in the morgue and student performance.

Republican Governor John Kasich has called for banning the teachers lounge.

I know.

Many teachers saw this and said, “What teachers lounge?”

But those are just the complainers Kasich is complaining about.

I had a different reaction since I worked in a district that had teachers lounges in the buildings where I taught.

Except for a couple of years when Kayla Factor had to move her Special Needs class into our lounge because it was so crowded in the building that she either taught there or in the attic storage area.

I have mixed feelings about Kasich’s plan.

At my last school, where I taught for 15 years, we would have breakfast treats on Friday’s in the lounge. We all signed up to take a Friday.

Yes. We called them “treats.”

To tell you the truth, it caused some friction. Some Friday’s were a cornucopia of baked goods, chips and dip. Even slow cookers filled with chili and beans with add-ins of chopped onions and shredded cheese.

On the other hand, some teachers were known for going a little cheap. Like a bowl of Trix candy bars and a box of donuts.

Some people even showed up to eat although they themselves never actually signed up for a Friday.

This caused some grumbling.

But the Friday Treats also caused weight gain. After all, the treats were not known as being low-carb and low-sugar.

I lost 25 pounds within a year of retirement.

No Friday Treats in retirement. Oatmeal all week. On Friday’s l get up early to cook some eggs and biscuits for Anne.

For purely health reasons I am sympathetic to Kasich’s reform idea of banning the teachers lounge.

Once you get past the weight issue, I think his plan falls apart. That is because he thinks the teachers lounge is where the complaining takes place.

From my own experience, only a small percentage of teachers actually eat in the lounge.

There are other groups having lunch in classrooms with their cliques.

A clique is what you call that group of teachers who have lunch in a room with their friends and don’t include you.

I suspect that is where the real complaining goes on.

Kasich would have to ban any teacher-to-teacher contact during lunch.

Or during the day.

Like at breaks.

Or during team meetings.

Or when we were supposed to be re-writing the curriculum for the fifth time.

Or at the Emerald Isle on Fridays after work.

Again from my experience, most of us who ate lunch in the lounge did not complain all that much.

One reason was that I had the uncanny ability to channel the principal. If I so much as mentioned her name, she would walk in in mid-sentence.

As if she were listening on the inter-com from her office next door to the lounge.

It is a sign of how little John Kasich knows about teaching and schools that he thinks work is what is discussed in the lounge at lunch.

For example, Megan, one of our first grade teachers, shared the latest news from People magazine.

Very helpful to the rest of us who only read People twice a year in the dentist office.

And there was a lot of talk about dogs and dates among the younger teachers.

One year we had a “wedding shower” for the lounge.

Staff bought gifts. A new microwave oven. A toaster.

I bought a George Foreman grill. Everyone laughed at it when I took it out of the box.

Yet it became our most frequently used appliance.

I just want to say.

Yes. I still resent the laughs ten years later.

It was a great idea.

I’m just sayin’.

There was also the problem of people not cleaning up.

We had a lounge committee, of course.

They thought the way in which to address the clean-up-after-yourself issue was to print a sign that said, “Your mother doesn’t work here. Clean your own dishes.”

I had gender bias issues with this sign. And my mother never cleaned my dishes anyway.

There were complaints about the coffee urn. It was older than God and all rusty on the inside.

Staff who drank coffee were supposed to bring ground coffee in. But it was always the cheapest coffee, like Folgers.

Folgers coffee in a rusty coffee urn.

I bought a Keurig for my room.

And shared.


While I’m with Kasich banning teacher lounges so far as keeping teacher weight down is concerned.

I’m thinking it’s a non-starter for school reform.

Not as bad an idea as Hurricane Katrina.

It’s complicated.

But. No.

Karl Gabbey: “What a shame that McQueary and Miner weren’t raised by my parents. They’d be singing a different tune.”


Karl Gabbey (right).

-By Karl Gabbey

Let a hurricane destroy Chicago, “crises are terrible things to waste,” “we have to destroy the city in order to save it…” “Tough love” for everyone but the folks at the Civic Committee, the BGA, the Chicago Yacht Club, the Civic Federation, Hizzoner Rahm, Kristen McQueary, the editorial board of the Trib, and last, but not least, Michael Miner. What makes these people tick and what sets them apart from most of their fellow citizens?

I vividly remember a lesson that my mother with the backing of my father taught me. I was eight years old and riding in a car with my parents, my sister, and an elderly gentleman, a good family friend. My father was the driver and I had the honor of sitting in the front passenger seat next to him. The other three sat in the back seat.

Suddenly, a heavy rain storm hit and I saw a man on an overpass scrambling to find shelter from the storm. I thought the poor man’s predicament looked funny to me, like a scene from a slapstick comedy movie. I snickered and made a silly comment about being glad that I wasn’t that funny man caught in the rain. Ha, ha… I was gloating, folded my arms, and felt a measure of smugness. My father gave me a disapproving glance and my mother wasted no time in grabbing me from the backseat and squeezing my shoulder to indicate her displeasure at my attitude, lack of empathy and humility. Oh, oh! I knew that I’d get to hear about it later. After we dropped off our elderly friend at his home, my parents, especially my mother, let me have it.

She scolded me for thinking that just because I was in a car in a storm that I was safe. She said emphatically that tomorrow, I could be in the same position in which the man on the overpass found himself. Do you want somebody to “make fun of you,” “to laugh at you,” or to wish that you’d get drenched? No… Furthermore, what kind of an impression did you make on our family friend? That lesson was a beginning though it needed a few more reinforcements here and there before it really stuck, but I learned.

It infuriates me when someone like a Kristen McQueary has the audacity, the complete lack of empathy and humility to make her idiotic “Katrina” statement and feel no real shame or remorse until a “storm” of criticism from around the country forced her to make a seemingly perfunctory apology. It’s as bad, if not worse, when a Michael Miner defends it. What a shame that McQueary and Miner weren’t raised by my parents. They’d be singing a different tune.

The Jose Vilson on the invisbility of people of color.


From The Jose Vilson:

That’s why, if ever I’m asked, I put the “the” in front of my name. I approach the work I do with students rather humbly, and take it seriously, but, like the hundreds of teachers of color getting cut off now, the hundreds more that’ll lose their job in the next few months, and the millions of children of color who get affected by a lackluster and vacuous school system daily, I’d remain invisible, a nameless statistic used to numb the populace over education disaster management.

The cynic in me wonders if some education activists would celebrate if the government decided to scale down the testing as a compromise for the mass injustices done to our poorest children. The optimist believes that once we’ve gotten a clean break from the deluge of testing, we’d continue to work for racial (and sex and religious) harmony.

Superman has left the house. Even Idaho.

I received an email from my friend Bill Ayers directing me to an article by David Sirota in Salon.

Sirota continues to report on last Tuesday’s good news.

Phony ed reform got a push back in three states.


In Colorado, the out-of-state, corporate-funded group Stand for Children, which previously made national headlines bragging about its corrupt legislative deal making, backed a campaign to hand the state Legislature to pro-privatization Republicans, specifically by trying to defeat Democratic legislators who have stood on the side of public education. Though the group and its affiliated anti-union, pro-privatization allies have become accustomed to getting their way in this state, 2012 saw them handily defeated, as the targeted Democrats won election, giving their party full control of the statehouse.


There, as the Indianapolis Star reports, Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett became “the darling of the reform movement” by “enthusiastically implement(ing) such major reforms as the nation’s most expansive private school voucher program; greater accountability measures for schools that led to the unprecedented state takeover of six schools last year; an expansion of charter schools; and an evaluation system for teachers that bases their raises, at least in part, on student test scores.” For waging such a scorched-earth campaign against teachers and public education, Bennett was rewarded with a whopping $1.3 million in campaign contributions, much of which came from out of state. According to Stateline, Bennett was underwritten by “some of the biggest supporters of education reform in the country, including Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, billionaire financier Eli Broad and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” and NPR reports that he also received big donations from private corporations that stood to profit off his school takeover policies.

Ultimately, he was able to grossly outspend his underfinanced opponent, local educator Glenda Ritz, by more than $1 million. Yet, in the conservative union-averse state of Indiana, he was nonetheless booted out of office in what the Star called “the Election Night shocker.” That was thanks not to some brilliantly vague personality campaign by Ritz, but to a substantive, laser-focused assault on Bennett’s corporate-driven privatization agenda.

Even in Idaho:

Even more historically hostile to unions than even Colorado and Indiana (and that’s saying a lot), Idaho delivered perhaps the most humiliating blow to the education “reform” movement in recent memory.

Back in 2011, Republicans in the crimson-red state’s Legislature rammed through a slate of laws that would have limited teachers’ collective bargaining rights, tied teacher pay to standardized test results, raised class sizes and replaced teachers with computers in schools (the latter a $180 million boondoggle to the high tech industry without any substantive proof that it would actually improve student achievement). The legislative initiative was led by State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, a former Bush administration official whose own election campaign had beenfinanced by firms who stood to make money off his policy agenda.

The Idaho effort attracted national headlines and billing as a possible model for other states. In response, grass-roots opponents scraped together enough signatures to put veto referendums on the 2012 ballots.

According to EdWeek, the ensuing campaign was fueled by a flood of anonymous out-of-state money laundered through a group called Education Voters of Idaho. Anonymous, that is, until a lawsuit forced the group to disclose its donation list, which (not surprisingly) “included $200,000 from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from Joe Scott, an heir to Albertsons, a grocery-store chain.” Also backing the measures was ultraconservative Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot who “put $1.4 million of support behind the propositions.” And yet, despite all the money to ratify corporate “reformers’” education agenda, voters overwhelmingly backed the vetoes.

Inveighing against a political culture that too often demonizes teachers, the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board said the election results were a clear message about the education “reform” movement’s overall anti-teacher agenda.

“The restructuring plan drew visceral opposition from many of the very people who were tasked with making it work: Idaho’s teachers,” said the paper’s most recent Sunday editorial. “This was a big reason why the (plan) was unpopular from its introduction in January 2011 — and a big reason why Idaho voters rejected these three laws so resoundingly.”

Illinois Democrat’s plan to blow up the public school system.

Illinois is a blue state.

We’re not talking about Walker’s Wisconsin or Kasich’s Ohio.

We talking Democrats. Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel. Governor Quinn. Party Chairman and Speaker Madigan. Senate President Cullerton.

Governor Pat Quinn’s pension proposal, which he claims he was “put on this earth” to create, will blow up the state’s public schools just as sure as I’m writing this.

And combined with Madigan’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to prevent improvements in pension benefits and the Cullerton plan to move the pension obligation to local districts, what we have is a looming disaster for public education in Illinois that is truly epic.

Just take Quinn’s proposal to extend the retirement age to 67.

Combined with Senate Bill 7, which ended tenure as we know it, this is a one-two punch that will get rid of senior teachers.

Cullerton’s pension obligation shift to local school districts? If that happens, no teacher in the state will ever see a pay raise.

Stagnant pay plus Quinn’s proposal for teachers to pay more of their share of the pension?

A reduction in cost of living adjustments AND an added tax on retirement benefits?

What foolish young teacher would go in to the profession?

Wisconsin has already seen a mass exodus of teachers as a result of the attacks by Governor Walker.

Frankly, the Illinois plans make Wisconsin’s Walker look like FDR.

Any solution to Illinois’ pension problems must meet three criteria.

  1. The solution must bring financial stability to the system. Illinois must pay its bills.
  2. The solution must be constitutional. Retiree benefits cannot be “diminished or impaired.”
  3. The solution must be fair to active and retired teachers.
The Governor’s plan meets none of these criteria.
He may think he was put on this earth to do this to retired teachers.
But if his mama was a retired teacher, she might have had second thoughts about who she gave birth to.

Performance anxiety.

Good for the nearly 100 Chicago university professors and researchers who signed a letter to Mayor Emanuel criticizing the plan to use student scores on standardized tests to evaluate CPS teacher performance.

This is a version of the plan that is required of all school districts throughout Illinois as a result of PERA, the Performance Evaluation Reform Act. PERA, written by a committee appointed by Governor Quinn and headed by IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin. It was adopted by the Illinois General Assembly so that Illinois could qualify for Race to the Top funds. The state failed to receive the Race to the Top grant. But, the law remains.

The letter to Rahm was released at a press conference yesterday in Chicago. The letter makes three points:

  • There presently exists no reliable or valid way to measure teacher performance based on student growth scores.
  • Research doesn’t support using Value Added Measures (VAM) to evaluate teacher performance.
  • Students will be adversely impacted by this type of teacher performance evaluation.

Lord knows I’m no university researcher.

But here is what I know:

I teach in a high performing school district. For years, teachers in my district have been evaluated using the traditional performance review method. Tenured teachers have the principal observe their teaching in the classroom for about 45 minutes once every two years.

It is dumb and pointless.

And yet our students are among the highest performing elementary and middle school students in the state. This same evaluation method is used in other high performing districts.

This debate about teacher evaluation has as much to do with the reality of classrooms as an episode of Saved by the Bell.

Further proof of the disconnect: School districts like mine are not required to meet the new PERA requirements in Senate Bill 7 until 2016.

If student learning was a matter of one perfect way of doing teacher performance reviews, wouldn’t we all be doing it?

Wouldn’t high performing schools be evaluating their teachers using student growth scores on tests? Is that what they do at the Lab School where Rahm sends his kids?


And trust me. Parents in Chicago are not clamoring for changes in teacher performance evaluations. Aside from Rahm’s paid protestors, what parents are clamoring for is that their schools stay open, that their teachers remain on the job and that the CPS board and the state legislature give them the support they need.

I mean no offense to the university researchers. They did what they do best. They crunched the numbers and found the metrics don’t work.

But here’s my research question: Is a great teacher a great teacher on the north shore but somehow is no longer a great teacher on the west side?

They’ve been using essentially the same performance review systems.

When asked about this, here’s what brother Mike said at the press conference yesterday. The guy is brilliant. And I say that not just because he’s my brother.

Video of Mike by Tim Furman.

Opportunism and cowardice.

This morning my comrades in the schools of New York are writing rants about the foul deal that was worked out between their unions and the governor on teacher evaluation.

The deal is a hoax, of course.

Just like Illinois’ Senate Bill 7 is a hoax.

Like all top-down reform plans. These scams will do nothing to address or fix the real or imagined ills claimed by the sponsors.

The sponsors know that. It is all about using teachers as punching bags for cynical political advantage.

Our union leadership cowers. They have no fire in their belly. Pressured by the likes of New York’s Governor Cuomo, they shrug like a third grader when questioned about some bad behavior.

“What can we do?” asks IEA President Cinda Klickna.

The word “fight” is not in their vocabulary.

Paid lobbyists are more valuable to them than members. In their minds, radio ads are more effective than direct action.

And some, like our paid Executive Officer, actually believe this stuff.

So, none of this will work. And in five years or six years, some of them will admit that judging the effectiveness of a teacher or the growth of a child by a couple of tests was a stupid idea in the first place.

But the price of their opportunism and cowardice will have been paid.

And for that there are no do-overs.

Illinois’ SB7 gets explained to our teachers.

I went to a meeting after school yesterday.

Power point.

The purpose of the meeting was to update us on the implementation of Senate Bill 7 in our district.

Because we are a high performing district we do not have to change our present evaluation system until 2016.


Except we have to change our present three performance rankings to four. At the present time we have something like “excellent,” “satisfactory,” and “unsatisfactory.” We have to add “needs improvement.” Okay. No big deal.

We needed legislation for that?

Teachers have to be placed into four groups for the purpose of laying them off. Non-tenured are in group one and excellent tenured are in group four. I don’t know. We haven’t had reductions in force due to budgets and enrollment, except for first year teachers, in so long that I’m not concerned about this right now either.

That is what we needed to do this year.

Next year? Trouble.

Next year principals get evaluated based on some new principal evaluation system. It includes the use of student growth measures. This is a major concern. Our principal is already an incomprehensible petty tyrant. Put pressure on her to have increases in student growth measures in a school where 100% of 4th graders meet and exceed grade level on the ISAT?

Hmmm. I just smell Trouble (notice the capital “T”}.

Next year principals also get training on how to do evaluation.

Apparently they received no training before. I’m not surprised.

Our union cannot file a grievance on the substance of a principal evaluation. We can only file a grievance if the procedures weren’t followed. Last year we filed a grievance about every single evaluation of tenured teachers at my school. Every evaluation was withdrawn.

Principals will be trained by outside trainers. But they will be trained by outside trainers on an inside collectively bargained evaluation procedure. Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

No. I am not.

Then we must set up a committee of Association members and board designates to create a new evaluation system by 2016. 30% of it must be based on student growth measures. That’s bad enough for classroom teachers. Art teachers beware. Music too. Watch out PE. Speech pathologists. Social Workers.

If the two sides can’t agree within 180 days, we must use the evaluation procedure created by the state that doesn’t exist yet.

If we can’t do it in 180 days, we can never go back and try again. Never. Not until there’s a new reform bill. Which is likely.

They do come around frequently.

A brief history of the standardized test and SB7.

Graphic: Tucker Nichols.

From the Good website:

Today standardized tests are big business, but the testing world was once dominated by nonprofits. The first effective multiple-choice test-scoring machine was developed in the early 1960s by a University of Iowa education professor named Everett Franklin Lindquist, who believed the only legitimate use of a test score was in helping a classroom teacher diagnose individual students’ strengths and weaknesses and modify lesson plans accordingly. In 1968, the University of Iowa sold Lindquist’s technology to Westinghouse, which in turn sold it to the textbook and testing giant Pearson. The Scantron Corporation was founded as a competitor in 1972; instead of selling grading machines, Scantron gave them away free to schools and then charged for the special answer-sheets.

Illinois’ model school reform for the nation, according to the NEA, IEA, Audrey Soglin, Jonah Edelman, Pat Quinn, Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel, Ken Swanson, Cinda Klickna and Dennis Van Roekel is Senate Bill 7.

It puts great power into the hands of principals when it comes to releasing teachers from employment. Even teachers that once had tenure and seniority protection will now have jobs at the pleasure of their principal.

Principal evaluation and measures of student growth, also known as standardized tests, will now greatly determine whether a teacher of 30 years is released instead of a fifth year teacher when there is a reduction in enrollment and funding.

Reformers love it. They swear by the idea that principals are the decisive element in creating a good school.

A true story:

A principal who has been in the building six weeks writes evaluations of presently tenured teachers. She claims in the evaluations that the teacher would be doing better if it weren’t for the challenges presented by a tenured staff that is failing to implement the districts instructional plan.

When the state testing results come in, it shows that 97% of the students are meeting or exceeding state standards. 100% of the 4th grade students are meeting or exceeding state standards.

The union has challenged the evaluations.

But in a few months committees will be established in every Illinois school district that will place teachers in four categories for the purpose of reductions in force.

Principals who have been in the building only six weeks, who barely know the teachers’ names, will be in a position to say whether teachers stay or go.

This is already true in Chicago, where principals have told teachers who resist the mayor’s plan for 90 additional nothing planned for minutes that if they don’t like it they can leave.

Why didn’t the principal tell the teachers that their students performed higher than any other school in the district. That for four years they performed among the highest in the state?

Why did she make up the story about them failing to carry out district instructional directives?

What was the point?

Was it power? Control?

Does someone really care that much about power and control in an elementary school?

And, please. Somebody explain what this all has to do with teaching and learning?