Springfield goes home until April Fool’s Day. Update on Senator Martinez who says she supports the Charter Bills.


Our Miss Brooks.

John Stewart famously called state government the meth lab of democracy.

Yesterday the Illinois General Assembly acted more like my old high school pal who spent our senior year and most of his freshman year at UC Berkeley stoned on reefer and on the couch watching day-time reruns of Our Miss Brooks. 

This was less about class warfare than it was about cutting class.

It’s early in the morning as I write this. I have fed and let Ulysses out. Anne is not up yet. I’ve made my morning coffee and watched  the Youtube of Ken Davis’ show with Ben Joravsky, Mick Dumke and Matt Farmer.

Funny guys. But why doesn’t Ken invite me on anymore? Even Joan Rivers has finally been asked back on The Tonight Show.


I mention about it being early because I am not exactly sure all of what happened in Springfield yesterday.

I was not feeling all that well the last 24 hours, so I decided not to take the bus or drive down for the Better Illinois Lobby Day for a graduated income tax.

Apparently my failure to get on a bus to Springfield led to the Illinois House killing the Fair Tax bill. At least the IEA leadership won’t blame me, as they blamed me for the Dillard loss in the Republican primary.

Senator Don Harmon’s version of a fair tax is still alive in the Senate. Since the House version didn’t pass, Harmon’s Senate version is not expected to survive a vote in the House even if it passes the Senate.

Mike Madigan’s Millionaire’s Tax did get voted out of committee. This proposal appears to be more of a gift to Quinn’s election campaign than a real proposal, and seemed to provide a handful of House Dems a reason to vote against an actual Fair Tax.

But maybe I’m just cynical.

Although it is hard to be cynical when I talk about Madman Madigan.

My cynicism is his reality.

The GA adjourned at noon yesterday at about the same time as the Fair Tax lobbying folks were filling the Capitol Rotunda for a rally. Legislators don’t return until April Fool’s Day.

As for the Charter Commission and the bills to do away with it, or at least its powers to over-rule local school board power to authorize or not authorize them?

Jim Broadway writes this morning  even earlier than me:

Even though the House and Senate had been scheduled to be in session today – and even though today is the “deadline day” for committee action on chamber-of-origin bills on both sides of the rotunda – the legislators passed HJR 88 on Thursday and headed for the highways. They won’t be back at work until Tuesday (April Fool’s Day).

What that means is that most bills remaining in House committees, as well as most still in Senate committees, can be considered almost dead – and “almost” only because bills never die for sure until the General Assembly comes to an end. (For the 98th General Assembly, that magical day will arrive on January 13, 2015.)

So if you liked any of the bills that have not yet reached the floor of the House or Senate, you have our condolences. If you didn’t like a bill that is still in committee, congratulations – it’s most likely dead.

As of yesterday I was told that the Charter Commission bills were being held up by Democratic Senators Dan Biss and my own Senator Iris Martinez.

I was also told that our efforts to contact Senator Martinez resulted in her secretary answering a lot of phone calls yesterday.

Thanks for that.

I guess I will find out later in the day what happened to the charter bills.

UPDATE: Senator Iris Martinez has told constituents that she supports the Charter Commission bills and is working to keep them from being watered down. It is still in committee.


Tom Friedman is a friggin’ idiot.

It only took a few seconds after I posted “Tom Friedman is a friggin’ idiot” on my Facebook page in response to today’s NY Times column than my MacBook started pinging like crazy.

Likes and comments poured like Morton salt.

I once had an administrator offer me Friedman’s The World is Flat to read. I returned the favor by giving him Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School. 

I actually read the Friedman book. I don’t think he broke the spine of Ravitch’s. Too bad for me. Too bad for him.

Friedman, as The Gawker points out, writes basically the same stupid column over and over.

But the particulars of each column are what amazes and then numbs the mind.

Today he suggests that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be a good choice for Secretary of State.


Well if you can negotiate with the crazy Chicago Teachers Union you can negotiate with anybody, says Friedman. Leave alone for the moment that Duncan was not here to bargain with the current CTU leadership. The crazy ones, in Friedman’s view.

And those Arabs?

He could teach them a few things about the value of math testing over their inadequate Islamic beliefs.

Foreign aid?

Turn it into a Race to the Top.

“So while we’re not likely to shift our secretary of education to secretary of state, let’s at least understand why it is not such a preposterous idea,” writes Friedman.

Jeez. The guy is the embodiment of a preposterous idea.

Cheating at Harvard.

Did they cut the cahds in Hahvahd Yahd?

Have you been following the story of the cheating scandal at Harvard?

It’s kind of interesting.

According to the NY Times, a group of 125 undergrads who were taking what we used to call a Micky Mouse course called Introduction to Congress are accused of cheating.

“This is unprecedented in its scope and magnitude,” said Jay Harris, the dean of undergraduate education.


The final exam is a take-home test. Students can refer to their notes, it’s open book and the students can even use the internet.

Students just aren’t allowed to talk to each other.

That would be collaboration.

Not allowed.

By the way, do a Google search of Harvard Business Review articles on collaboration and sharing knowledge. There are hundreds of them.

Aurora and Autism.

This morning I got an email from a colleague of mine at the school I just retired from.

I am furious about this!  Incredibly harmful coming from a dad of a child with Asbergers.  I wrote to NBC immediately and said he should be fired finally!  We work so hard to fight people’s misconceptions about people with special needs and then this buffoon states this on his show!  The full quote is incredible….
Some background here: In the three decades that I taught I had many kids with autism in my classrooms. The last fifteen years I, and the colleague who wrote me, taught at a school that had a large number of Special Needs kids, including many with autism.
There is a lot of debate about autism and its causes. But here is what my colleague and I know: Every child with autism, like all of our children, are unique. Great care must be taken before you generalize too much about this one or the next one.  The number one rule is to do no harm.
My colleague’s outrage was directed at Joe Scarborough who on his morning TV show claimed to know, with no evidence, that the shooter in Aurora, Colorado was surely a kid with autism.

You don’t want to generalize,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said today before saying that James Holmes, the suspected Aurora, Colo., shooter, was “on the autism scale.”

“As soon as I hear about this shooting, I knew who it was. I knew it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society — it happens time and time again. Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale,” said Scarborough, whose son has Asperger’s syndrome. “I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses — they can even excel on college campuses — but are socially disconnected.”

Nobody can possibly calculate the harm that Joe Scarborough has done.

I’m starting a new union. Send me your dues.

John L. Lewis, leader of the mine workers union.

Maybe it’s the summer heat.

Recently a small group of standardized test critics (which I am, by the way) have declared war on the National Education Association. Not just a war on the leadership, mind you. But on all 3 million members, minus themselves (or at least those that actually are members of the NEA or the AFT).

Even though the national meeting of the NEA RA will produce a basketful of resolutions condemning the use and misuse of standardized tests, these critics want more.

And, really, who doesn’t always want more? Particularly when it comes to resolutions, New Business Items and letters of outrage?

They have issued a threat. Either support their specific declaration and tactics in opposing standardized testing or be prepared to meet our doom: The jubilant eradication (their words) of the 3 million member union to which I belong.

One professor (and this group has quite a few professors) reached back to recall the old labor warrior, John L. Lewis, who split with the American Federation of Labor to form the Congress of Industrial Organizations for a parallel historical moment.

The fact that Lewis was, at the time, a leader of a huge labor union of mine workers kind of kills the comparison in my mind.

But then I was hit like a thunder bolt.

Clearly, I was missing something here.

Since I am not someone who dismisses what might be a good idea out of hand,  I sat down and drafted a call to action:

In the spirit of John L. Lewis, I hereby announce the formation of the American Education Federation. I am the chairman, and various professors and parent activists from around the country are the organizers. We will momentarily inform the teachers of America that we have launched this fighting organization which they can immediately flock to, send their dues to, and count on to pick fights with anyone and everyone that crosses our path.

Our first action will be an indefinite strike. We will call this strike as soon as we have signed up at least a dozen working teachers. This will bring the tyrants running our schools immediately to their knees. Just as John L. Lewis had the titans of industry quaking in their boots, so we shall have the Broads and Gates and Duncans running scared. They will immediately capitulate and we will demand the reversal of education reform and the creation of Freedom Schools on every street corner.

Please send me your dues.


When the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 7, it created changes big and small. None of them good.

The bill ended seniority and tenure as a basis for releasing teachers when there are budget problems or a decline in enrollment. It replaced tenure and seniority with so-called student growth measures and principal discretion. It was supported by the state leadership of our union, unfortunately.

Truth be told, there are a lot of goofy principals out there.

One I know, new this year, walks into classrooms unannounced and after a 15 minute observation leaves an evaluation in the teacher’s box in duplicate. You know. White sheet on top. Yellow copy that you rip off for your own records.

This approach to supervision doesn’t appear anywhere in the extensive collectively bargained evaluation procedures. Nobody was consulted.

He just sort of made it up. New guy on the job. Full of new cool ideas. Who needs time to get a feel for the place? Who needs time to learn the culture of a building? The names of the teachers? Nah. Paint your office. Invent new forms. Principal discretion.

Nobody should be worried, he reportedly told a teacher. There needs to be trust, he said.

Trust? In duplicate?

I’m for trust.

In my contract.

That early morning phone call telling you that school has been canceled today!

Here is what a lot of people don’t understand about a teacher’s contract and the work year.

I work a per diem contract. 185 days. No paid vacations. No paid holidays.

If the state legislature decides to proclaim the second Tuesday in April “Fred Klonsky Day” and close the schools in honor of me, our district will simply add another day to the end of the year.

I’m not complaining. As long as we’ve been able to collectively bargain a fair contract (which is now being threatened), we’ve been able to bargain fair compensation.

Still, summers off means no pay (unless you’ve chosen to have your paychecks divided up over 12 months instead of 10). Martin Luther King gets honored by giving teachers an unpaid holiday.

While people who work in the private sector will complain about teachers getting summers off, our work year looks more like the rest of the industrialized world than theirs does. Except workers in the rest of the industrialized world are paid for their holidays.

The only exception to this is a snow day. Snow days are our only paid holidays.

You can’t plan for them. You don’t get one every year. And those poor teachers in San Diego live in perfect climate, but they will never have the thrill of getting the automated call at 5AM from the superintendent telling you that all classes have been canceled because there are two feet of snow on the ground.

I received that call this morning.

A big storm swept through yesterday morning with 50 mile an hour winds. It only lasted about 15 minutes. It knocked over a few trees on the boulevard. Power is still out this morning in some suburbs, including Park Ridge, where I teach.

They called off summer school classes. Which I don’t teach.

But the automated call went out at 5AM. Which woke me up. In July.

Apparently I’m off today.

Advance Illinois, major corporate reformy group, gushes praise for agreement.

Advance Illinois, which represents the Illinois corporate players in school reform, loves the agreement that the three unions agreed to yesterday.

Says Advance Illinois:

Robin Steans of the group Advance Illinois was at the negotiating table, along with representatives from the state’s three largest teachers unions and the Illinois State Board of Education. 

“It is hard to overstate what a huge step in the right direction this is on a whole host of fronts,” said Steans.

Take seniority, she said.

“For layoffs, which have been happening around the state, it’s been last hired, first fired,” said Steans. “What this bill does is at every juncture it says, ‘No, this shouldn’t be about just who’s been around the longest, it should be about how people are performing for kids, and who’s doing the most effective job.’”

That would be determined by overhauled teacher evaluations that take into account student growth. The process for dismissing a teacher would be restructured and sped up.

Follow the time line here. Last year our union leadership negotiated legislation that linked student performance on test scores to teacher evaluation. Now that same teacher evaluation will replace seniority when schools let teachers go during times of decreasing enrollment or financial belt-tightening.

Senior, more experienced but more expensive teachers, will be up against newer, less experienced but less costly teachers.

For districts struggling with budgets, which most are, guess what will drive their decisions?

Illinois superintendent says if I don’t vote I lose my rights.

We received this email from Illinois Superintendent of Schools Christopher Koch:

Tomorrow is Election Day and I hope that you and your staff make time to ensure your voices are heard at the polls. Unfortunately, many of us take for granted this right and do not exercise it. Voting in an election is one of the greatest responsibilities we have as a citizenry and the stakes are high for our students and their futures.

Some of us may be disenchanted with the process. We may be tired of the endless commercials or just may plain not like the candidates, but it is better to vote for an individual that may not be your ideal candidate than to not have voted at all. Those who do not vote lose their right to complain about the direction our political leaders may take our state in the future.

This guy must think he’s Bill Maher and can make new rules. What part of the Constitution denies us our right to complain if we don’t vote?

In AZ school mural project, artists told to make the faces a whiter shade of pale.

I’m not making this stuff up. It’s Arizona.

The artists at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott Arizona were painting a mural promoting green transportation. The central figure in the mural was a Hispanic kid. The principal told them to make the figures whiter.

No. Really. He did.

Maybe the principal will be invited to the White House for lunch and a friendly exchange of ideas.

AZ Central:

City Councilman Steve Blair spearheaded a public campaign on his talk show at Prescott radio station KYCA-AM (1490) to remove the mural.

In a broadcast last month, according to the Daily Courier in Prescott, Blair mistakenly complained that the most prominent child in the painting is African-American, saying: “To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?”