Mayoral control. So how’s that working for us?


Last week I received an e-mail inquiry about mayoral control of the schools in Chicago. The correspondent had been told by a fan of NY’s Mayor Bloomberg that it was working swell in Chicago.

I do not pretend to be an expert on Chicago school reform. But two articles in today’s Chicago Sun-Times speak volumes about what has been happening here the last dozen or so years.

First is the story of the the third “turn around” plan for Orr High School on Chicago’s West Side.

After three failed attempts in 11 years to improve academics by shaking things up at Orr High School Campus, the “guinea pigs” have had enough.On Thursday, parents, students and teachers complained at a public hearing that the latest plan to “turnaround” Mose Vines, A.A.S.T.A. and EXCEL Academy at the West Side campus leaves locals out of the loop and treats students like lab rats.

The second story concerns a law suit by long-time reform group, PURE.

The Chicago Board of Education is violating state law by refusing to let local school councils operate in new small schools — including one targeted for a summer shutdown and turnaround, a lawsuit filed Thursday charged.Some 30 to 40 small schools could be affected by the board’s penchant for changing LSCs from elected bodies that pick principals and oversee budgets to “toothless advisory groups,” the head of one parent advocacy group warned.

Endless failed turn around plans. Parent law suits. Headlines declaring students are lab rats. Mayoral control? Not working well.

Trouble in Hillaryville.

In the Chicago suburban town of Park Ridge where I teach, it has been bedrock Republican for as long as anyone can remember. But something is happening here. First of all, more Democrats voted in the Tuesday primary than Republicans. A lot more.

And this is also the town where Hillary Clinton grew up. She was a Goldwater Girl here. She went to Field elementary school then Maine South High School.

The Sun-Times reports that Obama beat Hillary in Park Ridge in the primary.

Man, do they hate Kozol.


Jonathan Kozol

Jonathan Leaf, writing in the leading Neo-Con journal,  The Weekly Standard, calls Jonathan Kozol a “leftist education expert.” Among Kozol’s crimes are that he is someone who ‘preaches his gospel on NPR” and at “bookstores,” he is “seductive,” “antagonistic to every education reform,” a “critic of American education apartheid, charters schools, vouchers, testing,” and he is a “supporter of teacher unions.”

And that is only in the first paragraph.

Hey, personally, I don’t find Kozol that seductive. I mean he’s cute and all. But seductive? But that’s me.

Federal judge blasts city in Khalil Gibran case.


Racist campaign by the NY Post.

Federal judge Jon Newman, part of a Federal appeals panel hearing the issue of Debbie Almontaser, blasted NY city lawyers in their handling her case. Almontaser was forced to resign her position as principal of the new Khalil Gibran International Academy. The school has a focus on Arab culture and language.

“So, if a city employee speaks to the press, they’re at risk that the press garbles their remarks and then they get fired?” Newman asked city attorney Drake Colley. “That’s quite a position for the city of New York.”

Almontaser was the target of racist articles in the NY Post and by anti-Arab groups. While defended by many in the Arab, Jewish and education communities, Almontaser was left to hang by some leaders of the NY teachers union, who should have known better.

In Chicago, Obama wins despite “invisible ink.”


Chicago-If you live in this town long enough, you will hear every weird and wild story about election day. You will eventually think you’ve heard them all. Then they will surprise you.

There’s the old stories (true, of course) about dead people voting.

There are the jokes (but true, of course,) about voting early and often.

When the late, great Harold Washington was running, we had more poll watchers than official poll judges. We needed to make sure the deal was honest. In Chicago, it isn’t how many votes you get. It’s how many get counted. And even then…

There was the time I was poll watching for Congressman Luis Gutierrez. He was a young reformer, running against the Machine for alderman. His election would give the city council a Harold Washington majority in what was famously known as “Council Wars.”

At the last minute, the neighboring powerful Machine alderman, a racist character named Richard Mell (who is still around, the estranged father-in-law of the present governor, Rod Blagojevich), came storming in to the voting precinct right at closing time yelling, “I demand you keep the the precinct open. I demand it! I demand it!” He was trying to round up a few more votes in what he correctly suspected was a losing campaign for the anti-Harold Washington forces.

The cop on duty turned to the alderman and said, “If you don’t take your ass out of here in ten seconds, I’m going to throw that ass in jail.”

After the alderman sputtered a few words, he sheepishly withdrew.

I turned to the cop. “Jeez. Did you know who that was? I’ll be glad to write up something for you as a witness.”

The cop smiled. “Don’t bother. I don’t give a f**k who he is. I’m retiring next week and I don’t have to take s**t from any f**king alderman. He can go f**k himself.”

I know what Obama means when he was quoted by Maureen Dowd in today’s NY Times:

I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I’m tough. I’m from Chicago.”

But then there was this story in this morning’s Chicago Sun-Times.

Just when you think you’ve heard them all.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.


Professor Longhair.

In an hour or so I’m heading to the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Chicago for the Obama victory rally (and here in Obama’s home state of Illinois he will win by a two to one margin).

Many years ago I got a chance to see the legendary Professor Longhair at a club in Rogers Park. The place was small. There was a bar smack in the middle so that you had to stand on one side of the bar and look through the bottles to see the stage. You could smoke in a bar in those days. I did. Everyone I knew did. Everyone in the bar did. You watched the Professor through a haze. And he played Tipitina. And Big Chief, Red Beans, Mess Around, Jambalaya, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The bar is gone now. Professor Longhair is gone now. And they tried to get rid of New Orleans. But it’s still there.

It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans today and I’m heading for an Obama victory rally.

Laissez les bons temp rouler!

A difference?

For those who want to try and make NCLB a wedge issue between Obama and Clinton, take a look at Russo today. Says Michelle Obama, obviously reflecting the views of her husband:

… NCLB is “sucking the life out of our teachers, our children are being tested to death, and college is becoming a dream.”

Sunday links.


Jeez, Leo. You were wrong. Move on and let it go.

Maybe there is something more to the NCLB sub-text of the Kennedy endorsement of Obama over Clinton than some thought.

I already said this. Why didn’t the Times hire me instead of that right-wing schmuck, Kristol? Although please keep Frank Rich.

Their marginal policy differences notwithstanding, they (Obama and Clinton) are both orthodox liberals. Frank Rich

The Math Man speaks.

Back a few weeks ago I thought I would only occasionally mention the elections. But Super Tuesday is coming, and the math is interesting. JD2718

Get a room!

After two hours of a televised debate that many pundits characterized as a love-fest, Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton confirmed today that they have gotten a room.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton secured a room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, conveniently located near the Kodak Theater where the CNN debate took place.

The extraordinary announcement came on the heels of a request made by millions of television viewers, who emailed CNN last night urging the Democratic rivals to get a room. Borowitz Report