Skip to content

Gloomy Springfield.

March 26, 2015

10425055_10153701973542067_5014982929468015563_n

On the train back to Springfield we ran into our friend Chuy Campuzano.

It is hard not to run into Chuy anywhere. He is the definition of activist. Yesterday he was in the Illinois Capital with other disability advocates fighting cuts to programs we desperately need.

The Capitol building was jammed with people in wheelchairs. So was the Amtrak train.

The building was also filled with firemen in uniform lobbying against $25 million in cuts to fire prevention programs.

I ran into Senator William Delgado at our press conference for the testing opt out bill HB306. He is a big supporter.

“Hey, Senator!”

“Fred Klonsky! I quote you all the time,” he says to me in front of the group of parents I’ve traveled to Springfield with.

A little embarrassed, I ask what he is quoting.

“Oh. When you wrote that with Bruce Rauner the corporations have taken direct control of government with no middleman. That is so true! And I say that to people all the time.”

I love Delgado.

And truth be told, I stole that from my brother.

My main job yesterday was lobbying for the op out bill. But with the House having just passed  the Rauner/Madigan bill with huge cuts to programs and human services, I did some lobbying on that issue too.

The Senate will vote on the bill today and Senate President Cullerton is asking the Democratic Caucus to support it.

Call your Senator this morning and tell them to reject it.

Kudos to Raise Your Hand’s Wendy Katten who organized the opt out lobby effort and to More Than a Score’s Cassie Cresswell. I was part of her group that pressed the issue with House members. We got a few more co-sponsors for Will Guzzardi’s bill.

I scheduled a meet-up with IEA’s chief lobbyist Jim Reed at 12:30 in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

As I have complained, the IEA is neutral on HB306 in contradiction to the IFT and the CTU.

I brought along some parents to talk to him.

I wanted to bring Will Guzzardi but Will was still speaking at the presser we had in the basement of the building.

“Have you ever had a legislator lobby you?” I asked Jim.

He laughed and admitted he had not.

“Or anybody lobby you like this?”

He laughed again and said no.

“The parents who are opting out are the most engaged and active parents. The most supportive of teachers and public schools. Apart from all the other issues involved with these bad mandated high-stakes tests, our union should not be standing neutral and apart from these parents.”

But Jim Reed does not make IEA legislative policy.

We do.

Chicago Trib editorial: Learn from Marissa.

March 26, 2015

ct-dbr-d86-manley-dupont-tl-0319-20150316

- From the Chicago Tribune editorial:

The crowd that packed the cafeteria that night cheered when Dupont stepped to the microphone and said, “I’m Marissa.”

Manley’s chair was empty. The other board members didn’t act on Dupont’s request.

Dupont says she was disappointed by the board’s response but heartened by the crowd. “I’m surrounded by people who support me,” she says.

Will anything come of it? The district’s administration is investigating the matter. The school board is re-evaluating its policy on distributing materials on campus. In the meantime, it’s no longer allowed. The election is less than two weeks away.

What are the young adults who are being educated in District 86 supposed to make of all of this? We hope their teachers are helping them to weigh this disheartening drama against all those classroom lessons about democracy, free speech and representative government.

It’s the students, after all, who have the greatest stake in the outcome of this election. The school board ought to welcome their participation wholeheartedly.

We hope the members of the Hinsdale South Class of 2015 will learn from the example of their student council president — not from the adults who tried to silence her.

Read the entire editorial here.

 

“I did not come to Springfield to ask permission to opt my children out of high-stakes testing.”

March 25, 2015

Illinois Democrats vote to cut services.

March 25, 2015

screwed

Governor Private Equity’s strategy of threatening state budgetary nuclear destruction seems to be working. Yesterday the Democratic majority in the Illinois House voted massive cuts to needed services.

The nuclear strategy allowed Democrats to claim a win. While you will be hearing that day-care funds were saved, it came at a huge price.

Cuts:

Food and Drug Safety Fund……………………..$1,000,000
Fire Prevention Fund…………………………$23,000,000
Radiation Protection Fund……………………..$1,500,000
Illinois Health Facilities Planning Fund………..$3,746,000
Emergency Public Health Fund…………………….$500,000
Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund………….$6,000,000
Illinois Prescription Drug Discount Program Fund…..$257,100
Violence Prevention Special Projects Fund….$3,000,000
Drug Treatment Fund…………………………..$1,000,000
Trauma Center Fund……………………………$7,000,000
Human Services Priority Capital Program Fund…….$1,680,000
Commitment to Human Services Fund……………..$25,000,000
New Born Baby Metabolic Screening and Treatment Fund………….$5,000,000
Mental Health Fund……………………………$3,000,000
Public Health Special State Projects Fund……….$5,000,000
Education Funding …………………$150,000,000

And there were more.

Now it goes to the Senate.

Here are the cuts.

See how your legislator voted.

PARCCing in Springfield.

March 25, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 7.58.43 AM

I have never been carded before to see if I am really a senior.

But that is what happened this morning when I went to wait to board the Amtrak to Springfield. There is a special waiting room for passengers with kids, the disabled, seniors and business class.

To buy an Amtrak ticket to Springfield at the senior rate you have to be over 62.

The guy at the gate didn’t believe me when I said that I was a senior.

That pleased me.

I am traveling to Springfield to meet up with Chicago parents and lobby for State House Representative Will Guzzardi’s HB306. It is a common sense bill that simply makes explicit and clarifies rights parents already have to opt their children out of high-stakes tests like the PARCC.

My union, the Illinois Education Association, has taken a neutral position on the Guzzardi bill. This sets them apart from the Illinois Federation of Teachers and their Chicago affiliate, the CTU.

When I wrote to IEA President Cinda Klickna asking if she could meet with me and a parent or two to have some discussion about HB306, she wrote back saying that she would be out of town. Reading the letter it seemed to me that she was really defending a position of opposition and not neutrality.

And in fact the IEA was originally opposed the HB306, but changed to neutral after some internal discussion according to IEA Director of Government Relations, Jim Reed.

Klickna offered us no other person from IEA leadership to meet with, although Jim Reed said he would try to find some time between committee meetings.

“Opt out is a tricky issue. It is important to remember that parental rights are cited with regard to many controversial issues in addition to testing. For example, Gov. Rauner and other proponents of charter schools and vouchers also cite these parental opt-out rights from public schools,” Klickna wrote me.

HB306 says nothing about charters or vouchers. More importantly, the right of parents to opt out of high stakes testing comes from an entirely different place: Among other things, it comes from a concern that public school teachers are losing valuable instructional time to days of pointless testing. Most teachers agree, including IEA members. Surely a union that says it stands for quality schools can find common ground with parents and their own members on this issue.

Klickna’s slippery-slope argument is not supported by the evidence.

Parents in Illinois can already opt out of instruction on comprehensive sex ed, AIDS, family life, diseases, blood transfusions, organ donations, and sexual abuse. They can also opt out of dress codes; attendance on religious holidays; tours of prison; and requirements for medical, dental or vision examinations and immunizations. And they can even request substitution of graduation requirements with vocational or technical classes.

Active teacher delegates to the IEA state convention next month tell me that they will bring up the issue of high-stakes testing and parent opt-out rights.

I hope they do . As a retired delegate to the Representative Assembly I will support the effort.

Meanwhile we aren’t going to Springfield mainly to lobby the IEA to do the right thing.

What we will be telling legislators:

Illinois already recognizes that students may refuse to engage with the test and has issued non-regulatory guidance on such situations saying: “To avoid penalizing a school or district for an individual student refusal to test, code 15 does not count against the AYP participation rate. In this case, the student is considered ‘tested’ but the answer document is blank as a result of the student’s refusal to engage with the test.”

Congress’ intent in mandating a certain participation rate was not to test all students for the sake of doing so but to keep the states or local education authorities from preventing students who were likely to perform poorly from taking the assessments. Specifically, the law calls for states to “provide for… the participation of all students.”

Significantly, it does not state that all students must participate. Therefore, although it would be violation of legislative intent for ISBE to exclude students, there is no violation of legislative intent if a parent decides that his or her child should not take the assessment.

Some legislators are concerned with loss of funding.

Schools that do not meet testing targets can be identified as “priority schools” and may be targeted for interventions, but those interventions do not include withholding of funds.

There are no known cases in other states where schools have been identified as “priority schools” soley on the basis of low participation rates.

There have been schools that did not meet participation rates last spring in New York State and Chicago.

There has been no loss of funding as a result of parents opting out.

The mess created by the failure to have clear state law addressing parent rights on PARCC-like testing was revealed this past month when students were forced to sit-and-stare during testing. Threatening letters were  sent home from confused and frightened administrators.

Of course high-stakes testing like the PARCC is part of a bigger problem. It is closely tied to national mandated curricula like Common Core.

But today in Springfield we will talking about HB306.

Hinsdale needs board change and more. 

March 24, 2015

Standing ovation for Hinsdale senior Marissa Dupont. 

By The Hinsdale Observer.  The Hinsdale Observer is been active in Hinsdale education issues for many years.

Last night parents and community members once again packed the Hinsdale Central cafeteria. They were there to show their displeasure and concern over Hinsdale South’s senior class president being bullied by board member Claudia Manley and Richard Skoda’s campaign manager defending Manley’s actions by calling this student, among other Tea Party dog-whistle terms, “the tart Marissa.” Manley didn’t show up. Skoda’s supporters say it would have just been “a lynching”.

That’s what Skoda’s supporters call it when the people you were elected to represent dare address you and demand consequences for actions that would not be tolerated if done by another student or teacher in the district.

But hey, Skoda’s campaign manager Bob Bland did apologize for his “poor choice of words” even though he didn’t actually apologize for his cyber-bullying behavior of a student. He still claims to not have known that calling someone “the tart Marissa” was the same as calling her a whore. Here’s another word Bland probably doesn’t know: disingenuous.

Skoda was asked to fire Bland and return his $10,000 campaign contribution. Skoda’s response: Bland is one of the most gracious, warm-hearted people he knows. He just didn’t know what calling someone “the tart” meant. Apparently, Skoda doesn’t understand the meaning of disingenuous either.

Marissa received a standing ovation after she addressed the board.

But in the big picture, all those people in the packed in a cafeteria won’t mean a thing if that’s where this ends.

You see, even if everyone one who attended the meeting last night voted it wouldn’t be nearly enough to win the election.

All those who gathered in Central’s cafeteria need to get four or five other people who were not at that meeting to vote. They need to talk to four or five of their neighbors that may not have students in district schools. They need to turn out people to vote well beyond the low turnout election that gave Skoda a majority.

If they don’t, even if they vote out Skoda, the board majority will be lead by Manley instead.

Ask Marissa how that would feel.

10th ward environmental disaster.

March 24, 2015

POPE AND RAHM

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,509 other followers