Random thoughts.



Tonight at 5:30 tens of thousands of union teachers and supporters will rally in Grant Park. The Chicago Teachers Union is in a tough battle with Rahm and his hand-picked school board over a contract. The current one expires contract expired at the end of this past school year. Rahm has threatened to fire 5,000 teachers early in the coming year.

By the time the sun goes down over Butler Field temperatures will be around freezing and dropping.

For many of us the question for tonight is: How do you get a red t-shirt to fit over your multi-layers and heavy winter coat?

Maybe I will wear it as a scarf.

Charter expansion. Where is the IEA?

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Look closely at the picture above of those attending the press conference Friday at the Thompson Center in Chicago. They were there to oppose the actions of the Illinois Board of Eduction in seeking and receiving a $43 million federal grant to open 48 more charter schools, half downstate and half in Chicago. The federal grant provides start-up money with all future costs coming from local dollars that would otherwise go to local public schools.

The Illinois Education Association, one of two state teacher unions in Illinois, was not present at the press conference.

The press conference and protest took place with plenty of notice.

On Thursday I posted on Facebook a notice I received from Illinois Jobs With Justice and Raise Your Hand.

In protest, NIJwJ along with Raise your Hand and other parents and citizens organizations will hold a press conference at the Thompson Center in the Blue Room on the fifteenth floor at 8:45 that day. Please join us there.

Progress Illinois, the website of the SEIU reported:

Elected officials at the press conference included state Reps. LaShawn Ford, Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) as well as Chicago Ald. David Moore (17th) and Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Representatives from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago League of Women Voters, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Northern Illinois Jobs for Justice and other groups were also at the press conference.

But not the IEA.

A representative of the Illinois Federation of Teachers was present.

But not the IEA.

What is the problem? I know the IEA opposes expansion of charter schools. I know that they were a past lobbying voice for a bill to limit the power of the Charter Commission. The bill died but I assume IEA lobbyists will continue to support the effort to limit the power of the Charter Commission or do away with it.

But it seems that when it comes to uniting with others to fight a common foe, IEA would rather go it alone. If they didn’t know about the press conference, why didn’t they? How out of the loop are they?

If they couldn’t make the press conference, where is the statement from the IEA’s Communications Director supporting opposition to this secret charter expansion that will cost districts – and therefore members – plenty.

Where is the message to local leaders? To members?

An IEA activist and Grassroots Political Activist shared his frustration with me:

IEA formed a Charter School Task Force. We met with IEA recommended legislators from both parties in their home offices to discuss the legislation. Talking points focused on the removal of local control. Democratically elected local school boards were being asked to spend tax dollars on charter schools that non-elected entities, i.e. Charter School Commission/ISBE were deciding to foist on their school districts. ( I will tell you it was interesting how the GOP folks we talked to expressed discomfort with our then newly elected governor and agreed with our basic point, yet they ultimately voted with the Governor.)

At our Grassroots Political Activists election training last weekend, we were told of IEA’s support for the bill limiting authority to authorize charter schools to local school boards. We were told to expect and be prepared to get members to make calls.

That never happened.

The Charter School Task Force has been disbanded.

And as we saw earlier this week IEA was no where to be found and apparently wasn’t even in the loop to know about this action.

Here’s a few of my frustrations and observations. IEA wants to play the “inside game or the seat at the table” and doesn’t want to organize its members to take meaningful action. Cinda will say that most of our members are not there yet and I would agree with that to a point, but then aren’t leaders supposed to lead? Also IEA doesn’t want to form any sort of alliances with independent non-union groups like Raise Your Hand or Jobs with Justice. 

I’ve often said in my own local, when asked why the “union” wasn’t doing anything to deal with a particular issue, beside the obligatory “you are the u in union speech” that when parents got upset about the issue and went to the board, the issue would become a priority. The reluctance of IEA to engage with and support parent groups who are finally seeing the damage being done by corporate reformers is one of my biggest frustrations.

This IEA activist is on to something.

The IEA seems to pit sitting at the table against creating a united effort among all those who have a vested interest in the outcome.

Lobbying isn’t just something done with legislators in Springfield.

What else explains their refusal to go outside of unions in the We Are One coalition when fighting for pensions. Annuitant groups and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association were not part of the WAO, and no other coalition was formed.

In fact current and former IEA leaders put out sniping messages about IRTA even as we were fighting for our pension lives.

Not until the courts combined the lawsuits and forced them all to work together did it happen. And even then the sniping continued.

How crazy is it that the IEA won’t unite with others unless there is a court order?

Sunday posts, pics and tweets.

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Illinois School Board President James Meeks attempts to disrupt a press conference of parent groups, educators and public officials, protesting the expansion of charter school funding in Illinois. Meeks secretly applied for a federal grant for start-up money for 48 charter schools which would then be maintained by local funding. 24 of the charters would be in Chicago and 24 would be downstate.
Laquan McDonald was more than another young African-American male who had the misfortune of crossing the path of a brutal Chicago cop. Mary Mitchell


The president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Barbara Madeloni, standing left, who has spoken out against high-stakes tests, at a campaign house party this month. She is seeking re-election. NY Times.


I am better now but the last 48 hours I have endured a bout of the “24-hour flu.” My friend and fellow blogger, Glen Brown, sent along this get-well message:

Having the flu and nothing else to do by Charles Bukowski

I read a book about Dos Passos and according to this
D.P. ended up in the Hollywood Hills reading the
Wall Street Journal.

This seems to happen often with many.

What hardly ever happens is
a man going from being a young conservative to a
wild-ass radical in old

Young conservatives become old
but when a young radical continues on to become an
old radical
he is looked upon much like a man from a mental

Such is politics and you can have
keep it
sail it in between the cheeks of your


The Black Lives Matter protester attacked during Donald’s Trump’s Birmingham rally said he was punched, kicked and called “n****r” while a group of eight or nine people were on top of him.

Mercutio Southall Jr., a well-known activist who said he has been tased at least 30 times and just recently marched heavily –armed through a Birmingham neighborhood to teach people about gun rights, said he is sore after today’s pummeling but doesn’t think he was seriously injured.

“I’m alive,” Southall told AL.com in his first interview since he was escorted out of the Birmingham- Jefferson Convention Complex. AL.com


“The Prefecture of Police of Paris informed the Coalition Climat 21 this afternoon that due to the heightened security situation, the government will not allow the Global Climate March planned in Paris for 29 November and the mobilizations planned for 12 December”. 

Random thoughts.


I posted this picture of Massachusetts Teachers Association, Barbara Madeloni, in my Sunday Posts today. But I am posting it again because I noticed something about it that is strange. Illinois IEA members: Can you see what is odd about this photo? Barbara is campaigning. She is meeting with members in a member’s home explaining why she should be re-elected. She is talking with them about her ideas and seeking their votes. 35 years as an IEA member and I have never seen that.

Mark Kirk has gone AWOL on ESEA and Pay for Success.


-Bev Johns

On Monday and Tuesday please call the offices of our U.S. Senator Mark Kirk urging him to act on removing/modifying the Goldman Sachs Pay for Success part of S. 1177, the reauthorization of the Elementary andSecondary Education Act (ESEA which used to be called No Child Left Behind).

 Sen. Kirk, despite weeks of contacts on Pay for Success, apparently has done nothing, even though he was a Member of the Conference Committee between the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate on ESEA.

I received a telephone message on Thursday from Sen. Kirk’s Washington, D.C. office saying nothing could be done by Sen. Kirk.

The actual language of S. 1177, based on concepts approved by the Conference Committee, will not be  released until November 30.

Changes were being negotiated on Friday after the Conference Committee was over, and that will continue this week.

Utah is using Pay for Success to reduce special ed by 99 percent (and is the first project to actually start to pay back Goldman Sachs), and Chicago will be paying Goldman Sachs $9,100 EACH YEAR for each student NOT identified for special education (multiple payments for the same student).

Please express your concerns to Sen. Kirk’s staff on his lack of action on Pay for Success in S. 1177, and the absolute requirement for action to avoid permanent harm to special education students and their parents in Illinois. (for D.C., if you want to speak to a live person, do not take any options offered but simply wait untilsomeone answers)

U.S. Senator from Illinois Mark Kirk

Washington, D.C.: 202-224-2854

Chicago: 312-886-3506

Springfield (often no one there): 217-492-5089

Lunch with Ralph Martire. He served a plate of fiscal sanity.


Ralph Martire on the right. Photo credit: Gerald Berkowitz

There was a packed house at the North Lake Shore Illinois Retired Teachers Association luncheon at the Elks Club in Des Plaines yesterday.

I guess you could say we retired teachers are a bunch of budget geeks because Ralph Martire of the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability is our rock star. If you invite him to speak to our organization, he will sell out the joint. Which he did yesterday.

To those who think retired teachers only care about our pensions, the concern we have for the people – and the neediest people – in the entire state of Illinois was demonstrated by the rapt attention Ralph was given as he painted – with powerpoint slides and clear explanation – a sad picture of the state’s fiscal governance.

Ralph’s mantra has always been that Illinois’ budget problems cannot be solved by cuts. We are among the lowest taxing and lowest spending on the needs of the people of any state. The solution is in raising revenue. With Bruce Rauner as governor Martire does not believe it can be done by a constitutional change in the flat tax. He does believe it might be be done by an increase in the income tax, a tax on services and a phased-in tax on retirement income with those whose retirement income is highest paying the most.

While the anti-tax crowd said that the expiration of the temporary 5%  income tax would trickle down to working families, Ralph showed how it has done just the opposite:

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If you look closely at the cells in the slide, Ralph shows how those in Illinois who earn over a million dollars a year saved more in taxes than those in the lowest earning group earn in a year as total income.

Ralph hit particularly hard on the wage gap between whites and people of color in Illinois.

He demonstrated how spending on K-12 education is a primary driver of income equality and how Illinois’s low spending on K-12 combined with its reliance on local property taxes to fund schools has been a disaster for people of color. Ralph declared our tax policy an example of structural racism.

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As for the claim that moving Illinois from the bottom tier of taxing and spending states would drive people out of the state?

Ralph Martire said, “The data just doesn’t support that position.”