Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #57. Jitu Brown and Kady McFadden.


We’ve known Jitu Brown for years. A long time social justice, schools and community activist, he’s expanding his efforts to other cities now.

It was just a few years ago we were at Dyett Hight School where Jitu and a dozen activists were engaged in a hunger strike to save the school.

Photo: Fred Klonsky

Why did it even need a hunger strike to save an open admissions neighborhood high school in Chicago?

The school was saved.

It says a lot about how the city’s powerful think and act when it comes to schools in communities of color that it took such extreme measures.

Now four more neighborhood high schools in the city’s Englewood neighborhood are set for closing.

But Jitu believes, as as many of us do, that the struggle is one about the city’s leadership. It is about the Mayor and the lack of an elected school board.

90% of Chicagoans support an elected school board. It has passed the Illinois House. It is being blocked by Rahm, Senate President John Cullerton and the Governor.

Kady McFadden’s work focuses on the environment. But she made headlines when she did a #MeToo on sexual harassment in Springfield.

Kady describes the everyday facts of life of women working in the culture of Springfield where a legislator will schedule a meeting with a female lobbyist or staffer for no other reason than to sexually harass them, and the gentleman’s agreement where even men who aren’t the harassers remain silent about those that are.

The podcast is here.

David Brooks hearts Chicago.

I am looking forward to the Friday edition of Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers (11am CDT. 105.5fm. Lumpenradio.com and podcast).

Our guests will be Kady McFadden, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club. Kady has been in the news lately for speaking out about sexual harassment in Springfield, the Illinois capital.

She has also been in the thick of fighting to preserve the EPA from the Trumpsters.

Also joining us will be Jitu Brown. We’ve known Jitu for years. He was a leader in the successful fight to save Dyett High School from closing and is now fighting the closing of four community high schools in Englewood.

One of the things I want to ask Jitu Brown about is the recent column by the New York Times house conservative, David Brooks.

Full disclosure: I sometimes turn on Friday’s PBS News Hour just for the vision of watching David Brooks and Mark Shields commenting on the news. When the discussion turns, as it inevitably does, to something Trump has done, Brooks’ face will scrunch up as if Mark Shields has farted. His policy differences with Trump are less about substance and more about how common and distasteful Trump is. He yearns for the days when Republicans had William Buckley, summers in the Hamptons and ski trips to Gstadd – whereever the hell that is.

I am wondering what Jitu has to say about this week’s love letter to Rahm and CPS. 

The solutions to the nation’s problems already exist somewhere out in the country; we just do a terrible job of circulating them.

For example, if you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington, New Orleans and Chicago are already doing it. Since 2011 the graduation rate at Chicago public schools has increased at nearly four times the national average, to 77.5 percent from 56.9 percent. The percentage of Chicago students going to two- or four-year colleges directly after graduation increased to 63 percent in 2015 from 50 percent in 2006.

Sean Reardon of Stanford compared changes in national test scores between third and eighth grade. He found that Chicago students were improving faster than students in any other major school district in the country. Chicago schools are cramming six years’ worth of education into five years of actual schooling.

These improvements are proof that demography is not destiny, that bad things happening in a neighborhood do not have to determine student outcomes.

How is Chicago doing it? Well, its test scores have been rising since 2003. Chicago has a rich civic culture, research support from places like the University of Chicago and a tradition of excellent leadership from school heads, from Arne Duncan to Janice Jackson, and the obsessive, energetic drive of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I’m really interested in the theory of “cramming six years worth of education” into five years of “actual schooling.”

How do you measure “six years worth of education”? How do you “cram it” into five years of “actual schooling.”

What is actual schooling? As opposed to what?

Sounds like making a sausage.

Maybe Jitu has something to say about the reliability of CPS graduation rates. I remember that there were problems with the numbers in the past.

Tune in.

Boykin running scared from Brandon Johnson’s grass roots challenge.

The next County Commish, Brandon Johnson.

While the race for Illinois Governor is nothing if not dreary (I voted unenthusiastically for Biss while wondering what happened to the Sanders’ movement in Illinois’ state-wide races), there are many local bright spots.

None brighter than our friend Brandon Johnson’s challenge to the current County Commissioner of the 1st District, Richard Boykin.

In any other county, Boykin would be a Republican.

Brandon is a former CPS teacher and political organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union.

He has been a guest and co-host on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers three times.

Here is the last one he did with us.

Plus I wrote him a check for a hundred bucks.

That broke my self-imposed political campaign funding cap.

But it shows how strongly I support Brandon.

This morning the Chicago Trib reports:

Contributions caps off in County Board race: Limits on campaign contributions were lifted on Monday in the 1st District County Board race, after a business-aligned political action committee topped $100,000 in spending to help Commissioner Richard Boykin defeat challenger Brandon Johnson.

JOBS PAC is heavily funded by the Illinois Manufacturers Association. It has spent nearly $108,000 on mailers and radio ads supporting Boykin and $78,000 on mailers opposing Johnson, according to state campaign disclosure records.

The committee was formed in 2012 to “support policies creating a vibrant manufacturing sector and strong economic climate in Illinois,” and it has spent nearly $448,000 this year to back candidates like Boykin who opposed the county’s now-repealed pop tax, boost others who ended up voting against it and oppose their challengers.

Johnson, however, is getting strong support from unions, many of which backed the tax to prevent county job cuts. So far, he’s raised more than $363,000, with most of the money coming from organized labor. (Hal Dardick)

So, Boykin is backed by the Illinois Manufacturers Association with nearly $200,000.

Brandon has my c note and a grass roots campaign.

And a three-time appearance on Hitting Left.

In the bag.

Boss Berrios tanking and undecided for governor is in second place after having spent nothing on the campaign.

All the undecideds would have to break for somebody other than Pritzker for Pritzker to lose based on current polls.

There is a winter storm watch for New York tonight and tomorrow until 6PM. I am scheduled to fly home tomorrow from Brooklyn.

Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.

Our dog Killer is on watch.

I have been keeping an eye on the polls, although I voted before I left town. I always vote the first day early voting allows. I want that vote banked.

In case you care, my vote went without enthusiasm for Biss.

I voted for Chuy for Congress and Fritz for Assessor.

Since I don’t live in Marie Newman’s congressional district , I can’t vote for her against the Machine’s Dan Lipinski. A win for her would be a blow to the regulars.

I wish I could have voted for Brandon Johnson for 1st district County Commish.

Boss Joe Berios is now so likely to lose that the rats are already deserting his sinking ship.

What surprises me is that some self-identified progressive and so-called independent election organizations in some progressive wards have remained silent on the race for Tax Assessor.

I don’t get it.

What a great chance to beat The Machine.

In the race for Governor, $65 million dollars has gotten JB Pritzker exactly where he started at 35%. Four points ahead of second place, undecided.

It would take all the undecideds to go elsewhere for Pritzker to lose, so I’m guessing he won’t.

If Rauner survives the Ives challenge, one might assume that in November a Democratic wave and another $100 million in a self-funded campaign would carry Pritzker to the governor’s mansion.

But these days, assume nothing.

Reset the clocks Sunday.

Ruby Nell Bridges Hall was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.

This week’s drawings.

LA walkoutsstrikePerezSTEEL


This week’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers and guest Lorraine Forte.






Blog posts.

The “Tea-party of the Left” fear-mongering of Dan Lipinski.

Breaking: Newman and Lipinski tied in latest poll.

Pension reform and the 401(k) defined contribution rip-off.

At the University of Illinois: Strike and occupy.

Here is why Chris Kennedy will lose: These guys want to do everything with our pensions but pay them.

In the 17th state rep race, if you’re going to claim teacher support, shouldn’t you actually have it?

Keeping retirement real. The teacher revolt train moves on. Next: Kentucky!

Keeping retirement real. The teacher revolt train moves on. Next: Kentucky!

Kentucky teacher Randy Wieck.

The teacher revolt train keeps rolling on.

Next stop: Kentucky.

The issue: Pensions.

Kentucky teacher Randy Wieck has been telling us about it for years.

Randy has not just had to fight the state of Kentucky on the issue of pensions. He has battled his teacher union leadership.

And even now. With thousands of teachers jamming the state capital, the Kentucky union leadership is warning caution.

The showdown comes at a time of growing unrest among public educators across the country, led by thousands of West Virginia teachers who walked off the job for nine days to secure a 5 percent pay raise from the state legislature. Teachers in Arizona and Oklahoma are considering similar action.

In Kentucky, some teachers say they are willing to strike. But Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said striking is illegal in Kentucky. She said the only way it could happen is if superintendents agreed to close the schools.

“We hope it doesn’t have to come to that,” Winkler said, adding: “Anything’s possible.”

A teacher strike was illegal in West Virginia. But it didn’t matter.

In West Virginia, a right to work state since 2016, union leaders urged caution too. They were leaders who could not bring themselves to lead.

The lesson for every politician and Supreme Court justice: Taking away collective bargaining and the right to strike will not bring you labor peace.

Kentucky teachers are not fighting for a pay raise or health benefits as in West Virginia.

Kentucky teachers are telling lawmakers not to change their retirement benefits. The state is at least $41 billion short of what it needs to pay retirement benefits over the next 30 years.

But unlike Illinois, Kentucky has no constitutional pension protection.

But they can strike. Even if it is a wildcat strike. Even if the leaders preach caution.

Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers. Episode #56. Lorraine Forte.

Monday Lorraine Forte starts a new gig as a member of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board.

Lorraine’s history as a Chicago journalist goes back to the Daily Southtown, as a reporter for the Sun-Times, editorial writer for Catalyst – a publication about Chicago school reform  – and for the Chicago Reporter.

The Chicago Sun-Times has recently been purchased by former north side Democratic alderman Edwin Eisendrath and by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The corporation also owns the Chicago Reader.

While some have predicted the death of print journalism, Lorraine is skeptical. And so am I.

News sources that combine on-line access along with print may be the model for success.

It doesn’t guarantee a range of points of view or a diversity of representation.

A recent report on NPR:

People of color make nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, and women make up more than half. But you couldn’t guess that by looking at American journalists, according to a new report by the Women’s Media Center.

Women of color represent just 7.95 percent of U.S. print newsroom staff, 6.2 percent of local radio staff and 12.6 percent of local TV news staff, according to this year’s Status of Women in the U.S. Media study, the organization’s annual audit of diverse media voices.

“Women are just 32 percent of newsrooms, but the percentage of women of color is even more dire,” Cristal Williams Chancellor, director of communications at the Women’s Media Center, told NPR.

It was just one of the issues we talked to Lorraine Forte about.

And the hour flew by.