Governor Private Equity learned from the master. Just say no.


– Posting from Brooklyn.

No politician has been better at brinksmanship and threatening Armageddon than Mayor Rahm.

Remember when he threatened to shutter 300 Chicago public schools? He ended up only closing 50 neighborhood schools.

Many of us took the position that every public school was our school. 

But some understandably focused on their own neighborhood school and breathed a sigh of relief when their school was taken off the list.

Fifty neighborhood public schools were closed by Mayor Rahm. Nobody had done that in the history of the United States. But compared to 300?

Most of us were not fooled by this tactic.

But some were.

A classic bargaining position.  Rahm is the master of threatening global nuclear war and then bargaining down from that.

Rahm went after city public employee pensions knowing full well that the Illinois Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on police power and the pension clause. He knows that it is quite likely the Court will rule against the state.

But this is his sick methodology. He is counting on using this bully tactic to get a favorable Plan B from the unions representing city employees after the court rules.

Governor Private Equity and Rahm are old friends. As my post yesterday shows, they share a wide network of wealthy contributors.

Excuse me if I am thinking that the doomsday budget that Rauner proposed this week wasn’t the work of someone who learned some of his bargaining techniques from the Rahm School of Screwing Working Families.

It is true that neither the union leadership nor Democrats in the General Assembly responded well to Governor Private Equity’s proposals.

Some of these Democrats have learned The Quinn Rule: There is a cost to pay for appearing to oppose the interests of working families, union members and labor in Illinois.

Surely Governor Private Equity knows that his austerity budget will not pass the General Assembly with the Democrats holding a veto proof majority.

He’s playing the Rahm game of threatening Armageddon. He calls it shaking up Springfield.

But beware of the compromise. What part of the austerity budget will Madigan, Cullerton and the Democrats agree to?

Starting next week our group of retired teachers will begin visiting legislators.

Our message will be that this austerity budget must be rejected in full.

No new attacks on pensions.

No cuts to education and public services.

No falling for Rauner’s Rahm-like threats of Armageddon.

When I was a teacher I bargained plenty of contracts. The most important thing I learned from those years of bargaining is the power of the word, NO.

Say yes and the bargaining is over. You get the what is on the table.

Say no and you get to fight another day.

Say no to any austerity budget.

Say no.

Opt-out parents. Don’t be bullied by the Illinois State Board of Education.


I ran into Raise Your Hand’s Wendy Katten at an event this weekend.

She was hoppin’ mad.

The Illinois State Board of Education has been sending letters out to parents. They are acting like school-yard bullies, threatening parents by saying it is against federal law to opt out of PARCC and claiming local schools will lose funding if the do.

These are all lies, of course.

Threatening CPS with a loss of funding seems to be working.

Chicago Public Schools officials are reconsidering their snub of a new, mandatory state exam after being threatened with potentially crippling financial sanctions.

CPS testing administrators received a memo earlier this month telling them to complete security and planning procedures to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam in reading and math early next month.

“The status of testing in CPS is still being discussed,” the memo read. “In the interim, all schools should prepare logistically, in the event they will administer.”

CPS in January said it would give the PARCC test to students at just 66 of its more than 600 schools, citing a lack of technology needed to administer the computer-driven exam — though schools have the option to give a paper and pencil test.

The memo went out not long after a Jan. 30 letter from state education officials to districts statewide warned federal money for impoverished schools as well as other funding would be withheld from districts that refused to administer the test. In the worst-case scenario, those sanctions could cost the already financially strapped CPS more than $1 billion.

The letter, from state schools Superintendent Christopher Koch and the Rev. James Meeks, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, also warned that if CPS or any other district doesn’t test students, Illinois as a whole could be at risk of losing federal funds for schools, affecting districts across the state.

But Wendy Katten wants to get the word out that parents absolutely have the right to opt out of this stupid test.

Support newly elected State Representative Will Guzzardi’s bill, sponsored in the Senate by William Delgado. This will strengthen the hand of parents and clarify any confusion about our rights.

The bill is HB0306.

As of now it has two House co-sponsors. Call your Illinois House representative and tell them you want them to co-sponsor HB0306. Don’t ask. Tell them.

Cassie Creswell of More Than a Score provides you info on how to opt out here in a previous post.

Rahm’s walk in the PARCC.


The Chicago Tribune came out busting Rahm and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett’s chops on the issue delaying the PARCC test.

PARCC is the assessment component of the Common Core curriculum

Educators know that curriculum and assessment are inseparable. Rahm and BBB should be salivating over getting PARCC results. Wouldn’t PARCC results show the success of their school reform agenda?

Oddly they want to delay district-wide implementation of PARCC.

BBB says the delay is because the technology is not ready.

But the Trib points out her excuse is nonsense and that they can give the test by paper and pencil.

Every Chicago student should be taking that test. But Chicago Public Schools has waved the white flag. It has surrendered. CPS isn’t ready for the test, so only about 10 percent of its schools will give it this year.

The Trib is wrong about the value of PARCC and Common Core for reasons we have gone into before.

But they are right about asking the question: Why aren’t Rahm and Byrd-Bennett willing to give the test this year?

And it is doubtful they will want to give it next year. If they are still around.

It will show that Common Core is bad curriculum.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

Says Catalyst on their Facebook page:

Wow. A Chicago Tribune editorial accuses CPS of refusing to administer the PARCC districtwide because district leaders are afraid of the results. They also call CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s reason for the decision phony. Byrd-Bennett says the district is not ready because some schools lack the technology to administer the computer-based test. But the editorial points out that there is a paper and pen version and CPS could use it in schools that do not have enough computers.

Phony is right.

As phony as their whole top-down corporate driven school reform effort.

Mark Anderson: What do you get when you hire a banker to run the school board of the nation’s third largest school district?


– Mark Anderson writes for NBC’s online Ward Room.

What do you get when you hire a banker to run the school board of the nation’s third largest school district?

Apparently, if you’re Chicago you get hundreds of millions of dollars thrown away on bad deals with other bankers while failing to provide even the most basic of resources for students who need it most.

That’s the story being told in an extraordinary series of Chicago Tribune reports on Chicago Public Schools’ decision to enter into up to $1 billion in risky bond loans pushed by board president David Vitale, a team of consultants and banks hungry to turn a profit on CPS’ need to refinance debt.

It’s a long, complex and downright scandalous story. And it all comes at the expense of the very students whose future CPS is supposed to protect.

In as few words as possible, the story goes like this: more than a decade ago, Chicago school officials—including Vitale, a former head of the Chicago Board of Trade with a long history as a banking executive—bet heavily on a series of exotic bond deals they believed would save the district money in the long term. These deals relied on unconventional borrowing strategies, including interest rate “swaps” and auction-rate securities, that depended on almost everything going right in the bond market for CPS to actually save money.

Yet in making the deals, critical information about the risks involved were either overlooked or deliberately kept in the dark by a series of paid consultants, bank counterparties and CPS officials themselves.

As a result, CPS is expected to pay an estimated $100 million more in today’s dollars than had it continued to rely on more traditional fixed-rate bonds. That’s $100 million that could have been used to keep open shuttered schools, hire teachers and staff, pay for upkeep on school buildings, reduce the system’s overall deficit or simply invest in the future of Chicago public school students.

Worse, the Tribune series is filled with the kind of bad judgment calls, personal and professional hubris, lack of transparency and missing accountability that proves CPS failures weren’t the result of a simple mistake or the outcome of unforeseen market conditions.

Read the entire Mark Anderson article here.


Damn kids. Stop painting on my lawn.


Rahm’s Race to the Art. The winners get a paint brush and a tray of water colors.

A month ago I posted information about a music teacher who had gone to Donor’s Choose to raise money for a class set of ukuleles.

And I was glad to publicize it. Four days later the money had been raised and the ukes were ordered.

I have mixed emotions about these fund-raising efforts. As a retired Art teacher I am always glad to help raise money for the Arts in public schools. And for this cause, my own pockets are deep as they can be.

It seems as though Rahm is going this route to fund what was his unfunded promise to increase Arts education in the Chicago Public Schools.

A prolific fundraiser with nearly $9 million in his campaign warchest, Emanuel has set a goal of raising $38 million to elevate music and the arts to the level he believes is needed to inspire academic performance and keep students motivated and involved.

I will not even get into a long discussion in this post about Rahm’s view of Arts education as inspiring academic performance. I have no idea what he means by that. As widely understood, it is a dubious concept, unsupported by research. If Rahm thinks math scores will improve if students have access to the Arts, I believe he will be disappointed. The Arts are domains of knowledge, valuable in their own right.

But Rahm is unable or unwilling to fund the Arts in the schools through public funds. So he promises to raise private funds to do it. He has made those promises before. His primary success at raising money, however, is for his own campaign war chest.

Whatever happened to the Infrastructure Trust, where private funds would be raised to pay for bridge and road repairs?

Tangent: It pisses me off that Rahm puts Building a New Chicago sign everywhere some City crews are working. Resurfacing Fullerton is not building a new Chicago. It is fixing stuff that is broken. Having a plumber come to my house and repair a leaking pipe is not building a new house. Streets and San is filling pot holes that were deep enough to go swimming in when it rains. Finally. But it is not Building a New Chicago.


The promise of private funds for Art in the public schools comes with strings.

Doesn’t it always?

School Board President David Vitale said the private donations, $11 million of them already in the bank, will be used to purchase musical instruments, cameras and scripts and fund “new assessment systems to track student learning in the arts.”

New assessment systems to track students. What will that cost? And what will be learned?

Individual schools that excel in the arts also will continue to compete for challenge grants — ranging from $10,000-to-$40,000 — in the arts education equivalent of the federal “Race-to-the-top” program, the school board president said.

Good lord! A Race to the Top for Arts funding.

Maybe we can have first graders thrown into a ring, gladiator style, with the winner getting a paint brush and a tray of water colors.

Vitale said he views the private fund as a “transitional step or bridge” to full public funding of the arts education plan — even in a school system grappling with a crippling budget deficit driven by a pension crisis.

Ah! You knew they can’t address any problem without blaming it on teacher pensions.

The lack of Art in CPS is because of us old folks.

Damn kids. Stop painting on my lawn!

“I hope this extra time to find new employment alleviates some of your hardship,” Balanoff said in the call.


SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff.

I hope writing about CPS janitors doesn’t cause me to receive a letter from SEIU lawyers.

Like my brother Mike.

There is news this morning that the firing of Aramark employed janitors has been delayed.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t because the union leadership of SEIU Local 1 raised a stink.

It was the loud voices of principals and teachers that complained about filthy schools and classrooms that hit the news and embarrassed the CPS board and the Mayor.

This all was the result of outsourcing custodial work, and management of union custodians, to the private firm.

Aramark, the private service company now in charge of managing all the custodians in Chicago Public Schools, has decreased the number of janitors who were going to lose their jobs on Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times learned Monday night. And layoffs of the rest were postponed for a month.

The news comes in the wake of Board of Education promises to resolve numerous complaints from a wide range of school communities about dirty conditions and delayed responses from new managers at Aramark.

SEIU Local 1 warned members that 468 custodians were going to lose their jobs on Sept. 30, but 178 with top seniority will stay on, the affected members learned Monday in a robocall from union president Tom Balanoff.

SEIU has been attempting a nationwide organizing campaign among Aramark employees. But in this case CPS unionized employees were handed over to Aramark management as a part of the $280 million privatizing move.

SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balonoff made a robocall to laid-off custodians yesterday.

“I repeat: 178 custodians on the layoff list — those with the highest seniority — will keep your jobs,” the call said. “This is a bittersweet victory, and we are not done fighting yet.”

Of those 178, 83 will keep their jobs and 95 will work until the end of the school year, be laid off for two months, and then be rehired in the fall, according to union spokeswoman Julia Valentine, who verified the call.

An additional 290 will work in their schools until Oct. 31, they learned Monday.

“I hope this extra time to find new employment alleviates some of your hardship,” Balanoff said in the call.

Extra time to find new employment?

Talk about a fighting union.

That is little comfort to custodians who served the schools, or to children, teachers and parents who expect clean classrooms and bathrooms.

This is obviously a quick fix intended to cool the anger over our children currently being taught by teachers in filthy schools.

It is the result of the Mayor being embarrassed once again.

They are hoping this makes the anger goes away.

Will it?

Michelle Gunderson. What could our city look like?


Photo: Fred Klonsky

– Michelle Gunderson is a 27 year teaching veteran who teaches first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. She is a doctoral student at Loyola University in Curriculum and Instruction. This first appeared on Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue blog.

What would our city look like if it were run by Chicago teachers alongside other labor and community groups? This was the thought that kept running through my head as we gathered to support the launch of the new United Working Families political organization in Chicago.

I have strong hope that Chicago would look much different than it does now. It has to.

Mayor Emanuel states over and over again that Chicago is a world class city. Yet this is a place where we do not have resources for our schools to educate our children, where we do not have wages and jobs so we can afford our own city, and where we do not have affordable, safe housing for our families.

Mayor Emanuel, we are far from being a world class city.

The mission of the United Working Families (UWF) states that we will “organize families, strengthen their voices on issues of racial, social and economic justice, and challenge the corporate dominance of a two-party system by lifting up our issues and our champions.”

What does this mean? We will no longer blindly open up our checkbooks to the Democratic Party.

That was the old way of doing business.

According to Matt Luskin, a Chicago Teachers Union organizer, “We are looking for immediate campaigns that address our struggle.” UWF was not formed to take over the roles and leadership of groups that are already doing social justice work in Chicago. Its goal is to identify and back political power that will support our work.

“Imagine a campaign of face to face organizing in as many wards as possible”, says Bob Simpson in his Daily Kos blog, “supporting independent City Council candidates with a vision for a city where public resources are allocated by need rather than by race and income. Karen Lewis would be at the top of the ticket as the mayoral candidate, drawing on her popularity in African American and Latino neighborhoods. This could help bring out more voters to support the independent City Council candidates.”

Read the entire article here.

“Dr.” Terrence P. Carter. Arne Duncan’s superstar. The story the Chicago press won’t touch.


“Doctor” Carter, superstar.

In 2007 the Chicago Tribune wrote:

The Chicago Public Schools system has 126 openings for principals next fall, and has only 33 current principals ready to take the jobs. That’s a problem. It’s also a phenomenal opportunity.

Vacancies in about one-fifth of the schools give CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan a chance to bring in a new generation of leaders to transform city schools. Some of those schools have flailed for years under mediocre bureaucrats. That could change.

Yes, there are enough teachers and administrators within the CPS ranks to fill the spots. But Duncan recognizes that they should not simply have to compete with each other; they should compete with candidates across the nation. “I want superstars,” he said. “There is wonderful talent here, but to think that the Chicago system has a monopoly on talent is simply not the case.”

So, bring on the superstars. No one is more critical to the sustained success of a school than the person in the principal’s office. Principals set the tone for a school. They must motivate staff and communicate a clear vision, create a culture of high standards for students and keep the school on solid financial footing.

Fortunately, CPS had years to anticipate this exodus, and Duncan planned intelligently. A new recruiter will look for top candidates in other states. Good candidates will be offered financial incentives to come to the most challenging schools, with the prospect of more rewards if they sustain student improvement. Top-notch principals who are retiring will mentor the newcomers. Taking a business-like approach to this makes enormous sense.

The Trib singles out one superstar Chicago principal: Dr. Terrence P. Carter.

“Used to be, as long as the lights were on and the heat was working and teachers reported to school, your job as principal was basically done,” said Terrence Carter, principal of Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “Now, in the age of more accountability, there’s a paradigm shift for what skills principals need to have.”

For Carter, who also attended that day, the training reviewed skills he already knew. Carter represents a new breed of principal, many of whom recently entered the profession from the business world through a selective principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. In that program, prospective principals focus on becoming academic leaders and conducting rigorous evaluations of teachers, students and curricula.

That’s the challenge and the opportunity for Chicago: to draw dozens more leaders like Terrence Carter into the most challenging public schools and to help them thrive.

Carter is now the center of controversy in New London, Connecticut where his application for school superintendent is on hold while the board investigates his claims of a doctorate from among other universities, Stanford University in California.

Stanford denies he received a doctorate from them.

Prior to applying for the job in New London, Carter worked as a principal for CPS and as an executive director for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is responsible for managing most of CPS turnaround schools.

CPS board president David Vitale and chief administrative officer Tim Cawley both come from the ranks of AUSL.

The Hartford Courant reports:

A resume that Carter used in 2005 when he was applying for the principal’s job at Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago, obtained by The Courant, says he received a “Doctor of Philosophy,” in 1996 from Lexington University in London, England. The degree was awarded “Summa Cum Laude,” the resume says and his major concentration was in “human resources management.” His dissertation was entitled, “Economic Concepts in Organizational Management Strategy,” the resume says.

Carter got the job and worked as principal from 2005 until 2010. He didn’t need a doctorate to qualify for the position. Several teachers at the school said he insisted that staff call him “Doctor.” Although Barton won three state academic improvement awards during Carter’s tenure there, the students’ performance never improved enough to move the school out of the lowest tier, known as “academic probation.”

While the Tribune branded Carter a superstar back in 2007, they have not been too interested in reporting on “Dr.” Carter’s New London problems.

There has been no comment from Secretary Arne Duncan.

Statement by CTU on the 1,150 CPS teacher and staff layoffs.

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis released the following statement regarding today’s announcement of 1,150 teacher and school support staff layoffs by Chicago Public Schools (CPS):

“The decision by the mayor and his handpicked Board of Education to lay off 1,150 teachers and school support staff today in yet another brutal attack on public education in Chicago is bitterly disappointing and an example of the continued destruction and decimation of neighborhood schools. In a little over a year, CPS student-based budgeting has led to the removal of close to 5,000 teachers, teacher assistants, librarians, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs), technology coordinators and instructional aides from classrooms as severe cuts cause principals to make the difficult decisions that the district cannot. This loss of teachers and staff will directly impact the quality of instruction offered in our schools, and is unnecessary and shameful for a district that claims to provide a high-quality education for its students.

“With this latest round of layoffs— the fourth time in the past five years in which we have seen summer layoffs in excess of 1,000—and the hundreds of positions lost at the three schools slated for turnaround this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Board continue their war on our educators by doing nothing to salvage school budgets other than forcing principals to terminate valued teachers and staff.

“Of the 1,150 layoffs announced today, 550 are teachers and 600 are Educational Support Personnel (ESP). Approximately 250 of these ESPs are Chicago Teachers Union PSRPs. The layoffs stem from the low level of per-pupil funding which CPS Central Office set for schools, meaning that all over the city, principals are being forced, for example, to choose between keeping a veteran teacher and keeping a program library. Current budgets are so low that schools can’t keep both.

“While the district claims that most of the cuts are due to drops in enrollment, there are an ever-increasing number of charter schools siphoning students out of public schools and contributing to a system of dysfunction and instability that leads parents to seek other options for their children. The situation serves to underscore the unacceptably low level of funding that Chicago’s neighborhood schools receive, as every time teachers and other staff are cut, it is harder for schools to serve communities, and the teachers who remain have to shoulder more and more of the burden.

“This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked Board. Do we want ‘Star Wars’ museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?”

Is the Mayor running scared. Or is enough never enough?


Becky Carroll of Chicago Forward Super-PAC and former CPS lying liar.

So far Rahm Emanuel’s main mayoral opposition is a progressive woman with good ideas and little money in the bank.

That would be Amara Enyia.

While others with more traditional clout have hinted at a run, nobody else is stepping up.

Yet Rahm appears to be running scared.

He has 7 million dollars in his campaign coffers.

And he has just gotten his deep-pocket pals to set up a super-PAC to raise millions more.

Millions more.

Becky Carroll use to be the lying liar for the Chicago Public Schools.

Now she is spokesperson for the Chicago Forward  super-PAC.

A super-PAC must pretend to be independent of the candidate. That allows them to raise unlimited amounts of money. And according to the lying liar, Becky Carroll, corporate honchos and hedge fund managers are getting in line to write checks.

Greg Hines in Crain’s:

Such an independent expenditure group legally cannot coordinate its spending on TV ads, direct-mail pieces and other items with Mr. Emanuel’s campaign. But it will not face the $5,000 individual donation caps that the mayor’s own campaign committee, Chicago for Rahm Emanuel, faces — meaning that it will be able to take contributions of $50,000, $100,000 or more.

Ms. Carroll would not disclose any potential donors she has talked with, adding that her new group will not be filing an initial statement of organization until later in the month. The group’s website at went live this afternoon.

But Ms. Carroll did say that her group has retained an A-list of consultants, including Jim Crounse, who handled direct mail for the recent campaign of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Nancy Kohn, who long has been the top fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill; and TV-ad man Saul Shorr, who produced the famed “straight shooter” spot for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dawn Clark Netsch in 1994

Perhaps more significant, sources close to Mr. Emanuel confirm that the group is real and may indeed be able to raise the “few million dollars:” that Ms. Carroll mentioned.

With Rahm’s poll numbers in the dumper, is he running scared?

Or is there just never enough?