Random thoughts. Calling out John Cullerton.


Yesterday Senate President Democrat John Cullerton spoke to a group of parents at Coonley elementary school in his Chicago district. 

His speech went something like this: “Rauner, Rauner, Rauner, Rauner and Rauner.”

But the parents were having none of it. These were not parents who were Rauner fans. They were simply parents who weren’t buying Cullerton’s excuses.

Much like the parents who have been demanding to know why the powerful Democrat refuses to let the Senate vote on an elected school board for Chicago. 

The bill has already passed the House. Cullerton has blocked any vote in the Senate.

He can’t blame that on Bruce Rauner.

Chicago teachers are well aware of Governor Rauner’s role in blocking a state budget and making Chicago teachers and schools a punching bag.

But like Coonley parents, they also know there is plenty of blame to go around.

Tomorrow Wednesday, a CPS furlough day, the Chicago Teachers Union will be shining a light on others who have played a role.  They are calling for protests at 8:30 AM at the following downtown locations:




Larry Levy


River Point Plaza

444 W. Lake St.


Northeast corner of Lake and Canal

Larry Levy has donated thousands to Governor Rauner’s campaigns and his restaurant company has been sued for minimum wage violations in Chicago. He is also helping fund the governor’s campaign to change Illinois voting maps that would weaken the Black and Latino vote. He received $30 million in TIF funds for an unwanted luxury building downtown—money that could have gone to public schools.
Ken Griffin


Citadel Center

131 Dearborn


Griffin is a “close friend” of the mayor. He said his greatest disappointment with Emanuel is that he only closed 50 schools in 2013—stating it should have been more than 100.


Even though the Citadel CEO is the wealthiest man in Illinois, state income tax rollbacks saved him an estimated $16 million in one year. Citadel is among the top hedge funds whose mega-profits are protected by Illinois, requiring no sales tax on high frequency trading. A LaSalle Street Tax (or Financial Transaction Tax) would raise billions of dollars in revenue for Illinois paid by those who can afford it, while slowing down their risky behavior.


Instead of Griffin or his company paying their fair share, Griffin recently spent $500 million of his massive fortune to purchase two paintings which are going on display at the Art Institute. The misguided billionaire is also helping fund Rauner’s campaign to change Illinois voting maps that would weaken Black and Latino vote.

David Vitale


United Airlines

Willis Tower

233 S. Wacker

While David Vitale was president of the Board of Ed, he was also paid hundreds of thousands per year to sit on the board of directors at United Airlines. CTU members and parents asked again and again for Vitale to join us in calling for TIF money to be returned to schools to avoid cuts and closings. Instead of advocating for the schools that he led, he closed them while profiting from a $30 million TIF deal and $10 million in city grants at United.


Vitale was also a chief architect of the toxic swap deals that cost CPS over $500 million in profits taken by big banks for predatory deals. Vitale refused to sue the banks or even ask if they would be willing to give up a dime—instead closing schools and laying off teachers to make the payments. Further, without an elected school board, Vitale was safe to put his banker friends, business reputation and personal financial interests ahead of the school district that he led.


This former Board of Education president is also helping fund Rauner’s campaign to change Illinois voting maps that would weaken Black and Latino vote.

Board of Education




42 W. Madison


Demonstrators will call for an Elected School Board and for CPS to end its relationships with banks and toxic swaps and fight for progressive revenue. Parents and educators may take a vote of “no confidence” in CEO Forrest Claypool who has no long-term fiscal strategy to strengthen CPS.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel


Chicago City Council

City Hall

121 LaSalle


The CTU will join with citizens calling for an Elected Civilian Police Board in addition to its Elected Representative School Board. Educators will call on the mayor and the City Council to adopt progressive revenue options to fund public schools and to take a moral stand for the city’s more than 300,000 public school students by fighting for revenue, ensuring safe and healthy school buildings, restoring special education cuts, and ending toxic deals and contracts that cripple working families.

Random thoughts. The politics of labeling schools, teachers and students.


I’m not fooled for a minute that Governor Rauner’s labeling Chicago public schools as crumbling prisons was a case of him stepping in it.

It is pure political calculation. It is the politics of labeling kids, teachers and school as failing.

The work of most teachers in CPS is masterful in the face of the real failure:  inadequate funding by the political leaders of this state.

It is not the only political failing. But I say, let’s start there.

Remember when Arne Duncan was the master of labeling kids, teachers and schools as failing?

To achieve his union-bashing turnaround agenda, Chicago is his biggest nut to crack. Chicago is a union town. And the teachers union is his fiercest opponent among the city’s unions. To achieve his strategic aim of busting the public employee unions in Illinois and Chicago, he has targeted the city itself with his talk of schools-as-prisons and bailouts – not without full knowledge of the racist implications of the tactic.

When I Tweeted yesterday that Illinois spends twice the amount of money on the state’s actual prison population as it does on the average on public schools, I was corrected. The state spends way more than that on prisons.

As a part of my retirement I have volunteered in a couple of Chicago Public Schools and visited plenty others, with my ukulele in tow.

Many are old, beautiful and warm. Others have peeling paint and do indeed suffer from crumbling infrastructure. Many are both old and warm with peeling paint.

None of what is crumbling is a reflection on the students or the teachers. It does reflect on the Governor and the state’s political leaders who want a failing public system replaced by a profit-making one.

CPS, Wall Street investors and social impact bonds.


Cassie Cresswell of More Than a Score.

Responding to my post yesterday, my friend Cassie Cresswell from More Than a Score reminds me that CPS has been involved with social impact bonds, Wall Street investors and bounties for moving special education students out of programs for a while.

Just a reminder: social impact bonds pay investors yearly per student based on how many special education students schools can remove from services.

From a 2014 story in Catalyst:

But a review of the loan agreement and related contracts – which were approved by the CPS board and still must go through the City Council — shows that the deal relies on a complicated formula that poses little risk to investors. That’s due largely to the proven track record of the project’s chosen preschool program, child-parent centers. In addition, investors gain good will and publicity in the deal.

The review of the documents found that:

–Nearly $1.3 million of the $16.6 million loan will never reach CPS. That money will go to pay a third-party project manager, audits, additional social services, and legal fees – including up to $250,000 for the investors’ own legal costs.

–In addition, the city must pay $319,000 for an outside group to evaluate the project in the third and fourth years.

–According to the city’s projections, CPS would pay about $21.5 million over the life of the 16-year program in payments for “savings” from fewer special ed services. However, if the program is more successful than expected, CPS will have to pay more, up to a maximum of $30 million.

–The city expects to kick in an additional $4.4 million in “success payments” based on children’s performance on kindergarten readiness and third-grade literacy tests.

This means that if it’s very successful, investors could get back more than double their money over the life of the progam.

Cassie is quoted in the Catalyst story.

“It’s really concerning to have financial deals based on test scores. You’re going to get paid back on how kids score, compounding the fact things are already too high stakes,” says Cassie Cresswell, of the group More Than A Score.

Elected (and un-elected) officials deciding when, where and who can speak and ask questions.


Rahm’s paid protesters.

In Chicago, the CPS board of education has changed the rules governing who can speak and ask questions at open public meetings.

I reported on this a few days ago.

Politicians (particularly Chicago politicians) often resent it when their constituents ask questions. Rahm has earned a reputation for paying people $25 to show up at public hearing to fill all the seats, keeping those with serious objections from getting in.

Then there is Hinsdale.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you remember Hinsdale.

Last year the Hinsdale high school teachers were locked in a mean battle with Tea Party members of the Hinsdale school board over contract negotiations.

One of the board members, Claudia Manley, decided that a high school senior, Marissa Dupont, couldn’t hand out leaflets supporting the teachers outside a school event.

Bob Bland, the campaign manager of several board members, wrote that Marissa was a “tart.”

Later Bland walked it back, saying he was only quoting Shakespeare.

Now a Hinsdale board member has filed a complaint against a member of the community for being rude.

Joan Brandeis, the mother of two Hinsdale South High School graduates, has spoken at many Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meetings in the past few years.

So she was surprised to learn a school board member had filed a complaint against her for remarks she made this summer.

Board member Edward Corcoran filed a grievance Aug. 14 claiming Brandeis violated school policy by behaving in a rude and mean-spirited manner when she addressed him at the July 20 meeting.

“The tone and the approach were not civil,” Corcoran said. “It was a personal attack.”

Corcoran also claims that some of what Brandeis said was not correct, and her comments caused him “offence and injury.”

Brandeis told the truth and Corcoran thought speaking the truth was rude.

On the 14th day, religious leaders make their appeal and Claypool does what we predicted he would do.


This morning many of Chicago’s religious leaders will make an appeal to the Mayor on behalf the #FightForDyett hunger strikers.

Mayor Rahm, who often tries to portray himself as God, will not be impressed.

Rev. Robert Jones, currently in the 14th day of a hunger strike, will be joined by various faith leaders, including Rabbi Brant Rosen, Rev. CJ Hawking and others in a direct moral appeal for fairness, democracy and education justice. The clergy will represent various faiths.

If you have not done so, read brother Mike’s post from Friday where he discusses the lies and “let-them-eat-cake” attitude of this morally corrupt administration.

While the courageous hunger strikers continue their action, and men and women of faith make their appeal to the morally bankrupt leader of the city, his newly appointed CEO of the public schools does exactly what we all said he would do two weeks ago.

He painted the office.

First thing: Kudos to my bro for his prognostication.

Two weeks ago he predicted that the new CEO at CPS, Forrest Claypool, would hand out banker boxes to the Byrd-Bennett crew and show them the door.

Some cynics might claim that this was an easy prediction since the new boss will always bring in his own people after firing the old ones.

Not all will be smart enough to claim it as a budget cut to be used in contract negotiations with the teachers union.

I compared this to a new principal in a school. The first thing he or she does is paint the office.

Is Claypool getting rid of those jobs? Not likely.

Changing job titles? Probably.

My old board changed the assistant superintendent for curriculum to the director of student learning.

A budget cut?


Last month he claimed to cut a million bucks by firing a bunch of senior bureaucrats.

This week the board approved nearly a million bucks for a bunch of new bureaucrats with new job titles.

Just as I predicted.

Doug Kucia, who was Claypool’s chief of staff at the CTA, takes on the same role at CPS for $175,000 a year. Andrell Holloway, a CTA auditor, was made chief internal auditor for $191,000.

All of Claypool’s boys were hired with the usual unanimous votes of the board.

Oh wait. There was one no vote for one bureaucrat.

Some of my union friends complained about Randi Weingarten when she showed up last week in Chicago to support the #FightForDyett hunger strikers. “She allows no democracy in her own union.”


But I thought she was great.

I have no shortage of issues with Randi Weingarten. And AFT needs more democracy. But the AFT is a bastion of democracy compared to Chicago and the CPS board of education.

The appointments were not on the board’s public agenda.

There was no debate.

And only one appointment received  one no vote when the rebellious Jesse Ruiz voted what the Sun-Times called a “rare dissent.”

Ruiz voted no to hiring Ronald DeNard, Claypool’s chosen $225,000-a-year senior vice president of operations. DeNard was chief financial officer with Claypool at the Chicago Transit Authority.

DeNard lives in Flossmoor, which violates CPS residency rules.

Seriously? C’mon. Those rules only apply to teachers.

Administrators simply get a residency waiver.

That’s how they handled Tim Cawley, the chief administrative officer. He lives in Winnetka.

Residency waivers for bureaucrats.

For teachers and #FightForDyett hunger strikers.

Let them eat cake.

Rahm has gone from the F word to the B word.


Ben Joravsky is right, of course.

My guess is that somewhere in the back of their minds Rahm and Rauner and Walker have concluded it’s easier to fight a union of women than it is to take on a union of men.

You could say that Rahm started out as mayor screaming the F word at CTU President Karen Lewis. This time in these negotiations he is adding the B word. Teacher pension threats and underfunding at both the city and state level have always have their greatest impact on women. In the city, a huge percentage of retired teachers are African American women.

Teacher contracts and teacher pensions are women’s issues.

Teacher pension rights are women’s rights.

Not only women. But a significant number.

Before I retired I worked as a K-5 art teacher in Park Ridge District 64. The high school district that included Maine South was a separate district with a separate union local, separate school board, separate collective bargaining agreement with a separate salary schedule.

When we sat down to bargain with our board the first thing we would do is draw up a list of comparable districts to compare salaries.

The board always fought us on including the high school districts.

Maine South’s salary schedule was much higher than ours.

Same town. Same tax base.

More male employees in the high school district.

Rahm’s response to the Chicago Teachers Union’s  one year CBA offer is “F*#k you B#*%H.”

Same as its ever been.

The continuing CPS relationship with UNO charters and the Rev. Michael Garanzini.

Loyola University President Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, who is stepping down June 30 to become the university's chancellor, talks with the Chicago Sun-Times about his 14-year tenure as president at the North Side school on April 2, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Retired CEO and President of Loyola Rev. Michael Garanzini. 

When Mayor Rahm announced his new CPS board members I immediately focused on Mark Furlong, retired CEO of BMO Harris Bank.

At the time he was on the board of LEAP, a tech organization with CPS contracts.

It sounded like a rerun of exiting CPS board member Deborah Quazzo.

The CPS propaganda office quickly announced that Furlong had pre-resigned – I just made that word up – from LEAP the previous Friday.

But also on the list of four new members was the Rev. Michael Garanzini, former CEO and President of Loyola University.

I didn’t spend a lot of time looking into the Reverend.

But the CTU did.

The Rev. Michael Garanzini, former president and CEO of Loyola University, replaces Henry Bienen, former president of Northwestern University. Garanzini is often heralded for improving Loyola’s fiscal outlook, yet he accomplished this by pushing costs onto students and squeezing full-time faculty out of positions. During his tenure, tuition increased 73 percent at the school and the use of part-time and contingent teaching faculty more than tripled. Garanzini’s leadership is in line with those of his peers who have collectively helped foster today’s crisis in higher education.

And this:

Garanzini also has strong connections to the Cristo Rey and UNO networks of charter schools, which will be providing Arrupe College—Loyola’s new two-year college—with the majority of its students.

So, this morning’s Sun-Times story by Dan Mihalopoulos makes more sense.

Under interim Chicago Public Schools CEO Jesse Ruiz, CPS is pushing behind the scenes for the scandal-plagued United Neighborhood Organization to have a continued role in running the 16-school charter network it created.

You would think that CPS would try and put some distance between themselves and the scandal ridden UNO and the UNO charter network.

What with federal investigations.

And splits between UNO and its charter organization.

In his letter to Ruiz, Rodriguez said the charter operator intends to “continue with the transition of services as planned, and UCSN is prepared to take the necessary steps to bring this process to a final conclusion.”

Sources close to the negotiations said Ruiz has pushed for UNO to get a one-year extension to its deal with the charter network, which provides much of the community group’s revenues.

Perhaps there was a good word put in for UNO from Father Garanzini?

Things that should be in the spotlight that are more important that LeBron James’ penis.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.56.04 AM

I have written a blog post title guaranteed to get a lot of hits due to search referrals.

I was surprised to see a reference to  Lebron’s schmeckel in a headline in this morning’s Sun-Times:

LeBron James’ penis remains in spotlight during Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Not for me.

I got home from my birthday dinner at a new neighborhood seafood place in time for the fourth quarter, and Step Curry’s shooting was much more impressive to me. As was LeBron’s triple double.

But it made me start thinking of what should be in the spotlight and isn’t.

What will happen to Sarah Karp’s story on Rahm juking graduation rates? Karp is the great investigative journalist who just moved from Catalyst to the Better Government Association.

How long will the spotlight be on that?

Karp says, among other things, that CPS has been counting girls who drop out due to pregnancy not as drop outs but as “transfers to motherhood.”

Scandals involving Rahm seem to have short shelf-lives.

Like whatever happened to the FOIA request for emails between Rahm and Chicago billionaire Michael Sacks?

It came out that Rahm and Sacks were meeting almost daily and that there were 1500 emails between them discussing public policy.

Also prior to the election there was talk of an SEC investigation into kickbacks to the Emanuel campaign and Bruce Rauner’s campaign from those doing pension business with the city and state.

What happened to that?

Just prior to the election Rahm’s people promised that the email correspondence between Rahm and his closest financial advisor would be released in 77 hours.

Why 77? Because that would put it after the election.

They have never been released.

Oh. Here is something needing a spotlight:

Whatever happened to the federal investigation of corruption in UNO charter schools?

And how long will this grand jury be meeting on the Barbara Byrd-Bennett SUPES scandal?

Until we forget and the spotlight goes elsewhere.

So many things that need a spotlight.

Leave LeBron’s penis alone.