No university affiliation.


A year or so ago I received an email from a group of university professors who had drafted a statement critical of the dominant education reform agenda.

I was asked to sign it and include my university affiliation.

Of course, I agreed with the statement. I sent back my name. In place of my university affiliation (having none) I wrote, “K-5 art teacher, Carpenter Elementary School.”

I received a follow-up email from the group telling me that while they appreciated my support, since I had no university affiliation, they would reserve my endorsement for later if they decided to expand their list to non-university educators.

Meaning classroom teachers.

I never heard of or from them again.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I think the statement by leading educators in support of the MAP boycott is terrific.

The list includes the names of people I admire and many that I personally know.

But what makes the action of the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School so powerful and exciting is that it is the action of teachers in the classroom of a public school.

Jimi Hendrix’s high school, for God sakes.

This is teachers taking responsibility for their profession. It is teachers taking responsibility for their students’ learning. That’s what teachers are supposed to be able to do and which so-called reforms make it harder for teachers to do.

By the way. It happens anyway,  every day, in ways big and small by classroom teachers all over the country.

Rarely with press conferences or names included in online petitions. Quietly. Subversively.

The sad part of this story is that the leaders of the National Education Association, including President Dennis Van Roekel and Vice President Lily Eskelsen, should be doing what the professors did: Speak out in support of the classroom teachers  in Seattle and elsewhere.

Garfield’s teachers are NEA members after all.

If NEA leaders remain silent until July, maybe we can bring it up at the NEA RA.

Did I mention I’m running statewide in Illinois as a retired delegate?

No university affiliation.

Watching from a distance. NY teacher evaluation blows up. Updated.


New York’s bully-boy Mayor.

Watching from a distance, I responded with a smile when I heard that the negotiations over teacher evaluations between the UFT and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg blew up yesterday.

Governor Cuomo had put a deadline for an agreement to evaluate teachers based on student test scores, a stupid idea to be sure.

We’ve covered that territory before.

Cuomo threatened that without an agreement the city schools would be denied $250 million.

Now some in the NY press are screaming that the teachers (read the Union) cost the schools all that money.

Not that $250 million is chump change. But really it is.

It’s probably not much more than the total value of all of Bloomberg’s homes.

Here’s a question: Why should adequate funding of New York’s public schools be dependent on an evaluation agreement between Bloomberg and the teachers?

NY teachers have been without a contract since 2009, before Bloomberg’s re-election.

Many of my NY friends were justifiably concerned that UFT President Michael  Mulgrew and the UFT leadership would cave to the bully-boy Mayor on this.

You can read UFT leader Leo Casey’s description of the bargaining here.

Maybe we can thank Bloomberg for being too big a jerk for even that to happen.

NY’s Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) which organized a street protest of the deal yesterday, said :

The passing of the January 17 deadline for a new evaluation agreement is not an ending but a beginning. Now the DOE will work overtime to spin doctor the failure to reach an agreement on new teacher evaluations, mandated by New York State’s version of Race to the Top, as the fault of Michael Mulgrew and union leadership. This despite the fact that every indication shows it was Bloomberg who failed to negotiate in good faith.

While we applaud the UFT leadership for standing their ground, the MORE Caucus has no intention of giving up the fight to prevent our teachers and students from being given over to the standardized testing regime. We know there will be efforts in the future to convert our schools into low-level thinking factories and our teachers into low-skilled, low-paid bureaucratic functionaries.

What the new year will bring.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss posts a powerful column by science teacher Anthony Cody this morning. It originally appeared in Education Week.

Cody takes on the views of Dr. Eric Hanushek, a general in the war on teachers. Read the entire column here.

Simply offer a bonus for higher test scores, fire the bottom five percent, and you have the perfect combination of carrot and stick. And vilify anyone, especially our teachers’ unions, that say this is not the best way to improve our schools, by accusing them of protecting bad teachers.

A year from now, if we do not confront these attacks, our classes will overflow, our retirement funds will be decimated, and our due process rights removed. Our public schools will be de-funded, even as the billionaires funding “school reform” insist they are acting in the interests of the poor.

This is a fight for the future of education in America, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Time to fight, talk hard truths and bring backup.



A simultaneous policy scrum.

Jim Broadway of the State News Service calls what is going on in Springfield right now a simultaneous policy scrum.

In the game of rugby, a scrum is where you go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and
forth. If someone gets hurt, someone gets hurt.

According to Broadway, Madigan wants a bi-partisan revenue bill with a tax increase. A bi-partisan bill means getting a couple of Republican votes. Madigan wants it in this session. To get the couple of GOP votes, teachers get it up the rear.

But Madigan gets a score and if teachers get hurt, teachers get hurt.


As an analogy, consider the Obama Administration’s recent capitulation to Republican demands that the
“Bush Tax Cuts” be extended for the rich and super-rich as a condition of extending them for taxpayers
of less affluence, and of extending unemployment benefits.

The same concept seems at work here. Republicans have long asserted that a tax increase is out of the
question until “reforms” in education, Medicaid, workers compensation and other areas of concern to
the corporate community are satisfactorily addressed.

It appears a grand trade is in the works. If GOP legislators will at least nominally support tax increases, a
slew of their most heartfelt policy demands will be met. 

The orchestra is in full performance. The crescendo is timed for January 11.

I don’t want to overstate the case. There are parts of the education “reform” draft that seem impossible
to enact. It will be “watered down” somewhat, but will still be significant. Madigan and Cullerton will not
be able to force their caucuses into total capitulation.

At the same time, you might expect some scrums to be going on below the surface. For example, unions
may be asked to take a choice between job security and retirement issues, to trade strong tenure and
strike provisions for full pensions at under the age of 60.

Some powerful dynamics are converging on January 3-11.

What’s really behind Boss Madigan’s rush to reform?

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s rush to reform is so unseemly, so suspicious, so behind-closed-doors, that even supporters of the reforms themselves are embarrassed by the process.

You know that last Thursday and Friday Madigan scheduled hearings of his newly created House Committee on Education Reform.

You know the committee is stacked with reformy types bought and paid for by Stand for Children, the Oregon-based conduit for anti-teacher union fundraising and political action money.

You know that Madigan appears to be in a mad rush to make a deal with the Republican minority in the House and get an ed reform bill passed in THIS lame duck session. But why?

The State Journal and Register in Springfield, the state’s oldest newspaper, supports the reforms.

  • Ban teacher’s right to strike.
  • Link evaluation and compensation to student test performance.
  • Do away with tenure and seniority rights.

But even though they support the content, many are worried about the speed and the lack of democratic discussion that is the hallmark of the way Madigan does things.

Much as we support the reforms enumerated above, we also have a concern that they be enacted properly. The haste with which this committee was formed and last week’s hearings were arranged, coupled with the contentious atmosphere that seems to have built quickly around both, make us wonder if this is the correct path to these measures.

Specifically, we have concerns about a reform movement that doesn’t allot sufficient time to hearing directly from classroom teachers. Holding hearings on two busy end-of-semester days before Christmas break doesn’t bode well for attracting many teachers.

After having watched these issues stagnate for years with little or no attention in the Capitol, we’re a bit perplexed at the sudden rush to, apparently, get them into legislation and passed in the abbreviated January session.

We also have a great concern for how this kind of rush — and the animosity among teachers unions and many teachers it is sure to engender — portrays the profession of teaching. For years, we have seen public service messages and ad campaigns aimed at encouraging young people to pursue a teaching career.

What kind of signal does it send to prospective teachers when the unions that will represent them are vilified and broadsides are fired that accuse the entire profession of hiding and protecting its worst practitioners?

Excellent concerns.




At House education reform hearing parents come armed with data.

An observer at today’s House Committee on Education Reform called to tell me that one of the odd things about the affair was it was a speaker representing parents who was among the few people who gave testimony that presented real data.

Julie Woestehoff, Executive Director of Parents United for Responsible Education waited all afternoon to testify. She wanted to sit at the table designated for education reform groups but was told it was too crowded by groups like the deep pocketed Stand for Children.

Woestehoff writes on PURE’s website:

It was a long afternoon out in Aurora, but the Illinois House Education Reform Committee got a good earful from teachers and others about not including them in this rushed legislation to create a new teacher evaluation process. 

I’ll write more on this later, including my first impression of the Stand for Children group (are they kidding?) and other gossip.

My testimony focused on three issues – 1) the attempt by one group and one side of the debate to label itself the Education Reform group, when all of us consider ourselves reformers, 2) the problem with mandating/implementing initiatives that have no research basis, and 3) the state’s bad track record claiming they will use multiple measures and then using only standardized one-shot tests.

Fortunately, the person I sat next to on the Miscellaneous Panel (!) was a testing point person for ISBE and he’s more than willing to let me in on what they’re doing, so that’s a start.

Unfortunately, despite many reasonable arguments against it, the committee seems determined to pass something in the next two weeks, that is, before the next assembly opens. Not sure how that’s “all about children.”

Woestehoff’s full testimony is here.

Madigan’s ed reform committee meets today and tomorrow.

Boss Madigan has schedule hearings of his phony education reform committee in Aurora today and tomorrow.

I say phony for several reasons.

  • The hearings are scheduled to receive testimony on bills that have not even been written yet.
  • The committee is stacked with legislators who have a pre-existing condition, paid for by Stand for Children, a Superman political action Oregon-based outfit who advocate doing away with tenure, seniority rights, union collective bargaining rights and the right to strike.
  • The current legislative session is too short to consider any bills that the public, teachers and education groups can respond too.

If you live in Illinois, take the time today to contact your state Senator and Representative. Tell them no reform issues should be considered during the current session. Time is too short for the General Assembly to consider the views of teachers, parents and education groups.

Rank-and-file teachers in both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association should also have a voice in determining any legislation that is considered in Springfield and schools will not be in session the next few weeks.

Importantly, issues of seniority and teacher evaluations (which are suspected of being the subject of any bills coming out of these reform committee hearings) are local matters that have been negotiated between locally elected school boards and local unions. They should stay local matters.

These will be crucial days for teachers, students and school districts. Please take the time to contact your Springfield reps. A call to the governor’s office wouldn’t hurt. And if you are an IEA member an email to wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Remind him that schools and teachers struggle with reduced funding, reduced support and more responsibilities than ever before. What we need to know is that our state leadership will fight for the protections we have.



Maybe I spoke too soon. Ken finds common ground with Stand for Children.

As the so-called education reform committees of the General Assembly gear up for post-holiday hearings in Aurora, so has the IEA.

But just when I thought that President Ken Swanson and Executive Director Audrey Soglin were about to spine up and fight for our members, they revert to their old form.

One of the prime movers and shakers in the current attack on teacher unions is Stand for Children, a reformy Superman outfit that dropped a cool 600 K backing a handful of legislators in the November election.

Some of those legislators were placed by Boss Madigan and Cullerton on House and Senate education reform committees.

What is the SFC agenda?

  • Undermine local collective bargaining rights.
  • Ban the right of teachers to strike.
  • Binding arbitration.
  • End seniority and tenure rights.

These so-called reforms might very well find their way into bills by the first week in January.

Ken and Audrey sent a letter to our Region containing a promise to fight. Yesterday.

But at the very same time Communications Director Charlie McBarron was sending the following message on behalf of Ken and Audrey to Region Chairs and Grass Roots Political Activists (GPAs):

It’s important to understand that, while portions of this legislation
are deeply offensive and are absolutely off the table as far as we are
concerned, we also have some common ground with Stand for Children, including a desire to streamline the process for getting bad or ineffective teachers out of classrooms. 

A blanket “No” response is not appropriate and would be
counter-productive to our mission and to our desire to continue to be seen as leaders in education improvement in Illinois.

Yep. Ken has found common ground with Stand for Children. On what issue? Funding? Class size? Training and support for teachers? Opposition to the glut of standardized testing that has overwhelmed us?

Nope. Ken has found common ground with Stand for Children on the issue of finding a way to speed up due process and fire teachers faster.

Ken has become a character in an old western movie. “Hey paw. I say we hang ’em now and sort ’em out later.”

Here’s Ken’s argument as he expressed it to our Region:

The question of whether there might be some additional factors in addition to seniority used in RIF/recall procedures was raised in response to a great deal of publicity this issue received last spring particularly in Chicago. I don’t believe anyone in IEA is going to say seniority should not matter. I certainly don’t believe it should not. The question is whether there are any other factors we could agree should be used as part of the decision making process. For example, if two RIf’d people are nearly equal in seniority for a recall and one has excellent evaluations and the other is in remediation, should the one in remediation be brought back ahead of the excellent teacher because the excellent teacher was hired ten days after the remediation teacher was hired?

And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

In order to find common ground with what is among the worst of the reformy groups, the president of our union has managed to come up with a straw man who would make Dorothy proud.

Let me be clear. In 26 years of teaching, years as a Grievance Chair, 15 years of dealing directly with RIFs and rehires and 10 years as a local president, I have never, once, ever expereienced this issue. Ever. It is totally bogus. A fiction.

But it sets the stage. What will Ken and his cohorts sell out for his precious but over-stated “public support.”

If Ken won’t defend fair and due process as negotiated locally by his own locals, what will he fight for?

Don’t be shocked Ken. I think you’re right. Update.

NOTE: Since I posted this, further evidence, including a memo to IEA Region Chairs and GPAs (a number of whom have contacted me and forwarded Swanson’s memo) contradict what I wrote about Swanson’s willingness to fight for members’ rights. I stand corrected. Don’t be shocked. But, Swanson is more interested in finding common ground with the union busters.

It’s no secret that I have been greatly disappointed by the policies of the IEA leadership this past year or so. There’s no need to go into it again here. All the posts are archived.

But tonight I agree with IEA President Ken Swanson and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin about what the General Assembly should do about education reform during the present lame duck session.


Says Ken,

“Education reform is too important to rush through in a few days of lame duck session.”

But House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton have established education reform committees to discuss undisclosed changes to the law. These committees are stacked with members who have been funded and otherwise backed by Superman groups like the Portland-based Stand for Children.

In an email to IEA Regional leaders, Audrey Soglin made some promises.

  • The IEA will work with friends to block radical and unproven changes to tenure and seniority rules.
  • The IEA will work with the governor to find common sense solutions that are good for students.

Swanson has said,

“Let’s be clear. We will not tolerate any diminution of collective bargaining rights that are presented under the guise of reform.”

Soglin, quoting from Capitol Fax:

Swanson said that his first order of business would be moving the reform issue “off the front burner” to give legislators time to think things through.

Over the next few days, members of my local will be encouraged to contact the IEA president and offer whatever help they can to support the leadership’s efforts.

Our members will also ask that the state leadership keep their promises.