Archives for category: Chicago

Education activist Mike Klonsky reminds everyone that what Karen Lewis wanted most was to drive Rahm Emanuel out of power. Her friends must now unite to realize her goal.

He brings news of a new study by Myron Orfield showing that charters in Chicago are intensifying segregation.

And he reminds us that Arne Duncan supported Indiana’s Tea Party Governor Mitch Daniels. Add him to a long list of anti-public school figures that Arne has praised, including John White in Louisiana and Hanna Skandera in Néw Mexico.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis underwent five hours of surgery for removal of a brain tumor.

Those of us who admire her, love her, and are inspired by her will continue to pray for her complete recovery. We need her.

Kisses to you, Karen, from your friends.

Teachers and educators across the nation are sending love and concern and whatever good things they can think of to our beloved Karen Lewis.


Here is a post from Jersey Jazzman, cross-posted on Blue Jersey, a Jersey-focused blog. I was searching on the web for a picture of the two of us together, Karen and I, when I came across this short post. Karen invited me to speak to the Chicago Teachers Union. She did that a few times, and I always came to Chicago when Karen invited me. It usually meant that I would get to spend time with some of her superb young community organizers, the men and women who built a solid base of support for teachers and public education among parents and communities.

Journey for Justice, led by Jitu Brown of Chicago, has filed complaints with the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, on behalf of children and parents in Newark, Chicago, and New Orleans, claiming that they are victims of discrimination.


Their children, parents say, are the victims of reformers. Maybe they mean well, but the results for the children have been disastrous.


Far from being “leaders of the civil rights issue of our time,” as the reformers assert, the reformers are violating the rights of black and brown children.


Jitu Brown, founder of the Journey for Justice, is a spokesperson for the angry parents of these cities. He says “reform” is actually “a hustle.”


Brown, a lifelong Chicago resident who has been working with inner-city schools and neighborhood organizations since 1991, says that school choice has really just been an excuse for politicians to sack neighborhood schools and funnel government money to charter operators, which operate schools that on average take just 64 percent of the money that their district counterparts take.
Brown points to a number of examples in which, he says, Chicago Public Schools intentionally sabotaged successful schools in an effort to prop up charters, using tactics like offering laptops and iPads to lure high-performing students out of traditional public schools and into charters.
“These people are almost like drug dealers and the children are the narcotics, and they flip ’em until they’re able to finally make enough profit,” he says. “That’s how drug dealers work. It’s no different. It’s really no different.”
A report from the Chicago Teachers Union (pdf) released last year detailed how Simon Guggenheim Elementary School in West Englewood was set up for failure, while Jacob Beidler Elementary School, in East Garfield Park, was set up for success. The two schools have similar percentages of low-income students, and both are in communities facing high rates of violence, but Guggenheim, the report says, was denied resources in order to destabilize the environment.
Brown alleges that Chicago Public Schools has done this on several other occasions, citing examples like Beethoven Elementary on the city’s South Side. Once a high-performing school in a poor community, it was inundated over a number of years with students from closed schools in different neighborhoods around the city that ultimately dragged the school’s test scores down to a level where it is now failing.
“[The school district has] been closing schools in this neighborhood since 1998 as they’ve been trying to gentrify the area,” he says. “Those closings accelerated around 2004. We realized that it wasn’t really about school improvement; it was about freeing up that public area for the incoming gentry….”


“In Newark, students and their parents in the city’s South Ward boycotted the first day of school to protest One Newark, the school-choice enrollment plan that moved some children far from their neighborhood schools. Weeks later, hundreds of high school students walked out of class in protest.
“More than a month after school started, some parents say that hundreds of children still have not been assigned a school, and frustrations over transportation issues, uncertainty about where to send their children and dissatisfaction over closed neighborhood schools have led to many more not showing up for class.
“For me, as a parent, I know that my children deserve better,” says Sharon Smith, a mother with three children in Newark schools. “And not because they’re just mine, but because every child deserves the best opportunity that they can receive with education. But that’s not happening here. The parents here are stuck with whatever decision the district makes.”
Smith and other critics have chided One Newark on behalf of families without cars, who, she says, sometimes have to put children on two buses to get them to school. The plan doesn’t provide wholesale transportation, and many charter schools don’t offer it.
Zuckerberg’s $100 million matched donation has vanished, mostly into pockets of contractors and consultants and given to teachers unions as back pay. As Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, famously remarked in a New Yorker story about the debacle, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”



Mike Klonsky documents the disastrous history of school reform in Chicago. It started when Secretary of Education Bill Bennett came to town and said Chicago’s schools were the worst in the nation. One reform followed another: Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel….and a legacy of failure.

Rahm closed more public schools than any public official in history (not counting Hurricane Katrina). he loves to turn neighborhood high schools into selective-admission schools. This promotes gentrification and disperses the neighborhood kids. His current plan is to do this to Hancock High School:

“It’s Rahm’s fascination with selective-enrollment schools as a driver of neighborhood gentrification. In this case it’s his plan to turn around Hancock High School on Southwest Side, which now is home to mostly poor Hispanic students, by getting rid of all the teachers and students and calling it a selective-enrollment school. The school will no longer guarantee any of its seats to neighborhood children, about 95% of whom are Hispanic and 97% low-income, according to CPS.”

Yes, this will “turnaround” Hancock by getting rid of the students.

Mike Klonsky said some harsh things about SEIU Local 73 President Christine Boardman. She didn’t like what he wrote. She sent him a letter demanding a retraction or expect to get sued. So he reviewed what he wrote and retracted some things. If you are a blogger, and your blog is not supported by Walton or Broad or Gates, you don’t really want to fight a lawsuit, especially when the other side has an in-house lawyer.

But Mike did not retract everything he wrote. Want to know where he drew the line? Read his blog.

Mike Klonsky reports on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest faux pas. Rahm is opening another selective enrollment high school –in upscale Lincoln Park–while leaving less fortunate neighborhoods without a public high school. He decided to name the $60 million high school for President Obama, but the President’s team didn’t like that idea.

“Rahm’s dream of a two-tiered public school system — one tier for gentrifying neighborhoods and one for the rest of us — is turning into a political nightmare.

“The mayor has once again gotten himself into deep doo-doo with Obama’s people over the naming of another proposed expensive, new selective-enrollment high school for Lincoln Park. As I pointed out last week, Rahm thought that naming the school after the president would help mend his election campaign fences, both with Obama’s people who dislike him and with black voters still irate over his notorious mass school closings.

“But the response from White House staffers was quick and to the point. Valerie Jarrett reportedly told Rahm in no uncertain terms — don’t drag Obama’s name into your mess. He’s got enough problems of his own. And just like that, Rahm walked it back.”

As I write, community activists in Chicago are demanding that Mayor Emanuel allow Dyett High School to remain open.


The local community is fighting for the school. They want it to be a school dedicated to global leadership and green technology. Only 13 students remain in the school. They remain as a symbol that the community will not give up. They will not abandon a high school that they cherish. They do not want it to be closed.


Mike Klonsky gives some background here.


Please call the mayor’s office. Tell them to restore Dyett High School as a treasure that belongs to the community, not as a place to be shuttered by the mayor.


Jitu Brown of Journey for Justice–and a new member of the board of the Network for Public Education–sent this appeal today:


Brothers and Sisters,


You may know that the Bronzeville community has waged a protracted battle for saving Dyett High School on the south side of Chicago. Students, parents and community residents are rallying at city hall at 4pm CST today, demanding support for the Dyett 13 (the remaining students who are taking art, physical ed as online classes) and support for Dyett to stay open as global leadership and green technology high school (the community’s plan). We have been disrespected, under served and ignored so today…we are taking arrests and we need your support. Starting at 3pm CST, please call Mayor Rahm Emanuel office at (312)744-5000 and Deputy Mayor Ken Bennett at (312)399-5370 and tell him this:


1. Shame on you. Parents and community should not have to go through this to have voice in their PUBLIC schools.
2. Get resources like a gym teacher and ACT prep to Dyett students NOW.
3. CPS sabotaged Dyett hs. Support the community plan for Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology H.S. NOW! We want a signed commitment from the Mayor, Barbara Byrd Bennett and David Vitale to support our planning and implementation process. NOW!
4. Dyett community must be treated with dignity and respect. If they are arrested, do not harm them! The nation is watching!
Go to twitter and Facebook today with #Dyett13 and #SaveDyettHS. Let @RahmEmanuel know that the world is watching.

Mike Klonsky reports on the deal that preceded the privatization of the jobs of custodians in Chicago. It’s a shocker.

“It was SEIU Local 73 leader Christine Boardman who first signed onto Rahm’s $340 million sub-contracting deal with Aramark and SodexoMagic (magic, my ass) in the first place. These two contracts combined make it one of the largest privatization moves of any school district in the nation. Under the agreements, SodexoMAGIC oversees 33 schools, while Aramark oversees the remaining 500-some district-run schools.

“Boardman then put icing on her sell-out with a $25,000 contribution to Rahm’s campaign war chest. Ugh! She’s dirtier than a a CPS bathroom.

“But what about progressive SEIU Local 1 Pres. Tom Balanoff? Why so quiet, Tom?”

The privatization has produced dirty schools, rats, roaches, and the layoff of nearly 500 custodians.

Rahm Emanuel wants to privatize public education as much and as fast as he can. Aside from closing down 50 schools in one fell swoop, the mayor privatized custodial services to two companies for $340 million over three years, promising cleaner schools and cost savings.

But, as reported by Catalyst, a respected journal that covers education in Chicago, principals complain that their schools are filthy and rodent-infested. The corporations have promised to improve.

Sarah Karp of Catalyst wrote, in an article titled “Dirty Schools Now the Norm Since Privatizing Custodians: Principals”:

“The $340 million privatization of the district’s custodial services has led to filthier buildings and fewer custodians, while forcing principals to take time away from instruction to make sure that their school is clean.

“That is the finding from a survey done by AAPPLE, the new activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.”

The leader of AAPPLE, principal Troy LaRiviere, is an outspoken defender of Chicago’s public schools and its students.

Valerie Strauss summarizes responses from principals to the new arrangement:

“Principals reported serious problems with rodents, roaches and other bugs, filthy floors, overflowing garbage bins, filthy toilets, missing supplies such as toilet paper and soap, and broken furniture — issues they said they didn’t have before. Now, many said, they spend a lot of time trying to clean their buildings.”

One of the companies, Aramark, announced recently that it would lay off 476 custodians, 20% of the custodial workforce. This may improve its profits but is likely to worsen its services.


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