Archives for category: Emanuel, Rahm

Mike Klonsky writes about the public schools that were closed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel (recently appointed as Ambassador to Japan). Emanuel ordered the closure of 50 schools in one day, something never done before by anyone. The reason given was “underutilization.”

Now, in the midst of the pandemic, Chicago public schools are overcrowded.

Klonsky writes:

Back in 2016, there was a plan to turn Dett into a center for women and girls or an artist incubator but potential buyers for the building backed out. So CPS was stuck with it. Neighborhood students were instead assigned to nearby Herbert or enrolled in charter schools.

Today students are back in school in Chicago with classrooms packed to overcapacity. Many schools are overcrowded with some kindergarten classrooms stuffed with more than 30 children, a horrifying thought in the middle of this deadly pandemic when there’s not yet a vaccine available for young children.

The lack of available classroom space forced the board to roll back its distancing requirement from six feet to three feet “wherever possible” with unmasked kids often eating together, shoulder-to-shoulder in school lunchrooms. In the high schools, we’re seeing images of students, many unvaxed, packed together in crowded hallways between classes.

I can’t even imagine being a short-handed teacher, trying to keep up with 32 or so kinders, keeping them masked and at least three feet apart, all the while trying to do some great teaching. And yet, like so many heroic doctors, nurses, and front-line medical staff, teachers are giving it their best shots. But I doubt this mode is sustainable.

CPS is operating in crisis mode in a churning sea of divisive state politics, racial segregation and inequities, all exacerbated by the resurgent Delta variant.

Schooling in a pandemic and preparation for post-pandemic schooling offers a chance for school planners and educators to take a more holistic approach and to try and undo the damage done by the mass closing of schools a decade ago.
The idea that we still have boarded-up school buildings and schools in some neighborhoods with excess classroom space, while in others, students are dangerously jammed together, is mind-boggling.

Now that Joe Biden is assured the Democratic nomination, lots of advisors will clamor to get his ear. As Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect warns, he should be careful about from whom he takes advice. If he cares about rebuilding America’s public schools, he should avoid anyone connected to Race to the Top, which was a hyper-version of George W. Bush’ failed No Child Left Behind. He should certainly avoid a Rahm Emanuel, not only because of his role in covering up the police murder of Laquan MacDonald, but because of his disastrous stewardship of Chicago’s public schools. It is rumored that Rahm wants to be Secretary of Education. Heaven forbid.

Biden: The 21st-Century FDR?

Joe Biden and his campaign are waging a determined campaign to demonstrate he knows that a page has been turned—that the restorative, incremental presidency he promised as a primary candidate is no longer capable of dealing with the crises the nation now encounters. I expect Biden will soon be quoting Lincoln’s annual message to Congress of 1862:

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.

As The Washington Post reports, however, the president who Biden now hopes to model himself on isn’t so much Lincoln as it is Franklin Roosevelt—specifically, the FDR who tilted public policy in favor of workers and a more and better managed capitalism.

But as my colleagues Bob Kuttner and Dave Dayen have pointed out, some of the eminences now advising Biden are architects of that “quiet past [which is completely] inadequate to the stormy present”—in particular, Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. At the same time, Biden has set up policy committees that include left leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and is communicating somewhat regularly with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Which group will have the louder voice in a Biden administration will determine just how transformative—or ineffectually ancient-regime-esque—his presidency could be.

On this question, the history of Roosevelt’s presidency affords us some lessons. In FDR’s first year in office, one of his most important lieutenants was conservative Lewis Douglas, who made sure FDR’s budget was as close to balanced as possible, even as unemployment reached 25 percent of the workforce. Eventually, Douglas’s un-Keynesian counsels of austerity were overridden by liberal FDR lieutenant Harry Hopkins, who saw the need for and persuaded Roosevelt to establish a massive public-jobs program. Liberals like Hopkins, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, and White House aide Tommy Corcoran held sway until 1937, when Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau persuaded FDR to balance the budget again—triggering a huge and swift rise in the unemployment rate that the administration had until then been steadily reducing, thereby ending the New Deal’s string of systemic reforms.

If Biden is serious about initiating the huge economic reforms and the economic recovery the country so manifestly needs, not to mention the reforms required to move us toward more actual, more lived racial equality, he’ll need to rely on advisers who aren’t the 21st-century versions of Douglas and Morgenthau—who aren’t, in short, Summers and Emanuel. He shouldn’t take my word for it; he should ask what would Roosevelt and Lincoln do?


The Network for Public Education has sponsored a series of weekly ZOOM conversations in which I interview someone who has important things to say.

On Wednesday, I interviewed Jitu Brown, a prominent community organizer in Chicago and leader of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has organizations in thirty cities.

When we set up the discussion, we thought we would talk mostly about privatization and Jitu Brown’s successful fight to save the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago. Jitu Brown is one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, for his success in stopping Rahm Emanuel from closing Dyett.

These topics were discussed but the main focus was on the murder of George Floyd and racism in America. Jitu Brown has quite a lot to say about racism, in large part because of his experiences. We also talked about a Rahm Emanuel, and his disastrous role in running the public schools as mayor of Chicago.

Listeners said it was a “riveting” conversation.

Listen and see for yourself.

Next week, I will talk with Amy Frogge, a great leader of the resistance to privatization in Metro Nashville. She is a member of the Metro Nashville public school board, as well as a parent of public school students and a lawyer.

She too is a hero of SLAYING GOLIATH for her leadership in defending public schools.

We will talk about “The Fight for Better Public Schools in Tennessee.” The billionaires and their puppet organizations have poured many millions into school board races in an effort to capture control of the district. Amy has fought valiantly against proponents of charters and vouchers.

This is a battle that is being played out in urban districts across the nation.

Join us on Zoom on June 10 at 7:30 pm, EST.

Community organizer Jitu Brown and I will be in conversation on Wednesday June 3 at 7:30 pm EST.

Please sign up and join us.

Jitu Brown is the leader of Journey for Justice, a civil rights organization with chapters in 25 cities.

We will talk about the murder of George Floyd, about racism in America today, about the legacy of Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, about Jitu’s fight to prevent the closing of the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago, and much more.

Robert Kuttner is editor of The American Prospect. Here he writes that Biden has asked Rahm Emanuel to advise him. What Kuttner fails to mention is Rahm’s disastrous control of the Chicago public schools. He should be forever stigmatized by his decision to close 50 public schools in a single day. He was continually at war with the Chicago Teachers Union. To know him, if you value public schools, is to loathe him.

Kuttner writes:

MAY 29, 2020

Kuttner on TAP

Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Rahm Emanuel?? Just when you thought that Team Biden couldn’t get any worse than Larry Summers, we now learn courtesy of the Chicago Tribune that Clinton and Obama alum Rahm Emanuel is a Biden adviser.

A quick refresher (or maybe emetic) on Emanuel. He began as a staffer in the Clinton White House where he helped push through NAFTA, then went to Wall Street to make his fortune (he made $16 million in less than three years). From there, he got elected to Congress where he epitomized everything bad about the revolving door.

As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he arranged to load up the House Financial Services Committee with Wall Street Democrats who sought the prized seat to raise lots of Wall Street money and protect Wall Street’s financial interests. This made the job of Chairman Barney Frank much harder when Congress was working on what became the Dodd-Frank Act.

Obama, looking for someone who knew Congress, selected Emanuel as his White House chief of staff, where he was a force for lowballing recovery outlays. He tried to talk Obama out of proposing the Affordable Care Act.

After exiting the White House, he got elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, where his approval ratings dropped to 18 percent following the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the city’s bungled attempt to withhold evidence. Emanuel initially announced for a third term, but pulled out. He then joined the private equity firm Centerview Partners.

Just the guy to advise Biden. Though events are conspiring to push Biden to the left, his default setting is to reach out to the old boys of the Obama years.

Meanwhile, polls show that Elizabeth Warren is the possible running mate most likely to help Biden get elected. The two have been doing a public mating ritual, but the Wall Street Democrats close to Biden will do everything possible to keep her from being named.

If by some miracle Warren is selected, it will be trench warfare, with Wall Street Dems demanding one of their kind for the power posts of Fed Chair, Treasury Secretary, and head of the National Economic Council to balance Warren.

Rahm Emanuel! A good thing that Andrew Mellon is dead and Bernie Madoff is indisposed.

Craig’s Chicago Business acknowledges that the children in Chicago public schools need what the Chicago Teachers Union won in their contract negotiations. But still, they wonder, are taxpayers willing to pay the price? 

Now that financial details of the pact are starting to trickle out, it’s clear that the mayor was telling the truth—that is, for the teachers. And that truth raises a very significant question of whether the unprecedented, potentially $1.5 billion mayoral bet will be worth the cost to already struggling Chicago taxpayers.

That $1.5 billion figure comes from the Chicago Public Schools’ budget office. It’s at the high range of what officials say the new CTU deal will cost over the next five years cumulatively…

“The union won the strike. They absolutely won,” says Paul Vallas, a former CPS CEO who was one of Lightfoot’s rivals in the February mayoral election. “It’s going to be impossible for them to come up with that much dough without major tax increases if (Gov. J.B.) Pritzker does not fully fund the state’s new school-aid formula.”

Pritzker is working on that. But as Vallas noted, doing so likely depends on voters next year enacting the governor’s proposed graduated income tax amendment, and that’s no sure thing.

Overall, there is little dissent that putting increased staff resources into particularly needy schools—as the contract requires—is the right thing to do. Eventually, that should result in higher graduation rates and kids better prepared to enter the job market.

It is always good to get Vallas’ views, since he privatized schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans as his budget solution and ran unsuccessfully for mayor, governor, and lieutenant governor.

Are the voters in Illinois willing to pay higher taxes to improve conditions of learning, to assure smaller class sizes, and to get better prepared youth?

The Chicago teachers’ strike represents a change in Chicago, for sure. The harsh policies of Daley, Duncan, and Emanuel are over. A new day has dawned, with national implications.

It’s a definitive shift in the entire landscape, not just in Chicago, but throughout the U.S., away from privatization, school closures, charter schools, and the kind of Koch Brother-funding of private schools instead of public schools, a threat we’ve been fending off for the last 30 years,” said Jackson Potter, a high school teacher and union bargaining member in Chicago.

Potter continued, “This contract really represents advances—and not just trying to preserve what we had or prevent the annihilation of the public system—but how to expand it, fortify it, and have a considerable [investment] in low income students of color and their communities that starts to look more [like] what we see in wealthy white suburbs.”

The contract dealt a blow to the charter industry, with “hard caps on charter school expansion and enrollment growth.” The rightwing Heartland Institute called the settlement “a death blow to charter schools in the Windy City.”

Alas, the sustained efforts of the Disrupters foiled by one powerful teachers’ strike, joined by Chicago’s progressive new mayor!  Their policies of austerity and privatization undone. Calling the world’s smallest violin.

Thanks to the invaluable organization “In the Public Interest” for assembling these sources in one place.


Jitu Brown is a son of Chicago. He is National director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has affiliates in 30 cities, where they work for social justice.

Jitu was the driving force behind the community effort to save Dyett High school  in Chicago, the last open admission high school in Bronzeville. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had decided to close Dyett, and Jitu organized a campaign to save Dyett. He led a 34-day hunger strike, and eventually Rahm gave up and instead of closing Dyett, he invested $16 million into renovating it as a school for the arts.

Listen to Jitu here, where he is videotaped by videographer Bob Greenberg. Greenberg has created an archive of hundreds of interviews with educators. He is a retired teacher.

In this video, Jitu Brown describes the two teachers who had a profound impact on him and helped him discover his strengths.

In this video, Jitu Brown recites Claude Mckay’s “If We Must Die.”

Jitu belongs on the Honor Roll of this blog.

Jitu Brown is a hero of the Resistance. He is also a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

He is featured in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH.


Mike Klonsky just posted this as he was leaving to bring coffee and donuts to striking teachers, including his daughter.

I hope this strike has a good outcome for both the teachers and the new mayor. She is not Rahm Emanuel. She inherited the debt for Rahm’s two terms of hostility to the city’s public schools and their teachers.

Mike included this quote:

Yesterday, the parent group, Raise Your Hand, issued a statement on the strike which made a lot of sense.

Please remember to be good to each other out there. At the end of this contract negotiation, we are all parts of school communities that are part of a larger community, the Chicago Public Schools. Our children need all of us working together.



Jan Resseger reviews fifteen years of corporate education reform led by Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel and finds failure, disruption, and racism.

It started in 2004 when Arne launched his Renaissance 2010 initiative, pledging to close 100 “failing schools” and replace them, in large part with charter schools. Rahm continued it by closing 49 schools on a single day.

Resseger relies on the brilliant analysis of the school closings by Eve Ewing, where she showed the pain inflicted on black families and communities by the closings.

Corporate school reform in Chicago, while claiming to be neutral and based on data, has always operated with racist implications. Ewing provides the numbers: “Of the students who would be affected by the closures, 88 percent were black; 90 percent of the schools were majority black, and 71 percent had mostly black teachers—a big deal in a country where 84 percent of public school teachers are white.”(Ghosts in the Schoolyard, p. 5).

Resseger then turns to a new study by Stephanie Farmer of Roosevelt University, which found that the city’s school-based budgeting disadvantaged the poorest schools, where black children were concentrated.

A new report from Roosevelt University sociologist, Stephanie Farmer now documents that Student Based Budgeting Concentrates Low Budget Schools in Chicago’s Black Neighborhoods.

Farmer explains: “In 2014, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) adopted a system-wide Student Based Budgeting model for determining individual school budgets… Our findings show that CPS’ putatively color-blind Student Based Budgeting reproduces racial inequality by concentrating low-budget public schools almost exclusively in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods…  Since the 1990s, the Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) has adopted various reforms to make Chicago Public Schools work more like a business than a public good.  CBOE’s school choice reform of the early 2000s created a marketplace of schools by closing neighborhood public schools to make way for new types of schools, many of which were privatized charter schools.”

There is a rumor in Washington that Rahm wants to be Secretary of Education in the next Democratic Administration. Nothing in his record qualifies him for the job. He failed. Arne Duncan failed. The nation is living  with the consequences of their failed ideas, which were inherited from George W. Bush, Rod Paige, Sandy Kreisler, and Margaret Spellings.


If you live anywhere near Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, I hope you will join me to hear Eve Ewing speak on October 17 at Jewett Arts Center at 7:30 pm.

She is speaking in an annual lecture series that I established a few years ago to bring some of the most important voices in education today to the campus.

Eve Ewing is one of them.

Ewing is an amazing woman who wrote a fabulous book called Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side.

I reviewed the book here.

She was teaching in one of the 49 schools that Rahm Emanuel closed on a single day, an incredibly cruel, arrogant, and heartless act.

She then went on to earn her doctorate and is now a college professor.

The media writes about “failing schools” in Chicago, but Ewing understands that schools are part of a community’s historic identity. Her writing captures the pain that people feel when their identity is torn away from them by  politicians and faceless bureaucrats.

If you can read The New York Times online, you will enjoy this article about Ewing. 

Some excerpts:

Dr. Ewing, 32, can be a hard woman to slow down, keep track of, or sum up. To keep it simple, you could just say she’s a sociologist at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration…

But that would leave out the seemingly million other things she is doing.

In the past year, she has also published an acclaimed book of poetry; collaborated on a play about the poet Gwendolyn Brooks; and co-hosted the Chicago Poetry Block Party, a community festival she helped create. She also sold a middle-grade novel, coming in 2020; signed up as a consulting producer on W. Kamau Bell’s CNN series, “United Shades of America”; and began hosting a new podcast, “Bughouse Square,” inspired by the archives of another Chicago gadfly, Studs Terkel.

And then there’s her gig with Marvel Comics. In August, Dr. Ewing caused minor pandemonium on the internet when she announced that she had been hired to write “Ironheart,” the first solo title featuring its character Riri Williams, black girl genius from Chicago.

It’s tempting to see Dr. Ewing, who holds a doctorate from Harvard, as a real-life, grown-up version of Riri, a prodigy who builds her own Iron Man suit in her M.I.T. dorm room, without the benefit of Tony Stark’s millions….

Her poetry collection, “Electric Arches,” an Afro-futurist exploration of black girlhood, unfolds against the real and fantastical geography of Chicago, and includes plenty of homespun superpower technology. There are flying bikes, freedom-fighting space invaders, and,“The Device,” a machine created by “a hive mind of black nerds” that allows communication with the ancestors. (Publishers Weekly called it “a stunning debut.”)

In “Ghosts in the Schoolyard,” published by the University of Chicago Press, Dr. Ewing uses the more staid tools of social science to dive deep into one of the most contentious episodes in the city’s recent history: the 2013 school closure plan that ultimately resulted in the shuttering of 49 public schools, most of them in African-American neighborhoods.

It’s a scholarly book, and also an unabashedly personal one. It focuses on Bronzeville, the storied African-American neighborhood on the South Side, where Dr. Ewing, as she notes in an impassioned introduction, taught middle school for three years after graduating from the University of Chicago.

She looks at the history of discriminatory housing and education policies that gave rise to intensely segregated, unequal, often overcrowded schools, which then suffered steeply declining enrollments after the public housing towers that once dominated the neighborhood were demolished.

I am excited to meet Eve Ewing. She is one of the heroes of the Resistance in my new book Slaying Goliath.  Because of her book, Rahm Emanuel will be remembered not as a “reformer” but as a disrupter who cruelly destroyed schools, communities, and the lives of children and families. Eve Ewing gets the last word.

Come to Wellesley on October 17 to hear her speak.

You will be glad you did.