Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Is Going On In These Schools?

Sorry--- I'm supposed to be offline but I heard about this post about a Gulen school in Ohio. There's a lot to digest there but the testing irregularities alone are alarming. This is the same organization running the Madigan-Gulen Chicago network.

Now I'm unplugging the router again. Back to Mark Twain.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

UNO Webinar, Charter Forum: Chicago Ed Policy in January

I'll be "off the grid" for the next few days, to use a tired expression. This was supposed to be the vacation where I read The Autobiography of Mark Twain. Instead, I've been immersed in Turkish history, including Balci's luminous discussion of the Nurcu movement in Central Asia. It's all very interesting but I have a feeling I'll get enough of this topic in January.

Speaking of January, don't forget about these two spectacular ed policy events being co-hosted by RPNPS. The first is a webinar on January 9, at 7 PM.  Byron Sigcho will present his comprehensive review of the UNO financial and pedagogical model, updated with the latest developments. Just because UNO is laying low doesn't mean they're going away--- their whole financial model depends on building, building, and more building.  It's a really, really interesting topic. Register for the UNO webinar here.  It's free.

Then on January 14, 2014, we'll be co-hosting (with many of Chicago's finest community groups) a forum on the impact of charter expansion in Chicago. Remember, we're living in a city where they just closed down 50 schools for "underutilization," where the CEO goes on at length about a budget crisis, and yet their plan is to open as many as 31 new charter schools in the next two years.

In a functioning democracy, these people would be recalled and indicted for malfeasance. It's as if the entire ruling class of a major city has lost its mind.

This will be an excellent forum; we'll provide summaries of the latest research on charter schools, as well as detailed description of how each and every one of these schools reduces the funding/programming available at neighborhood schools. And some of these charters --- the ones approved by the ALEC-designed, undemocratic, and bizarrely funded state charter commission-- take a much bigger chunk than others. Then we'll make an action plan for the future.

There is no registration! Come as you are.  January 14, 6:30 PM at Shields Middle School,  2611 W. 48th Street, Chicago.

Many people around the city and around the world already know that we're also going to be moving forward in January with extensive work on the Gulen issue; I can only advise you to stay tuned for more information. Meanwhile, review the Sun-Times piece, do some research, bring yourself up to speed, and brace yourself for a tsunami of disinformation coming from the Movement. 

And now, I'm unplugging the router. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Phone Call That Won't Be Happening Any Time Soon

I've been getting some chuckles for wishing in the previous post that Arne Duncan would get on the phone and try to reel in the growing influence of Fethullah Gulen and his followers in the American public charter school sector.

It is kind of funny, I grant you.

The Movement has a gift for cultivating US politicians--- the various network organizations festoon these people with awards, and it works. Check out the 2007 Niagara Foundation Awards here in Chicago. Basically if you're in public life in Illinois, you're going to get an award from Fethullah Gulen sooner or later. You're also going to be recording a PR segment at one of the schools.  This is no small-time operation. Arne Duncan gets an award in the clip below, along with other local luminaries, including Chicago's then top cop, which gives me pause..

Note: this video is produced by ebrutv, and yes, it's a Movement production house. As of this instant there's a embed code available and no visible copyright restrictions.

Arne Duncan is no sooner going to get on the phone than I'm going see a forensic audit of the $518, 214.00 that Concept Schools, Inc. picked up in management fees in 2011 from CMSA alone.

None of this is easy to piece together without some background reading. Can I suggest this, for starters?

What This Gulen Mess Is Really About

Update: The video referred to below--- the fire on your houses speech--- has disappeared, as I knew it would.  I haven't been able to track down who originally posted it---whether it was a Gulenist outlet or not. If it was a Gulenist outlet, they've been told to take it down. If it was someone else, they got hit with a Youtube copyright strike. I could probably find another posting of it, but I took the precaution of downloading the original for future reference. 

It's a familiar pattern. Gulen says something; it goes out on Youtube. Then word of it spreads beyond the Movement, and suddenly the video is gone. What goes on in the Movement stays in the Movement. 

It's out there, the video. People will upload it until they're told to take it down. I have it, if you want to see it. I'm going to say very bluntly that from my point of view it's bizarre, and I don't blame the Gulenist PR operation for shutting it down. If the company line is now that all of these people are simply "inspired" by this one individual, then it would be important to minimize the bizarre public appearances of this one individual. All very much in keeping with the whole secrecy thing, too. 

The point I'd like to make is that we have a worldwide social-religious-nationalist movement here where you're not allowed to see the Leader speak unless you're already in the Movement. The great scholar Joshua Hendricks would say that this type of secrecy-above-all-else strategy doesn't compute "culturally" in the US, and I agree. 

Except that I'd go further: it's sketchy. It's suspicious. And it's weirdly inept.  They're going to need to come to terms with the fact that this long tradition of secrecy not only doesn't compute culturally, it doesn't add up at all. 

For worldwide coverage of the unfolding drama overseas, see this, this, this, and this.  It's a hot mess, to put it plainly.

I don't question anyone's right to be an actor in the unfolding Turkish drama or to advocate positions about the nature of the modern Turkish state, including the religious character of the government.

I don't question anyone's right to religious beliefs or anyone's freedom to associate with others.

All of these things are fine. And the US certainly has a long, long history of meddling in foreign affairs and trying to determine the outcome of this crisis, or that election, or the long-term consequences of various invasions and conquests.

What's different about this is that somehow American public schools got drawn into it.

Back in the old days, when we were trying to impact the outcome of a foreign civil war, we'd sell missiles to Iran and divert the cash to some really, really violent people in Central America, and then the President would just basically lie about it and everyone would forget.

These days the commodity is the ownership of public schools. And people can't even focus on it because they've been conditioned to feel that there's this existential crisis caused by urban school teachers.

I have no doubt that Fethullah Gulen is living in the United States because the US has taken a position in the Turkish drama. Somewhere, somehow, the people pulling the strings have decided that there's a strategic advantage to the man's presence here.

I just wonder if they knew that his peeps would leap into the great unsupervised abyss of the American public charter school sector and take advantage of the huge opportunities for scandal that exist there. Did that behavior get green-lighted in a meeting? Or did it come as a surprise?

Could anyone even stop it now?

Could Arne Duncan call up Fethullah Gulen tomorrow-- and then hand the phone over to someone with some actual knowledge and an authoritative edge in his voice, and have that person explain to the preacher/tycoon that he's gone too far?

I doubt it.  Our Turkish guest has more juice in Washington than Arne Duncan has ever or will ever have anywhere.

The thing is melting down, and it won't end well.

Gulen posted a video on his website accusing the government of ignoring real issues. "Those who don't see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don't see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people then may God bring fire to their houses," he said in the video.
It's a cluster. You should see some of the parody videos. I won't link tonight to them because I've already heard from the Movement about copyright. There's a time and a place for everything.

In my experience, when the ally you've favored in a foreign conflict starts talking about God bringing fire into his enemies' houses, well, things are about to go south.

Secrecy, evasions, lies, "strategic ambiguity"---if you study it long enough you learn that these phenomena are considered to be virtues if employed in the service of the larger goal of the Movement.

It's just that they're incompatible with and wholly new to the long history of elected governance of our public schools. Corruption is sort of built in to the wild west that is the charter movement, unfortunately.  It's a movement that would do well to call for more oversight, more sunlight, in every respect.

If I were an actor in a foreign conflict, and I needed an unregulated network and guaranteed income, I would for sure open an American charter school management organization and then expand.

I have no opinion about what kind of nation Turkey should be. I wish them peace and prosperity and democracy and good health.

But I wish Arne could make that call.

NOTE: As for CMSA and Concept specifically, well that's also about local corruption,  overhyped schools, and a financial model that puts taxpayers on the hook for extravagant financing. It's similar the UNO model, where the thing has to keep growing to pay off earlier loans. It's our little gift of love and compassion to taxpayers of the future. And one more thing: it's about the sheer number of Illinois politicians who can't even Google someone's name for ten seconds before getting on a plane for a junket.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Read The Whole Thing!

Because of the way the Sun-Times posted Dan Mihalopoulos' story, some people might not read all three parts, but I highly recommend the whole thing.

The main story about the Madigan - Charter Commission link, a deal greased by the Gulenists with "generous" travel, including junkets for many marquee (for Illinois) names in the Democratic Party.  Also Joe Moore, who has two of the really fabulously corrupt charter organizations (UNO and Concept) in his ward due to his basic weakness, in my opinion. 

The travel record. This only includes the state lawmakers. I'm not surprised to see Elaine Nekritz in there but I was surprised to see Linda Chapa LaVia, who has come to her senses regarding the charter commission and should be supported. The Gulenists are basically running an indoctrination travel agency for Illinois Democrats. 

The link-list, where Dan goes dot-to-dot with all of these people who've never heard of Fethullah Gulen and don't know each other haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about, and you must be crazy! [NOTE: sarcasm]

I also recommend this excellent backgrounder, written by Sharon Higgins, back when this network had only 135 American public schools, but still highly relevant and informative. 

An Addendum To The Concept Story

I'm still absorbing the details of Dan Mihalopolous's riveting expose of Concept. More reaction later. However, I did want to add a detail here to one of the photographs on the photos in the story: this one, and I apologize in advance for borrowing it.

Here Speaker Madigan is shaking hands with a Turkish mayor during Madigan's Gulenist-arranged handling in Turkey.

This mayor, Mustafa Demir, was arrested a few days ago. 

Basically there's a power struggle going on between the Turkish Prime Minister and the Gulenist forces throughout the country, particularly those forces inside the Turkish justice department. This mayor is a casualty of the conflict, as are dozens and dozens of others arrested lately, including journalists.

I'm pointing this out because people need to know that this thing is heating up overseas, and we're funding one side of it whether we like it or not. Mike Madigan's Turkish handlers have used him badly, but predictably, and in my opinion the Speaker needs to chime in on where he stands in the matter of Mayor Demir's civil and human rights. And from there we could just go down a list of people arrested.

More later-- we've had a little vandalism here; I have to go meet with the local gendarmes. Life in Rogers Park...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Concept Schools Have Learned Rahm's Rules

Did you see this Linda Lutton piece about the highly sketchy Concept appearance at the recent CPS faux hearing? Basically they're shipping in random utterly clueless supporters, in keeping with the fake protestors that Rahm's buddies shipped into the school closing hearings two summers ago.

It's a nice catch by Linda Lutton. And nothing says Chicago more than fake protestors being bussed to fake hearings.

I'm going to embed the sound file because it's fabulous, and I love embedding things.

The more I learn about Concept, the more I feel like warning people about them. I know that our alderman is in love with them, but it's a deeply troubling network once you start studying the facts, and these details are going to become more and more apparent over time. I know people are uneasy talking about this issue, but I'm not. Not any more.

Incidentally, one of the reasons you see so little of this group's spiritual leader is that if you dare to post even a moment of one of his sermons on Youtube, the group hits you with copyright claims. Think about that for a moment.  It's happened even to little old me, and I'm certainly not the first.

Of course this makes me more determined than ever to get the word out. Stay tuned on that front.

One of my favorite memories from the Bowmanville meeting during Concept's attempted landing there was the older fellow with the heavy Turkish accent who said, "If I wanted corruption, I would have stayed in my own country." What he was talking about is exactly what we're going to be talking about here in the coming months.

We need to wake up, people. This is about corruption, transparency, and a very unsettling trend in the charter school sector.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Charter Expansion At CPS and The Impact On District Schools

If you think the charters-are-a-panacea noise machine is loud now, it's going to get even louder in January, trust me. Just to inject a little reality-based discussion into the mix, we're having a forum in Brighton Park on January 14, along with our friends and allies around the city.

We'll talk about new research, recap what we know, and make plans for the future. Please come join us.

A Devastating Post on Testing

This pretty much makes me ill.

This testing mania that is sweeping the country, it's a psych experiment that nobody really signed off on. It won't end well for anyone.

I have never once encountered a person I trust with children who advocates this kind of craziness. The only people who cheer these tests on are the charlatans, the craven politicians, and the legions of data people who don't really know anything about building kids up.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Close 50 Neighborhood Schools, Open 21 Charters

From Raise Your Hand, the best listserve around...

CPS has proposals for 21 new charters in next two Years
Following the great underutilization crisis of 2012 where CPS closed 50 district schools, they are now looking at opening 21 charters. 10 have already been approved and will open next fall. The rest will be voted on in January. Why does this matter? CPS is broke and faces another near billion dollar deficit. Operational dollars have to come from somewhere. That would be your traditional school budget, which by the way, the Mayor and CEO Byrd-Bennett, claim have not been hit hard by budget cuts. (See Trib Editorial below). They want to open new charters to offer “school choice,” but school choice apparently doesn’t involve a functioning school budget anymore for many district schools. 

There is a CPS community meeting this Monday 12/16 on all new charter proposals at CPS. Come out and learn about these proposals and sign up to speak if you have concerns about charters siphoning more dollars from your school budget.
If you wan to read any of the proposals for the charters that haven't yet been approved:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Connecting The Dots In Charter Secrecy

Just a little preview of things to come.

Turns out that last night the FBI raided a charter school in East Baton Rouge. It's nothing new for the FBI to raid a charter school and carry out all the records, but I just want to make a point about it in a minute. Here's the report.

Who knows what they're looking for? Test score manipulation? Visa records? Financials? Could be anything.

What's interesting to me is that this charter is pretty open about its relationship to Harmony Schools, a far-flung and in-the-news Gulen operation.

So, what's this got to do with Chicago? Well, it's all the same network, for one thing. The baseline behavior of these basically identical schools is for the management to deny any kind of knowledge of or relationship with the other schools/management organizations.  So, when a Harmony school is raided in Louisiana, that's connected to the same people running schools here.

Check out the 2013-14 welcome letter from the principal ofHorizon (Concept) Science and Math Academy in Chicago.

It's warm, it's welcoming, it's wonderful. It's also basically identical to this 2006 principal's welcome letter from the Harmony Elementary in Austin, Texas.

For people who have no relationship to each other, they seem to like the exact same words and phrasings.

This letter has gotten around, actually. Basically, look at any two Gulen nodes where people have never heard of each other, where they have no relationship to each other, and you'll find they're using this letter or a slightly altered version thereof and have been doing so since 2006.

This is just one little example.

Look, I know. I know that we have to understand the secrecy in the context of modern Turkish history. I've done the reading. And actually, I do get it. I just think that secrecy and misinformation are basically incompatible with the governance of public education here in this country. At least, historically those have been incompatible phenomena with the public trust that education inevitably is.  In this new world we're entering, maybe secrecy's going to be the norm. Won't that be exciting?

Sunlight on the charters! It's my new motto. Might be a good title for a novel, too.

Much more later.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Round-The-Clock Charter Fight

What's it like to live in a place where you don't have to go fight for basic things like schools every night and every weekend?

I don't know. I live here in Chicago.

This from Karen Zaccor:

CPS has set up Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NACs) to review the charter proposals and make recommendations to the CPS Board.  It's important they hear from the public about the impact of new charters on our communities and neighborhood schools.  The Northwest Side NAC is meeting this week:
Wednesday, Dec. 11
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.Northwest Community Church5318 W. Diversey
Please come out and make your voice heard!

Here's a report from a recent NAC.

There's a lot more to be said about this NAC process, but I don't have time right now. Possibly later. It's important for people to attend. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

UNO: Politics and Corruption--- The Webinar

Moving into the post-Rangel era, it's actually more important than ever to talk about the case study in bad ideas that is UNO. For this reason, we're bringing the forum right into your living room on January 9, 2014, from 7PM-8:30PM CST.

Now you can see and participate in the forum that's swept the city over the past couple of month. All you have to do is sign up. Come listen as UIC researcher Byron Sigcho puts the whole thing into perspective. What's UNO's secret sauce?

Politics and Corruption. It might be saucy to say it, but it's no secret.  Come join us. And while you're joining us, stay home!

Or just click here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Another Glossy From The Charter School Up The Street

Today I got another glossy from the Gulen School up the street, Chicago Math and Science Academy.

I suppose if I were in the business of creating "waiting lists" this is exactly how I would do it. The neighborhood school across the street, Sullivan High School, has yet to send me a single glossy in the mail. They haven't even dropped anything over the fence, like CMSA has.

Before I forget to post it, here's the 2011 IRS 990 for CMSA, prepared by the Chicago firm Mirza Baig & Co.

Audits are lovely; you can get some interesting information from audits, and I'm certain that when we spend some time with this audit, we'll have some interesting questions. But make no mistake, this is all you get with a charter school, and in order to find it, you need to be a fairly sophisticated fellow.

Fortunately, I know a few.

Contrast this audit, for a moment, with the wealth of financial information that non-disenfranchised people feel they're entitled to. Here, for example, is Barrington Community Unit School District 220's financial report menu. 

There's so much sunlight there, I almost have to avert my eyes. The good citizens of Barrington seem to feel that they're not only entitled to elect their school board but also to have an accounting for every penny received and every penny spent. It seems that these reports provide the populace with information so valuable that the school board feels compelled to post it on the Web, for everyone to see.

We don't get this kind of sunlight from charter schools, and that's by design. Do you think UNO would have been able to assemble its looming financial catastrophe if adults were allowed to see the books? No.

Same with CMSA. Same with every charter in the city. We need to have laws that open these opaque operations up to public scrutiny, laws like they have in every place where democracy is allowed to flourish. And the fact that these entities are chartered through an equally undemocratic, obscure, appointed committee is simply unacceptable.

Stay tuned. In January, RPNPS will offer a comprehensive, eye-opening series about one of our local charter schools. We've decided to do the work that many of our local journalists seem unwilling or unable to do. In a word: it will blow you away.

Ok, that's five words. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Parents' Message to de Blasio

Here's a video out of NYC, where they have a new mayor coming in, who ran on a pro-school, anti-privatization platform. Someday, we'll get a candidate like that here in Chicago.

As we learned in Leonie Haimson's forum, New York state is running full steam ahead with all of these things that parents want to have a slow-down on: the Common Core, the testing, the inBloom. They have a deeply ingrained ed reform aristocracy there. We have one here; it's small group of very wealthy people who have basically formed a shadow government over public education in Illinois. It's the way things are done now. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Message About Pensions

Have you ever heard the Illinois state song? It's lovely.

This isn't a pension blog, but we do care about fairness and the rule of law around here.

Word Is Spreading About UNO's House of Cards

In a significant breakthrough, La Raza has published a short piece by Antonio Zavala that talks about Byron Sigcho's hold-no-bars public forum series, which we will be repeating this Saturday at the West Belmont Branch Library, at 31004 N. Narragansett, at 1PM.

I've been trying to track UNO coverage, and I can't remember a Spanish language piece about UNO that dares to pull the wool back.  So, we're making a dent.

If you haven't seen the presentation yet, come out the the West Belmont Branch on Saturday. We're taking it to the Archer Heights Branch Library on Monday night, too.

Here's the Google Translate version of the article, and yes, I realize it's imperfect.

Public money is priority ONE

Although studied communications at Northeastern University and worked briefly as an illustrator, Juan Rangel is not an educator by profession.
Yet Rangel is leading a network of 13 charter schools with 6,500 students, most of them Hispanic, and about 400 teachers.
Rangel was released in the beginning of La Villita 90s, while working for Educational Party and then joined the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO).
It was there that he inherited political contacts UNO founder, Danny Solis, an ally of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Thanks to these political contacts, UNO has received millions of dollars from the city and state, while Rangel attacks public schools being overcrowded and lacking in quality.
But an analysis of what happens in schools UNO, performed by Byron Sigcho, University of Illinois at Chicago, shows that education is not the priority of UNO.
Only 45 cents of every dollar received goes to UNO education. So UNO cuts in other areas such as special education and avoids giving computer classes to adults.
Only 25 percent of the nearly 400 UNO teachers are certified to teach. Another 25 percent are students of Teach For America program. The rest of them, 50 percent, are neither educators.
Reportedly ONE gave them to their partners and friends $ 13 million in contracts.Another $ 8.5 million in contracts were awarded to a brother of Michael Scot, while he was vice president of UNO.
And while UNO Hispanic culture uses to promote their schools with names of Mexican writers, students are punished and fined for speaking Spanish. What would this Octavio Paz?
Antonio Zavala is a journalist and works as a correspondent for Reuters in Chicago.Comments or suggestions to

Monday, November 25, 2013

Urban Prep On The March!

Urban Prep has appeal hearings today in three suburban districts; I'm sure none of the people in these communities are aware of these hearings. That's one of the "benefits" of having an obscure, appointed commission empowered to over-rule locally elected school boards!

We need to get rid of the state charter commission. It's an ALEC invention; it's wrong for Illinois. Anyway, looks like Urban Prep has appeals at  a hearing in South Holland for these districts: 150, 133, 154.

Looks like I missed the November 20th hearing, which involved a couple other districts.

Here's the hearing notice.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Leonie Haimson on Data Privacy and inBloom

PURE held an excellent forum Thursday evening with the great Leonie Haimson, who has pretty much single-handedly pushed back the rush to upload and commodify extremely personal and private data on each and every one of the students in our public schools. Parent activists around the country have been able to rally around Leonie's work.

This thing started with nine "partner" states, but is now pretty much just limited to New York and Illinois, which is weird. I mean, you'd expect Illinois to be asleep at the wheel, but it's amazing that New York is still moving full steam ahead, given that Leonie is from NYC.

Her whole presentation is here; it's an excellent overview of a topic about which, in a normal democracy, there would have been hearing after hearing.

By the way, the Illinois Race to the Top districts to which Leonie refers are listed here. I believe the plan is for these districts to pave the way, and then for the rest of the state to follow.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Should SFER Come With a Warning Label?

(This organization may hamper your ability to discuss issues freely; prolonged contact may cause an inability to think critically, creatively and rationally)

A few days ago, another chapter of Students for Education Reform (SFER) disaffiliated from the national organization. According to the Teacher Under Construction blog, students at Loyola University notified SFER of this decision after concluding that SFER lacks transparency and promotes a pro-charter, pro-TFA, and overtly political* agenda. This follows on the heels of the DePaul and University of Chicago SFER chapters taking the same action a few months ago.

You can see the initial appeal of an organization like SFER on a college campus. The idealism that is necessary for aspiring teachers seeks connection. We WANT young people who are dedicated and idealistic and collaborative to become teachers and work to change the system. But we also want them to understand the system--with all its flaws and its potential--which cannot happen if they are simply working off a script, particularly when one of that script's chief authors is the Walton Foundation.

As a Loyola alum and Rogers Park resident, I was particularly grateful to read this news. Loyola students: join your neighbors at a Local School Council meeting, attend a community forum, or come to an RPNPS meeting. We don't always agree but we do welcome differing opinions and we are never on script.


*In their letter, Loyola students refer to the clear Democratic preference of the organization. As a spinoff of DFER, I thought this would have been obvious. At the same time, are Republicans and Democrats even discernible on this issue? We need a multi-partisan, not bi-partisan, dialogue.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Uniform Base of Customers

I've posted this before, but it came up again tonight. Here's Bill Gates talking about the Common Core. It's about opening up markets, plain and simple.

Update From The People's Board

It was a lovely evening last night at the People's School Board meeting, which was held, fittingly, at the People's Church, on Lawrence. The Board convened at 6:00PM, and there were several committee reports. Then there was testimony from parents and teachers around the city about the various phenomena plaguing their schools.  There are people working on the elected school board, on establishing school accountability committees around the city, the coming lsd elections, the debacle at Ames, and a number of other issues.

For me, the were three big moments. First, there was a moment when people acknowledged that we've all been set against each other by the Board's strategy--- it's true; I saw it with my own eyes in Uptown. Another striking moment came when a parent talked about how some of the disciplinary policies in the charter schools were akin to training kids for how to behave in prison. I've also seen that one with my own eyes. And then finally a young man spoke from the heart about what it meant to lose a particular teacher at his school, which was closed in the last round of closings. It was heart-wrenching.

As you know, we're living in an era where personal relationships don't matter in the whole teaching/learning equation because the mantra is that class size doesn't matter and that if you put one effective teacher in front of 60 kids, those kids will be better off.  Nevermind that the elites of our city continue to choose small class sizes for their own children. Nevermind that middle class people choose the same thing when they can. Poor people? Cram 'em in!

When CANtv posts the meeting, I'll link to it.

Let me just say that the People's School Board is an excellent idea. It gives people a chance to run through the kinds of scenarios they will face when the day finally comes in Chicago where we can vote for the school board, like people do in every other school district in the state. And, as I said last night, it's strange to be at a school board meeting where you're not the enemy, subject to being escorted out of the room.

There are just some of the faces from last night; I didn't have time to do much more than this. When I think about what a gift it is to be around such passionate people, I'm just grateful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

You Really Do Need To Go To Some Things

Absolutely critical events coming up, and I bet I'm forgetting a few...

1.  Tuesday, November 19, 2013: Meeting of the (Rogue) State Charter Commission, at the Concept Horizon Gulen Charter School, 2245 W. Pershing, 3-6 PM. We need citizens to attend this meeting and see what this ALEC-inspired, appointed, democracy-wrecking commission is up to. According to the notes online. they're going to be doing something about amending their own bylaws.  Of course, with what's posted online, it's impossible to tell what the new language is, so people really do need to go attend and document the atrocities. Film, if you can.

  Please make yourself conversant about the Chapa LaVia legislation to clip this commission's wings.  Chime in, send supportive messages, and organize.

2 . Tuesday, November 19, 6-8 PM: People's Board Meeting, 941 W. Lawrence. Go testify at the alternative school board--- it's a completely different experience from the appointed/dysfunctional school board.

3.  Thursday, November 21, 6:30  - 8:00 PM, ONE Northside is sponsoring a forum and teach-in (flyer below) about the proposed Passages Charter School in Edgewater. This is a charter high school that has been proposed to poach kids away from Senn, from what I can gather. Go to this meeting!

4.  Thursday, November 21, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM, at Fosco Park, 13th and Racine, Forum on Data Privacy, Sponsored by PURE. Guest speaker, Leonie Haimson. If you don't know about InBloom yet, and you're not aware that Illinois is possibly the only state left that is about to uplift incredibly personal student data into a marketplace for vendors, then you really need to get to this forum.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Declaring An Emergency

If this article is true, then it's time to get on the horn and tell your alderman to support these two Rule 41 maneuvers by Fioretti and Arena.

Fioretti is trying to get the TIFs audited, and the surpluses redistributed. Arena is calling for a citywide referendum on the elected school board.

If you live in a certain far north ward, there's an alderman who's always talking about choice. Well, with Arena's measure, people would get to express their choice on the matter of the elected school board across the city. As you may remember, a few of us walked around and got a similar question on the ballot in certain precincts in the 49th Ward. It passed by almost 90%.

His phone number is 773-338-5796.

Here's what you say: "I'm calling to let Joe know that I support Fioretti on the TIFs, and I support Arena on the Elected School Board ballot question, and I want Joe to support these things, too. There's no reason not to audit the TIFs, and there's no reason to deny the voters the chance to vote on the matter of an elected school board."

Of course, you'll be talking to someone employed by the very man who chose to bury an earlier city council measure that would have given people a chance to vote on whether or not democracy is a good thing.

But you gotta call. I've declared an emergency.

Also, if you haven't signed onto this petition, it only takes a sec.

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Alternative School Board For Chicago

The Peoples' School Board is having its second meeting on November 19th. Please come. The board was set up to serve as an alternative board for the disenfranchised citizens/parents/taxpayers of Chicago, where the official, appointed school board has stiff-armed the population for years.

It's a forum for people to testify about the problems their schools are facing, and to receive advice, acknowledgement, and support. In other words, it's the polar opposite of the actual school board.

I'm paraphrasing Rico Gutstein here--- this Peoples' Board is more than a protest; it's a chance for us to conduct ourselves as would in an actual democracy, to get our sea legs back in terms of being citizens whose votes represent actual democratic accountability.

Please come. Please testify about the problems your school is facing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How Bill Gates Bought CPS

Many, many excellent speakers at last night's Raise Your Hand Town Hall. I'm posting here an extended clip of Valerie Leonard, who gave a comprehensive overview of the Gates Compact, which has been driving public ed policy here for a few years now.

It's not too complicated: the Gates foundation dangled a bunch of money as a contest prize for cities; all the cities had to do was agree to the terms. The terms were all about opening a bunch of charter schools. CPS signed on to it under Brizard, and it appears to me that between the Gates Compact and the Broad playbook for school utilization, what we have is a cadre of two wealthy guys establishing CPS policy.

So, what you can see is that Bill and Melinda Gates have much, much more access to public policy than any registered voter here.  As for CPS leadership and management, their job is to follow orders, which they do well.

Valerie Leonard has been talking about the Gates Compact since it started. Google it. And here she is, with her handout below.

...and the handout.

For a little background,

Here's some 2011 coverage of the signing of the Gates Compact.

Here's some 2012 coverage of CPS losing out on the Gates bribe funding.

Here's Diane Ravitch in 2012 writing very bluntly about the Gates Compact.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Outrage, Outreach in Logan Square

This morning, Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Grassroots Collaborative assembled a room full of activists-- most of them students-- to move forward in the face of the recent mysterious upheaval at Ames, which is either being turned into a military-themed school or not. It’s hard to tell but if WBEZ hadn’t been asking questions, it seems likely that the mayor and Alderman Maldanado would have pulled off the change.

I tagged along with Wendy Katten from Raise Your Hand to support the effort; it was an interesting morning. The group sent thirty teams of door-knockers out into the 26th Ward to raise awareness about the situation at Ames, sign petitions related to the TIF Surplus Ordinance, and register voters. The people were generally supportive.

It seems likely that the group will also pursue an advisory ballot referendum on Ames, which you would think the alderman would support, but I’m not holding my breath.

The students were amazing and avid-- they were certainly ready to go door to door for the cause. I heard the young man in the video above explaining the downside of replacing Ames with a selective enrollment school; he was articulate and passionate. I know there are a lot of apathetic people out there, but the kids in this room gave me a lot of hope.

I understand the Ames LCS is meeting this week and that they’ve invited the alderman.

I doubt we'll ever really know what transpired over the past few days, given that CPS tells a highly Becky Carrollized version of things. It wouldn't surprise me if they end up shutting Ames down as a community school; we live in a city where the mayor's friends pay fake protestors, and buildings get bulldozed under cover of darkness.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

And This Is Just The Next Few Weeks!

The next several weeks are packed full of important events; I thought I'd put them all together here. I'll be at several of these with my camera crew.

October 30:  Progressive Town Hall on the proposed 2014 budget: 7:00 PM UE Hall, 37 S. Ashland

October 30:  Campaign Grand Opening at Will Guzzardi's office:7:30 PM 2642 W. Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647  RSVP requested.

November 2: Voter Registration Drive and Door-Knocking in the 26th Ward: Logan Square Neighborhood Association. 10 AM Ames School, 1920 S. Hamlin. 

November 6: Raise Your Hand Town Hall: Chicago Temple 77 W. Washington, 6:30 - 8:30 PM.

November 7: Greg Michie at Richard Edwards School, 4815 S. Karlov 9 [still trying to determine time]. Benefit Illinois Association for Multilingual Multicultural Educatorion.

November 7 : Deputy Voter Registrar Training.6:00 PM - 7:30, Uptown. Contact me if you want registration details. @tbfurman

November 13: Diane Ravitch Public Event 7:30 PM First Free Church, 5255 N. Ashland

November 13: Skokie Organization of Retired Educators. Informational Meeting on sudden, horrifyingly bad changes to retiree healtcare. 

IEA skokie office 1PM.

8833 Gross Point at Dempster in Skokie
3rd floor meeting room
November 16: Neighborhood Schools Fair. Clemente High School, 1147 N. Western  November 16, 2013 - 11:00am - 3:00pm. 

November 19: Meeting of the (rogue) State Charter Commission. 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Horizon Concept Charter School. 2245 W. Pershing [Warning: for whatever reason, and I can imagine one, this commission changes its meeting time/dates constantly, check the website five minutes before you leave home.]

November 19: Book Launch Party  Mayor 1% by Kari Lydersen:  Haymarket Pub 737 W. Randolph. 7PM.

November 21: Forum on Data Privacy: sponsored by PURE and More Than A Score. Fosco Park, 13th and Racine. (Spanish translation provided) 7 PM - 8:30 PM.

November 30: UNO: Politics, Profit, and Corruption. A public forum by Byron Sigcho. West Belmont Branch Library, 3104 N. Narraganssett. 1PM - 2:30 PM.

That's all I can think of. Details subject to change. If you see a mistake, please let me know. If you want me to add something, I'll do it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In Case You Missed It

I enjoy Googling all the names on the itemized section of Joe Moore's D-2 Quarterly. The usual suspects, from what I can tell.  A lot of real estate people, developers, lawyers,  the parking garage Pritzker..  The cost of doing business.  I see one contribution that I can connect to some sketchy behavior; maybe more on that later.

The transfer-ins are always interesting, too.

They're addictive. Read 'em all!

Charter Commission Update

I've let the rogue state charter commission slip off my radar, and God only knows what they've been up to. Their next meeting is a teleconference on October 28; it looks like anyone can join by phone. Then, on November 19, it looks like they're going to be meeting at the new Concept School. 

As you may know, Senator Kim Lightford might be introducing some legislation to strip this commission of its ALECky purpose...

Lightford said she would introduce a bill at some point during next year's legislative session that would get rid of the commission's override powers and give charter authorizing responsibility back to ISBE.

...which would be better than nothing, although it's far from a perfect solution.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Live Feed From UNO Forum in Rogers Park

Here's the live feed from tonight's presentation at the Rogers Park Branch Library. This is Byron Sigcho, a researcher from UIC, talking about the UNO charter school system.

Later, we'll post a high-quality version of this talk, along with the slides. Please share widely.

If you want to ask a question during this presentation, go ahead and do so on Twitter, using the hashtag #rp49 . I will try to ask your question if it seems like there's a place where I can chime in. If I don't get to your question, I apologize in advance.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Come Join Us In November!

Come join RPNPS members at the Raise Your Hand Town Hall on November 6.

Get Informed and Active: Attend the 11/6 RYH Town Hall Forum 
Join us on 11/6 for a RYH Town Hall Forum on Important Education Issues impacting our schools and system!

Learn about our current campaigns and how you can get involved!

There will be a panel discussion on school funding and the CPS budget with Rod Estvan of Access Living and a Better Illinois for the Fair Tax Campaign.

A wide array of break-out sessions including:

Valencia  Rias-Winstead: LSCs and school improvement: info for current,  experienced and newly interested parents, Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance - The Gates Compact: how is it impacting policy at CPS, More than a Score: updates on standardized testing campaign and student data privacy issues, Ross Floyd and the CSU: on student organizing

Parents, teachers, students, all parties concerned about the future of public education in Chicago welcome!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Not-So Hidden Agenda of the State Charter Commission

Diane Horwitz from DePaul passed this along..

At an education forum in Oak Park Wednesday, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said she plans to introduce legislation to help stop the Illinois State Charter Commission's "hidden agenda" of expanding charter schools across the state.

I recommend that everyone email Senator Lightford with encouragement immediately, although I'm a bit confused about how the Charter Commission's agenda is in any way hidden. It doesn't matter. A senator has read the legislation, looked at the record, and figured out that there's a rogue agency undermining democratic governance in Illinois. We need to rally around her.

Here's an email contact for her. If anyone has a more direct line, let me know.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What We Know About ELL Instruction...

...versus what our policies do to work against that knowledge.

Ravenswood-Ridge network chief Craig Benes on the best design for ELL instruction..

And UIC's Josh Radinsky on what it takes to build a strong ELL program.

But by all means, let's just keep opening more charters, particularly if their ELL model is designed to keep away kids who need ELL support. Because choice for the sake of choice equals freedom.

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Not A Conspiracy Theory

Josh Radinsky put it succinctly at the WRPCO event.

I'm posting this after skimming details of Illinois Tool Works' plan to give $20m to Noble charter for a new building. You'll notice that ITW didn't first ask the neighborhood schools if they need anything. Then, when you dig for five seconds, you find ITW's soft money contributions over the years, while nominal, have been decidedly one sided.  Their only recorded direct campaign contribution went to this guy. 

So you can see where this choice-for-the-sake-of-choice movement is aligned. Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, ITW, Gregg Harper, Eric Cantor, the entire anti-Obamacare, anti-Obama establishment,  Jeb Bush, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Moore,  etc.

It's all so weird.

Mobility Rates In Rogers Park

Here's another clip from WRPCO's "What's Your Public Education IQ?"

Becky Vevea asks the panelists about mobility rates and the special supports that schools need when faced with high student mobility (transferring in and out during the year).

I submitted this question because when I was a teacher in Arizona, I would get new students all the time, particularly after winter break, when the charter schools would lay the hammer down on the behavior kids, who would all return to the neighborhood schools just in time to be included in my test data.

Gabriella Iselin
...parents are interested in “where are the resources? Where are the new schools? So we end up getting...quite a few kids that leave charter schools that have behavior issues, discipline issues that are pushed out. We get a ton. Counselors often say, ‘We feel like the charter school’s alternative school.’ And that all affects our score-- that score that people like to extrapolate on how good a school is. And it is a score but there’s a story behind it, and part of that story is that we service every kid that is in our neighborhood that comes to our school. And that’s different.  And so your comparing apples to oranges a lot of the time.
Craig Benes
What I try do at the network is for us to think more holistically...  that it’s just not one school’s responsibility to serve one group of children, that we really have to work together across schools, across the network, to see that it’s a shared responsibility and a shared opportunity and gift. I think we sometimes use words or language to frame this in deficit-base or challenge, but I think it’s really special and unique in this community, in Rogers Park, that you can  can walk down (to?) most of the schools and see the United Nations.
Josh Radinsky
The key with mobility is stability... The last thing  that kids in high mobility communities need is destabilization. The last thing they need is a chaotic situation at the school, where the school is trying to  adapt to some new random set of mandates that get handed down by the district.
I've done a little research on the Rogers Park mobility data, and the thing that sticks out in the data is that while the mobility for all our neighborhood schools is high compared to the 18.4% rate for CPS in general, the mobility rate at Gale has been trending over 30% for the past several years and was 48% last year.

If you talk to the housing people in the neighborhood, you get a very clear picture of why this is going on, and from what I gather, the principal at Gale is working on a comprehensive communications plan with community housing groups to improve that school's ability to communicate with a parent population that is always changing. So there's that.

But what is clear from the forum is that there really isn't any specifically different support the district is offering to a school like Gale that is any different from any of the other schools. The network chief indicates that he likes to think holistically about this problem, and that high turnover rates are a gift (he may have been referring to diversity rates in general?), but he really can't name any specific thing that the district is doing to support the kind of acute mobility challenges that Gale is facing that are different from any other school.

I can guarantee you that when they eventually come after Gale, they're going to be talking about test scores and test scores alone. It won't matter that Gale's been making slow, steady gains over time. All that will matter is that the test scores are lower than some other unnamed school somewhere. There won't be any talk of shared responsibility or the holistic wonderfulness of the UN. There will be blame, exclusively, shared by the teachers and staff of Gale alone.  My theory is that there just always has to be a scalp.

Anyway, some other observations:

It's hard to determine the mobility rate of a charter school, because the way laws have been written, it's hard to find out anything about a charter school. But the system-wide mobility rate for UNO is 5.7%. At one point late in the forum, the charter school person asserted that charter schools are facing the same mobility rates as traditional public schools. It just isn't true.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Josh Radinsky and Gabriella Iselin at Devon Bank

Tip o' the hat to West Rogers Park Community Organization, which put on a forum called "What's Your Public Education IQ?" last night at Devon Bank. By the way, tip of the hat to Devon Bank. I sat in the front and filmed. If you want to see the whole thing, here it is. The remarkable Becky Vevea from WBEZ moderated.

Over the next few days, I'm going to pull out clips from the evening and comment on them. Please feel free to chime in in the comments.

First off, Josh Radinsky from UIC.  There are few people with his experience or scholarship. I'm trying to think of anyone else in the room with similar credentials, and I'm drawing a blank. Take a listen.

"I think it’s crucial that we have schools that are mandated to serve the kids in our neighborhoods.” 

“The charter schools do  serve some kids with special needs, and I know that that’s true. More than 80%  of those kids in those charter schools, though, are ‘LRE-1 kids' (Least restrictive environment #1), which means that they have less severe disabilities. Those are kids with learning disabilities. Kids like my son, in general, are not served, and I feel that the charter schools would be hard-pressed to serve kids with severe disabilities, given that they are small independent operations, and we’re in a gigantic city.”

                                                                                              ----Josh Radinsky

The charter people almost always continue to point out that they have similar numbers, only slightly fewer, of special education students, but they gloss over the point that Josh makes about the types of special education students included in the numbers.  In my observation, it's just another data point in a graph that begins to look like a picture of creaming. Creaming away the easy-to-teach, and leaving the neighborhood schools with the kids who have the most challenges.

By the way, I work in a school where profoundly differently abled kids go to school in the same building as everyone else. The whole idea is based on a rather antique notion that we're all in this together. 

Here's Mather teacher Gabriella Iselin introducing herself. I'm old enough to realize that I'm living in remarkable times; there's this bizarre, bipartisan attack on the schools occurring, and yet there are also all of these amazing, powerful leaders emerging from the ranks of everyday teachers and everyday parents. Almost all of them are women. 

"Despite this tremendous pride that we have, there’s also tremendous frustration and anger with CPS. 
It’s hard to work for an organization that imposes policies that are harmful to kids by way of curriculum, instruction, and budget initiatives that are foisted on us with little to no planning or foresight of any kind. You would think sound planning would be the bedrock of a school district but I have found that this is not the case at CPS." --- Gabriella Iselin

When I think of people like Gabriella Iselin, I think of the importance of tenure, or as it should probably be known as in the K12 world, due process. Without the protection of due process, a person like Ms. Iselin could never say these words in the presence of a network chief in a vindictive district in an unelected environment where the mayor is who he is.  And yet she doesn't even flinch to do so. I wish more people were like her; I wish I had been so when it was my turn.

Much, much more to come over the next few days. Please, go ahead and comment.