Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Quick! Get On The Waiting List!

The unsupervised public debt factory that is UNO recently opened a branch office in Rogers Park, and today I noticed that the waiting list to get into the 9th grade there was so long that the school decided to flyer door to door down as far as the 6500 block. I didn't check farther south than that.

As you know, the funding for all of these extra charter schools comes right out of the funding for the regular schools that serve everyone, including special education students and ELLs. It's not like there's some separate funding source.  Our local alderman is okay with this doomed-to-create-chaos model of funding because his whole thing is, evidently, "people are voting with their feet."

I'm trying to reconcile the urgent need the Alderman felt for this campus with the fact that they're putting out glossies to fill a single grade level on August 28. And that the marketing slogan around the flyers appears to have been, "Surround Sullivan."

God only knows why a Latino-focused charter school would target a high school where the Black/Latino split is something near 60-40.  It's a complete mystery to me. And god forbid kids all go to school together. In America.

One thing that isn't commonly known the way the charter bubble is creating a massive deficit that will have to be paid off by people in the future. The UNO chain is based on the idea that if you open enough campuses, you will generate enough money to make payments on debt already accrued. Sooner or later, the thing has just got to get bailed out, or fail and create chaos.

It's called "too big to fail," and it's part of why this charter campus is scrambling to fill seats in a grade level a few days before school starts, because they have to keep filling seats and opening campuses before the chits come due.

So, we're getting this dreadful privatized-segregation-based race to the bottom, and the people a generation from now, who may very well have finally figured out what is going on, will be stuck with the capital costs of it.

Here's a clip of Byron Sigcho talking about the UNO debt situation last August at the Rogers Park branch library. But really, go watch the whole thing; it's fascinating.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Weird Immunity To Facts

Here was an interesting moment on last night's Chicago Tonight. Wendy Katten from Raise Your Hand is trying to make a basic point about the increase in funding to charters accompanying a decrease in funding to traditional neighborhood schools.  Board Member Andrea Zopp, who is running Chicago Urban League--- which is evidently connected to the National Urban League and yet strangely different in terms of ed policy--- seems immune to basic reality.

Here's the CTBA summary, which you can pick through yourself, line by line. 
CPS has claimed that it has kept a number of cuts away from the classroom. However, the data show the contrary is true.CPS has in fact been making fairly drastic cuts to a number of basic educational programs like math, reading, and social sciences. These cuts will likely have an adverse effect on students. Meanwhile, despite large reductions in education spending, the District is increasing its payments to charter schools. Unlike neighborhood schools, charters will not have to suffer the same educational cuts that the rest of the District faces.

So, there's that.

I hate to go all Rachel Maddow here, but here we go: it's empirical. We can find out the truth! By looking at the budget!

Whoever that nice young man hosting the show was, he owes us a report. When two people are arguing over matters of basic fact, and you shut them down because it's awkward, you need to follow up with a report on what the budget says.

As for me, I love when people contradict what's in the budget, because it opens up the opportunity to question them about what the various things in the budget actually mean, and then it turns out that the person actually can't or won't read a budget and only knows what he's been told. If you've ever bargained a contract, you've probably sat across from someone in Andrea Zopp's position, someone who has to say all these things that are contradicted by reality but are in the talking points.

We need an elected board. Earlier in the show, Ms. Zopp talked about how accountable she is. And about how BBB is accountable--- why, just the other day, BBB answered some question in the press.

I hate to say it, but... oh heck, I already said it:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Call To Action in Uptown

Solidarity From Whittier

I'm choosing to show an image of solidarity in Pilsen rather than footage from the mayor's attack on Whittier, footage that probably serves as some strange kind of pornography for Rahm Emanuel. The people of Whittier are strong; they're remarkable, in fact.

For me, the take-away message is this: no matter what promises you've won, be they written or verbal, from CPS, from this mayor, or from anyone who reports to him, eventually a Caterpillar bulldozer is going to show up and destroy the thing you're trying to save.

We ought to keep that in mind when we think that Gale Academy's western building--- which is a gem, and an integral space for that community school--- is safe from the hands of the privatizers, including our Alderman, Joe Moore.

It's no secret that he was supportive in the past of handing this building over to a charter. The question is, where is going to stand on the issue in the future? When I look at the dreadful events at Whittier, and I see who the alderman has aligned himself with on ed policy, I worry that it's only a matter of time before before some deal is struck in the shadows.

Anyway.. Karen Zaccor has issued a call to action for Uptown, and I'd like to pass it along here:

I’m sure that, like me, a lot of you are feeling heavy hearted right now.  This week judges ruled against us in the schools lawsuits, including the one filed by the staunch Trumbull parents.  In the wake of shuttering 50 schools, CPS announced an RFP to open more charters next year.  And now, under cover of darkness, CPS has gone back on a promise and razed the Whittier School field house which was home to a community center and the school library.  But this is all the more reason why we have to organize with other groups around the city to fight back against this onslaught of privatization.

Most of you have probably heard about the school boycott planned for August 28, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  This action is being planned in concert with at least 25 other cities across the country.  We are meeting, primarily to identify what we can do to support, recruit for, and participate in the boycott. We also want to form a North Side Accountability Committee to help parents assess the state of their school after the cuts and closures.

This meeting is urgent.  If you cannot attend, please respond with what you can do:  attend the boycott, call parents from a list, go to a school (we are targeting the receiving schools on the North Side, which are Brennemann, Stockton (now called Courtenay), McCutcheon, and McPherson) with flyers.  If you have other ideas, we need to hear them.  Those of you who blog, etc., we need your help in getting the information out.

Planning Meeting for Boycott
Tuesday, August 20
6-7:30 p.m.
Edgewater Presbyterian Church
1020 W. Bryn Mawr
Invite others!  We need to grow this movement every way we can!
Keep strong,

Monday, August 12, 2013

Not With My Child: Diane Ravitch on Opting Out

Here's a nice conversation on The Chalk Face. Diane Ravitch is the guest, and she's talking about parents opting their children out of the coming round of standardized tests.

She points out the the recent collapse of test scores in New York is going to be duplicated around the nation, which is all part of the plan.

Ravitch gives an excellent primer on the political context in which all of this testing drama is taking place. It's worth a listen.

[I'm a fan of the hosts of this show, but for some reason they have a full minute of awful noise and then lots of meandering commentary before the meat of the show begins. They also had technical difficulties. The portion worth listening to starts at 8:42, so please skip the section before that, unless you have a lot of tolerance and almost nine minutes to burn.]

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Timothy Meegan: CPS Starving Its Schools To Justify Privatization

Here's a nice follow-up interview of Timothy Meegan, the Roosevelt HS teacher who wrote this tremendous op-ed in the Sun-Times. You know an op-ed is going to be good when it starts with something like this:
On Wednesday July 24, I was physically removed from a Chicago Board of Education meeting after I waited four hours to speak for two minutes. I timed it at two minutes and five seconds, but I was not allowed to finish. While board member Henry Bienen nodded off, I tried to say what I had to say.
If you haven't been paying attention to what's actually happening in public education, Meegan puts it all together for you. It's a good piece.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Lesson On Blight: Karen Zaccor At The Thompson Center

Our Uptown neighbor, Karen Zaccor, spoke yesterday at the Thompson Center. A coalition of groups, including Northside Action For Justice, which Karen facilitates.
One of the things we work on is making sure the TIFs get used for what they're supposed to be use for, and that is encouraging development in blighted areas.  
I looked up what "blight" means in the dictionary. It is "something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity." 
This is exactly what Mayor Emanuel is doing to our schools with all these cuts and closings. He is turning our schools into blighted areas. So our schools are entitled to this TIF money.  
So, Attorney General Madigan, we need you to do the right thing and intervene on behalf of our children to make the information about the TIF surplus available to the public.  
Mayor Emanuel, we need you to do the right thing. Release the money to our schools. Make our children the number one priority. 

Check out all the other speakers here. 

This is the sort of work we're doing at RPNPS. Won't you consider consider joining us this fall? Get in touch:

Incidentally, who else is interested in asking our 49th ward alderman why he's not yet signed on to the TIF surplus ordinance sponsored by the Progressive Coalition, and which has been signed onto by at least 32 other aldermen? We haven't set up a meeting yet. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Can We Get A Follow-Up Here?

I didn't attend the budget hearing at Truman College tonight. I hear it laid an egg, as the governor might say. But after it was over, I saw this comment over at Diane Ravitch's place.

Mike Klonsky has been covering the $20m no-bid consulting crony contract story, here and here, a story which hasn't gotten a ton of traction yet, but I would love for someone with press credentials to scare an answer out of CPS about the four institutions involved in the $3.6m.

It might be legit, but we're living in boondoggle times, and this one should be explained before in goes down the memory hole.

Btw, I haven't yet written the piece about how much money our local  neighborhood schools have lost in this budget, but I'm hearing really, really high numbers. Nor have I pieced together the net gain for the charters, but I'm sure someone's on it.

More Bennett Coverage

Chris Hayes does a pretty interesting overview here. It's a pleasure to see this issue getting some sunlight. For the past several years, you've pretty much had to be involved in the ed-reform subculture to hear even an ounce of criticism.

I'm posting it because I've been watching these issues here in Illinois for a while now, and I wouldn't be surprised if this level of mendacity eventually comes to light here. And I mean way, way beyond just UNO.

And now, the money quote from Tony Bennett's emails:

"The problem isn't with the school; it's with the metrics."

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