Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicago Charter Schools and the Turkish Elections

So, there was a press briefing at the State Department today, and one of the questions was about the Turkish elections, which were held yesterday. This is going to be a quickie post about how the Turkish election results are directly related to charter schools in Chicago.

Here was the question and answer at the State Department today.

QUESTION:  So my question is, like, there has been so much talk that the United States and even the West in general are more in line with that – with Fethullah Gulen’s position on Turkey than Erdogan, and that’s why the United States has stepped up its criticism on Twitter, on like the corruption, and also regarding Erdogan’s handling of other (inaudible) issues.

MS. HARF:  Well, that’s ridiculous.  Regardless of whether this gentleman was living in Pennsylvania or not, it would still not be okay for the Government of Turkey to ban Twitter.  It would still not be okay for the Government of Turkey to crack down like they have on dissent.  Those things have nothing to do with the fact that one of their citizens is living in the Pennsylvania countryside. 

QUESTION:  Aren’t you more in position with, for example, Fethullah Gulen --

MS. HARF:  No.

QUESTION:  -- who is reportedly pro-Israel-Turkey relations --

MS. HARF:  Turkey’s a NATO ally.  Let’s be clear here.  Turkey is a close NATO ally.  We don’t always agree on everything, but we don’t agree on everything with anyone.  So forget about the gentleman living in Pennsylvania.  We have a bilateral alliance with the Government of Turkey.  We will speak out when we disagree.  We will speak out when we agree.  And it’s really up to the people of Turkey to make decisions about their government.  We – it’s not up to us, and any reports that we have any impact on that are just crazy.

The journalist was trying to make a point about the widely held belief that the US government is playing some kind of chess with Turkey's internal politics to achieve some unnamed geopolitical objective. It's an opinion I share. It's on my radar because the particular cleric at the center of intrigue also happens to be at the center of America's largest network of charter schools.

The Turkish prime minister--infamously corrupt and evidently the landslide victor in these bare-knuckle, sketchy-at-best elections-- pulls no punches when talking about the very same Pennsylvania-based cleric:

The campaign was dominated by a series of corruption allegations implicating senior government officials. The AK Party blamed supporters of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who's living in exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Erdogan said: "We will not surrender to Pennsylvania and their offshoots in Turkey. From tomorrow, there may be some who flee, there are some who already fled. We will enter their lair. They will pay for this. They will pay the price."

So, there's that. A repressive, authoritarian figure wins ugly, but definitively, in Turkey, and his political enemy/former ally, Fethullah Gulen, sits in Pennsylvania, writing poems.

Let's review who Fethullah Gulen's right-hand man is. It's this guy, as I've pointed out before:

Mr. Aslandogan was one of the founders of Wisconsin Career Academy, which made ignominious headlines later in time. He also attempted to start charter schools in Oak Park, Des Plaines, and Palatine. And those are just the ones I'm aware of.

Here's his name (below) on a legal document filed in Mt. Prospect during a zoning hearing for Niagara Education Services, which runs the Turkish American Society and the Niagara Foundation, the public face of the Gulen Movement in Chicago, which has been running the junkets to Turkey for so many Illinois politicians. 

And there at the bottom of the same document is the current vice-president of Concept Schools, which runs three publicly funded charter schools in Chicago at the moment. So, I read the connection this way:


Incidentally, the petitioner of the Mt. Prospect zoning request, shown here (p 105),

is described by people in Ohio as the person who founded the schools that eventually became Concept.              

When our first school opened in Cleveland in 1999 there were financial challenges. The State of Ohio does not provide any facilities funding for charter schools and banks as a rule will not lend to start up charter schools. After attempting to obtain funding in Cleveland, the founder of Horizon Science Academies, Taner Ertekin, reached out to businessmen in Turkey to find short-term non-interest bearing loans.

Go back and look the individual who is making this statement in Ohio. Is it some crackpot? No. It's the vice-president of Concept. In other words, the umbrella group of the Gulen Movement in Chicago has on its board, in paperwork filed with a municipality, two people directly related to Concept Schools, with a third Concept person (the founder of Concept) acting as petitioner. And yet we're supposed to stop asserting that there's a connection between the Movement and the charter schools.

So, to sum up, we have on one hand the Turkish elections. The victor of those elections-- a man who has shut down Twitter across a nation--- is now threatening to "enter the lair" of Fethullah Gulen's organization and "make them pay." And on the other hand,  this very same organization, now more and more on the run, is directly linked to charter schools in the States, while pretending very hard not to be.

What could possibly go wrong?

It's my position that the conversation moving forward should be about transparency in the charter sector. In this one charter chain alone, we see obvious legal relationships between the charter operators and the leaders of an active overseas political movement. We need some sunlight on charter operations, and we need it soon.

UPDATE: Sharon Higgins has sent along a link to the actual State Department briefing; here's the clip. And after you watch the clip, just go and "forget about the gentleman living in Pennsylvania." I'm pretty sure that's what we're being asked to do, what with the press blackout on the subject.

It all has a very "ignore the man behind the curtain" feel.

New to the topic? Check out some of my other posts.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hey, Let's Honor and Defend! Be There!

Celebration to Honor and Defend ISAT Boycott Teachers & Families
Join Parents 4 Teachers on April 9th to honor the ISAT boycott teachers and families who took a courageous stand against the misuse and overuse of high-stakes standardized testing in the Chicago Public Schools.  We stand with the ISAT boycott teachers and the many students and families who opted out.  Please come and support them too! 

Boycotting teachers should face no disciplinary action. Let teachers teach! Let our kids learn!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Wishbone Restaurant
3300 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

Dinner, Drinks, Live Latin Jazz by Maestroson
and performance by TEAM Englewood

doors open 5:30 | dinner 6:00 | program 7:00
Tickets $25, students $10, children under 5 free
No one will be turned away

Childcare will be provided

Contact for paper tickets or more information.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can You Do Two More Things For Charter Accountability?

So many excellent bills, so little time...

Ok, we're making a very strong recommendation that people do two things. The first is related to the bills that are still in the education committee in the senate.

We're hoping that you contact Senator Daniel Biss and Senator Iris Martinez to ask for support for:

1. SB 3030, the senate version of the Charter Accountability Act. It is still before the senate education committee, which Senators Biss and Martinez are members of.  There are lots of other people on that committee, and you can contact them all, but we really need people to at least let Biss and Martinez know that charter accountability is not a bad thing and doesn't set charters back in any way. All you're asking for is a chance for an up or down vote in the Senate on charter accountability, and that the bill not get blocked along the way. The House version of this bill (HB 6005) is ready for a full vote of the House.

2. SB2627, the senate version of the charter school commission act, which would eliminate the appointed state charter commission. The House version of this bill (HB 3754) already passed the House.

3. SB2779, the senate bill that would would give charter petitioners an appeal-through-referendum process if the local school board turns down their petition. We have not been working on this bill; I believe it is a good compromise type of bill that I think the IEA has been working on. It deserves not to be blocked in the Senate Education Committee.

Biss's office:

Springfield Office:
Senator 9th District
M121 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL   62706
(217) 782-2119

Martinez's office:

Springfield Office:
Senator 20th District
413 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL   62706
(217) 782-8191
(217) 782-3088 FAX

Then, the second thing we're asking you is to contact your state representative and ask for Yes votes on:

1. HB 4591, Martwick's bill about about pro-rated funding going back to the neighborhood school when a charter pushes out a student mid year (it would also work vice-versa). This bill is ready to be voted on in the House. We haven't done enough to support this good, good legislation.

2. HB 4237, Chapa LaVia's bill about giving local school districts a referendum process if the state charter commission, or anyone, over-rules their decision to say no to a charter. Good bill. I've let it get away from me. This bill is on the floor of the House waiting for a vote.

3. HB 6005, Chapa LaVia's charter accountability bill, which is out of committee (tons of witness slips!) and ready for a vote on the floor of the House.

There's so much more, but this is enough to focus on. Please pass these requests along.

As for RPNPS, we're reaching out to a broad spectrum of school board members to alert them to these bills. RPNPS member Sandra Stone has lead the research team in this regard, and we're making headway. School board members in Senator Biss's district, for example, might not be aware that the state charter school commission can overrule them at any time, and they might also not be aware that all of these charters inserted into Chicago are playing by a very, very different set of rules in terms of accountability.

Tip of the hat to all the coalition groups, as well as to IEA and IFT, which I've been too critical of. People are coming together to speak out against the abuses present in the charter sector, including this bad-idea-from-the-start commission, and the sheer lack of oversight throughout the system.

We have a lot of legislators to thank, too. More later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hang In There!

I am literally out in a forest tonight but I have preliminary reports of progress on our issues. 

Please know that our coalitions may be calling on you for more witness slips in the coming days, and now is not the time to go wobbly, as Margaret Thatcher once told Ronald Reagan. 

Did I just quote Margaret Thatcher?  

The charter accountability bill and the charter commission bill appear to have been assigned to the charter subcommittee and have possibly survived that process to return soon to the full Senate Education Committee. 

More details on that when I have wi-fi again. 

There are many other good bills out there  moving forward; I hope to read status reports on those soon. Whichever bill it is that requires LSCs for charters is possibly  stll alive in the Senate. Good bill. I wish I had worked on more of them. 

The Senate in Illinois is just as mysterious as the US Senate. We may at short notice have to get on the phones with a few specific senators. The truth is-- in my opinion-- that some of our Democratic senators have delegated their ed policy thinking to charter extremists. These are people who want unfettered privatization at any cost, even without basic accountability or a modicum of respect for elected school boards.  

I can think of one such senator right now. I've seen it with my own eyes. We nay very shortly have to get on the phones with him. 

 When I look at the votes over in the House, it seems like mainly just a certain anti-government wing of the  Republican Party voted against charter accountability. And Christian Mitchell and possibly  Dan Burke?  Did I get that right? 

The corporate ed privatization movement is now most accurately described as an arch-conservative + Rahm Emanuel Democratic-wing coalition. It's that way everywhere.  

I'm up in Michigan at the moment. There's a lot of hard-right radio up here. I'm hearing a lot of support for Indiana's decision to drop out of the Common Core. It seems that no matter how hard the Obama administration works against the Democratic base to aid and abet the corporate reform movement, it will never be enough. It will never produce a single vote in a general election. and it will set back public education decades. 

We may need to remind a couple senators that generally speaking people like their public schools in Illinois, and they don't want the schools destroyed by wholesale, unsupervised privatization, no matter what these Rasputins for Education Reform are whispering in their ears. 

But hang in there. And when the time comes to do another witness slip or get on the phones, act quickly. If we can get an up or down vote on the Senate floor, we can't ask for more than that. But we should  get at least that. 

No moose sightings today. The back roads are almost impassible, I broke the zipper on my parka, my husky has some invisible object stuck in her paw, and it's supposed to be nine below tomorrow morning. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another Victory!


(EMERGENCY UPDATE. Raise Your Hand is reporting that the Charter Commission Bill already has a hearing in the Senate  TOMORROW!  It's called SB2627 in the Senate. THIS IS A MUCH MORE DANGEROUS HEARING because Senator Steans believes with every fiber of her being that an appointed commission ahould be able to overrule an elected school board!  We need to get on phones tonight AND DO SENATE WITNESS SLIPS.  Here is the one for this bill. 

I can't do one  on this phone. I may have to drive into town. Tell everyone. This is critical! I hate to turn a congratations post  into a Red Alert but these are strange times. We got the charter commission bill through the House; now let's get its Senate version out of committee. This is the real fight!  To the witness slips! To the phones!  

Here's my original post on HB 6005, the other huge bill we worked on 

Good job, witnesses. I'm told the Charter Accountability Bill HB6005 passed out of committee. 

How could it not? Half the state signed in as proponents. 

I have no other details at the moment because I'm up north in the woods. Back in a few days. 

We have to get the bill through the House now and over to the Senate. And we have other bills to push along, too. 

It's going to be a heavy lift but we absolutely can do it. RPNPS has already started an outreach for these good bills with school board members around the state. People are starting to wake up to the scams. They might still like charter schools, but nobody likes a scam. That's fair enough. 

Meanwhile, once a bill is out of committee, everyone can call his or her own representative and senator to ask for a committment to vote. 

That's all for now. Go celebrate; you did good. And Linda Chapa LaVia? A warrior, that one. 

Apologies for spelling errors. I typed this on my phone, and it's cold out here. And possibly there's a bear over by my truck. Did I mention it's also dark?  

Saturday, March 22, 2014


*Lots of people (see below) have answered the call since last night! THANK YOU. Still, everyone needs to do his or her part--- fill out a slip as a proponent.

Ok, I'm ratcheting up the threat level from Red Alert to SUPER BLINKING RED ALERT on HB 6005, the Charter Accountability Act, which has a hearing in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on Monday, April 24, which is in two  one days  today.

And just to be clear, the threat is from apathy, inertia, or fatigue, not the bill. The bill is the best charter bill of the season and deserves your immediate support. 

In order to get laws that counteract the destruction of the privatization movement, we have to first get bills out of committee. It's Saturday evening, and as of this post, I am the only person in Illinois affirmed as a proponent of this excellent bill.**( awesome update below) 

We really need to have about a thousand other people filling out witness slips, so that during the hearing, someone can point out that the overwhelming majority of official witnesses are in favor of the Act. You can bet that on Monday morning, the charter people, the Stand For Children money-hurling mafia, and at least one of the Steans heiresses are going to sign in as opponents.

Look at the witness list as of 5:30 PM Saturday night.**(update below)

I feel like Gladys Kravitz at the window. Abner! Abner! These bills don't pass themselves, and they don't pass if people think nobody cares about them. Please, please, please fill out a witness slip as a proponent. You can even submit testimony, like PURE recently did for three related bills.  In a previous post, I explained how to submit the written testimony, but here it is again.

But you don't have to do written testimony. You can just do what I did in this earlier video (about a different bill). Click here to get started.

This bill on deck for Monday, HB6005, is the best bill I've seen for clearing up some of the standard abuses in the charter sector. Read the whole bill and tell me what's in there that you disagree with. There won't be anything. It's a GREAT bill that needs witnesses as proponents for it. The charter people will fight it tooth and nail because it puts sunlight on things that they'd rather have stay in the dark.

HERE IS THE SPECIFIC WITNESS SLIP FOR HB6005. Please fill one out as a proponent right now, and then have your friends do the same. If you run an organization (and are authorized to speak on its behalf), fill one out on behalf of your organization. If you're just an individual citizen, then fill out the blanks as "Private Citizen" or whatever you like. I myself am a member of many organizations, including the IFT, but the only one I "represent" in public forums is RPNPS.

Here's CTU's positive assessment of the bill, and frankly, they've left out a number of really good things about the it!

Please don't wait. IFT will probably not weigh in (more on that later), and IEA is, in my humble opinion, totally asleep at the wheel. This is up to us. We have to pass this bill at the grassroots level-- people have worked for days and days on these bills; we could use a little help here, from everyone!




**UPDATE 9:54 PM Jennie Biggs informs me that it's possible others have witness-slipped this bill earlier and aren't showing. I agree.  Anyway, looks like the cavalry is riding in. Thank goodness! Join in! Tell your friends! Holy Guacamole! Look at all the people filling out witness slips. Heroes, all of them. Join in! (This is the list as of 9:15 PM Sunday. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assert that the 113 witness slips filed already represent the highest number of witness slips ever submitted on behalf of a bill at a hearing. Let me check with the historians tomorrow.) Will check back in the morning.

And look who's opposed:
And now there are two. I've not heard of this second individual's group, but I'm not all-knowing either.  A quick Google search of the name returns data on someone who doesn't seem like a charter school person, or a person in Illinois. Maybe she'll clarify; maybe it was a mistake.

Incidentally, you'll note that other individual is a veteran lobbyist, not an educator. He's a guy you would definitely hire if you could afford him. He gets face time the old fashioned way, and there he is, fighting off basic standards of accountability for the charter schools. We may have the numbers, and we may have the basic goodness of the bill itself, but he might just have some mojo that normal civilians don't have access to. Keep at it!

I defy you to fine one thing in the full text of the bill that would be unfair or inappropriate for a publicly funded charter school. One thing! The charters want all of the funding and none of the accountability, and it isn't right.  JOIN US NOW.

Use this to fortify your resolve!


Remember, these Witness Slips are your way of participating in a hearing before the Illinois House of Representatives. It's not a petition. You fill out one per bill, you use your whole name, you leave your real phone number and address. You might even dress up a little while filling it out online. [Ok, that part's silly.]

I'm heading up north to visit the ice and snow. I hope this bill gets out of committee. Will someone let me know on Twitter? Thanks. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Religion and the Gulen Schools

Update: In the days since this post went live, it has appeared in the Turkish press that Prime Minister  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered that the Turkish Olympiad, discussed in great detail below, be barred from using any "state halls," as they have in the past.  Tensions are mounting in Turkey, and it's clear to me that American kids in Gulen-linked charter schools across the US are going to be put right in the middle of it. Read on.

This is going to be a controversial post, but here goes. And if you haven't taken our introductory course, Gulen 101: Session One, with Sharon Higgins, please do so. It's necessary background.

So, what's the religious angle of the Gulen-affiliated charter schools? That's the question people seem to be most interested in, although for me, it's secondary to the political connection, and the whole matter of American public schools being used a revenue stream for an active partisan in a foreign crisis. The answer to the religion question is this: the religious connection is complex, but once you know what you're looking at, there it is.

There's an event coming up on April 12 at the Rosemont Theater; the public is invited. It's the Turquoise Art and Language Festival, and the participants will primarily be kids at the private Gulen-affiliated school (Science Academy of Chicago) and the publicly funded charter schools (the Concept schools) from the region. I believe there will possibly be a folk dance group from Wisconsin coming to perform.

It's an "art and language" competition, and they've been going on for a number of years now.1 Over the years these competitions have pretty much been focused on Turkish language, music, poetry, and folk dance.  For a bit more background on the nature of the local competitions, see here.  In the past couple of years, as more eyes are focused on the grow ing Gulen Movement, the organizers have opened the competitions up to other-language acts and also to some generic talent-show fare in an effort to thin out the very specifically Turkish nature of the program, particularly as it relates to Fethullah Gulen's poetry and religious dance.2  In 2013, they let a Polish folk dance win at the Rosemont event. I believe I saw a CMSA group do an energetic salsa dance at a prior competition; they didn't win-- these events aren't really about salsa dancing--but the kids were awesome.

The Festival is "organized and sponsored" by the Turkish American Society, which is a subsidiary of Niagara Education Services, which also runs the Niagara Foundation, which is the Chicago outlet of the Gulen Movement, and which has been doing the junkets for the policymakers, including Speaker Madigan, who in this video is shown being given some face time with Gulen's erstwhile political ally, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 
A deeply unpopular, scandal-ridden autocrat. And the Turkish prime minister!
Madigan probably thought the photo-op was about him, but in reality it was about bolstering the perception of the widespread influence of Fethullah Gulen. 

All of these organizations, and other related organizations, have offices, or at least mailing addresses, in an elaborate facility in Mt. Prospect, which will be the subject of a future post. Remember, the official story is that the schools aren't related to the Movement, although this post is demonstrating yet another connection. At this very moment, Fethullah Gulen is probably sitting only a few feet away from one individual connected Niagara Education Services, whose name appears as a 2003 board member on Mt. Prospect zoning documents along with the current Vice-President of Concept Schools.3

Salim Ucan is the individual who seems to have invited Alderman Joe Moore to Turkey, and when that particular cat got out of the bag, they had to walk it all back to prop up the story that the schools aren't related to the Movement. Evidently the leadership of the Movement recognizes that it would be a problem if the American public woke up to the fact that a transnational social/religious/political movement was in effective control of a large publicly funded public education system here in the States. 4

So, what's the problem with a language and folk dance festival? There isn't one. But when you look at the context of this particular contest, and you study where the winners go after the contest, you begin to see the deep religious connection. All of the schools in the Gulen archipelago participate in these contests; this isn't an isolated phenomenon.

Much, much more after the jump. Click "Read More" below.

The Time To Chime In On Common Core Is Now (Updated)

I got my witness slip in as an opponent to the Heather Steans Common Core-By-Any-Other-Name-As-Long-As-It's-Tested-Continuously bill. The senate hearing is starting in about five minutes.  You can still do yours!

Look at the people filing slips in favor of all the testing and the Common Core-By-Any-Other-Name:

Did you see all the educator voices there? Me neither. I'm glad Jessica Handy finally got to chime in for Stand For Children. They were probably exhausted from throwing money at people last night over in the 26th District.

Below are the people who have filed as opponents. My heroes. Excluding me, of course. I'm not my own hero; that would be weird.

Do you like how I spelled citizen? Writing on a phone; it's what you get. For over twenty years I had to read the word sentence misspelled by 8th graders as sentance and I now here I am old and gray and filling out witness slips as a citizan.  

Thrilled to see CTU has chimed in as an opponent. The whole national AFT position on the Core has been somewhat checkered and in my opinion, finger-to-the-wind, but I understand the political positions people have been cornered into. I'm pretty sure CTU sees the boondoggle-level waste in this basically unfunded mandate as well as the rush to introduce high-stakes tests on kids who are just only now getting the beginnings of the new curriculum.

So for the record the only group representing actual educators has weighed in opposed.

Like I say, this isn't an RPNPS issue, it's a personal issue for me. I've worked in some pretty elite schools, and a couple schools with lots and lots of poor people and immigrants. I'm pretty sure that whatever's ailing various schools in various places, these standards, and all the money we're going to spend on the new tests, aren't going to do anything but make problems worse.

NCLB was the waving of a magic wand. The Race to the Top, which these sneakily unnamed standards are part of, is just a different magic wand. I can see why all the manufacturing people want it---- it's sort of a policy-by-fiat with no heavy lifting. The kids are just all going to pass these newer, harder tests and that's that, and let's cut budgets while we're doing it, and for that matter let's fire all the teachers.

I've never written an opinion about the math standards because my training, experience, and passion is in writing. I can tell you this much: these Common Core ELA standards aren't going to make anyone a better writer. They might make kids better at passing the tests designed for the new standards, with enough drilling, but as for actual, authentic writing, not a chance. Kids will have to develop that type of skill in spite of the standards. And as for the very picky little year-by-year gradations in sub-skill sophistication that are the hallmark of the ELA standards? Those don't exist in nature.

It's a waste of money and the opportunity cost is staggering. The money we waste on tests, and really all of the money going toward the standards in general-- it could have built so many libraries. Libraries last a long, long time if you build them right. These tests? Not so much.

Stand For Sleaze Gets What It Pays For

Looks at the quality of legislator that Stand For Children bought last night in the 26th House District.

Read Jay's Twitter stream from the evening. A very non-beanbag night in the 26th. If the election stands, we'll be keeping Christian Mitchell under a microscope until the next election.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Good Contract, But What Comes Next?

UNO teachers ratify a contract, 445-16. Close vote!

I'm declaring it a very good thing, although I've had mixed feelings about this issue from the start. A contract is a good thing for everyone, and I believe that an organized faculty will be a force for good over the long run.

Still, the financial model at UNO is unsustainable, as we've seen. So, now it's an unsustainable financial model with a contract in place. The pessimist in my nature is suspicious that the teachers are going to be blamed for systemic money problems already baked into the UNO network when UNO comes begging for a bailout or has to shut schools.

And unless the problems with charters in general are fixed--- and there's real hope for a beginning there, with some of the new bills in the House-- what we have with Chicago ACTS success at UNO is a double-edged sword. Good for the UNO community-- the teachers, the kids, the families--- but nothing gained for the neighborhood schools.

I have faith. I feel that with this negotiation behind them, the teachers can and probably will come out in support of things that will right some of the wrongs. For example, they could fill out a witness slip or even testify as proponents of HB 6005, the Charter Accountability bill by Linda Chapa Lavia. Or for HB 5328 by Elizabeth Hernandez, which would establish LSC's for charter schools.

Or really any of the excellent bills I've discussed.

You can bet your--- good lord, I almost wrote "sweet bippy" --- you can bet your bottom dollar that the charter people will be filling up buses (probably with school kids) to travel to Springfield in April to protest charter accountability, LSCs, the removal of the unelected state charter commission.  I can almost hear the chants now:

                               What do we want? NO VOICE! When do we want it? NOW!
                               For-profit CMO's! We can't function without those!
                               One, two, three, four! Push those kids right out the door!
                               Five, six, seven, eight! Keep the cash and claim you're great!

Ok, I'm having a bit of fun there. But seriously, they'll be on buses in April. What a powerful thing it would be if the teachers--- following their great success in bargaining--- would follow the same path toward social justice that I associate with so many great Chicago teachers.

We'll see. Baby steps.

Testing Mandates Be Gone!

This petition takes just a minute to sign and it's gaining momentum. Do it!

Meanwhile, our own state senator, the Senator from Pearson, is moving full steam ahead on testing the Common Core. Test, test, test, test, test, test, test.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Policy Recommendations For March 17, 2014: RED ALERT

These are my witness slip recommendations for the coming week. The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee meets on Thursday, and we're now living in an age where every concerned citizen needs to lobby. I've covered a couple of these in previous posts, but if you haven't done your witness slip yet, I'm covering them again here.

There are also Senate Bills, and their hearing is Wednesday, but I won't have time to cover those tonight. I will tomorrow, if anyone is interested.

The recommendations in red are RED ALERTS. Everyone following the privatization and general destruction of public education should go online, fill out witness slips, and get friends to do the same for these bills. This is really all we've got. Stand For Children and the other deep-pocketed privatization groups have pallets of money to throw at lawmakers; all we've got is our voice and our votes.

And hey! It's not a petition. Fill out one witness slip per bill or amendment, not multiples. All the contact information must be verifiable. And if you're submitting written testimony, which makes you a saint in my opinion, it should be your own testimony, not a pre-prepared thing.

In a humorous aside, I also see some folks are filing slips with "no position." Probably by accident. But it makes no sense to file one with no position, if you ask me. "No position" means that you don't care either way, and on these bills, you care!

Here's the original video explaining how to do witness slips. For the bills below, I provide you a link directly to the specific witness slip for the specific bill or amendment.


1. HB3937, Linda Chapa LaVia (HCA1) extends the moratorium on virtual charter schools. Be a Proponent; this is a good bill. Here's the Witness Slip For This Bill . Go! Be a proponent for the Amendment.

2. HB4591, Martwick. Charter schools would have to return pro-rated funds for the kids they "counsel out." Here's the Witness Slip For This Bill. Go be a proponent! Look who's opposed, natch.

I myself have not filled out one for this bill because I don't want to look like the nut filling out all the witness slips. But I totally will if you guys come on board and fill those slips out.

3. HB5328, Hernandez. LSCs for charter schools, among other things. Here is the Witness Slip For The Bill. Go! Look who's opposed:

4. HB5330, Chapa LaVia, Along with Amendment One sets up an intelligently formed and tasked committee to look at assessment. Here is the Witness Slip For The Bill.  Here is the Witness Slip For the Amendment.  Go be a proponent! (yes, you can be a proponent for the original bill, too.)

5. HB5887 Crespo, puts reasonable financial accountability on virtual charter schools. This one is interesting, I'm for it, and it looks like some people are weighing in for it. Here is the Witness Slip For This Bill. Go be a proponent. 

6. **HB6005, Chapa LaVia, Charter School Accountability. Excellent, Excellent bill. Deserves your written testimony. Here is the Witness Slip For The Bill. Go be a proponent! This bill in its entirety is reasonable, responsible, and fair, and it would start to eliminate a lot of the shenanigans, including some of what's going on in the Gulen-affiliated operations.  This is the most important bill of my recommendations tonight. Here's a CTU fact sheet on the bill. Get moving on this bill. You are a proponent!

Guess who doesn't want this kind of accountability for charter schools?

Looks like they're all red alerts this week! And I'm out of time. I actually have five more House bills and four Senate bills I'd like to make recommendations on, but I need to reintroduce myself to my family. So that's it for now.

UPDATE: I was emailing the smartest people I know last night to try and figure out what Heather Steans is up to with (7this monster bill pending over in the Senate, SB3412 but I ran out of time. Then this morning, Jim Broadway sent out a special edition covering it.

Turns out this bill is Steans's way of codifying into law the testing on the Common Core Standards without using the actual words "Common Core." It appears to have the effect of approving the standards, as well, a process that people now recognize was a bit problematic.

I will say this much: that Heather Steans knows how to be a bit sneaky in a bill. The whole family does. It's how this entire ed reform movement has operated nationally, sort of under the radar. If you feel that your voice was left out of the original Common Core discussion in Illinois, then in the future, they're going to say that this new Steans bill was your chance to pipe up and yet you said nothing. So say something.

RPNPS doesn't work on the Common Core Standards, so I haven't filed a witness slip opposed yet. But I'm going to as an individual. I wish I could go back and be on the record against NCLB, but I can't. This I can do. Here is the Witness Slip for the bill. I myself am an opponent, and that's how I'll fill out my slip. But I'm going to try to write my own testimony tonight. Submitting written testimony to the Senate hearings is a bit harder than in the House; more on that later.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Brian Jones On Democracy Now

Did you miss Brian Jones on Democracy Now? Here is it.

The charter situation in New York State is putting the agenda into a fuller perspective; the hedge fund people have unlimited funds to buy public policy, and that's what they're going to do here. They've already started.

That's why these charter bills in Springfield are so important.  Did you see this?

Friday, March 14, 2014

More Red Alerts Coming- Stand By!

By Sunday I will post the remaining Red Alerts--- these are urgent requests for you to fill in witness slips before March 20, 2014, when the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee is scheduled to meet again. There are couple more excellent bills that we definitely want to get out of committee and onto the floor of the House.

After that, we have a campaign planned for around the state, and we're going to need help. Basically, if you've got a computer, an interest in research, and willingness to put in a few hours, I could sure use your assistance in the next two weeks. If you can help, send me a note.

I'd like to thank the folks who are doing the witness slips; it's hard to get an actual handle on who is submitting them and exactly how many are submitted; I hear from people who've definitely submitted but who don't show up in the lists yet.

If you're aware of the process but not filling them out, then help me understand what's standing in your way. I'll try to answer any questions that come up that can make this process more do-able for everyone.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We Have Another Red Alert; Get On The Horn!

This post has been updated and the clock is ticking! Click Here!

...and by "horn," I mean computer.

Friends, Romans...

There's another excellent bill pending in the House compliments of Linda Chapa LaVia. It has a hearing next Wednesday, March 20th, and as we've learned, it's really, really helpful to fill out a witness slip before a hearing.

The witness slip is your way of going on record during the hearing, which is sort of the most important time to go on record. When you fill out a witness slip, you can simply declare yourself as a proponent or an opponent, and doing so is infinitely better than doing nothing.

I'm going to show you the bill, show you how I would fill out the witness slip, show you how to take it one step further, and then beg you to move on this bill right now.

Here's the bill, HB5330.

The official synopsis:

Basically, it's a bill that requires "to create a permanent committee to review the nature and content of state-required tests, the effectiveness of the tests in achieving educational goals, the effects of poverty on test scores - a host of excellent questions," --- which is how the great Jim Broadway summarizes it

In this age of rampant over-testing, and test-bullying, and test worship, and horrifically wrong-headed narratives being spun out of test data, and whole bureaucracies built around a constant testing cycle, it's an excellent bill.  You should absolutely fill out a witness slip for it. 

Check out the text of the bill--- look who's on the permanent committee, according to the language.

1    AN ACT concerning education. 
2    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3represented in the General Assembly: 
4    Section 5. The School Code is amended by adding Section
52-3.64c as follows:
6    (105 ILCS 5/2-3.64c new)
7    Sec. 2-3.64c. Test and assessment review committee. The
8State Superintendent of Education shall appoint a committee to
9review the tests administered by the State Board of Education
10and national, statewide, and local assessments administered by
11school districts. The committee shall consist of 3 parents; one
12teacher appointed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers; one
13teacher appointed by the Chicago Teachers Union; one teacher
14appointed by the Illinois Education Association; one charter
15school teacher appointed by the local collective bargaining
16unit representing teachers; one early childhood teacher
17appointed by an early childhood advocacy organization; 2 school
18administrators appointed by the Illinois Association of School
19Administrators; and 2 concerned citizens, one of whom is a
20resident of a city having a population exceeding 500,000 and
21one of whom is a resident of another region of this State. The
22committee shall select one of its members as chairperson. The
23committee shall meet on an ongoing basis to review the content

HB5330- 2 -LRB098 15073 NHT 50862 b

1and design of the tests and assessments (including whether the
2requirements of subsection (a-5) of Section 2-3.64 have been
3met); the time and money expended at the local and State levels
4to prepare for and administer the tests and assessments; the
5collective results of the tests and assessments as measured
6against the stated purpose of testing student performance;
7parent, student, and educator perceptions of the level and
8intensity of testing; and other issues involving the tests and
9assessments identified by the committee (including without
10limitation technology access and the role that school poverty
11levels play in test administration). The committee shall
12annually report and make recommendations to the State
13Superintendent and the General Assembly concerning the tests
14and assessments. The reports must be posted on the State Board
15of Education's Internet website and be available for public

That's a bill that Illinois needs.  Here's me, filling out my actual witness slip for it, which you should also do immediately. It makes no sense to try to fill one out after the hearing. 


So how do you submit written testimony? It's actually pretty easy. It's a two-step process. 1. Write your testimony  2. Fax your clearly labeled testimony to the House Committee Clerk at FAX # 217-557-2165 before the hearing. There is no clear deadline for submission, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Submit early. You can also mail or express mail your testimony to the same office:
                                                 House Clerk Committee
                                                 Illinois State House, Room 426
                                                 401 S. Second Street
                                                 Springfield, Illinois  62076

We have so, so many parents with detailed knowledge of the scourge of over-testing; it would be a shame if the committee didn't hear from you first hand. Because they're going to hear first hand from the lobbyists from Stand For Children, or Pearson, or Michelle Rhee's corrupt outfit, or the Steans family, or from whomever else,  about how fabulous testing is for everyone and about how your kids should just suck it up and fill in the bubbles all day, every day because of data and global something.

Remember, the legislators have a completely skewed understanding of all these issues. They get their information from Illinois Policy Institute and other lobbyists. They think you're thrilled with Race To The Top.

This is not a format for petitions or for pre-prepared texts. Write your own testimony; otherwise, it's a waste of time. Here's an example of what I would consider to be a clear label and an appropriate beginning.

Don't have a fax machine? Yes you do. If you're reading this on a computer, you have a fax.  Don't make me make a video about how to use it, because I will. I will. 

That's it! Please fill out a witness slip! Or even better, write down what you've seen and fax it in. We really can't expect Linda Chapa LaVia to carry this load by herself; let's give her some backup right now.