Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Extradition Request Coming.....

Charlie Rose talked for almost an hour with the Turkish prime minister yesterday. A couple years ago, I wouldn't have given it ten seconds of thought, but now that I understand the relationship between events in Turkey and almost 150 American charter schools, I find it fascinating, and like a skier going down the same mountain slope over and over, I've started to understand the topography in a much more personal way. Here's the interview; our national guest Mr. Gulen comes up right away, then again at about 11 minutes--- the timer is very difficult to use.)

(The video may take a moment to load; I've never seen embed codes like Charlie Rose's. If it doesn't work, the video is here.)

Charlie Rose comes right out and asks about the parallel state issue. It's all probably incomprehensible to people not studying it every day, but Erdogan refers to the Gulenist's actions in Turkey as "a civilian coup." I myself have documented the baby steps of a cognate behavior here in the United States--- a relentless and successful influence-seeking operation that is unlike any other lobbying effort of which I'm aware.

There's a lot going on in the interview, but let me cut to the chase of this post: the prime minister of Turkey has started telling reporters that he intends to seek the extradition from the United States of Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the supersecretive transnational social/religious/political movement whose community of followers are deeply interconnected between the various pro-Gulenist organizations, and the charter schools, including the ones in Chicago.

I have shown time and time again that it is impossible and foolish to try to accept facile assertions that there is a difference between the American branch of the Gulen Movement and the charter schools run by people in that community. And I'm talking about the leadership of the charter schools, and quite probably the H-1B visa-based employees, not the American teachers. The American teachers are generally clueless about the connection and largely incurious, although we have talked to a number of them who are just glad to have a job and perfectly content not to ask questions. One individual I spoke to in one of the Chicago schools spoke to me in such a whispered tone of voice that I felt like I was jeopardizing her position by being seen with her. I recognize that the leaders of these charter schools continue to maintain that there is no relationship.

Here's a bit of the report in Bloomberg.
Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers should be expelled or handed over to Turkish authorities, Erdogan said in an interview with the “Charlie Rose” program, to be broadcast today on Bloomberg TV. He told reporters in Ankara that Turkey would begin taking legal steps to seek Gulen’s extradition, NTV television reported.

“It’s sad for us to see such a group can exist in the U.S.,” Erdogan said. Turkey has “expectations from our model partner.”
NYT coverage is here. 

What would the press do if the leader -- even just the "spiritual leader"-- of any other charter school chain were under threat of extradition by the prime minister of a foreign nation? Can it be that the press is almost silent on this issue because the research is a tiny bit difficult? I've begun to think so.

Will the extradition request meet legal requirements? Who knows? My own theory is that the whole thing is a cluster. It appears to me that some agency here glommed onto Mr. Gulen as a counterweight to Mr. Erdogan as part of some larger geopolitical game; however, as we've seen, the State Department had no idea why suddenly all the young Gulenists were suddenly coming to the US for no reason whatsoever.

As (visa)applicants, Gulenists are almost uniformly evasive about their purpose of travel and their relationships to Gulen, raising questions among Consular officers. Our unease is also shared by secular segments of Turkish society.

Fast forward to 2014, and the State Department spokesperson in Washington is suddenly telling us to "forget about the man in Pennsylvania."

Sorry, can't do it. You may have let him in, but something tells me you didn't plan on involving something like 60,000 American kids.

I am not here to prop up Mr. Erdogan; I think he's an authoritarian enigma who has been very clear in the past about his views on democracy and less clear now. As for his former ally Mr. Gulen, I continue to read the Pearls of Wisdom and other texts to see if I can deduce anything beyond what is already known. Here's the pearl I thought about today.
But more on that in another post.  It isn't my place to advise the Turkish people on what to do with their country, but it seems clear to me that these two men, Mr. Gulen and Mr. Erdogan, are fighting a battle for which we have no analogies here in the States, which may be why it has yet to penetrate the imagination of anyone besides Charlie Rose. Take this, for example. What in the heck do we have here in the States that compares with that? These two men are fighting for control of an economy and a religious/cultural identity, and probably all the spoils that go along with the control of those two things.

It just so happened that the black hole that is the public charter school sector in the US happened to be available at the right moment in history.

Much, much more later.

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Let's Get Back On The Phones, People!

The great Wendy Katten has sent out a reminder that our two charter bills still have a chance this week in the legislature, and that we should be calling our representatives today with messages of support. I myself get lost in the parliamentary maneuvering, but it appears to me that Wendy is right. Our bills are alive and we need for you to chime in via telephone. 

Additionally, Raise Your Hand and More Than A Score have been meeting with lawmakers to press the case. That's the heavy lifting of advocacy, sitting down with a lawmaker and trying to make a case they've been heavily lobbied/programmed to reject. I hate personal lobbying; I always feel like someone beat me to the punch. 

So, here they are. Our bills.

HB3754/SB2627, which essentially gets rid of the appointed state charter commission, the obscure board of charter enthusiasts that inserts charter schools into local communities over the wishes of the elected school boards in those communities. Since the action here is in the Senate (it has already passed the House), this is a bill for which you need to call your senator--to support SB2627. 

As a snarky recommendation, if your senator won't budge on this one, and I can think of one particular senator who won't budge on this one, you could suggest that the charter commission's powers be limited to school districts inside the legislative districts of the representatives who voted against HB3754, because these people obviously don't care about their local school boards' jurisdictions.

Be assured there's a lot of aggressive lobbying against this bill. Recall the troubling email sent out by their association. And there's also the permanent soft campaign by Concept; here for example is a photo of the two Concept kids who were apparently taken on the 93 mile (each way) trip out to Rockford to meet with Senator Stadelman. In this photo, they appear to have driven out to Glen Ellyn. Here are some other Concept kids with Rahm. Visits from Biss, Steans, Jesse White, Dan Burke, Gery Chico, Toni Berrios, the list goes on. Pretty impressive constant-contact effort, I must say. Elected school boards may very well be doomed. If I were running a neighborhood school, with all its pesky special ed and ELL kids, and the homeless kids, and the revolving door of people moving in and out of my neighborhood, I'd probably ask one of the network people stalking the halls like a jackal to make himself useful and schedule some politician face time. 

HB6005/SB588 (formerly SB 3030), the excellent Charter Accountability Act. This one still needs to clear the House and the Senate and also needs your support, so you should call your representative to support HB6005 and then call your senator to support SB588. This is such a good, good bill, with so many necessary remedies. Take these lotteries, for example. They're so sketchy. I've been driving by UNO Rogers Park's marquee for months now, and it's been advertising for enrollments every single day. You could build a waiting list for a torture chamber with advertising like that. The resulting lotteries need to be managed in a publicly transparent way-- particularly in UNO but I suspect everywhere.  Look at the lottery provision in HB6005/SB588:

That means ISBE will be handling the lottery, thank you very much. These so-called waiting lists and these shrouded-in-mystery lotteries need some sunlight, and this bill will provide it. No wonder they're busing kids to Springfield to oppose it. Here's the waiting list language.

Here's another thing. Look at the push-out language in the bill. As you know, some charter chains achieve an inflated graduation rate by sculpting the enrollment so that only the kids likely to graduate stay in the school. If kids don't fit in, if they're off-track, if zero tolerance doesn't quite work for them,  they're made to understand that they should probably find another school. And why not? Even families that want to stay in a charter school after a disagreement are encouraged to take a hike. Remember this gem?

I guess our society still needs to decide whether the push-out phenomenon is the direction we want to go in public education, just like it needs to decide if self-segregation is the direction we want to go, but meanwhile, until that's settled, here's some excellent language to account for push-outs.

There's a ton more. Read the whole thing.It's a great bill; there's nothing unfair about it; it provides much, much needed sunlight into a publicly funded sector that currently operates almost completely in the shadows. I actually think it would be good for the sector and its reputation, even though they make it sound like an existential threat. The bill needs your help.  Call you representative for HB6005, and call your senator for SB588.

By the way, there are a bunch of other good bills out there. PURE has been testifying on behalf of some legislation around testing. It deserves support. We really need a staff person up here at RPNPS to follow bills as they move through Springfield.

Update: Here's a nice little composite of just a bit of Concept's nonstop political meet-n-greet.

I see Mike Noland there, no surprise. Working on a piece on him. I've seen him in action and it isn't pretty.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Meet Your New Board of Education

Evidently the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has been enlisted in the effort to promote Gulenist bullshit across America. Here's a press release from Concept's Horizon Science Academy Belmont, from February.

I wonder if the water people are aware that this test isn't a test that anyone's ever heard of, and I wonder if they're aware that 36 point jump in three months on an academic assessment is, well, suspicious, to say the least. In the game of strategic ambiguity, none of this matters. The point is that enough people will see the numbers, will see the term "state standards," and will think that something actually happened at this school. With test score jumps like these, the kids will be working at Fermilab by fifth grade.

There are no state standards "meets or exceeds" cut scores on a test you invent on your own.

I gotta hand it to these guys; they know how to work people. When I get time, I'll try to figure out exactly which person on the water district board got pulled into the Movement's orbit. But for now, let me just point out that back in Turkey, the defining feature of the Gulen Movement is the establishment of a "parallel state." For example, enough Movement people infiltrated the judiciary so comprehensively that they basically took over that group of institutions from within,  as we read about in The Guardian last year. 

When I review  the scope and scale of the aggressive recruiting of Illinois policymakers, judicial figures, law enforcement leaders, media figures, and now even the completely clueless water reclamation people, I have to point out that what we're seeing here is a cognate phenomenon, at the very least, of a pattern we've seen before, overseas. Relentless pursuit of policymakers and recruiting them into believing and repeating things that aren't exactly true.

And yes, I realize that with kids you praise them for achievements, even on some in-house nonsense test. But who goes to the water board for a proclamation and then issues a press release? It's all so weird,  and yet so typical for these schools. Market, market, market. Blur, blur, blur. Then maneuver the narrative so that it's coming out of the mouths of people in office.

How are people to know where the truth lies, when government agencies are being suborned as notaries to the dubious claims of a dishonest public relations campaign? Should actual neighborhood public schools now embark on aggressive influence campaigns based on parallel facts?

The Water Reclamation Board now has a responsibility, in my opinion, to recognize all of the children at all of the schools where actual gains were made by students on actual assessments for which people are held accountable.

Meanwhile, here's their official commendation. They should print a warehouse of these things because there have been lots and lots of actual achievements in public schools that the water people should acknowledge, since that's what they do now.

I now have a nagging worry that the Board will believe anything it's told, which is disturbing given that our water supply is in their hands. Let's hope this is a one-off.

Meanwhile remember who these commissioners are. One of them is sure to get a Niagara award or a trip to Turkey, or both. The good news is that I didn't seen any stenography of this strange event in the actual press yet, but the year is young. It might surface yet in some truthy neighborhood piece somewhere.

h/t C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gulen On The March In Wisconsin

Do you remember that weird Praise-be-to-Fethullah Gulen resolution passed by the Illinois House in 2011 (sponsored by Turkish-junket recipient and then-Representative Susana Mendoza)? I wrote about it at length.

Well, it turns out that our cheese-enthusiast neighbors to the North, the good people of Wisconsin, have a similar resolution pending in their legislature, although it's clearly been watered down to eliminate the name of a certain international man of mystery.

Looks like it might be having tough sledding in their Senate; it's hard to know. I'm not an expert at following Wisconsin bills. Clearly they've taken out any reference to Fethullah Gulen from the Wisconsin language, now that the elected prime minister of that corruption-ridden nation, Turkey,  is making ominous threats in the press against Mr. Gulen and it's more important than ever to obscure relationships.
 "They say that if the person in Pennsylvania says something, it should be true. No, such a notion can lead a person to heresy. This was only true for our Prophet," Erdoğan said.
In an apparent reference to leaked wiretaps of Turkey's massive graft investigation, Erdoğan said: "those who violate the privacy of Muslims, those who watch their houses, disrespected all the honorable values of humanity, let alone the ones of Quran and [Prophet Mohammad's words]. Muslims don't stab their brothers in the back. They don't complain about their brothers to Western countries."
"No betrayal went unpunished," Erdoğan said. Musaylimah, who was killed in Mohammad's time for being a false prophet, was among the historical examples Erdoğan gave.
Whoever wrote the Wisconsin resolution was careful to phrase it in such a way that seems to honor Turkey in general and praise a couple organizations that most Wisconsinites have never heard of, which are of course, Gulenist organizations,  all without actually using the G-word.

The actual government of Turkey is pretty much in a Corleone vs. Tattaglia type of war with the members of those organizations at the moment. I'm sure the legislators have no clue. They probably think they've been dealing with the Turkish government. I'm also sure that someone who can identify faces can probably find one of the legislators who sponsored the Wisconsin resolution in this photo taken from a Gulen-sponsored junket to Turkey for Wisconsin legislators:

These people probably have no idea that they're posing in front of the house organ of the Gulen Movement, or that inside Turkey, the Movement functions as a parallel state, having infiltrated the judiciary and fallen into horribly tense row with their erstwhile allies in the arch-conservative Turkish government. These Wisconsinites, innocents abroad, may or may not read the New York Times but they probably skipped the Turkish coverage. 

The Niagara Foundation is having one of its awards ceremony in Milwaukee tonight (3/25/14). Looks like they're going after the new Marquette president and the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I wonder when the Gulen people started showing up in the offices of these honorees. Let me just note that I see no mention of anyone from the Turkish government -- you know, the one the State Department deals with--- in attendance at tonight's event. The nearest person, the Consul in Chicago, appears to be staying away.

As for the Wisconsin resolution, well, there are a lot of these Gulenist-written resolutions around the country. The Movement has been very busy running a sort of parallel foreign policy operation in state capitols around the U.S., and for a time, they had the tacit support of their allies in the Turkish government. It's just that those days are over.  And down the road, when the details come to light of all the trials where people were railroaded into prison by the people in the Movement, well, I suspect the relationship will only continue to deteriorate.

This account of things from The Guardian continues to disturb me.

I would care much less about any of this if public schools weren't involved. Foreign sects are probably working state legislatures all the time; our democracy is supposed to be able to figure things out and deal with them.  But this particular movement has started to gobble up public education in several states, and the people watching over our public schools seem to constitutionally unable to countradict the charters-are-Nirvana narrative that has gripped the country.   Wisconsin is down to one Gulen-linked charter school, but they're clearly running the same playbook they've run everywhere else. They'll get more schools in Wisconsin. As for the spectacularly failed Wisconsin Career Academy, founded by one of Fethullah Gulen's closest associates, well, I've write about that before.

Many thanks to Sharon Higgins  and C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S for tweeting about events in Wisconsin.

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

False Advertising and the Concept Schools

Sharon Higgins has a great post up. Data-driven, you might say.  She's exposing the phenomenon that Christopher Lubienski referred to in this presentation, where he talks about the one truly innovative thing the charter sector has led the pack in: marketing. 
This coming fall, Concept Schools will be adding two more charter schools to its collection. Both are in Chicago and come courtesy of the Chicago school board members who voted to approve the two proposals in January.
The promotional brochure designed to attract student enrollment states: “Concept serves 12,000 students in 30 high-performing charter schools across the Midwest, including 3 schools in Chicago.” (1.0 MB pdf) But Concept Schools is intentionally  misleading Chicago’s parents.

Read on! 

The Master Plan

Just wanted to post the Chicago Educational Facilities Master Plan, because it's hard to find and probably subject to random changes. This is the long range plan the district was required by statute to come up with--- I haven't had time to look through it for mention of the new north side selective enrollment school. As I recall, the district went to the legislature for an extension on the plan, and the extension was granted. So, I'm sure they needed the extra time to get the details of the new high school into the plan.

My guess is that the plan is probably written in such a way that any interpretation could be made of it. It really is quite a thing to find this plan online. Try it yourself and see if you agree. (It may take a moment to load.) My original intent was to look through it for the origins of the new selective enrollment high school, and if those details were missing, then that would confirm for me yet again that the mayor just makes sh*t up as he goes along.

It's hard to know when CPS updates this thing; I've seen different edit dates on different versions. In my mind, a plan is, you know, sort of fixed, and then when changes are proposed to the plan, those changes happen through a process, and everyone's aware of the process, etc. However, it appears to me that this plan possibly just changes whenever.

So maybe it's more like record of spontaneous decisions than it is a plan? Who knows. We need an elected school board.

There's also this monster document, which possibly changes all the time, too.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Excellent Events To Attend

Thursday Night (4/24): Promoting Progressive, Democratic Education in an Era of Standardization with Ayla Gavins and Anne Ruggiero. Depaul Student Center, 6-9 PM . (See flyer above.)

Saturday Morning (4-26): A Quality Education For Every Child: How Do We Get There? With Pasi Sahlberg. Chopin Theater, 10:00 AM- Noon.

In a completely unrelated matter, I just spied this on Twitter.

Talk about an award you should politely reject! It may very well be that the person running the Niles Public Library social media account doesn't know that the IPI is a horrendously partisan outfit known for distortion and false outrage, so it's hard to be mad. But it's my opinion that we're living in an age where people need to be very, very cautious about accepting awards from groups they don't know very well. I think a good awards policy for public entities would be to reject any award from groups whose funders are not publicly listed, or whose board is not democratically elected by members. And I would also advise schools to politely reject awards from the CPS Board of Education, reject their Tier designations, and any other bits of false praise that are actually being used unfairly as a cudgel against another community somewhere else in the city. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

More Thoughts on Religion (and Politics) in the Gulen-Linked Charter Schools

I've got a couple minutes here, so let me review what I've heard about the Gulen-linked charter school language arts festival that was held in Rosemont on April 12.

Actually, surprisingly little. Here's the coverage in the English language Gulenist media outlet, Today's Zaman, which has the date wrong.  I won't even quote from it, so read the whole thing. Looks like a young lady named Biviana Benitez from Horizon McKinley Park* won first place; I don't have video of that yet (the video server on the Turkish press site isn't working tonight.. I have no doubt she's very talented, and she chose a popular song from an artist I like.

I will note that in the Zaman story, we learn that Elaine Nekritz was at the event. Rep. Nekritz took a 2008 trip to Turkey compliments of the the Gulen Movement, and you know how hard it is to say no to people who've been so generous and hospitable.

   Also present at the Rosemont event were Representative Michelle Mussman, whom I know nothing about but who I suspect will soon be receiving some kind of award from the Niagara Foundation; and Idris Bal,  a former member of the Turkish Parliament, who has evidently joined with the Gulenists in their war against the prime minister.  In the Turkish Gulenist press, we learn that DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba was present. (Read the page in the Chrome browser; it will automatically translate it for you.) Perhaps they've given up on cultivating Tom Dart. It looks to me like they possibly read aloud the weird Susannah Mendoza praise-to-Fethullah Gulen resolution from 2011.

I wonder if they managed to put together a photo op or even a little parley between Idris Bal and Elaine Nekritz, Michelle Mussman, and Sheriff Zaruba to buttress their efforts against the elected government back home. Incidentally, there's no mention of the actual Turkish Consul of Chicago attending, or anyone from the consulate.

Also in the Turkish article, we see that the sponsors were sure to mention that they received letters of support from Tammy Duckworth, Robin Kelly, and Pat Quinn. If you've been reading these posts, you'll understand how important to the Movement to project an image of its influence with elected leaders. Here are some other people who were evidently there.

Possibly that's the mayor of Rosemont there on the lower right? Possibly Alderman Mary O'Connor above him? Not sure about the gentleman on the left.

I'm sure they'll put together a better video in the coming days, but as you can see, for now I'm relying on what I've seen on Twitter. Take for example, this tweet, about a young man performing at the event. The tweet appears to be from this individual, who I believe is the daughter  or close relative of one of Fethullah Gulen's closest advisors (also here), and who is certainly not the first young person linked to the Movement to intern in an elected official's office (Jan Schakowsky's).

In the not quite functional video on this page, the young man is singing at 2:08 at the Rosemont event; however, there are a couple of better videos of him in rehearsal, (possibly posted by his teacher?) which show clearly the performance he was honing for the show. He's a talented young man; you should take a look.

He's certainly got the moves, and a talent for language, but let's look at the lyrics, and then check out what he's singing in translation.

Remember how in a previous post about religion in the Gulen-linked schools, I talked about revivalism? I talked about how you might not pick up on the connotations of words and symbols unless you were familiar with the language, the iconography, etc. Well, what is this young man singing about? Do roses have any connotations for you? They do for some. How about tulips? How about martyrs?-- there's a word we don't often hear kids singing in public schools in the US. Is it within the realm of reason to assert that this song is a religious song? What are the other words in the song that evoke religion? How about the other songs? I've only examined this one.

Run the song past a Turk and see what you get. Their language is ancient-- the connotations of their words go back to the time before America was invaded by Europeans.  As for me, I'm pretty sure that this young man in the video has no idea about any of these things; he's just trying to remember a song and doing a good job of it. As for the adults running the show, I'm pretty sure they're happier about this song at a deeper level. It all fits in very well with the descriptions of crackling political and religious nationalism that are exemplified by the Turkish Olympiad, a topic we've talked about at length. I know this is just one young man singing just one song, but when you look at the ultimate goal, the Turkish Olympiad, and all of the kids from all over the universe of Gulen-linked schools, you see a theme.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it looks like the Gulen Movement is on the ropes in Azerbaijan, what with the vindictive, victorious Erdoğan flying hither and yon, getting his political allies ready to shut down or take over the Gulen schools throughout their range. It appears that when the Gulenists released the illegal wiretaps in Turkey, they played their last hand and lost. 

Bayrum Balci makes a good point in the same article:

Last but not least, Erdoğan’s determination to eradicate the Gülen movement in Turkey and abroad could create a climate of suspicion everywhere where Gülenists have developed activities. Consequently, genuinely innocent people who have been working for them for years, sympathizing with their ideas or not, could suffer and be endangered as a result of the ongoing witch hunt.

I see what he's saying. In any movement as large and dispersed as the Gulen Movement, there are bound to be true believers, samaritans, and generally well-meaning members in the outer circle, and these members may comprise the majority of the movement. And they might very well be blind to the machinations, the wheelings and dealings, and the true feelings and motivations of the inner circle. It's just that for me, it's clear that the inner circle is in Pennsylvania, and it extends to Ohio and Chicagoland, and I think the people inside the inner circle are closely connected to some very sketchy behavior back in the old country. 

I don't have feelings of alarm or panic about the relationship between our nation's largest charter school chain and a transnational social/religious/political movement. I think it's inappropriate, this relationship, and also that it doesn't "culturally compute," as Joshua Hendrick might say, in a land where the governance of public schools is typically open and democratic and clearly separate from opaque, secretive religious movements. There are risks, clearly, because of the tense showdown between the Movement and Erdoğan, which Erdoğan is clearly willing to extend outside the Turkish borders. However,  even in Concept, which appears to have been very, very sophisticated in the way it has hidden its relationships to the very top of the Gulen Movement, I believe that the Movement-linked people mean well. And the American teachers? They have no idea about any of it.

Charter accountability, sunlight, oversight.... these things will be good for everyone involved. It's time for the Legislature to wake up.

*Horizon McKinley Park is one of the two Gulen-linked charter schools that were inserted into Chicago by the Illinois State Charter Commission over the objections of the Chicago Board of Education. They're on the march. Like the other schools in the chain, they're wasting no time in cultivating political relationships, although I'm not sure they're going to do the same video series as Chicago Math and Science Academy. If they do, I'm predicting you'll see a video testimonial from State Senator Tony Munoz, or that he'll be getting an award soon. 

New to the topic? Please see some of my previous posts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

From The Vault: Absolutely Closing The Achievement Gap

No time to write, so I'm pulling stuff from the vault.

This one is a little clip of Arne Duncan talking to someone from Edutopia back in the day.

Absolutely closing the achievement gap. Absolutely.

Except later on in time, the University of Chicago figured out that the achievement gap was actually worse, as the award-winning Linda Lutton wrote about in 2011. 

I actually hate when people talk about "closing the achievement gap" because for me it's a red flag. It almost always signals that person talking is focused on the wrong things, and that somewhere down the line, the toughest kids who need the most and get the least are going to be dispersed from their neighborhood school and lost.

Red flags, red lights, red alerts. My blogging has developed a theme.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Red Light On Redistricting...

Evening all, I'm trying to post an update on the Gulen-linked charter school language arts competition that took place on the 11th--- but it's going to have to wait. Busy season here.

Meanwhile, I was just sort of meandering through the campaign contributions for Yes For Independent Maps, which I haven't paid any attention to until now. Evidently there's a deep-pocketed campaign to replace our current opaque gerrymandering system with a different one, an appointed committee.

Do I have to tell you how I feel about appointed committees? Look at the state charter school commission. Talk about a group of people that should have to face voters.

Anyway, I admit to being a bit lazy here; I haven't even read the ballot initiative-- I've only read this Sun-Times article, but when I look at the number of financiers, money managers, scions of wealthy families, tycoons, and right-wing associations shoveling money at the effort, I call foul. Flip through the names for yourself.  There's just no way this thing about anything other than deregulation, privatization, and the general looting of the country. Billionaires, hedge fund people, and the various members of the Steans family don't throw money at things unless it's somehow going to end public education in the long run or create more wealth for the people who've figured out how to game the financial system.

I know there are some groups with good reputations pushing for this thing. I see Common Cause is on board. Admittedly I'm a hermit, but the only time I ever sat with a large group of Common Cause people was when they sat silently while Alderman Joe Moore refused to act on three alderman's petition for ward-wide ballots regarding an elected school board. He simply buried the item on a pretense (it was an hour late or some such crap).  The committee meeting came to a halt-- people were appalled, but the Common Cause folks, I regret to say, didn't join in the protest. They were hoping to get a symbolic resolution passed; I can't even remember the issue, but it really wasn't directly related to the actual jurisdiction of the City Council. The exact sort of thing Alderman Moore specializes in.

I write all this to point out that while reasonable people can disagree, I sometimes get the feeling that people aren't reading the fine print. They aren't looking at who's funding what, and who's agenda is being served. Go ahead and look at the contributors and then list for me all the wonderful causes they've fought for. I'll wait.

Can redistricting be improved? Yes. But let's think of a way that brings actual sunshine into it. When we think of that way, I can pretty much guarantee you that Wall Street isn't going to be funding the effort.

Meanwhile I'm declaring a Red Light on this ballot initiative. Red Lights are like Red Alerts, except quieter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking A Good, Long Look At The Concept Charter Schools

Here's the video from Monday night's webinar: Gulen 101, Session Two, With Sharon Higgins. It was a comprehensive look at the local interconnectivity between the various nodes of the Gulen Movement and Concept Schools, the group that runs three publicly funded charter schools in Chicago and many more across the region. [For an interesting update on this topic, check out Sharon Higgins' post about the webinar.]

For the life of me I do not know how the state charter commission could so blithely discount the evidence.  Remember this? I hope they kept written records of their research because it seems likely that we'll be requesting their reports soon. Basic research, basic due diligence, basic critical thinking skills--- these are the only things required to figure out that there are multiple connections between this transnational social/political/religious movement and the three charter schools in Chicago, that these connections are purposely blurred to keep people uninformed, and that this phenomenon is consistent with the established patterns of behavior of the Gulen Movement worldwide.

The financial contributions to Congressman Danny Davis, which Sharon talks about at the end of the webinar, are really quite something. We've already contacted ISBE for more information. Congressman Davis is no stranger to international men of mystery; you will recall that he was present at the ceremony in which Sun Myung Moon proclaimed himself the Messiah, and then of course there was the Tamil Tigers episode. I like Danny Davis; I think it's very likely that he simply doesn't always look very hard at the people trying to cultivate influence with him, and in Illinois, that can be said of many, many people.

Nevertheless, we'll be checking to see if the congressman involved himself with the successful Concept appeal to the state charter school commission. It seems fitting that these schools-- which are connected to a secretive social movement, should be inserted into Chicago through an obscure, appointed committee that most citizens aren't even aware of. If they received assistance through the efforts of a politician they've cultivated, that would just be icing on the cake.

Nobody is using alarming rhetoric in this webinar, nor have I used any alarming rhetoric in the many posts I've written on the topic. What we're doing is pointing out in a clearest terms a phenomenon that plainly exists, that needs public discussion, sunlight, and a response from whoever it is that's blocking the charter bills in the Senate Education Committee, bills which expire on Friday. Again, here are the people on that committee:

There is more than one senator on this committee who'd rather not see any action on eliminating the state charter commission. If it you've called your senator and she hasn't told you explicitly that she's for it, then she's against it. They want to block it-- it's bothersome legislation in the minds of some very deep-pocketed people.

However, for the public interest, the charter bills before the Senate Education Committee are excellent and necessary. (UPDATE 9:00PM Looks like HB 4237 is on life support over in the House; hopefully someone will think of a way to let voters have a say in the types of public schools built in public school districts, and not let this decision rest in the hands of an appointed board of charter "enthusiasts" who have never faced voters. I believe the bill I support HB 6005, is still alive and ready for a vote.)*

Finally, just to reiterate, the theme of the webinar is that there is an undeniable relationship and interconnectivity between the Gulen Movement and the largest charter school network in the United States, which includes the Concept schools in the midwest; that the Movement is an active political partisan in an unfolding foreign drama, that it is secretive by nature and clearly religious, and connected to a specific theology. The reports in the world press of the complex nature of the Gulen Movement in Turkey and around the globe are various and in a multitude of credible cases, disturbing. What needs to be hashed out in the United States is whether all of these things are okay with us. They certainly are unprecedented in the arena of American public education. Are our schools now supposed to be a funding/outreach arm for every foreign organization? Or just this one.

While it's unprecedented, it isn't surprising. The opaque-by-design nature of the charter school sector, the resistance to any kind of minimal oversight, the ease with which the charter sector can thrive in an environment in which public education is excoriated by a constant drumbeat of misinformation--- from the Secretary of Education on down--- these things are the perfect atmosphere for hidden agendas.

It all needs sunlight and basic regulation--- the whole sector, not just the Gulen-linked schools. But in these particular schools, we also need to look at the idea of how important it is that people tell the truth when they're in a position of public trust.  We cherish freedom of association here; we also cherish freedom of religion and speech, and all of these things must be protected, even and especially for the followers of Fethullah Gulen.  But this confusing, disturbing situation we see in this webinar--- it's caused by secrecy and disinformation. I get the reasons; it's just that I don't think it's right. Not here, not in the private governance of public schools.

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

*Linda Chapa La Via had a tough day in the House, but she said something important at the end of the day: “I apologize, but the frustrating thing is we’re here for the children—not an association, not a hidden agenda—we’re here for the children of the state of Illinois,” she said. “And what’s frustrating is we have outside powers putting things in people’s heads that aren’t 100 percent true.” She's talking about Christian Mitchell's head, which appears to be full of talking points, while his wallet, on the other hand, is full of Stand for Children money, which is outside money.

I have developed more respect for Linda Chapa La Via than really anyone else in the House, and I've had huge disagreements with her in the past. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

LSC Elections! Vote!

This, from Kyle Hillman:

Vote in your LSC election starting tomorrow! Monday-Tuesday

Chicago Election for Local School Councils starts tomorrow.
Goto: http://www.cps.edu/schools/find_a_school/pages/schoollocator.aspx
Select search by address.
Enter in YOUR address.

It will tell you which neighborhood schools you can vote at. You can vote in both your local elementary LSC election (Monday) and your high school (Tuesday).
6am - 7pm
Also if you have a student at another public school you can also vote there.
You must be 18, bring two forms of IDs - one of which must show your address (your drivers license for example). You do not need to be registered to vote - or even eligible to vote in a US election.
IDs accepted : https://scontent-a-ord.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/t1.0-9/s261x260/10006510_10154044897710038_3738353806829694870_n.jpg

And this, from me:

To repeat: Elementary elections are Monday; high school elections are Tuesday.

RPNPS doesn't endorse candidates; we just encourage people to get involved. I myself will be voting in the elections at Kilmer Elementary and Sullivan High School.

Like I say, we don't endorse, but I myself will be voting for Dave Horstein and Myrel Cooke at Kilmer. If I were voting at New Field, I would definitely vote for Matthew Muir,  who has helped me figure out a couple of things about how legislation works, and who is a knowledgeable, capable supporter of public education.

                                                                                                                   ---Tim Furman

Public Funding, Public Accountability

             "Where there is public funding, there should be public accountability."
                                                       --Byron Sigcho

Byron Sigcho was on Public Perspective recently reviewing many of the problems with charters in Illinois. Virtually all of these problems are addressed in the Charter Accountability Act (HB 6005), which is on third reading in the Illinois House of Representatives; it could be voted on in the House at any moment, and it stands a good chance.

Over in the Senate, where the bill is known as SB 3030, it's still before the Senate Education Committee. It's in this committee where it faces trouble, as does SB 2627, the bill that gets rid of the horrendously undemocratic State Charter School Commission, which recently inserted not one but two Gulen-linked charter schools into Chicago, over the objections of the Chicago Board of Education.

The Senate Education Committee is running out the clock on these two excellent public-interest bills; they both have a deadline of April 11. That's Friday.

We've been contacting school boards in Daniel Biss's district to inform them that these bills are in the hopper and that they (the board members) should get on the phones. Will they? Who knows.  It's my casual observation that people think that all these phenomena are happening somewhere else and that they don't need to be concerned. However, we've gotten some favorable responses as well. Mostly people are just basically disconnected from the idea that legislation is ongoing and it affects them, in my observation.

Believe me, there is not a constituency clamoring for zero accountability over charters, and there isn't a constituency clamoring for an appointed board to overrule elected suburban boards. If someone on the Senate Education Committee is blocking these bills, it's either because of some unspoken zealotry for unchecked privatization, or it's money talking.  Or possibly they're connected to someone with an interest in starting a charter. When I look through those contributions, I see the names of the people who voted against the Charter Commission bill in the House, and those who are holding up both bills in the Senate Education Committee.

These people need your calls, all the way through Friday. If you know people in the suburbs, you have contact them and get them on the horn.

When a hearing goes on the schedule, I will send out a red alert for witness slips, but the main thing is--- you've got to look through this list and figure out who's there who thinks charter schools should continue to be held to almost no standard for accountability, and that an obscure, appointed board should trump home-rule for elected suburban and downstate districts.

Are you connected to suburban or downsate PTA? Do you know anyone on these suburban or downstate boards? Reach out today. Or get me some contact information; I'll do it!