Thursday, May 30, 2013

President Declares Charter School Week in May
By Jim Vail
Second City Teacher

Before the month of May ends, let me remind Second City Teacher readers that US President Barak Obama proclaimed a week in May the National Charter Schools Week.

This used to be a country committed to a public education for all and would honor its many, hard working public school teachers.

That was then.

Now we see the neoliberal, fanatical right wing ruling class declaring war on working people everywhere, and issuing government proclamations in support of sweatshop labor in schools.

"America's success in the 21st century depends on what we do today to reignite the true engine of our economic growth:  a thriving middle class," Obama's speech writers, okayed by wealthy hedge fund donors, declared via the president's mouth.  

"Achieving that vision means making sure our education system provides ladders of opportunity for our sons and daughters.  We need to equip all our students with the education and skills that put them on the path to good jobs and a bright future - no matter where they live or what school they attend.  Charter schools play an important role in meeting that obligation."

Really - charter schools contribute to building a middle class by destroying middle class public school teaching jobs?

The president, I mean the business class, even had to make sure the truth coming out on how charter schools are doing no better than public schools, and actually can cheat more under a de-regulated model, had to be addressed.

"In return for this flexibility, we should expect high standards and accountability, and make tough decisions to close charter schools that are underperforming and not improving."

I had to shake my head and think, can the ruling class really think the people are this dumb.  When charter schools first came out 15 years ago or so, they were proclaimed as the great incubators to do things the public schools couldn't do.

Scams, poor test results, etc. have dimmed the luster, and they are no longer really embraced by the public.

But that doesn't stop the president from saying the same thing 15 years later.

"These learning laboratories give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers."

Hey, when you own the president (read the Pritzker series on this site), then you can make him say anything to make you money!

When you read this garbage, you can't help but slowly shake your head and lament a president who is merely a puppet mouthing what his masters tell him to say.  

It was so obvious that this proclamation came straight from the ruling class via billionaire technocrats, hedge fund hotshots, Gates and Walton Foundations - the very rich destroying the rest of us - the 99%.

That is who the president represents - the 1%.  Does anyone want to argue with this?

When I argued against the Chicago Teachers Union endorsing the guy and his Race to the Top that is built to soundly destroy our public education system, the union leadership fired back that there is no better alternative.

If we continue to take this, there will be nothing left.  Nothing!  Nothing!!!

- - - - - - -
America's success in the 21st century depends on what we do today to reignite the true engine of our economic growth: a thriving middle class. Achieving that vision means making sure our education system provides ladders of opportunity for our sons and daughters. We need to equip all our students with the education and skills that put them on the path to good jobs and a bright future -- no matter where they live or what school they attend.
Charter schools play an important role in meeting that obligation. These learning laboratories give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers. In return for this flexibility, we should expect high standards and accountability, and make tough decisions to close charter schools that are underperforming and not improving. But where charter schools demonstrate success and exceed expectations, we should share what they learn with other public schools and replicate those that produce dramatic results. Many charter schools choose to locate in communities with few high-quality educational options, making them an important partner in widening the circle of opportunity for students who need it most.

Our children are ready to write the next great chapter in the American story. As parents and teachers and citizens, it is up to all of us to provide them the tools they need to keep our country moving forward -- from a degree that leads to a good job to the critical thinking skills that make our democracy thrive. This week, we recognize charter schools that are advancing those goals, and we recommit to helping our Nation's children go as far as their talents will take them.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 5 through May 11, 2013, as National Charter Schools Week. I commend our Nation's charter schools, teachers, and administrators, and I call on States and communities to support charter schools and the students they serve.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Won't Get Fooled Again!

By Jim Vail

The Sun Times reported yesterday that embattled UNO Charter School CEO Juan Rangel would step down as chairman of the board, and relinquish his position as head of the city's public building commission.

With probably his head hung low for good measure, Rangel announced, "I am here today to apologize.  I have failed."

Are we all laughing now?

He hasn't failed to relinquish his $250,000 CEO gig, though.

I first started reporting on the Aspira Charter scam when they moved into a newly built public school that the neighborhood wanted to keep as part of the Haugan School that was overcrowded.

But suddenly politicians, including the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, decided to override the wishes of the community and support this charter school operator who came from nowhere.

Even the Sun Times wrote an editorial against handing over any charter schools to Aspira's director Jose Rodriguez, known affectionately in the inner circles of city hall as the 'godfather.'  

Rodriguez was called out years ago for voting on awarding work to his Aspira organization, while serving on Roberto Clemente's local school council.  

The Sun-Times charged him with a conflict of interest.

Sound familiar?  

In the UNO case, Gov. Pat Quinn suspended the $98 million school construction grant in April after the Sun Times reported $8.5 million of the state grant went to companies owned by two brothers of Miguel d'Escoto, a top UNO executive who recently quit his $200,000 post.

In Aspira's case, despite being hit by an embarrassing federal strip search law suit that hit the network news, followed by other scandals brought about by whistle blowers, the city refused to pull the plug on Aspira.  

In fact, they just announced opening another charter high school, (cough, cough), against the wishes of the community.

But the tables have turned.

A former judge in the UNO case recently recommended that the charter operator ban nepotism in hiring.  In March the Sun-Times reported that UNO has three Rangel relatives on the payroll.

Awarding contracts to family members is apparently the charter school way.  The Aspira payroll was packed with director Rodriguez's family members.  There is even another charter school called Latino Youth High School run by the Pilsen Wellness Center allegedly filled with the director's relatives.

(Charters are allowed to hire family members because they are not properly regulated like the public schools.  So recommending that UNO stop, hardly stops the problem.)

In addition to Rangel's supposed demise and public humiliation announcement, Aspira's Rodriguez was also fired as head of Aspira by his board of directors.
But if there's one thing I've noticed in my years of reporting on charter schools at Substancenews, I don't trust the so-called overseers.

What government officials state in public is usually quite different from what went on behind closed doors.  

So what's the real story on why the city has suddenly pulled the plug on two of these powerful hispanic political operations.

Well, let's begin with asking who gets to control the purse strings now to finish building the UNO soccer academy charter high school?

Enter Martin Cabrera, founder and chief executive officer of Cabrera Capital Markets, a Chicago financial services firm that was one of the two underwriters for a $37.5 million UNO bond issue in 2011, to head the new UNO board of directors,  the Sun-Times reported.

Weren't these guys questioning how will a new unionized teaching force cut into their proceeds?

Well, here we go again.  The old guys and their old ways are out, make room for the new bond holders who will continue to fleece the public, but in new and exciting ways.

Perhaps The Who sang it best in Won't Get Fooled Again - "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Reasons Why Charters are Not Necessary in the City
By Tim Meegan
Roosevelt High School teacher delegate

We believe the drive to “right size” the district and the drive to privatize the public schools through the proliferation of charters are one in the same.

We know that the district’s enrollment has decreased by roughly 30,000 students from 2000 to 2010, while enrollment in charters has gone up 50,000 in the same time period, and that most underutilized schools are located very close to recently opened charter schools, which have drawn off students from neighborhood public schools (see map 1).  

Furthermore, we recognize the deceptive practice of CPS when it repeatedly and erroneously suggests that the City has lost 145,000 students, leaving CPS an excess capacity of 100,000 student seats.

We know that the formula used by CPS to calculate under-utilization is deeply flawed:

During a meeting with seven parents and community representatives on Nov. 13, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett acknowledged the utilization formula has problems.  This was before an independent analysis by the parent group Raise Your Hand found that the CPS greatly exaggerates the number of under enrolled schools and under-reports the number of overcrowded schools. When that analysis was presented to the CPS utilization commission in December, Commission Chairman Frank Clark said he didn’t dispute the data 
and called the analysis “excellent.” (1)

We agree with CEO Byrd-Bennett when she says the district lacks credibility and there is a trust gap, but we maintain that CPS continues to actively ignore and disrespect parent and teacher input, while continuing its deceptive practices.

We know the vast majority of underutilized schools, as well as the vast majority of charter schools are located on the South and West sides in neighborhoods of color (see map 2).

We know charter schools do not outperform traditional public schools, and we know research has shown they perform worse than neighborhood schools in certain student populations.

On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small.  Other subgroups, however, including Black and Hispanic students as a whole, have learning gains that are significantly smaller than those of their TPS (traditional public school) twins.    (2)

We know there are significant profits to be made in creating charter schools: the New Markets tax credit 
allows bankers and hedge fund operators to earn a 39% credit over 7 years, plus interest on all loans, doubling their money while using taxpayer funds as collateral. 

We know that while undocumented immigrants struggle to realize the American Dream in our public schools, wealthy foreigner investors can simply buy visas to the United States by investing in charters:  Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools.

The reason?  Under a federal program known as EB-5, wealthy foreigners can in effect buy U.S. immigration visas for themselves and their families by investing at least $500,000 in certain development projects. 

In the past two decades, much of the investment has gone into commercial real-estate projects, like luxury 
hotels, ski resorts and even gas stations.

Lately, however, enterprising brokers have seen a golden opportunity to match cash-starved charter schools with cash-flush foreigners in investment deals that benefit both.

‘The demand is massive - massive - on the school side,’ said Greg Wing, an investment advisor. ‘On the investor side, it's massive, too.’

Two years ago, Wing set up a venture called the Education Fund of America specifically to connect international investors with charter schools. He is currently arranging EB-5 funding for 11 schools across North Carolina, Utah and Arizona, and says he has four more deals in the works.

And that's just the start, Wing says: ‘It's going to be explosive.’ (3)

We know that most members of the Board are either current investors in charter operations or are former bankers and charter operators themselves.  We know that through the use of EMOs, a charter operator is entitled to skim off 15% of a school's public funding for administrative costs, then create a subcontractor that can skim off an additional 15%, thereby subverting as much as 30% of a school's public funds from the students it is supposed to serve.  

Charter holders and EMOs create subsidiaries in order to shuffle real estate around among themselves. With each reshuffling, the value of the real estate increases and the profitability of the parent corporation and its subsidiaries increases as well. UNO is particularly adept at this financial slight of hand.

We know charter schools aggressively fine students for minor misconduct, make recovery credit prohibitively expensive, and even deny credits earned unless poor performing students voluntarily transfer, in which case said earned credits will be restored (Rauner College Prep), all in the name of pricing out poor students who are more likely to score lower on standardized tests:   Charter schools differ from district contract schools in that they create specific profiles and market themselves to specific families. The process of marketing and recruiting students makes it possible to target students who are less costly to educate. 

Although charter schools are not allowed to charge fees, they can make it difficult for low-income or single-parent families to enroll by providing limited or no transportation, requiring parents to volunteer at the school, 
or establishing a complicated application process that requires interviews and parent information meetings.

The implementation of strict disciplinary policies that result in suspensions and expulsions of students can further structure enrollment by removing or “counseling out” students experiencing difficulties.  (4)

We know that charter schools have appalling rates of faculty turnover due to low wages and inferior working conditions as compared to public schools with union employees.  While 67 percent of CPS first year elementary teachers returned to their school, only 54 percent of all teachers returned to their UNO campuses. A similar retention gap exists in high schools, with 75 percent of first year CPS high school teachers returning but, for example, only 65 percent of all teachers at Noble. This large turnover in charters influences teacher experience—charter teachers average about four years of experience, compared to 14 years for CPS teachers. (5)

We know that neighborhood school closures will destabilize the lives of students, causing their learning to fall behind by as much as 6 months (6), severing the bonds they have with adults in their lives who they trust, and leading to potential alienation, resulting in other negative social and educational consequences. Given the violence in Chicago and in schools nationally, and that stability is required to prevent violence, this is unacceptable. (7)

We know the Board has repeatedly over exaggerated its budget deficit since 2005 by hundreds of millions of dollars, and that it continues to willfully ignore a TIF program that annually siphons off $250 million in taxes from the students in CPS, and that is has refused to open its books to the public or submit to an independent forensic audit of its finances.

We therefore believe that the current crisis is manufactured, represents an agenda of putting profits over people, and is designed specifically to privatize a public resource for the profit of a few wealthy individuals.  

We believe such privatization schemes have led to disastrous consequences for taxpayers in the past, such as the Enron collapse and the city's parking meter deal, and we believe public schools are too important to be sold off.

We therefore demand that Alderman Dick Mell of the 33 on charter schools from the rules committee before CPS is allowed to close even one “underutilized” school.

We demand that CPS close zero public schools and adopt a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.

Ohare meeting 2/23/13

(7) Rose, Ingrid.  “Depth Psychological Perspectives on Alienation and Violence in the School System”
Dissertation in Clinical Psychology, Pacifica Graduate Institute  
Rauner letter:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hello education activists!

So folks may or may not have heard that an organization in Greensboro, NC has invited our beloved (*cough cough*) Alderman Joe Moore to speak about the "success" of participatory budgeting in the 49th ward.

The primary organizer's name is Larry and his email is

I urge you all to send him a message to dis-invite Joe Moore.  I've copied and pasted my letter as an example:


My name is John Snowden and I am a resident of Alderman Joe Moore's 49th Ward in Chicago.  I want to urge you NOT to invite Joe Moore to discuss participatory budgeting in Greensboro.  

Joe Moore has proven his commitment to preventing community involvement, not only in budgeting, but in basic city governance.  

Rogers Park is not only one of the the most diverse neighborhoods in a very segregated city of Chicago, but is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US which is bordered to the north by a mostly white Northwestern University and a mostly white Loyola University to the south.  

Joe Moore's brand of participatory budgeting focuses almost exclusively on the white student populations of both universities who in fact represent only demographic minority in the ward. The ward's black and brown voters have been intentionally disenfranchised from participatory budgeting.  

He refuses to allow voter registration cards to vote and instead forces voters to use what the ACLU has already shown to be racist right-wing attacks on democracy by forcing voters to use state issued photo ID cards and at times a second proof of address so as to limit participation in the ward from people of color and senior citizens.  

The ballot itself does not ask basic budgeting questions about neighborhood resources like public schools, but instead focus on additional and needless bike lanes on streets where Loyola and Northwestern already have significant holdings so as to increase the value of student rental properties.

Finally, last year when by referendum, the people of Chicago voted loudly and clearly (at nearly 90%) that we demanded an elected representative school board, it was none other than Ald. Joe Moore at the personal request of iron fisted Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who denied the overwhelming majority of voters that elected school board through parliamentary trickery killing legislation that would have allowed voters to decide who is on the school board rather than the current system Mayoral appointees.  

It's also important to point out the increase in Joe Moore's campaign funds after that move and the decision by the unelected school board to not close any schools in the 49th Ward. 

Although Rogers Park is grateful for our schools staying open (unlike the 49 schools in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods on the South and West sides that the unelected school board has voted to close despite overwhelming community opposition), the 90% of voters who demand an elected school board believe that NO school in the city should be closed and Joe Moore, along with the political machine of this city, has bulldozed democracy and community involvement and depend on racist tactics to do so.

Please do not invite Joe Moore to teach such racist anti-democratic tactics to Greensboro.  

John Snowden
By Stephen Wilson
Second City Teacher

(Moscow, Russia) - It comes as a bit of shock.  When you attempt to cross a pedestrian crossing, and a car is coming up, you pause! Instead of driving straight past, they stop and let you  cross.  Some even smile at you! 

              Ten years ago it was almost unthinkable.  I thought it represented only a freak occurrence, but no, I was wrong.  It happened again and again! Russian drivers are becoming more polite and considerate to pedestrians.  At least, a growing number of them are! 

             Of course, we can't overlook some grotesque incidents where a driver knocked down two pedestrians and got casually out to inspect the damage to her car, rather than rush to aid the poor victims.

             There is still some 'khamsteva', which translates into  a kind of boorish aggression where drivers will drive up and deliberately knock over a pedestrian who is walking too slowly along a pavement or road.  I have witnessed such incidents in Moscow a few times.

              The worst incident was in Kishenev, Moldova, where an angry and aggressive driver beeped his horn madly to a crossing pedestrian to 'Get out the way'!  The pedestrian indignantly refused and the driver got out of the car and assaulted the poor man by using some judo.  So much for judo being 'the gentle art or way', I thought.  Nobody had taught that driver that the aim of judo is to control the self and not to lose it.

              There is another sign Russians might be becoming kinder.  If you open up Russian newspapers, you will see many appeals for funds to help sick patients who urgently require medical aid.

              There is also a much more caring attitude to the homeless.  I have heard that some students of Moscow state University and even some school students have formed groups to help the homeless in a spontaneous way.  They gather to go to certain spots, to feed, cloth and befriend homeless people.  In fact, I accidently bumped into one helper.  I and a Scottish friend were walking up the escalator of a metro (subway) when a homeless man came tumbling down on us.  Luckily, we managed to pull him up and get him to the top.

             When we reached the top, I noticed a young school girl of around 14-15 greeting him. It turned out she was helping him and was one of those guardian angels.

             I heard of another intriguing fact.  A Russian 'Kindness' society' has just been established, with its own website, whose aim is to inspire 'acts of kindness'.  It was largely set up by Russian academics.  I met one of those key founders a week ago during a lecture of David Wansbrough's.  He is a famous naturalist called Nicholas Drozdov.  

            On this occasion, he made a speech where he hoped that people would come together and make peace with each other.  He even awarded a peace prize to David for his kind efforts to promote peace.  Incidently, Nicholas Drozdov, a cheerful and warmly friendly man, is Orthodox and strongly inspired by Orthodox Christianity! 

           So it seems that there are more and more people in Russia heeding Doctor Gaas's dictum 'To hurry up and do good'! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

By Stephen Wilson
Second City Teacher

(Moscow, Russia) - Over the past few days the Russian Minister of Education has come under severe criticism from members of the Russian Duma.  Even his deputy refuses to vote for his proposals.  They have been calling for his resignation! 

'It is better to do nothing than implement disastrous policies' claimed one critic! The almost amateurish and rash proposals  to close down some of the best institutes has astonished even staunch 'yes-men'! It has left people wandering if the lunatics have taken over the asylum, or more appropriately, have a band of swaggering school hooligans starting to boss teachers about. 

Nevertheless, the Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev won't back down and stubbornly defends the new proposes to  'modernise' and update the education system.

However, the Russian government can take consolation from some welcome news.  Moscow State University reached the 50th place in the ratings of the best 100 universities, according to the British newspaper, 'The Times'.  The top remaining universities tend to be Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge and Oxford.

However, what is disquieting is how sensitive the Russian government is to those foreign rating systems.

 You would think that all the rising anti-American rhetoric would lead them to critically reject, rather than endorse those limited and questionable evaluation ratings! They don't! On the contrary, they are actually restructuring  further education along western lines by making education less accessible to the poorest students, and almost totally private.

For example, if you want to train to be a doctor at Moscow State University, there are only 5 places available which are 'free'!  If you want to be an architect, there are only around a dozen free places at one institute.  Forget about a career open to talent!  Money is much more important than merit.

It is interesting to note that the criteria for evaluating universities is one-sided.  For example, the number of scientific articles published in journals (they have to be written in English!), the number of foreign students a university attracts (this depends on the narrow skill of promotion and not originality or creativity in science) and the number of specialists.   

It is worth recalling that one of the most famous sociologists of the 19th century Herbert Spencer never held a university degree, never mind a doctorate; and one of the most famous archaeologists Heinrich Schliemann had practically no academic credentials and was self-taught! 

However, the history of further education does not embarrass any official or academic.  They either overlook it, or are conveniently unaware of it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Union Endorses Penny Pritzker By Saying Nothing
By Jim Vail
Second City Teacher

Second City Teacher just ran a fascinating in-depth interview on how the Pritzkers made their billions, avoided paying taxes and control our political process.  

Penny Pritzker, who served on the Chicago Board of Education, was just recently nominated to become the US commerce secretary by President Barak Obama.

Think of it as payback for funding his run to be president.

But what about the unions who also helped put Obama in office?  

UNITE HERE represents the hotel workers who have been involved in one of the ugliest union battles between Pritzker's Hyatt Hotel and the workers who were abused by replacing career housekeepers with minimum wage housekeepers and imposing dangerous workloads on the remaining employees.  

Why the unions even went so far as to call Hyatt the worst hotel employer in America and called for a boycott.

But now Unite has nothing to say about Penny becoming our new commerce secretary. 

This highlights the incestuous relationship between unions letting down its members and joining forces with management.

"Unite Here is not going to fight this thing with Penny because it would embarrass the president, and since these union people are democrats and love unions and Barak says he loves unions too, they don't want to jeopardize their relationship with the president," said Chicago-based banking investigator Tim Anderson in an interview with Pacifica Radio.

"So Unite Here is selling out their own people in Chicago, and the whole Hyatt chain throughout the country, to protect the president.  It's disgraceful.  They know the story.  I've had their people interview me twice.  The union gets abused by the Pritzkers, but they take it because they like the kind of money she makes for them, and the left doesn't want to fight her because Barak is their candidate.  They know how to play both horses in a race."

They certainly do.  The unions were against Penny being commerce secretary after Obama was freshly elected the first time.  Except he kind of owed union people who went out to campaign for him by listening to the union protests and refusing to put Penny in his cabinet the first time around.

Now that the president was re-elected, and thumbed his nose at the union card check that he had also earlier promised, he proposed Penny again, and it appears she is headed for confirmation with no real opposition.

So it takes the republicans - the party that represents big business - to ask her the tough questions about the subprime mess at Superior Bank, a bank her family owned.

"Ultimately there were a number of the banks, uninsured depositors that had claimed that they had lost over one hundred thousand dollars worth of savings, including one who reportedly deposited her entire retirement account with Superior a month before it failed.  My question is, and it's two parts:  What do you have to say to those depositors who lost significant sums of money because of this venture; and what lessons did you learn from your experience at Superior Bank that will inform your role as Secretary of Commerce if you're confirmed."

This is how Pritzker responded to Rep. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, according to Democracy Now.

"Well, Senator, I regret the failure of Superior Bank.  It's was not an outcome or a situation that I am, you know, I feel very badly about that."

If confirmed, Pritzker with a net worth of over $1.5 billion, would become one of the wealthiest cabinet secretaries in US history.  Democracy Now reported that Pritzker recently inadvertently understated a portion of her income by at least $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination.  Pritzker  received more than $53 million in consulting fees from her family's offshore trust in the Bahamas, DN reported.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

School Closings Hit Hard and Sudden
By Jim Vail

The final announcement that 50 schools will be closed, and a mere five stay open was quite a shock.

But was it a surprise.

I will say again, it is the mayor who was elected with a mandate from those who gave him the money to close as many public schools, and open as many charter schools as you can.

They say he was burned during the strike, so he came back swinging hard on the school closings.

Did all the protests and concerns raised in the media matter at all?  

Of course not.  We do not live in a real democracy.  Mayor Emanuel answers to the people who pay for him to be there.  The Bill Gates Foundation.  The Walton Foundation.  The Civic Federation.  

It is big business that runs this country.

We the people can protest, raise concerns, let it be known we do not want it.

But in the end they do it.  So what do we do?

Well, we have to continue the fight.  But the question is, why do people still believe in our political system?  What is the point of voting for democrats when Emanuel, a democrat, does not listen to the people anyway.

Well, we elected him, didn't we?  We certainly did.  That is where I hope more and more people realize we cannot do that.  Until we get candidates who listen to the people, and not the big business people who fork over the money to run a campaign, life will only continue to get worse and worse in this country.

Below are the words of Ald. Joe Moreno who expressed his concerns after the school closings fight.


Today is the one of the most disappointing days I have had as a member of the City Council. The fact that the Board of Education voted to close DuPrey/Von Humboldt and Lafayette upsets and angers me greatly. 

I will never forget those who took this misguided action, which has left the East Humboldt Park Community without a public elementary school. 

Despite my negative feelings, I am also filled with pride about the fight and rational case we made to keep these schools open.  The people I have worked with on this issue over the last few months have been inspirational and I know we all did our best.

The votes to close the 49 schools were all unanimous EXCECPT DuPrey/Von Humboldt, which was 4-2. This fact ultimately provides little solace, but indicates the effectiveness of our arguments and passion. 

 I had hoped that my efforts, along with those of the community, were enough to keep these schools open. I never fight just for the sake of it. In fact, my pet-peeve is politicians who do that.  Even though today we lost this battle; we lost on our feet. 

I want to thank the parents, teachers and community members who spent countless hours organizing, planning, and pouring their hearts and souls into saving our schools. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bad Swaps
By Labor Beat
May 21, 2013

Jackson Potter, Staff Coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, walks us through what Swaps are and how Chicago banks, including Bank of America, made a big killing when Chicago Public Schools swapped a fixed rate loan back in 2003 for a variable rate. Potter clearly explains graphically (which Labor Beat animates) what happened in 2008, when interest rates plummeted, and CPS lost millions to Chicago bankers. 

Potter points out that since the banks got bailed out by all of us after they made some bad gambles, why shouldn't CPS get bailed out in return by the banks? However, CPS has no interest in raising this issue, as if they really sympathized more with local banks than with the public schools, for which they are supposed to be the stewards.

The seminar, led by Potter, then decides to walk across the street to a branch of Bank of America and deliver a letter (from Grassroots Collaborative). The letter is addressed to Tim Maloney, Illinois President of Bank of America, saying "It is time for your bank to repair the damage it has done to our school districts across the country by agreeing to renegotiate these toxic swap deals at no cost to taxpayers." 
Length - 8:40

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One of the graphic animations showing how CPS's fixed interest rates, following 
the 2008 crash, let the banks get away like bandits when interest rates plunged.
And then the banks got bailed out too.
Photo: Labor Beat

A spokesperson for the demonstration hands a letter to a Bank of America representative
to forward to BofA-Illinois President Tim Maloney. The letter calls for the swaps to be renegotiated
and money returned to the school children of Chicago. Photo: Labor Beat

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Marching on the Westside
By Jim Vail
May 20, 2013

Two days of intense heat did not deter a spirited march on the west side to protest the closure of 54 schools that will be voted on at the Chicago Board of Education meeting this Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

It began for this reporter at Lafayette Elementary School on Augusta Ave., a few blocks east of Western Ave.  After a series of opening, fiery speeches, including one by freshly re-elected Chicago Teachers Union VP Jesse Sharkey, the crowd of roughly 250 people then heard the fabulous Lafayette orchestra perform.  Several comments were heard in the crowd that they were surprised how well these kids played.

Then the march began, going from closing school to closing school.  The CTU planned the march well, providing lunch and water at pit stops along the way.  

Spirits were high, and people felt a sense of unity in the fight.

However, the fact that there were less than 400 people marching on the west side, where the school closures will affect around 10,000 people at least, who either live or work in the community, was a bit disturbing.  

Many in the crowd included seasoned activists from the International Socialist Organization or ISO, Action Now, SEIU union organizers and CTU employees.  

The fact that a bigger contingent from the closing schools did not show up could be due to the fact that people once again feel defeated, and a sense of hopelessness that a done deal is once again right around the corner.

Interestingly enough, the Chicago Tribune's Spanish language Hoy newspaper reported today that many people are satisfied with the job President Obama is doing.  Could that be due to the fact people feel utterly dejected and disappointed, and only those who decided to answer the question think he must be better than those republicans.

Anyway, as I walked along the streets on the west side, we noticed several homes with a big red X marked on them.  In fact, one building that looked like a row of about 10 units of Chicago public housing were being demolished.  Foreclosures due to the subprime debacle - thanks to financial sharks like Penny Pritzker  who provided these loans - and boarded up buildings, were everywhere.

Alderman Joe Moreno - or Proc Joe as some affectionately call him - joined the rally in a white t-shirt and baseball cap.  One marcher called out to him, mistaking him for another friend.

Secondcityteacher caught up with Ald. Moreno, and asked him what his thoughts on the school closings were.

He noted that if the deals go through, there will be grids in the city that have almost entirely eradicted neighborhood public schools.  The area between Western and Cicero Avenues from the east to the west, and Jackson to Roosevelt Avenues from north to south, will be down to about 2 public schools (I may be wrong on the exact streets, but the approximate area is what to keep in mind as part of the privatization of public schools strategy in real estate).

Ald. Moreno told Secondcityteacher he is totally against the school closings, and that he was fighting moving Duprey and Von Humboldt to Diego in his ward, as well keeping Lafayette open in his old ward.

He noted that the kids would be moving from good schools to a school that is on probation.  It would also be the Duprey kids second move in the last five years; they had to move when their old building was leased out to a charter school a few years ago.

Moreno also said the mayor is not too happy with him now (but of course Joe is not known for his independence in city hall).  He said he also signed on to the charter school moratorium.

But, I asked, why did people then boo him at the school closing hearing in Logan Square when the board first proposed closing 129 schools.  

Morena shook his head and said that was the Occupy people, lambasting him for speaking out against the teachers strike last September when several alderman called on the CTU to quickly negotiate and settle.

He said it stemmed from when he went on Fox news to debate a conservative, and Proc Joe was going to be the "progressive" or liberal on the other side.  The conservative lambasted the Chicago Public Schools, saying how so many students drop out and the schools are terrible.

Ald. Joe said he defended the schools, adding that the conditions are very difficult, but the teachers are doing a hell of a job.  He did say the strike should end quickly and the teachers get back to work teaching, which led to the fiery denunciation at the hearing in Logan Square.

Many people honked, waved and cheered on the west side as we marched on the right side of the street.

However, I'm afraid it's going to take a lot more of this, and lot, lot, lot more of us to repudiate the decrees coming out of the White House, Springfield, City Hall and the Board of Education, where public officials like Proc Joe are getting their orders from the business class hell bent on destroying the teachers union and decent working conditions for its members.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oppose the Bankers' dictatorship in Detroit!

By World Socialist Web Site
May 19, 2013

The Socialist Equality Party calls on workers and young people in the Detroit area to mobilize opposition against the newly appointed emergency manager and the plans to carry out a new round of devastating attacks on the working class.
Kevyn Orr has not been installed to "save" Detroit, but to destroy it. For an indefinite period of time, he can enact laws, replace all elected officials, deploy the police, rip up contracts and assume all the powers of government. He will use these dictatorial powers to destroy the wages and benefits of city workers, shut down essential services and sell off public assets like the water system, the zoo and art museum.
Everything can be torn up. All contracts are worthless, except for one thing: Orr is mandated to make sure the city's debts are paid in full and the banks and wealthy bondholders get all their money. This requirement is written into the emergency manager law. It is no accident that his former law firm--Jones Day--represents Bank of America, UBS and JP Morgan Chase, the very same Wall Street firms that have milked the city for $474 million in debt-servicing payments since 2005.
What is happening to Detroit is a social crime, which will be used as a model throughout the United States. The closing of public schools, cuts to fire and ambulance service and the shutoff of electricity and gas have already produced tragedy. A new round of cuts will eliminate whatever social protections remain and condemn thousands more to an early grave.
But this is of no concern to the big banks or their political front men. From Republican Governor Rick Snyder and Democratic state treasurer Andy Dillon to Mayor Bing and the City Council, they all agree that the working class must pay for the economic crisis we did not create. The City Council and the trade unions, while posturing as opponents of the emergency manager, insist they will do a better job of attacking workers and dismantling the city.
The installation of the unelected EFM makes a mockery of democracy. In November, Michigan voters overturned Public Act 4, which gave emergency managers vast powers. "The wishes of the people be damned!" declared the political representatives of the banks and corporations. The state government promptly passed a new law, almost exactly the same as the one that had just been rejected.
The one section of the population which has had no say in determining the future of Detroit is the vast majority: the working class--employed and unemployed, black and white, young and old, in the city and throughout the Metropolitan area. It is time for working people to stand up and advance our own solution.
A global crisis
What is happening in Detroit is an expression of the crisis of the capitalist system and the decay and parasitism of the American ruling elite. Over the last three decades, the capitalist class has systematically shut down basic industries and shifted investment into the stock market, derivatives and other financial swindling, which produce nothing except massive profits for the super-rich.
In 2008, the speculative bubble on Wall Street came crashing down. The response of first Bush and then Obama was to hand over trillions of dollars to the banks. Not a single banker has gone to jail for their crimes. On the contrary, corporate profits, stock markets and executive pay have fully recovered, and social inequality has grown to its greatest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
All across the country and around the world, the situation is the same: from the shutdown of public schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, to the slashing of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by the Democrats and Republicans in Washington, to the imposition of depression-like conditions in Greece and Cyprus.
In Europe, as in Detroit, the financial elite is resorting to increasingly dictatorial forms of rule to enforce measures overwhelmingly opposed by the population. The savings of workers and middle-class people are threatened with seizure, pensions are robbed, health care and public education systems dismantled and ever more money poured into the bank accounts of the financial aristocracy.
Form committees of action in every factory and neighborhood!
A fight-back is needed. The Socialist Equality Party calls for the formation of workers' action committees in every workplace, neighborhoods and school to give genuine expression to the democratic will of the people. The city and its assets must belong to the working class--the vast majority of the population--not the Wall Street speculators.
Action committees should be formed among city workers, auto workers, firefighters, teachers, health care workers, in areas targeted for school closures, at high schools and college campuses throughout the region. These committees should coordinate the struggle against wage cutting and the gutting of public services and build the momentum towards a general strike of all workers.
Reject all cuts! Repudiate the debt!
A struggle must be based on a clear political program and perspective. This begins with a rejection of the claim by the representatives of the wealthy that the population of Detroit--the poorest big city in America--has supposedly been "living beyond its means." The claim that there is no money for basic social services, pensions and good jobs is a contemptible lie. The state's nine billionaires have a net worth of $24 billion, close to 75 times the city's budget deficit. This includes people like Little Caesars' Mike Ilitch ($2.7 billion) and Daniel Gilbert ($1.9 billion), who have bought up land at a song in the hopes of profiting off of an emergency manager. The billionaires are trying to turn Detroit's city center into a playground for the wealthy, while large sections of the city are allowed to sink even further into poverty and disrepair.
In addition to the bank bailout, Bush and Obama have squandered an estimated $6 trillion on the Afghan and Iraq wars. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is providing Wall Street $85 billion a month to fuel another speculative boom.
The banks, bondholders and political representatives should not be rewarded for their socially destructive behavior, but prosecuted. All debt owed to the banks must be repudiated. To fully fund pensions, health care, education and other basic rights, we call for a massive redistribution of wealth, including the imposition of a 90 percent tax on all income over $1 million.
Break with the two big business parties and the trade unions!
The Democratic Party is not a "party of the people," but one of the two parties of the corporations and rich. The Democrats have run Detroit for decades, impoverishing the working class while enriching a wealthy minority, along with a corrupt section of African American businessmen, preachers and politicians, such as Kwame Kilpatrick.
Far from conducting a serious fight against the emergency manager, the City Council, along with political hucksters like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Wendell Anthony, are bending over backward to demonstrate their usefulness to the corporate elite.
Detroit's Democratic politicians and their supporters have promoted the politics of race for decades to divide the working class. It is a matter of "Black Detroit" against "White Lansing," we are told. This under conditions in which the mayor, the emergency manager and the president of the United States are all African American!
In the Detroit suburbs, workers are facing the same conditions--the shutdown of schools, attacks on pay and benefits, unemployment and poverty and the installation of an EFM in Allen Park. The basic dividing line is not race, but class. To defeat these attacks the working class must unite and develop a political movement independent of the Democrats and Republicans and in opposition to the profit system they defend.
The United Auto Workers, AFSCME, Detroit Federation of Teachers and other unions have collaborated in the attack on the working class. These organizations do not speak for the working class, but are businesses, which protect the interests of privileged upper-class executives and administrators. UAW President Bob King, AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett and DFT President Keith Johnson all pocket around $200,000 a year in salaries and other undisclosed perks, while imposing wage and benefit cuts on their members.
For the social rights of the working class, not the profits of the banks!
The defense of democratic rights and opposition to the financial dictator must be connected to a struggle to defend the social rights of the entire working class. Every worker has the right to a job at a decent wage, the right to education, health care, housing and a secure retirement. It is these rights that must determine how society is organized and resources are distributed--not the "right" of the investor to speculate and the "right" of the executive to exploit.
The working class in Detroit has rich traditions of class struggle, from the sit-down strikes of the 1930s to the mass struggles for civil rights in the 1960s. Nothing has been gained without the most determined struggle against the dictates of the banks and corporations. These traditions must be revived on the basis of a new, international and socialist perspective.
The Socialist Equality Party has a long history of fighting to build a new leadership in the working class in opposition to the trade union bureaucracies and promoters of racial politics, which have kept the working class tied to the Democratic Party.
What is needed is the building of a new political movement of the working class that has as its aim the fundamental reorganization of economic power and redistribution of wealth. The vast wealth created by the labor of generations of workers must be taken out of the hands of the privileged few and placed at the disposal of the people as a whole. This is the fight for socialism.
Join the fight!
This call to action will be distributed at factories, workplaces and schools throughout the area. Sign up now to become involved and take up the fight!
No to the bankers' dictatorship! For working class unity in struggle!