Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Former Labor Secretary Calls for Third Party
By Emergency Labor Network

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, has been increasingly critical of the Democratic Party's pro-corporate policies over the past several years. In a May 24, 2013 blog (re-printed below), Reich went further than he has before in condemning Wall Street's control of the Democratic Party, noting, " Democrats can't be trusted to control Wall Street. If there were ever an issue ripe for a third party, the Street would be it."

The Emergency Labor Network (ELN) agrees with Reich's characterization of the Democrats. However, we believe that it is necessary to spell out what kind of third party is needed. After all, there are third parties and then there are third parties. The question in each case is what section of society makes that party up and what kind of platform does it have.

We in the ELN are committed to building a third party rooted in the working class -- a Labor Party -- with a program that faithfully reflects the interests of the working class and the overwhelming majority, and functions democratically with the elected leadership accountable to the membership.]


Here is the Reich blog:

ho needs Republicans when Wall Street has the Democrats? With the help of congressional Democrats, the Street is rolling back financial reforms enacted after its near meltdown.

According to the New York Times, a bill that's already moved through the House Financial Services Committee, allowing more of the very kind of derivatives trading (bets on bets) that got the Street into trouble, was drafted by Citigroup - whose recommended language was copied nearly word for word in 70 lines of the 85-line bill.

Where were House Democrats? Right behind it. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, a major recipient of the Street's political largesse, co-sponsored it. Most of the Democrats on the Committee, also receiving generous donations from the big banks, voted for it. Rep. Jim Himes, another proponent of the bill and a former banker at Goldman Sachs, now leads the Democrat's fund-raising effort in the House.

Bob Rubin - co-chair of Goldman before he joined the Clinton White House, and chair of Citigroup's management committee after he left it - is still influential in the Party, and his protégés are all over the Obama administration. 

I like Bob personally, but I battled his Street-centric views the whole time I served, and soon after I left the administration, he persuaded Clinton to support a repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

Jack Lew, Obama's current Treasury Secretary, was chief operating officer of Citigroup's Alternative Investments unit, a proprietary trading group, from 2006 to 2008, before he joined the Obama administration. Peter Orszag, Obama's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, left the Obama Administration to become Citigroup's vice chairman of corporate and investment banking, and chairman of the financial strategy and solutions group.

All these men are honorable. None has broken any law. But they and their ilk in congress - the Democrats who are now rolling back Dodd-Frank - don't seem to appreciate the extent to which Wall Street has harmed, and continues to harm, America.

It's not entirely coincidental that the Obama Administration never put tough conditions on banks receiving bailout money, never prosecuted a single top Wall Street executive for the excesses that led to the near meltdown, and still refuses to support a tiny tax on financial transactions that would bring in tens of billions of dollars as well as discourage program trading.

Democrats can't be trusted to control Wall Street. If there were ever an issue ripe for a third party, the Street would be it.
Issued by the Emergency Labor Network (ELN)
For more information write or P.O. Box 21004, Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website at Donations gratefully accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above P.O. Box.
Chicago State University Professor Authors New Book
on Teaching in Urban America  
CHICAGO, IL- If the President of the United States, Secretary of Education and other national leaders and decision makers are going to consider policies to strengthen public education, than they need to hear from the very people who are teaching in some of America's poorest neighborhoods. 

That is the logic by Chicago State University's Deborah Lynch, PhD, who has penned "An Open Letter to President Obama: Chicago Teachers Speak Out on Urban Education." 

"For too long others have told the stories of urban teachers," Lynch said. "In this book, teachers themselves tell of their experiences and perceptions working in urban schools today. They share the stories that have moved them, lessons they have learned, and provide their recommendations for improving urban schools (not closing them), and for closing the seemingly intractable achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. They want to be heard and supported in their vital mission educating children in some of the most challenging communities in America today. These are their stories."
In her new book, Dr. Lynch offers a thoughtful reflection on working in urban schools today, with recommendations from education leaders throughout the country. Lynch surveys thousands of teachers and sits down to interview many more to get a full picture of what educators are facing in the modern day urban school. She draws on the experiences of teachers who often deal with classrooms where 9 out of 10 students are from families below the poverty line to draw conclusions and recommendation on closing performance gaps and reforming public education.

"Dr. Lynch's fine work is yet another example of the positive impact Chicago State is having on our city and our state," Dr. Wayne D. Watson, President of Chicago State University added. "Chicago State is unique among public institutions and we are proud to have a diverse and talented faculty who dedicate themselves to influencing public education. Dr. Lynch has done a wonderful job with her new book and she has made the Chicago State family proud."    

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pension Fund Responds!

CPS Attempts to Blame Planned Layoffs on Pension Obligations 'Misleading,' CTPF Says 

The Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund (CTPF) described as "misleading" claims by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that the increasing pension obligations will cause the layoff of more than 2,000 workers. CTPF countered that CPS understood the increase would occur in 2010 when it struck a deal with the Illinois Legislature to provide three years of pension underfunding from 2011-2013.

Founded in 1895, the CTPF was adequately funded by the Chicago taxpayer for more than 100 years.  In 1995, the City of Chicago, struggling with financial problems, sought and received General Assembly approval to divert property tax levies that were earmarked for teacher pensions. 

From 1996 to 2005, Chicago collected $2 billion in tax revenues intended for teacher pensions, but spent the money elsewhere.  In 2010, the General Assembly granted CPS' request to postpone another $1.2 billion in payments as "pension relief."

CPS currently owes about $600 million annually to CTPF due to the many years of underfunding, but last year paid only $200 million.  

"When the employer doesn't make any contribution for 10 years (1996-2005), then pays only a portion of its contributions for three years (2011-2013), those debts pile up," said Kevin Huber, executive director of CTPF.  "Continuing to underfund the pension - as CPS proposed to the General Assembly on May 31 - will only exacerbate the problem. 

"Next year, Chicago Public Schools must begin paying what it owes CTPF after many years of neglect.  Our executives, actuaries and board have been working tirelessly to provide factual, unbiased information so that the employer, employees, retirees and state of Illinois can work toward a reasonable solution to this difficult situation  - but to announce a massive layoff today and blame it on the pension obligation is misleading.  This is a problem that started almost 20 years ago.

"In a difficult environment, we will continue to prudently manage the retirement assets of more than 60,000 active and retired teachers - each of whom contributed, or is contributing, faithfully to the plan each and every month.  We hope CPS will meet its obligations."


Established by the Illinois state legislature in 1895, the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund manages members' assets and administers benefits. The $9.5 billion pension fund serves approximately 60,537 active and retired educators, and provides pension and health insurance benefits to more than 25,000 beneficiaries.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Politics as Usual with Deb Mell?
By Jim Vail

Nobody could be surprised when mayor Rahm Emanuel named state rep Deb Mell to replace her father as the alderwoman of the 33rd ward recently.

I read an old 2004 Reader story about an election where Cook County assessor Joe Berrios's daughter ran for state rep against an independent, spunky challenger. 

Berrios lavishly funded his daughter's campaign and used his political machine muscle to disrupt the challenger's plans, and even offered to slate her opponent as a judge if he would drop out.

When a reporter asked Berrios if this was fair, the powerful politician said, why I would hope everyone would support their daughter.

That is exactly what papa Mell did, by calling it quits mid-term and having the mayor name his daughter as the replacement.

What is funny are all the lies and silliness they throw out to the public to keep them roped into thinking we have any fairness in this political arena.

Emanuel had to say the process would be fair and he would set up a commission to interview candidates for the position before choosing Dick Mell's successor. 

Well, that of course was a joke.  In fact, sources close to one of the candidates say that the 10 candidates were interviewed by telephone and told they could not say anything to anyone about the questions in the interview.

So much for transparency and openness Mr. Mayor. 

Anytime someone talks garbage like this, it is obvious they do the opposite. Emanuel's administration, like the previous Daley one, is all about inside deals, nepotism, and lying to the public about openness and "change."

The key, or hope, is to hold these people accountable.  That is up to us.

I met Deb Mell on several occasions to speak about issues of concern to us public school teachers.

She listened, showed concern and was very quick, asking excellent questions.

She appears fair, however, her roots are tied to the democratic political machine.

Which means we the people, have to do our homework and apply the right kind of pressure.  If we don't demand it, it will continue to be politics as usual, the one who pays the piper calls the tune.

It's a fight between hope vs. hopelessness in this country.  And right now the later is winning.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why are the Unions Against Eliot Spitzer?
By Jim Vail

I found it quite extraordinary to read how NY city unions are against Eliot Spitzer's current campaign to be the city comptroller, the third-highest office.

In fact, you have business leaders joining forces with organized labor to stop Spitzer, and back a lesser known candidate for the office.

Spitzer, the former NY governor who was ousted after a sex scandal, was the one who took on Wall Street and forced huge fines on financial firms used to getting their way and bilking billions out of the public.

In fact, it is Spitzer who would serve as the role model for corporate governance, something the unions are calling for when the attacks on public spending are being spearheaded by corporate America which is no friend of organized labor.

The NY Times story below outlined how the teachers union will try to make sure Spitzer will not get elected.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said all options — including tapping its own campaign funds for television ads — were under consideration, the Times reported. 

“We’re going to make sure that we do everything in our power to make sure Scott is the next comptroller,” he said. 

That includes possibly tapping into own campaign funds to fund expensive television ads.

What the NY Times not specify in the article was what the democrat alternative stands for.

I think this shows the role unions have played in this country.  Represent both the working class people, and corporations and political power that does not want anyone mucking up the current situation we have in this country, where it is estimated 400 families are worth more than 120 million people.  The unions are getting crushed, and people keep losing their jobs and homes.

It is a contradiction in terms.  The unions know the tax structure and corporate anti-unionism is harmful to workers, and they talk a big game.  But when you have the perfect opportunity to join a former governor who will actually fight the fight against corporate dominance, they buck out.

The Times indignantly calls out Spitzer's so-called "vulnerabilities" such as an "out of control ego," law breaking patronization of prostitutes and a "go-it-along style."

That go-it-alone style resulted in impressive government action against Wall Street crime, which too many political leaders have no intention of replicating.

“When I was attorney general, I made some powerful enemies,” Spitzer told the Times. “But I also made a lot of friends,” which he described as the “real people” he had fought for.

The Times then stated that his opponent would be a "reliable ally" for organized labor and Spitzer is "less predictable," claiming he has not hesitated to confront unions in the past.

Well, there you have it.  An old NY teachers union many would compare to the UPC when Marilyn Stewart and co. were running the show in Chicago, using its funds to keep its corrupt deals in place, and prevent a real fighter for the people from getting elected.

Spitzer Quickly Hits Establishment Headwind
The NY TImes

From corporate boardrooms to the headquarters of the city’s Democratic political campaigns, phone lines lighted up and strategy sessions were organized on Monday with a single mission in mind: stopping Eliot Spitzer.

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Damon Winter/The New York Times
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer had no trouble attracting attention on his first day on the trail.
The surprise decision by former Governor Spitzer to run for citywide office startled and galvanized the city’s political establishment, which worried aloud about handing the TV-savvy and self-financed candidate a new megaphone.
In candid conversations, some of the leaders expressed acute regret over their failure to swiftly undercut the mayoral campaign of former Representative Anthony D. Weiner, another scandal-scarred candidate for citywide office, and said they would not make the same mistake twice.
Behind the scenes, they began to lay out a blueprint for undermining Mr. Spitzer’s bid for comptroller, the city’s third-highest elected office, and for propping up his lesser-known Democratic rival, Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president.
They quickly zeroed in on what they claimed were Mr. Spitzer’s vulnerabilities: an out-of-control ego; his lawbreaking patronization of prostitutes, which led to his resignation as governor in 2008; and his combative, go-it-alone style.
Strikingly, Democratic leaders drew parallels between Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Weiner, trying to lump them together as two wayward men obsessed with reclaiming power and unworthy of redemption, in a direct appeal to women voters who may decide the races.
“For me the question with both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer is what have they been doing to earn this second chance?” asked Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor. She said she had seen little that would “redeem themselves from their selfish behavior.”
Business leaders leapt into the ruckus, finding common cause with organized labor as they described Mr. Spitzer as ill-suited to the job of managing the city’s multibillion-dollar pension system and policing city spending.
Such a post, said Kathryn S. Wylde, the head of the Partnership for New York City, made up mainly of real estate, Wall Street and insurance firms, requires intense collaboration and diplomacy with the mayor’s office, the business community and municipal labor unions.
“The tone of the Spitzer announcement and history suggest that’s not the way he would approach the job,” she said in an interview.
In the corridors of finance, executives made little secret of their dismay at the thought of Mr. Spitzer, an often zealous adversary of Wall Street, assuming a job with some authority over the industry. Robert T. Zito, the founder of a brand consulting firm and a former executive at the New York Stock Exchange, which was a relentless target of Mr. Spitzer’s ire over executive pay, put it bluntly: “I would love to see his opponent win.”
Those involved in and briefed about the strategy discussions raised the possibility of organizing a super PAC to counter Mr. Spitzer’s self-financed campaign.
Eyes turned to Mr. Spitzer’s most fervent critics on Wall Street, like the billionaire Kenneth G. Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot and a former director of the New York Stock Exchange, who had relished the governor’s downfall.
According to a person told of his plans, Mr. Langone was mulling independent campaign expenditures against Mr. Spitzer. Mr. Langone was traveling in Europe and an aide said he was unavailable to talk.
Mr. Spitzer, in an interview, appeared to have anticipated the attacks, especially from Wall Street, and sought to turn them to his advantage, by portraying himself as a warrior for regular people.
“When I was attorney general, I made some powerful enemies,” he said. “But I also made a lot of friends,” which he described as the “real people” he had fought for.
The fierce debate about how to deny Mr. Spitzer a place in city government unfolded as he hit the campaign trail for the first time in five years, displaying the kind of studied discipline that characterized his previous runs for office.
Standing on the searing sidewalks of Union Square for over an hour, with sweat dripping down his face onto a pinstriped suit, Mr. Spitzer maintained a stoic smile as he endured loud hecklers and received unsolicited compliments.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
Another Democratic candidate for comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, campaigned with his wife, Elyse Buxbaum.

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An older woman in a straw hat leaned in to the giant scrum forming around Mr. Spitzer and declared: “His wife and his daughters understand. Why shouldn’t we?” A few feet away, a man in a blue polo shirt castigated Mr. Spitzer, “You slept with hookers, and you lied and cheated on your family.”
It appeared that the muscle for the anti-Spitzer operation might emerge from the city’s labor unions, which view Mr. Stringer as a reliable ally, and are wary of the less predictable Mr. Spitzer, who has not hesitated to confront them in the past.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said all options — including tapping its own campaign funds for television ads — were under consideration. “We’re going to make sure that we do everything in our power to make sure Scott is the next comptroller,” he said. “Weiner has kind of been given a free pass.”
Even as they grudgingly acknowledged Mr. Spitzer’s technical credentials for the job of comptroller, the union leaders cast doubt on his motivation for seeking a return to public life.
“He is running to clear his name, to build a public persona again,” said Héctor J. Figueroa, president of 32BJ, the city union of janitors and doormen, which has endorsed Mr. Stringer. He called the comptroller’s office “the wrong position” for Mr. Spitzer.
Mr. Stringer, who had expected a smooth path to the Democratic nomination for comptroller, moved quickly on Monday to rally his most high-profile campaign supporters and surrogates, many of them women. Appearing alongside his wife on the Upper West Side, he dismissed reporters’ questions about whether Mr. Spitzer should be forgiven.
“This isn’t mea culpa time,” he said. “I’m not getting into all that.”
One of Mr. Stringer’s supporters, Gloria Steinem, the feminist writer, trumpeted Mr. Stringer’s record on issues like domestic violence and questioned Mr. Spitzer’s sudden yearning to be comptroller. “This is the target of opportunity,” she said. “I would be surprised to learn that he had ever in his life expressed a wish to be comptroller.”
There were signs that Mr. Spitzer’s opponents had already succeeded in complicating his plans.
According to people close to him, Neal Kwatra, a top city political strategist who had voluntarily helped orchestrate the rollout of Mr. Spitzer’s campaign, decided to cut his ties with the campaign amid signs that some of his clients, including the city’s Hotel Trades Council, which is backing Mr. Stringer, were cool to the Spitzer candidacy. Mr. Kwatra declined to comment.
Mr. Spitzer insisted throughout the day that he was happy to have returned to the hurly-burly, even as he found himself unable to move at times in the crush of cameras and reporters. “It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s fun.”
Whatever the ultimate outcome of his campaign, it clearly had an immediate effect on Mr. Weiner. At a news conference he called to talk about bike policy, Mr. Weiner faced seemingly nonstop questions about the former governor.
Asked if Mr. Spitzer had stolen some of the political limelight, Mr. Weiner replied, “Clearly, it’s shifted away.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stacie Halas, California Teacher Fired For Porn Star Past, Loses Appeal
The Huffington Post

OXNARD, Calif. -- A middle-school science teacher fired after students learned she had appeared in pornographic movies had hoped not just to get her job back, but to set a precedent for people looking to escape an embarrassing personal history.

A three-judge commission put a decisive stop to both, saying firmly and unanimously that Stacie Halas should not be in the classroom.

"We were hoping we could show you could overcome your past," Halas lawyer Richard Schwab said Tuesday. "I think she's representative of a lot of people who may have a past that may not involve anything illegal or anything that hurts anybody."

Judge Julie Cabos-Owen said such a past matters in an age when technology makes porn easy to access and hard to bury.

"Although her pornography career has concluded, the ongoing availability of her pornographic materials on the Internet will continue to impede her from being an effective teacher and respected colleague," Cabos-Owen said in the 46-page decision issued Friday by the Commission on Professional Competence.

Halas, 32, was continually deceitful about her nine-month career in porn before she went to work at the school, the judges said.

Schwab said Halas "was being honest and forthright, but was embarrassed and humiliated by her past experience in the adult industry."

Halas was fired in April from her job as a science teacher at Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard after online videos of her in porn were discovered by students and teachers.

Student claims that the teacher was moonlighting as a porn star were initially dismissed after school officials said they couldn't find any images of her on the Internet – but they were using the school's computers, which don't allow access to porn.

Teachers then showed administrators downloads of Halas' sex videos from their smartphones.

In hearings, former assistant principal Wayne Saddler testified that at the start of a sex video, Halas talked about being a teacher and he felt her effectiveness in the classroom had been compromised.

After rumors of her performance surfaced, profanity was etched on Halas' classroom window, a teacher testified.

Schwab has said Halas did not star in pornographic movies while teaching in any district. He said she took parts only during an eight-month period from 2005 to 2006 because of financial problems after her boyfriend abandoned her.

District superintendent Jeff Chancer applauded the commission's ruling.

Halas' decision to "engage in pornography was incompatible with her responsibilities as a role model for students," Chancer said in a statement.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dip into TIF surplus to help schools, Progressive Caucus tells mayor

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter 

ChiAld. John Aren(45th). FILE PHOTO. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Ald. John Arena (45th). FILE PHOTO. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times


The City Council’s Progressive Caucus demanded Mondaythat Mayor Rahm Emanuel scour Chicago’s 165 tax increment financing districts for surplus funds and use them to reverse some of the 3,000 layoffs at Chicago Public Schools.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) denounced as “wrong-headed” Emanuel’s decision to use $55 million in TIF funds to help build a basketball arena for DePaul University at a time when public schools across the city are losing teachers and support staff.
Waguespack further alleged that tens of thousands of dollars in TIF funds are being used to help build Divvy bike-sharing stations. The Near South TIF alone spent nearly $750,000 on city salaries, the alderman said.
“The public sentiment citywide is `stop doing what you’re doing.’ Reverse the layoffs of these teachers so that their kids have gym teachers, they have math teachers and they have art teachers,” Waguespack told a City Hall news conference.
“It’s not just schools on the South Side or the West Side. These are schools in the 32nd Ward, the 47th, up and down the lakefront. People are angry throughout the city.”
Ald. John Arena (45th) said Emanuel championed his vaunted longer school day as a vehicle to “enrich” the school curriculum and guarantee students the art and music that “leads to better outcomes” for kids.
“To walk back from that, say, `Give `em [a longer] day, but less programming’ and not have the experienced teachers there to execute it — we really have to look at what are our priorities and how are we spending our money,” Arena said.
“We have money in the TIF program. ... It’s time to put that money back into our classrooms and take a step back from this seemingly knee-jerk program of school closings, extended school day, large budget cuts school-after-school and getting rid of teachers and support staff.”
Waguespack and Arena were joined at Monday’s City Hall news conference by Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd); Roderick Sawyer (6th); Toni Foulkes (15th); Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Nick Sposato (36th).
They plan to introduce an ordinance at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that would apply to all TIF districts with revenues exceeding $1 million.
TIF revenues would be declared surplus if they are “not already required, pledged for specific projects, earmarked or otherwise designated for payment of or securing obligations” at the close of the year.
The aldermen acknowledged that raiding TIF surplus funds is a temporary fix that would only partially alleviate the current school crisis.
But they also suggested long-term solutions, including a “financial transaction tax” on LaSalle Street exchanges, closing corporate tax loopholes and renegotiating what Waguespack called “toxic” tax swaps.
In a recent report, Cook County Clerk David Orr disclosed that Chicago’s 165 TIF districts generated $457 million in revenue last year.
Under pressure from aldermen, former Mayor Richard M. Daley declared a $187 million TIF surplus, generating $90 million for the Chicago Public Schools. If Emanuel did the same again this year, it could easily generate “tens of millions” for cash-strapped schools, the aldermen said.
Last month, the Progressive Caucus came out swinging against “draconian” school budget cuts they warned would increase class size, reduce test scores and leave schools without “basic necessities that define a school.”
At the time, 850 school employees had been fired. Last week, another 2,100 Chicago Public School teachers and support staff were laid off.
Emanuel has insisted that the General Assembly gave his handpicked school board little choice when it adjourned without easing a $400 million increase in teacher pension payments bearing down on CPS.
The bill rejected by the General Assembly would have extended for two more years a so-called pension “holiday” that allowed CPS to pay just $196 million into the teachers retirement fund this year.
Those annual payments are scheduled to balloon to more than $612 million next year. But the failed bill would have eased those obligations — to $350 million next year and $500 million in 2015.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teach for America

An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits

Dear New TFA Recruits,
It is summertime, which for those of you newly accepted into Teach for America, means you are enduring the long hard days of Institute.  I congratulate you on being accepted into this prestigious program.  You clearly have demonstrated intelligence, passion, and leadership in order to make it this far.
And now I am asking you to quit.
Exacerbating Inequalities
Teach for America likely enticed you into the program with the call for ending education inequality.  That is a beautiful and noble mission.  I applaud you on being moved by the chance to help children, of being a part of creating equality in our schools, of ending poverty once and for all.
However, the actual practice of Teach for America does the exact opposite of its noble mission.  TFA claims to fight to end educational inequality and yet ends up exacerbating one of the greatest inequalities in education today:  that low-income children of color are much more likely to be given inexperienced, uncertified teachers.  TFA’s five weeks of Institute are simply not enough time to prepare anyone, no matter how dedicated or intelligent, to have the skills necessary to help our neediest children.  This fall, on that first day of school, you will be alone with kids who need so much more.  You will represent one more inequality in our education system denying kids from low-income backgrounds equitable educational opportunities.
Many of you no doubt believe you are joining a progressive education justice movement, that is the message TFA sells so well.   But I want you to understand clearly, TFA is not progressive. The kind of limited data-driven pedagogy, the fast-track preparation, the union-busting, the forced exploitation of your labor, the deep-pocketed affiliation with corporate education Walmartreform are all very conservative, very anti-progressive ideas.  Look no further than TFA’s list of supporters/donors.  The largest donations are from groups likethe Walton Foundation, of Walmart fortune, which has a vested interest in the status quo of inequality, breaking unions, and keeping wages low and workers oppressed.  Or notice the many partnerships with JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, the very institutions which caused the financial collapse and threw millions of Americans-including your future students’ families-into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and deeper poverty.  These organizations choose to donate to TFA because TFA supports their agendas. If TFA was truly pushing back on the status quo of educational inequality, these types of donors would not only refuse financial support, they would be attacking a group which threatens their earning potential.
Ask yourself honestly, since when did billionaires, financial giants, or hedge fund managers on Wall St begin to care about the education of poor black and brown children in America?  If you follow the money, you will see the potential for mass profit through privatization, new construction, union-busting, and various educational service industries.  Why would a group dedicated to educational justice partner with these forces?
A Broken Model
In places like my city of Chicago, TFA has come to represent a gross injustice from the very first day of training.  TFA places up to five trainees at a time in our summer school classrooms.  Please understand that in Chicago, summer school is for children who failed courses during the school year.  These are the children most in need of expert teaching and support, many may have or eventually may need special education services.  Instead, TFA partners with certain schools where students are used as practice tools the entire day as novices have their very first experiences working with a group of children.  Last year, a phenomenal teacher friend of mine described his experience of having TFA forced upon his classroom, “They are using my kids as guinea pigs,” he lamented.  This powerful, experienced teacher was told to sit silently in the back of his classroom, and watch-not allowed to even give feedback-as five novice TFAers fumbled their way through lessons for four whole weeks of a five week summer term.   Those kids will never get that time back.
The sad thing is that TFA will tell you over and over again that you will be offering something “better” than our traditionally-trained teachers can provide.  I want you all to understand what even first-year teachers from traditional teacher prep programs are offering.  Pre-service teachers are slowly introduced into teaching, beginning with hundreds of hours of observation in multiple settings, with much discussion, reflection, and study of pedagogy and child development along the way.  We slowly step up our practice to individual tutoring, small group instruction, and short whole group lesson plans before moving on to student teaching placements for many months.  This model of teacher prep minimizes the effect on children, and creates safe spaces for new teachers to practice under the watchful eye of a mentor.  Compare that to TFA’s model of novices taking turns teaching one single group of students for only four weeks then being placed in classrooms by themselves.  Where is the time for observation and practice in many different settings/age groups/subject matters/ability levels? How can anyone even argue that the two types of training are comparable? And, if TFA truly offered higher-quality prep, why aren’t schools serving upper-income students demanding first year TFA teachers?  The idea of course is preposterous.  Upper-income parents would never, ever, allow uncertified, unprepared novices teach their own children.  So why should Chicago’s low-income students endure this type of injustice?
Students Resist
Luckily, more Chicago students are speaking out against Teach for America.  Here is a spoken word piece from a former Chicago student Rachel Smith who powerfully says,
“Only see them for 2 years because we’re just a
stepping stone so they can get to their
prep schools…
It’s time we refute these self-proclaimed saviors and
put our faith into the true educators,
who demand Masters Degrees and double majors,
and not the ones trying to do the black community
a couple favors.”
Here is what another Chicago high school student wrote recently on his facebook page: “I’m walking out of school and I run into a group of college students. They greet me and ask me if I go to this school. I say yes, I just graduated and I’m here because we’re facing massive budget cuts. I ask them if they are with an organization. They say, yes we’re from Teach For America. I told them ‘that program is no good, get away from my school.’”
Understand The Pushback
And fundamentally, this is what you must understand.  Most corps members are being thrown into highly contested, politically unstable education environments.  Here in Chicago, there is a massive grassroots battle underway led by parents, teachers, students, and community members to save public education.  This past year alone has seen mass protests, acts of civil disobedience, and a successful teachers’ strike all to protest devastating corporate education reforms being forced on our schools. Despite this mass movement, 50 schools were closed by our appointed Board of Education, hundreds of teachers laid off, and school budgets were slashed.  Tens of thousands of parents have come out to plead for the their neighborhood schools, to beg for more funding, to demand an end to excessive high-stakes testing, to speak out for their beloved teachers, and each time our Mayor’s Board of Education turned a deaf ear to the needs’ of the people.
As a result, we have thousands of displaced teachers looking for jobs, we have dozens of quality schools of education producing certified teacher candidates-many from the neighborhoods they hope to teach in-all looking for work in Chicago and other urban centers around the country.  Just yesterday, I spoke with a fully-qualified new teacher who reported that she will likely have to take substitute positions or do after-school tutoring as there are no full-time jobs being offered in the Chicago Public Schools.   Like so many other cities (New York City, Detroit, and Philadelphia to name a few) we have no teacher shortages.  We have teacher surpluses.  And yet, TFA is still placing first year novice corps members in places like Chicago. To put it bluntly, the last thing our students undergoing mass school closings, budget cuts, and chaotic school policy need is short-term, poorly-trained novices.  Teach for America is not needed in Chicago.  Teach for America is not needed in most places.
TFA Practices Disaster Capitalism
But, instead of responding to community need, TFA has instead decided to partner with the very people causing the destructive, divisive, cruel chaos of current education reform policy.  While school budgets are being slashed around the country, TFA has fundraisers raising millions of dollars in a single night, partners with corporate brands like J Crew or JC Penny to raise yet more money.  And sTeach for America T-shirttill TFA requires districts to hand over thousands of dollars per recruit and pay a full, first-year teacher salary.  TFA also lobbies state governments to give up millions in precious funding and convinced the Federal Department of Education to give up tens of millions to this organization.  With over 250 million dollars in reserves, TFA still never offers to pay CM salaries to help struggling districts or waive “finder’s fees” for a vast majority of placements.   Luckily, some states are finally pushing back.
In addition, TFA has developed a very cozy, very troubling relationship with the very people implementing these horrible policies.  Here in Chicago, TFA recently invited Chicago Board of Education member Andrea Zopp to speak at the Chicago Induction ceremonies. As far as I know, Zopp never bothered to come out to the hundreds of public hearings to listen to the thousands of parents who begged to save their schools before casting her vote to permanently shutter 50 schools, the largest single school-closing action in US history. The newest Mayor Emanuel-appointed Chicago board member is a woman named Deborah Quazzo, a millionaire business woman, who once sat on the Chicago Board of Teach for America.  These ties represent massive conflicts of interests as the policies being pasted by The Board are benefiting TFA directly or indirectly.  TFA has even pushed alums to get elected to Local School Councils (LSCs), democratic bodies designed to give voice to parents, teachers, and community members, and instead is using LSCs to promote their TFA-friendly corporate reform agenda. 
What’s even sicker is that TFA is poised to benefit greatly from the horrible policies happening to children and teachers here in Chicago.   As I describe in the post “Teach for America Has Gone Too Far”, TFA plans to expand into the very neighborhoods experiencing schools closings, the neighborhoods which by definition have more teachers than they do positions.  Teach for America has truly crossed a line when closing schools and slashing budgets-policies detrimental to children-become the avenue for expansion.  Also, the new “per-pupil budgeting” pushed by the BOE and Mayor Emanuel, means principals now must pay more for experienced teachers.  In the past, teacher positions were opened based on the number of students and principals were free to hire any qualified teacher, regardless of salary as that salary did not come out of the individual school budgets. Under this new formula, principals are given a lump sum for every student enrolled and therefore are incentivized to hire less-experienced, cheaper teachers in order to save money (all the more necessary as budgets are experiencing the largest cuts in living memory.)  I suspect that TFA quietly helped push this new budgeting policy into place.
Here in Chicago, as in many placement areas, TFA is closely tied to the charter school movement, as most CMs are placed in charters in this city.  Charter schools are highly controversial and have beenproven to exclude students with disabilities, students who are still learning English, and students with behavior problems.  I have written extensively about how charters, along with the broader corporate education reform movement, are making educational opportunity worse for my high-needs students.  Charter schools also tend to be non-unionized which leads to teacher exploitation and arbitrary firings with no recourse for staff.  Charter schools have also come under fire for scandals involving misuse of public funds, nepotism, and corruption, such as the large, TFA-heavy, UNO Charter chain which experienced a massive scandal and has growing debt. However, due to political connections, UNO will suffer no long-term repercussions from their mismanagement.
Neighborhood and Charter Schools
Why You Must Say ‘No’
What I describe above is just the tip of the iceberg of the assault on teachers and public education and TFA’s role in it.   As people new to the world of education, you must understand the context that you are stepping into.  Read what other TFA alums have already written eloquently on describing why they no longer support the organization such as here or here.   Do research about the realities of Teach for Americaits effect on education, and the shoddy research they use to support their practices.  Understand why a number of TFA alums and education activists are organizing against TFA this summer in Chicago.  Know why groups of educators and parents boo and hiss when the name “Teach for America” is spoken.  You must understand the pushbackand that it has nothing to do with you personally.  There have been multiple abuses already endured in the cities you are entering and which TFA exploits.   How else are stakeholders supposed to respond as TFA takes precious resources from districts and states in budgetary crisis?  Or watch as TFA steals jobs from beloved experienced teachers and qualified, fully-credentialed teacher candidates?  As TFA undermines a noble, and importantly female-dominated, profession with false claims that teachers need little preparation?  Or as TFA increases inequality by giving our neediest students–students living in poverty, students with disabilities, students still learning English–the least qualified teachers.  And what about when TFA partners with the very wealthy and politically-connected forces wreaking havoc on our schools against the will of communities?
You new recruits did not create this current situation.  But by participating in TFA you will become a part of the problem.
A Chance to Do What’s Right
If you truly want to help children through teaching, give those future students the greatest chance possible by doing a full preparation program in advance of being left alone in that classroom.  Those of us in the teaching profession will welcome bright young beginning teachers with open arms. And if you are not sure teaching is for you, volunteer in a school, tutor, participate in after-school programs.  Whatever you do, do not allow TFA to let you learn how to teach on the backs of our neediest children, children living in poverty, children with disabilities, children who are still learning English, children living under oppression, racism, and savage inequalities.  All children deserve a fully-prepared teacher for every day of their educational careers.  Please do not participate in denying them that right.
And please do not become a foot solider for the Education Reform movement.  Do not partner with the very people trying to destroy public education for their own personal gain.
You have a choice to make.  TFA may ultimately benefit you personally, it may open doors to lucrative careers, help you get into prestigious law and graduate degrees, even give you direct paths into high-paid jobs in the worlds of education, business, or politics.  It may even make you feel really good.  But are you willing to participate in the destruction of the common good of public education, destroy the teaching profession, and deny needy children experienced long-term educators who would gladly take jobs filled by these TFA novices? Are you willing to do great harm to children and communities for your own personal gain?
Please make the right choice. And then join those of us on the ground fighting for REAL reform.  We need your passion and drive.  But we absolutely do not need you, without proper preparation, in our neediest classrooms.
Katie Osgood
Special Education teacher in Chicago
**UPDATE**  Just read this article detailing how our appointed Board of Education in Chicago just renewed and EXPANDED Teach for America’s contract with CPS at last week’s Board meeting:  In the middle of a supposed “budget crisis” where 50 schools were viciously closed down and hundreds of teachers and staff laid off, CPS has increased the funding to TFA from $600,000 to $1,587,500.  In addition, the number of TFA first year novices went from 245 to 325 ( ).