Monday, December 30, 2013

Political Catastrophe

Sun Times Pundits Pushing Dems?
By Jim Vail

When I saw the Sun Times Dec. 29th screaming headline "Illinois unions' strength will be put to test in year ahead" I naturally decided to read the story.

(Kudos to their headline writers!)

Quite alarmist, right?  Oh no, the unions are going to have an even rougher year ahead.

The story fell into the predictable and tired format of, 'oh my God, the horrible republicans are vying for the governorship, what do the poor unions do?'

Of course, back the democrat in the race to be Illinois governor.

The republicans play their part well.  They're the boogie man in the political arena.  Quick, swallow your pride and vote because we can't afford to have George W. Bush in the White House.  Or, let's back Obama's re-election even though things keep getting worse because we all know how evil republican challenger Mitt Romney is.

And now once again we got another horrible republican running for governor - Bruce Rauner.  The extremely wealthy hedge fund guy who says the unions are horrible and control the state.

What do they say, repeat a lie long enough and people will believe it. The New York Times gave White House lies credibility to wage war on Iraq.  

Today corporate media give corporate whores like Rauner and Quinn credibility in their war on the working class.

When you read the Sun Times Natasha Korecki's article, you get the facts from the ruling class.  Bruce Rauner says Springfield is controlled by the unions. Korecki doesn't dare point out the truth, that it's actually rich corporations that control our state's politics. 

But no need for the truth - let the lies become facts!

So you have the democrat party clown Pat Quinn who made it his mandate to attack the unions by forcing the state to pass a reactionary anti-pension bill, and then chose Paul Vallas and his anti-union credentials as his running mate.

Can you get any more anti-union than that?

It's so laughable to hear a wacko like Rauner proclaim the unions, which represent the working class, as the villains, and multi-millionaires like himself, as the victims.

Instead of being laughed at and ridiculed, he's taken serious by Ms. Korecki and her ilk.  That's because the Sun Times and the Tribune are propaganda for the ruling class. 

You need to read online blogs like Secondcityteachers, Subtance News and Mike Klonsky's Small Talk, as well as other lesser known publications,  that are media for the working class.

Are there any other worker newspapers out there?  Some, like Revolution Newspaper ( proclaim extreme leftist political views such as communism and socialism, and those people are not allowed to be democrats, according to the party's by-laws.

The Sun Times article mentions that Rauner is the unions' "worse nightmare" (really?) and just look at how much money he is raising (we can't say it's so totally corrupt, of course, because people need to think this is all legitimate).

When it comes to the republican nightmare, I asked our Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey who was worse on education policy in this country - George W. or Barak Obama?  

That's not an easy question, and I didn't expect Jesse to answer it.

Of course, there is no real difference between the two parties. They work really well together.

Their job is to make people vote. To make people believe in this horrible system.

Because no matter how bad off you are, it could get worse.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Amazing Earth!

And now for a little fun ... Happy New Year Earthlings!

NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock, who is currently
aboard the International Space Station, shares pictures
of the Earth he snaps with the world through Twitter.
Known to his nearly 68,000 Twitter followers as
Astro-Wheels, Wheelock has been posting impressive
photos of the Earth and some of his thoughts ever
since he moved into the space station in June, five
months after it got Internet access.
Greek islands on a clear night during our flight over 
Europe .. Athens shine brightly along the Mediterranean Sea.
cid:image002.jpg@01CEF828.FB8C0180" Mystery Island " - located in the Indian Ocean close
to Madagascar. Interesting features on the island 
and the unusual shape should be enough to help 
you discover this beautiful place.

Northern lights in the distance in one of the finest 
nights over Europe . The photo clearly shows the 
Strait of Dover. Paris is dazzling with the city lights. 
A little fog over the western part of England, 
particularly over London.
The moon is breathtaking. 

Of all the places of our beautiful planet few can rival 
the beauty and richness of colors in the Bahamas. 
In this photo, our ship is seen against the backdrop 
of the Bahamas. 

At a speed of 28,163 kilometres per hour (8 kilometres 
per second), we rotate the Earth's orbit, making 
one revolution every 90 minutes, and watch sunsets 
and sunrises every 45 minutes. So half of our 
journey is in darkness. For the work we use lights 
on our helmets. 

Every time I look out the window and see our beautiful 
planet, my soul sings! I see blue skies, white clouds 
and bright blessed day.
Another spectacular sunset. We see 16 such sunsets
each day and each of them is really valuable. 

Beautiful atoll in the Pacific Ocean, photographed 
using 400mm lens. Approximately 1930 km south 
of Honolulu. 

Perfect reflection of sunlight showing Cyprus. 

Above the centre of the Atlantic Ocean, before 
another stunning sunset. Downstairs in the setting 
sun visible spiral Hurricane Earl.

A little farther east, we saw the sacred monolith Uluru, 
also known as Ayers Rock. I have never had the 
opportunity to visit Australia , but someday I hope 
that I will stand by this miracle of nature. 

Morning over the Andes in Argentina, South America. I do not 
know for sure the title of this peak, but was simply 
amazed by her magic, stretching to the sun and 
wind tops.

Over the Sahara desert, approaching the ancient 
lands and thousand-year history. River Nile flows 
through Egypt by the Pyramids of Giza near Cairo. 
Further, the Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Dead Sea, 
Jordan River, as well as the island of Cyprus in 
the Mediterranean Sea and Greece on the horizon. 

Night view of the River Nile, stretching like a snake 
through Egypt to the Mediterranean, and Cairo, 
located in the Delta. Far away in this picture, one 
can see the Mediterranean Sea. 

Our unmanned 'Progress 39P' approaches the ISS 
for refuelling. It is full of food, fuel, spare parts and 
all necessities for our station. Inside was a real gift - 
fresh fruit and vegetables. What a miracle after 
three months of food from a tube! 

I wanted to share with you this view from the Dome. 
We said goodbye to the members of our group Sasha, 
Misha and Tracy this weekend and they returned 
safely back to Earth. In this photo, Tracy quietly 
dreams of returning home. 

Module Union 23C Olympus docked with the ISS. 
When our work ends here, we go back home to 
Earth. We fly over the snow-capped peaks of the 
Caucasus. The rising sun is reflected from the 
Caspian Sea. 

The flash of colour, movement and life on the canvas 
of our amazing world. This is part of the Great Barrier 
Reef off the east coast of Australia, photographed 
through the lens of 1200 mm. 

All the beauty of Italy , a clear winter night. You 
can see many beautiful islands that adorn the 
coast - Capri, Sicily and Malta. Naples and 
Mount Vesuvius are allocated along the coast. 

At the southern end of South America, Argentina, lies the pearl 
of Patagonia . The amazing beauty of rugged 
mountains, massive glaciers, fjords and seas 
combined in perfect harmony. 

"Dome" on the side of nadir station gives a panoramic 
view of our beautiful planet. Fedor made the picture 
from the window of the Russian docking compartment. 
In this photo I'm sitting in the dome, preparing the 
camera for our evening flight over Hurricane Earl. 

Florida and southeastern U.S. in the evening. A clear 
autumn evening, the moonlight over the water and 
sky, dotted with millions of stars. 

Clear starry night over the eastern Mediterranean.
The ancient land with a thousand years of history 
stretching from Athens to Cairo. Historical land of 
fabulous and alluring island. Athens - Crete - 
Rhodes - Izmir - Ankara - Cyprus - Damascus - 
Beirut - Haifa - Amman - Tel Aviv - Jerusalem - 
Cairo - all of them turned into tiny lights in this 
cool November night. 

In this time of year you can enjoy the beauty of the
polar mesospheric clouds. With our high-angle 
illumination, we were able to capture a thin layer 
of noctilucent clouds at sunset. 



Thursday, December 26, 2013

CPS says no to charter schools, but Michael Madigan says yes

House Speaker state Democratic Party chair Michael Madigan (left) shakes hands with MustafDemir mayor Fatih district Turkey.
House Speaker and state Democratic Party chair Michael Madigan (left) shakes hands with Mustafa Demir, the mayor of Fatih district in Turkey.
MADE $100,000
Like most charter schools, Concept Schools’ Chicago Math and Science Academy relies on local taxpayers for more than 92 percent of its $6 million-a-year budget.
CMSA sold its building in Rogers Park two years ago to a related not-for-profit company called New Plan Learning, which went to Wall Street to borrow $33.1 million through a bond issue to buy the North Side campus, add a gym and expand three other Concept schools in Ohio.
CMSA is on the hook to pay about $40 million in rent to New Plan Learning over 30 years to pay its share of the debt. Their only other option, school officials said, was to default on loans they took out in 2009 to buy the school’s current building in Rogers Park.
The school’s current board president, Edip Pektas, was treasurer at the time and recused himself from the bond-deal votes. School records show New Plan Learning paid $100,000 to Pektas as a financial adviser.
Pektas’ role with New Plan Learning was identified in bond documents. But those statements — given to potential bond buyers — did not disclose his CMSA board position.
Larry Adelson, the lawyer who represented the school, said disclosing that dual role wasn’t necessary: “I’m going to guess the bond markets don’t care.”
Adelson is with Chico & Nunes PC, former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico’s law firm, which was paid more than $67,000 by CMSA. Chico’s wife, schools consultant Sunny Penedo-Chico, was on the school’s board from its foundation in 2003 until 2007.
Interactive map: Where Illinois lawmakers traveled


When Concept Schools Inc. wanted to open two charter schools in Chicago last year, it sought permission from Chicago Public Schools officials.
The answer was no.
CPS officials have allowed the rapid expansion of charters. But they turned down Concept. They said the charter operator, headquartered in Des Plaines, didn’t merit being allowed to expand based on test scores at its one city school, the Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park.
Concept Schools appealed to a higher authority: the little-known Illinois State Charter School Commission. The state agency was created in 2011 by lawmakers including House Speaker Michael Madigan, the South Side Democrat who’s a powerful advocate of Concept and the faith-based Gulen movement to which the schools are connected.
This time, the answer was yes.
As the first, and so far only, charter operator to benefit from the decisions of the 2-year-old state agency, Concept is getting 33 percent more funding per pupil for those two new schools than the city school system gives other charters.
Madigan, who’s also the Illinois Democratic Party chairman, visited Concept’s Chicago Math and Science Academy last year. In a video the school posted on YouTube, Madigan praised the school, founded and run by Turkish immigrants.
The speaker’s son Andrew Madigan also visited and filmed an endorsement of the CMSA campus at 7212 N. Clark St. Andrew Madigan works for Mesirow Insurance Services Inc., whose clients include CMSA and the two new, state-approved Concept schools in McKinley Park and Austin, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The elder Madigan has ties to other Chicago Turkish immigrant groups that, like Concept, have connections to a worldwide movement led by Fethullah Gulen. He’s a politically powerful Muslim cleric from Turkey who moved to this country in 1999 shortly before being implicated in a plot to overthrow Turkey’s secular rulers and install an Islamic government — charges that were later dropped.
Madigan has taken four trips in the past four years to Turkey as the guest of the Chicago-based Niagara Foundation — whose honorary president is Gulen — and the Chicago Turkish American Chamber of Commerce, according to disclosure reports the speaker has filed.
State records show Madigan’s visits were among 32 trips lawmakers took to Turkey from 2008 through 2012. The speaker and members of his House Democratic caucus took 29 of those trips, which they described as “educational missions.”
Turkey was the destination of 74 percent of all foreign trips Illinois legislators reported receiving as gifts during the five-year period.
On his weeklong trip to Turkey in November 2012, Madigan’s delegation included Liz Brown-Reeves, a former Madigan aide who lobbied for the state charter commission this year in Springfield.
The politicians and other guests on the trips have to pay for their travel to and from Turkey. Niagara and the Turkish chamber paid for meals and hotels, Madigan and the other legislators reported.
The Chicago Turkish chamber disbanded in February. Niagara vice president Mevlut “Hilmi” Cinar said his organization didn’t pay for the trips, that the costs were borne by non-governmental organizations in Turkey.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker paid for “all known expenses” for his travels. He still listed the four trips on his gift-disclosure statements because “there might be expenses that Niagara had that he was not aware of,” said Brown, who went with Madigan last year to Istanbul, Ankara and Ephesus.
Other politicians who toured Turkey on Niagara trips included Ald. Joe Moore (49th), whose ward includes the CMSA campus. Moore said he went at the urging of Concept’s vice president, Salim Ucan, though Cinar said Niagara didn’t authorize Ucan to extend invitations.
Concept has run CMSA since 2004. It’s one of the 30 publicly financed, privately run schools Concept operates in six Midwest states. The organization recently applied to Chicago school officials to approve its fourth and fifth schols here to open next year, in South Chicago and Chatham.
Concept officials declined interview requests. In a written statement, Ucan said their “sole mission is to raise the bar of public education by opening high-quality college-prep charter schools in underserved communities.”
Last year, when Concept applied to open two more campuses in Chicago, CPS officials denied Concept, citing concerns over “fluctuations in its academic performance” in recent years and also because CMSA test scores didn’t outperform the average scores of schools in its section of the city by at least 10 percent — the benchmark CPS uses to decide whether current charter operators will be allowed to expand.
A spokeswoman said the Chicago Board of Education must “decline to approve weak and inadequate applications.”
But the state commission overruled the board and ordered the city school system to give higher per-pupil funding to the two new Concept schools.
Asked why, Jeanne Nowaczewski, the state commission’s executive director, said, “This organization runs really remarkable schools.”
She said the two new Concept schools “were approved in March, and, by July, they had waiting lists. Parents are smart consumers.”
Concept officials boast that 90 percent of the students at CMSA are accepted to colleges. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse, though, show 50 percent of CMSA graduates actually enroll in college, compared to the public school system’s average of 57 percent.
CMSA’s average ACT score of 19.1 is higher than the CPS average but below the 21.3 average considered a standard for college readiness.
Most of Concept’s schools are in Ohio, where the network was started. Of its 19 schools there, 12 were given D grades by state officials, 4 got C’s and 3 received B’s this year. Concept’s Indiana Math and Science Academy in Indianapolis got an F, according to state officials.
The Illinois charter commission’s decision to overrule CPS and allow the Concept schools in McKinley Park and Austin was made with the minimum five “yes” votes that were needed. Two commission members voted “no,” another was absent, and one spot was vacant then.
Glen Barton, retired chairman and chief executive of Caterpillar Inc., was among the commission members who voted yes. Barton is president of the board of a Peoria school that’s managed by Concept, but commission officials decided before the vote that Barton’s ties to Concept didn’t prevent him from voting on the plans.
Concept’s Peoria school had helped many low-income, minority students who otherwise were “destined to be on food stamps or be incarcerated,” Barton said.
More than half of the state charter commission’s budget has come from private contributions, Nowaczewski said. That includes $200,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, linked to the family of the founders of Wal-Mart, and $115,000 from the Joyce Foundation in Chicago. The groups are major financial backers of charter schools.
Though lawmakers allowed the state commission to seek private funding, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, calls that situation “incestuous” and says it makes the panel partial to charter applicants. She has introduced legislation that would shut down the agency.
A CPS spokeswoman said “the current process creates confusion . . . and a fix is needed.”
Madigan spokesman Brown said “it doesn’t appear there was any effort” by Madigan to aid Concept’s successful appeal to the state charter panel and that the speaker doesn’t see a need to repeal the commission.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pay Teachers?

To recruit top-flight teachers, begin with honesty about the job


The Kansas City Star

Arne Duncan wants you!

Picture that slogan on a poster. The secretary of education pointing outward like Uncle Sam, summoning the nation’s top-achieving college students to enter America’s classrooms as teachers.
Not very convincing, eh?
OK, the Department of Education’s new public service campaign, called Teach, is far more polished, but essentially it has all the honesty and appeal of “Join the Army and see the world.”
When will they learn?
Like such efforts in the past, Teach dances around some highly pertinent issues: salary, working conditions and the beatings the teaching profession takes in the political arena.
If we want to draw the brightest of our college applicants into the teaching profession, we have to be honest with ourselves about what it will take. Let’s start with money.
Compared to other high-achieving countries, U.S. teachers are not underpaid. But they are when compared to comparably trained American college graduates who enter other occupations; their salaries are 40 percent lower, according to research released last year.
Given the cost (and debt incurred) of a college education these days, a 40 percent difference is significant. American young people aren’t that bad at math. They can compute the impact on their future lifestyles.
Last year the federal government sought to infuse some respect for teachers with a $5 billion initiative dubbed RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching). Duncan said its goal was to make teaching “not only America’s most important profession but also America’s most respected profession.” School districts and states competed for the funding to boost the teaching profession’s profile.
Sorry to point out the obvious, but in America, respected jobs are offered the higher salaries.
Duncan understands that the countries that perform best in standardized testing draw their teaching staffs from the best and brightest students entering colleges and universities. And he would no doubt like to make that the case in the U.S. But it’s almost as if we dare not utter the word salary or acknowledge the role it plays in influencing the choice of a profession.
“Make More. Teach” is one of the catchiest slogans of the Teach campaign. But the “more” doesn’t refer to money. Instead, in a series of advertisements, a voiceover explains: “I make learning a privilege, not a chore, and frustration a tool, not an obstacle. I make working hard seem easy and giving up impossible.”
Clever, but if we really want to draw the top talent to teaching, we have to offer them something more than this warm, fuzzy Obama-style idealism.
Improving the ranks of teachers for tomorrow requires facing head-on the attitude that education is mostly a benevolent calling, best left to those who simply “love children.” The platitude is an embarrassingly simplistic understanding of the skills it takes to be an effective teacher.
Moreover, we need to recognize that school is a place where the social problems of our nation get played out daily. Income and wealth maldistribution in America is a pathology that is glaringly apparent in our primary and secondary schools. We speak of an education crisis, but there is no crisis in school districts where the wealthy live. The rich and the comfortable middle class will always fund their public schools, and their children will be provided an excellent education.
That’s not the case for most large cities and many poor rural areas. There, teachers will struggle with scant resources, often contributing their own time and money to meet classroom needs, and face dispiriting and, frankly, insuperable problems caused by poverty and family dysfunction.
However spirited and energetic, teachers in these schools will fail. They will fail to solve problems for which “good teachers” are supposed to be some magic silver bullet. And they will be vilified for it.
For whatever reason, public school teachers have become a political punching bag. Perhaps it’s because they are one of the last bulwarks of organized labor. Perhaps it’s because they provide a convenient scapegoat for the social and economic inequality Americans don’t want to address. Maybe it’s envy, because, if they’re lucky and state and local governments hold up their end of the bargain, teachers will retire with something few private sector employees have: a defined-benefit pension.
Duncan argues America’s classrooms will soon face a labor turnover. Estimates are that more than a million teachers will retire in the four to six years. Does that pose an impending crisis or a unique opportunity?
That depends on the quality of students who choose to become teachers. But it also depends on the wisdom of policy at not just the Department of Education but at all levels of government. Public education is, but should not be, a proxy battleground for other political issues.
That’s a shame, because there is good research pointing to ways we could improve education. What we lack is the political will to do so.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Turkish Charter Cultmania!

U.S. Tax payer Dollars Support Turkish Cult Educator
By Jim Vail
The Greek Star

The drive to privatize public education is attracting all kinds of business operators from around the globe.  Among the groups of non-profit operators opening up charter schools are religious cults.  And one big operator in Chicago with several charter schools is tied to the Gulen Movement, a Turkish Islamic cult that has embraced modern technology, private enterprise, media and education.
Concept Schools runs the Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park on the north side, and is opening another charter school on the southwest side.  It also recently pulled out of a possible Lincoln Square location after residents protested the school at a neighborhood meeting. Many questioned how the Chicago Board of Education could be closing public schools because of low enrollment, and then quickly propose opening a charter school.
Concept Charter Schools is looking to expand its footprint in Chicago by opening two high schools, one in Chatham and the other in South Chicago.
The charter school game is a big business being promoted by some of this country’s billionaires, including Bill Gates and Eli Broad.  And Concept Schools is tied to a powerful religious movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fetullah Gulen, which has substantial investments in media, finance and for-profit health clinics.
According to Wikipedia, the exact number of Gulen supporters is not known because the movement is rather secretive, but estimates range from 1 to 8 million. The NY Times described the movement as a “moderate blend of Islam,” while Prospect magazine reported the movement as “at home with technology, markets and multinational business and especially with modern communications and public relations.” 
Others believe this cult purposely keeps its distance from Islamic political parties, including the ruling party in Turkey today which has seen tremendous protests in the streets recently.
Wikipedia says critics claim the movement’s organizational structure is strict obedience, hierarchical and undemocratic, including telling whom members should marry.
Gulen has an impressive media empire covering newspapers and TV, and is very active in education. It runs schools with more than 2 million students, from about 300 schools in Turkey to over 1,000 schools worldwide, Wikipedia states.
Many say the schools are well run and promote good citizenship. However, in 2008 the Dutch government investigated the movement’s activities in the Netherlands and concluded that the Gulen schools promoted “anti-integrative behavior” and reduced their public funding, according to Wikipedia.
Interestingly enough, it is only in the United States, Wikipedia states, where the state is lavishly funding these Turkish charter schools. According to the NY Times, there are about 120 schools in the US, mostly in urban centers like Chicago that are closing public schools. Charter schools are private operators that get public funding.
The Gulen schools have been accused of using its money to buy influence, including financing politicians’ trips for their support. The Philadelphia Enquirer reported that the FBI and Depts. of Labor and Education were investigating whether some employees were kicking back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement founded by Gulen known as Hizmet.
The other troubling part is that it appears these Turkish schools are H-1B visa factories (visas reserved for highly skilled workers who fill needs unmet by the American workforce). In 2011, 292 of the 1500 employees at the Gulen-inspired Harmony School of Innovation in Texas, were on H-1B visas, claiming they were unable to find qualified teachers in America, highly questionable during an economic crisis when many teachers were being laid off, and bringing in Turkish nationals with inferior language skills to teach in American schools.
There was also an FBI investigation of Concept Schools in Ohio under the suspicion that they were illegally using taxpayer money to pay immigration and legal fees for people they never even employed. This was later confirmed by state auditors, and Concept repaid the fees for some of the schools, Wikipedia reported.
Some argue that these charter schools are simply money makers for building the Gulen movement in the US and they obtain a substantial amount of private, state and federal funding, and have proved “amazingly effective at soliciting private donations,” Wikipedia reported.
The NY Times reported two of its schools in Texas were accused of funneling some $50 million in public funds to a network of Turkish construction companies, among them the Gulen-related Atlas Texas Construction and Trading, even though some bidders claimed in lawsuits that they had submitted more economical bids.
This is a very interesting charge since the powerful Mexican charter operator UNO, with tight ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, was temporarily suspended after it was discovered they were awarding no-bid construction contracts to the family members of board members. 

The Deseret News also reported questions about the US tax monies these Turkish schools are getting, noting, “In a time of teacher layoffs, (Gulen) has recruited a high percentage of teachers from overseas, mainly Turkey. Many of these teachers had little or no teaching experience before they came to the US. Some of them are still not certified to teach in Utah.”
And therein lies the beauty of charter schools for those with the money to pay salaries.  A considerable number of teachers in charters do not have to be certified, and they make a lot less money than their counterparts in public schools because they are mostly non-unionized.
The Turkish Chicago Math and Science Academy was involved in a big fight to prevent its teachers from unionizing, reflecting its very pro-business and anti-worker sentiment.
Many parents and students in Chicago probably do not know that the charter school is directly tied to the Turkish cult, as it has, like most high-profile cults today in money making operations, downplayed its ties to Turkey and religion.
Their schools in Kazakstan have been accused of following admission policies that favor the children from wealthy and well-connected families, while its schools in Tashkent and St. Petersburg were closed for a period, being accused of supporting Islamic groups.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pension Poison Bill

Lawmakers Pass State Pension Reform Legislation
by The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund

Illinois lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed pension reform legislation, Senate Bill 1, yesterday afternoon. The bill includes changes to four of the five state-wide pension systems: Teachers' Retirement System (TRS), State Employees Retirement System (SERS), State Universities Retirement System (SURS), and the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS). 
Chicago Teachers Pension Fund is NOT currently included in this legislation

More Information about Senate Bill 1
The legislation:
  1.  Changes the calculation for Annual Annuity Adjustments
    (Cost of living increases -- COLAs). Future COLA 
    increases would be 3 percent multiplied by the number of years worked times $1,000 ($800 for those coordinated with Social Security). The $1,000/$800 will be adjusted each year by the CPI for everyone (retirees and current employees). Those with an annuity that is less than their years of service times $1,000/$800 (or whatever the amount is at the time of retirement) will receive a COLA equal to 3% compounded each year until their annuity reaches that amount. 
  2. Skips annual COLAs depending on age. Employees over 50 miss 1 adjustment; 49-47 miss 3 adjustments; 46-44 miss 4 adjustments; and 43 and under miss 5 adjustments. 
  3. Increases the retirement age for those under age 45 on a graduated scale.
  4. Caps pensionable salary at the current Tier II salary cap -- $109,971 (for 2013). Salaries that currently exceed the cap would be grandfathered in. The cap will adjust annually.
  5. Decreases current employee pension contributions by 1%.
  6. Prohibits the State pension systems from using pension funds to pay healthcare costs. 
  7. Establishes a funding schedule which guarantees 100% funding no later than the end of FY2044.
  8. Requires the state to make supplemental contributions: The State will contribute (i) $364 million in FY19, (ii) $1 billion annually thereafter through 2045 or until the system reaches 100% funding, and (iii) 10% of the annual savings resulting from pension reform beginning in FY16 until the system reaches 100% funding. 
  9. Allows a retirement system to sue for required payments or supplemental contributions. 
  10. Allows up to 5% of Tier 1 active members to join a defined contribution plan. 
  11. Excludes "all pension matters" except pension pickups, from collective bargaining.

CTPF's Role 
The Illinois legislature determines the laws and rules that govern our fund. The CTPF Board of Trustees administers the law and protects the Fund's finances to ensure retirement security for all members. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

History Whitewash?

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - What is history but a fable told by others.


History is bunk!

Henry Ford.

'Paper puts up with anything that is written upon it, 'said a cynical, cunning and calculating Stalin. That is what the proponents of a new 80 page state history book which was launched by the Duma a few days ago hopes. There is a grain of truth to this crude axiom.Words do appear more potent and powerful when inscribed on paper.For paper embellishes the word with a layer of hypnotic authority which can disarm the impressionable.

The problem with this book is that there is no attempt to be objective and it          practically eulogises President Putin and condemns previous leaders such as Yeltsin and Gorbachev. The 'wild 1990's' were replaced by the prosperous stability of the Putin years. The huge human cost of collectivization and the repression is either understated or overlooked. There is not even a mention of the famous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which paved the way to the second world war.No wonder critics accuse the government of whitewashing history.

The idea for a standardised history which would represent the interpretation of all interpretations had been floated around for years. It was only this February that President Putin summoned historians and asked them 'to come up with a unified version of Russian and Soviet history. He called for school pupils to be given a text free of internal contradictions and double interpretation. 'The task was given to Andre Petrov,an executive secretary of the history society and Sergei Naryshkin, who is part of the United Russia     elite.

If you read this book,you might think be forgiven that the mass protests of 2011 and 2012, the arrest of so many businessmen, opposition leaders and the demonstrators just did not happen! The increasing threats, attacks and arrest of dissidents is not mentioned.You might as well just title the last chapter 'Happy Russia'.

During the same week, a writer called Boris Akunin, an author of historical detective novels brought out his only history book on ancient Russia. The contrast could not be more striking.While the former is crude, vulgar and crassly written, the latter is more poetic, perceptive and well-balanced. In contrast to the former,it does not pretend to present some novel view of history or advance a new idea.

If this state history book is actually introduced into the classroom then the teaching of history in schools will further decline. Students will view history as simply a course where you must just pass an exam by providing the one and only acceptable answers. They will purchase general state exam guides with the right answers in shops, and simply memorise them by heart. Questioning the teacher will be either discouraged or viewed as 'wasting the teacher's time' as in some South Korean schools.

That history should be perceived as 'free of contradiction and double interpretation' indicates a complete lack of understanding of not human history, but child intelligence. The statement represents an insult to human intelligence. A reasonably intelligent person starts off in life with an insatiable curiosity. He or she is an ocean of questions. History       should reflect this questioning. This textbook precludes debate, discussion or alternative viewpoints.It is almost reminiscent of the old Soviet communist textbooks. It seems that the serious study of history will be marginalised from not only the schools, but the universities.It might lead to an absurd situation where informal enthusiasts or amateurs do the proper research which the professionals are supposed to do, but won't because they don't want to lose shaky  positions or prestige in schools.
Yet what the older generation are doing to the minds of young children is dangerously irresponsible.I have come across young school-children aged 13-14 who tell me 'Stalin was a great war leader and did not repress anyone'.

Daniel Ogen, an American English teacher, was also taken aback by one of his students who defended Stalin. Where do they get those notions? Just school-teachers? My daughter had an argument with a history teacher who claimed all the German invaders of Russians were fascists and were evil. My daughter should know! Her grandmother told us how some German soldiers entered a town hall building to give milk 'to Russian children' they were worried about. When they looked at the portraits of Lenin, they told the bemused Russians 'Lenin was a great man! Those German soldiers did not sound like ruthless fascists. Other history teachers tell their students how some German soldiers hid some Jews from the Nazis.

It is very possible that children acquire favourable views of Stalin from being looked after by their grandparents who hold a nostalgic view of the Soviet era. Those were the generation who truly wept when Stalin died. While the mothers are having to go to work they leave the child's grandparents to look after them. Being impressionable, they might uncritically accept their  grandparent's views as gospel.

The school history books can be written in a different way. You could easily write special sections containing the recorded statements of a prisoner of the Gulag or a Russian soldier at the front. Those interviews could select different viewpoints and help personalise history as being essentially made by the people, and not just tsars and presidents. You could title special sections of chapters 'Critical debate' where two different views of an issue are presented. This would at least help avoid a one-dimensional view of history.

It would be tragic if the only acceptable interpretation of history was based on what Pushkin stated, 'The Tsar and nobles initiate change while the people remain silent, or to quote the last act of Boris Godunov,'narod bezmolstvuet'. 

Concerning the new history book, we can't afford to remain silent. The honour of Russian   history, not to mention historians, is at stake.