Friday, February 28, 2014

Who's Afraid of Rahm?

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf
By Jim Vail

I couldn't believe it when someone posted on Facebook about a possible challenger to Rahm Emanuel in the next Chicago mayoral election.

And the next contestant is ....

Drum roll pleeze!

Amara Enyia.  Amara who? Enyia what?

Is this serious? Really? If this person is going to possibly run for mayor, then I guess anyone can.

But to be taken seriously enough to warrant an article in the leftist magazine In These Times?  And written by a very credible journalist named Kari Lyderson?

When you read it, it's absolutely laughable.  Some Nigerian hailing "municipal consultant" who's dabbled in being a "community activist" (that seems to be the creds politicians are trying on this election season) has declared she will run against Rahm Emanuel to be our next mayor.

And she's not afraid of him.

Here's my best quote in the interview Kari had with Amara:

"With Daley, for better or worse, you knew deep down he really loved the city - it was in his blood."

Yeah, he loved his city so dearly, that he made deals like privatizing the parking meters to cheat the city out of a billion bucks, and then signs on to be a consultant with the law firm that brokered the scam on the city.

For he so loved his city, that he made a hell of a lot of money off of it, cheating the rest of us God-fearing tax payers!

Come on, Kari.

If the whole situation wasn't so sad, I guess I would be laughing.

But the whole political situation in this town is so depressing.

First, who will run against Emanuel?  Does it matter?  Can a real progressive get elected who would listen to the people?

First, and foremost on the teachers' minds is, will Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis run for mayor.

A colleague pointed out today on a ride home after joining the courageous teachers refusing to administer the ISAT test at Saucedo School, that should Karen run and lose, Rahm can then say, well the voters chose me over the teachers. So you guys have absolutely no right to stop me from closing as many schools as I can, and ridiculing and destroying as many teachers' lives as I can!

Guys got a point, depressing as it may seem.

Then they are saying the CTU would like to back a progressive like Bob Fioretti, the fiery alderman seen at a lot of CTU events, to run for mayor.

The guy has taken good stands with the teachers to protest closing schools and support an elected school board.

But Fiorett, like any representative with the democratic party, has his demons as well. Supporting the TIFs that take more money than they give back to the schools is one of them. He bragged at one point about his support of giving tax payer money to the hedge fund group that bought the Sears Tower.

But a smile was brought to my face by my fiery fantastic Puerto Rican colleague and a fighter extraordinaire who sent me the In These Times email about the Nigerian not being afraid of Rahm.

She said she is a creature of Rahm.

Now that brings me back to the dark, sad reality of politics.

Many ruling parties around the world put up a front party to draw in disaffected voters so no split is possible to allow the opposition to win.

If you can't beat em, you pay them off when you got all the bucks. That's how this shitty system works.

So you had this wacky nationalist/fascist named Vladimir Zhirinovsky elected with a majority of votes in Russia back in the 1990s. Then it turns out he always voted with the government. Many Eastern European governments fund silly parties to draw in hippy leftists, dampen the opposition, and ... well, you got to vote, right?

That's how our intelligence services work. You had these funny-named organizations like the Democracy Fund, a CIA sponsored front, that people are lured into supporting cause it sounds sweet and innocent, until you find out the truth.  If you're a journalist and the political ruling party isn't solidified enough, you could well end up dead for reporting on it.

In this case, who knows. If I could devote more time to my journalism, it would be fun exposing all these frauds that lackluster leftist publications embrace.

Or maybe we should vote for dynamic Nigerian 30-year consultants who believe Mayor Daley truly loves his city and who are not afraid of Rahm.

To prove how dumb we really are!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fire Away CPS!

Fire Away CPS!
By Jim Vail

Let's face it teachers - we all know our jobs are up for grabs.

Do we really think there is any guarantee we will be back the next year at our schools?

Why of course not. While stability is essential in the educational world, the corporate world demands "at will" employees who can be easily fired.

And there have been quite a few teachers I've had to explain that the attacks on them are downright silly, and have nothing to do with the quality of their teaching.  

It is all political. Those who shill for the ruling class - politicians like Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama, or Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd Bennett - are paid to attack the workers.  

And that first and foremost means to fire as many teachers as you can to show you are doing your job.

If you want to know the playbook, there is multi-billionaire CIA toad George Soros who would hire let's say 30 money managers, and tell them only a few will be good enough to keep the job in 6 months.

It's so Darwinian, it's funny. But it's what they want the public sector to be exposed to - humiliation, incredible stress and sleepless nights.

Any teachers feeling this in CPS land?

So if they're targeting you in your job, just remember it's most likely not because you're lacking in teaching skills.    

Quite the contrary - you are the data they need to show their masters they are doing the job, and firing is the way to show the numbers are in to make their quarterly profits.

Because profits for them, mean exploiting the hell out of us.

Here is what my good friend and former substitute teacher Peter Nerad who was fired for saving a kids life, had to say about the whole firing lunacy we are all experiencing these days.

"Jan, thank you very much for putting in the FOIA request you put in. I'm very interested in what you get back. I would not be surprised if they tell you that they do not keep track of subs. But they have to have # of subs fired I would think. My only guess is that they're using fired subs to bolster their number of fired teachers for news that they're "correcting" the system, or they want to get rid of older subs to put in younger new teachers to hire from. The younger hiring pool doesn't make sense since they can hire young teachers anyway. So I suspect they're releasing a total of teachers let go and not distinguishing between full-time teachers and subs. Or, there is no agenda on their part and principals are just following the new, crack down on everybody policy. And seeing how principals are in fear of their jobs, they're not hesitating in firing people."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Lobbying for Pensions in Springfield
By Jim Vail

There were four buses and a bunch of vans and cars that drove current and retired school teachers to Springfield on Wednesday to stop the cuts to pensions.

We visited state rep and state senator offices, and distributed literature that pointed out pensions are the only form of retirement income teachers have because we get no social security.

Flyers also stated pensions are good for the economy when retired people spend their hard-earned pension money.

We spoke to State Rep Jaime Andrade of the 40th district who voted against our pensions. He claimed he also voted against corporate tax breaks that could help generate state revenue.

But I said, then you should have abstained rather than just make the poor state workers pay for the state's financial woes, knowing the corporations are not paying it. 

It was an unethical vote, I pointed out. But Andrade knows what his job is in Springfield. He told me last summer that most of his time is spent meeting lobbyists, not voters. 

Wall Street wants those guaranteed retired teacher dollars rolled up into risky 401K plans (that were never meant to be for retirement income). So they buy the politicians to make sure retirees are forced into a pension contribution plan or 401K, rather than a defined benefit plan with guaranteed retirement income.

The private sector already robbed its workers of their retirement monies, so the next logical step is to take public workers money next.

The political game is a joke. Most of the democrats voted for SB1, the latest cut to pensions, under the orders of the machine and speaker of the house Mike Madigan.

Then you have the republicans who voted against it, not because they like pensions, but because the bill didn't go far enough to destroy public sector worker pensions.  

The SB1 bill that passed was focused on the rest of the state - Chicago is next.

Corporations fund the politicians to cut our pensions so they do not have to pay taxes. 

This is the system we have, and currently there are no challenges to it.

In fact, it is down right silly to take a bus to Springfield, and lobby politicians who vote against our pensions.

They ain't gonna listen.

Well, I take that back. There is machinist Toni Berrios, in a tough state rep race with CTU sponsored Will Guzzardi, who actually voted to not cut the pensions. But why do you think she did it?

I had an interesting conversation with Aaron Goldstein who is running in a crowded field to replace state rep Deb Mell who moved on to replace her father as an alderman.

I asked Goldstein since all his views seemed too good to be true for the democratic party, why he didn't run on the Green Party ticket.

He said there is no way you can win. People just don't believe a third-party candidate can win.

People want to back a winner.

The funny thing is - they are backing winners who make the people losers.

But those who paid for them the biggest winners of all.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Teachers Call Us!

Things Heating Up for Second City Teachers
By Jim Vail

Why another news blog on education?  Why another website about the public schools in Chicago?

Well, first of all, there is always room for something that offers a quality product.  I will gladly read a magazine or newspaper, new or old, if it provides quality news reporting.

Blogs are mostly someone's website rehashing the news from other sources, and then the author provides his or her commentary.  

Some are great like Diane Ravitch, who has an amazing selection of news and commentary. She is practically a news service herself.

With her slant, of course, which is pro-public education. 

But many blogs are filled with fluff and die early deaths, or go on for some vain reason.

So what is the reason Second City Teachers news blog continues? As we hit our one year online presence, and we near 10,000 hits - the question we need to ask is why?

One of the best compliments I received was from a fellow substitute teacher who said my site is not really a blog.  It is actually a news service.

I am a reporter and prefer to provide reporting versus commentary.

As we say - just the facts mam!

So what are the other reasons people need to read Secondcityteachers?

First, and foremost, every public school teacher in the city should read my reports on the house of delegates meetings. They tell you exactly what is happening on the front lines from union headquarters.

Second, this site continues to be a real news source for teachers who get screwed in this era of 'education reform.'  Continuing my work from Substance News a few years ago, I continue to get calls and emails from teachers who were unfairly fired, or put on do not hire lists despite their stellar teaching records.  There are whistle blowers in the charter schools, and teachers reporting how ridiculous it is all getting, and you can read all about it on this site.

Third, this is the website to read for critical analysis of the Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU leadership, which defeated the old guard UPC, must still be watched because they are now the ones in power. When one is in power, one must continue to be monitored and called out when dirty deals and sell outs go down, covered in slick packaging.

A union is a political entity that is representing the workers, in our case the teachers. They are in a game with ugly players, like machine democrats selling out our interests every day. It is troubling that our new union leadership continues to play this dirty game and not opt out of this rigged game. 

It certainly is not easy, but you need to watch our leaders words carefully to know exactly what they are saying about this continued reliance on a bankrupt political system.

The fourth reason is one has to read our incredible correspondent from Moscow, Mr. Stephen Wilson. His stories are heart felt about the educational changes in Russia.  They also show how we live in a global world where what is happening across the globe is very similar to what is happening in Chicago. It's called capitalism, and it's fucking everywhere.

So if you have inside information about another corrupt deal going down at 125 S. Clark Street, you are a teacher who is seeing outrageous actions in your school, or you were unfairly fired or put on a do not hire list, etc. - give us a call or email.

We are here to promote the public school teacher - the true hero in the trenches fighting the real war to help the impoverished poor children which society doesn't really care about.

And because the corporate media repeat the ruling class lies that the public schools are broke, we salute you and tell the public the truth.

Which is what you won't find in most places where money is king.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


SB 7 – The New Education Law Hitting Us Hard!
By Earl Silbar
CORE member, 2008-2011; retired GED teacher, City Colleges of Chicago; former chief steward, AFSCME 3506

Senate Bill 7 refers to the IL law passed in May, 2011. It was drawn up in secret meetings held from Jan. to April with privatization advocates, legislators, and the IFT, IEA and CTU union presidents. All parties agreed that their members would be kept out of any lobbying or public activity during these negotiations.
 Among many provisions, it established student test scores as 30% of teachers’ evaluations 2 years before state law had mandated; ended seniority for teachers statewide in economic-based layoffs and rehires- instead making evaluations the top criteria; established 2 consecutive "satisfactory" evaluations as the basis for termination; and set the minimum strike vote for Chicago teachers very high - 75% of all members when it had been 51% of those voting.
Contrary to what Kaplan wrote in the MR article (June 2013), the ISO’s Socialist Worker report in 2012, and what many other sympathetic observers say and write, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis did not act alone. In fact, she and all the CTU officers and staff actively fought a proposal that CORE campaign in the CTU, across Chicago and with others statewide to defend seniority in layoffs and rehires. After all, seniority is the most widely accepted way to protect workers from management discrimination and intimidation. The motion proposed defending seniority be part of a larger city and statewide campaign for “quality schools for all”. 

 I made that proposal at the Jan. 2012 CORE meeting after reading material on the CTU website that made clear the leadership’s intent to trade seniority for preserving the right to strike. Karen Lewis, VP Jesse Sharkey, chief of staff Jackson Potter and others spoke against the motion and to allow Pres. Lewis to conduct secret negotiations instead. After a quorum call blocked an official vote, a straw vote showed 22 against and 11 for my motion to that CORE campaign to defend seniority in economic layoffs/rehires and NOT support secret deals.

The Feb. meeting was cancelled with no explanation. After some discussion in March, another quorum call made a vote impossible. After months of vituperative email discussions that drove out and intimidated many, CORE’s April vote was overwhelmingly against the proposal and to endorse Pres.Lewis’s secret negotiations. Part of the explanation for this support lies in the fact that all CTU staff are told to sign a corporate-confidentiality statement that stops them from openly discussing, thus disagreeing with, internal CTU discussions and decisions. In fact, different left groups and formerly-active individuals held such staff positions. Hence, their jobs were tied to opposing this motion and supporting Karen Lewis’s secret deal-making.
When CTU reps presented SB7’s provisions to CTU delegates, they were burned by the hot response, esp. at the meeting held at Kelly H.S. in the largely Black south side. In response, Pres. Lewis renounced her public support for SB7 issued the day they made it public. Instead, the leadership presented a motion to the union’s House of Delegates that sounded like opposition to SB7. In fact, the fine print called for altering the time lines of some limitations as a condition for supporting SB7 as amended. Those amendments sailed through the legislature; the CTU never mobilized teacher-public opposition.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


All Quiet on the HOD Front
By Jim Vail

They say no news is good news.

At last week's Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting there was no big show - no Bruce Rauner scare tactics, no doomsday scenarios, political skits or ground-shaking resolutions.

One delegate asked what can be done about the Reach system where teachers could get a good teaching evaluation, but if the test scores don't go up, the teacher's rating still goes down (a fact facing the majority of teachers in the system).

CTU's Quest Center head Carol Caref answered that it all goes back to the law.

It's called SB7!  

The CTU's Karen Lewis signed off on this extremely punitive law on teacher evaluations with hardly a fight. 

How bad is it?

Two satisfactory or basic ratings equal an unsatisfactory rating = your career is finished as a teacher.  

Lewis said at the time she signed on to the bill to preserve the strike. 

But the Chicago teachers strike two years ago was only technically about pay and benefits.  All those beautiful teacher signs for smaller class sizes, air conditioning and a halt to the onslaught of the standardized testing craze, was never permissive bargaining. 

The highlight of the delegates meeting were two short speeches by candidates endorsed by the CTU to run in March's state representative democrat primary.

First to speak was Jay Travis, running in the 26th district.  She told the delegates she supports strong neighborhood schools (so did mayor Daley), a moratorium on school closings (but our endorsed speaker Mike Madigan made sure that didn't happen in the legislature), and a "pause button" on charter schools.

That last word woke me up - pause.  So perhaps Jay does support charter schools, we just need a temporary halt to make sure this happens the right way.

What is the right way for increasing charter schools whose primary function today is to bust the union, create sweat shop conditions in schools to burn teachers out and be used to demonize regular public schools.


Then there was high-energy Will Guzzardi whose enthusiasm knows no bounds. He is certainly a budding young politician to watch in the future.  He has created a number of support groups, with names like women for Will, teachers for Will and is constantly inviting people to join his campaign.

Will pointed out that the machine candidate Toni Berrios, daughter of the Cook County assessor (property taxes), is putting out literature with scare tactics; one flyer saying if Guzzardi is elected, they will need close many schools and children will not be able to read.

Hey, the machine is alive and kicking.

Here's my one question about Will. He supports the union on many of our issues - an elected school board, neighborhood schools, stop privatization of schools, etc.

But he's a power player.  You don't come within a few percentage points of defeating the machine and not know how to play the political game, which means listening to those who pay the piper.  

The union has only so much money to give. There are far more powerful interests with a lot more cash to give and get a return on their money.

I highly recommend that if you want to know how Will and the others will fare in the state legislature should they get elected, you simply look at who's funding them. Will knows how to raise money. The question is, at what cost?

If you are a legislator with strong ties to the union in this day and age - look no further than state rep Monique Davis.  The Tribune has been gunning to get her out for years, publishing scandals on office rent, etc.

Kevin Hough from the grievance department had an excellent report on how the CTU helped save the job of the Kenwood High School delegate who was basically fired for actively supporting his teachers.

You can't fault the union to try to keep its troops morale up despite the dire circumstances.  

But the truth is always necessary to fight the fight.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Boycott ISAT

CTU Focuses on Boycotting ISAT
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Teachers Union has well documented the evils of standardized testing.

CTU President Karen Lewis pointed out the history of standardized testing in this country that was tied to the eugenics movement to keep certain races in their place.

The CTU news magazine published an excellent interview with Monty Neill, the director of FairTest, who has written extensively about the problems of over testing, and how much of it is determined by social factors beyond the teachers and students control.

At this week's House of Delegates meeting, the CTU leadership made the case that the ISAT exam is no longer used in the high stakes testing craze, and therefore makes little sense to be given this year.

The CTU and some delegates are pushing a petition to sign on people to boycott the test.

However, the Chicago Board of Education and the CEO of the schools Barbara Byrd Bennett are fighting back strong to argue that the test is still important, it is state law and therefore parents should not opt their children out.  

Bennett has even told parents students may not get into selective enrollment schools or be promoted to the next grade level should they fail to take the test.

It appears as if Bennett's career is on the line to prove to her corporate masters that she won't back down to the union. 

One delegate at Wednesday's meeting also pointed out that the ISAT will still be used to rate schools, according to a level system.

Another delegate pointed out that this is the last year of the test. The boycott should be on the NWEA high stakes test used for 3-8 grades, she said.

But Lewis said it is still important to consider not taking the ISAT test because it is a waste of time and this could be the first step toward taking meaningful action against the testing craze corporate America is demanding the federal government enforce on school districts throughout the country.

"Do something with the kids instead of taking that stupid test," Lewis told the delegates.

Monday, February 3, 2014


The Democrats

     The CTU leadership has been speaking much about using the next two political elections to create a campaign to improve public education in Chicago. At the January House of Delegates, we finally saw the results of those discussions, with the rushed motion to create the Independent Political Organization, or IPO.
            The real issue is how this election campaign will be run, on what basis.  The union leadership have acknowledged that the Democratic Party is the problem – in Illinois, Democrats rule the city and every position of power, as far as the eye can see, so this is hardly a radical conclusion. 
            The working class, in Chicago, and elsewhere, has a low rate of voter participation in elections. This has a material cause – many working people in Chicago see that their interests are not represented within the Democratic Party, and they therefore do not have the motivation to participate in elections.  “Why get up early and stand in line to vote when it won’t matter?”   
            One axis of what Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey have been proposing is to sign up lots of voters, in order to alter the political balance in the city and the state.  Certainly, if working people had an option to vote for, if they saw their interests – including their interest in a good public education for their children --represented in the election, they might turn out in numbers that would matter.  I and others have argued that many working people could be excited if Karen Lewis ran for Mayor – she has led the biggest fight against him, and stood up for working people publicly in a way that drew national attention.
            But what we have so far is nothing of the sort.  Our leadership has spent a lot of time denouncing Bruce Rauner – who’s given us plenty of reasons to denounce him:  support for charters, attacks on our union, calling for LOWERING the minimum wage.   The problem is that union leadership has given some indications that they will support Pat Quinn in this year’s governor’s race. And they pushed to endorse Will Guzzardi for the state assembly in Logan Square, an ambitious young Democrat. 
          While Guzzardi opposed school closings, it should be noted that he did so on the basis that there were “parents with strollers,”  ie, young middle class parents, coming to the area, and who would fill up the schools.  Guzzardi himself seems to want to position himself to win the left-liberal, reformist vote – his position on the closings is not that of someone defending the interests of working people.   
            The IPO may turn into a re-run of the race in 2006, where the SEIU supported, and won a number of aldermanic races. The Big Box ordinance they pushed did not pass, and those alderman were absorbed into the existing Democratic Political machine, routinely voting for Daley’s budgets that had cuts for education and other social services.  But it could be an opportunity to provide a real break – one that give thousands of people in Chicago something to vote for, and provides a way for us teachers to broaden our base of support among those whose children we teach. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

State Rep Race

State Rep Challenger Hopes to Derail Machine
By Jim Vail

Anyone who takes on the machine has to have guts.

Anyone who defends a governor who the ruling class wanted eliminated has to have guts.

Meet Aaron Goldstein - a criminal lawyer who decided to toss his hat in the ring to unseat Jaime Andrade, who has temporarily replaced Deb Mell as the 40th district state representative.

Goldstein has defended the little guy throughout his career in law when he worked as a public defender and provided legal assistance for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

He is in favor of supporting unions, raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, protecting teachers' pensions and electing a school board.

He claims he's always had the guts to do what's right.

But I asked Goldstein the other week, how can a little guy like him stand up to the likes of corrupt operators like house speaker Mike Madigan, who controls the house like a true godfather. 

He told Secondcityteachers that there comes a time when you have to stand up to the big guys, even if it's means getting whacked.

He gave the example in the legal world of substitution of judge, where a lawyer can ask a judge to be dismissed from a case before the trial has even begun.

It is a little used practice because it's considered offensive to the judge, and lawyers can easily get black listed as a result. 

But Goldstein said he used it one time to dismiss a judge he knew would not be fair, and his higher ups questioned him.  Many careers could be easily derailed as a result, he said.

"But it was the right thing to do," Goldstein said. "In the end I got a lot of respect."

There are five challengers to take machine daughter Deb Mell's seat. Mell was handed her father's seat as alderman in the city council after her machine father decided to call it quits.

One candidate, Chicago public school teacher Mel Ferrand, was removed from the ballot because she did not hand in the right application.  Goldstein said he has no idea if her appeal will win, but he did say the law is pretty clear on this.

Ferrand's removal from the ballot was announced at the last Chicago Teachers Union delegates meeting where endorsements of candidates are made.

Goldstein said he has approached the CTU for an endorsement but has not heard anything yet.

In other state rep races, the CTU's two endorsed candidates - Jay Travis and Will Guzzardi, were each cut a check for $15000 and $7500, respectively, according to an inside CTU source.  

The 38-year-old attorney also said the drug war must end and machine politics be challenged.

"(Dick) Mell was never a good campaigner, he'd just clear the field."

He said there is one persistent myth that the machine may be perpetuating when it comes to signing petitions to support candidates, an area where the machine excels.

Goldstein said you can sign as many petitions for candidates running in the same party's primary.  However, you cannot sign two different party petitions.

Goldstein said Blagoyevich was independently minded and his not playing according to the democrat party rules got him into trouble.  

The fact that the government had tapes of the former governor talking about making deals to sell Barack Obama's senate seat, but never proving that anything happened, made the ruling of guilty highly quesitonable, he said.

One judge in the Blagoyevich appeal agreed that impeaching the governor on grounds of horse trading has no merit since that was exactly how former California governor Earl Warren became a Supreme Court justice, when president Eisenhower had promised him the judgeship if he delivered enough votes in his state.

The real story behind Blagoyevich goes back to Dick Mell who was furious after the former governor closed a land fill that Mell had financial interests in.  When it comes to having dirt on politicians, there is no short supply.

"The problem with the democrats," Goldstein said, "is no one stands up."

Goldstein mentioned that Deb Mell voted for the education reform bill that is behind the massive attacks on public schools and its teachers.  Her replacement Andrade, who worked for her father Dick Mell, also voted for the recent pension bill that drastically cuts future pensioners' benefits.

Goldstein said he does not want to see the expansion of charter schools and its union-busting tactics, and a roll back of the massive Race to the Top emphasis on standardized testing.

So how hard is it running against the machine now?

First, the money, thanks to Mell, is rolling in for Andrade.  The Leader Bar, near Irving Park and Albany, gave the machine candidate $7,000, while Mell's campaign fund is providing a ton of cash as well, he said.  The current limits to donate to a campaign are $5,000 for an individual, $10,000 for a corporation and $50,000 for a campaign fund.

Not to mention the phone calls. The latest Goldstein said is a call going out asking constituents if they knew the state rep challenger represents criminals, so could this mean he's soft on crime, he said.

While Goldstein said he decided to run now because it's difficult to beat an incumbent, the machine, unfortunately, is still humming along.