Monday, June 30, 2014

Boycott Elections!

Making the Case for an Election Boycott: Why the Left Should Refrain from US Imperialism's Electoral Charade

By Danny Haiphong

by Danny Haiphong

The left should not participate in, “and thus provide consent for, the rule of imperialism every four years.” Say “No” to the charade. “Barack Obama's two-term presidency has been a lesson for the entire left that voting for a Wall Street politician within the imperialist state can only bring more misery and political confusion, not less.”

Making the Case for an Election Boycott: Why the Left Should Refrain from US Imperialism's Electoral Charade

by Danny Haiphong

The two-party US political system more clearly than ever works exclusively in the interests of the imperialist ruling class.”
There are many dangerous trends emerging from progressive and revolutionary forces in the US. One of the most concerning is a growing focus on electoral campaigns as a tactic to achieve grassroots objectives.  The electoral victories of Kshama Sawant, Chokwe Lumumba (Rest in Power), and Ras Baracka are a clear indication of popular discontent with austerity, gentrification, and privatization in US cities under capitalist siege.  However, whatever encouragement these victories provide cannot resolve the contradictions of US capitalism. The primary purpose of US capitalism's state machinery is to manage the affairs of the ruling class. This poses the important question of whether electing representatives into political office is a worthy tactic for the left or whether it should be abandoned all together.

Historical Context of Capitalist State-Reform and the US left

The English colonizers, after defeating the British Crown in the American (counter) Revolution, made it clear that African slaves, property-less Whites, women, and indigenous people would have zero decision-making power in who would represent them in the newly formed US nation-state. As US capitalism industrialized, property restrictions were lessened to further privilege White Americans into "citizenship" at the expense of Black and indigenous people. From the very beginning, electoral politics were a stage where capitalists performed for the state power needed to manage the profits obtained from racism and labor exploitation.

US government hostility to the interests of the working class and oppressed understandably deterred the left from pushing revolutionary goals through electoral politics.  Prominent socialists like Eugene Debs ran for President a handful of times with little success. For the most part, leftists understood that running candidates for political office was a drain on resources and political morale. So, rather than run candidates, the left organized people to win concrete victories from the capitalist state in specific historical moments.  Progressive labor and civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act and the National Labor Relations Act, were won because the collective organization of workers and victims of white supremacy presented a direct threat to the interests of capitalism. What made such gains so important was how they expanded popular vision of what was possible and at the same time failed to fully transform the inherent antagonisms of the US capitalist social order. Poor Black and colonized peoples in the US, largely excluded from state-reforms, saw no other option but to demand complete self-determination and liberation from capitalist domination.

George Jackson warned that imperialism ensured that the US government could no longer reform itself in the last stage of capitalism.”

George Jackson was a leader of the Black liberation movement that was partly inspired by inadequate state-reforms.  Jackson wrote extensively in his book Blood in my Eye (1971) on the changing nature of capitalist state-reform. He learned quickly from his experiences organizing for the Black liberation movement from behind the walls that there was nothing left that Black America could wrestle from the US capitalist state. The conditions of the working class were on the decline. Prior reforms had improved the economic conditions of White America while doing virtually nothing for the economic needs of poor Black and indigenous nations.  Jackson concluded that these developments were evidence of US capitalism's last stage: imperialism.

Jackson warned that imperialism ensured that the US government could no longer reform itself in the last stage of capitalism to appease certain sectors of its exploited subjects. And he was, and still is, correct. The ruling class went on an offensive that has yet to end, brutally repressing revolutionary upheaval in the US while making calculated and necessary changes to ensure the survival of capitalism on the global stage. Some of these changes included ending of the Vietnam War, monopolizing corporate power into the realm of finance, and most importantly for the purposes of this article, opening up avenues to Black candidacy in corporate and political office. These "reforms" isolated revolutionary organizations like the Black Panther Party and re-directed popular energy toward what the imperialist ruling class deemed acceptable forms of political participation.

Boycott the Vote!

George Jackson's analysis points to the need to direct political energy away from participation in the imperialist state.  Popular mistrust in the US government is at a high point, as shown by low voter-turnouts and percentages of Presidential and Congressional approval.  However, the political vacuum created by imperialism has strengthened the illusion of legitimacy around running candidates for political office. This contradiction exists despite the fact that the two-party US political system more clearly than ever works exclusively in the interests of the imperialist ruling class.

The political party for bankrupt liberal leftists, the Democratic Party, has jointly expanded the prison state, austerity, surveillance, war, poverty, and by extension, corporate rule with its Republican counterparts. Still, both Democrats and Republicans rhetorically perform a show of opposition for the corporate media. And in no other historical period has any President provided a more effective assault on oppressed people for the imperialist ruling class. Barack Obama's two-term presidency has been a lesson for the entire left that voting for a Wall Street politician within the imperialist state can only bring more misery and political confusion, not less.

Occupy Chicago activists burned their voter registration cards outside of Obama's campaign office.”

So while some organizations like Socialist Alternative are seeking city council victories to achieve goals such as a $15 per/hour minimum wage, others are organizing to boycott US electoral politics all together. In 2012, a group of organizers campaigned for an election boycott of the Presidential election.  The campaign emphasized a shift in consciousness around the act of voting.  Instead of voting for the Democratic or Republican Parties of imperialism and legitimizing their rule, the campaign called on people to actively withhold their vote.  This meant not only being absent from the polls as individuals, but also collectively organizing others to withhold their vote in opposition to the electoral charade of the capitalist class.

Although Obama was re-elected President, the efforts of boycott organizers were not in vein. Numerous tactics were employed to make the stand against US imperialism's elections visible. Occupy Chicago activists burned their voter registration cards outside of Obama's campaign office. Organizer Terri Lee and others presented the idea of an election boycott to as many media sources and events as possible, which included venues such as the Left Forum.  As a collective, the boycott organizers were most concerned with positioning themselves as a left movement that refused to vote in, and thus provide consent for, the rule of imperialism every four years.  This is an important position that deserves serious ideological and practical consideration from leftist formations in the US imperial center.


US governmental elections are advertised as a staple of Western "democracy" by the imperialist ruling class. However, the fact remains that elections under this racist, capitalist, neo-colonial system only legitimize the rule of the capitalist class over its exploited subjects.  Electoral politics are movement killers, not movement builders. In the 1970's, the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther Party split with the more militant chapters around the country and began focusing on mayoral and city council campaigns.  Each campaign drained the resources of the Party and diluted the revolutionary ideological foundation that had once inspired young, working class Black Americans.

Sawant’s election has helped begin the process of removing the "Fight for $15" out of the streets and into the seats of bourgeois government.”

Kshama Sawant's city council victory in Seattle will inevitably run into similar issues in the fight for a $15/hr minimum wage. It already appears her election has helped begin the process of removing the "Fight for $15" out of the streets and into the seats of bourgeois government.  Additionally, Sawant's recent appearances on Democracy Now! alarmingly argued for mass movement forces to run "third party" candidates for political office and emulate her victory around the country. If history is our guide, than Sawant's strategy needs reconsideration.  Malcolm X, in his speech The Ballot or the Bullet, cautioned Black left political forces on the limitations of merely exercising the right to vote with a vow of non-violence despite the white racist terror that awaited them at the polls.  In this period, the right to vote has been rolled back by the same imperialist state the vote legitimizes.  The US imperialist system only guarantees incorporation of revolutionary and progressive objectives into the imperialist state machinery.  This spells defeat of, not victory for, working class power in contrary to what Sawant claims.

An organized election boycott has the potential of channeling the mistrust that most left-leaning folks have with the US imperial state into concrete political action. Instead of electing city council members, let's confront our municipal officials that are hell-bent on selling neighborhoods and assets to the corporate ruling class.  Let's confront our elected officials in Washington for their service of empire and corporate power.  The left’s most important task in this period is to take principled positions against US imperialism. Electing "third party" candidates into this machinery won't do this, but campaigns such as an election boycott give us a chance to fight for transformation of the imperialist system we so desperately need.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager in the Greater Boston area. You can contact Danny at:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lane Parents Upset

Lane Tech Students and Parents Want Coach Back
By Jim Vail

The Lane Tech girls swim team under Paul Rummelhoff had the best CPS state finish in 2013.
They say justice only comes when the people demand it.

Paul Rummelhoff, the Lane Tech High School teacher and swim coach under investigation for having sex with one of his female swimmers, was declared not guilty by the Dept. of Children and Family Services.

But Rummelhoff is still not allowed to coach his award winning boys and girls swim teams, nor return to his class room to teach.

Kim Boettcher, a parent who has one child on the Lane Tech swim team, is upset that the parents have only heard from rumors and the news cast about the situation with no further explanations given. 

She told Second City Teachers that rumors are flying all around, making the situation only worse. She simply wants answers to questions about Rummelhoff's status. 

She said she spoke with the Lane Tech principal, Christopher Dignam, who told her he had no information to report.

"Why isn't CPS releasing information out to parents and school administration," Boettcher said. "It's horrible. My son will be a junior and other teammates were constantly asked what's up with your coach. These vicious rumors ruin innocent lives."

Boettcher said what is really upsetting is how the Chicago Public Schools has handled the situation.  She said that while CPS stated that children's safety is their number one priority, it said nothing about the accused's rights, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

According to the DCFS report, the Lane Tech coach is totally innocent. An internal investigation has led to nothing, according to Rummelhoff.

Boettcher had nothing but praise for the Lane Tech coach who she said has tutored many of the swimmers and runs a wonderful summer swim camp.

Second City Teachers contacted Michael Passman, a CPS spokesman, who has not commented on the Chicago Board of Education's position on the case.

There is talk that a petition may be circulating and parents and swim team members will be pressing the board of ed for answers.

In the meantime, the award winning coach still waits. 

And the fight for justice begins!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Minority Superstars!

Who's Gonna Run against Rahm?
By Jim Vail

Amara Enyia announcing her mayoral candidacy in Bridgeport,
home of Mayor Daley who she believes really loved Chicago.
When it comes to politics, I've written time and again that it's a rigged game where those who pay the players win every time.

The US Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on elections going to the very rich by ruling that they can spend unlimited cash to back their candidates.

The question on everyone's mind in the second city is who has the balls to play this game and take on Rahm Emanuel and the millions he has collected in his re-election bid.

Does it matter that he has a 29% approval rating according to the Sun Times, and he is especially hated by the African American people who bore the brunt of his harsh education "reform" policies when he closed 50 public schools?

Hmmm.... Let's see. 

Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board, they say is the best candidate to beat him. But what alternative is she coming from the same family - the Chicago Machine.

People hoped the Chicago Teacher's Union president Karen Lewis would run. Her candidacy may have spiced things up for the media when she took on the mayor as the two battled a couple of years ago. But she says she's not interested, and the two haven't spoken, or cursed at each other, for quite a while now.

The seasoned vets who ran in the last mayoral election are no where to be seen. Gerry Chico, former president of the Chicago Board of Education, is safely running the Illinois Board of Education, and Miguel Del Valle has disappeared.

Which brings us to our next generation of "highly qualified" candidates.

The liberal media, and Kari Lyderson in particular, have fallen in love with a possible new shining star on the horizon who has declared her candidacy for mayor.

Amara Enyia, a municipal planner who heads the Austin chamber of commerce and worked in the Daley administration, has declared her candidacy.

She certainly has the markings of a future star political operative should she be truly interested. She has generated some impressive media coverage. 

This is one smart cookie. 

I noticed when she came out to teacher events such as supporting the Saucedo teachers who refused to give the ISAT test, she took up a sign to march and rarely spoke to anyone. In fact, you would have thought she came to represent 125 S. Clark St., dressed in corporate attire among a sea of sweatshirts.

Yet, she knows the right people to align with. She had a kick off political rally a few weeks ago to declare her candidacy officially in which observers said she attracted over 200 people. She had Troy LaRiviere, the brave principal at Blaine Elementary who criticized the mayor and generated a lot of media exposure.

Principal Troy La Riviere speaking on behalf of Enyia.
La Riviere, who said he's been approached by people who would support him for mayor, talked about how he had gone to school at the University of Illinois with Enyia, and how impressed he was that she finished her law degree at the same time she finished her PhD.

And you have teacher activists like Tim Meegan, who is running for alderman against Deb Mell, who also support her candidacy.

I immediately wrote her off from the beginning when I first read Lyderson's story in In These Times, in which the daughter of Nigerian immigrants said Mayor Daley truly loved this city.

Journalist Kari Lyderson 

To me, that statement meant one thing - don't alienate possible future big money supporters, who may have connections to the machine. Not to mention she comes from that world having worked as a consultant in the city administration.

In this day and age of politics and elections, the big money people are looking for their future superstars, no different than recruiters looking for the next hot prospect.

Let's take a look at two African American political/corporate superstars - the president Barack Obama, and Citigroup's Dick Parsons, to see how the game is really played.

Let's start with Obama. The president was once a so-called "grassroots organizer" - something Enyia is touting today. Get your feet just wet enough in this field to put it on your resume. 

Obama then got elected a state senator, ran and lost to Bobby Rush for US Congress, then won a seat on the US Senate, before catapulting himself to the presidency.

The question George Schmidt of Substance News always asked at our editorial meetings was, who sponsored Obama, back when he was getting his bachelor's degree. Obama eventually earned a law degree from Harvard and taught law at the University of Chicago.

Perfect ruling class credentials, and yet he did not come from their class. A true superstar indeed!

Eventually billionaire power brokers who earned White House cabinet positions like Penny Pritzker, did invest a lot of money into this guy's career, and have earned their dividends.

Then there's Dick Parsons, the former head of Citigroup, who has earned phenomenal CEO compensation while most of his corporate undertakings have spectacularly failed. 

This is how Mark Ames wrote about the African American Parsons rise to the world of riches from his humble background:

"Dick Parson's biography can be summed up in two phases of his life: before meeting Nelson Rockefeller, and after meeting Nelson Rockefeller."

Now Parsons, and Obama, didn't just get handed the keys to that old geezer's Porsche without "earning" it.

Dick Parsons, CEO slave to Rockefellers.

In Parsons case, the former "frat boy slacker" had brains enough to run Rockefeller savings and loans and other companies. But there was a reason the American oligarch chose Parsons - the color of his skin.

You see, when Rockefeller hired him to head one of his savings and loans banks back in the 1980s, you needed a face that the public could sympathize with. While the savings and loan scam was no different than today's subprime disaster, back then operators actually went to prison. So the Rockefellers had their front man with a black face front and center, and got away with it.

Just like Obama today who had the public teary eyed when he was elected the first "African American" president, and then proceeded to expand Bush's taxpayer bailout of the banks, drone attacks, deportations and not throw any criminal executives into prison while arguing to the public that CEO contracts are sacrosanct, while worker contracts ain't worth a dime.

Consumer rights advocate and corporate crime fighter Ralph Nader, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2000, called Obama an Uncle Tom after he was first elected.

Uncle Tom is an epithet for a person who is slavish and excessively subservient to perceived authority figures, particularly a black person who behaves in a subservient manner to white people, is how the term is defined on Wikipedia.

And so, today's future superstars are auditioning before the ruling class to represent their interests in this scam of a political system.

Enyia is merely another one lining up to be the next superstar. And indeed, she may, like Obama or Parsons, or whoever, have the best of intentions, along with an amazing resume.

But they ain't representing our interests. In fact, their representing interests out to destroy us all! And have us all teary eyed in the process.

Monday, June 23, 2014

CTU Strike Analogy

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Strike of 2012- beyond mythology

By Earl Silbar

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike of 2012 is widely believed to be a major success, a big win for progressive, member-driven leadership. Indeed, there were big successes won both  by  the strike preparation and from  support for the strike among  members, the wider public, and esp. by parents. However, there were major problems both in strike strategy and the settlement itself.

The 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike was the first strike in 25 years.

 I write this to bring out some of both aspects for consideration and to learn from.  The 2012 CTU strike had the potential to accomplish far more than it did. By choosing not to fight over school closings, the leadership undermined its stated goal “Defend and improve our schools! Don’t close them!”  What’s more, major concessions greatly enhanced management’s freedom to terminate teachers with satisfactory ratings and established student “achievement” in teachers’ evaluations 2 years before legally required.

This account discusses some features of the strike preparation and the settlement  that are widely misunderstood. As educators and as part of the wider working class, we face unending and increasing  corporate-inspired attacks. By sharing oft-hidden facts about the strike and the settlement, I hope to dispel rose-colored myths and share unknown strengths.  My goal is to  assist in the pressing challenges facing public education and educators - organizing  effective  resistance to these corporate attacks and fighting for the education our kids need to confront the hard times they/we all face.
Fifty years of left activism have taught me that facing hard facts is more useful than building on the sands of comforting myths.  Friendly critical evaluation of the CTU strike can help generate the effective, working class solidarity that can effectively resist and  lay the basis for  the people-first, sustainable  world so many of us want and must fight for. Hopefully, this is a small contribution in that process.

                                                    Organizing for the strike vote

The CTU leadership, its staff, dedicated activists (esp. in the administration caucus CORE) and allies conducted a classic and creative campaign to win the strike authorization vote. They expressed long- held teacher resentment and frustration with decades of deteriorating conditions of work with no union resistance.  Calling for a Yes vote in order to pressure the CPS administration in contract bargaining, the CTU leadership team developed active contract committees in many schools.  Through these committees, the union caucus CORE,  and individual efforts, they did outreach to parents, held local school-based rallies, and engaged many students around the theme, “ “Improve our schools, don’t close them!”. Facing a legal hurdle that they had to win 75% of all members’ votes, the CTU members shocked everyone with a spectacular 92% (of all members) strike authorization vote in late Spring, 2012.

Even before the strike began, this unprecedented and massive strike vote startled  the city’s elites and won major concessions from corporate-backed  Mayor Emanuel :  the CTU won 500 art and music jobs (if for only 1 year), forced the mayor to drop his proposal to replace teachers’ pay schedules with “merit pay”,  and broke the mayor’s strategy of isolating the CTU as “just greedy and selfish teachers”.

 This internal organizing campaign deserves close study; it set the stage for all the gains. Strike rallies and local school strike pickets illustrated strong support from younger teachers, people who often see unions as conservative obstacles to educational innovation. The focus on “improve our schools” and “our kids deserve the best” set the terms of the fight, creating public support while energizing the members. The CTU leadership essentially defined the fight, taking it to the Mayor by contrasting his kids’ education (in the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools) with the sorely-lacking public schools. In effect, they made the fight appear to be over class privilege and fairness- a winning PR campaign that energized members and won parents’ crucial support.

Strike Contract Settlement: Hidden defeats and lessons

Following 4 days of a spectacularly supported strike with mass marches filling sections of Chicago’s downtown with striking teachers in red union tee shirts during working hours,CTU  Pres. Lewis recommended that the Union accept the negotiated settlement, which members eventually did. Make no mistake, there were real gains that were won before the strike and some improvements in contract language and a small raise.
 However, At the same time, most accounts have ignored several important concessions by the union (visit for contract provisions)

1.     The CTU accepted student “achievement” as 30% of teachers’ evaluation, effective Fall, 2013. State law mandated the inclusion of student achievement, but not before 2015. Furthermore, the CTU contract set standards higher than the 25% minimum in state law and before methods for such evaluation had been established.

2.     The CTU contract stipulates that two consecutive years of acceptable evaluations  constitute the basis for termination should management wish to do that. This further undermines what little job security remains and further opens members to Board and management bullying, intimidate and discrimination.

3.     No limits were set  on the Mayor’s proposed closing of 50 neighborhood schools.  This failure undermined  perhaps the largest focus of the Union’s outreach and public support - “Improve our schools! Don’t close them!”.  School closings was a legally ‘ permissable’ subject of bargaining, meaning that management could and did refuse to bargain over that issue. It also meant  that the union could not legally strike over that issue.  However, being “permissible” also opened  the door for  other forces -  parents, community groups, students, religious and union organizations-  to have intervened and pressured the Board to negotiate over the closings. Did the union work to make that happen? In fact, there was no internal  CTU member education or preparation towards that end. There were no public initiatives  or mobilizations to force the issue. Public relations rhetoric, yes. Effective action? No.

At the end of the day, there was no fight to stop the closings. (49 of those schools were in fact closed in Spring, 2013.) This failure left the Union and its members vulnerable to the charge that it was all about narrow self-interest despite the successful  rhetoric.  The CTU’s refusal to prepare for this fight also left some teachers wondering if the CTU was serious about this fight.

 Flouting his successes, the Mayor publicly gloated over winning his key corporate agenda in the contract: closing 49 local schools while increasing charter schools, winning the longer school day with no proportional pay raise, and tieing teachers’ evaluation to student “achievement”. He was so visibly exuberant that the CTU leadership had to publicly ask him to stop gloating because it made it hard to “sell it to the (CTU) members.”

“ Yes, there is a class war, and my side is winning!” Warren Buffett.  Our alternative?

Was there another road to have taken? I think so, but that would have required a different vision and strategy. Forcing the School Board and Mayor to negotiate over the threatened closings would have meant refusing to follow court injunctions to stop the strike.  In fact, a local judge did issue an injunction during the strike but withheld it to allow the leadership time to promote the contract’s acceptance and end the strike without the confrontation

Preparing to actually force the closings issue would have meant preparing members for normal consequences facing unions and workers who refuse to obey court injunctions: leaders can get arrested and jailed; unions can face huge fines ; individual teachers can face charges, fines, and firings. The stakes are big, but winning strikes erase these actions. Hence the need to prepare the ground,  among members and allies alike.  In fact, the CTU leadership did none of that.

Forcing the fight to save the schools and turn the tide means serious consequences for which people must be prepared with cold facts and effective organizing to gather determined allies. Making this fight would have required winning teachers, parents, students, community groups, other unions, and wider working class public support for mass direct actions like marches, strikes and occupations to back it up and make it happen. These are examples of organizing our side in the really-existing if one-sided class war acknowledged by America’s No. 1 capitalist, Mr. Buffett. Rather than test the waters for such a path, the CTU leadership team avoided even the discussion with the membership.

To make such a serious challenge to the corporate education agenda  requires that we understand and act on the common interest in quality education for working class young people especially, not just the few.  It also requires an awareness of our place as part of the working class in the class war Buffett openly acknowledges. Organizing practical solidarity on that basis can establish the common threat posed by the corporate agenda  to public education and to working people’s  jobs, pay, benefits, our environment, etc.  This class-based strategy can help fight really-existing pernicious and deep-seated racism and sexism and build more powerful links of solidarity.  In short, it requires organizing based on working class solidarity around everyday, real-life issues. (For those who think this wildly unrealistic, google South Africa’s largest union,  the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, NUMSA.)

This CTU leadership team had no such plan or vision. They never initiated discussion among the membership of what such a fight would take nor the stakes and potential ramifications. With its choices, the CTU leadership  rejected  waging such a fight in the Strike of 2012.  Instead, it relied on deeply moving  rhetoric, meticulous and  brilliant pre-strike organizing, and  carefully limited militant tactics. Adopting a strategy of class-based organizing is no guarantee of success. It does allow us to see how far we can go. Ultimately, we saw again the road-most-taken union strategy of limiting the fight while making and then masking major concessions. We can do better.

Earl Silbar is a veteran Chicago socialist who was elected to many union positions (AFSCME 3506) in his career as an adult educator for the City Colleges of Chicago. After retiring in 2006, he was an active associate member of CORE  ( caucus of rank-and-file educators)from 2008-2011, working on campaigns to fight school closings across Chicago. As such, he helped elect the current CTU leadership on the CORE slate. To share experiences and views,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sub Gets Job Back!

Substitute Teachers Get Whacked First
By Jim Vail

Chris Christensen, CTU substitute delegate, who's back on the job!

Chris Christensen has been a substitute teacher in the Chicago Public Schools for more than 16 years. 

One day earlier this year he was removed from the classroom at Curtis Elementary School, but not told why. 

Then at a meeting in April he discovered to his surprise that a female student, who had claimed he had touched her, retracted her charge that he had "groped her."

But after Second City Teachers brought up his case to union officials at the last June 6 House of Delegates meeting, suddenly Christensen was put back into the classroom after not working for almost three months.

"I didn't even know what the charge was," Christensen told me at the HOD meeting. "To me it was just a silly prank."

It appears more and more that teachers, especially subs who are at will employees with fewer union and tenure protections, can be easily targeted to be fired based on spurious accusations.

Second City Teachers has documented several cases of subs who were fired, and even placed on a do not hire list, even though the charges were disputed and proven false.

Peter Nerad was a sub at Lane Tech High School where he was fired for trying to prevent a student from running in front of a busy street, while sub Jan Peczkis was put on the do not hire list for falling asleep. 

While Peczkis fought and won his job back after Second City Teachers raised the issue, Nerad decided to not fight the charges and instead is writing plays.

Then there is the current case of Lane Tech math teacher and swim coach Paul Rummelhoff still not allowed to teach even though the accusation by a student that he had sex with her was proven to be completely false!

Christensen, a substitute teacher delegate, informed Second City Teachers that he had contacted top union officials about his situation, but still was not working for the past three months. Having begun his teaching career in 1968, some thought he should have been retired. 

I raised the issue of the plight of substitute teachers at the June 4 House of Delegates meeting and how they, (as well as probationary assigned teachers) as "at will" employees, can be easily targeted to be fired, but don't have tenure to protect them. It proves how important it is to have a union for protection, I said toward the end of the meeting during the question and answer period.

However, what rights do substitute teachers have, when even though they are covered in the Chicago Teachers Union contract, they are still at will employees who can be immediately fired?

Sara Echevarria, who heads the CTU field representative department, said that the subs are still protected under the new contracts provision where the employer has to show 'just cause' before being fired.

Christensen said after he spoke to Echevarria after the meeting, a phone call was made and the sparky educator, who looks years younger than his age, was back in the classroom.

"I'm still in shock," he said. "Sara did something literally overnight. Thursday I got a call from sub center and then ESOP online I got a call for Friday. So I've been working three days now after three months with no work. I called her back to thank her. She said she made a phone call. I don't know who she called, but if it's the Chicago way, or it's just a call."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

$%* Mainstream Media

The Mainstream Media is Still Not Our Friend Mr. Joravsky!

By Jim Vail

Sometimes I get amused thumbing through the facebook postings about interesting stories concerning education.

Unfortunately, in the world of mainstream media that seems to get most people's attention, there are slim pickings in the amusement department.

But you get the occasional cheerful article that people sympathetic to public education recommend.

This latest one comes from one of the best reporters this town has covering our public schools - The Chicago Readers very own Ben Joravsky.

He writes in his last week's column entitled, "Breaking News: Chicago Doesn't Like Rahm Emanuel," that he wanted to "show a little love" for Maggie Haberman, a senior political reporter for Politico, "who's apparently the first national pundit to make the startling discovery that Chicagoans don't like Mayor Rahm Emanuel."

Joravsky writes that Haberman wrote a good story entitled "Rahm Emanuel: D.C. hero/ Chicago goat."

Of course, it's easy to get crazy over the fact that a mainstream news website finally called out Emanuel's perception problems in the second city.

But the story was far from "good." 

The Politico article was mostly hyperbole centered on personalities, so lacking in substance that I thought I was reading something in People magazine.

"Now, just nine months out from the next election, Emanuel is unexpectedly vulnerable, with an approval rating that is perilously low," Haberman writes. "The comedown for the Illinois native, who terrified staffers and donors over more than a decade in Washington, has been striking. So has been the contrast between how he's regarded in D.C., New York and Los Angeles - as opposed to some wards of Chicago."

She mentions the obvious facts - his low 29% approval rating, $7 million raised, and quotes his former campaign manager that "the school day is longer, the graduation rate is higher the murder rate is down ... and he sliced the deficit in half." 

God, talk about something coming straight out of the HBO show The Wire.

This reporter merely quotes his friends and supporters to give her PR bits about what a great mayor he is.

Then she quotes his enemies who say he's full of #$%. 

Well, it's really just one enemy - the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

To hell with any type of analysis, or real reporting about what's been happening in this city. Let's just talk to his neighbors to get the real scoop!

In fact, the writer is quite sympathetic to Emanuel, the current darling of the ruling class who needs a little boost.

She writes that some of the problems are out of Rahm's control - he's tried to "ease" crime, and he extended the school day for kindergartners (that's something he's proud of?).

And it's unfortunate he doesn't have a personal fortune like Bloomberg had in NY to tame the opposition.

Politico mentions the time Emanuel swore at Lewis in a closed meeting, which was why the black residents got angry. 

Really? Closing their schools was not the main reason?

Well, in all fairness, Haberman does mention the 50 schools closed and building a magent Obama high school on the northside as minuses in the minority points tabulation, toward the end of the article.

But to tell you how totally out of touch this Washington pundit is, she even calls his predecessor Mayor Richard Daley "a beloved figure."

Really? The fact that the city was broke, and then he signed off on the disastrous parking meter privatization fiasco, did not make him beloved to anyone. 

He simply controlled the city politics via the ugly machine like any big city boss.

What are Emanuel's real problems, according to Politico?

Why, pensions of course. 

No mention of the parking meter fiasco which he rubber stamped after blaming Daley for that.

No mention of Mr. Joravsky's favorite topic TIFs - tax monies going to affluent areas of the city which helps bankrupt the schools, parks and city services.

But of course, a true analysis of the 1% policies that hurt the 99% is not what Politico's about. 

It's a mere liberal media elitist online publication like the NY Times, Washington Post or whoever has large circulation numbers, who listen to the billionaire class and occasionally throw a crumb to the beaten down masses by writing such nonsense as this about one of their many puppets in office.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Russians Support Lane Teacher!

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - Many Russians sympathise with the plight of jailed swim coach and support his release!

              It is bizarre! And some say 'it is beyond belief'! An exonerated swim coach and first-class teacher remains languishing in a jail! He should be applauded and granted a medal for keeping his composure under those trying circumstances. Of course, the scenario of being jailed due to a complaint of an unknown student for an alleged crime that never took place is       not only reminiscent of a Kafka novel, but reminds Russians of the worst aspects of the Soviet Union where teachers could be jailed on the word of an informer. Those informers were often jealous of teacher's success in the classroom or simply out of malice sought to ruin the teacher's career. An atmosphere where anyone could be an informer and 'Walls have ears' created such an tense atmosphere that people stopped frankly, if at all, speaking to each other! You never knew who might be an informer!

              You can see the results of this today in Russia! In a Russian school I taught in for a year not one teacher would greet me with a 'Good morning' or 'Hello'. They would never answer when I said 'Good morning'. Instead, they just walked by with a listless granite expression on their faces. Their faces were like masks.

              The predicament of just one complaint wrecking or ruining a teacher's position in a school is familiar. If in business, the customer is reckoned to be always right, then in the sphere of education, the student might be misconstrued as always right. There is only one problem! What if customer is killing himself by overeating fast -food or the student turns out to be capricious or malicious? Having worked as a teacher of English in many schools I have found that many complaints made against a teacher are not based on reason, but on the basis 'they don't like the teacher' or have a 'grudge ' against them. There are many cases I could mention   where students made eccentric complaints which were taken seriously!

              Lack of space prevents me from mentioning them all. For example, a teacher from Manchester who was teaching English was reprimanded and later lost his post. What was the initial complaint? A student complained he was whistling in class! (There is an old superstition that if you whistle in a house, all the residents will become poor) Another student complained a   teacher was not smiling enough! Those two petty complaints were taken seriously. I remember one great English teacher who was fired in Moscow because just one student complained about him! Yet all the rest of the students adored him, and when they heard that this one student had complained, bitterly scolded her saying, 'It is because of you we are losing our teacher'.

              Another English teacher Daryl told me how they sent an English teacher to take over one of his classes. But this class were very happy with their teacher and did not want a new replacement! They expressed this to the top managers! The manager phoned up Daryl and shouted angrily, 'What have you done to those students'. Daryl bemused by the situation, retorted, 'I was just trying to do my job'.

              Of course, those particular complaints are not as grave as the one made against the unlucky 30 year old maths teacher and coach Paul Rummelhoff. He stands or stood accused of having sex with a female student and member of a girls' swim team. But it illustrates one point. Too many officials don't question whether the complaint is made on legitimate and reasonable grounds and suspect the worst when none may exist.

             Instead of proper investigation, they promptly imprison a teacher on the grounds of gossip, grudges, rumours or hearsay. In this case, innuendo seems to have played a great role.

             The axiom of any just legal system rests on prosecuting somebody on the basis of a reasonable case against the accused. There has to be enough evidence to justify taking action against a person. You don't jail someone first, and then start seeking solid evidence! And the     answers which Paul Rummelhoff gave to Jim Vail suggests that the officials were hesitating and not knowing whether to take any action against the accused. For why was it the case that allegedly happened in January, and Paul went down to the principal's office, waited for three hours for the law department to come and they never turned up. Why is it the case that neither the principal or Paul knew why he had to leave the school?

             It is likely the officials did not have a clue as to how or whether they had any sound evidence against Paul. They had no real case! This is  vindicated by a decision made by the DCFS. They declared, 'The DCFS determined that all the allegations against Rummelhoff were unfounded' and that 'You will not be listed as a perpetrator of child abuse or of neglect'. According to Scottish law, this statement would be interpreted as 'Not Guilty'! Another statement which declares, 'This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur. An incident may have occurred, but the evidence did not rise to the level required to indicate for abuse or neglect as dictated by state law and DCFS administrative rule'. So we have two incompatible verdicts on Paul. The first claims he is 'not guilty', the second is 'Case not proven'. The officials seemed to have a muddled and mixed up views of things. They should either declare one verdict or more manfully, admit they made a grave error and apologise to the accused before they get into deeper trouble!

             (Under Scottish law, unlike English, three verdicts are possible in a court case of guilty, not guilty and case not proven).

             You might ask me why I'm talking about verdicts when there has been no trial! Well, the statements made by the officials are written as if they have reached judgement, as if they were
verdicts. You would have thought that a trial had already taken place despite the fact the accused does not even know the evidence against him and has been already deceived by educational officials, not to mention a policeman.

             I think the clue as to why someone made such a spurious allegation against him was given by Paul himself in an interview. As a teacher who has to obtain great results, he has to put his students under a degree of pressure.

             Some of those students, accustomed to a relatively easy life may have resented the workload and angrily retaliated.

             I myself have been acquainted with such cases in Russia. Jealousy may well have played a strong role in this case. Despite the fact that Paul Rummelfield is a first class teacher and brilliant coach who wants to share his success with everyone, some people bitterly resent this. After all, why go to all the trouble to ruin a great coach?

              Justice should be calm, contained and careful. It does not overreact or rush in where angels fear to tread. By the way, justice is not jealousy!  Officials could actually learn a lot from Paul's example. He is undoubtedly endowed with the right temperament to be a teacher. He never lost his composure under a police-interrogation or unjust confinement. Do educational officials or policemen in this case display this calm temperament?

              This is why he should be immediately released, returned to his position as  a teacher and allowed to continue as a coach!

              Many Russians have heard of his case and are offering their full moral and spiritual support to Paul.

              If Paul  requests, we can even petition Russians for his release. And believe me, this petition will have a lot of signatures!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lane Coach Waits

Exonerated Swim Coach Still Sits in CPS Jail

By Jim Vail

The Lane Tech girls swim coach who was accused of inappropriate relations with one of his swimmers was found not guilty but has still not been allowed to return to his teaching job.

Paul Rummelhoff, a 30-year-old math teacher at Lane Technical High School on the north side, is an award-winning swim coach who helped his girls’ teams win numerous conference titles. In 2011, he was named the male coach of the year in the Chicago Public Schools.

But suddenly his world of numbers and swim meets came to an abrupt halt when a student from Lane accused him of having sex with a female student and member of the girls swim team.

On January 10th of this year, he was called down to the principal’s office and informed that he had to pack his items. He was then informed later that weekend, by the principal, to report to the network office.

“The security came and said the principal wanted to see me. The principal said the law department was on their way to see me, but he didn’t know why. The law department never showed, and I was sent home after waiting for 3 hours,”  Rummelhoff said in an interview with Second City Teachers.

He said he had no idea why he was supposed to leave the high school he had been teaching at for the past 7 years. He said his principal, Christopher Dignam, told him that he did not know why, and CPS did not inform either men why Rummelhoff was being removed from the school.

“I didn’t receive any letter, and I did not know why I was there (network office),” Rummelhoff told Second City Teachers. “I then received a certified letter stating I was to have no contact with any students or parents. We’re investigating you.”

He said he asked CPS investigator and retired cop, Hal Ardel, what he was being accused of, and Ardel answered that he should already know that the Department of Family and Children Services or DCFS said they are investigating allegations against him.

Rummelhoff then told the investigator that he first needed union representation before he would answer any questions.

Then he got a call the night before his interview with Hal Ardel from CBS news reporter Derrick Blakely, who wanted to ask him questions about the sexual allegations because they were planning to report it on the news that evening.

At this point, the question that Rummelhoff had was how did a TV news reporter suddenly get internal information that CPS was investigating allegations that took the Lane Tech educator completely by surprise.

“The media will twist things,” said Rummelhoff, who added that he decided to not call back the reporter. “I’m not a fan of the media. It’s all about ratings.”

And what could be better than a nice juicy report about a young Lane Tech swim coach being accused of having sex with his female star swimmers.

“Chicago Public Schools officials and state investigators are looking into allegations that a Lane Tech teacher and coach had a sexual relationship with a female student,” CBS TV reported on Jan.23 of this year.

The report was alarming, being one of only three news story of the night. CPS has uncovered a sexual predator!

Except it wasn’t true.

DCFS determined that all the allegations against Rummelhoff were unfounded.

“You were previously notified that the Department of Family and Children Services was investigating a report of suspected child abuse or neglect in fulfillment of its duties under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.

“After a thorough evaluation, DCFS has determined the report “to be unfounded.” This means that no credible evidence of child abuse or neglect was found during this investigation and that your name will not be listed as a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect on the State Central Register. This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur. An incident may have occurred but the evidence did not rise to the level required to indicate for abuse or neglect as dictated by state law and DCFS Administrative Rule.”

And yet Rummelhoff, a beloved teacher at Lane Tech, who was also the sophomore assistant baseball coach and comes from a family of eight children, six of whom graduated from Lane Tech, is still sitting in a white-walled 12 by 15 room with no windows – the equivalent of CPS jail.

He, along with a few other teachers being investigated for whatever accusations, is collecting his regular pay and benefits until CPS concludes its investigation, Rummelhoff said.

His nightmare scenario is a textbook case of how simple, childish accusations with no merit can destroy an innocent teacher’s life.

They say social media today is dangerous terrain that many of us are treading, unsuspecting of what lurks in a world of instant communication, with rumors portrayed as facts in cyberspace.

It is probable that the CBS reporter went to Facebook and Twitter to read up on all the buzz around Rummelhoff from the students who know him.

CBS Blakely told Second City Teachers that the allegations were circulating everywhere.

“It was not a secret he was out of the school,” Blakely said by phone. “There were rumors all over the school why he wasn’t at school. It was out there.”

Interestingly enough, while many students were wondering in cyberspace whatever happened to their teacher, Rummelhoff said he has no facebook or twitter account because he doesn’t think his students should know about his personal life.

And yet it is quite possible that facebook and twitter helped turn his world upside down.

While Rummelhoff will not speculate about which student it was who falsely accused him of having sex with a student, in the swirling world of teenage girls and a young and good-looking teacher, jealousies and feelings of hurt could easily break into the realm of accusations and handcuffs.

“Girls were questioned from Lane and other schools,” Rummelhoff said. “Math is all about patterns. These girls were not commenting [on the social media sites], probably because they were talking to investigators. I have no idea what was said. I don’t think their intention was to burn me.”

Then why would they do it?

When we first sat down to do the interview, Rummelhoff talked about how he had to go to battle with students who were not accustomed to being assigned a lot of homework and demanding tests. He challenged his students, and that was what made him a top teacher and coach in the city. It may have also made him vulnerable to vindictive pupils who realize the power they have to fight back with spurious accusations.

Straight out of a John Burge playbook when the rogue city cop would beat confessions out of people, during the investigation, the retired cop/CPS investigator grilled Rummelhoff and tried every trick in the book to make him admit he was a sexual predator.

“Hal would say you did (something) in your house, and I said that’s not possible because my wife is a stay at home mom,” Rummelhoff said. “Then he said, well, it says here you did it in the back office storage room of the pool. I said that’s impossible because the room was filled with boxes. He got frustrated throwing things at me to see what sticks. He would say you did it in random parking lots. He did not have any specific times, dates or locations, just generalizations. And I would just look at him and not answer. Then he would get pretty gross describing all the sexual acts. And he would repeat this about six or seven times. He’s trying to break you.”

Rummelhoff said he had experience taking a deposition before and was well-aware of the tactics of asking speculative questions so that they can find answers that contradict earlier statements to destroy the accused’s credibility.

“‘So why do you think these kids would do this to you?’ I didn’t answer. It’s speculative. ‘Why would they want to get you?’ Silence.” Rummelhoff said.

Rummelhoff said the old cop had pictures of the building where he lives, phone numbers, phone records, and kept asking the speculative questions. And Rummelhoff would keep his silence (at least he didn’t get banged over the head with a telephone book or get strangled by a phone cord a la Burge and associates).

Interestingly enough, Hal later admitted he didn’t have the phone records, but would have them soon, Rummelhoff said.  

So why would CPS not put him back in the classroom now that the investigation is complete and all the accusations were utterly unsubstantiated?

The fact that his case was put on the CBS news hour perhaps made him guilty in many minds, and CPS has egg on its face (even though the other TV networks had sense enough to not run the story).

Blakely from CBS said he has been contacting CPS to learn about their findings and that the board of education must have a valid reason to dismiss him.

Rummelhoff surmises that CPS would like to break him, so he would then quit CPS and get on with his life. But in a testament to the winning coach and top notch math teacher beloved by many of the Lane Tech students, Rummelhoff ain’t backing down and intends to hang on.

And so he continues to wait for CPS to admit the truth that it screwed up and return him to the classroom where he belongs.