Monday, May 30, 2016

LaRaviere Interview

Exclusive Interview with Outspoken Mayoral Critic Troy LaRaviere 
By Jim Vail
Special to

Newly elected president of the Principals Assoc. Troy LaRaviere spoke to us.

The outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel just recently won the election to serve as president of the Principals and Administrator’s Association after the city moved to fire him as principal of award-winning Blaine Elementary School. Troy LaRaviere spoke to Chicago News about the financial problems of the city, the corruption and greed of the Rahm Emanuel administration and his plans for the principals association.

Q: Did you think you would win the election to become president of the Principals and Administrator’s Association after it appeared the city openly backed your opponent and did not let you campaign in many of the schools?

TL: I didn’t have any expectations either way. I’m not in the predicting business. I just wanted to help the principals and vice principals understand a new direction and they responded to it.

Q: What are your goals now as head of the principals association? What do you hope to accomplish?

TL: I have two layers of goals. My own personal goal is to create a system in which the students get the knowledge they need to make better lives both for their families and a better life for the community. My professional goal is to make this happen. I didn’t jump as this position initially. All principals have the opportunity to influence policy, to improve their ability to realize their full potential. This starts by ending the isolation of principals. We need to come together to tackle the problems they are passionate about.

Q: What is the biggest problem facing the city and its schools?

TL: The biggest problem facing the schools is more than the funding – it is actions and lack of actions that have led to the funding issues. We need to understand what was done and not done to make this happen.

Q: So who created this mess? How did the city end up with such a huge budget deficit that it is threatening to cup 30% of the schools’ budgets?

TL: The funding crisis was created by a lack of revenue and a lack of fiscal responsibility with existing revenue. They spent more than they took in. You don’t create an operating budget that spends hundreds of millions of dollars more than you take in. They spent more money without raising it. They built school after school without gaining any students. I read somewhere that while they built 40% more schools, there was only 2% more students. That’s not an intelligent use of resources. You build new schools based on demographics. That’s one of the many ways that have led to this crisis. That practice must end. It’s been fiscally irresponsible.

Q: So how do we fix this fiscal mess? Is Springfield the answer?

TL: You need new revenues with controls and oversight. It can be done by beginning with a board of education that is not beholden to the city administration that is hell bent on siphoning off revenues to campaign contributors. Whatever is done needs to be focused on fiscal responsibility.

Q: So what do you think about the Emanuel administration?

TL: This administration had 373 meetings with campaign donors in 2013 – 2014. What is the mayoral administration’s priorities when over half of his days he’s catering to the greed of campaign donors than responding to the needs of our neighborhoods, to our schools, to our residents. Can you imagine if he had 373 meetings about curbing the violence on our streets, the difference that could have made. Can you imagine if he had 373 meetings with ways to generate revenue for our schools? But it’s not only that. The problem is also with the people who have enabled this through the ballot box and need to pay attention. We as citizens need to keep them accountable once they take office. If you don’t do that, then you can’t hold them accountable. We have to understand that candidates are just a face behind an agenda. We need to understand the names of the stakeholders. When I see Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and other big banks behind a candidate, an alarm bell has to go off. These are interest groups out to siphon tax dollars away from us and toward their bank accounts.

Q: You have not backed down to the city administration. But isn’t the mayor your boss?

TL: People have told me aren’t you supposed to toe the line. Why are you biting the hand that feeds you. And my response is the hand that feeds me is the taxpayer. And this administration is robbing the taxpayer. And so I am biting the hand that is stealing from the hand that feeds me.

Q: Can you list other specific problems with the Emanuel administration?

TL: If you look at this administration you see a pattern where it creates financial relationships with his campaign donors that send money away from children and toward his campaign contributors. The SUPES Academy contract, the Aramark contract, etc. One of the most brazen ones to me is this social impact bond where they borrowed $17 million and promised in the fine print to pay double in return. The bond was supposed to expand pre-k. Pre-k was never expanded, but they took out the loan. And to justify paying double the $34 million was if the kids in pre-k do better. That’s an established fact. You don’t pay double for something because that’s what it’s supposed to do. That’s like going to your plumber and he says it’ll be $10,000 and you say I’ll give you $20,000 if the pipes don’t leak. Who does that? Who is that irresponsible with their own money. But that is what this administration does. And who were the donors of this money – Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust, two of Emmanuel’s big campaign donors.

Q: Sounds like you’re ready to be the next mayor?

TL: The mayor’s office is not a current consideration.

Q: What immediate plans do you have for the principal’s association?

TL: I will work with the principals to set up their priorities. We need to end the isolation. I want them to speak in unison. I’m not asking them to take the risks as I did. We need to come out together. To create mechanisms that allow them to do that. We need to influence public stances and make it safe to do it. We will work with legislation, write op-eds and propose ordinances.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Victory Day!

By Stephen Wilson

Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Russia May 9th!

Moscow, Russia -- It was an amazing sight. In every train carriage there were passengers carrying placards or old photos of their relatives who had either served in the Great Patriotic War, perished or had gone missing.

             There were  great grandchildren as well as grandchildren of soldiers who were carrying their photos to converge on the city centre for a huge memorial rally. It was as if the dead faces of the long buried past had opened their eyes again.

             An estimated 300,000 Russians participated in the march of the Immortal Regiment. 10,000 soldiers marched
on Red Square as well as 135 different kinds of military vehicles.

             Two days later while I was waiting for an English student the door of a building opened and a war veteran crept up to me with his walking stick adorned in a uniform with his medals.

              He asked if I was such waiting for him but I told him I was due to take an English lesson. Without waiting to be prompted he then told me, 'I fought at Stalingrad and sailed across the River Volga ... The whole city and all around had been flattened ... The River Volga was even on fire ... God forbid that we should ever fight such a terrible war like that again ... Where are you from?'

               I answered I was from Britain and had a family here. 

               "That is great. I have nothing against the British. It is governments which keep people divided." I was struck by how forthright and outspoken he was as most war veterans I had encountered tended to be reticent about the war. I never got round to taking his name!

               When I finally arrived to teach my young student, a 9-year-old boy called Roman, he showed me all the medals, photos and a torch which his great grandfather had got from the war. His great grandfather also fought at Stalingrad. "Just after the war had ended he went to help someone push a vehicle. Unfortunately, he stumbled and fell on to his wounded leg. That very same day he died."

               It is stories such as those which the founders of the Immortal Regiment sought to preserve by appealing to families to send them their stories to a network site. For the past few years, the Immortal regiment has been publicly calling for families to send them their stories about what really happened during the Great Patriotic War. The
enthusiastic response they obtained surpassed their expectations.

               People who don't even know much about what their relatives did during the war can click on this site and receive a lot of information. Oksana Chebotareva clicked on the sight and told me: " I simply inserted the name of my grandfather and then suddenly I got all this wealth of information about what medals he won and how he was wounded in the war. I didn't expect to find this at all!"

               What kind of stories might you find? Well, one hero of the Soviet Union Nicolai Ivanovich Sechkin told how he fought in the resistance and then when he was 18, won a medal for crossing over the River Dneiper and planting a flag in the German side. He recalls:

               "Before us was Rokossovski who made a speech saying he needed five brave volunteers to be the first to cross the Dneiper and place a flag on the other bank. I was the first to volunteer. We sailed across on a boat in cheerful spirits. The Germans noticed us and began to fire at us. All around us were explosions, bullets whistling and we uttered a protective charm. It was a prayer which a woman had said over us in a forest. The boat was hit by shrapnel and began
to sink. But we were in one piece! We swam across to the German trenches, threw grenades, planted a flag and changed out of our wet overcoats to storm the Heights."

               The idea of the Immortal regiment was inspired by Sergei Lapenkov and his friends who simply wanted to establish a political organisation  which would preserve and keep alive the memory of those who died in the Great Patriotic War by collecting stories, and asking people to come on marches with the photos of their relatives to commemorate them. It was largely a spontaneous movement which emerged at a grassroots level without official support or approval. Sergei Lapenkov recalls that his grandfather had fought at the Battle of Moscow, Kursk and many other places. He was severly wounded three times. Lapenkov recalls how he never watched any war films.

               Although the first mass demonstration was held in 2012 at Tomsk, Lapenkov modestly denies that it was his or anyone's idea. In an interview with Rodina, an historical journal, Lapenkov states:

              "We were not the inventors of, say, this idea. Gathering in Tomsk in 2012 our immortal regiment, we did not invent anything new which had not been previously tried. And in our Soviet childhood not so long ago, when people were alone in Sevastopol or Tumen, columns of school children would carry on the streets photos of soldiers up to the eternal flame." Lapenkov states: "Our grandparents
were all united in one group. Let us be grateful to them that we are alive and are different, and become like one regiment on the 9th of May. We can stand together without flags and lofty  speeches, and without ambitions and advantages'. If you look at the charter drawn up by the founders of the movement you can read: Firstly, the task of the immortal regiment is for very family to preserve their personal memory of a generation of the Great Patriotic war'. The second point calls for families to go on to the squares and streets in columns with pictures and photos of their relatives and go to special memorials. 'Point three declares that:

              "The Immoral Regiment is not a commercial, political and government initiative'. What the example of the Immortal regiment indicates is that people can carry out projects without vast resources, funding or state support. The main point is to retain the beautiful simplicity of the original goal.

               Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated those aims and politicians and businessmen attempted to take control of it. They saw a lot of political prestige or cash to be made from this. To make things worse, a 'placard of patriotism'  has emerged where people are trying to use the memory of the dead to promote more conflict with other countries. In a later interview Sergei Lapenkov expresses anxiety that the memory of the Great Patriotic War might be used to justify yet another war. He is certain that the vast majority of war veterans would not have welcomed such a scenario.

               Now there is another "Immortal Regiment of Russia' which has been created to serve the agenda of establishment politicians.

               Although people have attempted to abuse and take control of the Immortal regiment, most Russians are still just taking to the streets with their own photos and pictures to carry out the original aim which is to remember the dead. Therefore, the founders should not be downhearted by attempts to distort their goals. This is because the Immortal regiment march has become so vast it is impossible to hold back or control the waves of the sea. So any self-seeking
politician or official attempting to control the waves will be as impotent as King Cnut striving to hold back the sea. He will
be lost in the crowd.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

VAM Metric Overruled!

NY Court Ruling on Teacher Evaluations Could Hit Chicago
By Jim Vail
Special to

In a case that could have huge implications for Chicago teachers, a New York state court last week threw out a teacher’s evaluation based on test scores, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.”

President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top demands that schools tie teacher evaluations to not only classroom instruction, but how well their students’ test scores improve.

Teachers have lost their jobs when their students do not show enough “growth.”

The Chicago Teachers Union and many independent education researchers have argued that the controversial system known as Value Added Metrics or VAM used to rate teachers is flawed.

Research reveals that gains in student achievement on tests are influenced by much more than any individual teacher, including class sizes, curriculum materials, instructional time, availability of specialists and tutors, home and community support or challenges, individual student needs and abilities, health, attendance, prior teachers and schooling, and summer learning loss, all of which value-added models don’t actually measure.

In the case of NY, the judge stated that the teacher evaluation system based on test scores was biased against teachers whose students were consistently high scorers. The teacher sued John King, then the commission of the NY State Education Dept. and is now the Education Secretary under President Obama, because his administration helped develop the test.  

The judge also cited the fact that the teacher’s rating swung wildly from 14 to 1 despite the presence of statistically similar-scoring students, whose tests went up or down only a little from one year to the next.

The value-added testing system was intended to hold teachers accountable for using quantifiable data on student progress but it created outrage in New York state, leading to 20 percent of students opting out of the annual tests for third through eight graders and resulting in state education officials voting to exclude test scores from evaluations until at least 2019, when a new growth model will be introduced.

Chicago is still using this flawed system to fire teachers. The Chicago Public Schools evaluate teachers with a system called REACH, and have been pushing to make 50% of a teachers rating based on test scores. It currently stands at 20%.

Outspoken critic and former Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere, who was removed from his position for insubordination, helped lead his students to opt out of the PARCC exam and said the REACH doesn’t create more effective teachers.

The NY case, which has not yet been reported in the mainstream local media, could have national implications.

Chicago teachers who have studied the problems with VAM have regularly criticized the Chicago Board of Education's practice of utilizing the mismeasure. Three years ago, Chicago teachers heard from Jim Horn, whose book "The Mismeasure of Education" exposed the fraud of VAM, John Kugler wrote in Substance News.

“Nevertheless, CPS continued to pay a "Chief Accountability Officer" originally hired by Barbara Byrd Bennett after the disgraced former CEO was gone,” Kugler wrote. “John Barker, a VAM proponent who had been hired from Memphis, was only eliminated from Chicago a few months ago.”

Saturday, May 14, 2016

School Ends Early?

Will CPS Cancel the Rest of the School Year?
By Jim Vail

A fake fight between two corporate hacks!

Rumors continue to circulate that the Chicago Public Schools are planning to cancel the school year early.

When I first heard this I dismissed it out of hand.

I thought that CPS just told the public how they were making all these contingency graduation plans in the event that the teachers walked off the job in mid-May.

How could CPS then decide to cancel school early and piss off all the parents?

The date people are hearing is June 10th for the last day of school.

CPS mandated 3 furlough days, thus ending school on June 21.

So much for the longer school day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel trumpeted after his initial election about how much he cared about the kids.

It was really all about the fight against the union and how billionaires and multi-millionaires represented by Rahm are better than horrible unions.

But now we hear June 10th.

First, the CTU told delegates last week that CPS has the legal right to cancel the last 10 days of the school year. 

So CPS can legally end the school year on this date.

Second, administrators and office clerks are saying that something is up with deadlines pushed up. They say this is the first time they can remember when CPS wants certain paperwork done earlier before the end of the year.

So move up graduation?


It could be used as a cynical ploy to say we're too broke to give teachers what they demand (despite recent privatization actions to give millions away to outside contractors as recently as the last board of education meeting last month), and use the "forced" school closure as a bargaining chip to get the money from Springfield.

The fight in Springfield is fake.

People may think it's between a right-wing semi-billionaire hedge fund hack wanting to kill unions via right to work vs. a powerful speaker of the house defending unions, for now at least.

It's about power, as it always is.

So hold onto your seats, folks. This bumpy ride is continuing to hit turbulence.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bloody Haymarket

Interview with Bloody Haymarket Play Director Eric Coleman
By Jim Vail
Special to

On May 4, 1886, Chicago was rocked by the first dynamite bomb thrown in America. This year marks the 130th anniversary of the Haymarket Affair. The play Bloody Haymarket is showing at the Irish American Heritage Center at 4626 N. Knox Ave. each Saturday of this month at 8pm (May 14th, May 21st and May 28th). Chicago News spoke with the director Eric Coleman about this epic period piece that deals with everything from the struggle for the eight-hour workday, the plight of the immigrant, interracial marriage, a corrupt justice system, police brutality, the origin of May Day, the concentration of wealth in a few hands, and an utter disregard of the Constitution of this land. 

Bloody Haymarket play director Eric Coleman. The play runs every Sat. this month at the Irish American Cultural Center.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Are you from Chicago?

My background is in all things creative and political. My friends and I ran a Cable Access Show in Hermosa Beach California for many years (I grew up in the city just south: Redondo Beach) Between 2004 and 2005 I went to Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia. Moving to Chicago in August of 2008, I returned to Redondo Beach in 2013 to run for Mayor of my hometown, receiving 1,275 votes (10.3%) in a four-way race. This experience was primarily to make a documentary film:

Immediately after the election I returned to Chicago to take on a 2nd season as a tour guide on Double Decker buses where I began reading about the Haymarket Affair and wrote the first draft of the play that summer; soon after a friend of mine, David McGrath, came on to collaborate on the script.

How long have you been involved in the theater? Where did you study and work before?

I've done everything from door to door sales, E.S.L. teaching, erotic arcade game sales, liquidation, graphic design, to delivery driving currently (as the hours are flexible to allow me to do this). My first introduction to live theater was playing Ron Paul in Ron Paul the Musical, a Cameron Ford Production. We did three shows to a sold-out crowd and I was in love. Better than sex. That was in 2012, a year later Jamie Quinones, myself, and David McGrath wrote Shift-Faced about a 3 dollar Thrift Shop I used to manage. We were hooked.

What plays have you produced before? What is theater like in Chicago?

Shift-Faced and Bloody Haymarket, the Executive Producer on this project for this run is Ben David Garza who I know from doing Stand-Up Comedy in Chicago. Theater in Chicago is a fantastic proving ground; however, we are running into problems with the cronyism inherent therein. It seems you have to be connected to get listed in a lot of publications.

How did you decide to produce a play about the Haymarket riot?

First I read Death in the Haymarket by James Green and thought why the hell hasn't anyone made a production about it? The play was written in 3 weeks and it seemed I was being driven by something outside myself; like the Haymarket Martyrs were speaking to me from beyond the grave. In my research I've found there are a few other productions about the Haymarket, but it's obvious their writers were amateurs who cut corners. For instance, there's a play called Haymarket Eight and it all takes place in the courtroom and deals with backstory through flashback. That's just sloppy writing when dealing with a story of this magnitude. Bloody Haymarket has a cast of 23 people, many of whom are playing multiple roles, captures 10 years of history, and has 19 scene changes. It's the only way to tell this story and probably why it hasn't been told accurately before.

Do you see any connection to today?

Oh, it's insane how timely it is and how many connections there are to what's going on right now. Aldous Huxley wrote, "The greatest lesson that history has to teach is that men do not learn very much from the lessons of history." And my friends we are there; the struggle to dignified work, hatred of immigrants, a corrupt justice system, police brutality, the rich getting richer, money in politics, disregard of the Constitution ... sound familiar? What's different today and what's mentioned in the play is that people have been bought off by technology, made timid and docile. I attributed that line to August Spies because he was the most forward thinking of the bunch. For the past year (and this play has been three years in the making, going through countless revisions) my mind has been in the 1880's and there was no such thing as a passive experience (outside of reading a book). Now nearly every form of entertainment is a passive experience, which is why we had to do something different with this play. Bloody Haymarket invites the audience to be an active participant.

Are people in Chicago familiar with the Haymarket riot?

Some are familiar with the event but very few with the details. And there's a reason for that. This is one of the most important events in American History and it's barely taught in schools if at all. You're not supposed to know about four innocent people being hanged in 1887 for speaking their minds and exercising their first-amendment rights.

What kind of research did you do to make this play?

I've read everything I could get my hands on for this play, right down to the Haymarket Anarchists Autobiographies and the Trial Transcripts.

I understand you met some relatives of people involved in the Haymarket affair? What did you learn from them if so?

Yes, we had Edward Docekal the great-great-great-great-grandson of Mathius Deagan, the police officer killed by the bomb in the Square, at the first performance and he was the first person I talked to after curtain call. He loved it. His one request was that his grandfather's name be mentioned in the play. As I play the Prosecutor in the play, I added it.

How did you choose the actors for the play? What is it important in choosing who plays what role?

It's interesting because we ended up choosing mostly younger people to play the Anarchists and mostly older to play the Capitalists, it just worked out that way.

Have you gotten much publicity? Are people coming to see this play?

Yes, every crowd is getting larger and larger. However, we could use more publicity.

Have you had many students come to see it? 

Not yet. We reached out to scores of college teachers, but I suppose with the timing as it is, they are getting ready for final exams about now.

What are your future plans?

To start a Theater Company: Suppressed History Theater - REAL History They Don't Want You To Know About!

Please add anything we may not have covered?

Come see the play!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Teach Patriotism!

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia -- "Schools don't have special lessons in patriotism. In schools, we need to formalise this topic and take more seriously how to bring up children in patriotism", declared Duma member and ex-boxer, Nikolai Valueyv before a Duma committee on Physical Education, Sport and Youth. A senator Edward Isakov also argued that the government should introduce a special rating agency which
would evaluate how patriotic regions were. Some Russian
politicians are attempting to enforce the daily singing of the national anthem in Russian schools. They are apparently inspired by the American example. "If only we could be as patriotic as Americans," they sing!

               In recent years, Russia has witnessed a surge in nationalism leading to more frequent anti-American articles in the popular press, the persecution of a teacher for writing an 'unpatriotic poem' and attempts to smear opposition leaders as 'foreign agents'. Even innocuous involvement with charity
organisations which receive moral or material support from abroad can be smeared by the authorities as 'unpatriotic'. If anything, the deepening economic crisis has only intensified this rising trend as politicians attempt to distract people from more pressing concerns of rising unemployment, wage
arrears, increasing poverty and abuse of human rights. If in doubt, blame foreigners for your drinking problems!

               Proposals to introduce more formalised lessons, if not a subject, in patriotism, is not unprecedented. On the 19th June 2015, Oleg Pakholkov proposed 'formalising and developing feelings of patriotism amongst children and youth with the help of extra-school excursions in 'cities of heroes' and also the introduction of a separate subject at institutions of further education. Valery Ivanova, of United Russia, also proposed enforcing moral and patriotic feelings in the bringing up of children.

               On 16th October, 2015, Maxim Shingarkin attempted to pass a law which would force school children to sing the national anthem at the beginning of the school week.

               In February, 2016, a Duma committee was charged with working out a law concerning bringing up of children in patriotic values.

               Yet none of those proposals have been taken on board by senior members of the Russian goverment. For example, the Ministry of Education and Science, while endorsing the sentiments of the proposals, doesn't see any real reason why 'patriotism ' should be made a new and separate subject in schools. He stated: 'Bringing children up (morally ) should take first place in the purpose of school
education and therefore all school subjects, especially history, literature, and social knowledge. They must provide not only facts but serve to bring up children '. In other words, instead of introducing a new topic on patriotism, teachers should use existing subjects such as literature to teach patriotic and moral values.

               When I asked 17-year-old school student Anna about what she thought of those proposals, she stated, "It is impossible. Patriotism can't be taught in schools." Another Anna from a school of architecture expressed more antipathy by pointing out: "They are trying to return to a situation in the Soviet Union where they forced people to do a course based on the textbook, 'The History of the Communist party of the Soviet Union'.

               She feared it was an attempt to brainwash young people.

              It is very likely that those proposals represent an unwanted extra stressful headache for the Ministry of Education. This is because most Russians can't reach a consensus on what constitutes patriotism, not to mention drawing up a standard text book as well as adding one more subject to an already overloaded curriculum.

               There are subjects such as religions of the world, social knowledge, and more recently, financial literacy. One would have thought that teachers of maths could cover the latter.

               But perhaps the crucial stumbling block would be the failure to reach an agreement on 'What is patriotism?' How can you teach a topic if you don't know what exactly you are teaching? For instance, at one recent conference delegates were invited to participate in a conference concerning, 'The practical realisation of patriotism as a Russian national idea'. Many experts had been invited to this discussion. The meeting failed to reach an agreement.

               What they discovered was that there were as many views on patriotism as delegates in the hall. And many of those definitions were incompatible. Attending this conference was like being invited to a verbal boxing match without clear rules or referees.

               Igor Tsuranov suggested patriotism amounted to "effective work for the good of the people and country " and then explained that this meant a lot of work such as building good roads, developing business and investing in medicine and education. However, Vladimir Lutovinov argued back that the essence of patriotism was not effectiveness but spirituality. But for some of the Cossacks there is no such ambiguity about what constitutes patriotism. They teach children to march under the slogan, 'Forward march, shoot, pray, and of course, love!'

               In many schools and colleges throughout Russia, children are being taught how to learn first aid as well as to shoot.

               Until Russians can reach a consensus as to what patriotism actually is, the introduction of this as a set subject in the curriculum remains highly problematic and  provocative. It seems likely that patriotic values will be taught under the umbrella of existing subjects and excursions. Most proposals by Duma members will represent futile attempts to prove how they are more patriotic than their peers. In other words, spouting empty, endless and erratic nationalist piety.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Revenue is the Problem Teachers Union Needs Resolved

By Jim Vail
Special to

Rumors are flying high these days that the city is ready to cancel classes and end the school year to save money.

The Chicago Teachers Union told the delegates at the monthly meeting Wednesday night that they do not plan to go on strike in May.

“A strike is unlikely if the board doesn’t impose one,” CTU VP Jesse Sharkey told the delegates.

However, Sharkey said the district can cancel up to ten school days in June and cut the school year short.

The financial crisis is severe enough that the union says if it isn’t solved, massive layoffs and school closings could be just around the corner.

The mainstream media is reporting the mayor’s line that the funding crisis lies solely in Springfield where a budget battle between the governor and speaker is holding up almost $400 million that should go to the Chicago Public Schools.

However, the union says that the district is looking at a $1 billion deficit, and this is not being addressed.

The bulk of the funding the union is proposing would force businesses and the wealthy to pay via taxes.

This is opposed by the businessmen and rich who do not want to pay.

“It’s a financial crisis by design,” Sharkey told the delegates. “They use this to justify cutting our pensions.”

In 1995 when Mayor Richard Daley took over the schools via mayoral control, he did not pay into the teachers’ pension fund for 10 years when it was 100% funded. Instead he funded his pet projects through debt, and now those payments are due.

In the focus on the state, the following serious revenue proposals are not getting any attention in the mainstream media: 1)   Implementing a financial transaction tax that could raise a few billion dollars as was done in New York  2)    Suing the banks that are costing the city $50 to $100 million in toxic swap penalties (other cities have successfully sued  3)    Passing a millionaires tax and a progressive tax in Springfield that would raise a few billion dollars (both did not pass)

Instead, CPS is demanding that the teachers and school children pay for the crisis.

This is a class war.

One teacher asked the union leadership what is the bottom line for the union when it comes to deciding whether or not to walk off the job come next fall.
Sharkey said 1) No increased class sizes that would result in laying off or downsizing the teaching force for next year, 2) No pay cut and 3) Keep good on earlier promises for protections such as no more charter schools or school closures.

“We know that they always seem to find money when they need it,” Sharkey said.

He mentioned multi-millionaire projects such as the corrupt $20 million principal training no-bid contract that will send former CPS chief to prison and the proposed Star Wars museum that the mayor is pushing (the museum proposal was just recently defeated).

I am a delegate and I publish an education news blog. 

An Education Week reporter contacted me and said isn’t the revenue issue too complex.

I said the revenue issue is the heart of the matter. It is a question of whether or not the public school system will continue to function, with a unionized teaching force and programs to support the children.

This fight is not just about a contract. It is about forcing the city and state to fund its public institutions, and who will bear the cost- the 1% or the rest of us.