Sunday, May 28, 2017

Turkish Teacher Purge

By Jim Vail
Moscow -- "They won't allow us to leave the country , they won't allow us to work .What do they want us to do ? " stated one woman who had been dismissed from her top civil service job , " My son didn't want to go to school .The other children were picking on him saying that his mother was a terrorist and traitor", and "If
anyone wants to erase you from the institution they just give your name as a Gulenist ". Those are just a few of the disquieting remarks published in a recent report by Amnesty International , published on the 22 May . They sum up the desperate plight of so many former state employees have who have been summarily dismissed from their jobs arbitrary and with the the most abstract
reasoning of 'having connections or being in communication with terrorists".
The title of the report is 'No End in Sight .Purged Public Sector Workers Denied a Future in Turkey.'
Under decrees issued by the Turkish government following a failed coup last July in 2016, the state has embarked on a huge scale purge leading to massive redundancies. The victims are offered no concrete details of the case against them, no right to a fair trial or access to an effective appeal procedure. Once they are fired they can't obtain work even in the private sector never mind their jobs
back in the state. And forget about going abroad . The state has confiscated their passports and forbidden them from travelling !
It is perhaps no coincidence that on the same day of the publication of the report, two teachers who had been on a hunger strike against their dismissals were arrested and imprisoned. An academic ,Nuriye Gulmen , and primary school teacher Semin
Ozaksa bravely embarked on a hunger strike to protest against this injustice.
As many as 100,000 state employees have lost their jobs. Those fired include judges , doctors and as many as 15,000 educational employees. Andrew Gardner, a spokesperson for Amnesty International stated : " The shock waves of Turkey's
post-coup attempt crack down continue to devastate the lives of a vast number of people who have not only lost their jobs but have had their professional and family lives shattered. ....Tainted as terrorists and stripped of their livelihood , a large swathe
of people in Turkey are no longer able to continue in their careers and have had their alternative opportunities blocked ."One former university professor described the loss of work as tantamount to 'Civil death'. Facing an all pervasive blacklist , victims are
being forced to rely on hand outs from relatives and trade unions.
A former dismissed police officer stated : "Nobody calls me , not friends, not family. I don;t have anyone to talk to . The only people I speak to now are my brother and my mother ".
It is evidently clear from this report and other investigations , that those purges are not about a fight against terrorism or an attempt to preserve national security. On the contrary, it is a crude pretext by the ruling 'Justice and development party' to settle old scores with anyone opposed to it. This includes either teachers who go on
strikes or those people who signed a petition calling for peace negotiations with the Kurds.
Unfortunately, the response of the European International community has been too lukewarm . In fact, the European Court of Human Rights has so far rejected individual cases from Turkey on the spurious grounds that 'domestic remedies have been exhausted.'
In fact , very few of the dismissed people have been reinstated. It is not an unreasonable claim to state , that in the far majority of cases, the domestic means are spent ! The Turkish government signed 'The International Covenant on Economic , Social and cultural
Rights ',as well as an agreement with the ' International labor Organisation ' which stipulates all state employees can't be arbitrary dismissed and deprived of a livelihood. They also have the right to legal protection and a right to appeal in a court of law.
It should be the imperative task of all teachers around the world to offer moral and material support to the dismissed teachers . Organizing petitions, demonstrations and letter of protest in support of those dismissed remains an urgent necessity. One of the teachers who had been on a hunger strike protest for 75 days declared :
"We want our jobs back. We have not and will not surrender ".
We will back them up !

Sunday, May 21, 2017

No Sex on First Date?

By Stephen Wilson

Russian official would like to ban sex on first date!
MOSCOW -- On the 8th of May, a Russian minister Mizulina announced in public, her
intention to introduce a new law which would effectively ban Russians from
having sex on their first date. The purported intention is to preserve
the moral purity of the Russian people. According to a document drawn up by
two politicians , a Russian who unwittingly succumbed to their animal instincts
would face a hefty fine and if they persisted, would be subject to a prison
sentence. Special state dating agencies would be established to regulate
and keep an eye on those who had signed up . So applicants who wish to
date candidates must fill in special application forms and will be issued with
special coupons. 'Intimate relations' will only be allowed after 7 or 8 dates
which amounts to approximately 40-45 days ! Dates will be allowed to take place
in special control zones . Platonic and proper love will be encouraged.
Why do we need such strongly enforced laws ? Mizulina states that Russian
moral relationships have been tarnished by pernicious western influence.
People from the west have been coming over to Russia encouraging women to
hop into any bed on their first date. To this, many expats respond with : "We should
be so lucky".

It all sounds like an amusing joke. However, those members of the Duma have
been proposing such eccentric measures for years. Their attitude to sex reminds me
of a joke told to me in Ireland : "that the Pope is not only against sex before marriage
but after it ".The lines from children in the film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ' come to mind
when a girl says : "If he kisses her , he will have to marry her ".

A prudish view on sex is not new here. Many years ago there was even an attempt to
ban people from kissing in the metro as it offended old people. Those proposals never
came to anything. If you watch the old Soviet films from the 1940's you will
notice how some young woman become shocked when a male dares to kiss her. The
girl is extremely shocked and either faints and runs away.

How on earth would you go about enforcing this law? Do patrol men walk up to a
dating couple who are embracing and kissing , interrupt them and ask : "Is this your
first date ? " And if they answer : "No , it is our ninth date " will he reply : "then that is
okay! Just checking ! Go ahead ! "

Did this ever happen in the Soviet Union? In fact, it did! An exhibition at a museum
featuring 'Legends of Parks In Moscow in 2015', in Moscow , informed visitors that
there were patrols of young pioneers walking around the parks who reported young couples
making love to the authorities for 'immoral behaviour'. So there was indeed such 'moral
policing' of sex in the 1930's . And at present, in Chechnya , young women who are viewed
as behaving promiscuously have been not only punished but murdered.

George Orwell's novel '1984' about a dictatorship where the state punishes people for
'Sex crime' now appears to be not so far fetched or absurd as if first appeared. Orwell's
work has proved prophetic ! So maybe if you go on a first date in Russia and your partner
suggests sex it is better to answer tactfully : "I prefer to have a cup of tea than have sex."
Just say this mantra on seven dates and on the next one you might get lucky. If you get
used to drinking Earl Grey Tea!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

NY Immigration Report

UFT Immigration Forum Report-back 
By Marjorie Stamberg
15 May 2017

About 200 people attended this forum, which was moderated by journalist Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now, formerly Daily News), and had seven panelists including representatives from the city, and Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT. The urgency of this meeting was heightened by last Thursday’s occurrence when two I.C.E. agents arrived at PS 58 in Maspeth, Queens demanding to talk to a fourth grader! The school, following the New York City and NYC Department of Education protocol, did not let them in. This was the first time I.C.E. had tried to enter NYC schools.
UFT President Mike Mulgrew introduced the event and said, we heard what happened on Thursday. We are teachers. Once a kid comes into our classroom, they are our kids. That’s who they are. We won’t stand aside when they come for our kids, we won’t let that happen. Grandstanding, of course, but useful that he said it. Mulgrew introduced Gonzalez, who chaired the meeting and introduced seven speakers we had to sit through for ages until he opened the Q&A.
First the punch-lines, details later. Most importantly, the union bureaucracy is feeling pressure to actually STOP the I.C.E. from coming into the schools, and claims it will defend those who do.
I was the last speaker. Gonzalez had clearly been warned off me, avoiding eye contact and calling on lots of others, although I sat in the front with a bright purple scarf, waving my hand around to no avail. He also kept repeating, only questions, no comments. Finally I just stood up and took the floor, and Gonzalez ceded to me. Since everyone (including Weingarten) had made a big deal about how people rushed to the airport on January 28 when Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban went into effect, I started out:
“I was at JFK airport that night, when we were all there, mobilizing and chanting ‘let them in.’ So we have formed a UFT committee at our school to support immigrant students, and this is very important. First, to Randi, talking about the danger of Trump, this is not just about the Republicans. There were five million people deported under Obama. So we have to mobilize, and on our own policy.
“I am speaking because the City and DOE policy is wrong. It is not good enough to say the I.C.E. can only come in if they have a signed judicial warrant. Because that means they can come in if they have a warrant that there is a ‘crime.’ This allows the NYPD to come in with its ‘Broken Windows’ policy. They say these are crimes, like jumping turnstiles, or sitting in a park after 10 p.m. if you are homeless. They’re criminalizing poverty, they are ‘crimes’ of racism. We need to say I.C.E. out of New York, I.C.E. out of the schools. Period.”
I thought the room would erupt with catcalls and screams, as it usually does at the UFT Delegate Assembly. Instead there was applause. I thought they would shut me down with the Obama point, but a lot of heads were nodding. And there seems to be widespread concern about the DOE/NYC policy of “they can’t come in unless…..” “What happens if they satisfy the ‘unless clause,’ what happens then? ” Several teachers and counselors came up to me asking that after the meeting, expressing support for what I had said.
After I spoke, two important indicators happened. In response to my intervention, Evelyn De Jesus, the UFT vice president for bilingual education and convenor of the forum, said the UFT is having a training in September about civil disobedience and “know your rights,” handing out fliers about that. It turns out that this reflects a policy decision.
Then, as the meeting was breaking up, Randi Weingarten took the mike and said, she knew people were leaving, but she wanted to respond to me. “Marjorie, I want to tell you there are a lot of courageous people out there. We are doing civil disobedience training. So if you want to put up a line of civil disobedience and not let I.C.E. cross it, we will defend you.” (Of course, Randi has said a lot of things over the years that she conveniently forgets later. But this might actually help us organizing if teachers hear the AFT is on record.) She went on to justify the city policy, that the city was doing what it could to put up obstacles to I.C.E. coming into the schools, etc.
Specifics about the speakers’ remarks:
Juan Gonzalez, Moderator
He said he was now a member of the AFT at Rutgers University. He retired from the NY Daily News last year and became a professor of journalism at Rutgers. He still is on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. He said he went to Franklin K. Lane HS and his old social studies teacher is still here in the UFT (George Altomare, an old Shachtmanite).
He said that today Human Rights Watch reported that in California alone, every year there are 10,000 undocumented parents being detained whose children are U.S. citizens. He referred to the case of AustinTexas city councilman Gregorio Cesar who was arrested protesting Texas’ new law banning “sanctuary cities.” Said the sanctuary cities and the federal government were on a collision course. He said crime rates are down in sanctuary cities showing the important of “community policing” Ugh.
Nisha AgarwalCommissioner of Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs
She talked about the “success” of the NYC ID, and their work partnering with schools to “know their rights.” I called out that the NYC ID was very problematic, and the City Council panelist agreed, and said we need to discuss it. (NYC gave out IDs to about 80,000 people and kept their names on file; Staten Island right-wingers then sued to preserve the files, obviously in order to be used by I.C.E. to deport people). After Gonzalez asked about concerns that it was being used to target immigrants, Agarwal said the case was now in appeals court, but they had won the first round that the files could be destroyed. She said files are no longer being kept after the ID is issued.
Steve Choi, Executive Director, NYC Immigration Coalition
Said they were an umbrella agency for 175 organizations across the state. (The NYCIC is run by the Chinatown Democratic Party of Margaret Chin, whose core came out of the Maoist Communist Workers Party back in the day.) He wants Governor Cuomo to declare that NY is a “sanctuary state.” (Fat chance that, Cuomo is running for president!) With Trump’s infamous January 27 Muslim ban, the president has declared war on immigrants. Lawyers rushed to JFK and so did the grassroots. Now we focus on protection in the schools, because they are the most trusted and safest places, places where undocumented immigrant parents trust and will go to. Said the NYC/DOE protocol on I.C.E. not coming in without a signed judicial warrant was stronger than their first letter.
Carlos Menchaca, Chair, NYC City Council on Immigration
Said he agreed with my point about the NYC ID, and later also on the dangers of NYPD “broken windows,” and the need for discussion on these questions.
Jose Luis Perez, Deputy General Counsel, Latino Justice
This was formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. Said the feds have a big need for more agents for immigration enforcement; since they don’t have it yet, they are whipping up a climate of fear. Everywhere he goes the fear is palpable. I.C.E. says their agents are not supposed to go into the schools, churches or health care facilities. But they are emboldened, they are going into the courthouses to engage in arrests. The chief judge of NY should say we don’t want you in our courts. Other states have said this, we’re New York, we should be in the lead. Said looming collision with feds and the sanctuary cities. Said that it is probable that Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities” is unconstitutional. Lawyers are working on this.
Tania Romero, school social worker, Flushing International High School
Immigrant dropout rate is increasing. Parents are fearful to come to school even for “know your rights” forums. They are working on education, developing curriculum and having professional development sessions on immigration issues and offering advocacy and social support. (I want to push for a schoolwide PD on immigration, as Flushing International has.) 50% of Flushing International HS is undocumented. Many Central Americans who came in under the “unaccompanied minor” category. Biggest ethnic group in the school is Chinese.
Pakistani Student from Flushing International High School
Her name is Faisa. Spoke of facing discrimination in school every day. For instance, if other kids complain about the school cafeteria food, or do something bad, nobody says it’s because of their religion, that’s them as individuals. If she complains, “it’s the Muslim girl.”
Carimer Andujar, President UndocuRutgers
A DACA “dreamer.” Importantly, she was called into I.C.E. for an interview last week. Gonzalez, who is in the AFT at Rutgers mobilized and they had scores of AFTers and others show up in court with her. This, said Gonzalez, most likely was the factor that kept Carimer from being detained.
Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers
The most political of all the speeches. Said Trump won because most people only saw him from The Apprentice. He ran as a populist, governs as a corporatist. Said 80 % of AFT members voted for Hillary. She endlessly dropped names of Democratic Party bigwigs, Schumer, Gillibrand, Pelosi etc. and how they’re supposedly resisting DeVos and Trump’s cuts.
There was Q&A, uneventful, until I got finally recognized. Two teachers came from my school, form the bilingual division on the Lower East Side (Tenzer site), Elga and Melissa.
A black UFTer came up to me afterwards, and said, well, there’s a lot of pushing of civil disobedience for next year, but she wanted UFT leadership to know that there are raids in Brooklyn every weekend. I said where exactly? She said Church Avenue. (Not sure she is distinguishing between I.C.E. and NYPD.)
Final thought: We have written that in case a student or their family is arrested for deportation, the UFT should seek to mobilize mass labor-immigrant action to protest and stop deportations. If such a case occurs, it is quite possible that there will be spontaneous high school walkouts. In that case, those of us in the union who are fighting to defend immigrants should immediately bring as many teachers and staff as possible to be with them.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Teacher Sick Days

Why is the Tribune Editorializing About CPS Teacher Sick Days?
By Jim Vail
Special to

Recently the Chicago Public Schools released an audit of sick days that showed many teachers were abusing their sick days by calling in sick when they really weren’t.

The Chicago Tribune – ever the vigilant watchdog of Chicago City Hall corruption – thundered in its editorial, “Hooky alert: Why do so many Chicago teachers take so many sick days?”

CPS inspectors noticed that many teachers were taking sick days on Mondays and Fridays, thus questioning whether they were really sick. The district estimates that improper sick days cost taxpayers $7 to $15 million per year, according to the Trib.

CPS spent at least $1.3 million in salaries, according to the Chicago Teachers Union, for this “newly created squad of super sleuths.” Apparently the Inspector General’s office doesn’t police the teachers enough.

Trust me, there are bigger fish to fry.

How about the corrupt no-bid $20 million contract that landed former schools chief Barbara Byrd Bennett in prison for four and a half years that was uncovered by a reporter.  Or the UNO Charter Schools - which received $98 million from our bankrupt state – and issued no-bid contracts to family members, also uncovered by a city reporter.

Why didn’t the Chicago Tribune thunder about the school trustees who all signed onto UNO contracts and Bennett’s $20 million SUPES fiasco?

A close look at the IG office and Claypool’s new ‘auditors’ will reveal that the district is focusing on policing its employees at a time when morale is super low.

Claypool has been threatening the teachers with massive layoffs, massive pay cuts via furloughs and ending the school year three weeks early. There is a big rally this week to protest the district cutting special education services.

Is it a wonder teachers can become demoralized and want time off?

CPS used teacher absenteeism as a reason to close schools on the South Side. The Tribune noticed that there are schools where teachers are absent a lot and schools where they are not.

I worked in Englewood. When I began teaching the first year, I replaced one teacher who was hospitalized after suffering a nervous breakdown her first year teaching, and four teachers came and went right after her. Another teacher told me she was suffering panic attacks but had to keep teaching or she would have to immediately pay back her student loans.

There are many teachers in rough neighborhood schools who have been assaulted and must take a leave of absence and use their sick days to recover.

Teaching is a highly stressful profession, especially in the city. That is why teachers need sick days.

Daisy Sharp was a middle school teacher at O.W. Holmes Elementary School in Englewood. She told Chicago News that CPS allocates all teachers ten sick days for the school year in the contract. However, this places a serious dilemma upon teachers. If the teachers use up the “contractual right” to those sick days, they then risk the chance of repercussions from administration for abuse of absences, she said.

“Many teachers who work in highly volatile environments such as O.W. Holmes, where students demonstrate an absolute disregard for any authority compounded with extremely weak administrative support, their immune systems tend to break down relatively quickly,” Sharp wrote in an email, “ultimately leaving the teachers more susceptible to communicable diseases and bacteria and ultimately in need of sick days for recovery. How anyone could have the audacity to question whether teachers are in need of or deserve those sick days is simply preposterous.”

Are there teachers abusing sick days? Sure, but this is an internal situation for the Chicago Public Schools to handle, not the Chicago Tribune to editorialize and lecture.

This is the same newspaper that published an editorial wishing a Hurricane Katrina for Chicago so that the public schools would be washed away, and private charter schools would replace them. No matter how corrupt they are. 

Victory Day May 8

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow -- "We don't celebrate the Day of Victory in Israel because the Russians refused
to aid the Warsaw uprising in 1944. They stood back and let the Germans
crush this uprising when they could easily have advanced into the city and
supported it. They call this event a celebration rather than a regrettable tragedy.
The main message of this day is 'We won the war and we could win it again"
declared Georg Skorobotatov, who is currently visiting Moscow . He informed
me that is grandfather had fought in the war from the age of 14. He is also scathingscathing of how it took so long for the allies to open a second
front as late as 1944! How come it took so long ? Georg's answer and the views
of other people I have spoken to indicate how so many people perceive the war
in a distinct way at odds with so many official versions which would prefer a
straightforward and over simplified version without intrusive unpleasant facts.
For example, how newly released Russian prisoners of war were sent to new
Russian prison camps, how Stalin was still interfering with strategy in such away
it hindered an earlier capture of Berlin in 1945 and the facts that not only did
Russian soldiers rape German women but Polish and Yugoslavian. All those
inconvenient facts are either swept under the carpet or even 'rationlised' or
'contextualised'. Sociology forgives everyone.
I replied to Georg that I thought most Russians really commemorate rather than
jubilantly celebrate it in a urrah patriotic way. For instance when I attended the
Day of Victory march by the 'eternal regiment ' I witnessed a more sombre and
sad mood amongst the marchers than exalted militaristic mood. This is starkly
indicated by the number of people holding up placards of photos of their
deceased members of the family who often fought and died in the war. The faces
are often lined with grim anxiety , pain and suffering.
When I joined the marchers going from Beloruskaya railway station I was struck
by the never ending swarms of people gathering. The underground metro was
filled to the brim. For hours columns of ordinary people marched by wearing
raincoats, military caps and holding photos. An estimated 850,000 people are
thought to have gathered in Moscow alone, and 700,000 in Saint Petersburg.
Some critics see those long celebrations as an attempt by the government to
distract them from more pressing day to day concerns such as growing poverty,
unemployment and state repression.
My daughter Anna stated : " Why don't they also remember the people who
died in Afghanistan , or Chechnya ? "
There is doubt that that the real voices of the Great Patriotic war are often
drowned out or ignored by nationalist politicians and the mass media . The
real voices which should be heard are those from the war veterans. However,
they are often reticent . A Russian actor , Boris Gakin stated : "My whole family
fought in the war and none of them liked to talk about it ". When Svetlana
Georgineyvna asked a female veteran about the war she laconically answered:
"It was mud, blood and rot ! This was monstrous grief and strife. Don't ever ask
me about this again. "
I spoke to an old friend Andrei, a journalist from Tambov about the war. He told
me he could recall two of his grand -relatives who fought in the war but only
has information about one of them. Andrei told me : "the average life span of a
soldier who fought at Stalingrad was two days ! I was told that one of them ,
Alexandr Pavlovich Zoroastrov was badly wounded there and somehow suvived.
That was a miracle ! He had been so badly wounded in the head that he could
not sleep on one side of his body, could not bear being touched on the head
because it was so painful and could not stand loud noises ".
Many people once predicted that as the years passed, the war would be forgotten
and become a mere historical curiosity. But this has not happened. Russians
still treat the war with reverence and respect despite a few calculated attempts to
make money and impose their own interpretation of the war on people. A recent
survey by Kommersant taken from 20-27th of April, found that as many as 49.8%
of those polled regard 'The Day of Victory' as a deeply personal date because
their relatives fought in the war while 39.4% consider it 'a day of national unity.'
Only 10.8% casually treat it as another day off !
On this day I witnessed one poignant moment which still lingers on in my mind.
I saw an old officer who was a frail war veteran being helped by his daughter
to lay some flowers. He could hardly walk without her support. The officer
was adorned in a blue uniform and cap and wore many medals. He stopped
just outside a new bust of a famous commander, Ivan Danilovich Chernyakhovski.
(1907-1945) He mustered enough strength to walk up alone to it, saluted the
memorial , laid down some flowers, and then saluted him again. It was as if he
was saluting a real living person . It reminded me of a phrase which Rokossovsky
had used in reference to this general when he remarked : " It was clear that in
the army they very much loved him " . They still do love him !

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Charter Problems

Illinois Struggles To Expand Charter Schools Despite Giant Pot Of Federal Money

In this 2010 file photo, Illinois charter school children, teachers, parents and supporters rally in the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol for equitable charter school funding. In 2015, the state received a $42 million federal grant to create new char
In this 2010 file photo, Illinois charter school children, teachers, parents and supporters rally in the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol for equitable charter school funding. In 2015, the state received a $42 million federal grant to create new charters.

Blaming the state’s budget crisis and a hostile political climate, Illinois education officials are dramatically scaling back the number of charter schools they estimate will open in the next several years, putting at risk millions of dollars meant to fund the expansion of charter schools in the state.
Illinois won a $42 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2015 to encourage dozens of new charter schools to open over the next five years. But those schools have not materialized, and Illinois has now told the U.S. Department of Education it expects fewer than half the original number to open. Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded.
Illinois’ experience may be a cautionary tale. Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a school choice advocate, the federal government seems poised to pursue charter schools as one of the country’s key education strategies. Illinois’ struggle to increase the number of charters shows that even when start-up money is there for the taking, other hurdles keep these schools from opening. 
“We’re not putting a dent in the pipeline,” said Claudia Quezada, director of a new charter schools office within the Illinois State Board of Education.
Quezada said she’s met with more than 100 charter operators, foundations, school districts and prospective school operators. She’s tried to encourage charters to open more campuses — especially outside Chicago, where the vast majority of charters are currently located. And she’s cajoled school districts to be more welcoming to charters, which are viewed skeptically by many districts because they drain students and funds from existing schools.
Advocates argue that charters offer parents a higher quality public school option for children otherwise trapped in low-performing schools. 
Illinois imagined 48 charter schools opening in five years in its original application for the federal grant money. State officials wanted 24 in Chicago and 24 outside the city, where advocates have been trying unsuccessfully for years to spur more charter school growth. 
But so far, the state has awarded money to just one brand-new charter school, the Elgin Math and Science Academy. It also funded four existing charters. Few prospective charters have applied for the start-up money Illinois put on the table, even though they could win grants totaling $950,000 to design their programming and set up shop.
Last month the state officially told the U.S. Department of Education it now estimates just 23 new charters opening in the next several years. And it no longer imagines half of them outside Chicago. Instead, it is forecasting just four charter schools opening in the suburbs, four elsewhere in the state, and 15 in Chicago. 
Illinois is waiting to hear from Washington about whether it could lose as much as half its $42 million grant -- and has been operating under the assumption that it will, the State Board of Education said in a grant report submitted to the federal government in April.
Politics blamed for slowed charter growth
Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said charters had been expanding in Illinois at the rate of about 12 per year. 
“We won and received the second highest award of any state in the nation based on the strength of the charter movement here,” Broy said. “And the fact that today we’re having trouble spending those dollars is very troubling because it’s not about how good our schools are — it’s about the politics of education policy right now.”
In Chicago, strong opposition by the Chicago Teachers Union and some parents and the cash crunch at Chicago Public Schools have helped put a dent in charter school expansion, which was once heavily promoted by City Hall. 
Broy’s group helped write the state’s grant and set the original goal of opening 48 charters. He said little has gone right for the charter school movement over the last two years in Chicago and statewide, including a cap on charter enrollment in Chicago in the most recent contract with the Chicago Teachers Union, a prohibition on charters buying vacant Chicago school buildings and a proposed moratorium on charter growth in Illinois that is pending in the Illinois General Assembly.
Add to that declining enrollment in many districts, which makes it harder to argue new schools are needed, and a state that has been without a permanent budget for nearly two years. 
“The budget stalemate has had a significant impact on school districts across the state,” state officials wrote in their grant report to the federal government. “As a result, charter school authorizers have been less amenable to opening new schools in their districts.” 
Charters must seek permission from local school boards to operate. Paul Swanstrom, a former superintendent of Joliet High School District 204, said charter schools unfortunately feel like natural adversaries to school districts.
“Somebody comes in from the outside and says, ‘You’re not doing a good job with these kids. We can do a better job. And by the way, you’re gonna need to give us (money) for each of these kids — to attend our school,’” he said. 
Charters rejected by local districts can appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, but that body has only approved three brand-new charter schools in four years, just one of them in the suburbs.
Not all charters looking to expand
The idea behind the federal grant was to get successful charters to open more schools and move to different areas of the state. But not all charters are looking to expand, said Elizabeth Shaw, CEO of Chicago International Charter Schools, one of the largest charter networks in the state, at one time running 16 campuses.
There’s a lot to operating a school that has nothing to do with teaching or learning, Shaw said, such as “funding and politics and district relations, and navigating the variety of operational and compliance requirements that it takes to run schools. So when you think about going to a new geography, you’re introducing a whole different set of players and a whole different set of challenges.”
That can distract from the main mission of creating strong schools, she said. Her network has been contracting, not growing. It gave up a campus it once ran in Rockford and closed a struggling school in Chicago.
Illinois is not the only state struggling to spend grant money meant for charter expansion as charter growth nationally has slowed.
Despite that, the state board of education said it has made some progress. In its grant report, the board of education touts its new website, where charter schools are no longer “buried within a list of other divisions within the agency.” It also has launched an outreach campaign to increase awareness of charter schools and what it describes as “the true definition of and need for school choice.” 
Linda Lutton reports on education for WBEZ. Follow her at @WBEZeducation

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Where is CTU President?

Who is the Chicago Teachers Union President Serving?
By Jim Vail

Why is Karen Lewis publicly defending a crook but not our star union activist on trial.

You know you're union president has a problem when she shows up for a hearing for the boss, and avoids making an appearance on behalf of the union's star activist that the new boss threatened to fire.

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis attended former disgraced Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett's hearing when she was sentenced to 4 and a half years in the slammer for her corrupt ways.

The Sun-Times spotted her at the sentencing and asked her why she showed up. She answered rhetorically, 'why do you think?'

I guess it should be obvious to reporters that when the head of the public schools goes down in flames from corrupt deals while schools are closed because there's no money, if the boss asks the union to show support - you do it!

Well, we got's a problem here. 

How can Lewis show public support for Bennett who helped close a record 50 public schools, and not show up to Saucedo teacher Sarah Chambers rally to save her job. 

Chambers has been suspended due to her activism, many suspect.

So which side is the union president on, one may ask.

We know Lewis had some kind of a relationship with Bennett who helped to settle the strike. They worked together to develop a region of schools support rather than close them called OS4.

But the fact is Bennett ran the schools, was corrupt as hell and destroyed many union jobs and children's dreams when she closed 50 schools.

I tell you, the money is good at the top. While we replaced one corrupt union leadership that was drawing two pensions and giving their field officers $250 cell phone allowances and a company car to boot as the union finances plummeted, we see another one creeping up here.

Lewis, like her predecessor, is drawing two salaries - one as the head of the teachers union which may pay her roughly $150,000 per year, and another as an officer for the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) for maybe a cool $80,000. Add to that more money from the Chicago Teacher's Foundation for serving as a trustee (also in the thousands according to union sources).

Lewis and the union made a deal with the city to avoid a strike - even though they made the teachers vote numerous times to give them the right to strike - and they gave us a contract that veterans like George Schmidt of Substance call the worst ever.

No delegate asked her at the monthly House of Delegates meeting about why she attended Bennett's sentencing, but not Chamber's rally.

But now that the union is facing a deficit of its own, and as teachers get more and more demoralized, more questions should be directed to the top of our union which is supposed to defend teachers, not the bosses who gamble away our children's school resources at the casinos.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Moscow Under Fire

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia -- A hugely grandiose plan to demolish up to 8000 old five-story Krushcheski buildings provokes a seething wrath of many Muscovites.
"Can I have your attention ? You understand Russian! Well Maybe you haven't heard but there are plans by the Moscow Local government to demolish our buildings and resettle us in shoddy accommodation outside Moscow. They have even passed a law redefining Moscow as encompassing 30 km so that they can claim we are being resettled within the Moscow city boundaries. Very few people are aware of the local government's plans. They believe the state media reports that everything is going to be fine but that is not true. On the
contrary we will be rehoused in far worse buildings far from the city centre without access to parks or services. "We have to inform other people and organise a campaign against this. We also need to legally challenge this in the courts," stated Monica Spibak, an anxious neighbour who informed me that
every building was under threat.
Two school students I spoke to also expressed a similar doubts about the honesty of the local government's recently announced intentions to demolish up to 8000 buildings which would affect as many as 1.6 million residents.

One 14 year old student called Peter stated: "I'm for those proposals if they would rehouse my family in decent accommodation just up the road in the Aerobus complex but I don't think this will happen. Instead, we will be moved
from a pleasant area with nice parks and schools where we already have friends to a badly built and designed complex outside Moscow."

Over the past week officials who organised public relation meetings where local tenants were invited to express their misgivings were taken a back by the furious anger of tenants, some of whom seemed more than a match for officials who had not been put in the full picture about the government plans.

"Why are you violating our residential rights under the Russian constitution?" thundered one tenant.

Moscow officials did not anticipate such opposition and anger. However, if you carefully examine the proposals by the local government it is not hard to fathom.

Only last week Russian politicians were attempting to quickly pass a draconian approved by most toothless politicians. The contrast between the past and and proposed tenant's rights is glaring. Whereas earlier, a building would be threatened with demolition if it had fallen into dangerous disrepair, now any building, even 9 to 12 storey brick buildings in decent condition can be demolished if they are located in a 'special demolition zone'. In earlier times the authorities would provide tenants with one year's notice to leave, now they
are offered only 2 months and if they don't leave by the deadline, they will be evicted by a court order which they can't challenge.
Before tenants had a choice of three variant new homes, now they'll have to accept only one! Previously tenants were entitled to financial compensation but the new law suggests they'll have to fork out for the losses. Whereas before the
full cost of a property was considered , now only the size of a property in square metres is considered.
In earlier times tenants could be expected to be placed in a locality with special amenities such as a park and pleasant surroundings. But now tenants fear that they'll be placed in badly designed and badly built poor substandard blocks
with low safety and hygiene. A tenant could actually be moved from a decent building to a substandard one!
However, local officials claim that all this is just scare mongering. Opponents are putting words into their mouths. The Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin attempted to reassure tenants that they all be rehoused in the same locality they live in. "We will be able to provide for 100% of those people who want to stay in the district where they now live". Only a day ago he published a list of buildings which revised the number of buildings down from a figure of 8000
to 4566! I was happy to learn our building had received a reprieve! In addition, the mayor stated that if the percentage of local tenants voting in a future referendum oppose it by 70% instead of 80%, the demolition won't go ahead. (voting will take place from May the 15th to June the 15th. ) Critics
state the voting arrangements are still unfairly loaded in the government's favour. What is more, the referendum is being arranged just at a time when many locals go abroad or spend time at the dacha!

Local people are right to deeply distrust the local government. Despite the fact that thousands of kiosks in Moscow had perfect legal approval and agreements
the government still bulldozed them down. This was done very swiftly.

The facts are that new laws are being rushed through parliament to deprive them them of their legal rights to challenge the courts. This amounts to an unprecedented attack on a person's right to his property as well as right
to live where they choose. All this appears to reflect the lust for obtaining new real estate property 'on the cheap'. Unless the local people continue to effectively organise and structure resistance to those proposals they will wake up one morning to find themselves in a 'concrete jungle'. "They are just bandits" a disaffected tenant told me." It is difficult to disagree!

Teacher Problems

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia -- "Forget about providing decent conditions to support a family.
Five thousand rubles a month is not enough.... I'd also advise
you to marry out of your profession. " stated the Deputy Minister of Education in the Irkutski region of Russia in a
speech to graduate teachers from Irkustoki State University.
The speech was hardly inspiring or reassuring and one would have expected something much more inspiring than informing teachers that a man who took up teaching was rendering himself unmarriagable.
The students were startled and even shocked by the cynical tone of the speech. They considered that the official was insulting them.
Evgeny answered that the students had not understand him.
He informed them that he would be happy to re-meet them. However, the damage had been done. The students stubbornly refused to meet up with the official. This is not the first time officials have put their foot in it. On previous situations some ministers advised teachers to marry rich businessmen and the Prime -minister Medvedev told a teacher 'to go into business'.
It is a small wonder trainee teachers often don't begin the first year of teaching never mind pursue a long term career in teaching. The statistics make appalling reading. Only from 5 to 15% of graduates of pedagogical institutes go on to pursue teaching. So the government asks "why train teachers set on not taking up the profession?"
One of the reasons why so many teachers drop out is that the conditions of work are too demanding. An inexperienced teacher is thrown into a classroom and overworked by a demanding schedule double the recommended number of hours. Much of the work those teachers are doing is unpaid,
constantly humiliating and involves a lot of mindless instructions and paperwork which represents an insult to intelligence. Fresh graduates are arriving at schools to find their work has increased because other teachers have been made redundant following optimisation. Younger teachers are being asked to replace more experienced teachers less likely to work in such intolerable conditions.
So why do students enter those institutes in the first place? Perhaps it is because they are not so difficult to enter compared to other institutes but also because it is still prestigious and impresses employers who are not always headmasters.
However, a survey on Social attitudes indicates that teaching as a profession has risen in prestige and that many parents would like to see their children take up teaching. They might be disappointed. Just as there exists a huge reservoir of ex-journalists so you come across so many either ex-teachers
or would be teachers!