Wednesday, August 30, 2017

CTU Vouchers

Did the CTU Endorse Vouchers?
By Jim Vail

The CTU endorsed and feted Speaker of the House Mike Madigan just made vouchers in Illinois the law of the land!

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is outraged and wants you - the teachers, the parents, and anyone in the public who cares about public education to call your state senator to not support the new education funding bill that includes vouchers!

Except here's the problem - the CTU's very own Speaker of the House Mike Madigan was the primary guy along with the Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner who made vouchers now the law in Illinois.

The CTU loves Madigan - he came to the last House of Delegates meeting last school year along with a bunch of other Illinois Democrats to honor former Rep. Monique Davis, a decent union politician.

The CTU has given tens of thousands of dollars to Mike Madigan's coffers.

The CTU enthusiastically supports Madigan by endorsing him every chance they get.

Even CTU nemesis Mayor Rahm Emanuel smiles at that, noting that he is one politician the CTU knows will win. 

What is the difference between Emanuel, Rauner and Madigan. I don't really know, and would like our leadership - especially the political director, to explain what we get from this relationship. Why don't we support Emanuel and Rauner while we're at it since they work together.

It was Madigan who screwed the public schools years ago when he sponsored the charter school bills that gave over $200 million to UNO Charter Schools. Why do we have a state deficit?

Madigan is pitted against Rauner as the unions vs. right to work non-union republicans.  

But in the end, what do the unions get from this guy besides grandstanding?

Are we really this weak. Do unions really have to beg for crumbs and say thanks for not being beaten to death the other night - though we continue to get a hell of whopping!

It's depressing and deceptive. The CTU leadership needs to take credit for this one. They endorsed and feted Speaker Madigan, and Speaker Madigan helped made vouchers the law of the land of Lincoln.

We're on our way to right to work, more school closings, more privatization and the destruction of public education.

And it didn't take a Republican to do it.

Way to go Mike! Way to go CTU!!


CHICAGOThe Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement tonight following the passage of an education funding bill laden with a voucher incentive out of the Illinois House:
"Tonight's vote for a voucher scheme for the state of Illinois is disappointing, and the worst assault on public education since mayoral control of schools was granted in 1995. We are now firmly in line with the President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos privatization agenda.
"We have a new funding formula and more revenue for our schools. These are substantial achievements, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner's incompetence and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's impotent ability to provide direction from City Hall. Unfortunately, Illinois legislators have voted to 'reform' the worst school funding system in the country with a ticking time bomb of a voucher scheme, and the Illinois Democratic Party has crossed a line which no spin or talk of 'compromise' can ever erase.
"The Illinois Senate votes tomorrow. We urge them to reject vouchers and keep public funds for public schools, and not a tax break for the wealthy."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

No Vouchers!

Put the brakes on GOP's backdoor voucher idea

The Chicago Tribune
Contact Reporter
Wealthy supporters of private education in Georgia have a neat little scam going.
A law in place since 2008 allows them to donate to the Georgia Student Scholarship Organization, a clearinghouse agency that oversees the distribution of funds to qualified private schools, and receive a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state income taxes. Not just the standard charitable income deduction, but a straight-up subtraction — up to $2,500 for married couples filing jointly and $10,000 for shareholders or owners of businesses — from their state tax bill at the end of the year.
This means money that would otherwise go into Georgia’s general revenue fund to pay for the vast array of programs and services provided by the state, including public education, is effectively redirected to the pet cause of those who want tax dollars to support religious and other private schools.
A unanimous Georgia Supreme Court ruled in June that the program didn’t violate a provision in the state constitution that “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.”
How can that be? Because of the fig-leaf of the clearinghouse. Since the donations never actually reach the state treasury, the court wrote, “no public funds are used in the program.”
But wait, the scam gets better!
Donors to the scholarship funds are also allowed to count that donation as a standard charitable donation for federal income tax purposes, meaning, as one Georgia agency that distributes to schools enthuses on its website, “You will end with more money than when you started.”
And the higher your tax bracket, the higher your risk-free return on your investment. I mean donation.
According to “Public Loss, Private Gain,” a May 2017 report from the School Superintendents Association (formerly known as the American Association of School Administrators) and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, private school supporters are able to profit from their donations in nine of the 17 states in which tax credit scholarship programs are now in place.
Will Illinois be the 10th?
A proposal to institute such a program here is thought to be part of the tentative bipartisan compromise deal on education funding announced Thursday afternoon in Springfield.
Whether it will offer a dollar-for-dollar credit, a credit as low as 50 cents on the dollar as in scholarship programs in Indiana and Oklahoma or something in between had yet to be formally announced at this writing. Also not officially confirmed is the limit on total tax credits issued (Georgia’s, for example, is $58 million), eligibility rules for students and whether the program will be permanent or a time-limited experiment.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Washington are touting a federal tax credit scholarship program as part of a major tax overhaul.
But it’s a bad idea everywhere.
Our state has similar constitutional barriers against using public money for sectarian purposes, and, legalistic shell games aside, tax credit scholarship funds are simply backdoor voucher programs — ways to funnel tax dollars from public coffers to religious schools in the name of “choice.”
Hey, wouldn’t we all like to direct our tax money to causes we support? I’d rather cut a check to Planned Parenthood, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless or the Old Town School of Folk Music rather than to the Illinois Department of Revenue. But that’s not how representative government works.
The “Public Loss, Private Gain” report estimated that these scholarship funds, often referred to as “neo-vouchers,” already divert more than $1 billion a year from state coffers into private schools that are less transparent and more restrictive in admissions than public schools.
In a statement issued Thursday, Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said, “In an age where accountability means everything — where standards are being implemented to ensure students are being taught what they need to succeed in life — why would Illinois take public money and give it to private schools that have no accountability?”
Because too many lawmakers, including some Democrats, have either given up on the idea of public education, are secretly fond of the idea that taxpayers should support religious indoctrination or are under the delusion that competition for scarce resources will magically make public schools better.
Another scam.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Statue Controversy

By Stephen Wilson

MOSCOW -- At a conversational club I once asked my Russian students the question : 'How would you respond if the ghost of Stalin entered the room and asked for some tobacco to stoke his pipe?' One student told me she would give him tobacco, another that he would make him pay for the tobacco and another woman would beat him up. The diverse range of responses I received indicate how ambiguous the attitude of many Russians is towards Stalin. It is often complex, contradictory and absurd. While the government is supporting the erection of a new monument to the victims of repression this coming October, monuments to Stalin are mushrooming all over Russia as well as revisionist books which defend him. People are either blessing or cursing those statues. Fortunately, when someone curses a statue of Stalin the statue does not come to life and relentlessly pursue the person to death as in Pushkin's poem: 'The Bronze Horseman'. Well not quite! 

The Gulag grave hunter Yuri Dmitriev appears to have been arrested for his role in exposing the horror of Stalin's crimes . Dmitriev had been digging and burying the victims of repression in Karelia for 30 years . He discovered a mass graveyard in Sandarmakh which contained as many as 9000 victims. The victims had been stripped naked , thrust into special trucks and taken into a forest where they were shot in the back of the head and thrown into huge pits.

The police are even regarding the recent commemoration of victims as ' an unsanctioned gathering'!

There is no shortage of die-hard supporters of Stalin. They defend Stalin by stating he industrialized Russia, defeated Hitler and turned Russia into a great superpower. For instance, just open a current issue of the newspaper Zaftra and you can read the headlines: 'Glory to Stalin'. The leading article represents a signed statement of people calling for a recently taken down statue to Stalin to be restored . Some of the reasons for defending Stalin border on the banal. A book on sale at Dom Kniga titled 'The Stalinist Economic Victory' quotes a song of Vladimir Visotsky describing the era as: 'It was a time when prices were lower'. It is like saying: 'Cutting prices compensates for cutting throats.'

There seems to be a complete disregard of the basic facts of Russian history. Proponents of Stalin only want to hear what they want to hear. Even many supporters of socialism consider such apologists as dragging socialism into the mud. They would not even equate Stalin's regime with socialism. 

On the contrary, it is largely viewed as a disastrous distortion of socialism. In the wake of a spate in the arrest of journalists, people attending demonstrations, on going physical assaults on opponents as well as the execution of gays in Chechnya , many people fear a return to the years of Repression. It might not assume such a vast character as in Stalin's time, but it is not so such a distant and remote prospect as say twenty years ago. In deed, some Russians reckon it is already happening. Just open your eyes wider!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teacher Too Young Dies

We Mourn Another Fallen Teacher Hero - Too Young to Leave Us!
By Jim Vail

Orlando Rodriguez Jr. - a teacher and soccer extraordinaire!

When you work long enough in the Chicago Public Schools, you form a family that lasts a lifetime.

We - the Hammond School family - lost another warrior and hero to so many kids - Orlando Rodriguez, teacher and soccer coach who passed away this past weekend, a victim to colon cancer at the tender age of 41.

I worked with Orlando at Hammond School for about six years from 2006 - 2012 roughly. He was our bilingual fifth grade teacher and coached a soccer club when I first started.

He then became our middle school social studies teacher and boys and girls soccer coach.

He lived and breathed soccer - his love that was spread to all the lucky students who worked under him.

He worked at many schools in the Chicago Public Schools and he was an American Federation of Teachers AFT delegate when CORE and Karen Lewis first won the president of the Chicago Teachers Union election in 2010.

He, I and Garth Liebhaber, another phenomenal art teacher who helped bring me to Hammond School, formed a strong bond that continued to his totally unexpected death. He died at 41 from complications due to colon cancer on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

He had just lost his father a few months prior to his own death.

Cancer is killing so many. We had another wonderful, vibrant, energetic teacher named Celia Rivero, who lost her battle to cancer at only 30 years old. She taught with Orlando and us at Hammond School!

The Orlando E. Rodriguez Jr. Lane Tech Soccer Scholarship just set up in his honor will help his memory live on. Orlando and his brother played soccer at Lane Tech High School and they learned the sport from their father. Orlando played AYSO at Peterson Park and for the Wells Park Raiders in his youth. After graduating from UIC he fulfilled a dream by playing for the Fichte Rams club team in the Chicago Metropolitan League.

He recently taught and coached a winning soccer team at Northwest Middle School.

The Orlando E. Rodriguez Jr. Soccer Scholarship Fund will provide support and financial assistance to a deserving Lane Tech Soccer Player.

I highly recommend any and all teachers, lovers of soccer, students and those who read this to donate to this worthy scholarship. We lost a wonderful human being who breathed fire and passion to the children of Chicago.

He will be missed!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review

By Stephen Wilson
[2017 Random House /Penguin , New York]

It felt like the book was disintegrating in my hand. Pages of the paperback
began to slip out . The poor binding was damaged so I discreetly placed
the book back on to the shelf lest I be taken as a vandal or hapless butter
fingers. I felt as if I had committed an act of sacrilege so promised myself
that I 'd buy the book later. The book I had been avid absorbed in was titled
' Who Rules the World, ' by Noam Chomsky. And I was spellbound by the
book. I could hardly put it down .The reason for this is that I discovered
obscure facts and revelations you almost never find in most media outlets
and textbooks. And Chomsky offers a trenchant critique of American domestic
and foreign policy. The account is remarkably lucid .Chomsky offers a clear,
concise and articulate critique of American capitalism which destroys any
last illusions or justification.

I first became aware of Chomsky when I was a psychology student at university.
There we had to learn about his Universal Theory of Grammar . Only later did
I discover he was an anarchist who was also known for his merciless attacks
on capitalism. Then , in 1990, when I interviewed the Scots writer James Kelman
I heard him raving on about him and how he was fond of Chomsky and had attempted
to open up a correspondence with him. One fact which Kelman revealed to me
was how Chomsky stated that there is no correlation between the intelligence of
highly educated people and critical thinking. Chomsky stated that a survey indicated
that most educated people supported the Vietnam war while the less educated were
more inclined to condemn it. This should not astonish us. The present Russian Duma
is full of people who have graduated from Moscow State University and practically all
of them but two , endorsed the Moscow mayor's demolition program. For example,
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a linguist from Moscow State university but seldom questions
anything or is self-reflective.

In his book, Chomsky writes on how most intellectuals will compromise and collude with
the existing powers in return for protected job security and promotion. An intellectual
brave enough to be outspoken risks being imprisoned , blacklisted or fired from his job.
To do good is to be punished. The recent case of the fired teacher Sarah Chambers
confirms Chomsky's analysis. She was fired for simply doing her job in the best way
she could. I mean it should be accepted as the normal and natural thing to not only be
a good teacher but strive to improve the conditions of teachers, students and the
community as a whole. Her case reminds me of how an English teacher in Moscow
was replaced by a new teacher brought in from England. The students were happy with
their former teacher and did not want a replacement. This angered the administrator who
phoned him up and scolded him with words ; "What have you done to them ? " The exasperated teacher retorted: " I was just trying to do my job ! "

In an interesting chapter on Israel, Chomsky writes on how most intellectuals chose to flatter
a tyrant King Ahab. They were all rewarded for their flattery. In contrast, the outspoken prophet Elijah was persecuted and hounded being described by the king as ' a traitor ' and 'self Jewish hater.' If Elijah was alive today he would also be regarded as 'anti - American '.
It was interesting to hear that Chomsky reveals that the scripts of the 1950's television series on Robin Hood were written by blacklisted Hollywood scriptwriters.In the chapter , Magna Carta, Chomsky describes how a forest brotherhood had to struggle tooth and nail from the landlords to preserve their right to use the forest.

Chomsky undermines any naive presumptions concerning the Oslo Peace process and the
Middle East . The notion that America can be an honest broker strikes him as absurd.On the
contrary, Chomsky points out that for the past forty years America has been the main force
blocking any peaceful settlement. He has no hesitation in describing the American government as 'a terrorist state'. He points to numerous examples of the double standards of American politicians . For example, a Malaysian airliner was shot down over Donbass resulting in the deaths of 298 passengers. Yet Americans have forgotten that their battleship the Vincennes shot down an Iranian 655 airliner. The captain who fired those missiles was not arrested or brought to justice but instead awarded with the Legion of Honor two years after the incident!

When the American president was asked to apologize for this outrage he replied : " I will
never apologize for this whatever the facts '. So why are they so concerned about 'the facts'
in Donbass?

The book is updated with a new chapter attempting to make sense of Trump's victory. Chomsky explains that Trump can rely on a huge reservoir of support from the conservative communities in America who are white, highly conservative and religious church goers. They strongly believe in family values . For instance, 40 % of Americans believe that Jesus Christ will return to the world in 2050 and that the World is only a few thousand years old. The new secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, believes scripture should take precedence over science.

But Chomsky also blames the Democrats for Trump's victory . They have long abandoned the working class . The Republicans , exploiting the resentment against the establishment,
manipulated workers who had either lost their jobs or seen their living standards devastated,
into voting against the Democrats, believing Trump would stick up for their interests. Part of the problem is that too much blame has been put on officials and not corporate business who have been driving down the living standards of Americans by paying a pittance to employees.

Civil servants are being made convenient scapegoats and are an alibi which allows business men to get off free.

Chomsky states that he has been warning of the danger of a charismatic ideologue prepared to manipulate the base prejudices of so many angry, resentful and bitter Americans. They will blame the wrong people instead of a rotten unjust system .Chomsky warns of a potential 'friendly fascism'. In this regard it was not clear to me whether he sees Trump and La Pen as 'fascist ' or simply potential fascists.

This book provides a deeply disturbing and disquieting picture of America . That is putting it
mildly. Some people will claim Chomsky is exaggerating, overstating his case and over the
top. Yet Chomsky's work is well researched and he can back up his claims with a lot of listed
sources. Chomsky ends his work with the positive words : 'Popular mobilization and activism, properly organised and conducted can make a large difference'.