Saturday, April 22, 2023


Second City Teachers Moves to Substack!

Second City Teachers has moved from the news blog format to our new address:

We plan to build a bigger subscriber base and include an exciting addition of podcasts so you can hear interesting interviews while riding your bike, driving your car or going for a walk. 

I can officially now say we are not a news blog service. I registered Second City Teachers with Blogger because it was the easiest format to use. However, readers know we are not a news blog that just reposts others work and comments on it. That seems to dominate the world of social media today. We do original reporting that a newspaper undertakes, which requires resources. We hope that this new format will allow us to grow to provide that independent reporting not following the corporate mainstream media line that presents news according to the big business agenda. 

Our reporting focuses on the teachers and others who work hard in the Chicago public schools and need a voice. 

Please consider subscribing to!

Ray Terror Ends

Ray Elementary Nightmare Ends After Expulsion

By Jim Vail

The child who physically and verbally assaulted students and staff and forced the principal to take a leave of absence was finally expelled from Ray Elementary School.

"It was uncontrollable behavior in which students and the principal were attacked and the teachers experienced such stress that they had to take a leave of absence," said one teacher at the school who wished to remain anonymous.

This teacher told Second City Teachers in a phone interview that the staff banded together to raise the issue at the Local School Council and the publicity it generated in the media helped to move the Chicago Public Schools to solve a serious security problem that is being felt by teachers and staff across the city.

The Hyde Park Herald wrote about the problem at Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., in an article entitled "Ray Elementary LSC Alleges Physical Assaults Against Staff and Students in the School."

"Incidents involving a student and said student's family (have) caused a great disruption in the learning environment and continuity of care and leadership inside the school," the LSC Chair was quoted as saying. "The principal of Ray Elementary, Gayle (Harris)-Neely, as well as several teachers, were physically and verbally assaulted inside the school, during the school day."

After the principal was physically assaulted by the student last November, she took a short leave of absence, but when she returned she was verbally threatened by the student and then took an indefinite leave of absence on Dec. 19.

What was even more frustrating for the school was that the CPS Chief for Network 9 Alene Mason did little to "bring all survivors of the assaults back to work in a safe, supportive environment that centers their mental and physical well-being."

"CPS sent in seven people from the Office of Social and Emotional Learning and the Office of Safety and Security and sat in a circle to hear different teachers talk about the trauma they experienced," the teacher said. "They recommended de-escalation training and promised other solutions, but they never returned to the school."

The student, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, would even chase teachers down the hallway in a violent and threatening manner, the teacher said. The student threatened to rape one teacher and hurled obscenities at students and staff. A restraining order was even filed against the student from one of his teachers.

"There were multiple staff leaving in tears every day and the security was upset," the teacher said. "People were really afraid to come to work."

The problem, according to the Ray teacher, was Covid when kids were traumatized during the pandemic because many were left at home with no supervision and did not receive the attention they needed to develop not only academically, but socially as well.

It appeared CPS preferred to coverup the problem rather than deal with it head on. The interim principal told the staff everything was under control, when it was not. How many teachers and staff at schools throughout the district are also experiencing such trauma, resulting in more teachers quitting.

The focus on restorative justice at the expense of suspending or expelling students who pose serious security risks in the school has also made dire situations like this untenable.

"His homeroom teacher had a restraining order on him," the teacher said. "His peers then see that there are no consequences for these actions so their behavior problems escalate."

The child's father threatened the school stating that they cannot deny his child's education and sent him to school even though he was supposed to be at home serving a suspension. The child accosted the security guard on the way to the school, the teacher said. He would then wander the hallways and attacked students and faculty alike.

Teachers can file a grievance against the Chicgo Board of Education if they feel the school is not safe to teach in. The Chicago Teachers Union stepped in and met with the administration to try to alleviate the problem. However, the teacher said trying to restore sick days that were taken because of the unsafe environment was not the solution to the problem.

The problem was solved when the teachers united with the LSC and the parents, and raised the issue in the media to finally force CPS to remove a serious challenge to a safe environment.

As a result, CPS expelled the student because he punched a wall in the principal's office. 

Monday, March 13, 2023


Skyline Curriculum a Trojan Horse to Increased Standardized Testing?

By Jim Vail

The Skyline Curriculum for Chicago Public School students has teachers scratching their heads over a culturally relevant program developed by corporate America that ultimately leads to more standardized testing.

The lessons for teachers focus on a set of slides with online and hard copy texts that focus on social justice, community activism and neighorhood issues.

Teachers I spoke with feel overwhelmed by the amount of materials and information to read through in order to prepare scripted lessons, some of which are not grade level appropriate.

For example, fourth grade students are asked to read parts of two novels that are at the 7th and 8th grade levels. Many online links either do not work or Skyline did not purchase the license to access the text that is part of the lesson.

CPS paid a whopping $120 million with Covid money to purchase this online curriculum that is overtly political with a lesson on Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Some teachers said they were asked to give feedback during the design stage but realized that the company had no interest in teachers' input because it was a 'done deal.'

"It is too cumbersome," said one Southside elementary teacher. "The teacher has to spend way too much time looking at all the guidelines and little children don't need to be sitting in front of a computer for so long. If it informed my teaching I would accept it, but it hasn't."

Perhaps even more troubling for teachers and students is the increase in standardized testing that the Chicago Teachers Union has fought against. Skyline has three standardized assessments throughout the year modeled on the IAR test that many consider a very difficult test. The jolt from read alouds and feel good lessons to standardized assessments is especially troubling.

"I really have to change my teaching because some these lessons are not developmentally appropriate," said another teacher.

The CTU distributed a Skyline survey to teachers which included questions such as:

Does it hinder educators creativity? 

Should a rubric be used to evaluate its effectiveness?

How overwhelming is the curriculum?

How long does it take to complete Skyline lessons?

The education reform group Educators for Excellence that was set up several years ago with financing from anti-union and anti-public education money quickly capitalized on these concerns by sending out to teachers its own survey.

They claimed in emails that they had surveyed hundreds of teachers and made the following recommendations which really don't address the glaring problems. They include - simplify teacher materials and provide time for teacher development, offer more training on differentiating materials, provide more resource accomodations, adjust lesson pacing, and build district-wide buy-in through clear messaging.

"We know that with the money spent on Skyline already, it won't be going away any time soon, so these recommendations aim to ensure that CPS curriculum equity strategy has the best chance of success," wrote E4E, which plans to meet with CPS Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova. 

When it comes to school curriculums, CPS veteran teachers have seen many costly programs come and go over the years. During remote learning during Covid teachers were forced to come up with their own materials in addition to whatever texts they were using to adapt to online. Before that the Common Core became a standardized corporate model that forced teachers to search out their own "rigorous" materials and assessments.

Skyline may be just another corporate creature dressed up as a culturally-responsive curriculum but ultimately dooms the children to more demoralizing standardized tests. 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Vallas & Ken Griffen

Brandon Johnson Hits Vallas Hard on Crime in NBC Mayoral Debate

By Jim Vail

This is billionaire Ken Griffen who hates unions and funds Vallas.

Crime was the big issue for voters and the reason former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas came out in front in the Feb. 28 Mayor Election.

But at the NBC Mayoral Debate in the runoff on Wednesday, March 8, Brandon Johnson hit Vallas hard on crime.

"Paul Vallas is funded by billionaire Ken Griffen who invests in gun manufacturers and puts the guns on our streets," Brandon said. "I want to take guns off of our streets."

Vallas constantly demanded rebuttals to Brandon Johnson's attacks on his record when it came to tax increases, defunded pensions and right-wing extremism, but after sticking the knife in the very essence of his platform - safety and more cops - he had nothing to say.

Johnson brilliantly played the dark billionaire Ken Griffen card to perfection. Why is a billionaire who left this state and cavorts with an extremist Florida governor who is openly calling to ban books in school libraries, funding his campaign? Most of the money he has collected has come from Mr. Griffen. What is his agenda?

Griffen was the villian of working people in Illinois when he used his enormous wealth to defeat a progressive tax that would have made the rich pay their fair share of Illionis taxes and help out the rest of the people of this state. He also told previous Mayor Rahm Emanuel to close 125 schools. Emanuel ended up closing 50 schools which rankles the city to this day.

Understandably, Willie Wilson a black millionaire businessman endorsed Vallas.

Understandly, the black politicians who are funded by the establishment with support from rich donors like Ken Griffen endorsed Vallas, including charter/developer Ald. Walter Burnett and Ald. Roderick Sawyer, who did legal work for a company that scammed an elderly person with dementia out of his home. 

Those are the type of black politicians and business people who line up behind their puppet Paul Vallas. They sold out to the ugly capitalists many years ago.

Brandon Johnson comes from the fighting CORE team who defeated the corrupt UPC party. CORE took up the fight the old company union refused to engage in - the fight against school closings, privatization, charter schools, attacks on public schools, corrupt crony contracts, etc.

Who is Paul Vallas? 

The Chicago Teachers Union has put out lots of literature about how he began the privatization frenzy and war against the public schools and the CTU and black educators by firing many black teachers and administrators because they worked in "failing schools."

Never matter that these people are really heroes dealing with overwhelming conditions in parts of the city racked by poverty, violence and despair.

Years ago my teacher friend on the South Side was with her students one morning shoveling snow outside a nursing home as part of a civic action. Suddenly out of nowhere a phalanx of dark sedans pulled up and out popped Paul Vallas. He grabbed her shovel amid flashing lights of the camera crews who were like flies buzzing around something rotten, smiled for a brief second, and then disappeared faster than a firefly in the night.

Win or lose - the fight against Paul Vallas and what he represents is the fight we working people in the city must fight now and forever more!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

CFL Meeting

Report of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) Delegates Meeting

Note: This was an in-person meeting.1. From the Minutes of the Executive Board, March 6, 2023

The CFL is hosting its 2023 Women’s Luncheon on March 21 starting at 11:30a.m. at the IBEW Local 134 Hall at 2722 S. Martin Luther King Drive. Admission is free but one must register in advance by March 14. Go to: or call 312-222-1000 for more information.

The CFL is having a Labor May Day 5K Walk and Run on Sunday, April 30 beginning at 8:00 a.m.. Contact Gus Fuguitt at or call 312-906-2434 for more information.

The CFL reported that the annual commemoration of the Haymarket Police Riot will take place on Monday, May 1 at noon at the Haymarket Memorial.

The CFL is working with the National Park service to move the annual Labor Day Parade from the East Side, where it has been held for a number of years, to the Pullman National Historic Park and it is planned to be on Saturday, September 2.

2. President’s Report

Pres. Reiter said that 41 of the 42 candidates that were endorsed by the CFL won their election or they are in a runoff. He said the CFL will continue to remain neutral in Chicago’s mayoral runoff in April. 

A number of delegates, Bea Lumpkin and Debby Pope of the CTU among them, urged the CFL give up its neutrality and endorse Brandon Johnson. Reiter said the CFL has a process for endorsement that would have to be used in order to take a position.

Pres. Reiter also said the CFL’s political action committee had a long list of endorsed candidates; most in the upcoming suburban elections but also in a few of the Chicago aldermanic runoff elections.

The president also spoke of the labor peace agreement the City made with Bally’s for a new casino in the City. Besides creating jobs in its construction, those who will be employed there will also be union members. He also said that the revenue from the casino will be used to fund the Fire Department’s pension fund. I asked if the labor peace agreement will also apply to the proposed temporary casino that may be at the old Medinah Temple. His response implied that it would be but also that the CFL legal staff is looking into this concern.

3. Good and Welfare

Colin Smalley, president of Local 777, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, updated the assembly on the lack of support from U.S. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. The National Labor Relations Authority is a three-member panel similar to the National Labor Relations Board, but it deals with workers in the federal public sector, not the private sector. The NLBA has been operating for a while with only two members, one of which is an anti-worker Trump appointee.

Consequently, when there are complaints filed by Colin’s union, which works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nothing can be decided. Pres. Biden appointed a third member but the Senate, led by Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York refused to bring the appointment up for approval. Consequently, when the Senate adjourned for its term the time limit for the appointment expired.

The National Association of Letter Carriers is sponsoring its annual Food Drive on Saturday, May 13. All are asked to put non-perishable food items in a bag by their mailboxes. The food will be collected and delivered to a local food bank.

Lastly, being Women’s History month, the CFL presented its Woman of the Year Award. The Award’s name for formally changed to Rosetta Daylie Woman of the Year award. Ms Dayleie is the longest serving member on the current CFL Executive Board.

The Award was presented to Kathy Hanshaw of the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Working Families.

Kathy has been active for a long time with the CMRJB in helping to organize workers at Starbucks. In her remarks she mentioned that there are now over 7,200 Starbucks workers in 291 stores that are organized; 25 of which are in Illinois. She said that over 1,000 Unfair Labor Practice complaints have been filed against the chain and that the chain has broken numerous federal laws including firing workers who fight for a union, closing or threatening to close stores that are organizing, and illegally offering raises and benefits only to stores that are not organizing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

CTU Retirees Group

Report of the meeting of the Retiree Functional Group (RFG) held on, February 21, 2023

By George Milkowski

With the pandemic receding the Retired Functional Group RFG had its first in-person meeting in almost two years.  

The meeting began at 10:46 a.m..  

1. The meeting began by a welcome from Tennille Evans, CTU liaison with the retiree group.  She then had members of the Retired Members Standing Committee who were present to introduce themselves and make a few brief comments.

2. Tennille asked the assembly for suggestions for issues and topics that the RFG should address.  She wants to have the RMSC and the RFG deal with items that are of concern of the members and not issues that are top-down from the CTU.

3. Hilario Dominguez, (Political Legislative) spoke of how there is only one week before the official date of the municipal election.  He said that Paul Vallas is leading in a poll conducted February 12-15, with Lori Lightfoot in a statistical tie for second with Brandon Johnson.  Hilario cited a recent comment by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia asking if Brandon could be neutral if he is elected mayor.  Hilario said “No’; that we want someone who understands what we face in the schools and is willing to work with the CTU to get better schools for everyone.  He made it clear that Brandon has NOT called for an income tax on those making more than $100,000.  He also said that Anjanette Young, the woman whose apartment was wrongfully raided by police three years ago while she was naked, endorsed Brandon today.  Any who would like to volunteer in the final push for Brandon this week should contact the CTU at

Howard Heath, newly elected retiree functional vice president to the CTU Executive Board, spoke of concerns some people have about supporting Paul Vallas.  He reminded the attendees that Vallas had been an advisor to Mayor Richard M. Daley and also was the CEO for the CPS about thirty years ago.  As such he imposed the pension payment default (he called it a holiday) and did NOT have the CPS make any payments into our pension fund for years.  He argued that the CTPF was in good financial shape and didn’t need the money.  While it is true that the fund was fully funded then, he ignored objections that it might not always be that way, especially as the baby boomers (myself included) were approaching retirement en masse and there would be greater demands on the fund.  Maria Rodiguez pointed out that the fund is currently funded at 47.5% as of the most recent figures, which means we are not in great shape today.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Vallas had made the payments instead of diverting that money to other things.

4. Tennille asked for people to volunteer to serve on subcommittees of the RMSC – a social committee, membership committee, political action committee and PSRP committee

5. Tom Tulley said that if Brandon doesn’t make it into a runoff we should consider endorsing Jesus Garcia.  He also reminded the group that in 2024 we will have the first round of elections for an elected school board that will be phased in in 2024 and 2026.

Charlotte Sanders pointed out the great inequities that exist between the CTPF and the Municipal Employees Pension Fund that our PSRPs belong to.  They do not have an elected board, they cannot sub at all without losing their pensions, they have no assistance in their medical insurance costs, and other differences.  And according to Maria Rodriguez, their pension fund is only funded at the 20% level; much worse than ours.

Someone brought up information about a new dental plan for retirees that the CTU will look into.

6. Kurt Hilgendorf (CTU) said that two members of the General Assembly, Sen. Martwick and Rep. Maurice Evans, are preparing legislation that would allow PSRPs to be subs.  He also said there has been a bill submitted this past week that sets the boundaries for the upcoming elected school board elections.  There is a bill that would require charter school operators to stay out of union organizing drives.  For example, they would not be allowed to hold mandatory anti-union meetings with their faculty and staff.

The bill numbers and sponsors information will be made available soon. 

The CTU intends to organize bus trips to Springfield to lobby in the Spring on legislation of interest to our membership.   

Kurt also asked for volunteers to help get Brandon elected.  If anyone has concerns as to where he stands on the issues, one may go to to see his entire platform.

7. Bill Lamm asked for support on changing the existing statewide law that bans rent controls.  He said rental rates have skyrocketed and that there are around 20,000 CPS students who have no housing.  There is proposed legislation that would allow municipalities to impose some sort of rent control.

8. CTU vice president Jackson Potter also spoke regarding lifting the rent control ban.  He said there are more people in Chicago now, many of them immigrants bused in from other states, that have no housing and will have a hard time surviving while their parents go through the process of trying to be recognized as legal residents of the U.S..  He mentioned the CPS is sitting on $1,800,000,000 in federal relief money that it is refusing to use on the needs of the students and of the schools.

Pres. Stacy Davis Gates addressed the audience.  She announced that the CTYU will be re-issuing calendar date books that many retirees had relied on.

Stacy also expressed concerns about future payouts by the CPS to the pension board.  With that in mind we really need to focus on politics now and in the next election cycles that will be the vehicle for having an elected school board.

9. Before adjourning, I mentioned that the number of retirees who are members of the CTU dropped by over 60 according to the latest figures from the CTU.  I reminded those who were present to make sure they paid their investment fee (a.k.a. dues) as soon as possible and that they should remind their friends to do the same.  If you haven’t sent in your check, please contact the CTU about this as soon as possible.

The meeting adjourned at 12:44 p.m.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Crypto Con

Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Cryptic About Its Crypto Investments

By Jim Vail 

CTPF Investment Chair Phil Weiss

Chicago Teachers Pension Fund Trustee Phil Weiss believed that CTPF was not invested in crypto currencies. After being wined and dined by crpto salespeople, Weiss, who chairs the Investment Committee, said no way.

Weiss agreed with experts who say crypto is not a legitimate investment. Some say an investment in crypto is even worse than a Ponzi scheme because it is an unregulated market. The spectacular collapse of FTX was proof in the pudding.

However, it turns out that the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund is indeed invested in crypto, in a very cryptic way. 

At last month's CTPF Board meeting, Retired Teacher Trustee Maria Rodriguez asked an investment consultant if the Fund was invested in crypto directly or indirectly. Callan, the Fund's consultant, said the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund is invested in crypto, but it is minimal, although she could not say how much pension money was invested.

Trustee Weiss then interjected to say that he was first told the Fund was not invested, but then they later admitted upon further questioning that yes the Fund did buy into crypto, but at a minimum.

"We studied and decided crypto didn't meet the standards, it's not investment grade," Trustee Weiss said at the board meeting.

He said it was a good thing too as these investments like the subprime disaster that tanked the economy in 2008 have gone downhill. But he added that crypto has worked its way into a lot of places.

Indeed it has. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared Chicago would be a haven for crypto currency because it would revolutionize banking and bring the city investment and jobs. Wall Street similarly sold subprime loans as a wonder for people who otherwise could not buy a home.

"We're fortunate to not get involved in this," Retired Teacher Trustee Lois Nelson said at the meeting. "We're not gambling, we're investing."

The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund appears to take its marching orders from the Chicago Machine. Its close ties to Ariel Investments and Chairperson Mellody Hobson who also chairs the Starbucks Board of Directors as they engage in a vicious anti-union campaign and has performed poorly for CTPF over the years and now this crypto investing after the Mayor declared it good for the city show the Fund's allegiance to politics over sound pension investments.

Second City Teachers filed a Freedom of Information Request to determine how much CTPF is invested in crypto currencies. All members who pay into the Teachers Pension Fund should be able find out how their pension money is being invested.

"With respect to CTPF, please disclose any direct or indirect investments, including through funds managed by external fund managers, in any of the following categories as it relates to digital assets."

However, CTPF attorney Daniel Hurtado denied the request.

"CTPF is unable to fulfill your request because it is not asking for existing public records, but is asking CTPF to research its records and then create a document or documents that contain the information you are requesting, which is not required under FOIA."

I then filed a follow up FOIA request that simply asked how much money has the Teachers Pension Fund invested in crypto currencies.

Public pension funds across the country are denying public requests about their investments in crypto currencies.

"America's state and local pensions are supposed to be the most transparent in the world," wrote Ted Siedle in Forbes Magazine. "After all, trillions of public dollars are held in these large unregulated investment funds and every state has established freedom of information act laws designed to ensure public accountability."

Siedle, a pension forensics expert and former SEC lawyer, says public pensions today have become very adept at circumventing state public records laws and stonewalling.

"All public pensions I have ever investigated refuse to provide even minimal information until forced to do so through litigation," he wrote.

The Chicago Reader recently obtained via a FOIA request that there were more than 2,100 complaints from Illinois residents filed with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) alleging they lost more than $45 million to crytocurrency scams. In 2022, major cryptocurrency entities collapsed, including Voyager, Celsius, BlockFi and FTX who had an office in the West Loop.

"Emails sent by Mayor Lori Lightfoot's staffers between Dec. 2021 and Sept. 2022 illustrate the mayor's desire to position the city as a hub for the cryptocurrency industry."

But the crypto con spectacularly exploded after FTX declared bankruptcy. John Ray, who came in after Enron blew up, was brought in as FTX's new CEO.

"Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occured," he was quoted in Jacobin.

By the way, FTX's former CEO was also the second-largest donor to the Democratic Party.

Fictional valuations and accounting manipulations used to artificially pump up balance sheets - that my friends is crypto.

Should our pension money be investing in this?