Posts Tagged ‘corporate reform’

PSAT for 9-2-12: How to boycott hedge funder “reformers”?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Have been spending some time thinking about how to call for a boycott of people like hedge funder, former Bain guy, and Rahm Emanuel best buddy Bruce Rauner, chairman of the Education Committee of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and a member of the board of the Chicago Public Education Fund and New Schools for Chicago.

Why Rauner? Well, he’s recently set himself up as the primary nemesis of the CTU (maybe to deflect parent anger from his pal Rahm?). The day after the CTU strike ended, Rauner went on a rant against the union at a civic event and then went off on local public television. He followed that up with a particularly ugly editorial in today’s Tribune in which he actually accused a CTU member of calling him a derogatory name out in the street. Sure, that will really help sell his message that the CTU is the only thing standing between children and uniformly great schools (i.e. more charter schools).

It’s one thing to talk about avoiding WalMart and  Hyatt hotels to protest the Waltons’ and Penny Pritzker’s support for the privatization of public education. It’s even possible to stop using Microsoft products as a way of protesting Bill Gates’ arrogant trampling of democracy in our schools (I did it!).

Problem is, you need $$$ to stop giving $$$ to the hedge funders.

But, as I have pointed out before, it’s not as if my little crusade against Microsoft or WalMart is going to cause a blip on the NASDAQ. What we can do together, though, is put a little schmutz on the shiny corporate image that these companies spend billions to create and maintain.

And the schmutz we can put on Rauner has to do with his aspirations to become governor of Illinois.

I just remember when Paul Vallas, another guy who came close to destroying our public schools, was running in the gubernatorial primary in Illinois in 2002. As CPS CEO, Vallas had angered a handful of mothers in Little Village by telling them that they wouldn’t need the new high school they were demanding if they didn’t have so many children. Not only did those mothers go on a historic hunger strike and win their new school, but they dogged Vallas throughout his primary campaign, which went down in flames.

Si, se puede.

PSAT for 9-25-12: Protest Walmart!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

I already forgot my new strategy to call for some boycott or action against a corporate reformer on the first Tuesday of every month, but it’s my blog and I figure I can go after WalMart any time I want.

I have close relatives who work at WalMart and they have been able to build a pretty nice life. I have even been known to go to WalMart once in a blue moon and (also rarely) to order from Walmert online because they usually have the cheapest item of a set of choices. But I’m going to stop doing that for good.

After seeing the “Teachers Rock” infomercial for Teach for America and the “Won’t Back Down” movie, heavily promoted by WalMart, I really have had it with them.

You don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to. Here’s something real and simple that you can do to tell WalMart that we don’t accept their vision for our country, our schools, or our children and families.

I received this message from Paco Fabian of Warehouse Workers for Justice:

This past week, Walmart warehouse workers went on strike in Elwood, IL, to protest wage theft, discrimination, and retaliation against those that spoke out demanding more respect.

Walmart warehouse workers endure extreme temperatures, inhale dust and chemical residue, and lift thousands of boxes weighing up to 250 lbs. with no support. They never know how long the work day will be—sometimes two hours, sometimes 16 hours. Injuries are common, as is discrimination against women, and illegal retaliation against workers who speak up for better treatment.

That’s why I started a petition to Walmart, demanding changes in their warehouses.

Click here to sign the petition supporting Walmart’s Illinois warehouse workers.


–Paco Fabian

This petition is looking for 10,000 signers and already has over 8,000. For Public Schools Action Tuesday, let’s help them out in honor of our public schools!

PSAT for 8-21-12: Go local or go Hollywood

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Things are really heating up in the fight over the parent trigger propaganda movie, “Won’t Back Down.”

Corporate reformers concerned that their secret agenda behind the big Hollywood movie is being exposed have now launched an attack on Parents Across America. Folks, the best response to this is to continue to tell parents the truth about the movie and the parent trigger. Please continue to share PAA’s Rita Solnet’s review of the movie and fact sheets by PAA’s Caroline Grannan and Leonie Haimson.

Also upcoming events courtesy of Raise Your Hand news:

Tuesday 8/21- Lincoln Square Meeting
Location change for meeting hosted by CTU and Parents 4 Teachers:
Old Town School of Music
4545 N. Lincoln Avenue

5:30 socializing, and meet and greet
6:30 forum, q & a, & discussion break out groups

Tuesday 8/21 –Rogers Park Meeting 6:30pm
Senn High School – 5900 N. Glenwood
48th Ward Education Information Meeting hosted by Alderman Harry Osterman.

Reps from both CPS and CTU will be at this meeting to answer questions, updates on 48th Ward Education Initiatives.

Board Meeting tomorrow – Wednesday 8/22
CPS is scheduled to vote on the budget tomorrow. We have a few questions – such as why is CPS increasing funding to charters by $76 million in a year when they are draining the reserve funds? Why are they increasing the Portfolio Office by over $5 million? Our neighborhood schools need attention and many of them have received cuts this year.

CPS is increasing funding to some charter operators who have schools performing below CPS average. As one example, UNO is receiving $10,132,678 in new funding this year. Issues around funding for charters vs. traditional schools are complex. We question why this big of an increase this year, when we are cash-strapped and moving on to an even bigger deficit next year, and what is the criteria CPS is using to make decisions around charter expansion?

Parents and community members should have a voice in what happens to our schools and we will be paying close attention and reporting on the defunding of neighborhood schools that we see that reside within blocks of charters that are receiving huge increases in funding.

Come out and support RYH at a fun event 8/28 in Rogers Park

Political guru Don Washington is hosting a tutorial on education for RYH on Tuesday, 8/28. This is an interactive, informational, agitational fun event on the state of public education in Chicago. Come out to the Heartland Café on 8/28 at 7pm to support RYH and join with other parents, teachers and citizens who care about public education. The Mayoral Tutorial believes democracy is a contact sport and participatory activity. We’ll play games, learn things, taunt the powerful and hear from a surprise guest.  Check out the website at

Tickets are $25. Please email us and let us know if you can attend:

Event details:

Heartland Café – 7000 N. Glenwood
Tuesday, 8/28 – 7pm

PSAT for 7-17-12: Five signs the tide is turning – so, let’s turn up the heat!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Are the winds shifting? The tides turning? Could the tables already have turned?

Here are some reasons I think this may be happening.

1) An op ed in yesterday’s Guardian of London newspaper suggests that the Chicago Teachers’ Union is sending shock waves far beyond our home town for its string of upsets against the offensive moves of the city’s Democratic establishment:

This is getting national attention in the US, and a strike could be an embarrassment to President Obama. Moreover, it could re-ignite the American labour movement at a time of global unrest.

2) A few days ago, blogger Jim Warren compared a vacationing CPS CEO JC Brizard to Nero, “kayaking while Rome burns”:

I stumbled into Brizard’s absence during a chance conversation with (a) Chicago educator Thursday. The person mentioned that Brizard was out of town. He mentioned that Brizard had asked colleagues not to bother him with calls. He indicated that Brizard had posted on his Facebook page a photo of his wife with a kayak in Vermont. He rolled his eyes…..(Brizard)’s given ammunition already to anybody who looks to bypass or intentionally undermine him.

3) The Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman’s piecesuggesting Rahm’s honeymoon is over was prominently placed in Sunday’s paper. The media is beginning to be more skeptical about Rahm, his CPS schools team, and, to some extent, to corporate reform itself. The teachers’ contract arbitrator, whom Rahm’s team had set up as the voice of reason, actually made a very reasonable case for treating teachers fairly. In fact, his report comes across as a breath of fresh air amidst the hot air politicians and their corporate sponsors have beenblowing.

And media reports about the CPS ISAT scores were quite critical, especially of the lackluster charter school and longer day “pioneer” schools’ results.

4) Surprising “new” suggestion from Public Agenda and the Joyce Foundation – support LSCs.

I just read all the way through a May 2012 Public Agenda report called “Community Responses to School Reform in Chicago” and was surprised by at least one of the report’s recommendations for more effectively collaborating with the community in school reform: that CPS “consider re-engaging and strengthening the capacity of Local School Council (LSC) members” by “improving the way new members are educated and prepared for their role and responsibilities and by using this structure as a means to reach residents in local neighborhoods.” Wow. What a concept.

I found this surprising because this report follows up on a particularly yucchy “analysis” by Public Agenda (look at point four here) showing how corporate reformers can better manipulate parents to support their agenda. It was so creepy that the National Education Policy Center titled their review of the report, “Giving Parents the Run-Around on School Turnarounds.”

Both reports were funded by the Joyce Foundation, which dropped all support of LSCs several years ago as it embraced full-out corporate reform. Time for one of those foundation retreats to re-evaluate your “philanthropic goals”?

5) And….Huffington Post published one of my articles! They’ve censored me for several months and, frankly, I wasn’t expecting them to let this one on charter schools and violence get past Arianna’s protective shield.

So, what can you do to encourage the momentum?

Turn up the heat! (I ask this even though our 20+year-old air conditioner died today of all days. This is how much I love public education!).

Chicago is on the forefront of corporate education-busting because of the true grass roots collaboration between the Chicago Teachers’ Union and Chicago’s old and new parent and community groups. Let’s keep it going!

  • Learn HOW to turn up the heat from the best of the best, CTU’s Karen Lewis and KOCO’s Jitu Brown, in an SOS webinar tonight: “Build a United Fighting Teachers Union with Parent and Community Support,” moderated by Michael Klonsky. Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 9 PM Eastern Daylight Time [EDT]

“On every issue, they offered counters to his “reform” agenda of privatization, charter schools, longer school day,and test-based teacher evaluation….After more than 4,000 CTU members poured out of the Congress Theater, they were joined by rallying supporters across the street in Grant Park, with the groups merging into a sea of red-shirted marchers. As they proceeded up Michigan Ave. and then west on Adams, they were greeted with signs of support from onlookers — a group of custodians, some medical techs, hard-hatted construction workers and retail clerks.
~ Mike Klonsky’s Blog

From Mike: “For those of you who don’t know what a webinar is, think of it as an online, interactive radio show, where you can participate by asking my guests question or making comments as time allows. Otherwise just listen and take it all in. All you need is a computer with internet access and a working mic (if you want to speak).”


2) Help Parents4Teachers and CODE: Our Elected School Board Campaign is heading in to the home stretch. We need your help for two more weeks to finish strong!
Help us this week and next to circulate petitions to get a referendum for an elected school board on the November ballot.

  • Tuesday, July 17: West Rogers Park, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Meet at 6635  N. Mozart.
  • Wednesday, July 18: Logan Square, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Meet at the Starbucks on California and Logan Blvd.
  • Thursday, July 19: West Town, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Meet at 2002 W. Superior.

Please email if you can help out on any of these nights! YOU are the key to this campaign’s success!

3) (Also from Parents4Teachers): Stand Strong for Our Teachers July 25
The Chicago Teachers Union ( CTU) is asking parents and everyone concerned about quality education to take a stand at the July 25 CPS Board meeting. Meet at 9, at 125 S. Clark St. (7 a.m., if you want to testify)

The Board will be voting on the unfair CPS proposed budget that day and  CTU has called for a big demonstration before the meeting.

We need to STAND STRONG for our teachers. They are in the fight of their lives, standing up for our kids. Help them win the schools our children need and deserve.

4) Finally, like, share, and tweet my Huffington Post story – thanks!

Hedge funders latest plan? More experimentation on CPS children

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The latest offer of “help” from the hedge fund crowd comes from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which is establishing ELP Venture, a “venture philanthropy fund” to offer rewards for more education innovations to inflict on CPS students.

According to the Sun-Times, “Rather than focus on proven reforms, the group hopes to develop ‘the new, yet-to-be-proven reform,’ said class member Gillian Darlow, a principal at Civic Consulting Alliance.”

How have they done so far? Well, Global Council Chair, Bruce Rauner, was one of the corporate brains behind SB7 and its 75% “strike-proof” vote standard that was supposed to be too high for the Chicago Teachers’ Union to meet. We know what happened there. Rauner also supports the Noble charter network schools, one of which is named after him. We all know what those schools are like.

Rauner admits to his lousy track record in education reform: he “warned the group that the ‘school improvement wars’ was an important struggle but also was ‘ugly, dirty’ and ‘not fun.’ He said he provided $20 million to help with education reform and 80 percent of it was ‘wasted.’ ’’

But now they’re going to collect $10 million to fund more “unproven” boondoggles.

Hey Bruce – why don’t you mess around with your own children’s schools for a while and leave ours alone?

PSAT for 6-12-12: Tend your garden

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Students in Shamrock school garden - photo by Pamela Grundy

As we sit back and reflect on the powerful message the Chicago Teachers’ Union sent to Mayor Rahm yesterday, it seems like a good time to muse about where we go from here.

The CTU has some great ideas in their “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve” report.

Today I’d like to add to that approach by passing on a beautiful article by our Charlotte, NC, Parents Across America member, Pamela Grundy, who writes about the last day at a school she was warned against sending her son to — “one of the many high-poverty, high-minority schools created as Charlotte dismantled its once-celebrated program of busing for desegregation.”

Pamela writes:

Six years ago, the (newspaper) coverage struck an ominous note. “If it were your child, would you risk it?” the headline asked, invoking the phrases that strike terror into ambitious parents’ hearts: “low scores,” “high poverty” and “struggling school.” The reporter followed several middle-class families who were thinking about sending kids to Shamrock, their neighborhood elementary. By the end of the article, we were the only family left.
Now, the pendulum has swung the other way.  “An elementary once so bad the state took it over has some miracle growth,” the Observer informed its readers. The article went on to detail the progress we have made: new programs, more strong teachers, higher test scores, an abundance of gardens and a growing number of the neighborhood families who once avoided the school….

Our successes were rooted in time-tested ideas – small classes, a stable, experienced staff, racial and economic integration – tempered with the understanding that good work takes time and patience. To use a garden metaphor, Miracle Gro may help you for a season, but if you want lasting success you have to build your soil.

This reminds me so much of another garden at school I knew pretty well a few years ago. Last week, I ran into a teacher at Ruiz Elementary school who told me about the wonderful programs happening there. In fact, Ruiz was about to celebrate the opening of their new Learning Garden.

14 or so years ago things weren’t so rosy at Ruiz. PURE was called in by a teacher member of the Local School Council to train the LSC in monitoring and revising their school improvement plan. The parents were unhappy with the school. It seemed to be in perpetual lockdown, parents didn’t feel welcome, and there wasn’t much happening for students. Then things got pretty exciting – the assistant principal displayed a gun (which he claimed was a toy) at an LSC meeting, and later the principal tried to get rid of a much-loved teacher.

With lots of training and support from PURE, the LSC selected a new principal and a new era began with the first Ruiz garden and a parent patrol, a PTA, and a bilingual committee. PURE named the Ruiz LSC our first “Good News LSC” – a recognition became a regular feature of our LSC newsletter.

Oh, and the teacher whom the original principal tried to force out eventually became the school principal.

Many communities across Chicago have been persistently asking to have the same chance as Pamela and her family and the Ruiz LSC – to work with a school over time, grow the programs in ways that engage children, and help build a stronger learning community.

Sadly, most communities are being denied this opportunity by the city’s greedy school closure and take-over frenzy. The lack of strong support for LSCs – either from CPS or independent groups like PURE, which no longer have the funding to provide those services – makes it more and more difficult for those elected bodies to do their important work planning for and supporting stronger schools. The communities and LSCs that have done so (like those supporting Dyett and Piccolo) have had the door slammed in their faces by the Board of Education.

What can we do?

Well, first of all, we need to keep fighting the weeds and pests of corporate reform that are trying to destroy our democratic system of public education. But we need to spend just as much energy planting and enriching the garden, promoting what we know works — processes and programs such as those laid out in the CTU proposal or in this excellent community-based piece, “Sustainable School Transformation,” put together by Communities for Excellent Public Schools.

We can’t stop. And, as Pamela has shown us, with patience, the garden will grow and thrive.

Mercenaries in the corporate reform propaganda war

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict, and is “motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party” (Wikipedia)

How spot-on is this as a description of the folks who staff corporate reform movement shops?

Well, our San Francisco PAA member, Caroline Grannan, was just banned for a month from posting comments on a blog that leans toward the corporate reform agenda. Her offense? Attaching the label “mercenary” to newly-hired Obama campaign staffer, Linda Serrato, who used to work for the Parent Revolution after she worked for the Obama 2008 presidential campaign, after she worked for Hilary Clinton’s campaign. The blogger characterized Caroline’s comment as “offensive”:

Here’s what Caroline wrote:

Serrato, like Parent Revolution director Ben Austin (the main force behind the Parent Trigger) and the rest of that crew, are purely hired mercenaries who promote whatever position they’re paid to promote. A lot of the conversation seems to be based on the mistaken assumption that they are heartfelt advocates who infuse their work with their deep belief in the Parent Trigger, wherever they go. That seems naive to me. Once the last paycheck is deposited, Parent Trigger will be forgotten.

Exposing the agenda behind the propaganda

While I might not agree with Caroline about how much we can see into someone else’s heart, I completely agree that it is critically important for us – and for the mainstream media – to loudly, regularly, and publicly call into question the motivation of the corporate reform movement and its agents, because corporate reform is first and foremost a propaganda campaign.

Case in point, the income and expense report I mentioned in my PURE Thoughts blog yesterday showing that the Education Reform Now group, which paid for the anti-union robo calls to Chicago Public Schools parents over the weekend, had an income of $9 million last year (up from $1 million the prior year) and about half of that was spent on a contract with one advertising firm.

Let me go back to the Wikipedia passage I quoted back in late 2010, during the Waiting for Superman furor:

As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare. (emphasis added)

It is clear from their spending and activities that, for corporate reformers, the war against public education is a propaganda war in service of their political agenda to privatize schools, destroy the teachers unions, and generally take control of education away from the public and put it in the hands of businesses and politicians.

Time to be (on the) offensive

So, if we are to fight this propaganda war, it’s legitimate, it’s necessary, to analyze and expose the political agenda behind the propaganda. That must entail questioning and critiquing what motivates the propaganda mercenaries carrying out the fight. In doing so, we are being “offensive” only in the sense that we are fighting pro-actively to protect democratic public education.

So, is everyone who works for corporate reform just in it for the money, as Caroline suggests?

Could be. Going back to the definition at the top of this article, mercenaries generally earn substantially more money than the local troops. Oh, yeah – we know that’s true. Most grass roots advocates make little or nothing, even as hired staff.

But I suspect that most mercenaries actually like the battle itself and have battle skills that they are proud to display (think Jonah Edelman at Aspen last year). Each battle builds the resume – but then that’s about money, too.

The other characteristic of mercenaries is that they are “not nationals” – i.e. “not from around here.” They come in for the job, they are not people who live and work and raise families in the place where they drop in to carry out their boss’s agenda. So, they are almost the definition of astroturf. No roots, just artificial coverage that can be picked up and moved somewhere else.

And that’s a pretty good way to tell the mercenaries from the real advocates.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.