Posts Tagged ‘Rahm Emanuel’

PSAT for 8-20-13: Don’t buy school supplies at WalMart

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

psat_logoPublic Schools Action Tuesday is usually about something you can/should do to support public education. Today it’s about something you shouldn’t do.


It’s that time of year when everyone is stocking up on new notebooks, shiny folders, colorful pencils.

It’s also a time when parents, teachers and students in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC are feeling more dread and despair than the excitement that usually accompanies the first day of school, because we can see so how the privatization and austerity moves in these cities are threatening every fundamental of our children’s education.

It’s a time when many are planning strong push-back activities against Rahm Emanuel and other autocrats who are listening only to their rich friends while thumbing their noses at the people who actually use the public schools, at solid education research, and ultimately at the mostly poor, mostly black and brown children whom they claim to love so much.

It’s a terrible time. It’s a time to act locally, but also to think and act globally. We have to do both – these guys have way too much money to spend on their pet strategies, and that money is coming from us.

Much of the blame for the disaster in our nation’s public schools today can be traced to the Walton family’s wealth, which in turn comes from the money people spend in their stores on school supplies and other items. Here’s what some $700 million of the money we spent at WalMart between 2005 and 2010 went to support and promote:


  • more charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone  including $230,000 for UNO charter schools.
  • more school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.
  • more astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • more high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • more vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • more Michelle Rhee: despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart recently raised her allowance to the tune of $8 million.

Doesn’t this year’s WalMart’s Back-to-school campaign slogan, “More School for your money,” just expose the greed behind their schemes? WalMart

As I’ve said before, it’s not that I think we can bring WalMart to its fiscal knees with a boycott. But companies like WalMart have what one marketing blogger calls a “fragile corporate image.” They want consumers to think of them as benevolent, loving rich folks who desire nothing more than to take care of the rest of us through their generosity. They want us to have a warm fuzzy feeling when we think about them, which will lead us to ignore their growing reputation as horrible bosses, and go buy some more stuff at their stores.

In fact, WalMart’s public image is getting more fragile all the time – read “The Real WalMart: Six Big Fibs in WalMart’s New Ad Campaign” by Calvin F. Exoo in yesterday’s Daily Kos, which suggests that WalMart is feeling the heat.

In all likelihood, the Waltons actually want our children to get a poorer, narrower education (or drop out early) so that the best they will be able to aspire to is working for low wages and few if any benefits at WalMart, leaving them little choice but to shop at WalMart in order to stretch their pennies.

So, where should you shop?

I’m not in the business of promoting one business over another, but I did do some research into Office Depot’s corporate giving and I can’t find anything like the rap sheet on the Waltons. In fact, Office Depot offers special rebates to teachers, provides grants for teacher-determined projects on the order of the Donors Choose program, gives away thousands of backpacks every year to low-income children including students in Navajo Nation schools, and even supports Lady Gaga’s anti-bullying efforts.

Just saying.

Hand in glove… Rahm’s Freudian slip?

Friday, April 5th, 2013

RahmmissingfingerpointRahm Emanuel is “100% hand in glove” with Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett who “spoke eloquently” in rejecting the notion that it’s racist to close 54 mostly black elementary schools. (Chicago Sun-Times, 4-5-13)

Here’s how the Free Dictionary explains the idiom Rahm chose: “If one person or organization is working hand in glove with another, they are working together, often to do something dishonest.”

You know, like dismantling public education using the excuse that these schools didn’t get what they needed before so they must now be closed, children dispersed and teachers fired. Coupling that with a promise that this time the surviving schools will get all the resources they need.

You know, dishonest –  like the indignant claim that there’s nothing racist about any of this.

Here’s another useful idiom for this situation: “One hand washes the other.”

Quote in Christian Science Monitor story on Karen Lewis

Friday, September 14th, 2012

“She comes from a place of understanding what it really takes to educate children, especially in Chicago.”

Full story here.

PSAT for 3-27-12: Crank up the pressure!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Perhaps in response to Illinois having been named the third most corrupt state in the nation, and maybe also just having watched former governor Blagojevich head off to prison for 14 years, our state legislators have begun acting uncannily as though they are listening to us instead of the power elite.

First we heard about Sen. Delgado sponsoring an amendment to ban charter schools from charging fines for disciplinary infractions, in direct response to the efforts of PURE, VOYCE and the Advancement Project to challenge the absurd and unfair policy of CPS’s pet charter company, Noble Network. AND the amendment passed out of the Senate Education Committee, which has yet to move on several other bills that we support.

That bill has more recently been amended again; instead of a flat ban on fees for disciplinary infractions, it now states that charter schools must waive all fees for low-income students as defined by the federal free lunch program, which is currently the case for non-charter public schools. We feel that this is an even better bill. One of the biggest problems parents have with charter schools are the various fees that can add up and even get in the way of earning credits and being promoted or graduating.

Now we hear that several state representatives ganged up on CPS at yesterday’s House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee hearing on HB 4487, the House companion to the Senate school closing moratorium bill, SB 3239. Chicago parents, teachers, and students have been calling for strong action to stop CPS for years.

According to this lively report from Jim Broadway in Catalyst, several Chicago reps were furious that CPS sent lower-level staffers to speak in place of CEO Brizard and Mayor Rahm. Things got so heated that committee chair Linda Chapa LaVia had to take a break and move the reps out of the room to cool them down, something that apparently has never happened before. At their request, she also dismissed the CPS staffers in favor of listening to testimony from two students.

Here are some of the rep’s comments:

  • Rep. Esther Golar: “We have been bamboozled again by CPS.”
  • Rep. Mary Flowers: CPS is “destroying our future.”
  • Rep. Cynthia Soto: “What does it take [for CPS] to understand?”
  • Rep. Kenneth Duncan: CPS officials need to “show us some respect.”
  • Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, who chairs the education appropriations committee: If it takes “holding the funding [from CPS to gain its cooperation], so be it.”
  • Rep. Monique Davis: “Is [CEO] Brizard just a figurehead? Someone is making big dollars … to manage the turnarounds.”

Even Republican Downstaters got into the act:

  • Rep. Robert Prichard (R-Sycamore): CPS is “not serving the people of Chicago” as it should.

Maybe there was an all-General Assembly viewing of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” the night before.

At any rate, they are calling for a joint meeting of the Senate and House education committees and the House and Senate education appropriations committees for this THURSDAY 3/29 at 8 am to discuss the proopsed school closing moratorium.

Let’s not waste the momentum, shall we? Here’s one easy thing you can do: File an online witness slip in support of HB 4487. The link will take you to the correct page. The subject matter is the school closing moratorium. PURE supports it.

If you can do more, please also contact your state senator and state rep. Ask him/her to:

1) Join as a co-sponsor of SB 637 to require charter schools to waive fees for low-income students. It’s time to stop the use of exorbitant fees charter schools use to push out low-income students.

2) Join as a co-sponsor of SB 3239/HB 4487 calling for a school closing moratorium. The children of Chicago have waited long enough for school leaders to act responsibly.

  • Stop the experimentation that hasn’t worked!
  • Stop pushing students from one struggling school to the next!
  • Stop firing our most experienced teachers without reason!
  • Stop selling our schools out to private companies that are not accountable to the public!

Let’s crank up the pressure!

Upfront with Jesse Jackson

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Back row: Mike Klonsky, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Front row: James Thindwa, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Julie Woestehoff

Taped a show this morning with  the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. on poverty and education. It’ll air in two weeks, on Saturday, March 24 at 10 pm Chicago time on the WORD Network on cable.

Education advocates Mike Klonsky and  James Thindwa were also on the panel, and the discussion moved from Cong. Jackson’s determination that the Constitution must be amended to include a right to an equal education for all, to Rev. Jackson’s concern that parents need to do more and demand more, to corporate reform’s attack on teachers unions and the very basics of public education.

We talked about the Noble Charter school discipline policy scandal, the need for an elected school board in Chicago, and yesterday’s exciting win in Florida, where Parents Across America’s indefatigable Rita Solnet led the opposition to a parent trigger law which finally lost in the Florida Senate on a 20-20 tie vote despite (or perhaps because of?) our mayor, RahmEmanuel’s vocal support!

Program your DVR!

Negative study on longer school day

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

From PAA’s Leonie Haimson on NYC Public School Parents blog: 

Yet another negative study that finds that extended time made little difference in terms of achievement or teacher attitudes.

This one, from Abt Associates, examined the results of the much-touted Massachusetts expanded learning time initiative, which provides state funding to selected schools to increase their class time 25-30% over the district average.

So far the research is quite thin that this is the answer to low student achievement, despite the fact that the Gates folks (and their think tanks) continue to push it.

In a summary of the studies on extended time in “School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence”, noted researcher Gene Glass found that increases in the time allocated for schooling would be expensive and would not produce appreciable gains in academic achievement – especially as compared to smaller classes. Glass concluded:

”Within reason, the productivity of the schools is not a matter of the time allocated to them. Rather it is a matter of how they use the time they already have.”

Yet even when citing the Abt study, Elena Silva of Education Sector persists in claiming, “Research on the need for expanded learning opportunities for low-income kids is incontrovertible—without extra learning achievement gaps are sure to persist.”

Really? As yet another review of the literature on extended time concluded a few years ago:

“Research reveals a complicated relationship between time and learning and suggests that improving the quality of instructional time is at least as important as increasing the quantity of time in school.”

Indeed, the quality of classroom time, not quantity, is what counts most. Guess who wrote the above statement in 2007? Elena Silva of Education Sector.

“New ERA” or 90 more minutes of test prep?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Look out, parents – be careful what you wish for.

First, Rahm gathered the Coalition of the Willing Clergy and exhorted them to preach from the pulpit about the need for 90 more minutes in the school day. Now the mayor is urging parents to jump on his 90-more-minute bandwagon.

Well, those of us who would actually like to see a longer day at some point had to be worried – but not surprised – to read this comment from CPS CEO J. C. Brizard tucked into a Sun-Times article yesterday about the “new era” in Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Emanuel:

Brizard said principals will “get guidance” about using the 90 minutes, and, if their school is academically successful, they may choose to spend it in enrichment activities, such as music, art and physical education. But if it’s struggling in math and reading it should expand math and reading, he said…. “I believe in autonomy, but I believe in bounded autonomy,” Brizard said.

We had been told that Brizard was going to look at best practices in the city and nationwide. He had assembled a distinguished panel of experts to help, and in addition, CPS was supposedly going to work with parents, teachers and principals through focus groups to gain feedback on how the school day should be structured.

Now it seems that the CEO has already decided how the 90 minutes will be used, and in doing so he’s displaying the ignorance of basic education theory so typical of the corporate education “reformers” who, like Brizard, got their marching orders at the Broad Foundation administrators boot camp.

It’s simply not true that struggling students will do better if they are drilled more. It’s simply not sound to wait to “graduate” students to enrichment activities only after they have “mastered the basics.”

In fact, well-planned enrichment activities integrated into a high-quality curriculum actually work better in improving academic outcomes than test prep. That was proven here in Chicago – Brizard can look it up, or better yet, talk to the guy from the University of Chicago who is supposedly advising him about this.

The conclusion of a 2001 U of Chicago Consortium study? According to the executive summary, “Our findings call into serious question the assumption that low-achieving, economically disadvantaged students are best served by teaching that emphasizes didactic methods and review.”

According to FairTest, “(H)igh-stakes testing is far more likely to lower the quality of curriculum, instruction and school climate in schools serving children of color: Facing high-stakes test-based accountability under NCLB and state laws, schools narrow curriculum by reducing or dropping untested subjects. The law promotes teaching to the mostly multiple-choice state tests, focusing one-sidedly on rote skills and ignoring higher-level thinking.”

I believe that most parents think an extended school day will mean more art, music, physical activity, and other such  programs that have been taken away from our students during the course of the NCLB era. Better watch out, parents. 

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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.