BOARDWATCH: Chicago Board of Education members grow more testy defending their slavish loyalty to Rahm Emanuel... Jesse Ruiz warns against an elected school board...

From arrogance to -- semi-arrogance? Maybe that's the best way to describe the public faces being provided by the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education as they grow more and more defensive about the fact that they have been

-- (a) appointed by Rahm Emanuel,

Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz has stopped reminding the public that his father only finished seventh grade but that the son became a millionaire lawyer (thanks to real public schools) after skeptics began noting that the Humboldt Park escapee seemed to be disrespecting his Dad. But he continues to try and play his Slick Willie lawyer routine when Board members get frustrated with criticism of their slavish loyalty to Rahm Emanuel's union busting privatization program for public schools. Above, Ruiz during the June 25, 2014 Board meeting tried to bad mouth elected school boards by remarking how much it cost to run for public office, as if democracy were too expensive for Chicago's peasants... Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.-- (b) slavishly loyal to Rahm's priorities (to take just one of many examples, every month they vote to expand Chicago's charter schools, even though it's been a year since they closed 49 of the city's real public schools), and

-- (c) creepily rehearsed to recite their lines as "questions" for the Board's executives even while ignoring the most outrageous examples of duplicity and mendacity from Barbara Byrd Bennett and the growing tribe of out-of-town mercenaries the Board has been hiring for the positions that pay $150,000 or more per year...

There were any number of highlights and lowlights from the Board's June 25, 2014 meeting. Not one of the Board members demanded to know how "reducing suspensions" under the new Student Code of Conduct could avoid simply being another example of cooking the books by "juking the stats" (to use the phrase from The Wire), even after Chicago magazine had just exposed the fact that under Rahm the Police Department had been doing just that. After all, it's easier to reduce "crime" by reducing crime statistics than by actually cutting down the amount of criminal violence (say, gang murders) in the city. Just as it's easy -- as Benito Juarez High School has proved -- to "increase attendance" by simply doctoring the numbers behind the scenes and counting on the Inspector General to complete the cover up...

But the funniest example of the Board members oleagenous wordings came from Board vice president Jesse Ruiz, although it confused some people. After another speaker criticized the Board for being not elected and slavish to Rahm's corporate agenda, Ruiz asked whether the speaker knew about how much it cost to elect a school board member in "LA Unified". Since Ruiz didn't explain he was talking about a school board election in Los Angeles, many in the audience were mystified: What the heck is "LA Unified"? Anyway, Ruiz was implying that maybe Chicago was better off having guys like him appointed to the Board of Education by Rahm Emanuel instead of electing Board members (like most major cities in the USA and all other school districts in Illinois do).

Actually, Ruiz's example was a silly one, like most of the one-liners he specializes in. What works in a major law firm in front of judges who agree with the program of the plutocracy might not work as easily in the real world of precincts in Chicago. And so, an example from Denver, where one candidate spent one-seventh as much as another


I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

Posted on June 27, 2014 by Jeannie Kaplan

An explanation: I found my earlier website to be quite cumbersome. Therefore I have a new site hosted by WordPress. It is It will be much easier for readers to subscribe to the blog and post comments (which I hope you will do) and much easier to unsubscribe from the blog (which I hope you do NOT do). I apologize for the confusion and the redundancy of posting my original blog again. It just makes more sense in the long term. Now on to Blog 2 – I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet.

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

Rock and roll afficiandos, know the next line to the classic Carole King hit is “I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down.” Depending on which side of the education divide you find yourself, the first two lines of this song can easily serve as a symbol for the current public education battle. Here in Colorado it was clearly on display this past Tuesday when Dr. Val Flores, a 40+ year educator soundly defeated Taggart Hansen, a two year participant in Teach for America and a lawyer by profession. Supporters of Dr. Flores’ primary victory for Colorado’s First Congressional State Board of Election Democratic nomination are identifying with the first line. Supporters of Mr. Hansen might be feeling a little like Henny-Penny in the children’s fairy tale Chicken Little as portrayed in the second line.

So, how on earth or in the sky did this very unexpected result come about?

This Democratic contest pitted the usual education sides against one another: grassroots and unions v. local reformers and out of state independent expenditure committees. Val Flores spent roughly $20,000 on her campaign between the “heavy” union support and grassroot contributions. Tagg Hansen spent roughly $135,000, $35,000 from himself, fundraisers and loans and $100,000 from two usual “reform” organizations, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform and their independent expenditure committees. Flores spent less than a dollar a vote ($0.89). Hansen spent $8.64 per vote. The totals were

Flores 22,412 58.93%

Hansen 15,621 41.07%


Val Flores mailed two pieces of literature to a targeted group of Democrats; Taggart Hansen had between 10 and 12 pieces of mail sent on his behalf from his campaign and from the independent expenditure committees. Flores’ campaign had three robo calls: the first was an introductory call from herself, the second from DPS Board Member Arturo Jimenez, the third from former State Senator and Education Committee Chair Evie Hudak. To the best of my knowledge, Hansen’s campaign made four calls, one from School Board President Happy Haynes on behalf of herself and the Mayor of Denver, the second by the Mayor himself, and the final two by an unnamed woman who cited Mr. Hansen’s education credentials as well as listing the education reformers in Denver who were supporting him. Mr. Hansen never called to introduce himself to the voters.

The truth is we will probably never know all the things that played a role in this election, but some things that may have contributed to this lopsided victory include Dr. Flores’ top-line ballot placement, low voter turnout, a short election cycle, and basic campaign management. Retiring State Board Member Elaine Gantz Berman who was not only a supporter of Hansen’s but also was instrumental in recruiting him to run, was quoted as saying, “People didn’t pay any attention to the endorsements,” but there are those in Colorado who believe some endorsements may have actually hurt Hansen. And, of course, there is always the possibility and hope that people are beginning to see the failures of this “reform” agenda.

In this Chalkbeat article Stand for Children Executive Director Sonja Semion said, “Denver voters support more innovative ideas for our public education system” [than this election has shown]. Democrats for Education Reform – CO state director, Jennifer Walmer, was quoted as saying “We were clearly disappointed by the results. [but] I don’t think it’s an indictment on reform.” Let me assure you, if the results had been reversed, these organizations would be shouting from the rooftops that this election was a clear validation of education “reform.”

From my rooftop I am observing that just maybe real Democrats like teachers and don’t think they are responsible for nor able to cure society’s ills within the school day. Just maybe real Democrats like unions. Just maybe real Democrats like neighborhood schools and do not like choice. Just maybe real Democrats are tired of the churn and chaos “reform” has brought to public education. Just maybe real Democrats do not like corporate privatization. And just maybe when “reformers” from Stand and DFER give their analyses, what they are really saying is that in order for education “reform” to continue winning education-related elections, they need Republican support as well. Now that is probably the truth, and that alone should be enough to make real Democrats think twice about supporting the so-called “reform.”

After 10 years of this “reform” just maybe Dr. Val Flores’ message resonated with the voters. When I asked her why she thought she won by such a large margin, she said, “People were waiting to hear the message I was delivering. People do not want their neighborhood public schools closed. People do not want public education to be privatized.” I am feeling a little movement by the earth as I write this. Hope you are, too.


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