OPT OUT NEWS: Meeks continues lying in defense of corporate school reform almost as soon as Rauner makes him president of ISBE.... But Arne Duncan says feds never threatened loss of billions of dollars!...'When asked why he [Duncan] threatened to cut off federal funding, he denied it...'

Continuing what can only be described as a notorious career of mendacity and duplicity, the Rev. James Meeks has launched an enormous amount of confusion across Illinois by proclaiming, without a factual basis, that Illinois (and Chicago) will lose more than a billion dollars if schools, teachers, and students opt out of the PARCC testing program which is going on as this is written (March 18, 2015).

Back when Rod Blagojevich was still out of prison and governor of Illinois, the governor joined Arne Duncan (center above) and James Meeks (left) to promote one of the many schemes to use privatization as a short term gimmick to fund Illinois and Chicago schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. During a recent visit to Chicago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told protesters that neither he nor his department had threatened Illinois and Chicago with the loss of federal No Child Left Behind funds because of the Opt Out movement. Previously, Chicago schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett had requested that Chicago only test ten percent of its schools on this year's PARCC, because the test is so controversial and unprofessional. Teachers, parents, and even legislators who have taken the on-line "sample" PARCC tests concur.

Yet when it became clear that Chicago was going to opt out 90 percent of the city's schools, the Illinois State Board of Education, of which Meeks had recently become president, issued a letter claiming, untruly it turns out, that Illinois will lose more than a billion dollars in federal funds if people opted out. That notification resulted in the reversal of Byrd Bennett's plan to test only a small fraction of Chicago children. Additionally, many (not all) Chicago principals have been proclaiming to their Local School Councils that opting out will cost their schools hundreds of thousands of dollars -- again, not true. The false claims have been echoing through some of Chicago's administrative "networks" (the current Chicago corporate jargon for sub-district administrative units). Pressure on teachers, students and parents against Opt Out has been particularly nasty in Network 13 and some others, where the impact is almost exclusively on poor and working class minority children.

As reported widely in the press, but widely ignored in many quarters, Arne Duncan said it in Chicago. Duncan had been hastily called to Chicago on March 9 to do a media event promoting the candidacy of former White House buddy Rahm Emanuel. The publicity stunt was supposedly to give Chicago an award for promoting what is called "financial literacy" (actually, crude stock picking) at Chicago's Ariel Community Academy, a public school near the city's Hyde Park community assisted by Arne's long-time friend, multi-millionaire John Rodgers. But when Arne got to the event, he was greet by protesters, while Rahm Emanuel had snuck into the building without incident.

One report, at Fred Klonsky's blog, summarized Duncan's statements:

Last week, Secretary Duncan was in Chicago. When asked why he threatened to cut off federal funding, he denied it.

When he arrived at a school, his driver took a wrong turn, and Duncan got out of the car and was swarmed by angry parents protesting the testing.

"Once safely inside the school, Duncan was asked about the protest outside.

"Why is his U.S. Department of Education forcing a controversial standardized test one many parents dont want and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has argued is not ready for prime time down the throats Chicago Public Schools?

Im not, Duncan said. The state works it out without Chicago. . . . Thats the states decision.

"But isnt the mandate being dictated by the federal government? Isnt that whats behind the threat to withhold $1 billion in funding that forced Chicagos hand?

No. Youre wrong. . . . Youre making stuff up. You dont have your facts straight, Duncan said.

"The secretary was asked about the parental animosity stemming from the PARCC test and the resulting protest that forced him to go through the gantlet of protesters to get into Ariel Community Academy, 1119 E. 46th Street.

"I welcome the conversation. Its good. . . . Its a healthy conversation to have, he said.

"But he said, Its important to assess kids annually. . . . Millions of kids around the country are taking the test. Were fine.

"With that, a press aide to Duncan stepped in and ended the interview."


March 20, 2015 at 12:27 AM

By: Neal Resnikoff

Meeks overwhelming voted in as ISBE president

Mar 20, 2015 Today the Illinois Senate Committee on Executive Appointments voted nearly unanimously in favor of confirming notorious Rev. James Meeks as president of the Illinois Board of Education.

Then the full, Democratic-dominated Senate rapidly voted 45 yes, 1 no, and 1 "present" to confirm the nomination.

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