Second City CORE benefit promotes Opt Out and the issues of 2014... Major social event follows year of CORE's landslide reelection with 80 percent of the vote in May 2013

The annual CORE Second City benefit drew more than 200 teachers, family and friends to the world famous Chicago comedy mecca on February 11, 2014, for an evening of fun and fun-filled politics. Although the comedy theater hasn't done a good Rahm skit since before Rahm Emanuel became mayor in 2011 (one of the biggest hits of Rahm's White House days was the spooky RAHMMM! echoes of the 2009 show), the audience enjoyed the performance of more than two hours. Several veteran teachers and Second City fans declared the February 2014 show "the best ever."

The annual benefit performance at Second City began with CORE leaders Nate Goldbaum (left), Jesse Sharkey (center), and Sarah Chambers (right) taking the stage to introduce the show and promote the major opt out movement that CORE is helping to build with hundreds of parent activists across the city. Goldbaum and Chambers are co-chairs of the CORE caucus, while Sharkey is currently the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union (and a founding member of CORE going back to 2008). Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was unable to attend the benfit because she was at a meeting of the American Federation of Teachers Executive Council in New Orleans, but sent her greetings to the group assembled at the world famous comedy theater. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt. CORE activists provided everyone attending the event with literature about the upcoming Chicago Public Schools testing season, and the right of parents to opt out their children from the tests. Opt Out families in attendance included Julie and Jesse Sharky, whose sons Caleb and Leo are opting out at Pritzker, and Sharon Schmidt and this reporter, who sons Sam and Josh are opting out at O.A. Thorp. Despite attempts by principals to intimidate parents who choose to opt out their children, the Chicago Opt Our movement in 2014 is the biggest yet. It is growing because CPS has ordered all elementary children to spent a week taking the ISAT (Illinois State Achievement Tests) even though the tests are being phased out after this year and have not consequences this year or later.

Children have also been subjected to weeks -- sometimes months -- of test prep using now obsolete ISAT workbooks, which are expensive purchases filled with vacuous exercises in the multiple-choice four-answer format used on the ISAT. The Second City performance came on the same day that the New York Times published a scathing article, in its Science Times section, noting that doctors who have been trained in "multiple choice reality" are often making questionable medical decisions as a result.

Several parent and community activists joined the teachers and teachers' families for the annual event. The Chicago-based BAMs (the "Bad Assed Moms") included mothers of children who are opting out and researchers who have been debunking that latest round of lies from Chicago Public Schools officials and the mayor.

Veteran Chicago Teachers Union activists Terry and Jim Daniels, above, have been enjoying the annual Second City events for more than a quarter century, first when the benefits were held for Substance and for the past four years for CORE. Jim and Terry taught their entire careers at Carver Area High School in Chicago's Altgeld Gardens public housing project and are now retired but still active in the CTU. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The event took place a few hours after a Rahm, Emanuel media event that might provide a skit for a future Second City skit. In the morning of February 11, 2014, Rahm Emanuel and his current hand-picked "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools, Barbara Byrd Bennett, hosted a media event at Chicago's Wells High School. The event was to announce the fact that under Byrd Bennett and Emanuel, the rate of suspensions of students in the public schools has decreased dramatically.

An example provided by the mayor and the CEO of the third largest school system in the USA was of a student who was not suspended after the student threw a book and cursed out the teacher. Rather than suspending the student as required by former disciplinary policies for the attempted battery, under Byrd Bennett's new procedures, the student was allowed to discuss her feelings with a "peer jury," according to news reports. [Another news reporter claimed the book was thrown at another student, not at the teacher].

Teachers at the Second City benefit told Substance that the increase in violence in the city's public schools this schools year is pronounced, with gang members and other students announcing proudly that "Teachers Ain't Shit" and can't discipline them any more.

Having a great time at the CORE Second City benefit were Chicago Teachers Union organizer Kathy Murray (above left) and CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle (above right). Mayle is scheduled to do a polar bear plunge in a few weeks for the benefit of the Special Olympics. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.One South Side teacher told Substance that the morning of the benefit saw a substitute teacher defied by a student who tried to walk into his class at a large South Side high school. When the student arrived fifteen minutes into the class period and the teacher told him he couldn't just stroll in, the student announced "I'll turn this room out on you..." with epithets appropriate to a cruder version of rap music.

Although Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was unable to attend the event (she is in New Orleans with the Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers), most of the leaders and many of the staff members of the union were at Second City. CORE won the 2010 union election in a runoff and led the first major teachers strike in Chicago in September 2012 under the leadership of Karen Lewis, Vice President Jesse Sharkey, Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle, and Recording Secretary Michael Brunson. The leadership team was re-elected with 80 percent of the vote in May 2013, defying the naysayers who had predicted that CORE, like the previous "reform" leadership (Debbie Lynch, 2001 - 2004) would be a one-term phenomenon. The annual benefit, now for CORE, was begun by Substance in the 1970s during the early days of the monthly newspaper. Since 2009, it has been a part of the annual CORE calendar, with the evening, always the night before a school holiday, a chance for hundreds of activists to recharge and renew many acquaintances.


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