Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let Me Help - An Open Letter to Michelle Rhee

Dear Michelle,

I remember when I was a young teacher in Boca Raton.  I was invited to assemble a polo team to compete in for a cup at the local club.   I immediately asked my fellow TFA recruit Scooter Nelson to join me and he had a friend who was an outstanding Number One.  Unfortunately, I couldn't scrape together a 4th player and we had to cancel our plans to compete.  I was embarrassed to have been unable to field a whole team.

Recently, I heard that you were forced to cancel your plans to debate Diane Ravitch at Lehigh University on February 6th because you were unable to find a third person for your side.  I am happy to announce that I am willing to join your team.   I believe my resume speaks for themselves, but as the Director of Last Stand for Children First, I've made a name for myself as one of the country's foremost education reformers.  Through Last Stand's Project SLOW we have dropped the number of students in the bottom quartile on state tests in Louisiana from 25% to just over 15%.  Our evaluation plan, which has been adopted in 9 states has caused more teachers to lose their jobs than Rahm Emanuel and Michael Nutter combined.  We have streamlined new teacher training from our fellows from a time consuming 5 weeks to 5 hours and a showing of Freedom Writers on DVD.

In short, you, Rod Paige, and myself would be a dream team.  I strongly believe in all the talking points of education reform, even the ones that contradict other education reform talking points.  Together we can take on the status quo in a way that we have been unable to do in the 30 years of school reform going back to a Nation at Risk.  I look forward to hearing from you and destroying Ravitch and her cronies in this debate.

Myron Miner
(Last Stand for Children First)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ravitch's New Book Demonstrates She Still Hates Children

Today, Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error came out.  Her newest book claims to explore the hoax of privatization and the danger that America's public schools are facing.  Sadly, Diane's new book is just another misguided screed aimed at the hedge fund managers and education reformers who seem to be the only people who still care about our country's children.

While I didn't actually read Ravitch's book, I think I've gotten a pretty good feeling for what it's about by reading the cover which is widely displayed on line and several negative comments from people I admire for their no excuses approach to education reform and this unfortunately, is where Ravitch comes up short.

Ravitch's very title suggests that privatization is a threat to our nation's public schools.  However, to believe that you'd have to believe in crazy conspiracy theories like the somehow the 50 neighborhood schools in Chicago closed this Summer are related to the 50 charter schools that the Chicago Public Schools wants to open up.  It seems to me that if privatizers were going to threaten our public schools, we wouldn't be pushing to close them down.

Ravitch is guilty of cherry picking her data and she often ignores push pulls conducted by pro charter school organizations. She never mentions that if 83% of character schools are scoring at or below their neighborhood school peers, than 17% must be scoring better. 

Finally, Ravitch's view of history is revisionist.  She badmouths the 1983 Nation at Risk study, where many people first found out that neighborhood schools were no longer the quality education options parents hoped they would be.  Our only hope of change is when everybody can get on the same page and try and return our school system to the greatness it had at some other time.  Michelle Rhee likes to say, "this will be the first generation in America that will not be as well educated as their parents" and though she never really says what that means, I know in my heart that it's true.  I wish that Ravitch would get this.

Monday, June 17, 2013

TP for CPS

As an organization, Last Stand for Children First, is thrilled to stand behind the TP for CPS campaign.  If you have extra toilet paper sitting around the house, won't you please don't to our children's future?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Time to Reform Father's Day

This afternoon, I was shopping at one of those shopping malls, when I noticed an overabundance of "World's Best Dad" t-shirts, mugs, barbecue supplies, and a plethora of other flimflam.  Sure, it's easy to say to dad, "You're the best!" but what does that even mean?  Without metrics or any kind of objective evaluation, it's merely a platitude. 

The children of our nation face an uncertain future.  Parents have let them fall further and further behind the Chinese children with their superior tiger parents.  Yet, as I looked in this Hallmark Store, I found not a single "Pretty Good Dad", "Adequate Dad", or "Needing Improvement Dad".   I would estimate that about half the dads in this country are adequate and maybe 1/3 of them could be called good.  At best 5% of the dad's could be called very good, but great?  I would expect less than 1% of dads could truly be called great.  The odds that 30 of that select group would all have children shopping in the shopping mall I was in, seems slight at best.

We at Last Stand for Children First love dads.  We believe they're one of the two most important people in a child's life.  That's why, we don't do any favors for the really good dads, when we call all of them great.   What incentive do parents have to strive for greatness when they're not rated any higher than mediocre fathers who don't even require their children to learn to play a sport or practice the piano?  Until, we find a way to evaluate parenting fairly and without sentimentality, the children are the real losers and that is a shame.   

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Last Stand for Children Founder Myron Miner Survives Mackinac Conference Tragedy

Tragedy struck the Mackinac Policy Conference when in their zealous to improve the efficiency of Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel, inadvertently made the hotel staff walk off the job.   Mackinac, which is the Indian word for "Slaughter Island" soon found the peaceful conference guests facing off in tribes.   While there was apparently only one fatality, only the timely arrival of some yachting enthusiasts prevented a much greater tragedy.   Myron Miner's tweets provide a lasting testament to the horror that the guests endured on the island.  They have been preserved at Storify and can be read here:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 2 on Mackinac Island

Day 2 at Mackinac Island was even more amazing than day 1.   This morning we joined with several business and education leaders from around the country to announce a new grant program for urban schools looking to bring yachting, equestrian, and polo to their physical education departments.  

Then it was off to hear some great speakers.   Today, I heard Michelle Rhee talk about the pitiful state of education and several Michigan based entrepreneurs talk about the positive miracle of Detroit.  I thought they were both equally valid.    

If I had any doubts about the education reform movement, Michelle Rhee deftly erased them all.  She repeated her often used statistic that this would be the first generation in this country that was less educated than their parents.  As the number of  U.S. college graduates hit a record high in 2012, it's clear that Ms. Rhee sees a very precipitous decline to get the numbers down from 30 percent to the 22 percent level of 1990. 

One thing Ms. Rhee emphasized was just how important teachers are.   I think that's why it gives her such joy to fire them.  Earlier today, she had our restaurant in stitches when she let several patrons videotape her firing a waiter on their IPhones.  Poor Emanuel left before even realizing that Michelle Rhee wasn't his boss.

I will be giving our speech tomorrow and I'm very nervous.  We have a new app which will make closing schools as easy as calling a snow day.  Tonight is free Bourbon night and as many of us think of ourselves as Gatsbys, that only seems appropriate.   I always say, there ain't no party like a Gatsby party.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Our Report from the Mackinac Island Conference.

Hello and a sunny welcome from beautiful Mackinac Island, Michigan where the beautiful people of the education reform set have all penciled in this beautiful island made famous by Esther Williams in the movie Grand Hotel, for their Spring getaways.  It's Mackinac Island Conference Week and if there's one thing on the menu besides Chianti Chef Keith Shockling's Semolina Dusted Lake Huron Whitefish, it's education reform.

Where else can you hobnob with celebrities like Michelle Rhee, Harold Ford, Jeb Bush, Robert L. Johnson, Joe Scarborough, Governor Rick Snyder, and U.S. Representative Fred Upton, without even leaving your hotel balcony. 

Today, we saw several great speeches on urban revitalization including Jeb Bush's keynote where he showed the characteristic Bush family charisma and grasp of facts.   If there is a better place to discuss education and urban issues than this wonderful little island community where even the servants are imported, I don't know what it is.

Today, Bush railed against our misunderestimation of our children's ability to learn.  Later on, as we shared a horse drawn carriage, I pointed out to him that as the third Bush to hold public office, he was in a unique position to notice the human capacity to learn from our mistakes.

Tomorrow, I hope to get in some yachting and swim in the pool built for movie star Esther Williams for the movie Grand Hotel.   After that, I hope to have a chance to talk to Governor Snyder about our plans to create double decker class rooms, that would allow a teacher on a moving pedestal to teach a class of 100 students, nearly double Michigan's current limit of 60.

Until next time, I bid you caviar wishes and innovative dreams from this hotbed of urban reform, Michigan's crown Jewel, Mackinac Island

Monday, May 20, 2013

Serial Trespasser's Arrest Brings Union Election Results into Doubt

Today, the Chicago Police Department was forced to arrest Chicago Teachers Union Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle after she refused to stop interfering with law abiding citizens who wished to use the elevators at Chicago City Hall.   Her arrest brings shame not only to Kristine, but to the entire Chicago Teachers Union who recently elected this serial trespasser to another term running the union's membership and finances.  I must think that had union membership realized they were electing a repeat offender, they might well have made a less controversial choice with their votes.

I mention that Ms. Mayle is a serial trespasser because this is not the first time she has been arrested.  We have manged to obtain the following picture from a June 2011 incident where Ms. Mayle and several other union radicals blockaded the street in front of an innocent Hyatt Hotel.  Shortly, after this picture was taken, Mayle was arrested:

I think we all must ask themselves what is a teacher like this going to teach students besides how to do their own prison tattoos (Mayle apparently has several), how to make a shank, or ferment their own Pruno from CPS orange juice and ketchup packets.  Sadly, this is not even the only criminal CTU member.  They have an organizer who loves to assault reporters by ridiculing their underdeveloped male equipment.   For shame CTU.  For Shame.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Last Stand for Children First Makes Endorsement in Chicago Teachers Union Election

Internal union politics is probably the last place that an education group like ourselves should be getting involved.  However, sometimes a candidate or a group of candidates come along that you have no choice, but to proclaim your admiration and support for.   In the Chicago Teachers Union election, The Coalition to Save Our Union is just such a group.

We do not like activist teacher's unions.   They bother us and bring visions of future class warfare or something.   Karen Lewis seems to have the Chicago teachers protesting something every single week.  We would much prefer a different type of leader, someone like Tanya Sanders-Wolff who knows that you don't have to open your mouth to let your voice be heard.

While CORE is all about confrontation, TCTSOU is more about compromise.   When the current teachers contract was negotiated, neither Saunders-Wolff nor Ochoa felt the need to say anything against it when they were on the bargaining team.  They didn't have to.  That's what power is all about. 

Even know, one can look at the web page, the face book page, and twitter feed of The Coalition to Save Our Union and you won't find a policy statement.   Their concrete ideas are that Karen Lewis is a bad President and that they:

1. Believe in power in the Streets as well as the suites
2. Believe that CTU must both organize and service members
3. Believe that teachers and school staff know best about their schools

When your policy goals can fit onto a cocktail napkin or matchbook, you never have to worry about breaking a campaign promise and isn't that refreshing? 

Finally, electing TCTSOU will make for a more democratic union.  Look how CTU meetings were when PACT was the opposition and UPC was in charge:

That is Democracy in action.  Everybody not only gets to speak, but everybody gets to speak at the same time.   It is my hope that any teachers reading this will join with Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Tribune, and Last Stand for Children First and support The Coalition to Save Our Union

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

Teachers make such a difference in the lives of so many children.  I know this first hand because I was a student in San Diego for nearly a year before coming to work at Last Stand for Children First.  In that time, I was a truly and unsung hero and I remember it fondly.  I had wanted to do a drive to have parents donate used mugs that we could clean and then present to teachers as our little way of saying thanks, but unfortunately I forgot about Teacher Appreciation Week until it was too late.

Teachers give so much of themselves to their students.  I really wish there was a way to give them more money.  Recently, Last Stand for Children First call a blue ribbon panel of experts in education reform together to look at ways we could better reward top performing teachers.  After spending 18 months and $20,000,000 researching different approaches, we came up with a merit pay system that we thought would be a great way to make sure the best teachers are rewarded.  Wouldn't you know it?  Backed by their unions, district after district has rejected our plan.

In fact, teachers routinely block all the best things we have designed for them---from equipping students with dog collars that would alert a central computer when their focus drifted from their teacher to making sure that the best and cheapest teachers aren't automatically terminated when layoffs come.  It just seems that the entire profession is given a black eye because of these few no good jerks who seek fancy retirements and $40,000 a year lifestyles at the expense of their children.

Keep in mind that this is a job where you work from 10-3 with every holiday off and 4 and a half months off in summer time.   We pay teachers an exorbitant salary.  I know this because my job at Last Stand for Children First puts me in a very high tax bracket and I am astonished to see how much I get hit for in taxes and don't even get me started on property tax.  I refuse to believe that adding a stables and a tennis court adds that much to a home's value.   Still, my taxes keep rising because I'm paying for these people to retire on easy street.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank Mrs. Ward who cheered me up in 4th grade when I'd go to her music class after Mr. Altino's math class.  Wow! was Mr. Altino a jerk.   He always smelled of cheese, garlic, and onions and he was sooooo boring.  I wouldn't have giving this guy a dog license let alone a teacher's license.   So many of my teachers were such losers.

So  thank you for all that you do.   You are shaping are future and I think I speak for everybody in Last Stand for Children First when I say it's really appreciated.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Girl Arrested for Unauthorized Science

With all the attention that the Czechoslovakian terrorists in Boston received, it is very easy to forget about the homegrown terrorists that we have to contend with in this very country.  Fortunately, police in Florida were on the case.   If you're not familiar with Florida, here's a great recap of some of the terrific education reform going on in the sunshine state. 

At 7 a.m. Monday morning, it was one of those quiet April days that reminds you that Florida is God's waiting room.   The smell of citrus and orange blossom was in the air as 16 year old high school student Kiera Wilmot skulked towards Bartow High School.  Unbeknownst to her classmates, the 16 year old terrorist in training was packing household chemicals and an 8 ounce plastic bottle.  The label may have said "water", but it could have just as easily read, "death to America."  When she arrived on campus, Miss Wimot wasted no time in mixing the household chemicals together in her bottle of death and putting the cap back on.  Investigators later recalled, "the reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke."

Police wasted no time in hustling Miss Wilmot to an undisclosed location where charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. She will be tried as an adult.

I for one do not approve of trying Miss Wilmot for this offense.  It seems that when dealing with terrorists, our criminal justice system falls far short.  What is to stop her from lawyering up before we find out if there was anybody else involved in her plot and why she hates our way of life so much.  Surely, Guantanamo Bay is where this girl belongs.

There is no room for this kind of experimentation in school.   If students wish to learn science, there are approved text books for doing just that.  Nobody has ever been arrested for taking a standardized test in science---administering, sure, but not taking.

There is no telling where this kind of behavior could end.   Chemistry is a gateway science.   If this girl is not incarcerated, next year she could be stealing neighborhood pets to direct before she ultimately destroys us all by creating a black hole in the middle of Florida.   I applaud the Bartow authorities for their quick and decisive action that no doubt saved countless lives.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Meet the Common Corps

We have been for a very long time now to bring meaningful reform to education with sadly mixed results.  We've tried to set requirements for our schools' teachers to teach to standardized tests so that they all teach the same thing and we've created common core standards to even further bring the type of standardization to education that we've been craving since efficiency efforts first set their sights on education back at the beginning of the twentieth century.

However, it's never worked.  Why?  Simply put, you can give two McDonalds similar recipes and condiments, but if one is serving all beef patties and the other is serving burgers full of filler, they're just not going to turn out the same.   The same is true of students who have radically different student bodies.

The Common Corps is our initiative to finally standardized the student bodies across all schools.  Over the next 20 years, we propose to replace our public school student population with Common Corps members.

  • While not all Common Corps members are rich, they are all comfortably middle class, which means they exhibit none of the food insecurity or post traumatic stress the seem so prevalent among lower income students.
  • While not all Common Corps members are white, they are very familiar with majority culture and will not miss any reference found on state standardized tests.
  • All Common Corps members are from loving two parent households.
  • All Common Corps members are fluent in English
  • All Common Corps members are of above average intelligence and none will require special education services.
  • All Common Corps members have excellent conflict resolution skills and can solve all problems by simply discussing things like rational human beings.
By replacing the student body of all schools with Common Core members, we will finally be able to compare schools on an even playing field because they will have exactly the same type of students.  This is an idea whose time has come and  the final step in our efforts to improve education for all students by replacing those students.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alternatively Certified Teachers Profile...Bonnie Kohler

Alternative certification routes are vital to attracting the best, brightest, and cheapest teachers to enter the classroom.  Just because you are willing to devote your whole life to educating our country's children, it does not mean you are willing to spend 2 years taking methods classes to learn to teach. Please read this great essay by Last Stand for Children First Fellow Bonnie Kohler as she explains what being alternatively certified means to her.

In 2008, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Baraboo with a double major in social work and sociology. After graduating, I soon realized that the market for sociologists was roughly the same size as the job market for interpretive dance majors.  I was hired by Starbucks corporation in the role of barista. I served in that position for 2 years before I broke up with my boyfriend and returned to UWB to attain my Masters Degree in Dairy Sciences.

I began work at a small dairy in Menomonie, but I longed to do something more with my life. Then it occurred to me, while watching Law and Order, that I could be a lawyer.  Unfortunately, I needed something to make my application really stand out for law school recruiters.  My college GPA was roughly as high as my blood alcohol level if you know what I mean.

That's when I heard about Last Stand for Children First.  After just 3 weeks of training, I could be working as a real classroom teacher in a genuine inner city environment.  I also learned, law school recruiters love to get applications form Last Stand for Children First Fellows.

Let me just say, it wasn't easy.   The kids didn't care what my lesson plans said they were doing.  If this was the day they decided to throw the waste basket out of the classroom window, there was nothing I could do to stop them.  However, imagine my surprise when we got back our test scores that first year and I learned that my students improved their test scores by 150 percent.  In fact, our whole school's test scores went through the roof.  The assistant principal and my mentor assured me that they went through all my student's tests after school one Friday and that they could tell the kids did great and that my increases were legitimate.  They also said, I shouldn't ask any questions abut it for some reason.

All my work teaching students how to fill in the bubbles on the test and how to make an educated guess and pace themselves pay off.  I was a real teacher and to think without the alternative certification program, I never would have been able to impact these students’ and their families’ lives – but equally as important, they never would have had the chance to impact my life as well.

Next Fall, I will be attending law school and then hopefully, I will never have to see another 5th grader again, unless maybe I'm making education policy.  I think I'd like that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Arne Duncan Loves Many Things

This list comes from the great Matt Farmer and an article that he posted in January of 2011 on the Huffington Post.  Arne Duncan sure loves a lot of stuff 

"I'm not a fan of charter schools -- I'm a fan of good charter schools."
"I am a fan of good traditional schools."
"I'm a big fan of choice and competition...."
"I'm a big fan of growth models."
"I'm a big fan of recess. We can bring back recess. Please quote me on that. I'm serious."
"I'm not a fan of hitting children. Absolutely not."
"I'm a big fan of [Randi Weingarten]."
"I'm a big fan of [Michelle Rhee], and I think Michelle's made a fantastic contribution."
"I'm a big fan of [Arlene Ackerman]."
"I'm a huge fan of Joel Klein."
"I am a huge fan of Paul Pastorek."
"I'm a big fan of what Tony Smith is doing."
"I am a big fan of (CMS) Superintendent Peter Gorman and his leadership team...."
"I'm a huge fan of Geoffrey Canada."
"Harlem Children's Zone; I'm a huge fan of what's going on there."
"Like the president, I'm a huge fan of Posse."
"I am such a big fan of what the 100 Black Men are doing around the country."
"I'm such a big fan of GEAR UP."
"I'm a huge fan of Miami Dade College."
"I'm just a huge fan of Reality Changers...."
"I am a huge fan of out-of-school anti-poverty programs."
"I'm a big fan of National Board Certification."
"I am a big fan of service learning...."
"I'm a big fan of performance contracts."
"I'm a big fan on [sic] programs like robotics programs, science fair competitions, career day when students get a chance to explore their passions and interests."
"I'm a big fan of Urban Prep."
"I'm a big fan of Teach for America."
"It is no secret that I am a huge fan of AP."
"I'm a big fan and supporter of TRIO and GEAR UP."
"I'm a big fan of supporting not just individuals but entire teams where you have high performing schools."
"I'm a big fan of alternative high schools. I'm a big fan of engaged learning. I'm a big fan of having every single young person have a mentor or role model, be able to discover their passions, discover their interests."
"I'm a big fan of technical and vocational training...."
"I'm a huge fan of alternative certification and getting folks like you coming out of industry and into teaching."
"Not a fan [of Xbox]. No, absolutely not."
"But -- am I fan of hitting kids? Absolutely not."

Where is Students First?

Like everybody who believes in putting students first, I have come to look forward to and count on updates from Michelle Rhee and her advocacy organization Students First.   Ms. Rhee provides a valuable service to the education community by holding teachers responsible for the success of their students.   We want to be nice and supportive, but test scores have consequences and if a teacher isn't advancing her students, it's time to put someone else in the classroom.

However, since Friday, Students First has been like a ghost town on social media.  Michelle Rhee hasn't tweeted, Students First hasn't tweeted or updated their facebook page and Students First cheerleader Tom Greene has made only one post all weekend.  I've never seen it like this.  If Students First takes the weekend off, who is there to champion accountability?  

I like to think that the Students First staff is probably off at a retreat somewhere getting ready to expand.   Maybe they've gotten a nice infusion of cash from Jeb Bush or something, but I am getting worried.  If you've seen Michelle Rhee please let me know.  I do worry.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Accidental Racist: School Closing Edition

Yesterday, I heard a great new song from Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool Jay.  Now, I don't listen to a lot of the rap music and like many education reformers I am quite tone deaf, but this song represents a coming together from a white guy who wants to wear his Confederate Flag shirt and an African-American guy who wants to dress fashionably.  One thing I picked up from the song is that while white people have done many hurtful things to black people over the years like apartheid and slavery, but most of the offenses that black people have hurt whites with are fashion crimes like wearing doo rags and gold chains.  It would be nice if we could get past it.

Now, in Chicago the school debate has made a lot of people uncomfortable with talk of racism.  The Tribune today warned that discussing racism is a very dangerous thing that could lead who knows where. I suppose there might be some racism involved in closing schools where black students attend, but if there is  I'm sure it's the accidental kind.  Wouldn't it be great if we could have a song for that?

Accidental Racist (School Closing Edition)

When I closed your school down, I didn't do cause you're black.
I tried to make it up to you with a an IPad and a new backpack.
But, when you call me a racist, I don't know what to do.
You see I don't think that way, I even bought a ticket to see 42.

Is it really all that bad walking down drug and gang infested streets?
It seems to me in Wilmette, it's worth it for quality seats.
There's no racism intended, I'm sure God only knows
Why white schools get new computers while black schools get closed.

I'm just your mayor, and I'm kind a new here.
I've spent the last few years in DC,
I've got an Ohioan advising me.
Putting this behind us is my only wish,
If you don't like the Ipad,
I know where I can get you a dead fish.

Hello Mr. Rahm, I appreciate your time.
It's nice to know you're looking out for me and mine.
I got a few questions you may be able to answer.
Why is it in my neighborhood it's harder to get a job than to get cancer?
You can't close down any of the crack houses all around here,
so why can you close 60 schools in one year.
Anyway, Mr. Rahm, thank you for the thought.
Being a politician must be great if you don't get caught.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What to do with Chicago's Abandonned Schools

Assuming that CPS goes ahead with their planned school actions, there will be nearly 60 abandoned schools located mostly in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.   In previous mass closings, the cities wound up losing a lot of money on the schools, which soon became abandoned and derelict.  Even The Chicago Tribune has called for the city to sell these buildings to charter schools, but the city has so far refused.  Fortunately, there is a way for the city to re-purpose these buildings.

Let's face it, research shows that students who are involved in actions like these have a much higher rate of dropping out and that is only going to give them a higher rate of incarceration as adults.   Since many of these kids are already growing up in a high crime neighborhood, most of them are probably going to wind up in prison.

Chicago has the chance here to become to incarceration what Silicon Valley is to micro chips.  Best of all, the private prison industry is growing almost as fast as the charter school movement hence our politicians will still have a steady source of campaign dollars. 

Now don't get me wrong, there is going to be some initial costs.  Unlike Chicago Public Schools, prisons need libraries and places for the inmates to exercise.  There will be a need for cells and fences and watch towers, but if we're looking for a tiny cramped space that can serve as a place to punish the worst offenders by placing them in isolation, most schools have a space like this.  It's usually used for special education classes.

The children are our future and if we can't nurture them and educate them, our society still needs to profit off them.   It's time to move Chicago into the future as incarceration capital of the world.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We're giving CPS a "B+" on School Action Plans

With CPSmaking the courageous decision to close 54 schools - we wanted to dig in, look at the schools, and see if the outcomes were in line with the position we announced last fall calling for CPS to abuse students this year and get it out of their system.

Below is our press release on our position. We think the plan merits a "B+".

Bottom line, while CPS is heading in the right direction, there is always room for improvement and plenty more schools to close.  Take a look! Do you agree? Because if you don't, you obviously don't care about the city's children.  Isn't it time you started caring about the city's children?  What a selfish jerk you are.


CHICAGO – Last Stand for Children First Illinois, a membership organization representing over a half dozen parents from across the city and hundreds of members of the Chicago Board of Trade, The Rauner 2014 campaign, and the Civic Federation of Chicago, has been closely monitoring Chicago Public Schools as CPS grapples with balancing its fiscal crisis and the staggering need to improve the quality of education that it delivers. Last Stand for Children First Illinois members are adamant that, above all else, improving student academic opportunities should be the single most important objective of CPS.

On Thursday, CPS announced its list of schools that it proposes to close or consolidate at the end of the current school year. Last Stand for Children First Illinois has analyzed this list to assess whether students impacted by school actions will be moved to a better academic environment next fall.

Overall, we give CPS a “B+” grade. While many of the proposed actions offer students significantly better access to schools with higher test scores, all will provide students with access to free laptops and ponies. Our Analysis used the following tenets. Each school that provided students an opportunity to get much needed exercise by dodging gang crossfire received 4 points (or an “A”). Those that eliminate one of the few places of stability from children's lives and thus teach them the important Zen lesson of avoiding attachments received 3 points (or a “B”). For actions that did neither of these things, we still gave the schools 2 points (or an “C”) for providing children of the neighborhood a fun abandoned building to play in.  If there was co-location as a result of the action that would allow students to witness a huge discrepancy in resources with a charter school, these schools received a bonus point because they will allow students to experience first hand the class tensions we enjoy every week watching Downton Abbey.

As an organization, we have a long history of evaluating things.   We received some notoriety last year when we gave the Cubs playoff chances a B.  This year, we rated Chris Brown as a "C+" boyfriend.

“Every child, regardless of where he or she lives, deserves fresh air and a chance at exercise.  What better exercise than dodging gang crossfire.  The addition of giving students an IPad so they would have something worth stealing was brilliant,” said Monica Caldwell, Chicago Director of Last Stand for Children First Illinois. Caldwell continued, “Many of these receiving schools have that secret sauce that poor children need to succeed and my own children will never taste, thank God. We also urge Rahm Emanuel to continue to authentically engage parents in the education process from Utah.”

CPS’s school actions are part of series of measures that CPS has undertaken in recent years to improve Chicago’s school system.   It is truly amazing how much the Chicago Public Schools continue to keep improving. Last Stand for Children First Illinois will continue to educate and empower billionaires to advocate for policies that will improve public education in Chicago even more.

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Last Stand for Children First Illinois empowers parents to become civically engaged, but we can't do it without parents.   I mean really, we're getting tired of  having the same old parent talk to the media and agree with us on Facebook.  We fight for smart education policies that put the interests of billionaires first. Learn more about us at

Mister Emanuel's Opus

If you've ever seen Mr. Holland's Opus, you will remember the amazing moment at the end of the movie when many of Mr. Holland's former students reunite to play the symphony he wrote, but never got to really do much with because he was too busy teaching his students and helping them in their lives.

I can only imagine when these Lafayette School students become adults and reunite to thank Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for closing their school and providing them with much greater educational opportunities.  One can't help, but feel sorry for these kids who don't even have woodwinds and must rely almost entirely on strings and one drum to make their music. 

Lafayette School is just one of 54 schools that the Chicago Public Schools are planning to close.  Lafayette's Illinois School Report Card shows just what a colossal failure it is.  With 98% of the student population living in poverty, should they really be learning the upright bass?  Why not teach these students instruments that they could play on street corners and help their families out?  It seems to me fine arts money could be better used on more affluent students in the first place.

Mayor Emanuel has never visited Lafayette School nor have any School Board members, but they must have done their homework shutting down this school and making these students go to a new school 10 blocks away.  It may even be a good chance for the 166 students at the school with special needs to learn some life skills.  Now, if only the parents would stop complaining and start letting the Mayor do what's best for their kids.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Controversial Video Game Draws Mayoral Ire

The Mayors of New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago have called on video game manufacturer Satan's Child Games to pull School Closing Fight from store shelves for it's over the top violence and depiction of urban life.

The controversial game manufacturer first caught the public's eye with Evil Bus Driver, a game where you tried to crash into buses filled with helpless orphans and force them off the road.  However, according to Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter, this time the game company has "gone too far."

In School Closing Fight, players take the part of either a hardened criminal or a public school student who is forced to cross into their territory because their neighborhood school has been closed.   The student gains points for survival, while the hardened criminal earns points by removing the students' IPads from their backpacks.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was outraged saying, "The idea that students would be given an IPad and then sent out into these deplorable and violent streets is obsurd.  A game that would encourage people to play the part of somebody who attacks students to get their IPads is disgusting."

New York Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would seek legislation to ban the video game, which "features an unacceptable level of violence."

We at Last Stand for Children First usually agree with these three great city mayors, but this seems like a big deal for a video game.  I mean it is just a game, right?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicago Public Schools Promise to Give Every Student at Closed Schools a Pony

Despite a reported 1 billion dollar debt, the Chicago Public Schools announced that all students at closing students would be given their very own pony.   District officials vowed to pick up the tab of approximately $2,500 per student for the ponies.

“Our research shows that children--particularly small children--love ponies.   We also have to consider that many children will have to travel further to their receiving schools.  Also, many of these students have seen absolutely no stability in relationships they've formed with people” said school CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a press release issued shortly after midnight.

District officials said they'll pay for the investments by "redirecting resources from underutilized" schools, which will be closed. But a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts revealed that many districts that have closed schools have realized few savings in the initial years because of significant costs to mothball closed buildings, transition students, move equipment and add upgrades to receiving schools. The average annual savings in the short run, according to study, were well under $1 million per school.

"Students can name their own pony Twilight or Princess or Sparkles or whatever they want, though we're going to discourage students from naming their ponies anything like Persepolis," Said Byrd-Bennett, "I think this shows that CPS has been thinking of our students all along."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chicago Public Schools Protect Students from Dangers of Reading

After the Chicago Public Schools wisely called for schools to round up the graphic novel Persepolis from its libraries and classrooms for presumed future burning, it was immediately criticized by the Chicago Teachers Union and Liberal Mouthpiece Kristine Mayle who said, "We are surprised ‘Persepolis: A Story of Childhood’ would be banned by the Chicago Public School (CPS) system.  The only place we’ve heard of this book being banned is in Iran. We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this-- at a time when they are closing schools--because it’s about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues. There’s even a part in the book where they are talking about blocking access to education. So we can see why the school district would be alarmed about students learning about these principles."

I'm sorry, but looking in the page above, I just don't see any similarities to CPS at all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

School Closings Offer Opportunities for Students to Learn a Trade

Commentary by Representative Jack Kimble (R-CA, 54)

Unfortunately, it's very easy for parents to get angry over school closings.   After all, neighborhood schools can be sanctuaries in a neighborhood of boarded up and abandoned buildings and the school community can be a family for children whose own parents are unable to provide them with the stability every child deserves.  This is a nationwide problem, but because Last Stand for Children First is so active in Chicago, I probably understand that situation a little better.

The problem in Chicago is that 30,000 students have left the system so it is necessary to close over 100 schools in African-American neighborhoods.   I guess, an "oops" is warranted on the part of the city, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing as you will see.

In Chicago, parents, teachers, and community members have been lucky enough to have forums provided by the Walton Foundation to allow them to vent to facilitators and plead that their school be kept open without having the pressure of actual decision makers being present at the hearings.    This free flow of information has been a wonderfully democratic process and I understand that at last night's meeting, several CPS representatives managed to stay awake through the entire two hour event.

Parents in Chicago are alarmed because as they head into a second round of discussion, 129 public schools are supposedly on the chopping block.  Everybody needs to take a deep breath because if not this year, next year there will be a third round where a bunch of new charter schools are opened.  In the meantime, this need not be wasted time for the thousands of displaced school children in Chicago who are finding out too late to get into charter or selective enrollment schools. 

1. Become an NBA Superstar:  Many, people from depressed neighborhoods find careers in professional sports.   Malcolm Gladwell says that to be an expert in anything takes 10,000 hours of practice.  With the schools in your neighborhood shut down, what better time to start logging those hours.  With this many schools shut, there is sure to be an abundance of unneeded sporting equipment.  Grab a ball and reach for the stars.

2. Learn the Art of Negotiation: I love coming of age stories where the heroes must make his way on a perilous quest through all sorts of danger.   Now, students can do this.  With gang territories in Chicago reduced to as little as a single block by drug fueled in fighting, student can cross multiple gang lines every day making deals and negotiating.  While it may be scary.  Surely, this will help these kids as adults when they're in the board room.

3. Learn a Trade: I have been a fierce proponent of awarding full employment rights to all American citizens regardless of age.   If we can work to reduce child labor laws, surely these students can learn a trade.  I don't know if Chicago has any working coal mines, but that seems like a natural.    Every year America imports billions of dollars of merchandise made by child labor.  That merchandise should be made by American children.

Sure, every child deserves a great neighborhood school with a rich curriculum, but sometimes you just have to let the streets be your teacher.  The idea of public education for all is an outdated remnant of the 19th century like parks and clean drinking water.   It's time for our young people to put their nose to the grind stone and make this a truly American decade in an American century.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Let's All Celebrate School Choice Week

It's National School Choice Week and I believe if there is one thing worth celebrating, it's school choice.  Choice means a great deal in education and even more amazing, it means different things to different people.  I think it's important that we celebrate school choice in all it's forms.

Charter schools across this country can celebrate school choice because they have the right to choose if they are public schools or private schools.   An NLRB decision this month declared charter schools private schools making it much harder to unionize.  However, a Supreme Court decision on recess appointments means that decision no longer is in effect.  I think that charters work best as public schools when it comes to tax dollars and private schools when it comes to labor and transparency.

This week we also celebrate the right of charter schools to choose who they want to educate and to get rid of students that they are tired of trying to teach.  I think we all should celebrate this aspect of school choice.

Of course whole states get to join in the party this week.  Take North Carolina for example where parents can choose what race they want their children educated with.  Anybody who saw the movie Remember the Titans saw just how tough integration was in the South, but just imagine how much better that movie would have been as two movie---one about a plucky white football team and another about a scrappy black football team. 

In New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago they are choosing which schools they want to support, which ones they want to continue to neglect, and which ones they want to turn over to private operators.  They way I look for it, if a middle man works in health insurance, why wouldn't it work in education?

Of course, with choice comes foolish choices.  In Seattle some teachers have had the temerity to attempt to choose which assessments to give to their students.   Fortunately, freedom can only go so far.  Have a great school choice week everybody!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Representative Jack Kimble Responds to Karen Lewis

[This article is reprinted with permission from Jack Kimble's personal blog.  He is a Republican Congressman representing California's 54th District and a member of Last Stand for Children First's Board of Directors]

Recently, it came to my attention that Chicago Teachers Union Boss Karen Lewis had made some extremely disturbing comments about labor history.  Here they are, but I warn you they're not for the faint of heart:

”The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just - off with their heads. They were seriously talking about that.“I don’t think we’re at that point. The key is that they think nothing of killing us. They think nothing about putting us in harm’s way. They think nothing about lethal working conditions.”
As you can see, she's practically calling for workers to rise up and kill everybody making more money them.   No less an authority than Michelle Malkin called Karen Lewis "Chicago thuggery personified."

Still, my complaint isn't that Karen Lewis is inciting violence, but that she was speaking at a labor history conference and acting like labor history was all about violent confrontations between labor and management.   Could anything be further from the truth?   Sure, there were violent trade unionists, but that was mostly from agitators and communists.  I believe a better depiction of labor history in our country comes from this 10 minute video that was made by the National Association of Manufacturers in 1940.

This is the type of employee/ worker relationship that I grew up with.   Workers would help companies and the companies would help their employees.  When employees wanted more money, they simply asked for it and if it wasn't too unreasonable, the employer gave it to them.  Even more, sometimes productivity grew enough the employers could give benefits or shorter work schedules for their workers.  That's the spirit that built America.

My grandfather was a friend to workers and businesses alike.  When there was a strike, some of his buddies and him would head down to the picket line and they could usually be counted on to break up a work action almost immediately.  Workers respected them and if they didn't, they were probably communists anyway.

Please don't be fooled by tearer-downers like Karen Lewis.  I wonder why people like that always want to stir up trouble.  The video talks about man named Manson who had a dream.  I think we need to ask ourselves, do we want to follow Karen Lewis's dream or Manson's?  I for one am following Manson.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Last Stand for Children First Awards State Education Report Cards

Today, Last Stand for Children First was proud to announce it's state report card for education.  Scores were generated by a wide variety of data and sadly, it shows that America's schoolchildren are not being put first and are not getting the education that they deserve.  Another education group released their report cards as well.  Whose scores are more accurate?  It's hard to say, but then again our ratings don't have an inverse relationship to the states' NAEP scores. 

  • Only 2 states received a B-, and there was only 1 C+
  • Only 9 states received a grade of C or C-
  • 22 States received grades of F
It is time that we begin to put our educational house in order.   The fact that very few states are making the grade shows a systemic failure across the American public education system.  We rated states on the following criteria:

  • The Cost of a Roll of Duct Tape - Duct tape is a versatile and effective teaching tool.
  • Teacher salaries - The less money spent on teachers, the more money can get where it's needed to help students achieve.
  • Corporal Punishment - States that allow teachers to inflict corporal punishment are less likely to interfere with a teacher performing behavior modifications like duct taping students' mouths shut.
  • Fraud Prosecutions - States that overreact to fraud are less likely to be great places to open a charter school or a child advocacy organization.

State Grades

Oklahoma 1 9 4 16 30 B-
Mississippi 3 10 1 16 30 B-
Kentucky 2 7 12 16 37 C+
Missouri 11 4 9 16 40 C 
Tennessee 4 15 6 16 41 C
Nebraska 6 2 18 16 42 C
Kansas 8 7 14 16 45 C
West Virginia 17 3 18 7 45 C
Nevada 20 2 18 5 45 C
Arkansas 7 25 2 16 50 C-
Indiana 9 18 10 13 50 C-
Alabama 12 20 3 16 51 C-
Iowa 15 6 18 16 55 D+
Georgia 14 28 7 8 57 D+
Idaho 10 22 11 16 59 D+
Texas 5 32 7 16 60 D+
South Carolina 18 13 13 16 60 D+
Utah 13 17 18 16 64 D 
Colorado 31 16 16 2 65 D
Florida 27 27 12 1 67 D
South Dakota 34 1 18 16 69 D
Ohio 16 29 15 16 70 D
Montana 28 8 18 16 70 D
Louisiana 19 23 5 15 72 D
Arizona 32 11 16 13 72 D
North Carolina 22 12 15 16 75 D-
New Mexico 25 21 13 16 75 D-
North Dakota 30 12 18 16 76 D-
Virginia 24 34 18 7 83 F
Wisconsin 26 26 18 16 86 F
Illinois 23 31 18 15 87 F
Maine 40 19 18 16 93 F
Michigan 21 41 18 14 94 F
Washington 35 36 18 9 98 F
Delaware 38 39 18 3 98 F
Minnesota 36 30 18 16 100 F
Wyoming 29 38 18 16 101 F
Pennsylvania 33 42 18 16 108 F
Vermont 41 33 18 16 108 F
Oregon 37 40 18 16 111 F
New Hampshire 42 35 18 16 111 F
Maryland 44 45 18 4 111 F
Massachusetts 39 46 18 16 119 F
New Jersey 46 48 18 10 122 F
Hawaii 51 38 18 16 123 F
California 45 50 18 12 125 F
Rhode Island 43 49 18 16 126 F
Connecticut 48 44 18 16 126 F
Alaska 47 47 18 16 128 F
District of Columbia 50 44 18 16 128 F
New York 49 48 18 11 136