August 30, 2012

> >Chicago Headed Toward First Teachers Strike in 25 Years

>CTU files 10-day strike notice with labor board; strike date has not been
>CHICAGO - Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) filed a 10-day notice with
>the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board indicating more than 26,000
>public school teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals may go on strike in
>coming days. The notice is a legal requirement defined by state law. No date
>for a strike has been set by Union leaders. The House of Delegates will meet
>Thursday at
>4:30 p.m. to talk next steps.
>Should CTU members call for a work stoppage, this will be the first
>"teachers' strike" in Chicago since 1987. "This is a difficult decision for
>all of us to make," said union President Karen Lewis.
>"But this is the only way to get the Board's attention and show them we are
>serious about getting a fair contract which will give our students the
>resources they deserve."
>"CPS seems determined to have a toxic relationship with its employees,"
>Lewis said. "They denied us our 4 percent raises when there was money in the
>budget to honor our agreement; they attempted to ram a poorly thought out
>longer school day down our throats; and, on top of that they want us to
>teach a new curriculum and be ready to be evaluated based on how well our
>students do on a standardized test.
>It has been insult after insult after insult. Enough is enough."
>CTU has been in contract negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools
>(CPS) since November 2011. Teachers have been without a contract since June
>of this year after its five-year agreement with the District expired without
>a new agreement in place. Labor leaders have said they are negotiating for
>a "better day, job security and fair compensation for employees."
>Labor talks have been productive on some fronts such as winning provisions
>for nursing mothers, ensuring textbooks will be available on day one,
>teachers will have access to functioning computers and counselors and social
>workers will have appropriate, private workspaces to serve students. But
>the bigger issues such as wages, job security and evaluations are on the
>table and the two sides remain far apart. "We will have a contract," Lewis
>said, "and it will come the easy way or the hard way. If our members are on
>the picket-line, we will still be at the negotiating table trying to hammer
>out an equitable agreement. There's a larger picture here."
>Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been vocal in their
>opposition to CPS' draconian policies. In May, nearly 10,000 of them marched
>in downtown in preparation for a strike authorization vote which drew a 98
>percent approval from CTU membership. Only 1.82 percent of CTU members voted
>against authorizing a strike. Member angst was driven by CPS' overly
>aggressive push for a longer school day without indicating how the District
>would staff and pay for the program. Educators were angry that the Board
>made no commitments to offering students the much needed art, music,
>physical education and world language classes they needed.
>In July, and much to CPS' chagrin, a much anticipated "Fact Finder's
>Report" recommended, in part, that CPS's longer school day amounts to a
>19.4% increase on average that teachers will have to work, and he determined
>that CPS cannot expect its employees to work nearly 20% more for free or
>without fair compensation. Accordingly, the Fact-Finder's report recommends
>both a general wage increase and an additional increase due to the length of
>the school day: A general wage increase of 2.25% for School Year 2012 --
>essentially a cost of living increase -- without any changes to existing
>steps and lanes. He also recommends an additional increase of 12.6% to
>compensate teachers for working a longer school day and year representing a
>combined first-year increase of 14.85%, plus existing step and lane
>adjustments. Both the CTU and the Board rejected the findings.
>"We have chronic underfunding and misplaced priorities in the system,"
>said high school teacher Jen Johnson. "CPS would rather shut down schools
>rather than give them the resources they need. Thousands of students have
>been displaced by CPS' school actions. Teachers are losing their jobs and
>parents have no choice but to keep their child in an under-resourced
>neighborhood school or ship them off to a poor-performing charter
>Lewis said members are also concerned about the Board's plan to close over
>100 neighborhood schools and create a half public-half charter school
>district. "This education crisis is real especially if you are Black or
>Brown in Chicago," she explained. "Whenever our students perform well on
>tests, CPS moves the bar higher, tells them they are failures and blames
>their teachers. Now they want to privatize public education and further
>disrupt our neighborhoods. We've seen public housing shut down, public
>health clinics, public libraries and now public schools. There is an attack
>on public institutions, many of which serve, low-income and working-class
>T 312-329-9100 | F 312-329-6200

August 19, 2012

Meeting the Needs of Our Students' Futures

We started school with the kids on Thursday. I have been teaching for 36 years. I was a student at an urban school, and I have taught in a destitute Georgia school and rural schools in Illinois. I have never seen a more desperate time for my students' futures and more demand for preparation for their careers. What is particularly disconcerting is that we are not only woefully incapable to prepare them properly for the technology they will need in this new work environment, but that even if we did indeed have all the technology needed, it would be obsolete 2 years after they learn this.
Teachers are being cut. Schools are losing funds from their respective states. Administrators are walking are like basset hounds, fearing the next collection of bad financial news while demands are being made on their accountabilities. Where does it end?
The veteran that I am (and I intent to go for another 15 years) has been cynical about the changes proposed because states lose the philosophical fortitude for the long haul of following through on the new "ideas." This is different.
This change is sticking with us. I can tell you we in the western part of Illinois are feeling the urgency to do something substantive. We have no option. It is not about test scores, despite what we are being told by the state, and it never has or should be. It is about the realization that students can no longer say "I can just get a factory job and make good money" like they used to. There is no good option anymore outside of more and more post-secondary education.
What can fix this? I honestly believe that the move to charter/private schools is the exact wrong answer. The opposite is what we need--free education from pre-kindergarten through PhD. The A&R aspect instead of the immediate financial reward philosophy that has overtaken this country must be re-established. Do we have the will to do this? No, we don't in present form, but I think this is our only salvation.

August 12, 2012

We will miss Tom Wolfe greatly

DAVENPORT — Memorial funeral services to celebrate the life of Thomas A. Wolfe, 72, a resident of Davenport, will be 6 p.m. Monday, August 13, 2012, at the Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home, Davenport. His family will greet friends at the funeral home prior to the service from 4 until 6 p.m. Honoring Tom’s wish, the rite of cremation has been accorded, and his cremains will be buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Delmar, Iowa.
Tom passed away unexpectedly Saturday, August 4, 2012, at his home in Davenport. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Café on Vine.
Thomas Anthony Wolfe was born in Maquoketa, Iowa, on December 20, 1940. The son of Raymond Bernard Wolfe (1896-1941) and Gladys McGinn Wolfe (1903-1966), he was the great-grandson of Irish immigrants. The youngest of four, Tommy-as his sisters insisted on calling him-found himself deprived of a father as an infant and set free on not quite 200 acres of Clinton County farmland. As a result, he lived inside his imagination. He became his hero, Jackie Robinson, by throwing balls against the barn and scooping up grounders. He found stacks of freshly mown hay to be occasions for an intense kind of dreaming. “What I remember most about farm life,” he once wrote, “was an aching feeling of loneliness.”
Wolfe graduated from Delmar High School in 1958 and then, with support from an uncle, from St. Ambrose College, in nearby Davenport. He later earned a master’s degree in American history from Western Illinois University. Having decided to forego farm life, Wolfe began his teaching career in Blue Grass, Iowa, before moving down the road to Walcott, where he taught across the hall from Frances Cupp Wolfe, whom he married on August 1, 1964. The couple – a sometimes uneasy mixture of Irish and French ancestry – raised three children in Davenport, Bridget Colleen (b. 1967), Brendan Martin (b. 1971), and Sara Elizabeth (b. 1973). As the names suggest, Wolfe’s Irish side often prevailed, although he lovingly called his wife Françoise. She called him “the old goat,” only sometimes lovingly, and they managed until 1993, when they separated. Divorce followed soon after.
Until his retirement in 1997, Wolfe held court in a room at Walcott Junior High School (later middle school), mostly teaching American history. His great passion was for teaching, which took him back to the farm he never quite left: it was an exercise in imagination. A colleague remembers his closet full of hats. “He would put on a hat and act out various historical characters,” she recalled, and if on one occasion he actually tumbled from a windowsill during a performance, that made it only more memorable for his audience.
Wolfe’s other great passion was the teacher’s union. His wife, Fran, beat him to it, voting to strike on an occasion when he didn’t, and her zeal rubbed off on him. He served two terms as president of the Davenport Education Association, and was a near-annual delegate to assemblies of the state and national unions. For at least a decade, he served as Midwest regional director of the NEA’s Peace and Justice Caucus, and in 2012 the Iowa State Education Association presented him with its highest honor, the Charles F. Martin Award for Association Leadership. He accepted with a generous and very funny speech calling for an end to the bitter and unthinking partisanship of American politics.
Tom is survived by his sister, Margery; his former wife; his close friend, Nancy Porter, of Iowa City; his three children; and his three grandchildren. One imagines he has finally returned to the old Wolfe homestead in Clinton County, to the hay bales and reveries. “As long as I live,” he wrote, “I’ll associate freshly-mown hay with those dreams and yearnings, and I won’t know whether to be happy or sad.”
Online remembrances and condolences may be expressed to the family by visiting Wolfe’s obituary

August 5, 2012

American Plutocracy

Worker justice is unattainable if the worker has no rights within the workplace.  This seems so obvious when you stare at these words, but it seems that this concept escapes the majority of this country.  A strong voice with legal backing allows the 99% to bargain with the plutocracy when essential livelihood is at stake.  What happens when those rights are taken?  The greed of the plutocracy gets out of control, and poverty rises at a rate that is shocking.  That is what is happening in the United States, in Europe, and now it has creeped into a part of the world that seemed to be immune to such behavior:  Asia.

We Americans want a nice transformation to the ways of not living in fear of losing our house, our job, our comfort because of an economic collapse at the behest of our plutocracy.  The collapse of the 1920's was due to the manipulation of the Wall Street crowd who were reacting to the Teddy Roosevelt administration's handling of monopolies/trusts.  Franklin Roosevelt, a very wealthy man, came in and saw the direction this country was in, putting societal principles over the habits of the rich, turned this country around.  The rich were outraged, trying to cause a revolt against the American government by contacting General Smedley Bradley.  Bradley testified to Congress about the "Business Plot" and was ridiculed by the press.  Sound familiar?  The committee found evidence that he was indeed telling the truth, but no charges were filed.  Sound familiar?  The plutocracy has been plotting for years to obtain a stranglehold on this country and the world.  It is all falling into place.  They even have a television network that propagandizes their viewpoints to the under educated and have newspapers throughout the world to support these viewpoints.  This is all to our detriment.

Wars are fought in hopes of spreading their abilities to increase their wealth on the backs of the defeated.  The whole concept of Friedmanian economics is based upon this idea.  It was tried in Chile, and again in Iraq.  Create chaos to bring in a new financial system that favors the rich.  How is there a way to stop this?

The concept of the nice transformation is in danger.  As our rights get taken away by legislations such as The Patriot Act, we have been pretty silent on the losses of the First Amendment rights.  While Americans have been killed without a trial via the use of drone planes, we have lost our Sixth Amendment rights.  Some countries fight back.  France is always having strikes by workers.  Now Asian countries are experiencing riots in factories in which workers are being abused.  Here is an article about Suzuki in India.

The last line in this article encapsulates the result of the plutocracy's rule:  "There is ill-will, there is bad feeling, there is hatred," she said. "If there is no justice and no transparency, there will be no peace... This will happen again."

I am not advocating for the American public to riot in the streets, but I am asking the American public to turn off the cable TV, put down the beer, and find a spine.  We are being crushed.  We are losing our rights.  We are losing our justice.  Let's get it back.  Stand up for yourself and not allow this plutocracy to beat us.