Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Wind River Arapaho Immersion School

To celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, Susan and I road-tripped out of Salt Late City, up through the Uinta mountains of northern Utah, to the the Wind River Arapaho Reservation in Wyoming. That's where our old friend Mary Headley runs the small Arapaho Immersion School.

I first met Mary and fellow veteran teacher Sadie Bell at the Standing Rock encampment in 2016, outside the encampment school. We spent a couple of hours talking about small schools and language acquisition and they invited us to visit Wind River. They told me about the work they were doing, trying to save Arapaho language and culture by starting a school based on language immersion.

Mary Headley and Sadie Bell at Standing Rock
The school serves a reservation community hard hit by poverty, unemployment, and high male incarceration rates. The town of Arapahoe itself has few businesses and no grocery stores. To shop or eat at a restaurant, you need to travel outside the reservation, to white-run Riverton. But the community has a proud history of struggle and cultural tradition that binds it together and has survived more than a century of genocidal attacks on Native American tribes.

Currently, this small school, which operates (at least for now), outside the public school system,and with little money and few resources, is a model for other tribal educators as far away as Oklahoma. For the veteran educators who created it, this school is a legacy project; today, they estimate there are fewer than 100 fluent Arapaho speakers. They are laying the foundation for what they hope will be a strong cultural identity and linguistic fluency and comfort among a new generation of Arapaho youth.

Children at the early-childhood school are immersed in Arapaho culture and learn literacy though play, story telling, song, dance, and other group activities. For many, the two meals a day at the school are their main source of nourishment.

We spent yesterday observing and talking with school leaders and teachers like former Principal Wayne C'Hair, one of the authors of the Dictionary of the Arapaho Language. The project of crafting a written language and preserving the language has been underway since the 1980s. Recently a team has launched a new Arapaho app for the iPad. Mary Headley and others are working on dubbed editions of several children's movies into Arapaho, the first of which is "Spirit Horse," soon to be followed by an Arapaho "Bambi."
Folkloric tales for children, especially animal stories, are being translated and published for use in the schools.

Monday, May 14, 2018


If elected, Lightfoot would become the city’s first openly gay mayor, and the first African-American woman to hold the job. She joins an increasingly crowded field of challengers looking to unseat Emanuel in the February 2019 election. She is the ninth challenger to announce a run.

Lori Lightfoot
“We have seen example after example of top-down dictates that do not reflect any interest in true partnership with parents, teachers and principals. How do we chart a new progressive course? How do we make sure we take our city on a new, different direction? I will start with listening to the needs of the people.” -- Tribune
Joanna Klonsky, Chicago political strategist
“There’s a misconception that you need to out-raise [Rahm Emanuel] to beat him." -- WBEZ
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
“Secretary DeVos has filled the department with for-profit college hacks who only care about making sham schools rich and shutting down investigations into fraud." --New York Times
CPS Parent Lawrence White
“We have to repair or try to regain those losses,” said White, who wasn’t even aware CPS had implemented a secret overhaul of special education until it was revealed in the WBEZ report. -- WBEZ
Eden Hebron, 15-year-old freshman at Stoneman Douglas H.S.
But since the March for Our Lives protest on March 24th,  the media attention to the issue of gun violence has also changed. “It’s starting to die down, a little, all the news and stuff,” she said. “When I see people moving on, it’s like, How can you?” -- Guardian
Dick Cheney
“I think the techniques we used were not torture. A lot of people try to call it that, but it wasn’t deemed torture at the time,” he told Maria Bartiromo. “People want to go back and try to rewrite history, but if it were my call, I’d do it again.” -- Crooks & Liars

Happy Mothers Day from D.T. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Can Lightfoot be the one?

Former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot is expected to officially announce today that she's joining a long list of candidates, including several other African-American candidates and progressives, running for Mayor of Chicago.

According to Politico's Natasha Korecki, Lightfoot has already brought on a powerhouse support team including:
Media Consultants - Snyder Pickerill Media Group. Ken Snyder and Terrie Pickerill are Chicago-based national political strategists who did work with the likes of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The group also handled three major mayoral races: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Pollster - Jason McGrath, of GBA Strategies, who's done work with Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos.
Finance Director - Gina Natale worked as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's finance director from 2010-2014 and recently worked for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington D.C.
Direct Mail - Adnaan Muslim of Deliver Strategies - Longtime lead SEIU Local 1 consultant on aldermanic campaigns. Firm's most recently worked on successful primaries for Jesus Chuy GarcĂ­a, Alma Anaya, Bridget Degnan, and Aaron Ortiz. And for other successful mayoral campaigns including mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms, Toni Harp, Sly James, Michael Nutter and Stephane Miner.
I'll leave it to you to parse the connections here to high-powered city Democrats. But the point is, Lightfoot isn't stepping lightly into this battle. While neither she nor any of the other candidates can match the size of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's war chest dollar-for-dollar, she apparently can raise enough to be respectable in that area and possibly find a pathway to victory.

Lightfoot, the only openly gay candidate in the race, says she's running a campaign based on the need for economic justice and police reform.

According to the Tribune:
Although she could struggle to find a base of support, Lightfoot indicated she plans to run as a progressive, a lane occupied in the 2015 campaign by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who pushed Emanuel into the city’s first mayoral runoff election. Lightfoot said she’ll work to promote neighborhood redevelopment, rebuild neighborhood schools and back Democratic governor nominee J.B. Pritzker’s push for a graduated income tax.
She notes that a recent study showed that on the West Side, the life expectancy plummets to 69 years, compared with 85 years for someone living in the Loop, seven “L” stops away. She lauded a group called West Side United, which she said came up with a plan to “significantly improve the quality of life and the life expectancy in those neighborhoods.”

In a Sun-Times interview, she came out against Rahm's planned $95M police academy, which she calls "an edifice to policing in the middle of one of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in our city."

She's also critical of the way the mayor has closed all the high schools in Englewood as well as National Teachers Academy (NTA), and blames Emanuel for hiring Barbara Byrd-Bennett as schools CEO without doing the diligence to know her track record as a "crook...trying to line her personal pocket."

If she pursues this line of attack, she will need a strategy that directs blows not only at the mayor, but at Paul Vallas as well. Vallas, Mayor Daley's former schools CEO, has a similar track record of school closings and replacing closed public schools with privately-run charters. He also is the former partner of Gary Solomon, Byrd-Bennett's accomplice. Going after Vallas as well as Rahm and former top-cop Garry McCarthy will be a necessary piece of campaign strategy for Team Lightfoot if they are to get her into a runoff with the mayor.

The big question remains: Can Lightfoot be the candidate who can finally rally enough unified support from progressives, unions, and within black and Latino communities to elevate herself from the pack and give Rahm a run for his money? Definitely possible.


We'll be talking about the upcoming mayor's race and more Chicago politics tomorrow on Hitting Left with another potential mayoral candidate, Ra Joy.  Tune in at 11am CT on WLPN 105.5 FM Streaming at www.lumpenradio.com. Download the app Podcast on iTunes.

Monday, May 7, 2018


Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA
... also pushed to arm teachers and called on schools to be “the most hardened targets in this country.” -- Washington Post
Derek Black
 We Shouldn't Call Teacher Salary Hikes 'Raises' -- EdWeek
Chicago Tribune Guild 
'We did it... We have a union' -- Statement
Charles J. Johnson, Tribune editor & union organizer 
 "We have been badly mistreated by a series of corporate owners, Tronc only being the most recent, and we've decided to take some control over the future of our journalism in the city of Chicago." -- NPR
Atty. Lorna McMillion
“You have a charter school that can, in one breath, say, ‘Hey, we’re a public school, don’t sue us,’ and in the next say, ‘Hey, we’re not a public school, don’t sue us.'” -- Texas Tribune
Greg Hinz
 I'm particularly interested to see if Police Board Chair Lori Lightfoot gets in [Chicago mayor's race] because, more than most candidates, she has a foot in all sorts of political camps. -- Crain's 
Afghanistan 17 years later...
 “They’ve got to screen everybody who’s going to be working directly with the [brigade],” said an Army officer who was involved in preparing bases for the new adviser teams earlier this year and who, like others contacted for this story, agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. “That means screening basically the whole damn Afghan National Army, and we’re way behind the power curve on that.” -- Politico
Steve Doocy
"Keep in mind, whatever [Gina Haspel] did" to torture detainees, "she was doing it as a directive and it was all within the law". -- Fox & Friends

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Vallas wanted Rahm to hire him to "fix" the Byrd-Bennett mess

Did Paul Vallas think we'd forget that he was Gary Solomon's partner? Former schools CEO Vallas, who, has already run losing campaigns for Governor (2002) and with Pat Quinn for Lt. Governor (2014), partnered with Solomon in forming Synesi Associates. Synesi was one of the indicted companies that hired Barbara Byrd-Bennett as a consultant, in return for her support in obtaining millions of dollars in CPS no-bid contracts.

It was Vallas who taught Solomon and many of the rest of his Chicago crew, the ropes in one of the great hustles of public schools ever. It often included placing Vallas underlings in district administrative jobs around the country, in exchange for lucrative consulting contracts, often to provide expensive, but worthless professional development (like SUPES) for district principals and teachers. Solomon, who once claimed to be using the "Vallas model", took Vallas' ball and ran with it, offering illegal kickbacks directly to colluding school officials.

When Vallas was Mayor Daley's hand-picked schools CEO, kickbacks for consulting contracts were common occurrences in Chicago schools.

Now Solomon and Byrd-Bennett are both doing time. Vallas is running for mayor against a weakened but still top-dog in the race, Rahm Emanuel. He tells the Tribune that he had the plan on how to control the mess caused by Solomon and BBB. Only Rahm, having brought the corrupt pair in to CPS in the first place, wasn't about the compound the fracture by hiring complicit, former Daley-guy, Vallas.

From Trib's Bill Ruthhart:
It turns out, though, Vallas has his own story of being rejected by Emanuel that left some lingering hard feelings. In 2015, when soon-to-be-indicted Barbara Byrd-Bennett left as CPS CEO amid a kickback scandal, Vallas said he called the administration to offer his services to help stabilize the district.
Those overtures, though, were rejected, Vallas said. Emanuel, whose campaign declined to comment on the matter, ended up tabbing Forrest Claypool as the next schools chief. He, too, left amid a scandal after facing a watchdog’s allegations he “orchestrated a full-blown cover-up” over a clouted legal contract.
“I was told that I did not pass the loyalty test. And, of course, I proceeded to tell everyone I know about that, because it really pissed me off,” Vallas said. “I knew what that was: It’s not about being loyal to the cause or the mission, it’s about being loyal to the individual. It’s all about politics first, and everything else takes a back seat. I didn’t forget that.”
From Sun-Times' Fran Spielman:
Notoriously thin-skinned, Vallas also tried to explain away the close ties he developed with now-convicted education consultant Gary Solomon.
Solomon worked with Vallas at schools in Philadelphia and New Orleans. In Chicago, he’s better known for master-minding a contract kickback scheme with then-Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Both Solomon and Byrd-Bennett are now in prison.
“Gary was the vice-president for Princeton Review, one of the largest education service firms in the country. They did business with hundreds of superintendents,” Vallas said.
“I’m not the one who gave Gary Solomon a $20 million, no-bid contract.”
True and yet...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Jean Gump, an American hero, dead at 90

It's May Day and thousands of us will be marching for social justice in Chicago, as we do every year. This year, I'm drawing inspiration from Jean Gump, who recently passed away at age 90. Jean grew up on Chicago's south side and was a life-long civil rights and an anti-war activist. She served four years in federal prison for her participation in an anti-war protest on Good Friday, 1986.

She organized against the racism of the Daley machine in Chicago and along with her children, joined Dr.  King in his 1966 march in Marquette Park against segregated housing. She also marched with Dr. King in Selma.

Sun-Times columnist, Neil Steinberg blogs about Jean this morning:
As a member of the Niles West High School P.T.A. in the late 60's, Jean Gump often sided with students against teachers and administration concerning Vietnam War protests. She became involved in protests against handguns and for rights for the handicapped. On two occasions, she supplemented her already large family by taking refugee families from Vietnam into her home.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
Gump was part of a group called the Chicago Life Community focused on protesting nuclear weapons and other tools of mass destruction. The group protested weekly outside the downtown Chicago headquarters of Morton Salt, protests aimed at the military weapons business of what was then Morton Thiokol Inc. Those protests, her daughter said, led to frequent arrests.
It was Good Friday, March 28, 1986, when Gump and two others cut a fence and approached a missile silo at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Gump and the others were arrested. She was sentenced to eight years in the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. Her sentence was later reduced to six years and she was released after serving four years and one month of the sentence. She refused to pay $424 in damages, a refusal that resulted in missing a son’s wedding because the conditions of her parole didn’t allow her to leave the state of Michigan during the parole period.
This Reader article from 1987 describes Jean Gump's moral conviction as well as her courage and commitment to civil disobedience.
 Ironically, Gump's sentence left her holding the key to her own jail cell, which she could unlock at any time. If she paid the damages and agreed not to participate in more protests, the government would be willing to free her for time served, says her husband, Joe. But for Jean that's impossible.
"It's hard being in prison, it's really hard, but I wouldn't be anywhere else. All the while I sit here everyone knows that disarmament is a crime but building weapons to destroy the world isn't a crime. It's something to think about."
Her husband, Joseph, died in 2014. In 1987, he was convicted of conspiring to damage another Missouri missile site. He was imprisoned for three years.

Jean Gump was last arrested in 2010 at the age of 84 following a protest at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Here's a powerful statement from Jean's New York Times obit:
 Most people go to prison for violating their conscience. The Gumps were sentenced for rigidly cleaving to theirs. Ms. Gump’s moral code could be condensed into a single sentence: “If you don’t act against it, you must be for it.”

Monday, April 30, 2018


Nobody's talking arming teachers any more. 

Lynne McKernan, seventh-grade AZ writing teacher 

Said Arizona lawmakers walked out of the Capitol on Friday without speaking to teachers. "In the middle of a crisis, they chose to adjourn rather than sit down with our representatives who have asked to speak with them for weeks."
"Other schools have the roof caving in," McKernan said. "We used to catch mice at our school. It was like a hobby: 'How many mice did you catch in your classroom today?'"    -- LA Times
Lydia Coffey, former KY teacher, now running for a state House seat
“I think women are just tired of feeling like we’re second class. We’re tired of white men in power telling all of us what to do.” -- Huffington
Mike Elk is a member of the DC-Baltimore NewsGuild
The teachers’ strikes have brought into sharp focus forces that have been reshaping the landscape for workers in America. Nissan, the union-backed Fight for $15 campaign for minimum wage workers and now the teachers have shown that after years of attack from anti-union powers, organized labor can still make a difference. -- Guardian
Michelle Wolf at WHCD 
“Trump is also an idea guy. He's got loads of ideas. You've got to love him for that," she said. "He wants to give teachers guns. And I support that because then they can sell them for things they need - like supplies." 
More Wolf...
"It is kind of crazy the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn't even in contact with Michigan. It's a direct flight. It's so close." -- The Hill
 Trump Lawyer, Michael Cohen
“Boss, I miss you so much." -- WSJ
R.I.P. Jean Gump
 A young, fully armed soldier who descended from an armored vehicle to arrest the trio had cowered as she reached into her purse. “Shoot if you must, sonny,” Ms. Gump said defiantly, “but I’ve got to blow my nose.” -- N.Y. Times