Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Thursday, February 28, 2013

[Update: He's at it again] Gov. Snyder's privatization mess in Muskegon Hts.

Update: Snyder has declared a financial "State of Emergency" in Detroit. Whenever he does this, it give him the power to overthrow the elected government and appoint  a czar from the corporate world to run the city. 

What's left of Muskegon Heights Public Schools. 
Remember last year when Michigan's wing-nut Gov. Rick Snyder used his fascist powers to privatize the town and schools of Muskegon Heights?  First he replaced the elected city government with a hand-picked business czar, Don Weatherspoon. Then, Czar Weatherspoon decided to turn the entire public school system over to a for-profit charter management company.

Seven month later --- What a mess!

First Weatherspoon ordered the district to stop providing educational services at the end of the last school year and laid off most of its staff. Then he sold off all the surplus assets of the public school system from lockers to the flag polls and even text books.

When that didn't raise enough money Gov. Snyder stepped in with a $3.5 million “emergency” loan to help the pay off private companies like MESSA health insurance, Priority Health health insurance and Chartwells Food Service. The loan under the state’s Emergency Municipal Loan Act is the second one the district received. In August 2012, the state loaned the district $7.6 million. The school district also will use the $335,000 annual fee it receives for authorizing the Mosaica-run charter school system to pay off its debts.

Then they reopened as Mosaica and tried to staff the privately-operated schools with non-certified teachers and any principal they could dig up and get to stay for more than a few weeks. Then they spent millions on security cameras in each and every classroom to watch the teachers.

Last but not least came Mosaica's test-crazed approach to teaching, relying mainly on Scantron testing.

MLive reporter Lynn Moore writes:
Muskegon Heights High School has a new principal -- the third and some could argue fourth -- since the school was turned into a charter school at the beginning of this school year...The Muskegon Heights High School, as well as the middle school and two elementary schools, is now operated by Mosaica, a charter school management company. 
That's 4 principals (or should I say, "heads of school") since September.

Mosaica operates more than 90 schools across the country and in India. They have left a trail of mismanagement and corruption scandals in their wake since they ran into trouble for mismanaging a school near New Orleans. The Louisiana dispute led to arbitration. In the end, Mosaica was forced to pay $350,000 in damages. Then there was this cheating scandal in D.C. and that mess with the management of King High School in Philly.

The company already operates six Michigan charter schools, five of which fall below the 20th percentile on the state's ranking of schools. One school is at the 26th percentile.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Corporate reformers pour millions into L.A. board elections

L.A. Supt. Deasy, the man from Gates. His job is at stake. 
We don't know how the election for school board in L.A. will turn out.. But we do know that it will be the most expensive school board election in history with anti-union corporate reformers, including N.Y.'s billionaire Mayor Bloomberg shelling out millions to influence the outcome in their favor. At stake, among other things, is the job of Supt. John Deasy, the man from Gates. The election may also be a precursor to the upcoming mayoral election which is also shaping up to be a battle between pro and anti-union forces.

According to Times ed writer Howard Blume:
A coalition of local organizations, wealthy donors and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have decided that the election is all about keeping Deasy on the job and accelerating the aggressive policies he's putting into place.
This group has come together for the campaign through a political action committee called the Coalition for School Reform. So far it's raised on behalf of three candidates more than $3.2 million, including $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Education reporting the way it's supposed to be done

Congratulations to Colin Woodard, recipient of a 2012 George Polk Award for Education Reporting for his special report, "The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine."

Woodard writes:
Internal K12 Inc. emails obtained last winter by Seminole County Public Schools and forwarded to investigators suggest the company was using uncertified teachers in violation of Florida law, even after being warned by officials not to do so. K12 operates the Seminole Virtual Instruction Program for the district. The content of the emails was confirmed by Seminole County school officials...
..."So if you see your name next to a student that might not be yours it's because you were qualified to teach that subject and we needed to put your name there," Samantha Gilormini, K12's Florida Virtual Program project manager, wrote Seminole County teachers in February 2011. One teacher, Amy Capelle, balked at signing the form and pointed out that only seven of the 112 students listed on her form were actually hers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From the D.O.E. to Murdoch

Another high-ranking education official has figured out where his bread is buttered. Arne Duncan's press secretary, Justin Hamilton has followed former N.Y. Chancellor Joel Klein over to the evil media empire of Rupert Murdoch.

Hamilton becomes senior vice president for corporate communications. Klein, the former chancellor of New York City public schools, is executive vice president at Murdoch’s News Corp. and director of Amplify.

One of the hallmarks of the Military-Industrial complex was the revolving door between the Defense Dept. and corporate contractors. So maybe we should call this the Corporate-Education Complex.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parsing SOTU

"Tonight, let's also recognize that there are communities in this country where, no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead."

Obama refers to the MIDDLE CLASS 8 times in his SOTU address. WORKING CLASS, zero times. His only other mentions of CLASS are in WORLD-CLASS and CLASSMATES, one each.

He actually does use the word POVERTY 4 times and even calls for raising  the MINIMUM WAGE to $9/hr. Good, but that still leaves millions of full-time workers living far below the poverty line and without benefits.

He never mentions the words DRONES, KILL LIST, TORTURE, or GUANTANAMO for obvious reasons. Viewers may have just eaten and small children may be watching. We wouldn't want them to think...

IMMIGRATION REFORM is mentioned once along with STRONG BORDER SECURITY, MORE BOOTS ON THE GROUND and "passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line."

EDUCATION actually gets 15 mentions. Last year, as I recall, it got hardly any.  He's big on TAX CREDITS for corporations (do they need any more?) who provide jobs or invest in ed programs. He never mentions the words, TESTING, CHARTER SCHOOLS, SCHOOL CLOSINGS, or BAD TEACHERS even though they are the core language of RTTT.

One big change:  The past rhetoric about every student needing a college education to get a good job, has become, "...most young people will need some higher education." Maybe it's just the acceptance of the fact that college is increasingly becoming accessible only to the children of the wealthiest among us.

RACE TO THE TOP gets one mention where it's put forward as an incentive plan which "convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year." Is that even legal? Can federal funding be used to push the Common Core? Isn't he just feeding the T-baggers' claimof  too much federal interference?

Look out, high schools...

Obama says he's announcing a new challenge::

"... to redesign America's high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we'll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the skills today's employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future."

No mention of CRITICAL THINKING or even TEACHING. LEARNING gets 2 mentions -- LEARNING ENGLISH and "...the sooner a child begins LEARNING, the better he or she does down the road." I guess he doesn't realize that all children begin learning as soon as they enter the world. But we'll let that slide since it was part of a push for more funding for early childhood education.

Mincing words

Obama is the great word mincer. For example, he says he doesn't want "senior citizens and working families to shoulder THE ENTIRE burden of deficit reduction, while asking NOTHING from the wealthiest and most powerful." Well, thank goodness for that. But he then goes on to claim that retirement programs threaten to "CROWD OUT the investments we need for our children."

Old sick bastards, taking food out of the mouths of their grandchildren just so they can pay for a doctor visit!

And finally GUNS are mentioned 10 times including GUNMAN AND OUTGUNNED. Having invited victims of the gun-violence epidemic to the SOTU speech was a good move. And when Obama began naming them one by one, saying, "Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote..." I must admit, I stood up and shouted, "Yes! They deserve a vote."

But then I sat down and asked myself, "a vote on what?" What exactly was the prez asking Congress to vote on? No legislation was proposed and it's unclear what Obama and the Democrats are  even willing to push. Obama never mentioned the words ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN or MULTI-ROUND CLIPS. And while he did utter BACKGROUND CHECKS 3 times, two of them had to do with undocumented workers rather than gun buyers.

When it comes to gun violence (especially here in Rahmville), enough with the pretty speeches, Mr. President. Less talk, more action!

Oh, one more parse. The only time the word UNION appears is in the title, as in STATE OF THE ...

Where's Daley?

There he is. 
Carol Felsenthal at Chicago Mag asks an interesting question: "Where in the world is Rich Daley?" She asks because the former Chicago mayor has seemingly "disappeared from public life." Since leaving office when his public ratings bottomed out after his selling off of the city's parking meters (and anything else that wasn't nailed down), there hasn't been so much as a peep or a malaprop.

Daley made his mark as the nation's first big city mayor to be handed autocratic control of the public school system which, with help from his former city hall budget director Paul Vallas, he turned into a patronage wing of City Hall. Vallas became the first school supt. to be called, CEO. Daley replaced him with Arne Duncan who sat atop Daley's disastrous Renaissance 2010 plan, a miserable flop when it came to producing any measurable school improvement. It was quietly dropped and never publicly evaluated. But Ren10 did become a national model for closing public schools and turning them over to private charter school management companies and propelled Duncan to the top education post in the Obama administration.

But back to Felsenthal's question -- where's Richie? As pay-back for the parking meter give-away, Daley was given a job at the law firm that swung the deal, Katten Muchin Rosenman where he gets to travel to "do deals" in China. He also was made "an adviser" to JP Morgan Chase, where his brother Bill is a VP.

So don't worry about Richie. Chicago's schools may be in chaos and the murder rate climbing in his wake. But he's doing just fine. Don't they take care of their own?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Corporate reformers and union haters target Zimmer in L.A. board race


I have done several posts on various local school board elections which recently have become targets for corporate reform types bent on district takeovers. Their aim is to gain control of hundreds of school district budgets and shift money away from neighborhood public schools and into the pockets of private charter school operators.

In October, I referred to a piece  in The Nation which asked, "Why Do Some of America's Wealthiest Individuals Have Fingers in Louisiana's Education System?" and mentioned the heroic but unsuccessful campaign of Karan Harper Royal  for the 3rd District seat on the Orleans Parish School Board.down in New Orleans. She faced an uphill battle because the pro-charter, anti-union, corporate reform types like Joel Klein and Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings poured big money behind the campaign of puppet candidates like Sarah Usdin.

Now the privatizers and corporate reformers are setting their sights on Los Angeles where they hope to unseat progressive, pro-teacher and union-friendly board member, Steve Zimmer. According to the L.A. Times, an "outside group" has raised for than $1.5 million to fund past campaigns. Power philanthropist Eli Broad leads the way with a contribution of $250,000 to Coalition for School Reform, which includes L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Also in for $250,000 is billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, who headed the Univision network for years. Another $100,000 donor is Lynda Resnick, the entrepreneur behind POM Wonderful juice and other entities. Investor Marc Nathanson and his wife, Jane, have together given $100,000.  And the list goes on and on.
The clearest battle lines are drawn in District 4, which stretches from the Westside to portions of the west San Fernando Valley. There, one-term incumbent and former teacher Steve Zimmer faces parent and lawyer Kate Anderson. Zimmer is supported by the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, as well as other influential unions. 
 What other reason to you need to support and contribute to Zimmer's campaign than to look at who's opposing him?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Education, a $4.4 Trillion (with a T) Business

Sean Cavanagh posts on Edweek's Marketplace K-12 blog, that the global market for education is $4.4 trillion, and poised to grow significantly over the next five years, according to an analysis by an international investment bank that advises companies on educational technology.
Clearly, the United States isn't the only viable market for online learning—there are more than 3,000 e-learning companies in Europe, the investment bank says. [Update: I've updated this post to say that the overall global market for education expenditures stands at more than $4 trillion, and the market for the subset of e-learning, specifically, stands at $91 billion.]
According to NCES (Don't try and read this chart, it will only make you dizzy)  Americans spend more than $1.1 trillion on education—that’s 7.8 percent of GDP.

By the way, Gross domestic product (GDP) which measures the market value of the goods and services we produce, is not to be confused with gross national product (GNP) which allocates production based on ownership. This brings to mind a quote from Bobby Kennedy from back in '68, about the real meaning of GNP.
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 
"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."  -- Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pritzker nomination causing problems for Obama

The Wall Street Journal reports that the nomination of Penny Pritzker as the next commerce secretary would threaten to divide President Barack Obama's political coalition, pitting women's advocates against labor leaders angry about the treatment of workers at her family's hotel chain.
Last July, a group of labor leaders, including Obama ally and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, joined Unite Here at a news conference in Washington, where Unite Here called for a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels.
How can you say you support women while supporting Pritzker too?
What WSJ misses, as do some women's groups (the National Organization of Women is part of the national coalition supporting UNITE and the Hyatt workers), is the fact that Pritzker's Hyatt Hotels are most oppressive to the hotel chain's largely female and immigrant workforce. Female immigrant workers are the backbone of the hotel industry. Not only that, Hyatt chain is a global company and labor opposition to the chain and disdain for the Pritzker name is also global. Her appointment could create even more widespread opposition to the pick than anticipated.

And let's not forget the thousands of women teachers who have to deal with Chicago's anti-teacher, corporate "reform" policies being pushed by Pritzker and the rest of Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked school board.

It's doubtful, says WSJ, that union opposition to the Pritzker pick will sink Obama's choice. More likely,  union leaders will try and use their influence on the selection of the new Labor Secretary who will be replacing the do-nothing Hilda Solis. The good news for Chicagoans is that a Pritzker pick will get her out of Chicago and off of the school board.

More UNO problems for Rahm

The Sun-Times recent expose of UNO's charter school profiteers has Rahm ducking for cover. If there's a major investigation of UNO corruption it's bound to implicate Rahm and his ties with UNO boss Juan Rangel. This becomes a major problem for Rahm especially because City Hall lawyers are currently hard at work trying to get Chicago out from under the Shakman Decree which strictly prohibits politically based hiring, firing, promotions, and other job actions. A perfect description of UNO's MO.

Fran Spielman writes in the Sun-Times:
Emanuel was clearly troubled by the Chicago Sun-Times disclosure that more than one-fifth of the $25 million in taxpayer money spent on the UNO Soccer Academy Elementary Charter School went to four contractors owned by family members of UNO’s political allies and a top executive of the group. The fact that Emanuel is a huge proponent of charter schools and that UNO CEO Juan Rangel is the mayor’s former campaign co-chairman and a mayoral appointee to the Emanuel-chaired Public Building Commission adds to the political embarrassment.
"Who'd we get today?"
Best Rahm quote:

It comes from John Kass' Trubune column on the Obama drone strategy:
"Who'd we get today?" was the famous question asked repeatedly by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, when he was the pro-drone Obama White House chief of staff, according to Bob Woodward's book "Obama's Wars."Emanuel's was a gleeful question, full of bureaucratic malice, asked by a man with his loafers on safe White House carpets. Those same carpets still caress Obama's shoes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Standard & Poor's -- No standards but a lot of folks made poor

Forget for a brief moment that the current Illinois teacher-pension crisis is a manufactured one, caused primarily by the state's inability or unwillingness to raise enough revenue to make it's necessary contribution to the pension fund. Forget also for a brief moment, that the state legislature grabbed millions from that fund, into which retirees had been paying out of their take-home pay for decades and used that money to pay off other debts.

Let's look for a moment instead at how the threat by Gov. Quinn, and other Dems,of a reduced state credit rating by Standard & Poor's, was used to try and steamroll the legislature into passing SB1. That bill would have dropped an unconstitutional bomb on the cost-of-living adjustments and the health care contributions being made by the state to aged, sick and poorest retirees.

S&P, which is owned by McGraw-Hill Publishers (one of the nation's largest testing and textbook companies) went along with the pension-crisis narrative and announced on January 24th that IL's credit rating has been downgraded again making it the nation's lowest.

ABC reported,
"Standard & Poors analysts said even if Illinois is able to pass pension legislation soon, the state is likely to face a legal challenge, so it could be years before the budget situation or the unfunded liability improve. That, along with an income tax increase that's scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2015, contribute to the state's negative economic outlook."
And you can count on those S&P analysts to make an honest assessment of a state's credit worthiness. Right? Well let's have a look and see.

Today, the Justice Dept. announced that it was suing S&P for its actions in rating the complex securities that helped cause the global financial crisis by misleading investors with falsely high credit ratings on bonds backed by toxic subprime mortgages.

According to the L.A. Times:
S&P executives were motivated by a desire to increase the company's profits and delayed downgrading its AAA ratings on the mortgage-backed securities because it did not want to lose business from banks trying to package bad loans for sale to investors to get them off their books...
Lisa Madigan announces S&P suit. 
 In addition to the federal suit, California, Illinois and several other states filed their own suits against S&P on Tuesday on top of some existing state suits. S&P's intentionally misleading information of these securities could have contributed to the drubbing many state pension funds took during the past five years. The actions mean that 16 states and the District of Columbia will have suits against S&P.

The irony here is that it was Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan who announced the state's suit against S&P while her father, political machine boss Mike Madigan, along with Quinn, used the threat of a poor S&P rating to launch the stampede on the pension fund.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Where are the federal prosecutors? Are Rahm, Rangel too big to take down?

UNO Soccer Academy Elementary Charter School 
The Sun-Times is doing all the heavy lifting on this one. Another expose of the sickening blend of school and City Hall corruption that is driving Chicago's so-called "school reform." Closing possibly hundreds of the city's neighborhood schools and handing them over private charter school prifiteers like UNO's Juan Rangel has become the centerpiece of Rahm Emanuel's citywide gentrification plan.

S-T reports:
More than one-fifth of the taxpayer money spent on the Soccer Academy Elementary project went to four contractors owned by family members of UNO’s political allies and a top executive of the group, records show...The state money that UNO got is powering the organization’s rapid expansion and helping solidify its growing political might at a time the city school system is facing a budget crisis and talking about closing schools. 
Here's the comple list:

It's what happens when you put a patronage-minded mayor of America's most corrupt city, in charge of the public schools and turn public education into a wing on City Hall. There has never been a city more in need of an elected school board.

And where are the federal prosecutors on this one? Are Rangel and UNO too big to fall?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

CSGF, a hedge fund for charter school expansion

Did you know there was a special Charter School Growth Fund?  The fund raises money from private investors and then pours millions into selected charter schools through their private operators thereby creating yet another tier of competing "public" schools.

They even make real estate loans to the charter operators, charging them interest in the process, "to help charter school operators within our portfolio finance school facilities at more attractive rates and terms."
Kind of a bank for the private charter management companies. Investors include names like Gates, Walton, Bradley, Dell, etc...

The board of CSGF consists of these heavy hitters:
  • John Fisher, President of Pisces, Inc. and founding Partner of Sansome Partners, a private equity investment group with investments in timber, hotels, etc...
  • Greg Penner, General Partner at Madrone Capital Partners, an investment management firm based in Menlo Park, California. Penner was the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Wal-Mart Japan. Penner is a Member of the Board of Directors at Wal-Mart Stores (U.S.), (Beijing), Cuill, Inc., and Global Hyatt Corporation.
  • Michael W. Grebe, President and CEO of the right-wing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
  • Mason Hawkins, Chairman and CEO of Southeastern Asset Management, Inc. and is a current board member of KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools. (Gee, do you think KIPP is on the receiving end of CSGF money?)
  • James C. Rahn, President of the Kern Family Foundation.
  • Allan C. Golston, President of U.S. Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Kevin Hall, before joining CSGF, Hall served as the Chief Operating Officer of The Broad Foundation 
What you say? No educators on the board? Get real.

Oh, in case you were wondering, a  CREDO study, the results of which, (un-skeptically reported by Sean Cavanagh at EdWeek), supposedly offers proof (test score results) that those charters getting millions more in CSGF money, "produced greater academic gains than both traditional public schools and other charter networks."

Of course they did.

You see, CSGF only funds higher scoring charter networks. It's comparable to selective enrollment schools, which admit only the highest scoring kids, then bragging that their test scores are higher than neighborhood schools which take in all kids.

With this kind of financial backing, it's easy to see why cash-strapped urban school districts want to attract heavily-funded charter schools while closing resource-starved neighborhood schools.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Immelt, Obama's man from G.E. stepping down

“Adoption of the Common Core by states was a historic event in education and one we believe will dramatically alter the landscape of education forever,” said Bob Corcoran, president of the GE Foundation."
Jeffery Immelt is the chairman and chief executive of G.E., the largest corporation in the U.S. and a company that rakes in about $15 billion/yr. yet pays not a penny in U.S. taxes. In fact, in 2010 the company actually received tax credits of $3.2 billion dollars while at the same time, wringing millions in wage and benefit concessions from its workers. Pretty slick, huh?

Immelt and Obama
That didn't stop Obama from making Jeffery Immelt, a Republican, his top outside economic adviser as head of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Now that the president has disbanded the Council, Immelt can trot on back to his post at G.E. where he can build more nukes and invest company profits overseas to avoid the IRS.

While the company is glad to get him back in the front office, his two years as part of Team Obama were not without its benefits for Immelt and G.E.. According to the WSJ, in a note to all the members of the council Immelt thanked them for their work and specifically mentioned the fast-tracking (no-bid contracts) key projects and selling more leases for both oil and fracking for natural gas.  GE doubled the number of engineering interns it hires to 3,600 as part of its work on the Jobs Council.

Immelt, with the help of Hillary Clinton, was also able to help G.E. move thousands of jobs to China to help build nuclear reactor parts to export to India (Whew! Hard to keep up.) GE-Hitachi also builds advanced nuclear reactors and wants China First Heavy Industries Group, a state-run Chinese company that is directly involved in Chinese nuclear weapons production, to build major components.

Asked whether he would answer a call from the president in his second term, Mr. Immelt said: “I’d say I’ve had the honor of serving you already, Mr. President.” Adding, “At the end of the day what you really want me doing is selling jet engines.”

What a guy!

What has all this got to do with education?  G.E. under Immelt's direction somehow avoids paying any taxes in this country that might go to support public education and the public school and university training of his company's engineers and scientists. Also, the G.E. Foundation underwrites a lot of corporate-style school "reform" and is one of the main backers of Common Core Standards and testing.

Look who's 'leaning' on pols to cut more out of pensions

THE POWER BEHIND THE PENSION GRAB -- Second from left, R. Eden Martin, past president of the Civic Committee ,Lester Crown, chairman of Henry Crown & Co., and Tyrone Fahner, head of the Civic Committee and former chairman of the management committee at the Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.
An editorial in today's Sun-Times unmasks the real power and the face behind the current attacks on the pensions and health care supports for retired teachers and public workers. It's the face of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and its union-hating leader, Ty Fahner.

While the leaders of both parties worry about union opposition to their proposed pension-cutting billls, Sen. Pres. Cullerton is whining about the undue influence Fahner and his boys are having on the legislature as it tries to find a successful route in the current pension grab.
Cullerton, for example, says he can’t get House Minority Leader Tom Cross on board with his favored pension cost-cutting plan because Cross is being on leaned by the Civic Committee, which says the plan doesn’t save enough money. Cross and Republicans, Cullerton said, “are getting pressure from people like Ty Fahner saying: Vote no. . . . You’ve got to save more.” 
The one thing Fahner won't tolerate from either Cullerton or Cross is any talk of a progressive state income tax and an end to the ridiculous tax breaks being given the the state's largest corporations. These two things would go a long way towards saving retiree pensions and solving some of the state's budget problems.