Saturday, October 07, 2006

Teacher Hacked to Death in Mexican City -for opposing a teachers' strike.

The following story appeared on Fox

Teacher Hacked to Death in Mexican City
Friday , October 06, 2006

OAXACA, Mexico — A teacher was hacked to death in this historic Mexican city that has been paralyzed for months by protests and violence, police said late Thursday. A colleague claimed the man was killed for opposing a teachers' strike.

Thousands of trade unionists and leftists have been camped out in Oaxaca since May, building barricades, taking over buildings and burning buses. The protesters are demanding the resignation of Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, accusing him of rigging the 2004 election to win office and sending armed thugs against dissenters.

Victor Alonso Altamirano of the Oaxaca state police said teacher Jaime Rene Calva Aragon was on his way to a meeting Thursday evening when he was killed by two assailants wielding hefty ice picks.

Fellow teacher Alma Rosa Fernandez accused militant leftists of killing Calva for opposing a statewide teachers' strike that was a catalyst for the wider protests. Fernandez, who also opposes the strike, said the dissident teachers have been receiving death threats.

"We blame this murder directly on the radical teachers' wings," Fernandez said.
Florentino Lopez, a spokesman for the protesters, denied the accusation and instead blamed the governor.

"This is a plan by Ulises Ruiz to provoke the intervention of federal forces," Lopez told reporters and protesters in Oaxaca's main square.

The protests began when thousands of teachers went on strike to demand higher pay. After Ruiz sent police to try to dislodge the camps in June, the teachers were joined by a broad coalition of leftists, students, anarchists and Indian groups.

Ruiz denies the protesters' accusations against him and has repeatedly called for federal troops to restore order.

In recent days, helicopters and military planes have flown over the protesters while thousands of state police have
gathered outside the city. Protesters broadcast alerts from occupied radio stations, fearing an onslaught was imminent.

Enrique Rueda, head of the Oaxaca teachers union, traveled to Mexico City Thursday and met with Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal to try and resolve the conflict.

After the meeting, Rueda said Abascal promised he would not order soldiers to move against the protesters.

"We have the guarantee from the interior secretary that there will be no military incursion in Oaxaca," Rueda told a news conference.

The Interior Department later released a statement saying "the conflict in Oaxaca will be solved via the law and institutions." It did not comment on the use of soldiers.

Clashes involving protesters, police and armed gangs have already left two people dead, and both the U.S. and British embassies in Mexico have issued advisories warning their citizens about going to Oaxaca.

The unrest has scared most tourists away from the city, which is normally popular for its colonial architecture and ancient pyramids. Business leaders put losses at more than $300 million.

Ruiz has been supported by other governors from his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held the Mexican presidency from 1929 until 2000.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who really benefits when referenda pass? How does your school compare? $5,400 bonus for Dist. 158 officials

Recently District 158 passed a referendum. The claim was it was for the kids. Who benefits most from the passage of referenda? If your school district is running a referendum this year be sure to review salaries and contracts of school employees before supporting any referenda.

To review the salarires of your school's employees visit The

The following article appeared in the Daily Herald.

$5,400 bonus for Dist. 158 officials
By Jeffrey Gaunt
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, October 05, 2006

Several top Huntley District 158 administrators have been receiving cash payments for opting out of the district health insurance program — while still receiving health coverage.

Under a practice that board members say was started by former officials, administrators received $5,400 a year when passing on district insurance.

Three officials with spouses who worked in the district were able to receive coverage under their spouses’ plans while still collecting the $5,400 incentive.

Three more officials are on single-coverage plans but still receive the $5,400 benefit because they don’t get family

Only one of the seven officials who were receiving the $5,400 payouts doesn’t have any district insurance.

Providing the “cash in lieu” payments to employees who don’t get insurance, which is not unique to District 158, is
intended to save on the $12,000 to $14,000 the district otherwise would pay for health coverage.

But board members decided to phase out the practice this year, saying they don’t know when the district started offering the benefit.

“I couldn’t tell you honestly when it started,” school board President Mike Skala said of the payments. “There didn’t seem to be any policy in place that defined that benefit.”

Board members said that in a closed meeting earlier this year they agreed to pay six officials the extra $5,400 this year but phase out the practice over the next three years.

“The board of education felt that there needed to be some control on the expenditures we were having in regard to insurance,” Skala said.

But board member Larry Snow said there is another problem: a seventh official who is receiving the $5,400 without board approval.

Superintendent John Burkey raised the issue with the board at a committee meeting but never sought a board vote before extending the extra payment, Snow said.

District officials said that because of poor record keeping under the past administration, they didn’t know at the time of the school board vote that the employee was receiving the cash in lieu payments.

And Burkey said he didn’t know the lack of an official school board vote on the one employee was an issue, given the person had been receiving the payment for several years.

“We couldn’t not give it to him,” Burkey said, explaining that the administrator showed district officials documentation confirming he had been getting cash in lieu money in the past. “Whether the cash in lieu was right or not, we gave it to him like everyone else. I told the board about it right away. It wasn’t a sneaky thing.”

Burkey also pointed out that the cash in lieu payments — which haven’t been properly documented — are one reason he recommended a forensic audit of the district’s payroll department.

Board members last month sent out requests for a forensic auditor to look into both the payroll department and site and construction fund.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

IASB Conference Sessions I Would Attend

Cal Skinner of McHenry County Blog has a great piece up about the courses offered at the Illinois Association of School Boards annual convention.

The Illinois Association of School Boards is holding it annual convention this week and weekend in Chicago.

There's one seminar I would really like to attend.

It seems to be about how the Carpentersville District 300 tax hike committee, Advance 300, convinced a slim majority of voters to approve both a 55-cent tax hike and a huge bond referendum.

Do you agree that a session entitled, "Organization and Communication--'Vote Yes Twice' Wins Big at Polls," probably refers to this springs massively expensive campaign in District 300?

I wonder if they will point out that developers and school vendors financed the effort.

I also wonder if the topic of "Mandate Shortfall Levies" being offerred by the Illinois Association of School Boards is about an existing way to avoid the property tax cap or one which its members hope to get passed next year.

To view the rest of the piece click here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

You be the judge. Do some public schools have a political agenda?

The following article appeared on the First Amendment Center website.

Tennessee high school OKs Muslim headscarf

By The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A public high school changed its dress code to allow religious headscarves after a national civil rights group for Muslims complained to the principal on behalf of a student.

A spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Emily Smith, 18, a senior at suburban East Ridge High School, wore her “religiously mandated headscarf,” or hijab, on campus for the first time Jan. 13.

Smith said friends and a few teachers told her “congratulations.”

“I wanted to keep it as low-key as possible,” she said.

Rick Smith, an assistant superintendent for Hamilton County schools, said he talked to an assistant principal who told him that there was “not a word, not a question by a student or adult of any kind” in reaction to the headscarf.

An assistant principal, Gary Lowery, declined comment when contacted by phone. He said the school principal, Cheri Dedmon, was out of town.

Khadija Athman, civil rights manager for the Washington, D.C.-based council, said the student asked about her rights in a Jan. 3 e-mail. A letter of complaint was sent to Dedmon on Jan. 6.

The letter said the student as a Muslim is “required to cover her hair in public. Ms. Smith stated that despite numerous efforts to explain to you the importance of the headscarf in her faith, you always found an excuse to hinder her. The various excuses are: needing her grandmother’s permission, it is against the school’s dress code; other students would feel excluded, negative image of Muslim would create safety concerns for Ms. Smith; need to speak to other schools in the area about how they handle the issue etc.”

The letter said religious headscarves are protected by the Constitution and laws that prohibit discrimination in public schools.

Rick Smith said schools have individual dress codes and that the complaint was the first one he was aware of in the county system.

“The school had a standardized dress code in place. Any kind of head wear was prohibited,” he said. “This particular item was a little different because it is a religious garment.”

He said attorneys were consulted and the principal “agreed to allow the student to wear the headscarf.”
Rick Smith said he did not speak with anyone from the council. He said the school system did not have a policy regarding religious clothing.

“It’s something we will look into,” he said.

Athman said the student advised the council that the principal “was willing to work with her. It was just that she wasn’t getting the response she could wear it right now. It was not like it was a hostile environment or anything.”

The student said she first requested permission to wear the headscarf in August but school system spokeswoman Cheryl Marsh said the request was first made “prior to winter break.”

“This hasn’t been lingering around for months but is a relatively new issue,” Marsh said.

The following article appeared on The Rutherford Institute's website.

Maryland School Officials Threaten Seventh Grader with Disciplinary Action for Reading Bible During Lunch Time
Rutherford Institute Attorneys Sue Middle School in Defense of Student’s Right to Read Bible

GREENBELT, Md. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a civil rights lawsuit in defense of the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of a seventh grader who was allegedly ordered by a Maryland middle school employee to stop reading her Bible during free time at school or face disciplinary action. Institute attorneys have asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to declare that prohibiting students from reading Bibles or other religious texts during their free time is unconstitutional.

“We live in a country that touts itself as the cradle of freedom and democracy,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “However, what kind of freedom do we really have when a young girl can’t even read her Bible during lunch time without being punished for it?”

On September 14, 2006, seventh-grader Amber Mangum, who was reading a Bible in the school cafeteria during her lunch period, was allegedly approached by an employee working at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Prince George’s County, Md. In keeping with school policy, students are allowed to read books or engage in interpersonal communications during non-instructional time at school, including lunch periods. Furthermore, published administrative procedure of the Prince George’s County Public Schools provides that “[s]tudents may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray before tests to the same extent they may engage in comparable, non-disruptive activities.”

However, the complaint filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys alleges that the school official informed Amber that reading a Bible was a violation of the school’s policy and warned her that she would be subject to more severe disciplinary action if she were found reading a Bible at school again. In defending Amber’s right to read a Bible during non-instructional time at school, Institute attorneys have pointed out that according to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2003 guidelines under the No Child Left Behind Act, students have the right to read Bibles or other religious scriptures during lunch hour, recess or other non-instructional times.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

School Superintendent Behind Videotape Scandal

The joke is on him?
SD 228 superintendent's 'funny' video may lead to his removal from school district

September 30, 2006
By Kati Phillips Staff writer
A school superintendent's job will be on the line Tuesday because he posted a video with mock teacher interviews on the district's Web site.

Supt. Richard Mitchell spliced his fake questions with real answers from first-year teacher interviews to make it appear the teachers stripped, abused prescription drugs and wanted to kill a principal.

To view the rest of the article visit the Daily Southtown website.

To view the transcript of the video visit Free

Monday, October 02, 2006

Golden Handcuff Award

Golden Handcuff Award

Since teachers have the Golden Apple Award I thought it only appropriate to have a similar award for politicians called the “Golden Handcuff Award”. Whereas the Golden Apple recognizes the highest achievement in the classroom, the Golden Handcuff would recognize those politicians with the highest achievement in garnering political contributions from the teacher unions. To get the Golden Handcuff you must have received at least $50,000 in teacher union contributions.

I call it the Golden Handcuff because once you have received money from the unions you are no longer able to lift anything heavier than a 5-figure contribution check. The heavy lifting involved in curbing 6-figure teacher salaries, $300,000 administrators salaries, multi-million dollar pensions, vouchers, endless property tax increases etc cannot be done when you are encumbered with the Golden Handcuffs. No sir, all you can do after your Golden handcuffs are snapped closed is sign on to (or sponsor) bills providing more money and benefits to the teachers.

Although the state does have a website to track political contributions it is not easy because the contributors can use many different names thereby making tracking more difficult. Of course the various teacher union organizations do their best to confuse the public. For example the largest contributor ($11 million plus) the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education (IPACE) can be found using the following names: IPACE, I.P.A.C.E., 1 PACE, !PACE, IPACE PAC, IPACE-Il, IPACE-PAC, IPACE-ILLINOIS, IPACE/ILLINOIS, LPACE, Ipage, IPACE-EDUC. In addition the various teacher organizations launder their contributions by sending money back and forth to each other in a manner befitting a Columbian drug cartel.

Therefore the $23 million total I have managed to come up with is probably low even though that is frightening enough. For example if you search for contributions from organizations containing the word “teacher” in it you get $16 million, for the letters “ift” (Illinois Federation of Teachers) $8 million, the letters “aft” (America Federation of Teachers) $3 million plus the IPACE $11 million gives you $38 million including the money laundering amounts back and forth. The largest 3rd party contribution to Blagojevich was $300,000 from IPACE along with $250,000 and $225,000 from other teacher union funds. And all of the money does not come from Illinois: over $1.7 million came from the American Federation of Teachers headquarters in Washington DC. Over $500,000 from the teacher unions has been donated just since Jan 2006.

You will notice that although Democrats dominate the following list there are enough Republicans to make certain that the union’s demands are met no matter which party is in power. The biggest donations in 2006 have gone to Emil Jones ($27,500), the Madigans ($40,000), Tom Hynes ($20,000) and interesting enough 2 Republicans Sydney Mathias of Buffalo Grove and Mark Beaubien of Wauconda, $15,000 each.

If this kind of vote buying isn’t “special interest” what is?

Bill Zettler

To see a list of donations visit the The website.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pete Speer's response to the dumbing down of our education system.

The state teachers unions and the the NEA have joined hands to nullify NCLB.
Local boards have been influenced by the local unions and their half
brothers, the similarly educated administrators, to reject NCLB money.

That legislation, as cumbersome as it may be, was passed to overcome the
under-education rendered by underqualified teachers in primary and secondary
schools. The 2004 report of the President's Advisory Commission on Science
and Technology indicated that when compared to the public education in
Europe, the entire Asian littoral plus Japan and India, the level of
knowledge and the curriculum requirements were generally below the 50th

Those well publicized 'Advanced Placement' courses in Math and Science?
They ranked at the sixth and the zero percentile respectively.

How did my state of Illinois react? The Illinois State Board of Education
is supposed to set standards for the field. Within the last year, they
dumbed down their standardized tests -- creating the appearance of higher
grades -- and normed up the results -- making the parents believe that
Johnny was learning. The last smooth move was to reduce the passing grade
on the certification test for History and the Social Sciences.

The schools rely on degree granting Schools of Education and provide their
certified staff for pay raises based on longevity and on additional
Education School course work.

There is no concept of Subject Matter Mastery. The buzz phrase is Content
Mastery -- just be able to teach what is in the textbook. Subject Matter
Mastery implies that the teacher has an undergraduate degree in the subject
being taught. Additional studies in that subject at the graduate level keep
the teacher up to date in his/her field. Implied is a love of the subject
that can be transitted to the student.

Education degreed teachers usually can not qualify for such graduate
courses. And if they do, they become lost.

65% in the classroom is a very nice folly. Illinois teachers took advantage
of early retirement and extraordinary raises in the last three years to
enable them to buy out and qualify for the highest state pensions. 65%
would have been corrupted.

65% will further enrich a system which recognizes itself as a closed union
shop, not unlike the UAW in the days before the Japanese importers started
building quality in their product.

How so we return Quality and Education Value?

The only answer -- and it is being done in San Francisco and other places --
is Competitive Choice.

After accounting for special needs children, each district must vest every
student equally in the federal, state and local tax moneys. The parent(s)
will then choose where to use that money: public, provate, parochial and
shiva (religious classes taught after hours), charter and even home
schooling. All that is required is certification by a (now reformed) state

Choice of a school costing less than the fair share will result in moneys
being kept in the District. Choice of a more expensive option will require
the parent(s) fund the difference.

Families still have dreams of interclass mobility for their children.
American must still have to compete in the 21st Century world economy/

Let us not drag ourselves down.