Justice Delayed Again -- Substance Trial Postponed until Jan. 7!
- Subject: Justice Delayed Again -- Substance Trial Postponed until Jan. 7!
- From: "George N. Schmidt" <Csubstance@AOL.COM>
- Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2001 08:00:56 EDT
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
August 14, 2001
(CHICAGO, AUGUST 14, 2001) Resistance Update: Substance trial again
postponed. This time, we go to court January 7, 2002.
For further information contact, Substance: 773-725-7502 or by Email
The trail of Substance (and editor George N. Schmidt) in the Chicago Board of
Education's $1 million "copyright infringement" lawsuit against us was
postponed ("for the last time") by U.S. District Judge John Darrah in federal
The trial had been set to begin on September 19, 2001. That date has been set
after more than two and a half years of stalling by the plaintiff, a change
of federal judges, and a vast array of bureaucratic bullying, media
manipulations, and expensive publicity stunts by those who run Chicago and
its public schools -- and their supporters in the national testocracy's
ministries of propaganda.
Instead of a trial date, another last minute problem (brought to the judge by
the plaintiff, Chicago's school board) again delayed justice.
So on August 13, 2001, U.S. District Court Judge Darrah told both sides that
he cannot grant any additional postponements -- but that the copyright
infringement trial would definitely begin in his Chicago courtroom on January
Those who are new to the resistance may need some background.
On January 19, 1999, we (the Chicago teachers' newspaper Substance) published
six of the 22 "CASE" (Chicago Academic Standards Examinations) in Substance.
The tests had been given to Chicago high school students the week before
January 11 - January 15, 1999).
Substance received copies of the tests from anonymous sources and declared
then that the time had come to begin a public debate on the miracle claims of
the Vallas administration and its abuse of testing.
The debate was about to begin, but not in the reasoned forms we expected. The
same day we published our little newspaper, the President of the United
States (for the second year in a row) told the world to go to Chicago to see
how an urban school system could be miraculously "turned around." For several
years, the close relationship between Chicago's Daley family and the Clinton
administration had made Chicago's publicity claims the centerpiece of the
version of "education reform" pushed by the "New Democrats."
[The Republican version was the "Texas Miracle" of Ross Perot and George W.
Bush. Both the Democratic "miracle" (Chicago) and the Republican miracle in
Texas were snugly inside the union-busting and teacher bashing versions of
"school reform" scripted by the national testocracy under the rubrics of
"standards and accountability." Both featured a relentless attack on the
"failure" of public schools that had begun under the Reagan administration.]
In January 1999, I was teaching English, serving as gang security
coordinator, and serving as Chicago Teachers Union delegate at Chicago's
James H. Bowen High School. Bowen then was a rough inner city school where
teachers liked to work and kids liked to learn. Made safe at great cost in
the midst of some very difficult places, Bowen High School served more than
1,300 teenagers (virtually all of them black and Mexican American) who were
not generally successful on the standardized tests that were becoming the
centerpiece of the national "education reform" movement.
For most of the years since my 1969 graduation from the University of
Chicago, public school teaching in Chicago had been my day job. After school
since 1975, I had edited (or written for) the monthly newspaper Substance. In
January 1999, Substance was in its 24th year of publication.
Substance was unique among teacher publications at that time. Instead of
treating our readers to the abstractions of most discussions of pedagogy (and
urban schools), we at Substance had always featured investigative reporting
based on our widespread contacts throughout Chicago and within its public
schools. Instead of discussing abstract fashions, we tried to stick to
concrete realities. Most notably among these was that little had changed in
Chicago's public schools since the tumultuous upheavals of the 1960s and
early 1970s. Consciousness may have changed, but concrete realities had
remained hard and harsh in the schools of the inner city where we taught, and
where most Chicago children got their education.
For the quarter century since our founding, we at Substance had pried open
major issues and helped bring them into public debate. The stories we had
told made us powerful enemies.
We had analyzed and exposed waste, cronyism, nepotism, and other corruptions
in Chicago's public education bureaucracy. We had regularly critiqued
Chicago's school budget, not only challenging its priorities, but comparing
Chicago's resources with those of the white suburbs which surround the city.
We had monitored our union, the Chicago Teachers Union (Local 1, American
Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO) and regularly mocked the obtuse political
machine that ran it.
Sex scandals were not beyond our scope, although they reached horrifying
proportions. Substance had published the first articles exposing the fact
that one of Chicago's most powerful school administrators' (James Moffat, who
had been associated with two generations of the Daley family) had been raping
kids in his office while serving as a high school principal. We covered
Moffat's criminal trial from gavel to gavel. According to the attorneys who
tried the case, our work helped bring that man to justice and get him put
Curriculum problems were everywhere. We had helped bring down an early
iteration of "scripted learning" (Chicago's strange "mastery learning"
program of the 1970s and early 1980s) and helped expose the wrongdoing that
put a school board president (D. Sharon Grant) in prison.
While others drifted into more fashionable ways of looking at the racial
divide, we regularly reminded our readers that Chicago (and its public
schools) had been becoming more segregated, not less, during the half century
after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that
"separate" was unequal.
Everyone knew us as both teachers and newspaper people. In 1995, we had
published an interview with the new head of Chicago's public schools, "CEO"
Paul G. Vallas. That interview was part of a long tradition of interviewing
leaders of the school system, even when we disagreed with them.
Working our day job as teachers, we had always made the time to keep the
presses rolling and help many of the most important debates about Chicago's
In January 1999, we thought the age of the testocracy and high-stakes testing
was the same as all previous periods in public school history. Public debate
would grow as people became more informed about a particular program. In the
past, the formula had been: Dumb idea; widespread compliance (from the media
and elsewhere); growing debate; eventual return to a bit of sanity...
Little did we know the rules had changed radically by 1999. The miracle
workers who ruled Chicago and its schools were no longer interested in any
criticism of their claims -- even if it came from a small newspaper with
(then) no full time staff and a very limited circulation.
The last thing Chicago's leaders wanted in January 1999 was a debate on tests
where people -- students, parents, teachers, and anyone else who wanted to
participate as a citizen -- could actually discuss a "testing" program with
the tests -- the actual questions their children had been forced to answer --
in front of them. We thought it was ridiculous to discuss "testing" in the
abstract. Some of us joked that discussing "standards," "accountability" and
"testing" without the tests themselves was impossible. Discussing testing
without discussing the tests was too vague to be useful. It was like
discussing an abstract orgasm. Only theologians could get pleasure that way.
Most people had to have the real thing in order to be informed about the
And, we thought, democracy required it.
And, we thought, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protected it.
We were in for a major (and expensive) surprise.
As soon as we published their silly CASE tests in Substance, Chicago's
testocrats began spending money, court time, and enormous amounts of public
relations to prevent the debate and destroy anyone who asked that it happen.
The miracle workers praised by Bill Clinton that cold January day (when most
Clinton watchers had the word "Monica" -- not high-stakes tests -- on their
minds) weren't pleased that Substance and I had let the public in on the real
deal. We had brought average people (not the priesthood of those who design
and administer tests) behind one of the curtains they hid behind.
Their version of reality was being challenged by a simple democratic
question: What's on the tests? We quickly discovered that question was not
"Standards and accountability" are fine. They are especially fine when applied
to other people's children. In the case of Chicago, two of the three leading
testocrats kept their own kids in schools where high-stakes testing was never
a threat. Mayor Richard Daley -- whose children attend Catholic schools --
had been a notoriously poor student himself (all the way through law school),
and we thought at first he'd see how single tests were a very silly idea.
Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas had likewise not been the brightest bulb on
the tree when he went to school. And Vallas's own children attend a
fundamentalist Christian Academy, so it seemed a bit uncharitable for Vallas
to apply high stakes to other kids but not subject his own to the same
rigorous standards and the same draconian accountability.
Testing is great, but don't ask to go over the tests. That's none of your
By publishing those six CASE tests, we had made the mistake of lifting the
veil of their carefully constructed publicity manipulations.
Boy were they mad.
Boy, did they do the unexpected.
Boy, did they almost get away with it.
What happened next even surprised me (and I thought I'd seen a lot of
governmental bullying and media subservience)...
Instead of debating the dumb tests we published, Mayor Daley and Paul Vallas
ordered their lawyers and judge to go after us. They went to federal court
and sued us for $1 million (ultimately setting the price tag at $1.4
million), while beginning the administrative processes to fire me from my
teaching job for sins I had committed in my night job as a newspaper editor.
They suspended me from my teaching job (ultimately firing me after a kangaroo
court presided over by their friends), even though the only charge ever
brought against me was that I published the tests in a newspaper of general
And they launched a major public relations attack (both over and behind the
scenes) not only against me and Substance, but even against my reputation, my
family, and our individual subscribers. (From the outset, they demanded our
mailing list and even got a federal judge to issue of writ of seizure that
empowered them to go to the home of every Chicago teacher in search of copies
of Substance -- a writ they never implemented, but had for three days!).
It was a nasty business, made all the more so because the testocracy's media
mind melt was almost complete at that point in history. In early 1999, their
version of the story was the only one being told (except at little corners of
the world like this one). The Testocracy was on the offensive.
We were the target.
Anyone who goes back to the Internet archives during those days (January 25,
1999 through mid-February 1999) can get some of the flavor of what was done.
(But please remember that the 'Net archives are seductively easy to use. If
they become the only version of history we know, we're in even bigger trouble
than we've been. The testocracy, in Chicago and elsewhere, has a pretty good
lock on the 'Net archives. But that's another story for another thread...).
No matter how vivid your imagination, you can't quite appreciate what it's
like to find out on the evening TV news shows that you have been sued for $1
million and denounced by your city's mayor (who also threw in a typical
threat or two), the city's public schools' "Chief Executive Officer" (who
made the mayor's threats precise and carried them out with relentless energy
and at enormous cost), and the President of the Board of Education (which at
the time was known as the "Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees").
At first, it was a testocratic media feeding frenzy. We were supposed to be
the meal, and it was supposed to be over quickly.
That was then.
They told the world I had stolen a million dollars from Chicago's poor public
school kids. They cajoled and threatened reporters who dared to carry our
side of the story. Their expensive spin and simplistic talking points were
all out there in public, played on the big stage by the big guys. But they
didn't end there, making sure that their same tales played also on smaller
stages (like the world of "progressive educators") by littler guys. The idea
was that wherever you turned, you heard the same version of things. If it
sounds like "1984" and the Minute of Hate, you're pretty close (and we owe a
debt to George Orwell for noting that it can come at you from totalitarians
of the "left" "right" or "center").
Imagine being targeted for that treatment.
Considering the media hoopla that accompanied the Board of Education's
original attack on Substance on January 26, 1999 (when they filed the lawsuit
and had Mayor Richard M. Daley, School Board President Gery Chico, and
Schools CEO Paul G. Vallas all attack us on the television news shows), their
reluctance to bring the case to trial in 2000 and 2001 is a source of growing
Now we're scheduled to go to trial the first week of 2002.
The Chicago Board of Education told a U.S. District Court Judge (Charles
Norgle, at the time) and the world (with the help of the Chicago media and
Education Week) in January 1999 that the "property" I had wrongfully
appropriated was worth $1 million (or more, depending upon the version you
got to hear). They are unwilling to try to prove under oath, however. They do
not want to subject their spokesmen (and women) to the rules of evidence. The
last thing they want is to have to prove to a jury that what they swore to in
1999 (that $1 million "value" for the CASE exams we published in Substance as
part of our critique of the testing craziness) was ever true, then or now.
Lies have their limitations; spinning eventually spins down.
Since our legal "discovery" has begun, the Board of Education has stalled at
each point in producing witnesses who supposedly knew the actual costs of
development for the CASE tests. When those witnesses are finally produced for
depositions, they succumb to massive bouts of amnesia and other cognitive
disorders. Already, the headlines could read:
"Chicago school leaders treated for Reagan's disease" or
"Alzheimer's suspected as PhD test chief 'can't remember' details of test
development in million dollar lawsuit..."
or (my favorite)
"Vallas finally shuts up rather than discuss tests, test costs..."
For example, Phil Hansen, has been Chicago's "Chief Accountability Officer"
during the reign of testing terror that was presided over by Paul Vallas
began five years ago. In January 1999, Hansen claimed that the costs of the
CASE tests published in Substance amounted to (by the last time Hansen swore
under oath to a number) $1.4 million. This was good enough for the Testocracy
(including both Chicago daily newspapers and Education Week's Lynn Olsen) to
publish Paul Vallas's side of the story, viz. that Substance and I had
"stolen" more than $1 million from Chicago's children.
Carole Perlman has been one of the belles of the psychometrician's annual
ball (the AERA convention) since she began delivering her papers to the
American Educational Research Association in 1976, but in 2001 she was unable
to be specific about how the costs had been paid out in CASE test
development. She even forgot to "renorm" Chicago's Iowa test score results
for the city's children after overseeing the "renorming" so that the results
went "up" again and made the mayor happy.
Masters of complex reality suddenly became limp in the fact of simple tasks.
Some speculate biological origins for the syndrome (perhaps the walls of the
new school board offices in downtown Chicago contain toxic molds and fungi?).
Others suspected that the spin fed to the public for half a decade had
finally run out when the questions had to be answered under oath and penalty
Faceless bureaucrats weren't the only ones spinning for Vallas and Daley
Some so-called "progressives" (e.g., Mike Klonsky of Chicago's Small Schools
Workshop) aped Vallas and echoed the million dollar claim to mislead many
here who otherwise would have supported us earlier. A great deal of support
that might have been forthcoming to Substance during the first year after we
were attacked was diverted by assurances from people like this that the
people of Substance were (fill in the blank for the thing you dislike
It was a neat hatched job from "right" to "left." It even included a sad
sideshow about "racism" that was repeated in the pages on a daily newspaper
with a circulation of a half million.
The whole show -- from million dollar lawsuit to whispering campaigns, to
media leaks to legal stallings -- was designed to put Substance out of
business, to get me fired as a Chicago public school teacher, and to
suffocate the debate over the content of the test themselves -- before the
facts ever had the chance to come out.
Slowly, the facts are coming out. More will cascade out in the months ahead.
In July 2001 during a deposition, Phil Hansen, still Chicago's "Chief
Accountability Officer" stated under oath that he could not account for the
money spent on developing the 1999 CASE tests.
In 1999, Hansen had told reporters (usually "off the record") that Substance
had cost Chicago's kids a million dollars (or more) by publishing the dumb
CASE tests. He also signed a federal complaint under oath that every
statement made in the Board's initial lawsuit against us was true.
In 2001, Hansen claimed that the "$1.4 million" he talked about in January
1999 was really the cost of an "extra year" of piloting CASE -- not the cost
of the six CASE tests I published. What Hansen originally told the court
(under oath) and the more than willing Testocratic media (at every
opportunity) has become, as Richard Nixon used to say. ......
Whether this constitutes perjury will have to be decided by others. As more
people realize now (than did prior to the selection of the current President
of the United States by the Supreme Court), what is "legal" or "illegal"
depends on what a judge says. Is it illegal to lie under oath in Chicago? My
bet is that the answer to that question depends on who is doing the lying and
for what group of powerful people.
Once we had taken depositions from Phil Hansen, Carole Perlman, and Bert
Kouba (the three people who supposedly knew how much those CASE tests had
cost, but didn't), we were ready to take the depositions of Paul Vallas and
other people who were higher in the Testocratic and media food chain in
We've waited for them to appear for depositions since the second week of
July. They're always too busy. As readers of The New York Times know, Paul
Vallas is now running for Governor of Illinois, based mainly on the claims he
made while running Chicago's public schools. Vallas seems to think he can
stall his deposition until as late as October, and already his lawyers are
working overtime to keep him from appearing in the lawsuit he blared to the
world three years ago.
This month (August 2001) is the first anniversary of the Chicago Board of
Education's vote to fire me from my teaching job and end my 30-year public
school teaching career in Chicago. That termination is on appeal in state
Meanwhile, the Chicago Board of Education drags on and on the federal claim
that publishing those dumb tests in a newspaper constituted "copyright
infringement" and the equally interesting claim that damages in a "copyright
infringement" lawsuit can be awarded based on the alleged "cost" of
development, and not simply on the commercial profits that are lost when the
infringement is taking place.
What was really happening was a media event, staged as a legal proceeding,
typical of the bullyings critics of Chicago's Daley administration are
subject to. Their plan was that Substance be out of business and I be ruined
by now. While they have hurt us (and cost us more than $200,000, if you
include both lost pay -- and benefits -- and legal costs), they have not
destroyed us. Although they used every tool at their disposal to ruin both my
reputation and the reputation of Substance, they have also had more trouble
than they planned in doing that.
The one thing they don't want is for the truth to come out.
That is why they are delaying the appearance of every witness for deposition,
refusing to provide even the simplest documents to us, and stalling in the
hope they will never have to stand in front of a jury (instead of in front of
carefully staged media events) and be forced to explain the facts, rather
than to simply spew their public relations spin.
Between now and January, we will continue publishing Substance and updating
the story of the CASE cases monthly while focusing the bulk of our space on
other things. But it would be a major mistake for anyone to underestimate the
importance of the CASE case in the development of the resistance to the
Testocracy. Chicago was central to the Big Lie that evolved during the 1990s
regarding "standards and accountability" and high-stakes testing.
The body count in Chicago (children forced out of school; teachers and
principals fired) since Paul Vallas and Richard M. Daley took over the
schools in 1995 is the highest of anywhere in the nation.
The teacher bashing in Chicago has been the worst, and until the May 2001
Chicago Teachers Union election, the leaders of the union had been the most
slavish in their subservience to the Democratic Party leadership and the
privatization, union busting, and teacher bashing agendas of the "New
We continue to need assistance in every way.
Those who can simply subscribe to Substance help greatly. I hope to be able
to testify truthfully under oath at trial in January that the paid
subscriptions to Substance have more than doubled since we were attacked
three years earlier. That is not yet the case.
We also want to begin to make a list of all of the people who will want to be
in court with us in Room 1203 of the Dirksen Federal Building (219 S.
Dearborn St., Chicago) beginning on January 7, 2002, as this interesting
trial finally (three years after the original assault on me and on truth)
Finally, we are always in need of additional research material on the main
liars -- men and women -- in this sophisticated game of "Liar's Go Fish" (the
card game. I don't call the game played by Paul Vallas and Richard M. Daley
"Liar's Poker" because the men and women involved in that 1980s series of
Wall Street scams (immortalized in the original investigative book called
"Liar's Poker") were much more intelligent -- and capable of playing a good
night of high stakes poker -- than the babbling buffoons who have overseen
the Reign of Terror created by the Testocracy in Chicago's schools since 1995.
I'll be updating this information in Substance and elsewhere between now and
the date of trial next year.
George N. Schmidt
5132 W. Berteau
Chicago, IL 60641
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