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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

  • Chicago to Shutter 50 Public Schools: Is Historic Mass Closure an Experiment in Privatization?

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    As the academic year winds down, a record number of Chicago schools are preparing to close their doors for good in the largest mass school closing ever in one U.S. city. Last week, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 of the city’s public schools in a move that will impact some 30,000 students, around 90 percent of them African American. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed for the closures in order to save the city more than $500 billion, half of its deficit. "Rahm Emanuel actually does not have an educational plan, he has an economic development plan," says our guest Diane Ravitch, who served as the assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush. Proponents say the closures will hit schools that are both underperforming and underutilized. But a vocal coalition of parents, teachers and students has fought back, warning that the closures will lead to overcrowded classrooms and endanger those students forced to walk longer distances to their new schools. We go to Chicago to speak with Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which helped lead the campaign against the school closures. "They are making a very massive, radical and, frankly, irreversible experiment here on other people’s children," Sharkey says.

  • Obama Taps Billionaire Fundraiser Penny Pritzker for Commerce Despite Anti-Labor, Subprime Legacy

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    Billionaire business tycoon and former Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker appears headed for confirmation as commerce secretary, despite concerns about her business dealings. Pritzker and her family owned Superior Bank, a Chicago-based firm that collapsed after the Pritzkers expanded subprime lending. With net worth of more than $1.5 billion, Pritzker stands to be one of the wealthiest Cabinet secretaries in history. Her family started the Hyatt Hotel chain, which has come under scrutiny for her clashes with labor unions. The AFL-CIO says Hyatt has exhibited a broad pattern of labor abuses, including aggressive outsourcing, low wages and the mistreatment of housekeepers. We’re joined by David Moberg, senior editor of In These Times magazine. His recent article is "3 Troubling Things To Know About Billionaire Penny Pritzker."

  • Poet, Author Alice Walker Meets the Inner Journey with Global Activism in "The Cushion in the Road"

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    Legendary author, poet and activist Alice Walker joins us to discuss her newest book, "The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way," in which she discusses many of the dominant themes in her life and work, including racism, Palestine, Africa and Obama’s presidency. The collection of essays explores Walker’s conflicting desire for deep engagement in the world and for a retreat into quiet contemplation. She has also just published a new collection of her poetry, "The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers." A film about her life, "Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth," premieres this Friday in the United States. Walker also discusses the Obama administration’s recent addition of former Black Panther Assata Shakur to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list 40 years after the killing for which she was convicted, her travels to the Eastern Congo, and the ongoing targeting of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Click here to see Part 2 of this interview.

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