Show Us Who You Are By the Company You Keep

by Erin Geary

May 3, 2023

It has often been said that you are not only judged by your own actions but also by the company you keep. This can be said of Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson who was not a household name to most, making his rise to mayorship unlikely. He had no past leadership skills on his resume, no past budgetary skills, and his vision for Chicago’s future was based on rhetoric lacking any substance.

But you must give credit where credit is due. Johnson’s Chicago Teachers Union connections certainly helped his rise to the Cook County commissionership, and both promoted his election. Meanwhile, Johnson honed his skills wooing Chicago’s vacuous youth with platitudes and a social media presence. He learned well from the elections of former-President Barack Obama who also used inexperience, wide grins, and the articulation of idealism without any specifics to propel him forward. Both are great salesmen.

Because of Johnson’s lack of experience, I took a keen interest in his transition team. Having been a former Chicago Public School (CPS), suburban public school, and Catholic school educator who is now a volunteer tutor at Project H.O.O.D. in Woodlawn, I was drawn to those whom Brandon was choosing to guide him regarding education. After all, the people and organizations he chooses are a reflection of where we are headed. As you’d expect, all entities list some sort of diversity, equity, and inclusion goal on their websites. But doesn’t everyone now?

What piqued my interest were two operations, in particular: People’s Unity Platform and Journey for Justice Alliance. As if you can’t tell by their titles, each is concerned with more Left-leaning ideals.

Viewing the site of the People’s Unity Platform there are things missing. One is a list of those in charge because there isn’t one chairperson, president, or leader. Instead, it is a collective unit of progressive unions and activist organizations. Yet, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, Kennedy Bartley represents People’s Unity Platform for Brandon Johnson’s team while concurrently having the role of Legislative Director of United Working Families.

According to her own introduction on the United Working Families (UWF) site, Kennedy was made aware of UWF by Stacy Davis Gates, current sitting president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Kennedy wrote, “UWF takes power to give power, a place that is truly #ForTheMany.” Although no organizers names are listed on the People’s Unity Platform site, its most recognized coalition partners include the SEIU, the CTU, and the UFW.

Is it coincidental that the Chicago Teachers Union is partnering with the SEIU and UFW? I think not. Mayor-elect Johnson never hid his progressiveness from voters and has gone full tilt with those he has chosen for his transition team. Another familiar name on Johnson’s education subcommittee is Jackson Potter. Potter was instrumental in the creation of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE), which became an aggressive, agitating, political arm of the CTU.

The communal leadership at the People’s Unity Platform is only the first red flag of this platform. It’s site is, also, absent of any polite tone while presenting six “demands” for a better Chicago: climate, worker’s rights, violence prevention, public safety and health, housing, and education. Their site uses phrases like, “end sacrifice zones,” which refers to the inequities of which neighborhoods receive new factory construction. They also promote “reparations for survivors of police torture.”

It’s a bit off-putting that climate is the first, prominent issue and education is last given that Johnson is a former teacher. Nonetheless, The People’s Unity Platform demands that CPS is

fully funded, which makes me wonder what that even means. With a budget exceeding $9 billion and dwindling student enrollments, how much more fully funded can CPS be? But the People’s Unity Platform’s educational goals are rooted in hiring more teachers, counselors, and nurses while anticipating CPS’s use of “transformative curriculum.”

Through transformative curriculum and learning, students use their own experiences to connect with and make judgements about the world. For example, a social studies lesson will be less about the memorization of dates, famous battles, and those in history; instead, social studies curriculum will emphasize the impacts of historic decisions from various points of view. In so doing, students will make connections between unjust decisions of the past and bridge them to today, thus becoming the next advocates of change in their communities and beyond. As IGI Global states, it is “education that recognizes inequities and endeavors to create a more just society.” Putting it bluntly, Chicago’s public school system will produce social justice warriors.

It’s unclear how transformative curriculum is going to push our children toward 21st century jobs. But future job creation doesn’t seems to be the outcome of a CPS education anymore. Prior to Covid, “almost a quarter of Chicago Public Schools students met or exceeded expectations in math, and 28% met or exceeded standards in language arts (Chalkbeat Chicago). After Covid, the 2020-2021 Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) scores showed that 21.1% of CPS students met English/language arts (ELA) goals and 16.6% met math goals. The results for this school year haven’t been completed but, short of a miracle, the scores will not rise dramatically. Shouldn’t our public schools be more interested in teaching basics rather than how to become community organizers?

And a similar type of educational model based on DEI continues with the Journey for Justice Alliance (a.k.a. J4J).

The Journey for Justice Alliance, formed in 2012, has an educational mission to ensure that only pubic schools exist. Their belief is that doing so will be the only way to support just and equitable education for all. Apparently, the CTU’s insistence on keeping CPS schools closed during Covid warrants the idea that charter schools, parochial schools, and private schools be banned from discussions to better children’s education.

Though I am far from liberal, collaborating with with those that have the same objective but varying paths of getting there can be fruitful. But these non-profits and grassroots organizations really don’t emphasize children. Rather they emphasize the adults working for children. Navigating through J4J’s website, none of their initiatives have anything to do with students’ betterment and personal responsibility. Instead, their platform is a means of retaining teacher’s jobs.

For example, The Journey for Justice Alliance led by Jitu Brown is on the same wavelength as Mayor-elect Johnson in ending the use of standardized tests. I agree with J4J’s statements that standardized tests reward publishing companies affiliated with certain political entities more than helping districts assess student needs. Even thirty years ago I found it odd that CPS was using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which didn’t align with anything taught in the city. As usual, someone knew someone who knew someone at CPS. Backroom deals were alive and well in education then, as they are today.

However, now, Chicago Public Schools are even more entrenched in curriculum development. Their department dictates how texts and online content will be driven. The use of Skyline, an online curriculum, is one way CPS is trying to make up for Covid regression. Skyline is meant to help teachers find lessons in any classroom subject area to beef up their lesson plans while meeting the needs of students where they are and propelling them forward. At the cost of $135

million, there should be improvement. But if standardized tests are, eventually, on the chopping block, then there will be no way to accurately assess whether Skyline assists teachers thereby enhancing students’ learning. Any standardized assessment of student progress doesn’t seem to matter.

Instead, the major motivation for J4J is to ensure that teachers aren’t held accountable for lack of educational gains. According to their beliefs, standardized tests have been used to rid schools of black teachers and promote white supremacy. How exactly this has happened is never explained nor does it have to be in the current cultural environment.

There may be disagreements about how standardized tests are chosen and administered, but we should be able to agree on the fact that some sort of assessments are needed. With drops in enrollment, poor student attendance, subpar scores, and an ever increasing budget, CPS needs to up its game in a measurable way.

Students should not be held hostage to a mayor and his affiliates who want to squelch outside opportunities provided when Chicago’s public schools are clearly failing. Yet, that is exactly what the future holds for Chicagoans. The J4J has seven initiatives presented on its site as follows:

J4J has an Education Platform rooted in racial justice and education equity.

1. A Moratorium on School Privatization
2. 25,000 Sustainable Community Schools by 2025
3. End Zero Tolerance Policies in Public Education NOW;
4. Equity Mandates for Public Education at the Local & State Level;
5. Stop the Attack on Black Teachers;
6. End State Takeovers, Appointed School Boards & Mayoral Control;
7. Eliminate the Over-Reliance on Standardized Tests in Public Schools.

Please explain how these enterprises will educate our students for the fastest growing markets here in Chicago, which, according to Michael Fassnacht of World Business Chicago, include biotech and life sciences. I hope Michael will Brandon can iron this out since Michael is also on the transition team.

On the one hand, we have World Business Chicago attempting to market the city as a business and biotech hub; but, on the other hand, CPS is not preparing students to fit this niche market or any other market. Johnson will side with the CTU and CPS thereby undercutting any alternative forms of schooling, further hampering already undereducated generations.

Nothing will get better for Chicago’s children with these conflicting interests. Moreover, with a primary objective on the disruption of “white supremacy” in the other organizations Brandon connects with (e.g. Woods Fund Chicago), the priority seems to be on Communist underpinnings like wealth redistribution rather than educating youth to become self-sufficient, upstanding citizens.

In a nutshell, the company Johnson keeps is highlighting what Brandon Johnson stands for and his radical vision for Chicago, none of which will help children rise to their potential nor hold Chicago Public Schools or its teachers to account.


Erin Geary is a writer, consultant, mother, wife, and volunteer. After thirty years of teaching, she left the profession to pursue her dream of writing. Her twice weekly articles on American culture and politics can be found at She recently celebrated her first year writing and is thrilled to be a guest writer for John Kass. 

Comments 43

  1. A solidly researched and carefully presented caveat to those remaining in Chicago and Erin Geary pens a delightfully readable presentation. The wheels will come off on this regime very early and four years of WTTW hand-wringing will do nothing to stop the disaster that has befallen a once great city.

    Thank you Erin Geary!

  2. Well written and researched piece. I’m glad Erin and John are making an effort to expose the real roots of the new Mayor. In honest journalism days, this would have been exposed during the campaign, not after.

    1. I agree that these ties should have been broadly exposed, & in a different time they may have been. I am also grateful to John & Erin – their voices are needed now more than ever. But people also need to learn to look & dig & use their God-given brains. My husband & I were quite literally agape as we watched “Local 1: The Rise of America’s Most Powerful Teachers Union” from Illinois Policy. Brandon Johnson is figured throughout & it shows exactly who has surrounded him & raised him up. It was so worth the hour of our time that we sent the link to the documentary to everyone we spoke to about the election. If you or those reading have not seen it, here is the link:

  3. Thank you Erin for your research and writing. I’m glad someone still cares about our city and state. Unfortunately for me, I am just about to the point of just throwing my hands in the air and saying to hell with it. We already started cleaning out the attic so when the final straw breaks the camels back, we can pick up and get out of this cesspool state. I’m not going to continue busting my hump, paying taxes for inadequate schools and services, to line the pockets of these malcontent politicians with their socialist/communist ideologies.

    1. I moved out on 8/31/2016 well before things have gotten this bad. I knew Chicago was on a bad path that I wanted no part in, but little did I believe the citizens of Chicago would elect a Communist as mayor. My advice to you is move sooner rather than later, do not wait for the final straw to break the camel’s back. It may be too late by then. Good luck.

  4. Xristos Anesti John. I do not understand why people are so complacent, and do not know what is happening to this Great Country. So many people seem not to care, we have lost our Beautiful Cities, to thugs and thieves and drugs and the Unions are behind all this for greed and power. Obama is in the background and people are afraid to voice their Freedoms because of what I do not know. The Government is paying young people on Tik Tok especially the Z Generation to lie and lie about Biden and how great he is. We have lost our minds and losing our Country. Our Agencies have gone Woke, our Schools do not give homework anymore, and no more grading and people are saying how great it is that a system as stupid as this can go on and people do not seem to care. The Government lies to the people every day and people say so what, I do not care. The Borders are closed to the Democrats, only to find out Millions are in the US with free HEALTH CARE, food stamps and housing. WE the immigrants learned the language, became Citizens and embraced the Flag. Did you see in a Bar people started to sing the Start Spangler Banner and the young people were so upset? What is happening? Companies are leaving our Cities, and Corporations hire people with no experience and no Education because of Woke. Why in Heaven’s name anyone would allow that to happen I do not understand. Our Schools and our School Boards are a joke, no one seems to care about the children and Unions tell the Parents they are in charge of their children. America is not Educating the young, they want to control what they do and what they say. The Press Secretary for Biden is a joke while she earns close to $200 a year. Absurd. WE NEED AN HONEST PERSON TO EXPOSE THE EVIL IN OUR GOVERNMENT. I am afraid I do not see that because no one seems to care anymore they care only their bank account not realizing that the dollar is worthless, China has bought most of our Farmland and will take their money soon too. We send our kids to top Schools only to come home braindead and brainwashed as to what is happening to America. I feel so very sad and hopeless of this Government. WE NEED THE TRUTH.

      1. Pathetic is the word. And heart-breaking, etc., etc. Glad to see you’re up to monitoring this site. You have chosen wonderful substitutes. You’re in my prayers as I patiently await your return.

  5. Like always, when the people in power keep dividing up the pie for those who produce nothing, the pie makers will soon enough move away.

    1. “The soft bigotry of low expectations.” I remember GWB was vilified for using that phrase, but it is appropriate here on multiple levels.

      John, Erin, the kids are not learning because of a home that doesn’t value education, hard work, discipline, respect and the value of teamwork, kindness, cooperation, and creativity.

      I blame the fathers mostly for this. We have uneducated young women, having children with multiple young men, raising children by themselves. The men get to have their fun, plant the seed, and move on to another vessel for pleasure. We pay the bill on multiple levels.

      The teachers unions do not have children as their primary focus. They cannot, otherwise they would advocate for them and demand safe, orderly, and peaceful environments to work in so they could do the important work of educating the children.

      Many kids arrive in Kindergarten already behind. Many never catch up to their peers. Teachers have a tough job. The parents do not make it any easier as they are not preparing their kids for learning, nor do they back the school, or make sure their kids do the work in many cases.

      It’s the urban teacher unions, and their leadership who are racist. They are the ones who don’t expect their members to be flexible. They don’t expect learning growth to be a requirement for continued employment. They’re the ones who allow incompetent people to stay in front of kids, especially if they are not white.

      If we don’t expect even basic decency and responsibility from the parents, then how can we hold the child accountable. If we do not have order in the schools, how can we expect learning to occur? If the teachers are not supported and backed up by admin and the parents, how can we expect significant achievement?

      If the dads are not parenting their kids, what makes you think the government can do the job, let alone a harried, overburdened teacher?

      The men need to step up. The new DEI, Social Justice, all this other BS just serves to infantilize men, absolve them of their responsibility.

      I’ll also say it is imperative that females be very picky with who they choose to lie with. It would probably be best to abstain from that type of activity unless you re in a committed relationship and you have a job, health insurance, can buy pampers.

      We let the men skate. We shouldn’t do that anymore.

      1. ” The kids are not learning because of a home that doesn’t value education, hard work, discipline, respect and the value of teamwork, kindness, cooperation, and creativity.” This is a precise description of the opposite of a typical Asian home. Someone needs to say it: Black culture is the fundamental cause of the terrible state of black Americans today. Cheered on by white liberal fools mindlessly asserting a non-existent “systemic racism” as an excuse for every failure, black Americans (not all, but many) ignore a culture promoting self-destructive, irrational behavior and view themselves as victims persecuted by whites, Asians and jews. The violent attacks against these imaginary oppressors documented every day in the tabloids are the predictable result.

        “….it is imperative that females be very picky with who they choose to lie with. It would probably be best to abstain from that type of activity unless you’re in a committed relationship and you have a job, health insurance…” Sorry, Robert, this will only happen when unicorns romp playfully in the streets. See above.

  6. Boy, this is really going to get ugly, very ugly, isn’t it. And we all thought Lightfoot was bad ! The real scare of all of this are the people who think this is all great. Just sad 😢

  7. My heart breaks for this once great, safe city. We left after the riots destroyed and looted stores “ in the name of reparations “. And now the citizens have voted to go from bad to worse with Johnson’s election.

  8. Great column Erin! You did the research so us chumbalones wouldn’t have to. It’s called INDOCTRINATION for a reason. On election day Alexis Giannoulias had school buses taking high school kids to vote. The Secretary of State’s office had workers waiting there to get the kids picture ID’s so they could vote. I’m sure they received no instruction from anyone on whom to vote for. Here’s a lesson in indoctrination. When I was a Chicago elementary school student Officer Friendly came and gave us kids safety tips and reminded us to be good citizens. Every kid in the class wanted to be like Officer Friendly afterwards. Firefighter Mike later visited us and gave us fire safety tips and reminded us to be careful. Every kid in the class wanted to be a firefighter after that. Lincoln Park zoo would send a zookeeper over with a couple of animals, usually a snake, turtle and maybe a bunny. The kids were reminded to be nice to animals and each other. Afterwards every kid wanted to be a zookeeper. Now the schools send a transvestite over to read and play with the kids and well…you know the rest. Causing gender confusion among children is another way of taking control of your children’s minds and removing any influence from the parents in that childs life. This is what public schools will become if we let them. Parents, including gay parents of children all across America are starting to wake up to in opposition to this. This is not a conspiracy theory but a page out of the Marxist handbook. Now is the time to fight. If you really care that is. Keep writing Erin. Keep up the good work!

    1. Wow, would you like some salt with that Red Meat buzzword soup? Can you provide us with an example of a school that has “sent a transvestite over to read and play with the kids and well…you know the rest..” Name of school, City and State please. What do you mean by “the rest?” Be specific Enrique! You realize High School kids can’t vote, right? Can you provide some proof this happened? I’m certain the FBI would be interested-you’d be a hero! You are welcome anytime at the Tap in Beloit, drinks on the house as long as you share more conspiracy theories!

      1. High school kids CAN vote. You only need to be 18 to vote and there are high school kids who are 18. How many other FACTS do you have wrong?

        1. As you point out, you need to be 18 to vote, which means only SOME SENIORS in high school can vote (that excludes, stay with me Dave, ALL Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors, in other words ALMOST ALL KIDS IN HIGH SCHOOL..) thus and the idea that there was some nefarious attempt to haul HIGH SCHOOLERS TO VOTE FOR ME is pathetic at best.

          1. Now Riga-Tee! Since most CPS students read at barely a third grade level, twenty year old seniors are not unheard of in the Chicago Public School system. If you were from here you would know that. Ask why CPS teachers won’t put their own kids in our fine public schools. The parochial schools love our teachers kids they’re a steady customer. If you were really from Chicago you would know this. I know being a mogul dere in Beloit is time consuming but maybe you should take one of your imaginary private jets over here to see for yourself ! one cares if you want to preen in front of your mirror like Buffalo Bill from “Silence of The Lambs” singing “I feel pretty”. We just don’t want you around our kids while you dance and hide your genitals. Now go fix your mascara, its starting to run since you’re crying. Be a man, boy!

    2. “Since most CPS students read at barely a third grade level, twenty year old seniors are not unheard of in the Chicago Public School system..” Not an ounce of truth in that statement, and so dumb.If it were true it must mean you attended a CPS school. (: Again, can you be specific and name a school that has “sent a transvestite over to read and play with the kids and well…you know the rest..” You can’t, can you? You know why? It never happened. One of us is living in an alternate reality but it ain’t me…

  9. Excellent guest column. The emphasis of Johnson and J4J on keeping and increasing teachers jobs with great benefits can only be seen as a form of workfare, and to indoctrinate our children and youth into the benefits of socialism and communism. I know there are some very dedicated teachers in the CPS system, but the lack of accountability via some kind of standardized testing is beyond me. How do we grade the teachers effectiveness individually and systemically? J4J is against non-public schools because those other schools might foster truly independent thought that is not WOKE or Progressive. History shows socialism/communism has failed miserably, but for those in positions of power they glean enough money from the system that it really doesn’t matter to them. Those on the other end are taught that it is not their problem but the system and white folks (and Asians) who have worked hard and sacrificed and end up financially successful to pay the taxes to support the ever bloating system that CTU wants. Why is no one talking about the dues money poured into Johnson’s campaign by the CTU? We need to hold the youth accountable, and the teachers as well. I left for points south 5 years ago. our condo in River North which was meant to be an investment has stayed FLAT in value. Time to sell that off. Great swaths of a once great city are no longer safe. The lawless know that thanks to Ms Foxx an arrest will be a minor inconvenience. Only 16% of the eligible voters in the city elected Mr Johnson. We are DOOMED thanks to the lack of participation.
    Thanks John for your wisdom and columns.

  10. Well written Ms. Geary!
    It is chilling to think what this current and future leadership has in store for Chicago and the children of this city. It will end this way: a destroyed city and illiterate children all of whom will resort to expecting more activism to correct inequalities that results policies that will continue destroying the city and children’s’ future. A never ending cycle of stupidity.

  11. Thankyou Erin, and Yianni for posting this well thought out article. The “Cliff’s Notes” version of this saga is – nothing will change, and things will only get worse. But then, I guess Chicagoans will get the government they deserve….

  12. Great article Erin. You’ve confirmed my decision to move out back in 2016. I knew things would get bad, but couldn’t envision it getting this bad. I guess this is what you get with 35% voter turn out and a well organized far leftist machine backed by the teachers and public service employee unions. Their greed for wealth and power blinding them to what they are doing to a once great city. Every intelligent parasite understands you cannot kill the host if you expect to survive. They apparently are blinded to this fact. Thank you for enlightening those already not enlightened.

  13. “Horror grips us as we watch you die,
    All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
    Stare as all human feelings die,
    We are leaving, you don’t need us…”

    – “Wooden Ships”, written by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills, circa 1969.

  14. Thanks for the timely article. Our state representatives are currently looking to end the “Invest in Kids” tax exemption. Please call or email your reps today to voice your opinion. No surprise that the teacher unions are organized against it.

    For many families this is the only way their kids can go to the school of their choice. Outcomes at public schools are dismal. See
    As Erin so succinctly has written, this is a lost generation. Who is going to work at these high powered jobs Illinois pols are trying to attract? If only the unions cared as much for the children as they do for the almighty dollar.

  15. Great research, well written and very enlightening. I think I read similar articles in the Tribune and Sun-Times during the campaign. Oh wait, that was just a dream. At the end of my dream, the teachers went on strike and got a big pay raise with their friend Brandon on the other side of the bargaining table.

  16. Geary identifies organizations expecting to benefit from keeping company with Brandon Johnson. You wonder whether they’ve figured out how those benefits will be financed. Will they be shocked when the taxpayers and businesses who’ve made the largest contributions to Chicago’s fat public employee pensions and incidental expenses flee in ever-greater numbers? Maybe they should consult with their brethren in New York about that.

    Do they somehow imagine that necessary financing will be provided by an alliance of SEIU and CTU and UFW and P.U.P. and H.O.O.D. and CORE and J4J and W.F.C.?

    If that’s what they’re counting on, somebody tell them to look up the definitions of “payee” and “payer.”

  17. Thanks John for bringing Erin to!! After reading her here, I followed her to Substack.
    – From a former Westsider (Austin) –

  18. Detroit, MI, and Gary, IN, are going to seem like oases of economic prosperity, and social order in comparison to Chicago, a once-great city.

    But, this is what happens when voters repeatedly demonstrate a preference for one-party rule, and that party needs to pander to blacks to remain in power – black tribalism.

    It isn’t the government Chicago deserves, but it’s the one it has, now.

  19. Now Tee, using your vast imaginary wealth while sitting at your imaginary rooftop bistro dere in Beloit means you should direct one of your imaginary underlings to do your own research. Your vast imaginary financial empire enables you to use your imaginary Lear jet to parachute into Chicago to verify this also. I imagine you will, too.

  20. So I was catching a plane to South Carolina via Midway Airport the other day. And there on one of those digital screens was the friendly face of Mayor Lightfoot. She was welcoming visitors to our fair city and informing them if they have any problems to call the listed number or go online for assistance. And by all means have a great stay in our great city. Six months ago I would have barfed. Now I yearn for the good ole days of Mayor Lightfoot. You know the good ole days of mostly peaceful protests and statue jails and bragging about her ginormous manhood. Hey, she was a little cranky and all, but the bottom line is she was not an all-out batshit crazy Marxist socialist like Mayor-elect Johnson.

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