MEDIA WATCH: Joravsky's got the story right... Huberman masked central office patronage claiming cuts he never made

Somewhere the German philosopher Friederich Nietzsche wrote about the "eternal recurrance", and somebody else talked about "Plus ca change, plus la meme chose..." It seems the same be true about central office cuts in Chicago's public schools. Of late (June 2010), most of Chicago's corporate media have been simply doing stenographic work for Ron Huberman and Chicago's ruling class, repeating Huberman's claim that he "cut" central office. Most of the cuts Huberman's made, as we've reported here in Substance, have been from citywide services in the schools. Like many other examples of Huberman's doubletalk, when Huberman showed his Power Point version of reality at various times since January 19, 2010 (when he first announced the lurid "deficit" claims), Huberman lumped Central Administration and Citywide in a quickie, thereby leading the unwary to think he was talking about bureaucracy cuts, when in fact he was cutting deeply into school services.

Ron Huberman may tell the lies about the CPS budget, but the lies don't have any place to go until people like Kate Grossman (above) repeat the Huberman lies as facts in the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times. Above, Grossman taking notes during the June 15, 2010 special meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Undaunted (mainly because his numbers have been unchallenged in Chicago media except here at Substance and by Ben Joravsky in Chicago's Reader), Huberman has continued to repeat the same Big Lies.

Joravsky caught up with Huberman on June 16, 2010, while Substance was still fighting off the last cyberattack. So we'll begin with that part of the story:


"In an editorial in today's Sun-Times, the paper calls on Chicago Public Schools teachers to forgo a 4 percent raise so the district can trim a $600 million budget deficit without cutting jobs and hiking class size. Basically, the paper argues that teachers have to choose between the raises or the cuts. I'm not sure I agree with them, but it's their opinion and they're entitled to it.

"But then the paper goes one step further, crediting schools CEO Ron Huberman with making critical central office cuts. "He already has cut some areas demanded by the public, including nearly 1,000 central office staff," the editorial writes.

"Sigh ...

"Take it from an old goat who's been writing about CPS central office shenanigans since, like, forever. Every top administrator I can remember—from Joe Hannon to Huberman—has bragged about cutting central office waste. And yet there always seems to be more central office waste for the next administrator to cut. Funny how that works.

"So how much waste has Huberman actually cut? Let's take a look at the CPS payroll data base for 2009 and 2010, which school officials posted thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Reader's own Mr. FOIA, Mick Dumke.

"As of May 1, 2010, CPS had 1,334 employees on its central office payroll, down from the 1,617 it had on February 1, 2009, when Huberman took charge.

"That's a cut of 283 central office employees. Not bad, but far short of 1,000.

"But wait—we're not done. You also have to consider the raises that most of the high-ranking employees received under Huberman's tenure. For instance, Huberman started at $230,000—up from the $212,502 his predecessor, Arne Duncan, had been making when he left to become U.S. Secretary of Education.

"And don't forget the increases in unspecified central office "contractual services," covering everything from "telephone and telegraph" to "repair contracts." In this year's budget, the board of education increased its allowance for "non professional services" to $243,000 from about $91,000. The budget for "seminars, fees, subscriptions and professional memberships" went up to $120,000 from $45,000. Travel expenses rose to $80,000 from $30,000 and "miscellaneous contingent projects" to $83,000 from $31,000. And so on.

"When you factor it all in, it's hard to say how much money—if any—Huberman's actually cut from the central office. But I guarantee you one thing: whoever replaces him will somehow or other find more to cut." 


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