Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools sponsor Christian breakfast to promote CPS push for longer school day and year in Chicago
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued his push to force Chicago public school teachers to work longer hours without receiving prevailing pay at a breakfast media event with more than 200 Christian minsters on the morning of August 25, 2011. The event, which took place at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, was used by Mayor Emanuel and his Chicago Public Schools team to promote the proposal that they have supposedly proposed to the Chicago Teachers Union to lengthen the Chicago elementary school day.
Under the controversial proposal, first announced by Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard during an August 23 appearance on the public television show “Chicago Tonight,” elementary teachers in Chicago would work an additional 90 minutes per day beginning in January 2012 without being paid the full hourly amount they are now receiving. As of August 24, 2011, leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union have not received the proposal as part of discussions between the Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union on possible changes in the current union contracts, which do not expire until June 30, 2012.
The August 25 event was part of the promotion for the CPS plan, which was not made available to the press during the well-attended media event. Another part of the promotion, also endorsed by a number of the clerics, was a demonstration outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on August 24, the day of the August meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. At that event, at which three Chicago clergy spoke, dozens of people carried signs that said “90 Minutes and two more weeks.”
The August 25 breakfast was hosted by Chicago Public Schools, which provided the programs and other materials to those who were invited, and also provided the participants with a Christian musical event by the Kenwood High School Choir. In response to a query from Substance, a CPS spokesperson said that the event was not paid for by CPS, but by the "Faith Based Community." At the time of this reporting, CPS has not provided Substance with information on how to contact the "Faith Based Community" that paid for the expensive catering at a time when CPS claims it is facing an austerity budget which required it to refuse to pay the four percent raise guaranteed by union contracts to members of the Chicago Teachers Union and other unions representing CPS workers.
The August 25 event did not mention other faiths than Christian faiths, although the mayor, in his remarks, noted that his rabbi had been asking him where he had been. Emanuel is of the Jewish faith. A CPS spokesperson said that members of other faiths were present during the event, although she did not name them. Substance and other reporters covering the event saw a Christian presentation, Christian speakers, and Christian music.
The program for the event, printed on CPS stationery, called the event a “Faith Based Breakfast.” It was held at the United Airlines Scout Center at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
The program for the event included a letter from Rev. Reynaldo Kyles, who signed the letter “Office of Faith Base Initiatives, Chicago Public Schools, 125 S. Clark St., Chicago 60603.” Rev. Kyles also provided the participants with his CPS phone number: 773-553-2573.
“Dear Faith Leader,” the letter went.
The complete text of the letter follows in italics below here:
“I would like to thank each of you for your dedication and commitment to partnership with the Office of Faith Based Initiatives. The partnership between CPS and the faith community is much needed as we strive to give our students the best education they can receive. As we approach another school year, I would like to thank each of you for your time that you have given by attending meetings, working with your local schools, Safe Haven and the Adopt a School Program. Your contributions and efforts are greatly appreciated. As we continue out Adopt a School Program we are asking every church to adopt a school and work diligently with the Principal. I would also like to thank every pastor who provided ministerial assistant to CPS student’s families during their time of need.
“As always, the Office of Faith Based Initiatives is here to provide assistance and support to our students, their families, and to you as Pastors throughout the 2011 – 2012 school year. We look forward to your assistance with helping us make this school year a success.”
After Rev. Kyles gave his invocation and a Christian prayer was offered in Spanish by Pastor Silfredo Gonzalez (whom the program said was from "Missioin Christina Familiar"), the group heard from the Kenwood Academy (high school) choir, which sang a Christian song.
Then came Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel has changed his talking points since the mayoral election campaign, when he seemed to draw all of the "facts" he was citing from the movie "Waiting for Superman" and some unverified claims about Chicago's public schools. Prior to the prayer breakfast on August 25, Emanuel had been telling audiences that the average Chicago public school students had "four years" (later reduced in his talking points to "three years") less time in the classroom than a comparable public school student in Houston, Texas.
By August 25, 2011, Emanuel had changed years to "minutes."
Emanuel called on the clerics at the breakfast to issue a "battle cry for our children." He told the group that all over the USA children were in classes for "67,000 minutes per school year..."
Except in Chicago, where Emanuel claims the average public school child only gets "57,000 minutes..."
Emanuel then went through the grades, in the process ignoring the difference between Chicago high schools and elementary schools. He counted down, as if every year from kindergarten through 12th grade represented a "loss" that Chicago children suffered by comparison with the children across the USA. As usual, mayoral press people and others have refused to provide Substance with the studies and other materials that verify Emanuel's forcefully stated claims.
But Emanuel was just getting warmed up. Reprising an earlier statement he made about the teachers getting paid the the kids getting "the shaft," Emanuel shifted gears only slightly. "For too long, the schools have been a battleground for adults," he told the crowd. "The kids have been left on the sidelines." He then thanked the pastors present for supporting him in his drive to get Chicago to have a "longer school day and a longer school year." He accused the "adults" of having "cheated" the kids. [A request by Substance to the mayor's press office for the complete text of Emanuel's August 25 remarks was greeted with the response that he had gone far off the text of his prepared remarks. Substance then requested the transcript of his remarks, which City Hall press people said they would provide. As of the end of the work day on August 26, 2011, Substance had not received it, so we are quoting here from hastily taken notes...].
"Chicago should not lead the country by being at the bottom," he said, to some cheers.
Emanuel's handpicked Chief Executive Officer for Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard repeated the talking points about the city's public schools that he has been using since his first meeting with the Chicago Board of Education on June 15, 2011. According to Brizard, the public schools of Chicago have become a failure after sixteen years of mayoral control under Mayor Richard M. Daley and his school chiefs (Paul Vallas, from 1995 to 2001; Arne Duncan, from 2001 into 2009; and Ron Huberman, from 2009 to late 2010). In every speech, Brizard lists the various reasons why Chicago's schools are "failing."
According to Brizard, the entire purpose of a school system such as Chicago's should be to make children "college or career ready", and the way to measure that is by the national ACT tests.