MEDIA WATCH: Sun-Times 'in the tank' for Rahm's union busting education agenda... Page One on Labor Day 'New Era for Chicago Schools' leaves out facts and history

The Labor Day edition of the once interesting Chicago Sun-Times should be saved and savored by students of civics and journalism as an example of one of the purest forms of teacher bashing, union busting, and all around nonsense to come out of a major daily newspaper in years. Although the Sun-Times has been parroting (uncritically) the Party Line coming out of Chicago's City Hall (and the various echo chambers created by the City Hall spin machines) for a decade and a half, by September 5, 2011, the Sun-Times had surpassed even itself in subservience to the spin of political power in Chicago and its fawning praise for the era of mayoral control, privatization, teacher bashing, and union busting.

Chicago Sun-Times education writer Rosalind Rossi (above left, walking) arrives for the June 22, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education while former education writer Kate Grossman (who now write the anti-union editorials for the Sun-Times) sits reading the Board agenda (third from right, second row) in the "Press" section of the Board chambers at 125 S. Clark St. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Although the most annoying example came from Sun-Times pundit Neil Steinberg — who managed to get all of the facts in his Labor Day column from Rahm Emanuel or Rahm's various outposts — the most fun as an example of hatchet job journalism came from Sun-Times education writer Rosalind Rossi, who once upon a time carried a union card but who now should be carry a union busting card. Rossi's page-long story on the "Rahm era" has to be framed as a How-To on political propaganda.

First, let's begin with the framing of the so-called "narrative," a necessary part of the foreplay for this kind of activity.

Ignoring history, Rossi claimed that we are now emerging from the "Daley Era" in Education Reform into the Reign of Rahm. Spread atop Page One is the headline "New Era Begins for Chicago Schools." The old "era," which began with the advent of mayoral control in 1995, has apparently been all good with the Sun-Times, but the "new era" will even be all better (or something like that). We are now in the Reign of Rahm and the Sun-Times will genuflect to Rahm's spin just like they did for Daley's.

Given that Rahm has been in power less than six months, one might think that the Sun-Times would go back through the Daley era and talk about all of the failures of mayoral control. After all, from the first day of Paul Vallas's time on the job as the first "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS, the Sun-Times (often but not always in the person of Rossi) has been fawning over whomever was at the top. By the time Vallas had been in office three months, back in 1995, Rossi had written a column about what an overachiever and hard worker Vallas was (quoting Vallas's mother as the main source; we kid you not) and then wrote a column (which could have been penned by Vallas) about how Paul Vallas was a Ralph Nader kind of guy, cutting back on sweets for staff meetings (that didn't last more than the length of one photo op, but who was going back to check the facts). Throughout the Vallas years, it was All Paul All The Time, with Vallas dominating the narrative, from time to time with a word or two (often garbled) from Richard M. Daley, who was actually running the show. Suddenly, Paul was gone, and Chicago got...

The man who would one day bring the Chicago Plan and the Chicago Boys to Washington, D.C. to privatize the nation's public school system and work to bribe or bust the remaining unions in public education:

Arne Duncan.

The stories about Arne Duncan that ran in the Sun-Times were the same kind of uncritical pablum that readers had been fed during the Vallas years. The Sun-Times even failed to try and figure out why the previous miracle worker (Vallas) had been unceremoniously dumped by Daley in favor of the newest miracle worker, the fatuous and fabulously unqualified Arne Duncan.

So during the Duncan years, it was again a series of generally uncritical adulation for Duncan — that is, when the Sun-Times wasn't giving its space to Duncan himself. One of our favorites came when the Sun-Times allowed Duncan to praise his own courage (which the Sun-Times had previously noted fawningly in an editorial) after he slandered Dodge, Terrell and Williams schools at the dawn of what became "Renaissance 2010."

Then the world changed even more radically, as the USA elected the darling of audacious hope and some very questionable memoirs, and suddenly Chicago's fatuous schools "Chief Executive Officer" was heading the entire American education panoply as U.S. Secretary of Education. Without a second thought, the Sun-Times began cheerleading the Chicago Plan gone toxic — and ignoring the growing severe criticisms of the nonsense Duncan was putting into place as policy under "Race To The Top".

Meanwhile, back home, Daley's latest choice to head CPS, a datahead named Ron Huberman who had left a blood trail of disasters in his previous work as head of Emergency Management and the Chicago Transit Authority suddenly became, for the Sun-Times, the mayor, and the City of Chicago, the surefire best, brightest and cutest "Chief Executive Officer" the city's 410,000 public school students would have hoped for. The cheerleading switched form Arne to Ronnie without missing a beat. And as Ron wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on everything from crooked computer projects and acquisitions to a bizarre thingy called "Performance Management", all eyes were fixed on the fact (just read the Sun-Times if you don't believe it was "fact") that after more than a decade the Daley Years of Mayoral Control had brought nothing but miracles, then more miracles, and usually most miracles.

Probably the biggest miracle of all had come when the Sun-Times and its colleagues in the tank recycled the Ron Huberman lie that Chicago's schools were facing a (Shock Doctrine here, readers) "deficit" of $1 billion in June 2010. Nothing the facts showed about the way that Huberman and CPS was cooking the books mattered to the Sun-Times. That "deficit" sure was about a billion dollars, give or take a billion dollars once the sound bites had been shelved and the audits began to come in.

But suddenly, Ron was gone and his team was heading for the exits. Last fall, Ron Huberman crashed and burned following the abrupt announcement that his clout, Mayor Daley, was gone. Supposedly, CPS was in the middle of a year of a budget crisis the likes of which had never before been seen: a BILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT. The ship was in danger of sinking. And if that was to believed, then it had to be said that the first rat to jump ship was Captain Ron Huberman.

Not one critical drop of ink was spilled talking about whether Ron was abandoning his post during a warlike reality.

So for a few months, CPS got a guy named Terry Mazany, who barely had the time in office, as interim CEO, to learn the names of all the top dogs in the CPS hierarchy. That hierarchy, if the Sun-Times were to be believed over the previous 15 years, had been cut to "the bone" and then some more to "the bone" etc., etc., etc.. Anyone who lined up the headlines about administrative cuts during the Daley years could prove that 125 S. Clark St., the CPS headquarters, was empty. At least if the headlines and "news" stories in Chicago's daily papers were to be believed. But somehow, there were more people at Clark St., plus several other locations where administration and bureaucracy lurked. But when Rahm's Board of Education arrived in June 2011, not only was there still "fat" to "cut," but apparently there was more than ever. With the help of the Sun-Times reporters, Rahm has been allowed to go around town saying that his "team" cut $400 million in administrative fat since June 2011. And the reporters who hear that simply take it down in their notebooks, ignoring the outrageous implausibility of the claim. Once it feeds into the news cycle under the byline of some supposed reportorial expert, it's part of the Chicago fact chain.

But now it's time for the Sun-Times to praise the Reign of Rahm, and all week the newspaper that once called itself "The Bright One" has been fawning over the story lines dictated by Rahm Emanuel and his "team" of novices recently installed at 125 S. Clark St.

The lies, however, can't simply be reported when they come out of the mouths of Rahm Emanuel and his puppet, the CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. The story line has no heft if there aren't a bunch of supposed experts — usually subsidized professors, albeit carefully vetted — to quote while proclaiming a new era. Of course, this approach also involves ignoring the disasters of the old eras (or era if the whole thing is lumped together like a bad souffle in the gut as the "Daley Years").

So the Sun-Times quotes, on Labor Day, from the usual union busting hacks, professional pundits, and professors. No teachers are quoted, although a little space is given to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (not much, for sure).

Who is quoted?

For one, there is a millionaire heiress. Robin Steans, who failed in her memorable efforts to teach at Sullivan High School for a couple of years, is now everyone's favorite expert on "school reform." She is of the group called "Advance Illinois." Advance Illinois dictated the union-busting "SB7" legislation through the Illinois General Assembly last year in conjunction with the nearly $5 million that went into the effort through the group called "Stand for Children."

It was Robin Steans who stood beside Arne Duncan in Chicago in June 2009, when Duncan warned the world (with only Substance and CORE paying attention) that as U.S. Secretary of Education a major part of his job would be to close 5,000 American public schools after measuring them for "failure" based on the same standardized tests he had used to get away with the racist and teacher bashing work of "Renaissance 2010" during his years as Daley's schools chief.

Steans s joined followed in quotations marks by Timothy Knowles of the University of Chicago. Knowles knows very little about Chicago's public schools (except how to spin talking points and a tiny bit of carefully carved "data" — and hustle money for his Center for Urban Education and the University of Chicago Charter Schools. Knowles, who was one of the University of Chicago experts on Rahm's transition team, is always around for a sound bite or quote. It's that University of Chicago thing that always gets the subservient drool going from certain reporters when they need an expert. (Full disclosure: My BA degree is from the University of Chicago, but my 28 years in Chicago's inner city classrooms got me kicked out of the Club of U of C quotables...).

Knolwes is followed by the ever quotable Barbara Radner of DePaul University. Radner on Labor Day joined in the same chorus playing from the same songbook as Steans and Knowles. (Full disclosure: I attended DePaul College of Law for two years back in the day, before I decided I didn't want to spend my professional life with sharpies and hucksters and returned to CPS classrooms; but I've never been quoted as a DePaul - trained expert...).

In the eyes of the Sun-Times, there is nothing wrong with quoting a bunch of well subsidized professors, all of whom speak out regularly against the Chicago Teachers Union. That's reporting in Chicago in the 21st Century.

Although on the night shift out in Cicero or along some of Chicago's meaner streets, the people who prowl might have a more accurate word for what the suits are doing in the press rooms and the professorial punditries.


September 5, 2011 at 4:54 PM

By: Anton Antoszek

Why the Surprise at Chicago Media's Toadying?

The past 35 years have illustrated in plain view, that the rapacious greed of authority: elected or appointed, is to win any policy discussion or decision using hypocrisy, chicanery, treachery, as their chief weapons.

No more is there even the appearance of a nuanced debate between two parties who want to work toward a mutually agreed conciliation. Resolving difficult issues through negotiation has turned into a winner take all bloodsport. Maybe it always was that way.

People cannot be angry all of the time because of they lost an engagement with malevolent forces when they know their position was based on fair and righteous beliefs in their positions. We would be lucky to reach the age of 50 because of the physical stresses on the human body.

People have sold out to many of societies basest memes out of fear. Fear of being ostracized, socially and financially, are powerful forces that in most cases cannot overcome.

Many of these political and societal memes: teachers are greedy, it was all peoples fault for the collapse of the economy, not the banks or wall street or capitalism, are propagated cryptically in what I like to call the live my way or die meme.

One of my all time favorite memes is any rhetorical horses@@t that is reported as rational adult decision making spewed from the mouths of bush@@ter, obummer, emanusuck, and j.c. buzzard.

These ne'er-do-wells are able to achieve theirs nefarious goals through co-option of the weaker members of the group and appealing to those who love being connected to these powerful and privileged policymakers.

A vicarious connection with these scumbags is as good as being bestowed some elevated status in the group for some. Others need more of a material gain i.e. elevated status, regardless of qualifications, will equate to higher monetary compensation and respect for those toadying to these practitioners of political and social ponerology.

I say to all of the depraved degenerates who follow emanusuck, obummer, buzzard, and the house slave lying principal at McClellan policies. You are liars, thieves, and murderers for capitalism. If I saw on the street bleeding, I would spit on you. I feel better already just venting truth to those who practice their perverse displays of power.

Happy Labor Day!

September 8, 2011 at 1:37 AM

By: Valerie F. Leonard

Supporting Publications That Don't Support You

I thought the Sun-Times was a working man's paper. I thought Huff Post was a liberal online publication. What would happen if teachers and organized labor cancelled subscriptions and support of publications that continue to publish one-sided opinion pieces that are obviously anti-labor? Why pay people to bury you unless it's the undertaker?

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