MEDIA WATCH: Of course the Hit List is a 'Done Deal' — at least if you believe the Rahm Fan Club at the Sun-Times... No sooner was Sun-Times bought by Rahm's buddies than Sun-Times cheap shots the CTU and Hit List protests in a major editorial

Anyone following the news from Chicago's schools to also follow the news from the "business community." The two are linked, and recently the Chicago Sun-Times joined the bankrupt Chicago Tribune under ownership that is anti-union and anti-public schools. It's likely in the future that the Sun-Times will continue to be cheerleading for every corporate "reform" buzzed out from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the outsiders who constitute Jean-Claude Brizard's "team" at Clark Street. At least teachers should know who is calling the shots. During December 2011, the ownership of the Chicago Sun-Times again changed, this time putting the newspaper more deeply into the hands of what can only be described as the "Rahm Emanuel Fan Club" among Chicago's millionaires and billionaires. Here are two recent media pieces. The first comes from Crain's Chicago Business, to which we at Substance subscribe. The second is the December 23, 2011 editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times attacking the Chicago Teachers Union and those who are protesting the latest round of turnarounds. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

When the "Mic Check" began during the December 14, 2011 Chicago Board of Education meeting, Sun-Times editorial writer Kate Grossman (center above) and Education Reporter Rosalind Rossi continued trying to get the story from the Board of Education side of the room. Grossman writes many of the editorials attacking the Chicago Teachers Union that have been appearing regularly in the Sun-Times since Karen Lewis and CORE began leading the union in July 2011. Most recently, the Sun-Times editorial (December 23, 2011) claimed to have detected CTU "fingerprints" all over the MIC Check. The Sun-Times spends a lot of time and ink ignoring the corporate propaganda "fingerprints" on its version of the "news" since corporate "school reform" became Chicago's official party line 17 years ago. The Sun-Times reports musings and metaphors — such as the CTU's "fingerprints" — while missing the farting elephant in their own bed. "What's that smell?..." "Oh, nothing..." No, it's the slavish corporate dictatorship that owns the Sun-Times and has dictated, for most of the last two decades, that criticism of mayoral control and corporate "school reform" is off limits and that "news" will reflect Chicago's corporate party line on "school reform". That party line is as old as the "Reconstitutions" of the 1990s and as recent as all that "Renaissance" the Sun-Times cheerleaded for under Arne Duncan and since. Since the Sun-Times published its first Op Ed piece by Arne Duncan ten years ago proclaiming that he had to destroy Dodge, Terrell and Williams Elementary Schools in the first wave of "renaissance" in order to save the children, Sun-Times reporters have recycled the same quotes over and over and over, whether the "CEO" of CPS is Paul Vallas (promoting "Reconstitution" in 1997 against Englewood HS), Arne Duncan (doing a "renaissance" and then "Renaissace" attack on "failing schools" between 2002 and 2008), Ron Huberman promoting the 2009 Hit List, or, currently, Jean-Claude Brizard repeating the same scripted lines about having to TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION to SAVE THE CHILDREN by CLOSING FAILING SCHOOLS... Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.CRAIN'S ON SUN-TIMES OWNERSHIP AND RAHM...

Rahm has deep financial ties to new Sun-Times owners, Crain's, December 22, 2011, by Greg Hinz

It's nice to have friends in the media.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel sure will have a ton of buddies in one key local media outlet, because virtually every one of the Sun-Times' new owners has been a major contributor, business partner or civic ally of his.

For instance, at least eight of the 12 board members of the new company, Wrapports LLC, have donated to Mr. Emanuel's campaign fund in the past year, collectively plunking down $241,000 that I found in a quick survey of Board of Elections disclosures.

Included: $25,000 from the Sun-Times' new chairman, Michael Ferro Jr., and $105,000 from Mr. Emanuel's frequent visitor at City Hall, Grosvenor Capital Management L.P. chief Michael Sacks.

Then there's the at least $20,000 that new S-T owners gave in recent months to New Chicago, the political action committee that Mr. Emanuel uses to help elect political allies. And the more considerable $350,000 that the owners and their companies collectively gave to Stand for Children, a Springfield lobbying group that helped pave the way for recent public school reform legislation that the mayor badly wanted.

There's more.

Mr. Sacks also serves as vice-chairman of World Business Chicago, the city's economic-development arm and the agency in charge of raising tens of millions of dollars Chicago will need to host next year's NATO/G8 summit here.

Also on the WBC board is private-equity mogul Bruce Rauner — who, as the Sun-Times once put it, "helped make Mayor Rahm Emanuel a millionaire" when he worked with Mr. Emanuel on a corporate acquisition during the brief period his honor was an investment banker.

The only board members who don''t have an apparent financial link to the mayor were TV producer Bradley Philip-Bell and board holdover Rocky Wirtz, the Blackhawks' owner. But perhaps the mayor is a hockey fan.

Anyhow, though Mr. Emanuel's political office declines to comment, it's fair to say that those listed above are frequent donors to good civic causes, and the Sun-Times, like other publications, tries to build a wall between its news and business operations.

But next time the paper prints a story the mayor doesn't like, he'll certainly know who to call, won't he?


Teachers union’s circus act doesn’t help kids, Editorials December 22, 2011 6:08PM, Updated: December 23, 2011 11:16AM The war between the Chicago Teachers Union and the school system over how best to improve schools is getting uglier by the day, with the CTU and its allies largely to blame.

Last week, it was a revolt at a Board of Education meeting, with protesters hijacking the meeting to protest proposed school closures and turnarounds. CTU President Karen Lewis says she played no role but the union’s fingerprints were everywhere. On Thursday, CTU organized protests at eight schools targeted for closure or turnaround, a reform where the kids remain but most adults in a school building change.

We appreciate great street theater. We also love to see parents and teachers tell the board it has made a mistake in choosing an individual school, which turns out to be true far too often.

It’s too bad, then, that the protests have gone off the rails, with CTU and allied community groups resorting to exaggerations and inflammatory language to rally the troops and, most importantly, failing to acknowledge that the school system, despite its flaws, wants just what the protesters want: to improve the city’s weakest schools.

That is one key reason we stand behind CPS’ efforts to turn around chronically troubled schools and, in extreme cases, close a handful of the weakest ones. CPS wants to turn around 10 schools and close four, hardly radical in a system of more than 675 schools.

One of the funniest media stories breaking during the famous "Mic Check" and the Great Scurrying (when the Board of Education evacuated its own chambers) on December 14, 2011 (at approximately 11 a.m.) was the way in which the usual corporate media reporters waited hoping that the story would return to the Board end of the Board chambers, so they could continue taking notes despite the noise and nastiness. While other reporters (and most camera people) broke out of the pens CPS assigns reporters to (so that the story can only be told from one angle), Rosalind Rossi and Kate Grossman of the Sun-Time and Sarah Karp of Catazlyst continues facing towards the Board members, and taking notes without moving towards where the story was unfolding. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Parents and teachers should speak up if they think CPS has chosen the wrong schools. CPS’ new leadership brags about hosting more community meeting than ever, but gathering reaction to plans is not the same as letting the public help shape policy. But for most of these 14 schools, CPS is doing the right thing.

In extreme cases, a fresh start is needed if there’s any hope of a different outcome. In recent years, CPS has moved away from closures, which haven’t proven helpful for kids, towards turnarounds, which are showing promising results. Despite the union’s contention that turnarounds don’t work, a report due out next month by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research on the early years of turnarounds shows elementary turnarounds managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a private non-profit, made “significantly greater” gains in reading and math than did comparable schools.

And then there’s CTU’s dismissive claim that a turnaround is merely handing schools “over to private interests.” Yes, AUSL is a private company and, yes, it has ties to a top CPS official and CPS Board President David Vitale. But it’s working, and in our book that’s what matters most. (A side note on Vitale: His dismissive behavior toward protesters at last week’s board meeting, and generally toward anyone with a beef with CPS, does nothing to ease the tensions between CPS and its adversaries).

We agree with the CTU and others who say CPS should invest as much in struggling neighborhood schools as it does in turnarounds. We also agree that CPS has weakened schools that end up as targets for a turnaround or closure by forcing them to accept students from closed schools or opening charters nearby that cream off top students.

But if you take a step back from CTU’s us-versus-them mentality, it’s clear these are not arguments against turnarounds or closures. These are arguments, instead, for strong investments in the dozens and dozens of weak schools that aren’t being closed or turned around, schools across Chicago that are in desperate need of help.


December 26, 2011 at 2:31 AM

By: Bob Busch

Flashbacks — Turning inside out

In other words: “We Have to Destroy A School In Order To Save it." I have heard that before something about villages in a tropical land.

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