Rahm's Rent-A-Preacher and Rent-A-Protest exposed, even to elected state officials

In a reversal of fortunes, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's bullying and union busting tactics have been not only uncovered but challenged by state officials on the Illinois Educational Facilities Task Force and in other contexts. As a result of the January 6, 2012 hearings on the proposed closings of nine Chicago public schools, it was was established again by evidence and eyewitness testimony is that Rahm Emmanuel push to turn over pubic schools to private operators is using text book union busting schemes to get what he wants, including paying poor people to carry signs and "protest" on behalf of his policies and proposals.

One of those who sat with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the August 25, 2011 preacher patronage breakfast at Sox Park was Rev. Roosevelt Watkins (above right at the mayor's table), who later was a prime organizer of the "Rent A Protest" groups that picketed the Chicago Board of Education, City Council, and the Chicago Teachers Union during 2011 and in January 2012. Above, left to right (except the bodyguard standing at the far left) are Jean-Claude Brizard, Noemi Donoso, Andrea Saenz, Garry McCarthy, Rahm Emanuel, and Roosevelt Watkins. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The most disturbing revelations of Chicago's Millionaire Mayor One Percent was the use of paid outside agitators to hold signs, march, and speak in favor of closing public schools and Board of Education officials forging documents to push out homeless students from one school. All of the revelations have come out since New Year's Day, although many of the details had previously been published in Substance, some as early as last summer, when Substance first exposed what is now widely known as Rahm's "Rent A Preacher" scheme.

Things became even more serious on the evening of January 6, 2012. State Representative Esther Golar said she was at the meeting about the proposed closing of Walter Reed School in Englewood, which is set to receive Guggenheim students, and saw people arrive on a bus. She said she talked to them and discovered they were from a halfway house and were paid $25 to come to the meeting.

Several earlier iterations of this were reported here first at and also in the print edition of Substance since September 2011. In the November 2011 edition of Substance (print), we published an editorial cartoon depicting "Rahm's Rent-A-Protest" as a general store.

The brief sermon delivered by Rev. Roosevelt Watkins at the August 25 preacher breakfast at Sox Park was urging those present to sign the petition supporting the "Longer School Day" that Mayor Emanuel was using as a "wedge issue" against the Chicago Teachers Union and to preach from their pulpits on Sunday in support of the mayor's attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. One of the earliest exposés of what would become the mayor's tactics came in an August 25, 2011 story that was first published at That story covered how the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public schools hosted a breakfast at Sox Park to organize a group of preachers (more than 100 strong) to sign a petition in support of the mayor's version of the "Longer School Day" and carry the word in favor of the mayor's proposal to their churches. Among those present were many of the preachers who have been organizing the protests in favor of anything the mayor promotes against the Chicago Teachers Union since the summer of 2011. The URL for the August 25, 2011 story is:

Here are a few links: - Rahm 'Rent-A-Protesters' Get Confused

- Rahm's 'Rent-A-Protest' Fails

- Rahm's Rent-A-Protest pickets outside CPS

- Chicago Public Schools sponsor Christian breakfast to promote CPS push for longer school day

Among the other high-level frauds of late, 80 students at Guggenheim School had transfer notices delivered to their homes over Christmas break. Guggenheim teacher Kimberly Walls said none of these children or parents asked to be transferred to another school and were called several times by school staff insisting they take the transfer. Transfer papers were slipped under doors or taped on them.

The parents reached out to teachers and staff, who contacted the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless for legal help. Most of them came back to Guggenheim on Monday. But the students were dropped from the school's computer system, creating a range of issues such as them not being registered for after-school programs, said school staff.

Rendina said that a few parents, though admittedly not as many as were handed transfers, talked about leaving the school at a parents' meeting in December. He said the principal, who is new to Guggenheim, thought he would help them along by providing them transfer notices and point them to better options.

“I think he had good intentions,” he said.

Many of these students had addresses outside Guggenheim’s attendance boundary, but were classified as homeless and therefore have the right to stay in the school.

Martinez seemed incredulous that a principal would take these steps. “You mean while the school closing is just a proposal, in the meantime, the principal is transferring students.”

Martinez also was not happy with the attendance of outsiders at the community hearings.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

A state legislative task force created to address community concerns over Chicago's efforts to shut down or completely overhaul underperforming schools is calling for a moratorium on school closings and "turnarounds." "This is a new (CPS) administration," said state Rep. Cynthia Soto, D-Chicago, who plans to introduce a bill calling for the ban when the General Assembly returns later this month. "They really have to get to know these communities before they start to take school actions. Some of the schools they've proposed are performing and should not be targeted."

But since those announcements, community groups have pointed to the fact that Casals Elementary, a Humboldt Park school in Soto's district, is slated for turnaround even though other schools have lower test scores. More than 61 percent of Casals' students met state standards, which is almost 12 percentage points below the district average but still higher than other schools that are not being closed.

The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization said the greater Bronzeville region has seen 15 schools closed and one high school turnaround in 12 years, but still another two schools in the area were proposed for closing and two more for turnaround this year.,0,1520141.story

The Chicago Facilities Task Force was established as a result of the 2009 campaign against Chicago school closings and turnarounds, as part of legislation introduced by Representative Cynthia Soto of Chicago.

The signing of the law culminated years of struggle across Chicago by community activists in the face of the program called "Renaissance 2010" initiated by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club and former Mayor Richard M. Daley. By February 2009, when the proposed legislation was first announced by Rep. Cynthia Soto, the Chicago Board of Education had been closing and privatizing public schools for more than five years. At the time Rep. Soto proposed the legislation, the hope was that it would freeze school changes for 2009, but the Chicago Board of Education thwarted that hope and continued its policy of destroying neighborhood schools based on various pretexts, including closing, consolidation, phase out, turnaround, and whatever other term they could use to describe the process of undermining the public schools, usually to privative the facilities or promote residential gentrification at the expense of established communities.

Although political leaders had come out against the closings in prior years, a larger group was galvanized in protest in January and February 2009 thanks in part to the work of teachers who had created CORE (the caucus of rank-and-file educators) within the Chicago Teachers Union a year earlier. CORE's original tee shirts stated the group's opposition to Renaissance 2010 and Mayor Daley's ongoing privatization programs. (See related article in Substance).

The legislation signed by Governor Quinn on August 20, 2011, requires that the Chicago Board of Education go through a public and transparent process in order to do school facilities decisions. The process includes the publication of a list of all facilities data on all schools and community hearings whenever the Board of Education contemplates radical changes in schools.

The foundations of the Chicago Facilities Task Force are explained in the documentary below that came out of the violence and murders of black and brown youth due to mayor daley's and arne duncan's racist school closing policies.

Renaissance 2010 On the Frontlines

A documentary about the threat to the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, stemming from privatization and charter school expansion. The film explores the motives and interests driving changes in the educational system by talking with teachers from both traditional and charter schools, students, educational experts and community members impacted by these decisions.

film produced by the founding members of

CORE - Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators


January 15, 2012 at 8:22 AM

By: Jean R Schwab


I hope that a bill can slow down this train that is moving so fast and threatening to destroy every neightborhood school in sight.

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