Rahm Emanuel puts union busting, privatization and teacher bashing to the front as... Fox News airs half hour infomercial for Noble Street Charter Schools as part of propaganda for 'School Choice Week'

Busy with final grades for the semester and working against the usual pressures of teaching the children of America's poorest families, many Chicago public school teachers could be forgiven if they somehow missed "School Choice Week." But that was a mistake, since unmasked, "School Choice Week" (which ran from January 22 through January 28 and included Chicago's "New Schools Expo" was a well-financed attack on behalf of all the union busting, privatization and teacher bashing clichés that have become commonplace in Chicago — and across the USA from the White House to both coasts — during the past couple of years.

Rahm Emanuel, Jean Claude Brizard, and Pablo Sierra (left), principal of Noble Street Pritzker Campus, staged a media event at the Noble Street Pritzker campus on December 15, 2011, in the usual format. Reporters are supposed to film the "discussion" without asking questions. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.By far, one of the most important pieces of propaganda on behalf of the union busting and privatization agenda of the "choice" movement (at least for inner city people) since "Waiting for Superman" is the recent "special report" by Fox News commentator Juan Williams. It's called "A Tale of Two Missions" and provides charter schools and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel with a half-hour of "news" time to attack the Chicago Teachers Union in particular and public schools in general. The film's URL is at:

"Being released during National School Choice Week, the film runs approximately 35 minutes and is geared towards generating discussion about the role of our schools and what obstacles can be overcome when school culture is focused on student success rather than adult demands," was what one anti- public school web site said about "A tale of two..." [Like the build up around "Waiting for Superman" a year ago, the choice people were pushing group showings: "Visit to organize and event and watch the film during National School Choice Week, January 22-28, 2012. Check out the promo below" one site noted].

But the difference between the relatively failed "Waiting for Superman" and the latest piece of anti-union propaganda is that this year's entry features one of the nation's most prominent Democratic Party leaders, former White House Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And Emanuel's union busting rhetoric and falsehoods permeate the film, giving it greater credibility than "Waiting for Superman" could have hoped to attain.

Rahm Emanuel began the Big Lie about Noble Street Charter Schools (officially, the "Noble Network of Charter Schools") a year ago during his election campaign, and has been using the same false talking points regularly since his election as mayor last year. In December, Emanuel held a publicity stunt at the Noble Street "Pritzker" campus before leaving Chicago for his family's extended vacation in South America, away from the Chicago winter. Despite the fact that the Noble Lie has been disproved regularly both by outside sources and from within Chicago Public Schools, Emanuel (and the officials of Noble Street) continue repeating it, like a marketing jingle for toothpaste. Just one of the many refutations of the Noble Big Lie comes from a recent issue of Chicago magazine (of all places).


CHICAGO – The new documentary film is called “A Tale of Two Missions,” and it’s focused on current conditions in Chicago Public Schools.

One “mission” is led by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is working hard to provide fresh opportunities for kids stuck in failing city schools.

The other is led by Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who is determined to kill the expansion of school choice in the city, so her union can keep students (and the tax money attached to them) trapped in subpar neighborhood schools.

And now, just as the documentary is released to the public, Emanuel, Lewis and their respective teams have started negotiating a new labor contract that will go a long way toward determining the future of Chicago Public Schools.

The current teachers union contract expires June 30. Negotiations on a new pact are expected to take months, perhaps even beyond the expiration date of the current contract.

Lewis had made it clear that teachers want higher salaries and more expensive benefits, despite the district’s estimated $720 million budget deficit and the continued threat of layoffs for young teachers and cancellation of student programs.

Emanuel is dedicated to holding down costs and using limited resources to provide better school options for underserved students.

In short, the mayor of Chicago is on a mission to improve education in Chicago. The union is on selfish mission to preserve a failed system that provides a guaranteed income for thousands of teachers and a steady flow of dues money to the CTU.

A better future for one of the nation’s worst public school systems is hanging in the balance.

Documentary sets the scene in Chicago

To gain a good understanding of the state of affairs in Chicago Public Schools, take a few minutes and watch ” A Tale of Two Missions,” narrated by former National Public Radio and current Fox News analyst Juan Williams.

Williams talks about a city that has invested heavily in charter schools in recent years, due to the persistent failure of union-dominated traditional public schools.

“Some argue that the solution is simple – just spend more money (on traditional schools),” Williams says in the film. “But others are convinced that continuing to chase good money after bad cannot continue.

“When parents are allowed to choose, schools will have the incentive to compete. And competition breeds flexibility, adaptability and innovation. But school choice also poses a significant threat to the status quo, and no single entity profits more from the status quo than teachers unions.

“They fight and resist education reform however and whenever it is found.”

Williams focuses on the success of one charter school, Noble Street College Prep, which spends less per student than CPS and boasts a graduation rate of 99 percent, compared to CPS’s woeful 56 percent.

The Noble Street school has a non-union workforce, which allows it to control labor costs and pursue groundbreaking education strategies without the permission of union bosses.

The school’s environment is focused on success. It has a much longer school day than traditional Chicago schools. It has a strict dress and conduct code. It’s curriculum is focused on college preparation and acceptance.

The school is currently at full capacity with 6,500 students, and has a long waiting list of parents who want their children enrolled.

“Noble has the most successful high school I have ever seen,” Mayor Emanuel tells Williams in the film. “They’re not just doing their job. They’re on a mission.”

The documentary addresses the teacher union’s effort to fight the mayor’s plan to add 10 new quality charter schools like Noble. Williams points to a massive rally last October in the streets of Chicago, where Lewis and her cronies tried to paint education reformers as profiteers intent on ripping off the state education budget.

The true source of their anger is greed. The more students who attend charter schools, the less state aid for traditional schools. The less state aid for traditional schools, the less money that’s available for teachers and their unions.

They are the defenders of the failed status quo, because it works to their financial advantage.

How well it works for the children of the city is not their concern.

“This is a tale of two cultures,” Williams says in the film. “One is interested in maintaining its power and influence, while the other is intent on preparing children for life. One is interested in maintaining the mechanics of collective bargaining and union contracts, while the other is intent on graduating every single student.

“This is the story of a Chicago miracle and the people who would kill it.”

CTU, mayor on a contract collision course

Contract negotiations between the city and the teachers union are scheduled to begin this week.

Lewis tipped her hand about her negotiation objectives at a recent press conference.

“We can share with you the fact that we will be advocating for the practices, support and resources which all of our schools, including our neighborhood schools, need and which our students deserve.”

Translation – more money for teachers. Lewis’ press conference resulted in a very honest headline posted on the CBS Chicago website: “CPS Teachers Want Pay Hikes, More Benefits.”

How that would somehow benefit students, we have no idea.

We were encouraged by a response from CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll, who issued a statement saying, “Our students have been shortchanged by this system for too long, and their academic needs must come first. Our goal is to negotiate a contact that treats our teachers fairly and as professionals, but also one that is negotiated in the best interest of our students, parents and taxpayers during these difficult financial times.”

If the mayor’s short track record is any indication, he will stand his ground at the bargaining table. In less than a year in office, he has cancelled a scheduled 4 percent raise for teachers, called for a merit pay system that would funnel more money to the most effective teachers, and announced the implementation of a longer academic day for all schools starting next fall.

He has called for the closing of several failing schools, a turnaround program for other schools that includes the replacement of staff, and the opening of 10 new charter schools to give students an escape route from failing schools.

We believe Mayor Emanuel is ready to fight the union on behalf of the city’s children.

Unfortunately the public will not be able to watch the negotiations unfold. Lewis has made it clear that the union plans to make its demands during closed negotiations, keeping citizens in the dark until a new agreement is hammered out.

By that time it will be too late for the people to have any useful input.

We admonish the mayor to let taxpayers know what the union wants and how much it would cost, both in terms of money and quality education.

Such a tactic may anger the union, and result in a charge of “bargaining in bad faith.” But it’s more important for Emanuel to keep faith with the taxpayers who fund the schools than the union bosses who bleed them dry.


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

3 + 3 =