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SUBSCRIPT: Tribune editors find the last 'teacher' in Chicago who opposes union's strike vote plans! Archeological dig turns up millionaire heiress posing as 'teacher' after two years of slumming (and failed attempts at classroom teaching) at Sullivan High School

If the Chicago Tribune's editors had any entrepreneurial energy — or reportorial integrity — left, they surely could have dug up one or two relics of former union caucuses to talk their talk (and perhaps walk their scab union busting and teacher bashing walk), this week. In the face of the overwhelming evidence that Chicago teachers have had it with the teacher bashing and union busting agendas of Rahm Emanuel and corporate Chicago, the Tribune went to the tried-and-true and quoted another aging Astroturf tout for its failed programs. So instead of a real teacher, they found what can only be called a pseudo-teacher — the one not-a-teacher "teacher" they can always call for a quote — a lady whose prominence in “school reform” is completely owing to the Plutocracy into which she was born and which keeps her voice louder than thousands of real teachers. After all, the Tribune will always find someone to quote against the upcoming strike authorization vote by the 25,000 active duty members of the Chicago Teachers Union and to "Tut Tut Tut..." against the public schools.

Millionaire heiress Robin Steans shares a panel with Rahm Emanuel at Schurz High School on September 9, 2011, touting corporate "school reform." Steans, a failed Chicago classroom teacher, is head of an Astroturf group called "Advance Illinois." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Once again, instead of real teachers and real parents, Chicago gets to hear from Robin Steans, of the Astroturf outfit called “Advance Illinois.”

There may have been one teacher among the 5,000 to 10,000 or more who turned out in red and filled the Loop with protest on May 23 to spout the Plutocratic Party Line. But instead the Tribune went out the back door of Chicago’s rich and infamous and came up with a recycled tout. This one was born not with a silver but with a diamond-plated platinum spoon in her mouth. This is a person whose family favors safaris for vacations, and who never had to worry once about making a car payment or what will happen when “school reform” turns around her school and puts her out of a job.

This is a person whose multi-millionaire Daddy made sure that all of his kids found work in the social branches of the family's businesses — pushing the party line of the Plutocracy. “Teacher”?! — well, not really. After a couple of years’ slumming among us, and mostly failure as an FNG, this one went back to her roots, and has been polluting the airwaves ever since. There really aren't that many plutocrats who actually teach n real public schools, even briefly. But for the Tribune, Robin Steans was a good enough "teacher" to quote against 25,000 or so real urban union teachers on the question of the upcoming strike vote.

The Tribune's May 24, 2012 editorial admitted that it could not find one real public school teacher in Chicago to speak against the upcoming strike vote, so it quoted an Astroturf millionaire — Robin Steans of Advance Illinois — pretending to once have been a teacher sort of maybe.Robin Steans (to those who pay attention to such things) has been prominently around “school reform” circles for awhile. She is one of the main authoresses of "Senate Bill 7," the latest apartheid law that consigns Chicago Public Schools to second class union citizenship by making it much more difficult for CPS teachers to strike than for other public school teachers in Illinois to strike. Robin Steans was sitting at the right hand of R. Eden Martin during the December 2010 hearings on "school reform" in Aurora that tried to get the Illinois General Assembly to completely ban Chicago teacher strikes (as the ruling class had done in 1995, when Republicans, including Steans's buddies, had run Springfield). Robin Steans is the no longer young lady who is trotted out for every ruling class thingy about corporate "school reform," from panels at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago devoted to the Civic Federation's version of reality to the meet and greet with Arne Duncan at Schurz High School at the opening of school for the 2011-2012 school year.

But most of all, Steans is the chief of a lucrative thingy called "Advance Illinois," chaired by Bill Daley and Jim Edgar, to speak on behalf of the one percent against public schools and public school unions.

Hence, on May 24, 2012, Robin Steans was the only "teacher" the Tribune could find who could be editorially quoted in opposition to the upcoming strike vote by Chicago's real teachers (the ones who weren't multi-millionaire heiresses who spent a couple of years slumming as classroom teachers at Sullivan High School and failing in a most dismal way to do any more than prove that FNGs need more than a lucrative bank account and investments to teach Chicago kids).

But let's update the Google search on this one. In an editorial published on May 24, 2012, the Tribune found one "teacher" to quote: "'As a former teacher myself, I can't believe you would ask a teacher to take a vote on something as important as whether to go on strike without knowing what the actual offer is,' Robin Steans of the reform group Advance Illinois told us. 'That strikes me as the ultimate disrespect of teachers.'"

Robin Steans of "Advance Illinois" (above left) teamed up with R. Eden Martin (second from left) of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago to demand that the Illinois General Assembly put through legislation that Chicago believed would make it impossible for Chicago teacher to strike as further privatization was pushed through. Above, Steans and Eden Martin were testifying before the Illinois General Assembly's "School Reform Committee" on December 17, 2010 in Aurora, working to promote the legislation which became the infamous "SB7" law. Although Steans, Stand for Children, and Eden Martin's group failed to get a complete ban on union strikes in Chicago, they did get a discriminatory portion of the law inserted requiring that the Chicago Teachers Union get a vote of 75 percent of its membership (meaning that anyone who didn't vote was counted as a "No") in any strike referendum. As it has become clear that the CTU will reach the 75 percent threshold in the upcoming strike vote, Steans and her Plutorcratic school reform allies are becoming hysterical at the prospect of a real challenge to their 20 years of what CTU leaders are now dubbing the "failed status quo of corporate school reform in Chicago." Above in the right, Dan Montgomery of the Illinois Federation of Teachers spoke against the position taken by Steans and Martin. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Actually, Robin Steans and her plutocratic family (and school reform colleagues) know a lot about disrespecting teachers. It was Steans who helped steer the attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union through the so-called "School Reform Committee" of the Illinois General Assembly a year and a half ago. After teaming up with Stand for Children and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, Steans was the main speaker at the two days of hearings in Aurora that pushed legislation that even most Illinois school boards warned against — and which was blatantly (and many say racistly) discriminatory against Chicago teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union.

Of course, Steans at that point wasn't a "teacher", but a reformer. In December 2010, she was sitting proudly beside that generation of "Stand for Children" Chicago hacks (they're all gone, recycled into the latest bunch of corporate mercenaries) and the older generation of corporate union busters (led those days by the infamous head of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club's education stuff, R. Eden Martin).

A few months later, she was sitting with Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel, preaching the same gospel. In fact, just about every place the plutocracy gathers to talk to itself about its version of school reform, Robin Steans is there. But a "teacher..." Never once has she suggested, let alone demanded, that a real current card carrying union classroom teachers — or an officer of the Chicago Teachers Union — sit with her and her Plutocratic friends to talk about the schools. Reality is not their strongpoint, so they orchestrate events and host publicity stunts.

Robin Steans was a nearly failure as a classroom teacher in Chicago, as those who served with her at Sullivan High School still remember. But she wasn't even there long enough to bring one division (home room) from 9th grade to 12th grade, like most high school teachers do during the years when they are learning their trade as apprentices. Like most novice teachers, she was finding it difficult learning the ropes. Unlike most, she wasn't really going to be around long enough to care about the veteran teachers she would later try to destroy through her attacks on the city's real public schools, her support for massive charterization, and he specific union busting work against the Chicago Teachers Union. And by 2010, she was pushing for a formula for teacher evaluation — based solely on test scores — that was promoted by corporate America but which has no basis in science or the complex pedagogical realities of teaching and learning in a gritty urban system like Chicago's.

But Robin Steans's destiny was never to teach. Instead, it was to teacher bash; never to serve in the public schools, but to serve those who want to breakup the public schools and privatize as much as possible; never to even try to be a union teacher, but to be a union buster in the service of the plutocracy and ideology that has made her family wealthy beyond the reach of even the lower rungs of the "one percent" — and thus placed her at the head of one of those many Astro Turf outfits that are always available to be quoted in the Tribune and other corporate outlets.

An irony? The Tribune had reporters looking at more than 4,000 teachers at the Auditorium Theatre on May 23, 2012 and might have asked a thousand or two of them whether they — as "teachers" — agreed with the position Ms. Steans and the Tribune preached. Or the Tribune's reporters could have gone out on the streets with the 5,000 to 10,000 teachers and others who marched that evening against the policies of the administration of Rahm Emanuel, and tried their luck at finding one or two "teachers" to speak out against the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union (and for Steans's guy, Rahm). We actually could have recommended one or two sad cases of arrested development out of the thousands at the rally and march. Some of those were sitting a few feet below one of the Tribune's reporters, and given their bent, they probably would have ratted out their fellow teachers (as one of their erstwhile "teacher reform" colleagues had recently done). But any true sample would have gotten the ratios right. About 500 teachers are supporting a strike for every one who might today be against it. And even the UPC residue and the renegade PACT factionalist who was loud talking the Tribune line a few feet from one Substance reporter as Karen Lewis spoke probably would have ducked rather than put their name behind such scabiness at this point in history. Hence, the Tribune dusts off the aging heiress and once again puts here on center stage. Somehow, it's appropriate. 



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