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Tribune substitutes Oprah-like personal narratives for in depth reporting

The Chicago Tribune didn’t have to cover the story about the expansion of privatization under “Renaissance 2010” at the so-called “Polaris” charter school on the West Side on October 9. That morning, the Tribune’s “news” columns were dominating the narrative about the latest wave of charter schools in a page one story.

According to the Tribune, which would be confidently Googled by everyone covering the latest round of “Renaissance 2010”, the most important thing about all the “new schools” being created in Chicago was that the principal of one of them was a “turnaround” story herself. A child who had made bad choices and then through hard work made good.

Of course, the Tribune story left out the public school teachers who helped the making good of the child who had faced problems, then recovered. But nothing will stop a good “story” -- even the truth -- if the narrative can be shaped to further massive privatization (in Chicago, via charter schools) at the expense of public schools.

One of the many things left out was the Wal-Mart connection to the new charter schools in Chicago and the direct connection of the Tribune’s top executives to the assault on public schools.

During the October 9 media event at Polaris, Michelle Navarre, principal of Polaris, told the audience that the school had received generous funding from the Walton Family Foundations.

She also thanked former Tribune President and CEO John Madigan for a gift of $500,000 to the school. According to Navarre, Madigan made the gift after one visit to the school. Madigan, a former investment banker who came to the Tribune during the 1980s, is now retired from the company.

Polaris was just the latest Chicago charter school to receive significant support from the Wal-Mart people and others in the corporate elite.

According to the Walton Family Foundation Web site, the Waltons have invested $2.3 million in the Noble Street charter schools in Chicago and $1.3 million in the Chicago Charter School Foundation which operates the Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS).

The October 9 media event was poignant for teachers who remember the “old” Morse. The former (public) school was crumbling, and year after year the Board of Education had told parents and teachers that there was no money to fix up the building.

Media and others who arrived at the school on October 9 discovered that the inside of the building had been renovated, right down to new maple floors in the gymnasium, while new sidewalks and curbs were being build outside. Over and over, Chicago spends millions of dollars it said it did not have when the school was public to renovate the school building after it is flipped and made into a charter school. 



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