MEDIA WATCH: 'All the news that fits [the ruling class version of reality] we print'...New York Times gets it wrong on first try at reporting the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 as 'news'

One of the problems intelligent people face is when they let themselves be brainwashed by ideological versions of reality posing as fact. One of our favorite examples of this came when Substance exposed the Marva Collins (superteacher in Chicago) fraud 30 years ago, but the story became legend thanks to "60 Minutes." Over the years, a disturbing trend has developed, as professors who don't do their own street work have been given a free hand to quote any story published in The New York Times as factual (while abiding by the blacklist surrounding Substance news reports and any commentary by this reporter). As The New York Times finally recognized that something big is happening in Chicago's public schools with the Teachers Strike of 2012, their reporters managed to get most of the story wrong — beginning with the notion, in their lead paragraph, that this strike is some kind of surprise. (It is only a surprise for those who use people like Rahm Emanuel and his ten closest friends as sources).

The New York Times made a great effort not to quote any of the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union for its first "news" coverage of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. Above, CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey speaking to reporters at the union's strike operations headquarters on Saturday, two days before the strike. Contrary to the implications of the New York Times's version of news, the officers and communications staff of the union were not in hiding on September 9 and September 10, 2012. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt. Before reading the following story, consider the facts: (a) The New York Times preens itself as America's newspaper of record and sports the motto "All the news that's fit to print." (b) for many people the world over, this is the first inkling they have of what is going on in Chicago.

Had the following story been submitted to Substance (or in one of my journalism classes before I was blacklisted by CPS 12 years ago), would have demanded that the reporters find one of the union's officers before putting up the story. Only The New York Times was unable to locate Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey, Kristine Mayle or Michael Brunson on September 10, 2012. An amazing feat of reporting, when you consider how important this story is.


Teachers’ Strike in Chicago Tests Mayor and Union By MONICA DAVEY (Published: September 10, 2012 1100 Comments)

CHICAGO — This city found itself engulfed on Monday by a sudden public school strike that left 350,000 children without classes, turned a spotlight on rising tensions nationally over teachers’ circumstances, and placed both the powerful teachers’ union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a risky, politically fraught standoff with no clear end in sight.

Thousands of teachers dressed in red swarmed through downtown and marched outside of schools across the city in this, the nation’s third-largest school system, as families raced to find alternative child care — an available relative, a city-sponsored day-care program, anything — for classes they had learned were called off only hours before the week began.

The strike, Chicago’s first in 25 years and the first in a major city in a half-dozen years, also revealed a rift between unions and Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Obama, raising the prospect that a lingering strike in the president’s hometown might become an issue in a presidential election year when Democrats depend on the backing of labor.

Closed-door negotiations continued late into Monday night between Chicago Public Schools officials and leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union. A school official said both sides needed a night to digest the latest proposals. Labor groups and teachers in other cities voiced support for strikers here, suggesting that the fight in Chicago was merely one glimpse at a mounting national struggle over unionized teachers’ pay, conditions, benefits and standing.

“You have a situation where the teachers feel totally and completely disrespected,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the parent union of the striking teachers. In this case, she said she blamed Mayor Emanuel for an aggressive push to extend the length of the school day and for a promised raise that was later rescinded. “He created the seeds of a lot of frustration and mistrust,” she said.

For his part, Mr. Emanuel, facing the most serious crisis since he became mayor in 2011, deemed the work stoppage an avoidable “strike of choice,” urged teachers to return to work, and seemed eager to dismiss all talk about political fallout — for himself or for Mr. Obama, whose former aides founded a “super PAC” that Mr. Emanuel had, until he suspended his work with it on Monday, said he would assist until Election Day.

“Don’t worry about the test of my leadership,” Mr. Emanuel said, in an appearance at one of scores of sites opened in a rush as part of a contingency plan to manage displaced students who had nowhere else to go. “Don’t take it out on the kids of the city of Chicago if you have a problem with me.”

Republicans were quick to weigh in on the circumstances that had pitted a Democratic mayor against 26,000 unionized teachers. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the teachers here, adding, “Teachers’ unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet.” And Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, had called on Mr. Emanuel to set aside political fund-raising to focus on the schools crisis.

Mr. Obama on Monday issued no specific reaction to the strike. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said: “His principal concern is for the students and families who are affected by the situation. And we hope that both sides are able to come together to settle this quickly and in the best interest of Chicago’s students.”

For months, a conflict had been simmering here between the teachers and Mr. Emanuel, who has pledged to make the most comprehensive reform in the Chicago Public Schools in a decade. Still, the strike, announced around 10 p.m. on Sunday, took many by surprise.

School officials said they had made significant concessions in the contract talks, including what would amount to a 16 percent increase for teachers over four years despite what is expected to be a $1 billion deficit in the system’s operating budget next year. The officials said only two issues were still subjects of dispute — how to evaluate teachers and whether teaching openings should automatically go to laid-off teachers.

School board officials said the average salary for teachers here is $76,000.

But on Monday, union officials seemed to suggest that the dispute was larger, and included other issues related to benefits, how to calculate raises based on experience level, training days for teachers, and more.

Outside the schools here, though, in the lines of marchers, the issues seemed ever broader. Many teachers said they were troubled by a new evaluation system and its reliance on student test scores. Teachers spoke of rising class sizes, much-needed social workers, a dearth of air-conditioned classrooms and slow-to-arrive reference books, and, again and again, a sense of disrespect.

Teachers also clearly saw the strike as a protest not just of the union negotiations in Chicago but on data-driven education reform nationwide, which many perceived as being pushed by corporate interests and relying too heavily on standardized tests to measure student progress.

At Lane Tech College Prep, where many passing motorists honked their support for the teachers, Steve Parsons, a teacher, said he believed the city was ultimately aiming to privatize education through charter schools and computer programs that teach classes online.

“We need to stay out as long as it takes to get a fair contract and protect our schools,” he said.

Around Chicago, parents said they were struggling to find places to send their children for some uncertain number of days or weeks or, as one worried parent offered unhappily, months. Some brought children to their workplaces, and others took days off. City officials opened 144 schools for half-days of games, movies, puzzles, basketball and meals with nonunion workers, but some parents expressed concern about the safety or value of those options, and others seemed uncomfortable with the prospect of crossing picket lines to enter.

“This was very bad timing,” said Karen Miles, who said she had to cancel work meetings on Monday to juggle her daughters. “I plan my day around their school,” she said, inside her daughters’ school — one of the contingency sites — on the city’s North Side, where one sign read, “Your kids deserve what Rahm’s kids get,” an allusion to the mayor’s children’s attendance at a private school.

“I don’t get paid,” Ms. Miles added, “if I don’t work.”

In recent years, school strikes in major cities have been relatively rare, last occurring in Detroit in 2006, and before that, in Philadelphia in 2000. New York City teachers last went on strike more than 35 years ago.

By late Monday, thousands of teachers and supporters, including a sprinkling of firefighters and Teamsters, packed a rally downtown, wrapping around two blocks and, at points, completely blocking traffic. The mood was festive, marked by drums and loud shouts of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Rahm Emanuel’s got to go!”

Kelly Farrell, a kindergarten teacher at Higgins Elementary on the city’s South Side, said her class had so many pupils that she did not even have enough seats for them all. “They are 5 years old,” she said. “They want their teacher’s attention, and there is one of me and 43 of them.”

Reporting was contributed by Motoko Rich, Steven Yaccino and Idalmy Carrera from Chicago, Steven Greenhouse, Jack Begg and Colin Moynihan from New York, and Peter Baker from Washington. A version of this article appeared in print on September 11,


September 11, 2012 at 1:01 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Average teacher's salary

The NY Times article states: "School board officials said the average salary for teachers here is $76,000." Let me say this, if the NY Times had actually examined the CPS budget they would discover that the average salary of a CPS teacher has declined significantly this year. Let me cite what I wrote in August about exactly this issue in the annual review I do for Access Living on the CPS budget.

"In our journey though this budget, we came across several unexpected program lines, with dramatic increases. One was 109981 and it is called the 'vacancy factor.' While we all are aware that CPS has always had unfilled positions, it was difficult to accept a $59 million dollar line to credit CPS back for unfilled positions. We contacted the CPS budget office and were informed that CPS was not projecting a dramatic increase in unfilled positions, but rather that this budget line was being used to account for the large number of teachers and administrators who had retired this year and who it was expected would be replaced by lower cost employees. The actual salary lines in the budget apparently do not reflect these new lower cost employees so this line is used to offset this problem. But it does lead one to wonder how much will the average salary of a CPS teacher will drop and why has there been so much media discussion of high average CPS teacher salaries if in fact they are declining so much CPS will be saving $59 million?" (page 4 of Access Living budget review)

What is even more interesting is that the CPS leadership, every Board member, Mr. Brizard, the CFO, and budget director were provided a copy of this report well before it was issued publicly. No one at CPS indicated that they believed my statement was incorrect either before or after we issued our report.

Rod Estvan

September 11, 2012 at 2:51 PM

By: David R. Stone

Teacher salary: more lies?

When the Board of Education's budget was posted online this year, careful analysts noticed that the total dollar amount given for teacher salaries included principals and assistant principals. Their average salaries are higher than teacher salaries. Are they included in this new $76,000 figure that is being cited as our average pay?

-David R. Stone

September 11, 2012 at 8:01 PM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

Teacher average salary in Chicago

I'd like to know what in fact the average salary of teachers in Chicago is. I'm sure that if it's anywhere near $76K, administrators salaries are averaged in there. The average salary as reported keeps going up: $69K, then $71K, and now the NY Times with $76K. Teachers are having a hard time believing these inflated figures.

September 11, 2012 at 9:06 PM

By: Susan Robins

Teacher's Pay

I have a M.A. plus 30 additional graduate hours and only make $42,710.00. Our top teacher with a M.A. plus 60 additional hours at the top of their step only makes $56,000. I believe what the news is reporting is inflated and may only reflect teachers that are at the top of their step.

September 11, 2012 at 9:13 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Board lies about teacher pay

The Board has traditionally lied about teacher pay, so this particular lie is not Rahm's fault, but one he inherited and is now exploiting. The Board has had two broad budget categories for payroll — "teachers" and (basically) "other". (Other used to be "career service," but that was wiped out earlier during "reform"). Everyone who is classified as working under a teacher certificate — including principals and even higher "teachers" (like this year, Brizard) — is lumped in that "teacher" group. That of course raises the "average" pay, because principals this year are being paid around $140,000 and assistant principals more than $100,000.

Voila! Once again, the "average" is a deception. No one who pays attention to statistics is surprised by this fact, but at times like this it become a huge and important and powerful political fact.

Also, in the past the substitute pay has been excluded from the "average." So the "average" is goosed up on the high end by the pay of administrators, principals and APs, but not averaged with the inclusion of the lowest paid teachers.

This game has been going on for decades, not just years. Rahm has developed a lot of his own stock of lies, but this particular one has been given to him.

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