MEDIA WATCH: Chicago Sun-Times endorsement of Andrea Zopp ignores 99 percent of the votes Zopp did to destroy Chicago's real public schools... especially in the 'Black Community' Zopp supposedly served during her years as head of the Urban League...

Chicago Board of Education members David Vitale (left) and Andrea Zopp (right) shared laughter during the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Board of Education. But the public was never to learn what the joke was, as Zopp made sure her fist was clutched on the microphone in front of Vitale. Fact and fiction were in suspended animation when the editors of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote their editorial endorsing former Chicago Board of Education member Andrea Zopp for the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate. Ignoring the vast majority of votes Zopp took during her four years as a member of the Chicago Board of Education, the Sun-Times assured its readers that Zopp had made "one mistake" -- and she supposedly learned an important lesson from it! The mistake was voting in favor of a Board Report submitted by Barbara Byrd Bennett to give a $20 million no bid contract to SUPES, a contract that has resulted in a major scandal for the school board and a guilty plea by Byrd Bennett to federal corruption charges.

But was the SUPES vote the worst thing Andrea Zopp did during her four years as a Chicago Board of Education member? Hardly.

In their endorsement of Andrea Zopp's bid for the Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate, the Chicago Sun-Times treats Zopp's record as if her only "mistake" was approving the corrupt no-bid SUPES contract pushed by Barbara Byrd Bennett. A close examination of Zopp's four years as a member of the Chicago Board of Education shows otherwise. Zopp's slavish adherence to the union busting privatization agenda of Mayor Rahm Emanuel began virtually as soon as Zopp took her seat on the Chicago Board of Education (when she backed the lies Emanuel was telling about the need for the "longer school day") in 2011 all the way until she finally left the Board, hundreds of votes later, in 2015.

Zopp's record records her as one of the most vicious union-busting reactionary proponents of corporate "school reform" in Chicago history. At virtually every meeting of the school board, Zopp voted to expand privatization, reduce the power of public worker unions, and destroy the real public schools of Chicago's African American community.

She didn't have to do it. She did it gladly, often masking her votes against the unions, against massive community opposition, and against the city's public schools by prattling from time to time about the need for CPS (and City Hall) to honor "diversity" in contracts.

On example among the hundreds was her vote (it was only one vote, since the Board had the secretary combine all the "Board Reports") to close 50 of the city's real public schools at the Board's regular monthly meeting of May 22, 2013. Zopp's school closing vote took place at a meeting when her security staff dragged away one parent who tried to read out the names of all 50 of the schools that were being closed by Board vote that day. The Board members, including Zopp, didn't even allow the public to hear the names of the schools they were voting to close -- and the communities (most of them Black) that were being destroyed by that action of the Chicago Board of Education.

Yet according to the Sun-Times, Zopp's qualification for the U.S. Senate (in addition to the fact that she comes from an upper middle class family, bathed in privilege, and had the additional privileges of attending Harvard and other ruling class schools) is that she helped "minorities" during her time as CEO of the Urban League.


When the CTA embarked on a massive reconstruction of the Red Line three years ago, Andrea Zopp, then president of the Chicago Urban League, assumed a lead role in making sure a fair chunk of the jobs and contracts went to minorities, women and the poor.

The Urban League and others made sure disadvantaged groups knew about those jobs and got them everything from construction work to driving buses and hooked up the CTA with minority contractors. In all, 32 percent of the Red Line contracts, worth $82.5 million, went to businesses owned by minorities and women.


Zopp was effective because she was able to employ skills she had honed over a lifetime in corporate management and appointed public service. She could work the boardrooms of the biggest companies she has been there. She could work the levers of government she has been there. And she understood the importance of jobs and business opportunities to growing the African-American middle class.

We believe Zopp has what it takes to be highly effective in the U.S. Senate, where the rules of power and advancement are as arcane as in any boardroom. She is well equipped to again work the levers, this time on behalf of Illinois and the nation. Her top three legislative priorities are good ones, especially for Chicago and Illinois criminal justice reform, rebuilding the middle class and immigration reform. Our endorsement in the Democrat primary goes to Andrea Zopp.

Zopp, a former state and federal prosecutor, is running against another qualified candidate, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is better funded, enjoys greater name recognition and is ahead in the polls. Duckworth is to be admired for her military service, her indomitable spirit in the face of devastating injuries and her work on behalf of veterans. Either Zopp or Duckworth would be a credible challenger against incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk in the November general election.

A third candidate, State Sen. Napoleon Harris III, who owns a chain of pizza restaurants, is comparatively inexperienced. Harris is a former NFL football player, but politically hes not in the same league as Zopp or Duckworth.

We favor Zopp, a Harvard-trained lawyer, because of her breadth of experience and broad policy interests. Duckworth has been a champion for veterans, but Zopp could be a major player on a range of issues, from Wall Street to urban affairs. Zopp is defined less by an issue than by a skill set.

As president of the Chicago Urban League, Zopp immersed herself in issues of unemployment and criminal justice. She worked for summer jobs programs for youth and for alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.

As a member of the Cook County Health and Hospital System Board in the days before the Affordable Care Act, she learned firsthand why Obamacare may be, as she says, a work in progress but should not be repealed.

As a vice president and general counsel at three Fortune 500 companies Sara Lee, Sears and Exelon Zopp gained the kind of insider insights that would give weight to her views on business taxation and regulation. I know how businesses think, she told the Sun-Times Editorial Board. I know how they make decisions to invest. Most importantly, I know how to hold them accountable to be good corporate citizens.

Zopps one big misstep of late and its a doozy came as a member of the Chicago Board of Education. She cast a vote in 2013 in favor of a $20.5 million no-bid contract that is now at the center of a federal probe. The contract allegedly was arranged by former Supt. Barbara Byrd-Bennett in exchange for a kickback. Nobody on the school board, which is appointed by the mayor, questioned the contract.

Chicago Board of Education "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett (left) and Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz (right) also enjoyed a moment of smiles during the May 22, 2013 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. At that meeting, Byrd Bennett recommended the largest school closing in American history (50 schools), and the Board members voted in favor of it. Substance photo by David Vance.Zopps defense is that this is how oversight boards work they hire the best executives available and presume theyre not crooks. Our view is that the scandal was made more likely by the boards ask-no-questions culture. Zopp failed to challenge that culture. Were hoping shes learned.

The Great Recession is over, but millions of Americans continue to struggle. Wages are flat and income disparities have grown wider. Nearly half of young black men in Chicago are neither in school nor working, according to a study released last month. Violent crime, mostly involving guns, remains a national shame.

Zopp has never had to struggle in this way, certainly not like Duckworth, who took a job as a teen to help pay her familys rent on a studio apartment. Zopps father was a prominent lawyer who served on the New York Appellate Court. She went to fine schools. But that, she says, is exactly why she wants to go to Washington to give back. She wants others to have those same chances in life.

The door of opportunity that opened for her and her family and others, she told us, is closing. She wants to push the door wide open.


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