Chicago Teachers Union President continues support for corporate agenda at 'Advance Illinois' breakfast for Arne Duncan

While nearly 100 people — most of them Chicago teachers and dues paying members of the 33,000-member Chicago Teachers Union — demonstrated against the continued privatization and other attacks on Chicago's public schools on the sidewalk outside, the CTU President, Marilyn Stewart, ate breakfast inside, smiled when she received a shout out from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, tried to avoid being photographed by Substance, and ignored her own members or her role in providing critical support in the fact that the former 'Chief Executive Officer' is now U.S. Secretary of Education.

June 19, 2009. Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart turns away from the Substance cameras as she sits awaiting another opportunity to cheer during the speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the "Advance Illinois" breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on June 19, 2009. Flanking Stewart (above) are Marc Wigler (with glasses) and Lynn Cherkasky-Davis (handling food), both of whom work at the CTU Quest Center. The three union officials cheered Arne Duncan's remarks, which included attacks on unionized teachers, especially in California, and remarkably dishonest appreciations of Chicago's charter schools (especially North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Seated two tables away from Bill Daley, brother of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Arne Duncan, and other corporate and governmental leaders of the group called "Advance Illinois," Stewart applauded with the rest of the audience as the corporate leaders of Chicago and their education reform colleagues promoted the agenda of an organization called "Advance Illinois" and, nationally, the agenda of Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education.

Protests provide views of rank-and-file teachers

While Stewart and her colleagues from the Chicago Teachers Union's staff were eating breakfast and cheering Arne Duncan, dozens of Stewart's members were picketing and protesting against Duncan's corporate "school reform" and union-busting policies on the sidewalk outside the fancy hotel where Stewart was cheering Duncan.

One of the revelations by CORE recently was that under Arne Duncan, the Chicago Board of Education has purged more than 2,000 African American teachers. Most of those took place, according to a recent complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) because Arne Duncan, as Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public schools (from July 2001 through January 2009) pursued a policy of closing schools for so-called "academic failure" based solely on low scores on standardized tests. Duncan's policies than favored a group called the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), Chicago's favored "turnaround" contractor, which replaced the teachers fired from the failing schools with younger white teachers who had supposedly been trained in the latest successful methods of educating urban children who live in extreme poverty and under the burden of complete racial segregation in Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Organized by CORE (the Caucus Of Rank-and-file Educators) and GEM (the Grassroots Education Movement), the protest against Arne Duncan and the policies endorsed by Advance Illinois drew nearly 100 people, most of them Chicago teachers and retired teachers, while corporate and governmental leaders were listening to Duncan one story below their feet.


June 20, 2009 at 12:14 PM

By: teacher


it is interesting to observe the 2 pictures here. Other than for Stewart, no one sees a monority face at this meeting, but the protestors outside, one can see many minority teachers. It is clear to see what is wrong with these pictures! arne is a racist.

June 20, 2009 at 5:19 PM


Things Need to Change

Marilyn Stewart should have been picketing Duncan right alongside the CORE picketers Friday morning. What a statement that would have made. Shame on her for going inside for scrambled eggs. There is an ugly change coming to the public school system as we know it and not for the better.

There is an incestuous relationship developing between the Board and the city, state, and national politicians concerning public education(maybe it's always been there and I wasn't paying attention). The TEACHERS' union needs to stay out of it.

Teachers have to stay informed. Substance is the only publication that is a true watchdog. We know better than anyone that we need to read! Start with all the Substance articles even if reading about the Pension Board when you're only 24 makes your eyes glaze over.

We've become lazy. There hasn't been a strike for 22 years. Some teachers don't even know what that looks like. We used to strike for salary. We need to make some noise about jobs now or the Union can fold its tents and go home. There will be none of us left.

June 20, 2009 at 5:50 PM

By: JEJ you are correct but


where were all the other teachers to protest that morning?!--all the teacher laid off on June 12, all the teachers who who had their schools closed? This protest should have stopped traffice. AND CTU could have had Stewart on the inside--we know she likes those free meals, while they protested on the street.

June 20, 2009 at 9:57 PM

By: xian from CORE

Where there enough?

Nearly 100 is still nearly 100 more than there would have been a year ago. Yes, we need a broader movement if we are to save the union and public education.

But this is a start, let's get more to the Board Meeting next week.

June 20, 2009 at 11:33 PM

By: kugler

let them eat cake

perfect pictures.

teachers fight for their rights and jobs outside and leadership stuffing their faces inside.

I am trying to remember how this story ends? I know I read it somewhere. I know it has a happy ending but someone did get a hair cut.

June 21, 2009 at 2:25 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Advance Illinois Censorship... Corporate media subservience

I just covered both events for Substance and outlined for the CORE pickets some of what had unfolded inside. Advance Illinois had tried to keep Substance out, and they did succeed in keeping some of our staff out. When I called for press credentials (it's a courtesy we always do), Fuzz Hogan, the Advance Illinois media person, told me there was not enough room for more than one Substance reporter. I had told him we needed to have a videographer, reporter and photographer. But "there just isn't enough room..." blah blah blah.

Once inside, I could clearly see there was enough room for as many reporters as we could have put in, and more. It isn't the first time Substance has gotten this kind of runaround from the corporate "school reform" people. With a second reporter and the videographer inside the Advance Illinois breakfast our coverage would have moved here more completely and quickly. But we work with what we can.

What people need to understand is how Arne Duncan and corporate Chicago are helping craft this "national" message and market Duncan's push to "turnaround" 5,000 public schools across the USA via the bullying he can do with between $3 billion and $5 billion in "stimulus" funds.

The last time Duncan was in Chicago, like this one, he didn't hold a press conference or media briefing. Instead, as has become the method of these guys, he went to the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune. There, he warned that Illinois was facing the loss of possible stimulus dollars because Illinois was not doing enough of what Duncan calls "reform." The story appeared as "news", dutifully scripted into the news pages of the Tribune. Somehow along the line, Kimberly Lightford and other leaders in the House and Senate caved in and put the lifting of the Illinois charter cap into a bill, which is now law.

That's the first of many results of the greenmail that will be flowing from the Ed Dept.

The unveiling of the Advance Illinois report and agenda is the same type of event. Advance Illinois has yet to host a broad press conference where Robin Steans, Jim Edgar, and William Daley actually try to explain and defend their huge (34 pages) report "We Can Do Better." Instead, it is being marketed, with the help of the Sun-Times, Tribune, and corporate TV reporters, as fact.

Reporters who ask questions based on reality (like anything about Arne Duncan's history of "new schools" and "turnaround" as they actually exist in Chicago) are going to be excluded by Advance Illinois and the Duncan cadre at the U.S. Department of Education. They are going to do that excluding more ruthlessly than George W. Bush could ever get away with when he and Margaret Spellings were running things.

Substance reporters have stood fifteen feet from Bush, Spellings and others and been able to ask questions; the Obama people simply screen all of the possible variables before the cameras go on and never allow that; hence, Friday's morning's event at the Hyatt with Arne Duncan. One of the people sitting a few feet from me on the media platform during the Duncan media event was Kate Grossman, who writes the puff pieces for corporate "school reform" for the Chicago Sun-Times, just as she once crafted puff pieces for Duncan's "reforms" when she was reporting the "news." Grossman had already contributed to the Advance Illinois agenda by preaching from the editorial page of the Sun-Times on behalf of "We Can Do Better" (that 34-page report).

That's how it works.

The Duncan and Advance Illinois people both told me they'd have copies of the prepared remarks of the major speakers (especially Duncan) and I'd get them by Friday night. They lied. The U.S. Department of Education has not been answering its phones this weekend, and Advance Illinois (again, Fuzz Hogan) says they'll have the transcripts maybe by Monday.

Why is this important?

Had we had three people (video; photo; reporter), one of us would have taped precisely what was being said so we could turn around our stories with complete accuracy. (We just finished adding video direct to this Web site, but we're debugging it). Since I had to do double duty as photographer and reporter, I kept notes fast as I could, but was also going around getting pictures (a time when you can't take notes).

Had we had out video people, we would have gotten video of all the tables at the breakfast (that earlier comment about all those white people would have been even more obvious to anyone watching). But (again, Fuzz Hogan) there just wasn't "enough room".

We'll continue to do our job.

I don't think things will change, though, until everyone is calling out the Sun-Times and Tribune every day about how their news columns simply recompile the official corporate narrative and then recycle the propaganda as "news." They did not cover one of the school closing hearings in 2009, and possibly covered one of two in 2008 (I would have to check my photographs). Then Kate Grossman (again) shows up for the Board of Education vote to close the schools in February.

Both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tribune corporation are in bankruptcy. But they were bankrupt as news organizations long before they filed for Chapter 11. Until everyone here and most others realize that their "news" from Chicago's corporate media is simply corporate propaganda (and not simply the stuff that comes from Rupert Murdoch's Fox News) slickly re-packaged, Chicagoans are still going to be vulnerable to a disinformation campaign like the one now being orchestrated by Arne Duncan and the Chicago Boys on the national stage, and subsidized with corporate narrative from back home here in Chicago.

June 21, 2009 at 2:28 PM


Call to Arms

Absolutely the 100 picketers were better than none, but the whole CTU membership should have turned out. There is complacency due, perhaps, to lack of knowledge. CTU leadership is to blame for that.

At the moment, the majority of actively involved teachers are those who've had his/her ox gored. Being gored comes in many forms. There are teachers under siege with out-of-control principals, teachers whose positions have been unfairly cut due to Board chicanery, and teachers whose schools have been closed due to Board chicanery. Happily, there are teachers whose oxen are doing quite well, thank you, but who understand the problems and are on the front lines with their colleagues. As that wise sage, Substance reporter, Jim Vail, noted “What’s done to one teacher is done to all teachers.”

I guarantee you after 22 years without a strike, next to none of the Union teachers are even reading union news. Substance is a light in the wilderness.

June 21, 2009 at 7:11 PM

By: kugler


you may find that after you shout charge and go to face the enemy ,not only do you not have back up, but those you helped are actually shouting at you too.

June 22, 2009 at 5:08 PM

By: Jim Vail

Interesting Times

We live in interesting times. The union leadership inside an event while its rank and file are outside protesting it.

A member from the IFT at the meeting told us that the focus should be on organizing charter schools, not fighting them. This is Marilyn Stewart's line and she has actually told her delegates to not protest.

So then CORE comes along and protests - and whoaah, a lot of outraged parents, students, teachers and community people march the streets of Chicago to oppose the Renaissance privatization plan and closing their local schools - and now Marilyn claims credit to take six schools off the chopping block.

Now - she walks right back inside to support Mr. Duncan and doesn't even acknowledge the members who she represents picketing outside because they no longer have jobs or a local public school.

If you don't understand this now, it's time we do - the enemy is our leader, who is allowing more charters and the growth of Renaissance 2010 almost unconditionally. It is up to us to protest, vote her out and continue to fight for what's right.

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