MEIDA WATCH: Chicago media can no longer hide behind fatuous reporting of CPS and City Hall talking points as CTU research challenges the 'He said, but she said' brand of 'news'.... CPS continues two year streak of avoiding press conferences, refusing to provide Substance with press announcements

The release of the latest Chicago Teachers Union research report on Chicago's public schools once again highlights the bankruptcy of corporate "news" reporting in a city that once prided itself on a hard-nosed approach to the news, and which produced, through the City News Bureau, such greats as Mike Royko and Kurt Vonnegut. Because of cutbacks in the news departments of the city's major corporate media, including the Sun-Times and Tribune, reporters have been stretch to the limits and forced to resort of easily manipulated "He said, but she said..." reporting. The release of the 53-page CTU research report, which most reporters had not read at the time I am writing this, had challenged the integrity of every news outlet in Chicago. The results, not only at Fox News, are less than impressive.

At noon on November 29, 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union distributed to its media list its 53-page report documenting the destruction of public education and the racism of privatization programs across the nation's third largest school system. Chicago reporters, with few exceptions, rushed to get the "other side" by taking sound bite quotations from City Hall and CPS press flacks, none of whom knows anything about the city's vast and complex public schools.

The collapse of reporting in the fact of the facts in context includes a silly attempt by WLS to red bait one of the officers of the CTU, and the general refusal of the news editors in Chicago to demand the resources to actually cover the news, rather than to simply repeat and rehash the talking points of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his corporate supporters.

The 53-page report was provided to education reporters and some others on the basis of a promise not to get quotes from CPS until after the reporters had actually read the CTU research. Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took over the schools in May 2011 and appointed the current seven-member Board of Education, CPS has refused to hold press conferences where reporters actually get to ask unfiltered questions. Instead, the CPS Communications Department, which has tripled in size in the past two years, carefully filters talking points back to selected reporters. Not one major CPS communications person today knows anything about the city's public school system, and most have been hired since October 2011. While CPS is claiming a budget "deficit" of massive proportions, the portion of the budget devoted to propaganda and media manipulation has increased dramatically under Emanuel.

CPS is also refusing to provide some of the most basic information to the public, while CPS spokesmen and women talk continually about "increased transparency." The CPS Freedom of Information Office has bottled up some FOIA requests (and not just from Substance) for more than a year. Regular citizens cannot even locate the CPS FOIA office, which is hidden within the school system's massive Law Department (which has also expanded since Emanuel took over) on the seventh floor of the CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St. Documents which have been refused despite repeated FOIA requests include current Position Files, materials showing the actual costs of charter schools, and the annual "W-2" reports which document how much each CPS employee is paid and reported to the IRS during each year. Prior to the beginning of the Emanuel administration, these and other documents were regularly made available in response to FOIA requests.

The seven members of the Chicago Board of Education have also continued the Board's policy of refusing to make public the record of the "executive sessions" of the Board, as required by law. Additionally the Board members recently adopted a public participation policy which effectively excludes citizens who do not have computers from signing up in advance to speak during the public portion of Board meetings.

The last press conference at which CPS officials were available to answer questions without filtering by CPS and City Hall propaganda staffs was held during the administration of Interim CEO Terry Mazany two years ago. Since the Emanuel Board and the Communications Department were appointed in May and June 2011, there has not been one press conference held at CPS during which the top official of CPS was able to answer reporters' questions without being under the watchful eye of the mayor and often of a dozen propagandists from both City Hall and the CPS "Office of Communications."


CTU rips charters: ‘privatization schemes masquerading as education policy’. BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter November 30, 2012 12:03AM


Chicago Teachers Union officials Friday unleashed a scathing attack on the city’s charter schools, contending they do not improve student test scores any more than similar neighborhood schools yet have drained students from them.

The CTU’s position is clear from the title of its 53-page, highly vitriolic report: “The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools: Class, Charters and Chaos; A Hard Look at Privatization Schemes Masquerading as Education Policy.’’

The report comes just as CPS prepares to gather community input on how to downsize its school buildings to address an estimated 100,000 excess seats.

Massive school closings and consolidations are expected — and CTU officials have predicted that charter schools, which are barred from employing CTU teachers, could wind up the beneficiaries.

The report charged that one of the “biggest myths about charter schools is that, as a whole, they outperform CPS neighborhood schools. This could not be farther from the truth.’’

The report pointed to Chicago Public Schools data indicating that, among elementary schools, charters usually produced worse test score gains than schools with highly concentrated black and poor populations — and clearly worse gains than lottery magnet schools that use similar enrollment policies.


Union goes on the offensive against charters. By: Rebecca Harris / November 30, 2012

Tags: charter schools Chicago Teachers Union

Now that CPS has its school closings deadline extension in hand, the Chicago Teachers Union has fired another volley in the battle over school closings.

In a report embargoed until today, “The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools,” the union reiterates the charge that school closings have disproportionately affected African-American students and blames CPS charter school openings for funneling students away from neighborhood schools. (As part of the embargo, CTU asked reporters not to discuss the findings with CPS for comment.)

The report finds that high schools that have been targeted for school actions may be struggling because of factors outside their control. Of the 10 high schools with the lowest incoming student scores on the EXPLORE test (which high schools do not have influence over) between 2009 and 2012, nine were turned around, closed or phased out.

CTU also goes on the offensive against charters, particularly on the issues of:

*School leader pay. Several multi-campus charter school networks often have presidents and CEOs who earn more money per student served than the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. The charter network with the highest-paid chief relative to the number of students served is at Urban Prep’s Tim King, followed by leaders at LEARN Charter and North Lawndale College Prep. Schools chiefs at Perspectives, UNO, Noble Network of Charter Schools, and Chicago International Charter Schools also earn more per student than schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, according to the report.

The charter chiefs’ salaries range from $101,591 at North Lawndale College Prep, to $289,274 at LEARN.

*Enrollment. According to the report, the district’s 2013 budget showed that not all charter school slots were filled.

*Student achievement. The report points out that the average value-added scores at high-poverty, more than 90 percent African-American schools are actually higher among CPS-run schools than among charters. CPS-run schools scored, on average, in the 43rd percentile and charters in the 33rd. The schools’ math scores were similar. Among schools that are 85 percent or more low-income students, charters outscored district-run schools on math (but still did worse on reading).

*Teacher diversity. The report charges that more than 95 percent of charter school students are black or Latino, but only 30 percent of teachers are.

*Teacher turnover. The report claims that just 65 percent of teachers at Noble Network of Charter Schools, and 54 percent of teachers at UNO charter schools, return to their jobs each year.


November 30, 2012 at 1:33 PM

By: Valerie F.Leonard

Let Representative La Shawn Ford Stay in the House

Again, I apologize for going off message, but I think this is important for people in the education community to know. Representative Ford has filed a resolution in the House of Representatives asking his colleagues to allow him to remain in the House of Representatives and to continue his regular duties as the investigation into his personal finances proceeds. This investigation has nothing to do with his conduct as a state representative. Here is a link to the press release. I say, let the law follow its course. In the meantime,he should be allowed to continue to represent his constituents. He is one of the few legislators who has given true voice to issues confronting marginalized people and communities. PLEASE, CALL YOUR STATE REP NOW to urge him/her to vote YES on this resolution. Here is a link to a contact list for all state reps.

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