NEWS ANALYSIS: Rahm Emanuel continues to push privatization at the ground breaking for the Noble Charter School 'ITW Campus'... Noble charter chief brags that this latest 'campus' will bring the total number of students to 10,000

It was one week after the corporate-sponsored "New Schools Expo," which has become the annual charter schools fair despite the claim to be about "new schools". Held at Soldier Field's United Lounge, "New Schools" meant charter schools all day on January 25, 2014. The mayor of Chicago followed up with the same version of reality less than a week later.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined a select group of corporate executives and carefully screened "community" supporters of charter schools to stage a media event at the site of the now approved "Noble ITW Campus" at 5357 W. Grand Ave,. in the shadow of Chicago's Prosser High School, a real public school. The mayor didn't allow press questions, and the site was carefully squeezed into a relatively small "event tent" so that protesters, who arrived from an overcrowded nearby elementary school, had to stand mostly outside in the cold. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Mayor of the City of Chicago staged a typical media event on the last day of January, January 31, 2014. It was less than nine months after his hand-picked school board had voted to close 49 of the city's real public schools, and the purpose of the media event was to celebrate, behind careful protection, a "choice" that almost nobody in the community wanted.

Noble charter school supporters and corporate people joined Rahm Emanuel's publicity team, above, cheering during the mayor's remarks on January 31, 2014. The people were gathered in the event tent erected at city expense to tout the latest "campus" of the controversial Noble Street charter schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Flanked by a number of charter school promoters in a special events tent that was smaller so that potential protesters from across the street could be excluded, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the morning of January 31, 2013 presided over the groundbreaking for the latest "campus" of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, this one located one block from Prosser High School.

The carefully scripted media event began with the "Presentation of the Colors" by students from the Pritzker College Prep "campus" of the Noble charter schools, then went into a program of speakers that would give even the casual listener the scripts that are followed as the mayor and his allies continue the drive to increase Chicago's charter schools less than a year after on Emanuel's orders the Board of Education closed 49 of the city's real public elementary schools.

Following the presentation of the colors by students in Marine Corps uniforms and the singing of the national anthem, the program includes several speakers. Long-time Noble schools executive Thomas Mulder, who will be the "founding principal" of the new school, began the event by discussing the latest from Noble -- STEM. According to Mulder, he had most recently served as the "Turnaround Principal" at the Powerhouse charter school on the West Side, which began as the Ford Power House charter school in the old Sears power house on S. Homan Ave. After several tumultuous years -- and more public relations and marketing than performance -- Power House Charter was clearly in trouble in every way, so it was quietly given over to Noble charters for so-called "turnaround."

Mulder then introduced Kenyetta Holmes, who was listed on the program as a "Belmont - Cragin resident and Noble parent."

Holmes read her remarks, telling the audience that when she was going to go to high school 20 years ago she "applied to Prosser but didn't get in..." and supposedly faced problems because she went to a neighborhood high school (which she didn't identify). She told the audience of more than 60 people that her own children have been saved from the same fate by being able to attend a Noble charter school.

The event began with Marine ROTC students, armed, presenting the colors as charter school students sang the Star Spangled Banner. To the left above is the mayor's back. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The remarks by Holmes followed the script of the typical "salvation narrativ" utilized on a routine basis by charter school supporters, including both parents and former students. According to this version of reality, the real public schools would have ruined the children, but salvation came in the form of the charter school. Unlike most of the charter speakers during the past years, Holmes named Prosser High School as the school she had wanted to attend, but failed to say which terrible high schools she was apparently forced to attend when Prosser couldn't accept her.

A group of parents from nearby Prieto Elementary School, which is already overcrowded less than five years after its opening, were kept in the back of the tent and not allowed to speak. Prieto has been demanding relief because of its overcrowding situation, while the Chicago Board of Education, at its January 22 meeting, voted to create the ITW "campus" of the Noble charter schools as a high school even thought there is no high school overcrowding problem in the area.

Following Holmes, Michael Milkie, the "Superintendent and CEO of Noble" (according to the program) told the crowd his version of the history of Noble charter schools. Milkie reminded everyone that Milkie had taught math in a Chicago public school prior to opening the first Noble Street Charter School in 1999. Milkie praised Mulder, who, he said, was the first person hired for administrative work after Milkie and his wife began the school.

After sharing some personal stories about his history with Noble Street charter schools, Milkie told the audience that with the addition of the ITW "campus" the total number of students in the Noble schools would exceed 10,000. He didn't mention that the combined income of Milkie and his wife, who is also a Noble administrator, exceeds that of the "Chief Executive Officer" of the city's entire public school system, which currently has more than 400,000 students (including charter students).

Like the mayor, Michael Milkie, who was listed in the program as the "Superintendent and CEO" of the Noble Network, didn't have to answer press questions about his schools' administrative pay or policies that shame students into withdrawing from the schools. Since founding the Noble Street Charter School in 1999, Milkie has selected his students by forcing out those who don't adhere to what a growing number of critics are calling abusive disciplinary policies. But as long as a media event such as the one on January 31 bar press questions, the fabrications about Rahm Emanuel's favorite school privatization project go unchallenged. Substance photo by George N Schmidt.Milkie's version of the noble history of "Noble" carefully leaves out the fact that the school, following the way its founder treated difficult students during years years as a math teacher at Wells High School, has been dumping students who "fail" to live up to burdensome contracts that would be illegal in a real public school.

Alderman Emma Mitts of the 37th Ward resumed her attack on the real public schools of the West Side and indeed all of Chicago. Mitts went on and on with a rambling series of statements about how bad the public schools in the 37th Ward were and are. She told the crowd how she would now be able to tell parents that there was a real "choice" for them in that part of town. Mitts noted that she had served on the Prosser High School Local School Council until the latest ward remaps took Prosser out of the 37th Ward. Mitts also continued invoking God as the reason why she has been promoting charter schools, and she defied her enemies to take her on.

Rahm Emanuel's remarks were the usual phrases in support of charter schools and "choice." CPS officials and people from the Mayor's Press Office did not provide copies of the mayor's remarks to this reporter or other members of the press. The announcement of the event was made at the last possible instant prior to the time, which was 10:30 a.m.

The mayor continued promoting the "STEM" formulation, speaking as if the city's real public schools had never taught Science Technology Engineering and Math before Rahm Emanuel became mayor in 2011 and began uttering STEM talking points. The mayor also repeated the claim that there are not enough engineers in the USA as one of the reasons for the STEM privatization via Noble. Others who spoke included Scott Santi, present President and CEO of ITW, and Barbara Speer, whose husband David Speer will have the campus named after him.

The crowd included several charter school promoters, including representatives from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Illinois and Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who a week before had voted to establish the school even after critics of the plan and the practices of Noble schools were exposed before the Board. Ruiz was not on the program for the January 31 event but cheered the mayor's remarks and those of Milkie.

Most of the seats in the expensive event tent rented by the mayor's team for the propaganda event on January 31, 2014 were reserved for corporate and community supporters of charter schools. Press were squeezed into the back, while along both walls mayoral and CPS press flacks were arrayed. When a group of elementary school parents from nearby Prieto Elementary School (which has severe overcrowding problems thanks to the policies of the Emanuel administration) arrived, they were forced to stand out in the cold or briefly squeeze into the publicly funded privatization event. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt,Although the speakers acted as if the creation of the new charter school across the street from Prosser High School was a completely free benefit to the city and its public schools (charters are part of the public schools, but deregulated), Emanuel and the Board (which was appointed by him) did not tell the public that two tax tricks actually cast a different light on the event.

The huge patch of industrial land at 5357 W. Grand Ave. was taxed and taxes paid by ITW. Those taxes continued until the land became school land for the charter school. As a result, the city, other taxing bodies, and Board of Education (which gets about half of all property taxes) will be losing the property taxes from the site forever. While Mayor Emanuel and those assembled on January 31 were praising the generosity of ITW and the family of David Speer (the ITW chairman and CEO after whom the school will be named), because the mayor had declared that the event would not include press questions, nobody had to answer more detailed questions.

There was also no mention of the fact that this year's round of charter schools was supposed to relieve overcrowding -- but the new Noble "ITW Speer Campus" school is a high school, and the nearby overcrowding is in the elementary schools.

The carefully selected crowd for the event and the carefully scripted remarks were both designed to obfuscate many recent facts. Although the Chicago Board of Education claimed that this year's expansion of charter schools was supposed to help "relieve overcrowding" on the city's Northwest Side and Southwest Side, the new Noble ITW "campus" is a high school -- and there are no overcrowded high schools within six miles of the site.

In fact, all of the real public schools within two miles of the Noble high school site -- Prosser, Schurz, Steinmetz, Kelvyn Park, Foreman, and North Grand -- have space for students, so it was clear to critics that the mayor and his corporate allies are simply using words to obfuscate their agenda. There is overcrowding in the elementary schools in the community, including the newly built Prieto Elementary School, which is three blocks from the site of the mayor's January 31 media event.

After completing another tirade about the "failure" of the city's real public schools in her "community," 37 Ward Alderman Emma Mitts was given a hug by Mayor Rahm Emanuel before he launched into his more modulated attack on the public schools by praising the fictions created over the years by the propagandists for charter schools and the Noble Network in particular. Because he refused to take reporters' questions, the mayor was able to sidestep the fact that he was opening a charter high school a block from an already existing high school. Nor did the mayor have to explain why he was opening a charter school in an area that needed relief from overcrowding when the overcrowding was in the elementary schools and the school he was opening was a high schools. The parents from the overcrowded elementary school were kept out of the event tent, while local high school people only learned about the even after it had taken place. Also excluded from the event were the majority of aldermen in the surrounding communities, all of whom have publicly opposed the new school charter high school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Rahm Emanuel and his entourage have no intention of talking about those inconvenient facts, any more than they wanted the public to know they were staging an event for the TV cameras on the last day of January. A group of parents from Prieto learned of the mayor's media event at the last minute, but were barely able to squeeze into the expensive tent that housed the mayor and his minions for the TV cameras.

The only alderman at the event was Emma Mitts, who once again attacked the city's real public schools while ignoring her own record of silence in the fact of more than a decade of attacks on the public schools. Other aldermen from the area were not even told of the event, only learning about it after it was over.


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