MEDIA WATCH: Hey, Chicago! Did you hear the one about the 'Pension Crisis'? Or THE PENSION CRISIS!!!! Well, if you didn't you haven't been listening to the Chicago Sun-Times version of reality...

Once again, on July 2, 2014, the current group of people running Chicago's public schools took their talking points to a select group of reporters (and editorial writers) in what amounted to a secret press briefing on the largest public school budget in Illinois and one of the largest public school budgets in the USA. And, as usual, instead of refusing to go along with the tightening straight-jacket restrictions on press freedom at Chicago Public Schools, and insisting on the First Amendment, a group of reporters bowed down to the Rahm Emanuel version of reality and called in at the last minute to a "press briefing" by phone about the CPS budget. Like a bunch of pigeons in a Skinner Box, they had been shocked so many times that the idea of protesting the media manipulations by the agents of Rahm Emanuel.

On July 2, 2014, CPS budget officials reminded Chicago's reporters and editorial writers (minus most TV reporters, since CPS officials do not want video records of their claims) that one reason for the so-called "structural deficit" is that Illinois is last, or almost last, in per-pupil funding for schools. Of course, that's not new news in Chicago, since CPS has been saying it for a generation. For example, on August 14, 2007, then Budget Director Beth Swanson (above right at podium) presented a slide to the pubic during the hearing at Lane Tech High School on the proposed FY 2008 budget. As the screen above shows, then, as in 2014, it was Illinois that was to blame for Chicago's "structural deficit" (Illinois and those nasty teacher pensions). Swanson has had a varied career since her days at CPS. After leaving CPS, she went to work for the Pritzker family's charities for a time, waiting until Rahm Emanuel became mayor and she would become Rahm's liaison to the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Trouble is, when the Chicago Sun-Times talks as if this stuff were something new in July 2014, it's ignoring the past ten years or more. Since the century began, the Chicago Board of Education, no matter who the mayor, who the Board, or who the "CEO" repeats the same talking points: Illinois is LAST (or nearly so) in education funding to districts; pension payments to teachers and others are the reason for the so-called "Structural Deficit." You better believe it.

No matter how much reality is ignored and how much history distorted.

Over the years, Chicago Public Schools officials have distorted the facts and pushed outright lies into the mainstream, knowing that a weakened press corps (caused by some of the same corporate pressures that are aimed at teacher and other pensions) will not likely have the reporters or the time to check out the "facts" as people in power assert them.

But in 2014, one of the more interesting historical facts comes out from seven years ago, when the CPS budget presentation was bragging about how under the Daley administration's budget CPS had "cut administration" and also "raised test scores." That was before, according to the Daley budget people, "administration" had dropped to less than a quarter billion dollars as year. Somehow, during the first two years of the Rahm Emanuel administration, the new mayor was able to cut three quarters of a billion dollars from a central administrative budget that had begun in 2011 at about a third of that size. Did Daley bloat up the budget during his last year in office (2010 - 2011)? Or are Emanuel's braggings simply a lie based on the cynical assumptions that (a) there aren't any reporters ready to check the claims made by CPS budget officials, (b) the reporters who might think a WTF are afraid to ask the question, and (c) those who own the press, from CNN and "Chicagoland" to the owners of the Sun-Times and Tribune, are firmly in the Rahm Emanuel camp.

Surrounded by Chicago Public Schools officials and finance people, Mayor Richard M. Daley hosted a press briefing at City Hall on May 7, 2007. Behind Daley are (left to right) Arne Duncan (then CEO of CPS), Pedro Martinez (then CFO of CPS), Beth Swanson (then Budget Director of CPS) and some guy who was brought in as "Chief Administrative Officer" for about a year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Take another example.

In 2007, CPS budget officials proved that the mayor's management of the school system had "raised" test scores to the highest levels in history.

And those scores kept going up from there.

Until they finally leveled off, as all test scores do. So in 2014 CPS announced that the ISAT will no longer be the big test upon which "accountability" will be based,.

And now something other, the NWEA MAP will do that job.

Until the inevitable statistical leveling happens, as always, and then a new test will come in.


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