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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

For the Record: Mayor Emanuel’s ad

In the wake of the recent teachers’ strike, the September board meeting started out as mostly a congratulatory session among board members, district officials and the union leadership, who lauded each other for working long hours to craft a deal.

But when Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson came up to the podium, he issued a bit of a warning, saying the television ad featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel touting the supposed wins in the contract is not helpful.

The contract still needs to be ratified by members and it is still in a delicate stage, Brunson said.

“Stop the flexing,” Brunson said. “Stop the saber-rattling.”

Tuesday is the last day that the ad will run, says Rebeca Nieves Huffman of Education Reform Now, the outside advocacy group that paid for the ad. Huffman would not say how much the ad cost or why it was wrapping up its run.

Huffman said the organization thought that it was important to run the ad for two reasons. Emanuel, a Democrat who pushed through education reforms, needed to be highlighted, she said. “Democrats haven’t wanted to get in front of these issues because they are fearful of union backlash,” Huffman said. “We wanted to show a Democrat who survived the fight.”

Also, she said Chicagoans needed to know that there were “some great wins for kids in this tentative contract.”

But virtually none of what Emanuel talks about in the commercial can rightly be called “wins” in the negotiations.  The successes claimed by the mayor were actually accomplished as the result of state legislation and, to some degree, Emanuel’s role as chief of staff in the White House.  

In the ad, Emanuel says that as a result of the contract, students will have a “full” day of school, principals will have the freedom to hire the best teacher, parents retained the right to choose the best school for their kids and student achievement will be part of a teacher’s evaluation. Yet items 1 and 4 are driven by state law. School choice, as far as anyone knows, was not even on the table in negotiations.

The longer school day was a foregone conclusion under Senate Bill 7 (which Emanuel did lobby for). Senate Bill 7 made the length of the school day a “permissive item” in bargaining, which means that the employer is not required to discuss it with the union. This meant that Emanuel could impose whatever length of day he wanted, without discussing it with the union.

During negotiations, CPS did allow discussions over the length of the day, but did not budge on the time they wanted (though the mayor had earlier, under pressure from parents and community activists who felt the district had no clear plan for the longer day, scaled back from 7-1/2 hours per day to 7 hours).

Instead, under pressure to pay teachers more for the additional time they would have to work, CPS agreed to shift schedules and to hire 500-some additional teachers so that regular teachers would not have to work longer. Planning and collaboration time for teachers—something that many experts say is essential to having good instruction and a cohesive curriculum—was lost in the compromise.

Emanuel also says he won on giving principals full discretion over teacher hiring, though principals have long had hiring freedom dating back to the landmark 1988 school reform law. The union had wanted principals to be compelled to hire a displaced teacher if three qualified teachers applied for a position. Instead CTU got a promise from CPS to force principals to interview three displaced qualified, highly-rated teachers and, if none are hired, to provide the reason to the Office of Talent Development.

It is questionable whether giving preference to displaced teachers would really amount to stripping principals of hiring discretion.

Emanuel did play a part in getting student growth on standardized tests factored into teacher evaluation, but his influence had nothing to do with the contract talks. During the strike, Emanuel pointed out that he helped Education Secretary Arne Duncan write the bill that created Race to the Top, the federal grant program that offered up millions to states that adopted policies and strategies favored by the U.S. Department of Education. One of those policies was tying teacher evaluation to student achievement on standardized tests.

In response, Illinois passed the Performance Evaluation Reform Act, which required that school districts tie a certain percentage of a teacher’s evaluation to student growth on standardized tests and performance tasks. CPS officials originally wanted to tie teacher’s evaluations to a higher percentage than the law requires.

But the deal calls for the minimum during the three years of the contract, though CPS has said it plans to go beyond the minimum in an optional fourth year of the contract (both parties have to agree to a fourth-year extension). That statement led CTU President Karen Lewis to say the union will likely reject an extension to force CPS officials to haggle with them.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Mayor Emmanuel's ads

If Education Reform Now was really about education reform, maybe they shouldn't have dropped $$$$$$ on ads and used the money to help fix education. The ads are just a constant reminder to teachers that the mayor can't be trusted.

ANON wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

The footage in the ads...

don't feature CPS teachers or students. That's stock footage of classrooms in MUCH BETTER conditions than ours.

Pat Daley wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago


I am just so sick of that ad especially knowing who paid for it.

Ballerina Figure wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Mayor Emmanuel's Ads

The commercials makes me nauseous. It's public manipulation It also sadden me that President Obama and the Democrat politicians that supports this by their actions or being silent. I hope all labor workers and non labor workers have a long memory on election day. We can't write big checks for a million dollar propaganda commercials but we can beat them at the polls if all organize. Pretty soon all 99% peoples will be controlled by 1% billionaires and reporting the news will be all propaganda if we don't fight and reverse it now.

Karen wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

the Ad

I know how that ad made ME feel. That our mayor is arrogant, egotistical and cares little for the kids of Chicago. I am sick of political spin doctoring. Just tell the real, undoctored truth. There were wins for BOTH sides and don't waste millions on ads promoting yourself as the hero. You weren't. There would not have been a strike except for you and your alliance with lying, subversive organizations that attacked our teachers and union.

Tina wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Education Reform

Education reform has to begin at home. It should be part of Family Values taught by the parents. If parents don't instill their children with the value of education, how can the teachers? Parents are buying their children, not raising them to be responsible human beings. When children make poor grades in school, more often than not, they blame the teacher. How can a teacher be responsible for children that don't do their homework or are absent continually? The parents need to become involved in their children's education . It's their responsibility to prepare them for the classroom.

Karen wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

I agree

It will be a while before I vote for ANY Democrat again and I have been one all my life. I'm looking at the other parties for my vote, all except Republican, that is. I wish the AFL-CIO would start a nationwide campaign NOW and put a little scare into our complacent politicians (hear that Obama, Rahm, and all other Pseudo Democrats in Republican clothing!)

forced into early CPS retirement wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Emanuel ad

I agree with all comments made against the Emanuel ad...especially that the money could have been spent on CPS learning conditions for students instead of one politician's self- promotion. I didn't know there was money like that to throw away. And it made the mayor look even more like a sore loser and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Emanuel's and Duncan's collusion on misguided policies privatizing public education while demonizing teachers has trickled up to my vote for president. I will not vote for Obama again. I'm voting for the Green Party candidates this time and pitching in with organizations trying to build a more representative democracy.
Thank you, CTU, for the education.

liminaltype wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago


I am wondering what kind of precedent this ad is - has there ever been a sitting mayor who has bought air time for local policy issues? I'm confounded that he would think any good would come from that. I, also, am leaving the Democrats to their rich overlords and voting Green. Mr. Obama had time recently to tweet about the NFL labor issues, reminding us all how deliberate his silence about his own city's public servants was. Dr. Jill Stein for President.

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Hooray for Hollywood — and No, mayors have never done this befor

My favorite riff on the recent mayoral election was Matt Farmer's "Hoolywood Clout..." song, which is still available at You Tube. Rahm's millions produced the first vaporware mayoral election in Chicago history, and for one cycle, it worked. Rahm carefully staged his media events, mostly in Black Chicago (he should have paid rent at the L stop at 95th and the Ryan) long enough to get his video footage with lots of African Americans, then canned and ran it as his ads. The campaign was an unprecedented example of something Chicago had never seen, a Hollywood riff without any real base in any of the city's 50 wards.

And it worked for a few months. I covered dozens of Rahm Emanuel media events both in the schools and elsewhere (e.g., Groupon and Citibank) during the 12 months after his election, and the staging was always the same. But by August, only three months after his inauguration, Rahm was showing his weak spots. We called out the "Rent a Protest" and "Rent a Preacher" scams in August and September 2011 (at Sox Park and then outside City Hall, which was my favorite) and only had to wait while the extras Rahm had hired were outed to the whole world (during the January 2012 hearings on the school closings).

Instead of organizing, Rahm was hanging out with his millionaire and billionaire buddies (he has spent more time, according to his calendars, with Bruce Rauner than with all CPS parents combined, for example; and Rauner talks like this is all a very good idea...) and planning how to buy the next fictional version of his reality.

But the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 blew Rahm's pseudo-reality out of all the waters, and now he's stuck hugging his rich buddies so that they pay — just like the paid protesters and preachers — to get Rahm's version of reality in front of the world.

The 18 months since the Rahm inauguration should be packaged as a textbook study for journalism classes for decades to come. Were I the entrepreneur doing that work, I'd also add our videos, starting with Matt's "Hollywood clout...", moving through Rebel Diaz's "Chicago Teacher" and maybe using as visuals some of the hundreds of creative anti-Rahm signs carried since May by parents and teachers at the vast number of protests, a sea of red, across the nation's third largest city.

Reality has trumped Hollywood, both against Rahm and now with that noisome "Won't Back Down" (yes, I've seen it; scabs are scabs are scabs... even if they carry SAG cards) propaganda thingy. Chicago once had City News Bureau and dozens of real news places, where thousands of men and women learned reporting with the boot camp rigor that is shown in decline in the fifth season of "The Wire."

Now we get swarms of spin doctors hovering in the background at every Rahm event.

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