Chicago Tribune issues cynical rant to discredit striking teachers

The Tribune Media Company's holdings.

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board has published a hate-filled rant chock-full of misinformation in an attempt to discredit Chicago teachers who are engaging in a one-day strike today.

Describing the one day April 1st strike as “Tantrum Day”, the Tribune Editorial Board criticized teachers who are taking action against rampant cuts that have hurt teachers and students across the Chicago school district. Through the use of slander and weasel words the editorial paints the teachers as selfish and only interested in protecting their “generous pensions” which the “near-bankrupt” city can no longer afford.

First let’s start off with these supposedly selfish teachers. Yes, it is true teachers are striking partly in protest over the mass layoffs they are facing and the seemingly never ending war that is being waged on their pensions. We can talk about how unfair the treatment of teachers has been, but despite what the editorial says, this strike is about protecting students as well as teachers. In July of 2015, more than 500 special education workers were laid off. An additional 69 special ed workers were laid off in January of 2016. These cuts have decimated the already poor special education services provided by the schools. Students in special education programs were simply thrown back into general school populations due to a lack of funding. Then there are the 1,500 teachers who were laid off in the summer of 2015 and the hundreds more who have faced layoffs since then. This means larger class sizes and overworked teachers who cannot give adequate attention to each student. Other programs were cut too, “We only have one nurse right now for a couple days a week to serve 1200 students,” said special education teacher Sarah Chambers. “The majority of schools only have one counsellor for all of their students…For my school they’ve cut almost all the before and after school programs plus most of our substitutes.” Disabled students not receiving any special treatment at schools, little to no counselling for students who are severely traumatized during their childhood, little to no after school programs, increased class sizes, overworked teachers who do not have the time to teach properly, these are all issues that affect students as well as teachers.

Moving on from the greedy teachers narrative that frames this editorial, the editorial goes on to bemoan the fact that students will miss one day of school due to the strike. The importance given to this one day of school that students miss is raised to the height of absurdity with statements like this, “But children won't get back the day teachers rejected them. What kids miss can't be regained.” The editorial asks of teachers, “if they feel a need to protest, will they do so after they've devoted the workday to the kids who rely on them?” Really? This is what is going to inflame the passions of the Chicago Editorial, a single school day missed by students?

So first the editorial slanders the teachers by describing them as being purely motivated by their pensions, and then goes to absurd lengths to lament the one day of school that students will miss without mentioning other real problems that students are facing due to the cuts. Next the editorial bizarrely moves on to claim that the 4-1 vote in favor the strike shows that the teachers in the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) do not support the strike. Citing the 124 votes against the strike made by CTU delegates, the Tribune claims that CTU president Karen Lewis has not, “made a compelling case to a significant chunk of [CTU] membership that this walkout is a smart move.” The article goes on to applaud the “courage” of those who voted “no” and then asks, “will some gutsy educators put their classroom service to Chicago's children first? Will they defy their fellow members, and rebel against misguided leadership, perhaps by crossing picket lines?” What the Tribune Editorial Board either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to mention is that of the 124 votes against the strike many of the votes were made by delegates who wanted a much longer strike than one day, which they saw as being ineffective. Additionally, those who did not vote at all were automatically counted as a “no” vote. A previous poll of teachers taken by the union in November of 2015 showed 97% of teachers would support a future strike. There is no reason to suggest that a “significant chunk” of the CTU membership is opposed to striking.

Throughout the editorial no mention is made of the CTU’s proposals on how to fix the budget crisis. The proposals are simply ignored and the budget crisis is shaped as an intractable problem that will require the city to make cuts no matter what. A simple google search on subject reveals that the CTU wants, “a tax on millionaires, a tax on financial transactions like futures and options trades, and a progressive state income tax.” This is in addition to many other interesting changes in the way money is spent in the school district, including ending wasteful spending on standardized testing programs. This insightful information, obtained through a simple google search, was much more enlightening than the hate filled ramblings of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board. But what can we expect from the Tribune Media Company, which is valued at over $3 billion whose majority shareholders are JP Morgan Chase, Angela, Gordon and Co., and Oaktree Capital Management. Like all corporate media, the Tribune is little more than the propaganda outlet of the 1%.

Comments

Chilli Sauce
Apr 2 2016 18:22

Presumably the teachers are without a contract at the moment?

David in Atlanta
Apr 3 2016 01:12

Their contract expired last year, which freed them up to be more militant