Chicago Teachers Union video targets #SameOldRahm

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CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday unveiled a 30-second video it calls #SameOldRahm to counter what it called Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s effort to “rewrite the awful truth about his failed leadership” of the Chicago Public Schools.

Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot has asked CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler to determine whether it’s appropriate for Schools CEO Janice Jackson to star in commercials touting the progress at CPS bankrolled by a non-profit with close ties to Emanuel.

The CTU video that will run on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google and other social media sites is an attempt to counter those commercials bankrolled by the nonprofit that calls itself Progress Chicago.

The group’s donors are three unions that are among Emanuel’s most reliable campaign contributors and Michael Sacks, the mayor’s biggest donor.

The CTU’s 30-second spot begins with a split screen featuring Jackson and Emanuel.

“So Rahm’s hired another CPS CEO, his fifth one in six years. And his billionaire friends are spending a ton of money hoping we’ll forget the damage they’ve done to our public schools,” a voice-over announcer states.

The video then switches to photos of three prior CEO’s: Jean-Claude Brizard, convicted felon Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Forrest Claypool. It ends with a photo of Gov. Bruce Rauner, a former mayoral friend and school reform ally-turned-political adversary.

“You remember them, don’t you? The teachers strike guy. The ethics violator. The convict. And his former chief education adviser,” the narrator says.

“And their biggest achievement? Closing 60-plus schools in black and brown neighborhoods. A new CEO? Whatever. But a new mayor would be much better.”

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the union video is desperately needed to counter the political spin from a mayor who is a notorious media manipulator.

“Emanuel is trying to spin his disastrous education record to his benefit for the upcoming election season,” Sharkey was quoted as saying in a press release.

“We want to set the record straight. Emanuel controls who sits on his rubber stamp board and who calls the shots in our schools. He has hired lackeys and crooks to engineer policies that harm our students and the people who educate them. He’s hired yet another new CEO. But a new CEO won’t cut it. What we need is a new mayor – one who actually cares about our students’ educations instead of gutting their schools, turning his back on their parents and sabotaging their neighborhoods.”

The union said Emanuel’s actual record includes: closing a record 50 public schools; phasing out all four public high schools in Englewood and replacing them with one brand new one; closing a high-ranking elementary school in the South Loop to make way for a new high school and cutting “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the budgets of schools in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.

The CTU’s bill of particulars also includes: appointing two “corrupt schools CEO’s”; authorizing nearly $1 billion in custodial contracts that have “left schools filthy” and cutting “nearly $30 million in services from special education students, prompting the Illinois State Board of Education to impose an independent monitor.”

In 2015, the CTU helped bankroll Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s losing campaign against Emanuel. It happened after CTU President Karen Lewis was forced to bow out after having emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Progress Chicago Executive Director Sam Hobert insisted that the group is a “nonprofit issue advocacy organization” that “does not comment on or participate in political activity on behalf of or against any candidate for office.”

Its only mission is to “raise awareness about policy initiatives” and highlight “independent studies” that “confirm CPS is leading nationally on several fronts, including student academic performance and high school graduation rates,” Hobert said.

“It’s important to reaffirm that recognition as a national leader in urban education when we are still fighting to maintain the equitable funding formula for Illinois schools that brings an additional $450 million to CPS annually,” Hobert said in a statement.

“There is too much on the line for us to stand idly by.”

The teachers union also dumped all over the $175 million plan Emanuel rolled out Wednesday to provide universal full-day pre-school for 24,000 four-year-olds by 2021.

“The real facts are that early childhood education has been in decline since Emanuel took control of CPS – and the remaining programs have been grossly under-resourced,” Sharkey said.

Mayoral challenger Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principal and Administrators Association, was equally unimpressed.

“If you want to see the mayor’s future, take a look at his immediate past. Emanuel didn’t create universal pre-K in his first term, and he worsened pre-K in his second term. It’s more than obvious that a third term would be disastrous for early childhood education in Chicago,” LaRaviere said in a statement.

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