Education

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  • What Reporters Should Know When Reporting On The New Policy Guidance On Transgender Students

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    The departments of Education and Justice released a joint guidance to public school administrators explaining their obligations to ensure that “all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” according to a May 13 press release. The latest guidance builds upon recent court decisions and Education Department guidance that discrimination against transgender people constitutes illegal sex discrimination under federal law. The guidance explicitly states that schools receiving federal funding must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, including allowing them to use the appropriate restroom and locker room facilities.

    Here’s what journalists need to know when reporting on the new guidance:

    1. School Districts Across The Country Have Protected Transgender Students For Years Without Incident.

    School administrators from 23 school districts and four universities across the country with trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies have debunked conservative horror stories about allowing transgender students to use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity. In total, these schools serve an estimated 1.5 million students each year without any incidents of sexual harassment, assault, or inappropriate behavior as a result of allowing trans students to access bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

    2. The Department Of Education Has Already Recognized Discrimination Against Transgender Students As Illegal Discrimination On The Basis Of Sex.

    Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits schools that receive federal money from discriminating against students based on their sex. The guidance makes clear that federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student's sex for the purposes of enforcing Title IX. The Department of Education has previously released similar directives. A 2010 anti-bullying guidance letter included protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2014, the Department of Education clarified that the guidance on sexual harassment and sexual assault included protections for transgender students.

    3. Several Federal Courts Have Ruled That Discrimination Against Transgender People Is Illegal Sex Discrimination.

     

    The New York Times reported that while the Supreme Court has not weighed in on whether discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination, several lower courts have. From a May 10 New York Times analysis:

    In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that it does, and some other courts have since agreed. But in 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit made the opposite finding.

    In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that discriminating against a transgender person was sex discrimination — not based on the civil rights statute, but based on the 14th Amendment. And last month, relying on a 1972 law, Title IX, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a high school must allow a transgender student who was born anatomically female to use the boys’ bathroom.

    In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled, as the Sixth Circuit did, that discrimination against transgender people violated the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination, a decision hailed by advocates as the executive branch’s first unequivocal statement to that effect.

    4. The Federal Government Has Previously Cut Funding When Schools Refused To Comply With Civil Rights Laws.

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 enabled the federal government to withhold funds due to civil rights violations. The Washington Post reported that in the 1960s, the federal government “withheld funds … from more than 100 school districts in the south that refused desegregation,” according to education scholar Gary Orfield. School districts were required to adopt integration plans in order to regain funding. A private college in Pennsylvania lost funds in the 1980s when it refused to comply with Title IX over sex discrimination. More recently, DeKalb County schools in Georgia lost federal assistance when administrators obstructed federal discrimination investigations. 

     
  • Fact-Checkers And Education Writers Were Never Fooled By Trump’s Education Lies

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made hardly any statements about his policy positions on education issues. But the claims he has made, mostly about the Common Core state standards and the federal role in education policy, have been routinely debunked by fact-checkers, education reporters, and prominent education scholars.

     

  • Meet The Utah Columnist Shining A Light On Fossil Fuel Front Groups

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    In recent decades, fossil fuel interests have been funding front groups to advance their ideological and political goals, and key to these groups’ success is concealing their industry backing. But Utah columnist Paul Rolly has been working to shine a light on the industry backing behind the most influential front groups in his state. In an interview with Media Matters, Rolly discussed the importance of following the money.

    Rolly has been a columnist at The Salt Lake Tribune for the last 20 years, and he has stood out because of his work exposing fossil fuel front groups operating in Utah. He has uncovered the oil industry fingerprints behind campaigns to seize public lands from the federal government, attack renewable energy, and promote an industry-friendly agenda in higher education.

    Why is it so important to Rolly to educate his readers about Big Oil’s involvement in these fights? “It’s our job,” he said, explaining that it’s vital that readers know “what the sources of bills are, where they’re coming from, who they benefit, who’s behind them, who’s making money, and who’s making campaign contributions.” He hopes this information will give his readers the ability to “make informed decisions when they vote.”

    Utah is ground zero for many of the fossil fuel industry’s campaigns, making Rolly’s work invaluable. One of the most prominent fossil fuel-backed campaigns in recent years has been the effort to transfer control of federal lands to state governments, which would greatly benefit fossil fuel interests, as states would likely open up more areas to oil and gas drilling and coal mining.

    State Rep. Ken Ivory (R-UT) has played a leading role in the public land grab movement in the west, and Rolly has been paying close attention. In 2012, Ivory co-founded a group called the American Lands Council (ALC), which aims to “secure local control of western public lands by transferring federal public lands to willing States.” Utah, Rolly explained, is the only state that has passed legislation setting aside taxpayer funds to sue the federal government over control of public lands, like those managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The lawsuit was recommended by a legal team hired by a Republican-dominated commission of Utah legislators, even though the lawyers acknowledged that the lawsuit “could cost up to $14 million, take years to play out in the courts,” and is “far from a sure victory,” according to the Associated Press.

    Rolly has repeatedly pointed out that Ivory has taken a six-figure annual salary from the ALC, which is largely funded by counties in Western states. The ALC’s tax forms reportedly indicate that Ivory and his wife have pocketed almost half of the group’s total revenue. Rolly believes that the negative attention Ivory received over his salary at ALC may explain why he stepped down as the organization’s president in December. (He remains an unpaid member of its executive committee).

    Rolly has devoted several columns to exposing the fossil funding behind ALC and other groups that are engaged in the public lands campaign. He's pointed out that Federalism in Action, where Ivory currently heads the “Free the Lands” project, is affiliated with the oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. And he's documented that the firm hired by the Utah legislature to promote the land transfer agenda, Strata Policy, also has financial ties to the Koch brothers. As the Los Angeles Times has noted, ALC has also received financial support from Americans for Prosperity, which was co-founded by the Kochs and continues to spearhead their agenda.

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group that connects fossil fuel executives with legislators to push model bills that serve industry interests, is also highly influential in Utah and has a heavy hand in the public land grab movement. And, as Rolly told Media Matters, “the Koch brothers are a big deep-pocket force behind ALEC.” Ivory is an ALEC member and was even awarded the group’s “Legislator Of The Year” award in 2014.

    In addition to the public lands battle, Rolly has turned his attention to the Kochs’ influence in local universities. He said national stories about the Kochs' investments in higher education led him to examine their efforts at Utah State University, where Strata co-founder Randy Simmons was previously the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy and currently supervises a Koch-funded scholarship program. As Rolly reported: “The Kochs have extended influence to institutions of higher education, setting up grants at universities to hire professors that teach the Kochs' anti-tax, anti-regulation business and political philosophies to mold young minds to fall in step with the Kochs' industrial wishes going forward through the 21st Century.”

    Too often, media fail to disclose these important ties, Rolly noted. ALEC, for one, “probably doesn’t get the attention it should” in the national media, nor do its “ties to the Koch brothers, and their deep-pocket influence, and what happens to state legislatures.” Many valuable resources that provide context are “underused,” in Rolly’s opinion, including legislators’ conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure forms, which he examines to see if there’s any connection between “who’s giving them money” and “what they’re doing as a legislator.” He said he also examines the tax filings of nonprofits such as ALC.

    But he also noted the difficulties that newsrooms face as the journalism industry struggles financially, resulting in increased pressure and reduced resources. Newspapers have been shutting down all over the country, and the ones that remain have had to greatly cut down on staff (including the Salt Lake Tribune). When that happens, Rolly noted, “the first thing to suffer is investigative reporting” because it requires so much time and staff resources. He added: “The industry is in peril right now.”

    There are also structural difficulties that further complicate the task of investigative journalism, Rolly noted, such as Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that protects a corporation's right to make unlimited expenditures in support of political candidates as a form of speech. Because of that ruling, Rolly said, super PACs can “basically take over [political] campaigns” and “you have no idea who’s contributing the money.”

    It’s worth keeping in mind that even as newspapers are facing increased financial pressures, reporting like Rolly’s can be good for business. His columns are among the newspaper’s most viewed pieces online, he says. And he recently received the “Making Democracy Work” award from the League of Women Voters for his work at the Tribune.

    The need for the media to disclose the industry backing that’s behind fossil fuel front groups is clear. Dark money groups like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund exist solely to hide these funds. And research shows that organizations funded by Exxon and the Koch brothers are “more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue." Yet Media Matters has shown time and time again that fossil fuel front groups are getting away with promoting anti-environmental agendas while hiding the real voices behind their misleading messages.

    In the words of the Tribune, Rolly told the League of Women Voters that “democracy best works when the public is informed.” Reporters would do well to follow Rolly’s example by digging a little deeper to uncover the dark money behind special interest campaigns occurring all around the country.

  • Conservative Media Advocated For Illegally Keeping Immigrant Students Out Of School, And Now It’s Actually Happening

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Right-wing media figures have for years advocated in favor of denying undocumented immigrant students access to public education,and now an Associated Press investigation reports that it may be happening "in at least 35 districts in 14 states." These policies may be not only unconstitutional -- according to a Supreme Court ruling that specifically bans public school districts from denying enrollment to children based on their immigration status -- but also illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

  • Wash. Post: College Debt Forces Students To Take Jobs “Without Long-Term Prospects”

    Research Shows Economic Difficulties Are Still A Major Concern For Recent Graduates, Especially Women And African-Americans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post reported on the economic prospects of the Class of 2016, saying that while the economy has improved, wages are still down for recent graduates, and the mounting debt thrust onto students forces many to take jobs with poor advancement opportunities.

    In a May 2 article for The Washington Post’s Grade Point education news blog, reporter Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported that while hiring continues to improve for recent college graduates, job prospects are still poor, and the increasing debt burden faced by graduates forces them to take jobs -- if they can find one -- that may have no chance of wage growth or career development. The Post highlighted findings from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) showing that nearly seven years after the end of the Great Recession, recent graduates still face many employment hurdles, namely lower pay and higher amounts of student debt.

    While the unemployment rate for recent graduates is “only a tenth of a percentage point” above pre-recession levels, the Post wrote, “nearly 13 percent of young college graduates are currently underemployed, compared to 9.6 percent nine years ago.” As wages are still low for recent graduates, student debt burdens continue to climb and the Post reported that it is likely “the average Class of 2016 graduate will leave school with five-figure debt.” The piece said student debt burdens “likely will force graduates to accept jobs without long-term prospects for career or wage growth.” These and other factors spurred EPI to conclude that new graduates likely will earn less in the next decade than those who graduated before the recession.

    EPI also found that prospects for recent graduates are bleaker for women and African-Americans, a point Media Matters has also highlighted. According to the Post, the national average unemployment rate for college graduates is 5.6 percent, nearly double the 9.4 percent unemployment rate EPI found for black college graduates. Since 2000, the gender gap for recent graduates has widened; female graduates today make 6.8 percent less than their counterparts did in 2000 compared to male college graduates, who now earn 8 percent more than male graduates did 16 years ago.

    From The Washington Post:

    If the last few years are any indication, the average Class of 2016 graduate will leave school with five-figure debt. That albatross likely will force graduates to accept jobs without long-term prospects for career or wage growth, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute. Analysts at the think tank say that despite the rosy overall employment picture, graduates actually face a tougher labor market than they would have before the 2008 recession. Degree-holders, they say, still contend with elevated levels of unemployment and underemployment, and a large share are neither employed nor pursuing advanced degrees — in other words, they are idling.

    “Although there have been small improvements, there is still a lot that’s problematic about this economy for young college grads,” said Teresa Kroeger, a research assistant at EPI who co-authored the study. “Wages are still performing poorly. And we see still disparities between genders and racial groups.”

    […]

    Analysts at EPI say unemployment for young black college graduates hovers at 9.4 percent, higher than the peak unemployment rate for young white college grads during the recession. And gender wage inequality has grown, with male college grads earning 8 percent more this year than in 2000, while young women with degrees earned 6.8 percent less than in 2000.

    Perhaps the most troubling prediction from the institute posits that newly minted grads as a whole likely will earn less and have more spells of unemployment during the next 10 to 15 years than if they had graduated before the downturn.

  • Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement

    A Guide To The Funders Behind A Tangled Network Of Advocacy, Research, Media, And Profiteering That’s Taking Over Public Education

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Media Matters outlines the many overlapping connections in an echo chamber of education privatization advocacy groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are increasingly funded by a handful of conservative billionaires and for-profit education companies -- often without proper disclosure. 

  • Here’s What To Avoid When Reporting On Student Debt

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    April 25 marked the fourth anniversary of outstanding student loan debt topping $1 trillion in the United States, yet media still aren’t always telling the full story on college affordability and student debt. If the public thinks the student debt crisis only affects white, upper middle class borrowers enrolled in impractical programs at four-year colleges and universities, the media aren't​ doing their​ jobs.​

    It’s time for media to recognize the realities of the nation’s student debt burden. Outlets should stop ignoring the voices of students and borrowers, and stop reinforcing unrealistic assumptions about how​ higher education can be paid for ​today. Here are some of the reporting tactics they ought to leave behind.

    Framing Student Debt In The Narrow Context Of Traditional, Four-Year Colleges And Universities

    Media often focus their reporting on six-figure student debt balances from prestigious and expensive four-year colleges and universities. But focusing on the experience of this narrow segment of student borrowers ignores those who are most deeply affected by student loan debt: students who take loans to pursue higher education but are unable to complete their programs, and students borrowing to attend non-traditional or for-profit programs with fewer federal grant and loan options.

    As the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) Ben Miller explained in June, “the link between debt and educational attainment is too frequently missing from national discussions on student loans.” Miller’s study found that a recent graduate with a higher debt burden was financially better off than a non-graduate who owed a smaller amount, because the graduate was more able to boost their income and pay off their balance​, resulting in fewer defaults for graduates​.

    A comprehensive report from the Brookings Institution in September highlighted the outsized student debt burden of another non-traditional group of borrowers: those who attended for-profit schools. The report concluded that “most of the increase in default [on federal student loans] is associated with the rise in the number of borrowers at for-profit schools and, to a lesser extent, 2-year institutions and certain other non-selective institutions, whose students historically composed only a small share of borrowers.” The report also demonstrated that “These non-traditional borrowers were drawn from lower income families, attended institutions with relatively weak educational outcomes, and experienced​ poor labor market outcomes after leaving school.”

    It’s clear that four-year college graduates are not the majority of borrowers in default or struggling to make payments, and it should be just as clear in media coverage of the issue.

    Ignoring How Student Loan Debt Perpetuates Economic Inequality For Women, Black, And Hispanic Borrowers

    Reporting on the nation's student debt crisis without acknowledging how the debt burden disproportionately affects women and people of color is irresponsible, and it leaves out important details about how student loan debt ripples across the economy.

    Here are the facts: women are more likely to have outstanding student loan debt, and dedicate a higher percentage of their earnings ​toward paying off that debt. The gender pay gap also makes getting out of debt all the more difficult for women, in particular for black and Hispanic women. In February, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that “more women than men… are contributing more money to their student debt payments than a typical individual can reasonably afford,” and ​are ​still making a less significant dent in their outstanding loan balances. “The gap in student loan repayment is even larger for black and Hispanic women with college degrees,” the report noted.

    Black and Hispanic borrowers generally have more debt than their peers, regardless of the type of degree they pursued or the type of institution they attend. In fact, black and Hispanic students are far more likely to enroll in cheaper two-year, open-access schools, but also often have access to fewer family resources than white students and therefore must rely on student loans in greater numbers. Black and Hispanic graduates are also afforded less financial security from having a college degree.

    The nation's student debt burden feeds off of, and perpetuates, existing economic inequality. Media that ignore this phenomenon are ignoring the experiences of the majority of student loan borrowers, and are obscuring the true costs of the national student loan debt burden.

    Using Outdated Economics To Suggest Student Debt Is Avoidable With Part-Time Work And Better Decision Making

    Right-wing media figures, in particular, frequently pair discussions of student debt and college affordability with outdated anecdotes to suggest borrowers struggling to pay off student loan debt could have simply worked harder or made smarter decisions to avoid incurring debt. Here’s the reality: A​ny media figure who suggests students or recent graduates could have avoided taking out student loans not only ignores that many students do not have the resources to find alternatives, but relies on completely outdated assumptions about how much college costs in the first place.

    The fact is that college costs are rising across the board, for all types of higher education. Non-traditional programs often end up being more expensive for students, and some for-profit programs in particular, underserve students and leave them more likely to default on loans. Finding “a cheaper school” is not a real option, and making a living wage without a college degree is increasingly not an option either.

    Economists agree that higher education credentials, and in particular a bachelor’s degree, continue to have outsized positive economic benefits and are an undoubtedly “sound investment.” So pundits citing cheaper, alternative higher education programs are, at best, blindly promoting the nonexistent and, at worst, knowingly perpetuating a two-tier system of higher education where low-income students ought not to pursue the types of degrees proven to be most beneficial.

    And those anecdotes about how conservative media figures were able to pay for college with some elbow grease and a part-time job? Researchers have repeatedly found that’s just not possible anymore. An October study from Georgetown University found that while “over the last 25 years, more than 70 percent of college students have been working while enrolled,” it’s just not enough to offset the costs of school or avoid loans. “A student working full-time at the federal minimum wage would earn $15,080 annually before taxes,” the report concluded. “That isn’t enough to pay tuition at most colleges, much less room and board and other expenses.”

    Painting All College Affordability And Student Debt Policy Solutions As Equally Comprehensive

    Media coverage of student loan and college affordability policies in the 2016 presidential election is inaccurate if it attempts to frame policy solutions from both parties as equally comprehensive. Both Democratic candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ​have released comprehensive policy plans designed to bring down college costs for new students and to ease the burden of student loan debt for borrowers and recent graduates. Both plans have price tags and​ detail concrete actions on the issue. Regardless of where voters stand substantively, it is undeniable that both plans exist and are comprehensive.

    On the other hand, none of the three remaining Republican presidential candidates have released policy proposals on higher education affordability or college debt ​--​ in fact, front-​runner Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have not even dedicated website space to the issue. Gov. John Kasich (OH) includes a paragraph on college costs in his larger education platform​​, but doesn't explain what policies he'd pursue on a national scale. ​

    Recognizing that student debt is a major concern for young voters with vague public statements is not the same as offering concrete policy solutions that might help alleviate the problem. Reporting that frames policy proposals from all of the presidential candidates as equally comprehensive or equally viable in order to appear balanced is just misleading the public.

  • Right-Wing Media's Worst Attempts to Downplay Sexual Assault and Diminish Survivors

    ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Media Matters looks back at right-wing media's history of downplaying, and questioning the legitimacy of, sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have called reporting statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a "coveted status," said the sexual assault epidemic is "not happening," blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault constitute "a war happening on boys."

  • Chicago Tribune's Anti-Teachers-Union Crusade Continues Over "Historic" Union Day Of Action

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is coordinating a "day of action" walkout on April 1, and it will be joined by students from local universities, community activists, and other labor groups in what the union is calling a "historic" moment for the Chicago labor movement. CTU announced the one-day walkout after its membership voted to authorize the action in late March, and it follows months of contract negotiations amid widespread city and state budget issues. In the months since Chicago teachers' contract expired in June, the Chicago Tribune has frequently editorialized its opposition to union actions, mischaracterizing and dismissing educators' concerns and repeatedly accusing teachers of throwing a "tantrum" and abandoning students.

    The one-day walkout is meant to address unfair labor practices, which the union says include the school district's recent decision to stop paying raises based on experience and educational credentials and its proposal to phase out district contributions to teachers' pension plans. These decisions are the latest in an ongoing contract negotiation process that began more than a year ago, before the previous contract expired in June.

    Main points of negotiation for a new contract include class sizes, staffing resources for school nurses and librarians, members' pensions and health care plans, pay cuts and modifications to scheduled pay raises, and school closings. The Chicago Public School district (CPS) says it cannot fund the union's proposals; it is currently facing a $1.1 billion operating deficit. The union proposes generating new revenue by adopting tax reform targeted at the city's wealthiest taxpayers to pay for contract stipulations and to adequately fund schools, putting pressure on CPS, the city of Chicago, and state lawmakers.

    As the Tribune itself reported, union leadership has acknowledged that the day of action is part of a broader "labor-led fight" calling for the state of Illinois to prioritize finding new revenue to fund social services and public education. The action has gained the support of "other labor unions and community organizations" including a local group advocating for a $15 minimum wage, several colleges and universities, which are hosting rallies and teach-ins, a labor union representing faculty at several Illinois universities, and workers protesting layoffs elsewhere in the city.

    But that hasn't stopped the Chicago Tribune, the top daily newspaper in Illinois, from repeatedly publishing editorials that rely on mischaracterizations of CTU's activities to dismiss educators' concerns.

    In its most recent editorial on the walkout, from March 27, the Tribune described CTU leaders as having "spent weeks whipping their members into a froth," and having "stoked members' anger" over Chicago Public Schools' proposal to phase out existing teacher pension plans. The editorial referred to the walkout as a "hastily planned, unfocused Day of Tantrum," lamenting that educators would be "brandishing banners and hollering slogans in the Loop [downtown Chicago] for ... what?" And the Tribune implored Chicago teachers to cross picket lines during the walkout, writing that "gutsy educators" ought to "put their classroom service to Chicago's children first" and "rebel against misguided leadership," echoing the school district's opposition.

    A week earlier, the editorial board argued that "the teachers' tantrum" would be a "reckless action" that pits the union against "most workers in Chicago," who "don't have the luxury of stepping out for a day on a whim." The Tribune asked, "how does cheating kids of a precious day of education generate sympathy for the teachers' cause?"

    On March 11, the editorial board wrote, "If teachers walk, students would learn an acrid lesson about the teachers union's astonishing disrespect for the value of classroom instruction," bizarrely suggesting that educators somehow fail to understand the importance of classroom learning. The Tribune went on to accuse teachers of "abandon[ing] their students," throwing a "tantrum," and teaching students "that when money and education are in play, some adults put education second to their real priority."

    In December, the Tribune editorial board reacted to an initial strike authorization vote by the union by announcing, "Chicago teachers made the official announcement Monday. They're ready to walk out of their classrooms, to abandon their students as early as March," and characterizing CTU's contract negotiation priorities as "grenades." In another December editorial discussing a CPS contract proposal, the Tribune mocked CTU's response, asking, "What planet are you on?"

    The previous month, the editorial board conceded that layoffs, of which more were still to come, warranted a strike from CTU -- before mockingly outlining a "compromise" plan that shifted blame away from the school district, neglected CTU's stated priorities completely, and advocated for "compromises" in "reform[ing] ... labor policies" on the state level.

    The Chicago Tribune's commitment to opposing CTU's every move relies largely on misrepresentation. In characterizing CTU's day of action as a "tantrum," the Tribune fails to recognize the realities of the walkout.

    Tantrums are typically unplanned and sudden; the possibility of a strike has loomed over contract negotiations between the teachers union and the school district for months. In December, an overwhelming 88 percent of eligible union members voted to authorize leadership to call for a strike, according to the union. Union leadership had been publicly discussing the possibility of a strike since November, and contract negotiations have been underway for more than a year.

    Tantrums are typically responses that are unwarranted or disproportionate to the stimulus; the growing number of students, higher education faculty, activist groups, and other labor unions that are joining the union in its day of action suggests that the issue at hand resonates with the larger Chicago community. In fact, a poll released by the Tribune itself in February found that 60 percent of Chicagoans agreed with the teachers union on needed reforms in Chicago public schools. Among households with students attending Chicago public schools, low-income households, and black and Hispanic respondents, union support was even stronger.

    To suggest the walkout cheats students at the expense of teacher pay also ignores the circumstances of the action.

    Confusingly, the Tribune failed to recognize, in its lamentations of lost classroom time, that one of the major factors influencing the April 1 walkout was the "abrupt" announcement from CPS that teachers and staff would be asked to take three unpaid furlough days in an attempt to alleviate the district's budget problems. The Tribune editorial board did not criticize these furlough days, which would also result in at least one fewer regular school day for students.

    And in accusing the union of having "disrespect for the value of classroom instruction," the Tribune grazed over the many factors beyond teacher compensation that have led to the walkout. The union's initial vote to authorize a strike in December outlined its major demands, which incorporated a number of priorities related to both classroom experiences for students and members' job protections and supports. These included reducing standardized testing; allowing more teacher autonomy in grading; supporting counseling, nursing, and library staff; reducing class sizes; ensuring instruction in art, music, and technology; implementing restorative justice programs in select schools; and supporting translation and bilingual services.

    The Tribune's attacks on CTU are nothing new. The paper attacked CTU and its members back in 2012 when the union went on strike for seven days, before agreeing to the contract that expired in June. As CTU signaled its impending action, the Tribune immediately and repeatedly attacked the union's motives and suggested a contrast between what's best for students and what's best for teachers. "Let's make no mistake," the editorial board wrote in September of that year. "The union is not going to abandon those children because it's fighting for the best way to educate those children. It's fighting to protect the jobs of adults, the union members."

    The Tribune's treatment of CTU and its members has signaled a willingness to ignore the facts and a belief that educators' concerns ought to be dismissed. The paper's tone hasn't shifted in years, even as students, community activists, and other labor groups continue to join the union's organizing efforts, indicating more widespread local frustration with the financial hardships facing the city and state.

    Yet the Tribune, the most-read daily newspaper serving Chicago, continues to deliver its anti-union editorial crusade to Chicagoans' doorsteps.

    Image at top via Flickr user Spencer Tweedy using a Creative Commons License.