The Chicago Teachers Union on Monday unleashed a new tactic in its fight against public school closures: an animated satirical video that pinpoints Mayor Rahm Emanuel as the "fat cat" behind the plan.
The 5-minute video, titled "Stand Up to Fat Cats," begins as a bedtime story starring the CTU as the protagonist force against Emanuel's quest to, as the video tells it, turn residents against public school teachers and fill the coffers of charter schools.
"The union was always there to step in and protect [students]," the narrator says. "But last year a new, evil fat cat landed in Chicago, and he brought in a whole litter box full of evil fat cats from all over the country."
"Uh oh," says the little girl being told the tale.
The video introduces "The Rahminator" and a cast of parodied big wigs ranging from Bruce Rauner (aka Rowdy Rauner), Penny Pritzker (aka Penny Pincher) and Bill Gates (aka Bill "The Fence") whose plan is to take advantage of educators and students and get rid of the union "once and for all."
It runs through the summer's teacher strike and shows a victorious CTU president Karen Lewis standing in front of 10,000 supporters at the Auditorium Theatre just before the strike was settled.
The narrator warns that "the stakes have never been higher in Chicago" and said plans to close underutilized schools are meant "to give more money to their millionaire buddies."
"Don't let the Fat Cats bully students or educators anymore," the narrator says.
The CTU calls the film "a spotlight on the history of corporate school reform in Chicago and proposed 20th century advancements that ultimately led to the deterioration of many of the city’s neighborhood schools."
“This is not some social experiment," Lewis said in a statement introducing the video and a list of caricatures —this is a damaged system in need of repair.”
The CPS calls the video a mean spirited attack.
"These kind of mean-spirited tactics have no place in our school system as they do absolutely nothing to help kids or support their learning," said Chief Communications Officer for the Chicago Public Schools Becky Carroll said via email. "These attacks do a disservice to our students and their families as it distracts the public conversation away from the very serious problems in our school communities today. It's time for these attacks to stop and time to start talking about how we can work collaboratively to address $1 billion deficit facing CPS next year and the work that must be done to right-size our District so we can better invest our limited resources in all our children."
Lewis wrote in an editorial last month that the closures are a way to dump cash into non-unionized charter schools, of which the mayor plans to build 60 over the next four years, via a plan submitted to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last spring.
“The public needs to know who sets Chicago's education agenda," Dr. Pauline Lipman said in a CTU statement, "corporate CEOs, bankers and real estate developers in the Commercial Club of Chicago; hedge fund investors such as Bruce Rauner, and billionaire philanthropists such as Bill Gates.”
The head of CPS said last month she wants a five-year ban on school closings, but not until after the next round of cuts. CPS announced Friday it plans to add five charter schools to the nine it earlier proposed opening in September 2013.